Professor IBK’s patriotic thoughts on public universities

On Friday, December 2, that is, two Fridays ago, I published here what I called a “daring message” sent to me by a Mr. Dele Owolowo, a guest contributor. I entitled his message “ASUU’s rightful battle of moral conscience against financial realities....
Ibrahim Bello-Kano

Bello-Kano

On Friday, December 2, that is, two Fridays ago, I published here what I called a “daring message” sent to me by a Mr. Dele Owolowo, a guest contributor. I entitled his message “ASUU’s rightful battle of moral conscience against financial realities.” Several counter-messages/contributions reached me thereafter. I meant to publish one or two of them last Friday. But somehow I altered my programme and gave attention to the pertinent subject of our country’s glancing simulators and mask-wearers who pretended (and pretend still) to be on the same page that ASUU has been shaping and re-shaping patriotically to make our public universities what rightly and correctly that they should be.
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Professor Ibrahim Bello-Kano of Bayero University, Kano who needs no further introduction here on account of his series of patriotic contributions to make this a top column that is a top column offers his radically patriotic and patriotically radical thoughts – which I delightfully cherish – to counter in no uncertain terms Mr. Dele Owolowo’s rightwing specious reading of the situation in our public universities. Kindly take a patriotic listen to Professor Ibrahim Bello-Kano. After all is said and done you are likely to applaud him even though you may not agree fully or partially with his ringing thoughts of thoughts that are thoughts of thoughts that dwell on the central government’s wickedly-induced vagaries and tragedies of our public universities.

My brief comment on Mr. Owolowo’s piece is this: nowhere in the world is a university producing cars or refrigerators. Take Toyota. Which university in Japan is in partnership with Toyota to produce cars or with Hitachi to produce blended products or electronics (of durable or un-durable quality)? Is Harvard University the owner of YouTube or Facebook? Universities are there to produce knowledge or cutting edge knowledge that could be used in a variety of ways, from technical and managerial areas to cultural and psychological-historical ones. If we insisted on a backward linkage between universities and the economy, then the former would just be spaces for managerial research or conduits for industry and private enterprise to use and discard.

It’s false and reductionist to insist that the idea of the University is simply to help or advance the cause of Economics or the Economy. Take Chinese universities: are they all there to advance Economic matters, and not Chinese cultural nationalism and political hegemony? Why do we have, for example, endowments for the Humanities in the most economically and industrially advanced economies? The U.S. and Chinese Academies of Science, the Humanities and Social Sciences are the largest and the richest in the world.

The historical and economic and industrial hegemony of the West was first culturally fabricated in their universities before it was consolidated in practice through imperial and military institutions. I think it’s ridiculous and petty and uncritical to think that our universities would be better transformed if they were hitched to the wagon of private enterprise and the profit bandwagon (the so called Economy). Indeed, it’s simplistic at best to assume that Nigerian universities should or could be Western or American universities, not even their pale copies.
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Take British or UK universities: year in year out, the lectureship is always up in arms against the managerial practices of the universities there. Disputes over pay and conditions of service are the norm in the UK universities, the first country in Europe to push through wholesale managerial policies in its public universities. Indeed, UK universities have drastically declined relative to, say, German and French higher education institutions and universities that have seemingly over-taken the former over the years and decades.

Years and decades of neo-liberal managerial policies in the UK universities have made them pathetically dependent on foreign student intakes to survive. This is not the case in Germany, for example. What’s more, the very Buhari administration that wouldn’t fund the universities has, so far, and in the space of seven years, established almost 10 if not more. Just think of a university of health and of transport in the hometowns of Adamu Adamu and Buhari respectively. The Nigerian legislature is thinking of establishing sixty more public universities.

Pundits who only recommend a dubious economistic thesis in the face of the crisis of the Nigerian universities forget that there isn’t a single privately owned university in Nigeria that has the infrastructural and scholarly wherewithal of UI, ABU, UNIBEN, UNN, OAU or BUK, for example. Most of the private universities, including those sponsored by the Church or Muslim groups, are heavily dependent on the lectureship and professoriate of the public universities.

I know of a private university in Kano who pays a paltry N50k for a whole semester course and has much longer teaching hours! Finally, what is meant by the claim that the public universities should serve economic ends or goals or agenda? Whose, in fact? Where in the world has that happened? Or, is such a claim a back-hand way of saying that there should be no public universities?

In 2010 or thereabouts, the Nigerian government increased the salaries of Vice Chancellors by a huge margin but not those of the academic staff. The VCs were ranked with the Federal Permanent Secretaries (who in every conceivable way are inferior to Vice Chancellors) in emoluments and allowances, only for the IPPIS in 2015 to truncate the salaries of the teaching staff by a third! One sees posh cars in many universities for Admin staff, including for academics holding admin offices, enhanced allowances for Governing Council members and so on.

The economic and social parasitism that is rampant in the public universities is the effect of government’s jaundiced policies on the universities. Universities in a backward, third world country such as Nigeria are there to modernise the country and to enhance social opportunities for the bulk of the youth from rural and poor urban backgrounds.
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In a country where wages are abysmally low, a country that cannot sustain portable water and steady supply of electricity, a country with apocalyptic road networks, rampant criminality and bandit impunity, a country with parasitic arms of government, inflated salaries for state officials and political hangers-on, a country with a rapacious private sector, the public universities are the last hope for the economically starved, socially truncated, and culturally deracinated youth to join the modern world and to participate in the exciting maelstrom of modernity.

In a rapidly class stratified society and a full blown bureaucracy swimming in the ocean of economic parasitism, the public universities remain the symbol of the egalitarian prin­ciple of economic and social equality of all citizens.

Clearly, without mincing words, Professor Ibrahim Bello-Kano flattered my joyously joyous patriotic sensibilities not necessarily because we shared similar leftwing perspectives, but because of the appealing force of his rigorous submission that echoes and joins my well known propensities to demolish from time to time the malicious central government’s attempts and series of propaganda networks and mechanisms to destroy, demolish and finish off entirely our public universities which the indefatigably progressive union called ASUU has been resisting and will continue to resist until we have the regime that is the regime of people that are people to give ASUU and our public universities what is rightly theirs that is their rightly theirs.

Let me state here that one of my highly influential contributors in the diaspora of similarly leftwing propensities tended to be captured by Mr. Dele Owolowo’s capriciously specious submission. But his argument does not match what his usually big-hearted submissions entailed.
For now, join IBK and this columnist to salute ASUU ever-on-the-march to rescue our public universities from the cruel ones and their malicious-one-in-chief. Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! Thot! Thunder!
Afejuku can be reached via +2348055213059.
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