‘FG Should Increase Education Budget, Stop Establishing Varsities’

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A former Chairman, University of Ilorin branch of the Academic Staff Union if Universities, who is currently the Dean, Faculty of Arts of the university, Professor Abdulrasheed Adeoye delivered the 186th inaugural lecture of the university titled ‘Poetics of Legislation and De-legislation on Play Directing’. He spoke with Hammed Shittu on a wide range of national issues like FG, ASUU face-off on IPPIS, proliferation of private universities, standard of education and functions of drama, among others. Excerpts:

What is your take on the face-off between the federal government and ASUU over the union’s non-enrolment in the IPPIS?

At the last congress of ASUU, University of Ilorin, I told them that I am an incurable optimist and that the problem will be solved. Let’s not delude ourselves. If you have a formula that you want to use to pay my salary and that formula does not accommodate certain basic things that ordinarily I should enjoy and I have sent a proposal that your formula did not accommodate my sabbatical leave, adjunct services that I render to nearby universities, which are legitimate within the law, why should you be afraid to accommodate them? Who is actually fomenting trouble this time around? Is it ASUU or federal government? It is a question of ego, nothing more. Government should just settle down and face some realities. Why are NNPC, CBN, FIRS not in IPPIS? It is not a question of pride. Serious lecturers in any universities, they don’t just compromise things; we scrutinize and evaluate. You can accuse us of being too hypercritical. The point is we don’t just take things the way they come. Is IPPIS in any way going to affect the university autonomy, the answer is yes. I think people in the presidency, especially the Accountant General of the Federation need to sit down and face the reality. If ASUU did not provide alternative or moderate what they brought, it is something else. They don’t offer solution. We provided another opportunity that call us, this is what we think you can do. It wouldn’t stop you from correcting the corruption you said you fight. I pray it wouldn’t snowball into industrial action.

Would you suggest that the IPPIS plan be rescinded if the federal government fails to see reason with what ASUU has advanced?

Never in life should you ever be with the minority. Go round all federal universities, what is the percentage of the people that have subscribed among us into IPPIS; ten percent. So, the implication is if you have 1,000 people and 900 are saying no, you know the answer. Let no point be in your life that you see yourself as an unfortunate minority. I will always stay where the majority will be.

How can you review the standard of education in Nigeria?

Some people will say it is falling, I don’t subscribe to it. In fact, the students that we have now need to be praised and appreciated. What did you have in the 70s and 80s when everything was almost free? What plans did you have for those students? Who is falling what? Thank God in the same university, you need to just take your clothes, put them in front of your room, people will just come and pack them and wash them for you. You have free meal and what have you. What plans did you have for these 21st century students? I think we need to be careful, otherwise their spirits won’t haunt us. Those who think the standard is falling, need to do self- reexamination. As a lecturer, I don’t miss my classes and do critical research and produce things as an individual. So, would I claim standard is falling from my own end, No. We just need to find way. We are in the fourth industrial revolution, where we talk about artificial intelligence, where those students alone do not need to rely on your analogue note that you want to use. I need to be current with that industrial age. We can shout till tomorrow, they will use the handset. The internet is their second home. And a serious lecturer should get himself acquainted with the reality of the multimedia age, which has come to stay with us. So, the standard is falling by those who want it to fall; I don’t subscribe to it when we go into this simple generalisation, what I can even call arrogance of intellectual pronouncement. The standard in University of Ilorin is not falling. I can speak about my school. Let me now go into my narrow prejudice. The problem is failure of planning. Your religion at times may not allow you to limit the number of children you may claim you want to have. Do we plan? Can we claim that next year, this number of students would enter Nigerian universities? What do we do for them? Somebody that is supposed to be taking between two and four courses is taking between 11 and 12. Government should continue to do more, carry everybody along, do proper planning. If I have my way, they should declare education sector as a crisis sector. We can use one year to formulate policies that would help us. Life itself is about the policy thrust and it is that policy thrust that we don’t like. Ask yourself, what is the percentage of the budget for education. The data is there to speak volume. And if you take Kano State with two other states, Kano is meeting 25 per cent budget allocation for education and there are sizeable number of students that they send abroad to go and read medicine and law every year, and that state is growing steadily. Even when you want to accuse the state of overpopulation and what have you, that is a conscious effort and planning. How many states can claim and boast of 24 per cent, the total budget for education. If federal government is actually serious and I hope and pray one day it will beef up the budget allocation to education; stop establishing universities. It is becoming nauseating. It shouldn’t be “aso-ebi” kind of, otherwise we would be talking about glorified secondary schools. The universities that we have are enough, all we need to do is to make them mega universities. For instance in the six geopolitical zones, we select two universities each, making 12 and turn them to mega universities, where we can have close to an average of eight satellite campuses. Each faculty will be domicile in a major town. That is the concept we have in the Osun State University. Each faculty separately and in the next 20 years, they become universities of their own. Somebody should just say let us do this concept, not proliferation of universities. It is now a status symbol.

