Town and Gown: The Weakened Interface

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 The shocking revelation by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund that many Nigerian lecturers use the grants meant for academic research to buy properties has once again enlivened discourse on the rising corruption in the academia. This and a similar allegation of personnel budget inflation by some institutions including the University of Ibadan, and the reported certificate scandal involving Mr Chima Igwe of the Federal Institute of Industrial Research (FIIRO) Oshodi, Lagos, is the height of it.

Speaking in Dubai on Monday, the TETfund’s director of research and development, Salihu Bakari decried the reduction in the number of research applicants. He noted that as of 2019, out of 229 eligible public institutions, only 26 applied for journal publications. This is as the agency announced availability of funds for manuscript development, ICT development, advocacy, among others. But “lecturers and their institutions are not coming forward to access the funds,” he said. The academics are running away from research. What are the academics doing? What is academia without research? Which nation attains development in economy, technology, agriculture and even politics without researchers?

  I think Nigeria’s biggest problem now is not the politicians who are offshoots of a failed education system themselves but the academics who are emerging the perfect portraits of the rot. It is better we stopped kicking the can down the road. The town and gown anywhere means the haven of knowledge and character. They recount the past, mould the present and build the future. One may say the sanctity and virility of the town and gown in a nation points to its potential for growth. They research issues and phenomenon and publish the findings as template for further knowledge. They are the model persons in the society. In learning and character, the academics take the lead. In a situation where they fail at these, they are succeeding at nurturing the wolves who will h(a)unt the society.

A cursory look at this argument will further the questions: Did our leaders fall from Heaven? Are Nigerian universities producing leaders and not mediocre? Are our academics of high morals? The pervading immorality and corruption is so blinding I am tempted to conclude we are merely dreaming of renaissance if all we have left are the Chima Igwes and the lecturers using grants to acquire properties. These ones will give us more Evans and Oyenusis than Moghalus and Patanmis.

The Nigerian varsities appear to be overwhelmed by the filth in the society. It may be unfair to underpin the hefty weight of the nation’s descent in morality on their head. We also have the shifty religious institutions and unceremonious family tree, including the compromising media among the failing agents of socialization. But we can’t excuse them for adding to the societal woes as perhaps the most important unit of the society for failing to maintain its decency and ardor for morality. This is what the TETfund story tells us. There is a disaster in the university walls and not only on our fields in the North or in the hallowed chambers in the East or on the streets in the South.

 Unless we have concluded plans to be perpetually dreamful, we cannot allow the town and the gown join the wigs; and the clergy, and the uniformed men, and others on the pulpit of decadence or else. Therefore, we will need to take the news about academics with seriousness. If corruption prowls the corridors of power, should academia not be the bastion of our values? We can only dream of attaining economic growth and technological advancement only through purposeful research by the academics. That is echoing Prof. Katampa’s saying that “a nation is as good as the quality of her researchers.”

•Ibraheem Abdullateef,

Kwara State University, Malete