By Gbenro Adesina/Ibadan
Tuesday June 7 2016, amidst tight security, parents from all works of life converged inside the historic Trenchard Hall, University of Ibadan, UI, for a stakeholders meeting organized by the school authorities. it was meant to deliberate on both the immediate and remote causes of the recent face-off between the management and students leading to violent protest staged by students for days, subsequently forcing the authorities to indefinitely close down the school.
The meeting purposefully summoned to chat a logical way of resolving the crisis commenced around 11am with Emeritus Professor, Ayodele Ladipo Banjo, the chairman of the occasion, Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji, represented by Agbaakin of Ibadanland, Oloye Lekan Alabi, public office holders serving and retired, Oyo State Commissioner of Police, Leye Oyebade represented by DPO, Sango Police Station, Joyce Mayaki, the institution’s principal officers and other staff as well as students’ representatives in attendance.
Opening the floor for deliberation, Professor Banjo expressed his happiness for being a part of the unique gathering. Lauding the Vice Chancellor for initiating the forum, the former Vice Chancellor of the institution lamented the ridiculous underfunding of educational sector in Nigeria, saying, “About seven years ago, Federal Government decided to make funds available to the universities and UI enjoyed in this largesse. But all of a sudden, they stopped. This is not good at a season when knowledge has come to rule the world. UI needs tools, money to play its roles adequately in the development of our country. All the stakeholders must cooperate together to keep UI in the forefront”.
In their contributions for a way forward, most parents, who equivocally condemned the students for acting irresponsibly and demonstrating lack of discipline, begged the school authority to forgive the erring students and reopen the school for academic activities as one of the parents said, “Please, you have to open the school very fast because whenever my child is at home, the food stuff depletes fast as a result of her high consumption”. They equally appealed to the Federal Government to adequately fund education at least in line with the recommendation of the United Nations. The parents equally called the school management to explore other means, especially engaging in Private Public Partnership schemes, as well as parents assisting the premier university financially.
In his contribution, Agbaakin Alabi, who sad that UI with international recognition had degenerated to parlous state as a result of failure of man, urged the university to ensure that only the best is admitted as a student into the university. Other participants spoke at length on the way forward. Dr. Olayinka Akintola urged that halls of residence should be decongested and willing parents should be allowed to help in whatever form.
Mr. Abdulwahab Aderemi who acknowledged that the students are immature urged the authority to learn how to pamper them saying, “VC’s office is being renovated every year but the halls of residence remain the same.” In the same vein, while Mrs. Shewaade Adekoya said, “Make the interest of the students paramount”, Venerable Kayode Ige added to the dismay of other parents, “The students agitated because of the problem they are facing in the course of their studies and you are saying that they should be beheaded. It is not fair”.
Venerable J. O. Adeyemi, Mr. Wale Oshinsanya, Pastor Niyi Emmanuel, Professor Olabisi Ugbebor and Professor Michael Asuzu did not only condemn the students for their unbecoming attitude but condemned parents for failure to train their children and it culminates in the pains being experienced by the society as a result of their bad behavior. Aderemi said, “Everybody should be blamed for the behavior of the students because the Bible says teach your children, don’t pamper them”. Asuzu said, “It is not true that we must pamper but we must discipline them tenderly. Engage the students with discipline and tenderness”. Oshinsanya said, “It is a shame to the parents that their children join gangs in school to cause mayhem. Let us go and teach our children”. Emmanuel said, “We should train our children”. Ugbebor said, “A child who is corrected must humble him or herself. Our children must be disciplined. The issue of discipline must not be negotiated”.
However, the President of students union, Aliyu Oladimeji Olateju disagreed with the parents that they were not disciplined saying, “UI houses the best students and peace loving students. We are not demanding for 24 hours electricity, but some hours to be able to solve our problems, study and print our materials. You should also liase with us because we also have proposals on how to move the university forward. We are well trained. We don’t want victimization and we want you to recall all the students”.
Angry at the parents calling for the pampering of the students, the Dean of Students’ Affairs, Professor AbdulRasak Akinola Alada having urged against sentimentalizing the issue was worried about distortion of information that has characterized the suspension of Tunji Michael Ekpeti, a 500 level student of Petroleum Engineering which led to the crisis. According to him, Ekpeti was made to face Students Disciplinary Committee, SDC, for the offence he committed. He was not officially accommodated. He was supposed to be in Port Harcourt on internship. His suspension went through a due process. UI operates on committee system. He had the opportunity to appeal the judgement slammed on him within 14 days if he felt that the committee was not fair to him but he went to report the matter to National Association of Nigeria Students, NANS, that wrote a threat letter to the VC and asked the school authority to apologize to the student for doing what was right. They came here and caused mayhem and destroyed the school property. I will resign my appointment if you want to allow this brigandage and I will not be a teacher of thuggery and I will not teach thuggery”.
