By Muyiwa Akande
IN the Thursday, July 23, 2009 issue of the Nigerian Tribune, a piece titled â€œAkinlotan: Enough is enoughâ€ written by Mr. Mahfouz Adedimeji, acting Director of Information and Protocol of University of Ilorin, was published.
In the piece, the writer tried his best, albeit unconvincingly, to rubbish the position of Mr. Idowu Akinlotan, a columnist with The Nation, who had written a series of articles, in an aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling that re-instated some ofÂ the lecturers sackedÂ by the university in 2001.
Adedimeji was a good friend of mine way back in our University of Ilorin days. We were admitted the same year and finished our studies together.
He was one of my colleagues that I respect for his undoubted cerebral quality. Mr. Idowu Akinlotan, a respected newspaper columnist, is someone I havenâ€™t met but have come to appreciate for his incisive and courageous weekly discourse. I will not hold brief for him in this piece. He has the medium and the pen to do just that.
Let me start by correcting what I presumed to be an error in the opening paragraph of Adedimejiâ€™s piece. Our first degree course lasted from May 1994 to March 1999. If my calculation is right, that should be less than five years and not â€œalmost seven yearsâ€.
Let me sympathise, at this point, not only with Adedimeji, but also, all Nigerian students and graduates, including myself, who have been unjustly treated by the countryâ€™s rickety educational system. The students have always been the proverbial grass that suffers the effect of avoidable confrontations between the feuding elephants.
It is quite unfortunate that the short end of the stick has always been our lot but to infer that ASUUâ€™s strategy of industrial action is absurd in an environment where leaders not only show lack of vision, but are also retrogressive, without any measure of integrity that gives credence to the sanctity of signed agreement, is to stand logic on its head.
Coming to Unilorin specifically. I read the first two of Akinlotanâ€™s writings. I could deduce three major points in the interventions. They include the universityâ€™s unorthodox administrative style, lecturersâ€™ shocking response to the Supreme Courtâ€™s judgment and the increasingly docile students of the school. I am most interested in the last one.
I have read a whole lot of reports about the transformations that have taken place since Professor Ishaq Oloyede assumed leadership of the school. The major achievement being the uninterrupted academic calendar, a luxury that Adedimeji and I did not enjoy during our days. I commend him greatly for this feat.
But for the sake of the future of the students, please permit me to ask some questions: At what price was this graveyard tranquility procured? Is there not a correlation between the current situation at Unilorin and the parable of the white sepulchure that maintains an attractive exterior but has its internal system packed full with decaying and decayed bones? Is official intimidation an acceptable tool of achieving â€œpeaceâ€, especially in an academic environment?
What is the future of the students, who I was told, could not question any official decision, no matter how rash or retrogressive it is? The expression â€œzombieâ€ rings endlessly in my head. Is it possible to generate intellectual debate and growth in this ivory tower when the lecturers, who obviously have been cowed, would issue subtle threat to their re-instated colleagues?
At times, I wonder what would have happened to South Africa as a nation if the former apartheid enclave has been populated by current breed of Unilorin students. Piether Botha and his clan would still be in firm control.
Mr. Akande, a public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos.