WATER, NOT ORDINARY
UNIVERSITY of Ibadan, Nigeria's premier university, has been shut for weeks due to non-availability of water and electricity. With crisis looming, the authorities quickly sent the students home while fast-tracking a new electricity facility and improvements in water supply.
Water is a bigger problem than many people think. In a close-knit community with an active population of more than 100,000 like the University of Ibadan, the challenges of water and electricity are not ordinary with unreliable public supplies.
Sixty-four years ago when the university started, there were no such challenges. The founders met the university's needs from public sources. As public supplies became increasingly unstable, the university, like other Nigerian publics, depended more on generating its own power and dotting its landscapes with boreholes in various stages of non-performance.
From their primary objectives of teaching, research and providing knowledge for the sustenance of society, Nigerian universities have assumed responsibilities for basic infrastructure. Never mind that all around them, governments are mouthing initiatives that have made these infrastructures available to all.
How do the events in Ibadan affect everyone? They do. The collapse of infrastructure at the university exposes in bolder fonts aspects of Nigerian decay. Our centres of learning are leaning into distractions and irrelevance. The challenge is not for them to provide for themselves, but for them to realise that others deserve to live in environments that would sustain life. A bane of our country is the focus on needs that reflect narrower perspectives and larger societal selfishness.
Governments and their institutions remain under the illusion that water and electricity are luxuries that should be for only a few, who stress their importance by the fact that they, unlike others, have things so basic.
A few more weeks and the University of Ibadan would recall the students. Nobody would think of the implications of the resources - time, money, the future of the students - that it cost to restore normalcy.
The solution is interim. The university's population is guaranteed to increase. If public infrastructure continues to decay, its ability to meet its needs would soon collapse.
Water and electricity are among essentials for sustainable engagement with modern living, so important that they are not privileges to be dispensed at the whims of those who control them. Does anyone care that millions of Nigerians are diseased from compromised water or that fleeting electricity supplies stall development?
The university will get its supplies only for its graduates to join a larger society without infrastructure. It may still be in the place of Nigeria's premier university (and the others) to tackle a primary challenge for the larger society. It is the call of the hour.