By Victor Ogunje
The founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti (ABUAD), Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), has attributed the crises confronting the country to the decay in the Nigerian education system.
Babalola stated this in Ado Ekiti, yesterday when he played host simultaneously to leaders of Bursars’ Association of Polytechnics and Colleges of Technology (BURSCON), and the federal government Gas Expansion Committee, who paid a courtesy call to ABUAD.
The BURSCON President, Chief Adolphus Obi, and the leader of the federal government Gas Expansion Committee, Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim, applauded Babalola for laying a solid foundation for the growth of education in Nigeria.
Addressing the gathering of professionals, administrators and academics, the legal icon said: “The problem we have today is the decay in quality of education in this country. That was why after turning down ministerial appointments three times, I agreed to go to University of Lagos as pro-chancellor and chairman of the school Governing Council where I had an insight into what was happening to our education system.
He said: “At times, they used to close down the schools under the guise of strike for almost a year; this is criminal. I want to be an example, a leader in the transformation of education, and that was why I established ABUAD.
“Adding to the foregoing are our selfish leaders. There are many Nigerians who have money, and are expected to set up a university like this to give functional education to Nigerians at affordable fees, but they never did.”
Babalola said the position of bursar in any institution is strategic, urging the financial administrators to commit themselves to transparency in the management of finances in their respective institutions.
According to him, “I want you to be committed to financial discipline. But the problem has been that some wanted to be bursars just to steal, because money is there.
“The government is not doing enough on the funding of education. UNESCO directed governments to set aside 26 percent to fund for education, but what have they done? In the old Western region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo set 22 percent, the military came and reduced it to nothing. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 budgeted 12 percent, but now it’s just six percent.
“Looking at all these, we are not serious with education in this country. What are we also doing about endowments? We must set up endowments in our schools. Endowment is the main source of funding for universities. If you check American universities, they were being majorly funded through endowments.”
On the issue of oil and gas in relation to Nigeria’s economy, the legal luminary said the country has more gas resources than petrol that can be turned into wealth, regretting that such enormous opportunities were being squandered due to the country’s wasteful dispositions.
Declaring the 44th conference, attended by bursars from 40 polytechnics, open, the host Rector, Dr. Hephzibah Oladebeye, and the BURSCON President, Obi, lamented poor funding of polytechnic education, saying such was responsible for the slow pace of technological development in Nigeria.
The rector said: “Your role as bursars in ensuring stability in the finances of polytechnics to bring development can’t be overemphasised. We want you to maintain good working relationship with the chief executives, as this remains the best way to promote technical education in our country.”