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TASUED: Their own TASUED!

By Wale Odunsi
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By 'Wale Odunsi ([email protected])
Ex-Social Director, TASUED Students Union
March 19, 2012
As pundits, we deserve sympathy. We are like an 'ologbo' (a yoruba parlance for cat) always seduced by the smell of fish. At all times, we are allured to react to burning national issues however form it takes. Even when we choose to "padlock" our lips and let the sleeping dog lie, we usually do not maintain that position for long. This is not unexpected. Bertrand Russell opined; "Doing anything you are good at contributes to your happiness".

The news filtered-in a few weeks ago; the media was awashed with the story. Thus far, different people and organisations/unions have made known their views. They have taken varying stands both for and against. Not a few have sought my opinion. People who are cognizant of the passion I have for my immediate consituent-the youths-literally almost stampeded me into airing my thoughts. As flattering as it seem, I took time to study the situation as it was necessary I compiled the facts before putting pen to paper. I assured my verdict would not take long.

I utterly have no idea what the great Abraham Lincoln had in mind when he said, "Be sure you put your feet in the right place, and stand firm". I wish he were here at this moment, perhaps he would offer an elucidation of what prompted that dictum. Many decades after those words came astir, it strikes one as if it is the paradigm guiding eminent Nigerians such as Chief Mrs. H.I.D Awolowo, Prof. Kayode Oyesiku, Senator Gbenga Kaka, Prof. Biyi Afonja (a professor of over half a century and two-term Pro-Chancellor of O0U), Prof. Afolabi Soyode, renowned Economist and former Vice-Chancellor of OOU-amongst many others-who have all risen in stout defence of the existence of Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED), as against the obstinate stance of the state government. Already, watchers have-and understandably too-added a political colouration to the move coming barely nine months into the regime. Not suprising, both the former and present number one citizen of the state are regarded as arch rivals.

On February 12, 2012, the Governor Ibikunle Amosun-led administration announced its intent to scrap the first university of education in Nigeria, second (and best) in Africa, and eight in the world, subsuming it as an institute under Olabisi Onabanjo University (00U). Injustice I say! Its reasons which cannot attract a round of applause include: poor quality of education arising from inadequate funding, loss of focus, offering irrelevant courses et al. Although one cannot underestimate the role of federating states in the affairs of their institutions, nonetheless, there is a need for wider consultations in some cases especially where it affects the larger society directly or otherwise rather than riding roughshod over its people.

It is admissible to note that the Nigerian consitution recognises and empowers an existing agency, National Universities Commission (NUC), which has the mandate of monitoring universities. One of its many functions is that it also plays an advisory role for state governments on issues affecting their universities (see http://www.nuc.edu.ng/pages/pages.asp?id=31). In the light of this, one is tempted to ask: Did the state government sought the professional advise of NUC before expeditiously deciding to scrap TASUED? If it did, what was the outcome? It is not only unfair to the governed/electorates and but also unhealthy for the image of the nation if successive governments keep changing established policies that enjoys acceptance and is yielding results. I weep! For us on the sidelines following unfolding events, one thing is certain: the stated reasons by the government does not and may never hold water.

The feather-weight claims they laid are indeed trite when ex-students of the relatively young citadel of learning are today a success story. Presently, some have secured teaching/lecturing jobs, some have proceeded for their masters degree, while a large number of others are working in several reputable companies. Were it correct that the school offered "irrelevant courses" as alleged, how come its products are gainfully employed? Or does the government needs to be reminded that in 2008, the current NYSC Director-General, Brig. Gen. Okore-Affia obtained a Post Graduate Diploma in Education from the school it wants to scrap! (see http://www.nysc.gov.ng/dgprofile.php).

Sadly, much ado has been placed on funding of the school -a case of giving the dog a bad name in order to hang it. Anyone who has visited the school will observe that a quarter of the builings/learning materials was donated by private individuals and corporate organisations. The petrochemical sciences laboratory, ICT centre, blocks of lecture rooms, computers, books etc. In terms of the recurrent expenditure, only 70 percent comes from the government (about N53 million monthly). The remaining 30 percent is sourced from the internally generated revenue of the school. Moreso, it is not a secret that there is not a single government-owned university in Nigeria without the problem of funding. Therefore, it is not exclusive to one. Remarkably, the growth of the institution is phenomenon. From 500 quota granted by NUC in 2005, it has been upped to 3500 within a period of just five years. Not only that, all its courses are duly accredited while it continues to attract attention within and outside the country. What is more?

As an alumnus, I am profoundly proud of the achievements of the school which has 'Integrity and Selflessness' as watchword; modifying its status from a university to an institute is not only retrogressive but a double whammy. I admire Winston Churchill for rightly noting that "We must beware of needless innovations, especially when guided by logic". But if the concerned authority makes good its threat, they would have succeeded in telling the world that TASUED is theirs-and not ours afterall.