By Washington Osa Osifo, Ph.D
The most important benefit of Education is to produce manpower, people with skills and high level of logical thinking and imagination to proffer solutions to problems in their society.
But in our society, education, particularly, higher education is an escape route from poverty. That again underscores the importance. It is the responsibility of government to open more opportunities to get education to the doorstep of all citizens.
As we critically take a survey of the state of tertiary institutions in Edo State, we admonish everyone to temporarily suspend judgement until evidence compel otherwise.
We need to first, diligently engage the issues and the hard facts, free of any political hangover of sentiments. Under normal circumstances, the decision to support, reject or condemn a political leader by an informed citizen is usually based on the information made known to him. No one should ever allow his mind to be shackled by mere sentiments.
As a people, we are just now not entitled to the cushion of time and the luxury of standing akimbo in the forlorn hope that things will sort out itself. Doing so, will be tantamount to crude subversion of the people’s mandate. And that will not just be an unkind cut on an already severely lacerated citizenry but a thoughtless greasing of the weaponized elbows of the debauched and bullish adventurers in power!
Edo state elites should be deeply outraged by the unwarranted onslaught against the state owned tertiary institutions. The exact same ladder that these elites rode to recognition and prominence.
The opportunity for higher education was the single most important bridge that ferried many of them from the valley of life to become top flyers in various fields of endeavor. History will be unkind to them if they standby to watch helplessly the unprovoked and unwarranted demolition of the structures of higher education in Edo State. They should be challenged by the endangered future of Edo youths to speak out in no unmistakable terms against the needless suffocation and asphyxiation of these institutions, which were established to expand opportunities for the development of our children.
Many of the institutions in question were healthy and flourishing at the time Obaseki took over as Governor in 2016. As on that date, the status of tertiary institutions in Edo State were as follows:
01. Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma
02. Edo State University , Iyamo, Uzairue
03. University of Education, Ekiadolo
04. Usen Polytechnic, Usen
05. College of Agriculture, Iguorhiakhi
06. College of Education, Abudu
07. College of Education, Igueben
08. College of Physical Education, Afuze
09. Edo State School of Nursing, Benin City.
10. Institute of Continuing Education (ICE) Benin City
11. Edo State College of Aqua Culture, Agenebode
Contrary to how healthy they were hitherto, as at today, all of the above named institutions are struggling for survival on a slippery slope occasioned by a mixed grill of inadequacies namely; the Governor’s hubristic attitude, contradictory and confused policies, frustration and nonchalance resulting from brick walls due to half-baked policies and the incompetence of laptop-carrying baby consultants hired by him. Specifically, the following institutions have been struggling and now groaning under suffocation and barely able to raise their heads above waters.
Edo State University, Iyamo, Uzairue;
This will shock many people as the institution has been exemplary in accomplishments in her short history. Only recently, the University came fourth among Universities in Nigeria rated by Times Higher Education T.H.E, a global rating agency.
However, in recent times, the institution has come under the Governor’s sting. Intense pressures started with the politically motivated attempt to change its name or official identity. In a move that publicly exposed the meanness of those in power, the change in name of the University simply sought to obliterate Iyamo, in favour of Uzairue.
It turned out to be a comical exercise in futility as Iyamo is naturally part of Uzairue clan, meaning the address of the University will be incomplete without Uzairue. Therefore, the egoistic trip of the vindictive men in power was completely defeated. Not done yet with the University, the Governor decided to drastically slash the monthly subvention from government, thereby putting the heavy burden of fending for herself substantially on the institution.
There is no gainsaying the fact that Ambrose Alli University (AAU), was comparatively flourishing with monthly subvention of over N270, 000, 000.00 ( Two Hundred and Seventy Million Naira only) from government under his predecessor in office. A combination of the school’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and government monthly subvention placed the University in a relatively robust position where she could effectively plan and budget for both recurrent and capital expenditures.
Consequently, the University could in the past proudly point to some physical infrastructural development carried out by management outside state budgetary allocation.
Things have since completely taken a downward turn for the worse under the present government with the drastic slash of the monthly subvention to a miserable sum of about N45 000,000.00 ( Forty Five Million Naira only). Needless to state after the Governor’s sting, the authorities of the University could no longer regularly afford to pay staff salaries. If salaries are in arrears and infrastructures decay cannot be arrested, one can only imagine the gloom and frustration that has enveloped the institution and its attendant consequences on the teaching and learning environment, and the larger society.
Amidst the effort by the authorities of the AAU to manage the situation, centripetal forces were unleashed to cause division in the institution thereby creating a semblance of crisis within the system. That was the pretext needed for direct administrative intervention.
On Monday, May 10, 2021, acting against public good, in pursuant to the directive of their paymaster, in a manner that is stranger than fiction, an illegal contraption, housed in the Governor’s office, infamously code named; Edo State House of Assembly, passed a draconian bill transferring the powers of the Vice chancellor, Governing Council and Senate of the University to the ‘Emperor’ as Sole Administrator. Henceforth, he could probate and reprobate as dictated by his whims and caprices.
As predicted that He was expected to further hand over the institution to his friends and partners by whatever nickname called, in less than twenty-four hours after his assent to the malicious and ill thought bill, the Governor appointed Prof Benson Osadolor of the University of Benin as Vice Chancellor of Ambrose Alli University.
The appointment raises several questions that boarders on good conscience, academic seniority and excellence, internal upward mobility of the hardworking members of staff, as well as ethnic dimensions of the appointment. It is bound to create even more crisis than it seeks to resolve. God save AAU from the backroom deals that culminated into the present travesty!