Recently, the NUC said it has discovered 100 fake professors. Do we really have fake Professors and is it true that most professors cut corners to attain the status?

If somebody is discovered to have run foul of the law, prosecute the person. I can’t say NUC has lied. Nigerians can fake anything and everything now, let’s get that reality straight. If they are coming with that, to me, it is a good one. That means people who may want to be in that line will be conscious now. What I would not like is when you make that announcement that they have been discovered and you let it die. Prosecute them. NUC is the watchdog. Let me tell you, maybe without NUC today, we wouldn’t be talking about universities. That body needs to be respected. I have been on NUC accreditation to several universities and without accreditation, for instance, where would universities be today? Give more money to NUC, let them play the oversight function very well and you will see wonders. I’m a privileged member of the University of Ilorin Appointments and Promotions Committee. For you to even get any promotion in University of Ilorin, you sweat for it. The rules are there, to move from one rank to the other, is clearly spelt out and you can’t cut corners. Self publishing journals are in the past; not peculiar to this university anyway. If you want to move even to senior lecturer, you will get international publications. People can clone the net, I’m not ruling that out. But if you claim, my school will take journals that are housed and domiciled by academic body. For us in the University of Ilorin, it is merit and hard work.

You talked about proliferation of universities in the country. What is your take on the advent of private universities?

If people are actually serious like in other climes, five or six private universities can come together to become one. Let us not delude ourselves. They can come together and become one, and you will see they would be strengthened rather than status symbol; my name is now used to establish one university whereas I’m doing nothing. If you will have private university, why not University of Law or Medicine or Education. Now, we have universities that run almost all the programmes.

What is your view on private universities clamouring for TETFund grant just like what is obtainable in public universities?

Why did you think they should give them? If they made profit, do they pay back to government? Who are the owners of these private universities? If you take the faith- based ones out, the rest are owned by private individuals.

As a Professor of the Performing Arts, has drama helped to correct societal ills?

Let me go Fugardian. Athol Fugard is a South African dramatist/playwright. He wrote a play titled ‘The Quote’. There is a character in that play, Laventis and he has a line, which goes this way, “You want to use the theatre to change the society we live in? We are now talking about using the theatre to talk about Velvet Revolution. The concept of Velvet Revolution is revolution of the mind, not that the theatre will tell you, take this gun, go and kill. No. Can it work on your psyche, can you watch a play and after watching it, can you get off? What Yoruba Ronu play where Hubert Ogunde was locked up after watching the play? Wole Soyinka was commissioned in 1959 to put up a play for mere celebration of Nigeria’s independence and he allowed patriotic zeal in him to take over and he ended up putting a play ‘A Dance of the Forests’. In the play, he predicted the doom and the downfall of Nigeria. Did it not happen six years after through the first and second coups. The dramatist is a forecaster, who preaches into the future. May be you are talking about restructuring or neo-nationalism. Let us forget nationalism and talk about neo-nationalism, it is the current mantra in the post-coloniality. People are disillusioned; they thought the nationalists had failed us. We have been talking about centrifugal and centripetal forces. At what point do we go to strengthen centripetal forces? What is the state of our federalism. What is the state of the current election? Are we actually having election or selection? It is now shooting everywhere. I think we are in trouble as a nation, and let us not pretend that all is well.