By Dele Sobowale
“Jonathan established universities since 2010 in Nigeria…..
Last week, this series ended with some of the similarities between the consequences for universities of the sharp drop in crude oil prices in the 1980s, it also identified some of the victims of the national economic decline – mainly the authorities of the universities including the Visitors, Chancellors etc. It was indicative, not exhaustive of the upheavals that occur on university campuses each and every time nations face this test.
Whoever emerges as the President of Nigeria, as well as the unfortunate “Executive” Governors of states, better prepare themselves for their own versions of the battle with our universities. Let us now consider the differences which might make the impending confrontations unprecedented and more disruptive in many respects.
First, in the 1980s, there were exactly eight Federal and six state universities. There were no private universities. Today, Nigeria lays claim to nothing less than forty two Federal, thirty four state and forty eight private universities.
President Jonathan, who in the last five years, as crude oil prices went through the roof, established more universities during the same period than any other Head of State, certainly, could not have embarked on that expansion project if he ever knew that crude oil would be selling at $45 per barrel today. By the same token, some of the states of Nigeria, which had established their own universities, sometimes on a grand scale, would probably have not ventured into it.
Proliferation of private universities, which made their entrance into the field in 1999 with the licences given to Igbiniedon, Madonna and Babcock universities, would most probably have been less. In addition to the forty eight, now in operation, close to twenty five are on their way. Whatever, aggregate national income projections the promoters took into consideration would now be totally optimistic and unrealistic.
Faced with a situation in which another round of massive retrenchment, in both the public and private sectors, is inescapable, devaluation of the currency and accompanying inflation inevitable, it should be obvious that the nation is headed for a bigger war on the university campuses. Furthermore, more communities in Nigeria will be affected by the upheavals. Ogun, Delta, Anambra and Adamawa States illustrate that point very well.
In 1983, there was no single private or Federal university in any of the states. Granted, Anambra at the time included the present Enugu, home to University of Nigeria, and Ebonyi States. But, the “geographical expression” now called Anambra had no Federal University. At the moment Ogun State alone has nothing less than eleven Federal, State and private universities – almost as many as the whole of Nigeria in 1983.
Delta, which was part of Bendel State, shared the University of Benin with Edo State, Ambrose Alli University, also in Bendel, was still developing. But, the entire Delta State had nothing. That has changed. Delta, which had no university in 1983, now boasts of nothing less than seven. There is no need to list, seriatim, the situation in all the states of Nigeria. We have inadvertently multiplied the potential flashpoints, throughout the country in the last twenty-two years.
Meanwhile, university students in the 1970s and 1980s, when protesting, would be armed with nothing more deadly than placards. The “Ali Must Go” protest in Lagos in the 1970s, as well as the confrontations at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) ended with only students as casualties.