It should be noted that there are a handful of new structures in the University built by Tetfund, an interventionist initiative of the Federal Government as well as the intervention of his immediate predecessor in office.
Nothing illustrates the dire state of the institution more than the fact that the authorities could not proceed with their plan to fill key vacancies in different faculties and departments when it was desirable to so do, in the face of lean resources and the challenges posed by the current wage bill.
The story of College of Education, Ekiadolo has become so familiar and need not detain us here. Although, Federal Government has taken over the upgrade of the College, the fate of the staff and students are still largely uncertain. Other tertiary institutions such as College of Physical Education, Afuze, College of Education, Igueben, Edo State College of Aqua Culture, Agenebode are all groaning, stressed and decrepit. They have continued to exist with minimal government contributions because Management and Staff are resolved to bear unspeakable sacrifices in their own interest.
The State School of Nursing has remained under seal. Also sealed by implication is the opportunity for our young boys and girls to receive quality training for local health facilities and for export. We all know that our nurses in foreign lands are highly remunerated and in great demand. Yet, the institution has remained closed in a state that has earned notoriety for trafficking in boys and girls. It is also of public knowledge that the Institute of Continuing Education (ICE) which the Governor claimed to have attended was closed down. By implication, the fate of thousands of Edo Youths who would have taken advantage of the remedial facility like he did when he, Godwin Obaseki failed WASC in 1973, has also been sealed!
The case of College of Agriculture, Iguorhiakhi has been aptly described as man inhumanity to man. Ordinarily, the purpose of government is to support and promote tertiary institutions to produce quality manpower required by the industry.
How can one then explain the closure and vandalization of an institution that was running with accredited programs under excellent conditions with infrastructures, facilities , machineries and equipment in place? What was the intention of Governor Obaseki in closing down a College that was comparatively ahead of its peers nationally in terms of students population, quality staff strength, buildings and lecture halls, functional laboratories, well managed farms, advanced aqua culture, and an impressive array of support equipment? In all, the running and management of the College did not constitute any burden on government, as it was not dependent on government subvention.
It is further inexplicable that although the Governor initially promised to reopen the College after three months of closure, not only did he fail to renovate and restructure the College within the period, the birds, pigs, goats, palm oil production equipment and other produce of the farms were not only stolen but the facilities of the institution were vandalized. When the students and staff took to the streets to protest, demanding the reopening of the College, it was an attempt to knock on the conscience of the Governor.
But he remained adamant! In response to the Industrial Court ruling, ordering the immediate reopening of the College, the Governor was furious and mobilized his men to remove the roofs of the buildings thereby making the reopening of the institution impossible. The structures and buildings have since been exposed to the harsh vagaries of the weather. Furthermore, the equipment and machineries acquired over the years were removed and auctioned in an extreme display of high handedness, anger and bad blood! As at today, the exact location of the College is hardly recognizable as the structures are either dilapidated or in total ruins. Sadly, where the College use to be, has grown tall grasses fast that a thick forest has so quickly emerged. As it stands, only courageous hunters would dare make their way therein!
Governors are supposed to be driven by compassionate desire to proffer solutions to problems dogging the people over whom they govern. Governorship is a call to service, an opportunity to do good and not otherwise. It is callous and abominable for a Governor to destroy buildings, truncate dreams and visions of the youths, condemn functional equipment and machineries, send thousands of young men and women into the streets hopelessly, and remove the source of livelihood from educated and responsible citizens without a compelling reason.
Rather than work to create the bedrock for a system that could guarantee a sound future for our children, Governor Obaseki has mindlessly sealed the hope of thousands of Edo youths by his actions. He has caused great and irreversible harm on the education of Edo children, particularly, that of the less privileged.
It has therefore become imperative to call on people of good conscience, the traditional institutions, religious leaders and critical stakeholders to come to the rescue of tertiary institutions in Edo state else, many more institutions might go into extinction under the watch of the present government.
The evidence of inhumanity, wickedness, incompetence and high handedness is overwhelming and typically atavistic of Governor Godwin Obaseki. As a people, how long shall we continue to condone, bear and patronize a Governor that has so maliciously destroyed the institutions that others laboured hard to build over the years? His actions are at odds with the call of his high office, of being a moral agent and a builder! The great General Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, Professor Ambrose F. Alli, H.E,Lucky N.Igbinedion and Comrade Adams A. Oshiomhole established these tertiary institutions. Edo people must rise in judgement to denounce and condemn Obaseki government as horrible, opprobrious and avatar of evil.
After five years on the saddle, Obaseki should be proudly showing the world his achievements. Edo voters will celebrate their Governor if the following promises are delivered : the Benin River Port and the associated economic hub in Gelegele, the Industrial parks in the three Senatorial districts, large scale farms across the Senatorial agricultural zones, the outgrowers farmers scheme that graduate farmers looked forward to, the new industries attracted to the state which were supposed to be off takers of agricultural produce, Two thousand jobs created from agricultural value chain, the road network he promised would connect rural communities to urban areas, the Schools rebuilt, Health centers and hospitals built or renovated. These were his core campaign promises and we must hold him to account for each one! It is the right time to ask; where are the legacy projects of Obaseki?
When an elected leader is driven by deep sitted hatred, narcissism and hubris to travel on a dangerous lonely road with pertinacity, walking tall with the airs of a fiendish rebel, he will be deaf and dumb to the shrill cries of the people. And when the falcon hears not the falconer and the gaze of the beast is blank and refractory, know that its waterloo beckons, it’s doomsday looms!
For everyone, we must note that Evil has its retribution. It is a matter of when, not whether.
Washington Osa Osifo, Ph.D
Former Commissioner for Higher, Technical and Tertiary Education, Edo State.