It is, of course, great news that the House of Representatives (HoR) in Nigeria is set to pull the university system out of the notorious Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), one of the incomprehensible steps of the Buhari administration. Incomprehensible in the sense that it is the most sophisticated and fastest way to destroy the entire system because it denies universities discretion in recruitment. Tragically it happened under the watch of the minister for Education who went to that office with the best moral, ideological, group identity and confidence of the boss credentials for the job. Surely, when Mallam Adamu Adamu writes his memoir, the world will get to know how it happened. It is possible some technicians overwhelmed by the efficiency of technology thought there are no contextual issues involved in thinking of the IPPIS in the Nigerian university system.
But beyond the Adamu Adamu presence is the other paradox of that decision. The Buhari regime is about the only one which categorically put the blame for Nigeria’s failure to industrialise on the universities. If the universities were responsible, does the answer to that lie in then castrating them?
At this point, it will be great to see how the HoR not only sorts out the mess but goes beyond taking out the universities from IPSs to stabilising them. Right now, the universities are in a terrible level of decay that is not expected to be the case for Nigeria.
Funding may be a major problem but the decay is beyond funding. There is more of the decay in the moral fabric of academia in Nigeria today and in the course content and the subject matter mastery of majority of the teaching component. In many of the new universities – private and public – there are too many emergency academics, a percentage too high for systematic health. Lastly, the administrative system is in, most cases, too far in the past.
The good news is that the system needs only a minor push to stabilise because it still retains a large concentration of well-made resource persons who can be relied upon to inject the system back to full functioning. But that’s if they can themselves be injected back to life because, before their own very eyes, so much have happened that their morale took a flight. Thankfully, ‘they’ are all very much around and a determined Education minister and his president can bring them back to life very quickly.
By the way, how come we have not heard anything about a behind the scene meeting between President Bola Tinubu and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU)? Could it be that we have not heard such because it must have taken place behind the scenes? Or is it that the president has not found the time for that? Or, is it possible the president doesn’t think it is crucial?
There are no alternatives to ASUU for anyone keen in stabilising the universities because, unlike others who deny the decay, ASUU has taken the time to not only admit of it but also compile the sites and specificities involved.
It’s stress on funding to the detriment of course content and the other equally serious dimensions of the decay notwithstanding, it is still the organisation to work with should Nigeria suddenly appreciate that it cannot go anywhere without universities that are globally competitive. Right now, it seems Nigeria thinks it can attain greatness without great universities. It is not only that such is nothing but a giant illusion but that such thinking is the manifesto for the anarchy that will consume the country.
It will undo the country at both the global in the age of meaning and power. At the domestic level, running without good universities will be dangerous because universities constitute the most viable mechanism for grooming the young boys and girls into self-respecting individuals. It has no alternatives. You create disaster when you allow a university system from which people can go and buy a PhD and wear it like babanriga. Yet, that’s happening right under the nose of the National Universities Commission (NUC), the police and the DSS.
In the absence of universities run on clear guidelines of merit, nothing will stop the country from being completely taken over by people for whom civilisation is themselves rather than the other person. ‘They’ are already more than 50 % successful in the take-over, going by the pervasiveness of cultists, bandits, kidnappers, terrorists and sundry protagonists of criminality across the country. These are the same set of young men and women that good universities and other higher institutions of learning should have humanised but who either did not get admission or got admission but got no life-changing education and can, therefore, not problematise the (material) crisis they are confronting.
In other words, it is not unemployment in itself that accounts for the high degree of criminality and insecurity in the country but the lack of capacity of the perpetrators to frame that reality away from such temptation. After all, it is not everyone who responds to unemployment by resorting to criminality. Some respond by resorting to the Japa approach. Thank God, President Tinubu too is worried about the Japa syndrome. Others stretch themselves to learn new trade. Yet others try to trade. So, Nigeria has no alternatives to universities that can humanise students through critical knowledge and the university setting. Otherwise, no police or DSS can stop the implications of that lack.
Perhaps it is too early to start clapping hands for Hon Tajudeen Abbas, the Speaker of the House of Representatives for giving attention to a substantive issue as education and the very possibility of a future for Nigeria. But it appears he understands that the problem of a credible university system in Nigeria is not lack of funds but the elite paranoia of education they consider to be radical and the subsequent refusal to fund education. Otherwise Nigeria has the money to fund world class universities. The regional leaders of the First Republic did it at a time when oil money was not part of the vocabulary in the range of today’s.