VC predicts major crisis in Nigeria’s public universities

Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) was closed down by the Osun State Internal Revenue Service over tax debt
Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) was closed down by the Osun State Internal Revenue Service over tax debt

The Vice Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University, Eyitope Ogunbodede, has predicted the degradation of public universities compared to their private counterparts in the coming years.

The don spoke at a meeting with student journalists of the school on Tuesday.

The meeting was attended by the President of Association of Campus Journalists (ACJOAU), Oludiran Olusola; Dean of the Division of Students’ Affairs (DSA), Isiaka Aransi; the school spokesperson, Abiodun Olanrewaju; and other principal officers of the institution.

Mr Ogunbodede said that to prevent the looming crisis of substandard services, the university is looking inwards to solve her problems including insufficient accommodation for students.

Citing the benefits enjoyed in Nigerian universities in the 60s and 70s, he said the government cannot afford the type of feeding programme and accommodation that existed in the 1970s.

“I was a student on this campus. In my first two years, we were eating with 50kobo per day: 10 Kobo in the morning, 20 kobo in the afternoon and 20 kobo for supper. And you have everything on the dining table.”

“If you take bread, tea and sardine, and you are not ready to pay for egg, that is 10 kobo, you can take those ones for free.

“Nigeria cannot, for now, afford that because the government is not providing such funds like that to any university again and we must realise that.

“We have 171 universities in Nigeria now of which 79 of them are private. You see the rate at which the private universities are growing. If you go to ABUAD(Afe Babalola University) today, you see a new building, you go again in two months, you see another building.”

Mr Ogunbodede said he hoped the fate that befell public primary and secondary schools does not befall universities.

“The public primary schools used to be the best until it was destroyed. The secondary school got destroyed. Now, it’s the turn of public universities.

“Give another ten years- Landmark, Covenant, ABUAD, Babcock University, Bowen University, will overtake the government universities.

“Government will then owe salaries. If you don’t like public universities, you go to the private (owned). All these things we are doing now if we don’t come together and look inwards…” Mr Ogunbodede explained.

He explained that his administration was planning to provide additional 10,000-bed space in addition to the existing ones on campus.

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He spoke on his plans to utilise the institution’s alumni to the benefit of the university.

“As a university, we need to cultivate our alumni and that is the future of any university. But for them to support us, we must also be ready.”

On accommodation, he said, “People are coming to our aid and have promised to build hostels. We have allocated lands to some of them while we are planning to give to some others.”

He said poor funding of universities is not solely the fault of the federal government. He blamed the lack of adequate funding on Nigeria’s dependence on oil as its major source of revenue.

“Some countries, like in U.S., have developed cars that use electricity. You just park your car and it will be fully charged. Before you know it, nobody buys petrol.

“In another ten to fifteen years, nobody buys petrol again and government will no longer be able to pay,” he said.

He addressed other prevailing issues that cut across cultism and security challenges in the university.

Mr Ogunbodede, while speaking on the progress made in the fight against cultism, announced the arrest of some confirmed cultists recently.

“Through the security measures put in place, the university had arrested some cultists few days ago.”

“It might surprise you that some of them are not students of this school but from neighbouring schools and even outside Osun State.”

PREMIUM TIMES reported a cult attack on OAU campus by some students of Oduduwa University, a neighbouring school, in April.

Meanwhile, the Dean of Student Affairs, Isiaka Aransi, urged the journalists to steer clear of publications that put the university community in a bad light. He asked them to ensure verification of facts before publishing their stories.

He said people who hide under unregistered bodies on campus to publish false claims against the management will be dealt with in coming days.

“We are not going to take it likely with this set of people,” he threatened.

In his remarks, the president of the student journalists, Oludiran Olusola, maintained that the journalists are ethical in their work.

He promised that the organisation will continue to uphold the name of the school like it has always done.

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