The War Against Open University

There is a war against National Open University of Nigeria. Indeed, there is a war against education. This war is led by the authorities of some conventional Universities, Council of Legal Education whose members are mostly from the conventional universities, National Youth Service Corps and some other government agencies benefiting from citizens ignorance and continuous exploitation of Nigerian students.

As we all know, wars are fought against enemies, sometimes against obstacle that is preventing progress. This is the general practice all over the world. However, when war is declared against an institution of learning, whose only crime is providing access to quality education for all those who seek knowledge, it becomes a major source of concern to all lovers of knowledge.

It must be noted that, the war against Open University is not against the management of the University, certainly not. It is directly against the students of the University and in extension, the Nigerian people who are the primary consideration for the establishment of the university.

Before I go further, let me state that, the war against National Open University of Nigeria shall not succeed, though it is real. Like HIV, It could kill, destroy or even lead to wide spread ignorance. But like Nigeria, we shall defeat the Ebola against the Open University system.

Although, we know those executing this unholy war, what we don’t understand is their reasons for engaging in this dirty practice in the 21st century, thereby making Nigeria look like backward people to the amusement of the international community. if not, why would those saddled with the responsibilities of regulating and moving Nigerian education forward, resort to condemning best practices as seen all over the world? We are often left to wonder, why highly placed personnel, occupying important positions as heads of academic agencies would abhor this noble institution so much that they are willing to kill it without any remorse or conscience. They are willing to ruin the lives of thousands of students for their selfish reasons.

From our investigation, we learnt that, this war shouldn’t be unconnected with the endemic corruption in the Nigerian education sector. For example, National Open University of Nigeria has fulfilled every requirement in terms of standard, but its 2 sets of Law graduates are yet to be admitted into the Nigerian Law School. After 3 years of graduating as lawyers, NOUN law graduates are still roaming the street with their law degree.

Despite NOUN coming first in 2013 Moot competition as a first time participant, trouncing every other University, both known and unknown in the process to emerge victorious, the Council of Legal Education still feel justified to proclaim this citadel of noble intellectuals as not qualified to pursue law. If NOUN which came first in law competition is not qualified to pursue law, please tell us, which other University is qualified? Like the Council of Legal Education, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) had also refused to mobilize Open University graduates within the service year for the mandatory National Youth Service. For the NYSC, there was no reason given, they just assumed that graduates from this first of its kind University should not be mobilized for national service. They are excluded for no just reason.

As i ponder over the above and other similar discrimination without justification, I recall a publication by Don Adinuba, written as far back as 1985 when the Open University was first suspended during the military era of President Muhammadu Buhari. In the said publication, Don Adinuba wrote: In 1985, Mr. B.A Ibironke, the director of studies of the Nigerian Law school announced that candidates with external law degree would no longer be admitted into the Nigerian law school. The reason the law school study director gave was that such graduates, during their training, were not quite exposed to such important facilities as the library. How did Ibironke or the council of legal education come to that conclusion was not explained. Perhaps, explanation is not necessary. It would rather seem that the decision is in line with the campaign or war against National Open University of Nigeria.

According to Don Adinuba, he recalled the suspension of NOUN in 1984. Long before the suspension, the Open University, one of the few imaginative innovation of the federal civil administration, had suffered a serious governmental setback. The senate refused to pass the bill establishing it because the president had appointed a Vice Chancellor for the University even before the bill was sent to the National Assembly. For that singular reason, senators failed to agree on whether to approve or not, the bill establishing the university until military took over the affairs of the country. Don Adinuba wrote that, the UPN, contrary to popular thinking, did not oppose the establishment of an Open University. After all, its leader Obafemi Awolowo earned an external degree of London University in Commerce. While it is true that, former premier of Western region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo earned a degree through what can be compared to the Open University education in London, he was not the only one. There are many other respected figures in Nigeria who acquired degree through the same process. Dr. Basil Nnanna Ukaegbu (Statesman and former gubernatorial candidate of GNPP), Professor Sam Aluko (foremost and popular economist), Prof Chike Obi and many others are graduates of the same system of University. We must ask, was there any misgivings about their intellectual capabilities? The resounding answer from the general public would be a very loud No. How then can those, fighting war against this institution in Nigeria justify their war? Imagine that, if the above mentioned personalities were denied access to certain privileges on the basis of their education in Open University system, would that not have been a great disservice to the Nigerian nation? So, why would some people be all out to frustrate Nigerians who seek education at the Open University through unjustifiable discrimination?

Prof Aluko, one of the few authentic and principled Nigerian academics, had been wondering as far back as 1980’s, why his countrymen should be debating the desirability or otherwise of open education when the Latin Americans have adopted ‘’mobile education’’, a system enabling guerrillas to earn university education while in the war front. This is a time to rethink if this nation must move forward.

Although, It is our understanding that, one of the reason for barring NOUN graduates is the fear that, should the University be approved by all agencies without any discrimination, more Nigerians would have access to acquire legal education and become barristers. Also, another point to be considered is that, should Open University be approved for law, NYSC etc, most Nigerian students would prefer to apply to the University instead of patronizing many of the conventional Universities. For that singular reason, these professionals decided to dent the image of the school through all kind of machinations, to give a perception that the Open University could not have been of high quality when compared with conventional Universities. In essence, the No law school, No NYSC, No this, No that, all are geared towards abusing the mind of the public, imprinting it in their mind that, Open University is not good enough. They are doing this so that, when the school is finally approved, it would take a long time to disabuse the mind of the public about such fallacy, giving the conventional Universities more time to adjust to the new reality.

Let me conclude that, If law school’s decision was informed by the desire to uphold the purity and standard of legal practice in Nigeria, the council should admit NOUN law graduates and subject them to the same test process like graduates from other Universities. Only through such process, can the council justify whatever it is saying about the Open University. As for the NYSC and others, let the day of the lord come. Service of one’s fatherland is a right, all citizen must participate.

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Articles by Abdulrazaq Oyeabnji Hamzat