Reflecting on UI at 71
Using its admission policy to adjudge it; in the Nigerian context, one may not be wrong to declare that Nigeria’s premier university- The University of Ibadan (UI) is one of the few institutions in the country that have not been infested with a deadly virus called corruption. Thousands of Nigerian admission seekers who throng the university every year in a bid to get a chance to study at UI can attest to the fact that the admission process and policy of the institution is so transparent that you neither need not know anybody nor bribe anyone before you secure admission. Unfortunately, this kind of positive attribute is rare to come by in Nigeria! Yet it is the hallmark of UI.
Strikingly, even when the Nigerian society seems to have degenerated so terribly in values with prevalent stories of corruption, bribery, sex-before employment, sex-for-marks, among other vices, UI maintains sturdy stance in its mission of serving as a dynamic custodian of society’s salutary values. Sadly, those who attempted to sludge the image of this prestigious university via malfeasance recently are currently booking an appointment with either Directorate of State Security (DSS) or facing Staff Disciplinary Committee (SDC) with awaiting heavy sanctions and penalty.
This university, which was established in 1948 is this month celebrating its 71st Foundation Day anniversary with drums and dance and sweet songs of achievements and accomplishments. Along with its annual convocation and graduation ceremonies, UI community will be agog with a lot of activities that will culminate in popping champagne, pumping hands and taking selfies. It is worth it. The achievements over the years are legendary.
The UI is the first and the best in Nigeria. It is one of the leading learning centres in Africa. It produces the highest number of Doctor of Philosophy degree in Africa. Currently, UI is ranked 501-600 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020. Its products, who are its pride, are all over the world making waves. Ibadan is indeed a university reigning in robust intellectual resources with over 400 professors. No other university in Africa parades this number of scholars of different stripes
However, in his effort to sustain the fabulous patrimony thrust on his shoulder by fate, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Abel Idowu Olayinka who has been battling with some of the challenges facing the university, will be remembered in history as a leader whose boat circumstantially ran into the turbulence of a tumultuous economic confluence, but survived the odds. No sooner he took over as the 12th Vice Chancellor in 2015 than the national economic recession set in. Since then, he has had the burden of leading the university amid poor funding and insufficiency of resources. Just as a good sailor is known in the time of trouble, the pauciloquent Olayinka has been able to steady the ship.
Despite the various challenges, chiefly caused by the economic recession, Olayinka has been able to take the university to higher heights than he met it. Under his leadership, in order to take care of emerging trends in a digital economy, 24 new academic programmes and four new Faculties have been created. The new Faculties include the Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources, the Faculty of Environmental Design and Management (with a new Department of Architecture), the School of Economics (with courses in Accounting, Banking and Finance, Marketing and Consumer Studies) and the Faculty of Multidisciplinary Studies.
For the first time in the University, as of 04 November 2019 students are being provided access to ICT network services and facilities. The Student Network Access comes with sessional internet bundle usable at any location on campus particularly in the Main and Faculty libraries which were recently strengthened with wireless access points and hotspots. Indeed, Olayinka led Management team deserves kudos in its sterling strides, reinventing, rebuilding, rehabilitating, and reconstructing the university with creativity. The VC is quick to declassify and disclose needed information for development.
But in spite of all these laudable efforts and achievements of the VC, there are still many challenges confronting the university. Apart from the paucity of funds which has effectively crippled many developmental strides, most of the facilities in UI are antiquated, crying for redemption. Underground electric cables that have been laid since 1950 are begging for replacement. I sympathize with the workers at the Works and Maintenance Department. They keep digging all over the place in order to locate electric faults. They are under pressure to fix one problem or the other. As at the time of writing this piece, fan and the air conditioner in my office were not working due to electrical fault. I dare not ask the VC for the replacement of the old air conditioner in my office. This is because he has just bought me some office equipment amid a tight budget. The same scenario of lack of equipment is all over the departments and faculties, workers are complaining bitterly. Perhaps, this is where I have to repeat the same old appeal to UI’s alumni all over the world to come to the rescue of their Alma Mata.
Alumni’s support is one of the roads to recovery. No support is too little. UI needs every support at this point. Government alone cannot bail out this great university from its myriad of needs because there are many other universities government is obligated to look after. It is my honest opinion that UI has no reason to be poor if thousands of its successful products decide to look back with a view to giving back to the university that made them. Interestingly, some notable Nigerians who passionately believe in UI and the legacy they intend to bequeath the coming generations have been assisting the institution. We must not forget to thank them for their magnanimity. They include the Asiwaju of Ibadanland, Bode Amao who donated the first crèche building. He has also added to the structure. Rt. Hon. Dr. Chevalier Justus Imo Itsueli who graduated in 1966 has also donated a gigantic building.
How do we thank Alhaji Aliko Dangote who also donated a building to the School of Business? Nathaniel Idowu Foundation funded the vertical extension of the Department of Physiology and Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics as well as the construction of Animal Houses at the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences. In the same vein, Odole Oodua, Adebukunola Adebutu Kensington donated a 250-capacity Auditorium to the Department of Human Nutrition while Adesola Adeduntan, an alumnus who is the Managing Director, First Bank Plc., facilitated a memorandum of understanding to sponsor UI’s career fair for three years. Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo, Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo as well as Pastor Enoch Adeboye and his wife, Pastor (Mrs) Folu Adeboye of Redeemed Christian Church of God, Prince Yemisi Shyllon, Lai Fatona among others, have individually assisted UI in many more ways than one. We have them to thank.
Universities all over the world function on the tripod of teaching, research, and community service. The impact of this triad on the society is, of course, astonishingly breathtaking. But how can UI perform its role and make impact in the society when it is bereft of basic needs? All hands must be on deck to assist this prestigious brand to remain the best it has always been.
Saanu is media assistant to the Vice Chancellor, University of Ibadan.