Narrating the state of the institution, Olayinka, in a 77-page PowerPoint presentation painted the sorry state of funding and infrastructure in the institution. With the aid of a graph, Olayinka illustrated the rise and decline of the university from 1940s till date. According to him, between 1948 to 1970, the university was characterized by restricted enrolment; maximum intellectual exposure; institutional autonomy; academic freedom; physical teaching; learning facilities of high standard; international staff and students mix and a very solid foundation and culture of research. The institution enjoyed relatively high global reputation.
But from the late 70s to around year 2000, which he described as the turbulent years, the period was characterized by highly unfavourable political and socio-economic climate; wiping out of the middle class to which academic belonged; local and foreign brain drain; incessant strike by staff unions; depleted and obsolete facilities; very large students numbers; gross underfunding; loss of institutional and academic freedom and steady fall in national and international prestige.
Year 2000 to the future, is to be characterized by revitalizing the university, and new lease of academic life. Olayinka noted that the features of a world-class university would comprise concentration of talent comprising students, teaching staff, researchers and internationalization; abundant resources made up of public budget resources, endowment revenues, tuition fees and research grant; and favourable governance made up of supportive regulatory framework, autonomy, academic freedom, leadership team, strategic vision and culture of excellence.
Disclosing that the premier institution was conceived as a fully residential university, he said, however, since the early 1970s, there has been inadequate staff housing and hostel facilities for students on campus saying only 28 percent of students, 28 percent of junior staff and 20 percent of senior staff are accommodated on campus.
The erudite scholar of geology, who stated that students are the lifeblood of a university, stressed that the mark of a truly world-class institution is measured by what its graduates do after leaving. He itemized the goals of the premier university to include training of a new generation of leaders who are enquiry-led learners, recognized by employers for their intellectual calibre, trained to think critically and reason practically and able to communicate effectively and work in a team.
He revealed how steadily the members of the community increased to the level at which the facilities on ground could not cope with. “Between 2008/2009 and 2014/15, the students’ enrolment rose from 19,521 to 28,531, the academic staff rose from 1,214 to 1,561 and non academic staff rose from 3,126 to 4,250”, he stated.
He also presented how the expenses of municipal services have astronomically gone up stating that the supply of diesel and engine oil between 2011 to 2015 decreased from N214m to N38m, electricity bill rose from N137m to N335m, payment to external examiners rose from N40m to N113m, and cleaning of the institution rose from N119m to N149m.
According to him, major challenge in water supply is inadequate production pointing out that the existing 250m3/hour water plant could only produce six million litres on 24 hour non-stop operation per day whereas UI’s water demand stands at about 13 million litres per day. Presenting other challenges to include inadequate storage capacity and aged/weak pipes in the distribution network, he promised an improvement in water supply by the time the second water treatment plant is ready for production of water, which would not be long.
Listing sources of income in the university to include government and intervention agencies such as TETFUND, PTDF, students’ fees and levies and endowments, donations, grants, investments and consultancy, Olayinka expressed disappointment over the N100m monthly shortfall of the government allocation to the school since he assumed office adding, “It is like they were waiting for me to take over before with holding what is due to us”.
Olayinka gave account of what the income from Internally Generated Revenue, IGR is spent on to include core academic which include: teaching, research equipment acquisition, ICT infrastructure, library, construction of academic building; municipal function to include: power generation, roads and grounds construction, and water supply scheme; capital expenditure which include: construction of staff quarters, staff students welfare and construction of hostels.
He equally gave account of what the management is doing to improve power supply to include: expediting action on the 10MW solar at Ajibode with support from TETFund and a German company and connection to 132KV feeder from IBEDC, replacing ageing cables both low and high tension, complimenting the power supply with inverter and solar cells, using of energy saving equipment, improve the energy efficiency of buildings thereby saving costs, multi-disciplinary research into renewable energy resources to generate biofuels/biodiesel, expand and enhance efficiency of the water treatment plant, ensure 24 hour power supply to the plant and the raw water pumping stations and compliment with boreholes.
Quoting Emeritus Professor Oladipo Akinkugbe at the 1998 convocation lecture of the institution, “Central to decay and desecration is funding and it does not need a gift of prophetic wisdom to surmise that unless this is addressed positively and aggressively there can be no turnaround in the status of Nigerian universities”, Olayinka said without adequate funding, it is unrealistic for the management to tackle the problems confronting the institution as it desires. He, however, assured that the school would soon be reopened.
Concluding, he bemoaned how the students have been disrespecting him by wishing him dead and raining series of abuses on him through the social media adding, “I have forgiven them. Senate will meet on Thursday and next week, we will meet with the students after which we will inform the students and the public the next line of action”.