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University as catalyst for national devt in post-COVID-19 era – Part 5

By Oyewale Tomori
16 March 2022   |   1:25 am
Today, the situation has not changed one bit. Our universities spend millions of naira, erecting super-gates emblazoned with the Centre of Excellence, when their libraries are stocked with moldy and outdated books acquired..

Prof. Oyewale Tomori

Today, the situation has not changed one bit. Our universities spend millions of naira, erecting super-gates emblazoned with the Centre of Excellence, when their libraries are stocked with moldy and outdated books acquired in the colonial days. Our universities shamelessly pride themselves in being addressed as The “Harvard”, the “Cambridge” or the “Oxford” of Nigeria. What is wrong with being the Ibadan, Nsukka or Zaria of Nigeria? If there is any semblance of excellence in any activity in a Nigerian, be rest assured that the activity has foreign funding or support.
In a recent release by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, in its July 2017 Monthly Digest indicated that in July 2017 alone, it provided N6.1billion to 198 institutions (61 Universities, 60 Polytechnics, 76 Colleges of Education, and one Professional body). The funds were provided for physical infrastructure for teaching and learning, research activities, academic staff training and development, conference attendance and other interventions.

If we are to match the funds disbursed with performance, current state, and the reported depth of misuse of funds going on in our tertiary institutions, even as our VCs compete with seasoned politicians in entering EFCC net, we may be contributing to transforming the TETFund into Nigeria’s TETFront for TETFraud! However, the current leadership of TETFUND is making serious and genuine efforts to transform Nigeria using the resources of TETFUND to lay a solid scientific and technological framework for the transformation of Nigeria.

Despite government efforts to improve facilities in our universities, a major setback for effective utilisation or operation of these funds and facilities for research funds is the poor infrastructures and facilities – electric power supply, water etc.

“Electricity power supply in Nigeria is so erratic and unreliable that what we get is EPI-LECTRIC. Every establishment, (tertiary institution included), provides, at huge cost, its own electricity for running operations. One of the universities, a small private university with a student population of 5000, spends over 12 million naira monthly, purchasing diesel to power generators supplying electricity to the academic areas for 12-14 hours a day.
From the foregoing, it is obvious that all of us have contributed to making Nigeria a scientifically stunted and technologically backward nation.  The misplaced priority of government, the protective self-interest of the elite and university men and women, and the indifferent ignorance of the general society are the ingredients of the conspiracy that have led to the under-development of Nigeria.
The Nigerian university needs to do at least four things to bring Nigeria back from the brink of technological disaster. First, the Nigerian university must identify with and be seen by society as part of the society. Second, the university must be asking the right questions relating to the problems of our society. Third, the university needs to focus research activities on the directions of questions we have asked. Finally, the Nigerian university in collaboration with the government must seek relevance in serving and meeting the identified needs of the society.
What is the way forward for the society-government and industry? I will divide this into two groups: the government and industry and the society at large. In spite of government declared intentions, the Nigerian government has a lackadaisical attitude, a laissez-faire approach, and disinterested excitement about university education, excited only in setting up universities like pure water factories. It is difficult to believe, going by the history of government support for universities in Nigeria, that few people in the governance of Nigeria see any significant role for universities in the transformation of Nigerian society.  We expect our governments to stop paying lip service to the development of the university system in Nigeria. We look forward to a government that will see the university as an instrument for improving each aspect of our daily living.  

Society at large must demand, as of right, a better and improved standard of living from the government and university. The public must work with the government and the university in ensuring that knowledge is made public property and available in the public domain. Society must demand from the government and the universities that our children receive appropriate education about life, ensuring that our children spend more time in zoos and natural history museums than they spend in disco and cinema halls. Society must work hand in hand with the government and industry in setting developmental targets. We must neither separate society from the university nor the university from the society.
I find no better way to end this lecture than to say that the university must discover, disseminate, and apply the knowledge and education for human well-being and the development of society. I want to leave you with the Seven Social Sins which were first uttered in a sermon delivered in Westminster Abbey on March 20, 1925 by an Anglican priest named Frederick Lewis Donaldson. He originally referred to it as the “7 Deadly Social Evils”. This list is often wrongly attributed to Mohandas Karamch and Gandhi. He published the same list in his weekly newspaper Young Indiaon October 22, 1925.  The Seven Sins are: 1. Wealth without work, 2.Pleasure without conscience, 3. Knowledge without character, 4.Commerce without morality, 5. Science without humanity, 6. Religion without sacrifice, and 7.Politics without principle.
These seven social sins (SSS) determine our type of society. The university person among us who educates without humanity, acquires knowledge without character is in the same class and has no moral ground to condemn the businessman engaged in commerce without morality, or the politician without principles or the priest without sacrifice, because they are enjoying wealth or fame without work and rolling in pleasure without conscience. They each contribute their quota to the underdevelopment of our country. I want to thank you all for your patience and presence of mind.
 Prof. Tomori in a convocation lecture delivered recently at the University of Medical Sciences, (UNIMED), Odosida Campus, Ondo City.


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