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UI AT 63: PROSPECTS AND CHALLENGES

By NBF News
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• Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan had in 2009 (then as Vice-President) correctly captured the befitting description of the Nigeria's premier university, when he said the University of Ibadan (UI) belongs to every Nigerian. According to President Jonathan, 'every family in Nigeria has benefitted from UI. If you are not a UI graduate, somebody from your family must have graduated from UI. If nobody from your family attended UI, then, one of your family members must have been taught by someone who was taught by a UI graduate. In other words, UI belongs to all Nigerians.'

Obviously, nothing could be truer than this assertion. I would like to corroborate the President's position by adding that anybody who has ever read the literary works of Professors Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe and John Pepper Clark (who are all UI graduates anyway), has equally drunk from the ocean of intellectualism, flowing from Ibadan to different parts of the world. Indeed, without any embroidery, UI, as one has said repeatedly, is a national patrimony that must be treasured by all Nigerians. At 63, it is still young compared to many older universities across the globe, some of which are as old as 500 years.

It is not doing badly given its enviable antecedent.

Against this background, two major events unfolded recently which vividly illustrated the prospects and challenges of the Nigeria's oldest university. Firstly, the University celebrated its 63rd Foundation Day with fanfare. The second event was the silent commemoration of the first year in office of the incumbent Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole where stock-taking was painstakingly reviewed. Those who witnessed the two events saw UI in its true states of hope and hopelessness.

Let us therefore consider the gleaming and the gloomy sides of our dear university with a view to sharing both its joy and toil, after all, light is yoke when it is shared. Arising from its Graduation and Foundation Day ceremonies, it is evident that UI is fast moving towards becoming a world-class institution. For the first time in many years, the university substantially expanded the scope of its documentation. There are more than six different publications on different issues affecting the University. Surprisingly, UI produced annual report, similar to the standard practice in private sector. In the glossy annual report, Prof. Adewole gave various account of his stewardship, including all the contracts awarded, the cost, the contractors, the completion period, payment up to date as well as the progress recorded.

This is incredible. Observers were dazed with the level of transparency, creativity and accountability that this novel idea of annual report advertised. Clearly, this is a radical departure from the past practice where contents of this annual report would have been shrouded in secrecy. The credit goes to the VC, Prof. Adewole who seems to be shocking the university community with an enviable unique approach to university administration. Apart from the annual report, Prof. Adewole equally gave the audience other new publications such as profile of the recipients of the university's honorary degree, a compendium of his many of speeches, report of the disaster wreaked by the August 26 flood in UI among others.

Obviously, information flowed freely from the transparent Adewole's regime.

Another heart-warming development coming from UI is the award of automatic post-graduate scholarship for all this year's 106 first-class graduates of the university. Prof. Adewole had promised, while campaigning to become the VC, to give post-graduate scholarship award to first class students. The promise was greeted by sheer cynicism, as some of his detractors described the promise as a political gimmick. But with the promise gaining full expression, the enigmatic VC has recorded yet another credit, difficult to dismiss.

As noted by The Nation newspaper's editorial of 24 November, 2011 'encouraging the best graduating students to stay back and pursue post graduate studies has been an old tradition in the academia until Nigeria's educational system became seriously dysfunctional about two decades ago.' Prof. Adewole is by this gesture, reviving the cherished old tradition, thus, setting pace for other universities. At a time that the country is in dire need of quality manpower to take charge of a legion of universities dotting our landscape, Adewole's initiative, designed to produce adequate scholars for our needs, should be generally applauded and emulated.

But despite his missionary zeal to truly transform UI with his agenda of enthronement of good governance, improvement in academic activities, infrastructural upgrade and enhancement of welfare of staff and students, Prof. Adewole is confronted with some challenges that call for collective collaboration and support..One of the greatest ways of immortalizing one' name is to give back to the university that made one. Yes, some have done well for UI, but they can still do more. Thousands are still hiding, let them come and donate so as to make UI truly the first and the best.

Saanu writes from University of Ibadan