Conversations On The Impacts Of Private Universities On Public Universities In Africa (1)
The conference by the University of Texas at Austin (supported by the Carnegie Corporation) is an ambitious and passionate move to redesign, restructure, and reform university education in Africa. When I chose to shake the roots of university education in Africa and catalyse the reformation I envisioned, some issues did not sit well with me. I looked at how African youth are making waves in different fields of endeavour — entertainment, fashion, software development and IT, cryptocurrency and blockchain, social media influencing and influencer marketing, affiliate marketing, among others—and shook my head in lamentation at the realisation that these skills are not the resultant effects of university education. This is not to imply that the young people who are doing exploits in these fields did not attend universities. In fact, now more than ever, there is a scramble for university education among the African youth. Year after year, examination bodies such as Nigeria’s Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) continue to record an increase in the number of applicants. The youth are still clamouring for higher education, and as much as the concept of education as against schooling might be lost on the typical African youth, they still go to school. However, several factors in Africa’s university education system have made it impossible for universities to take an active role in the development of many African youths.
These young ones are making waves in technology, founding investor-backed startups that are proffering solutions to various problems across Africa and all over the world — from Pharmatech to Fintech to Agritech, to mention a few. We have African youth making waves in the entertainment industry — worldwide sensations who are taking Afrobeats to several countries around the world, winning international and national awards, owning a sizeable chunk of the traffic generated by famous streaming platforms such as Netflix, among other things. There are excellent African youth in sports — representing their countries at the Olympics and making pro teams in different sports at diverse teams throughout the world. The evidence is there all around us! Yet, these young ones are taught at universities where simple tech solutions such as result management systems or financial management systems are still light years away from manifestation. What a contrast!
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Contributions from the several panelists who were present on the first day of the conference held at the beautiful campus of Babcock University show that there are similarities in the challenges of university education in Africa. In many of the countries represented, public universities have the bulk of the market share when it comes to university education, with private universities holding but a small fraction. For instance, private universities are currently not common in South Africa and are only recently trying to surface. Nonetheless, we see that private universities are making their presence felt in the university education system.
While many members of the panel were able to establish the lack of adequate funding as one of the fundamental problems militating against university education in Africa, it was established that other factors will continually drag university education in Africa below its goals even if adequate funds were provided for the running and administration of these institutions of higher learning. Thus, the reformation of university education in Africa goes beyond funding. Can funding suddenly make universities more invested in what their students eventually become? If adequate funding were provided today, does that mean we would be able to say in the near future that African universities contributed to the making of tech entrepreneurs, blockchain experts, renowned entertainers, and innovative scientists?
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The decadence of the African society in itself is one of the major causes of the current state of the African university education system. Prof. Ayo Olukotun, a renowned political scientist, described it as a decadent system managing decay, thus leading to problematic or corrupt outcomes. Yet, it appears that private universities are increasingly becoming adept at doing better. Are there things to learn from the private university sector?
Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, the keynote speaker, pioneered the suggestion of solutions to the malaise bedecking university education in Africa. He called for quality assurance assessment — not on paper — but one truly put into action. He urged governments to establish regulatory bodies that would truly be committed to quality assurance. If we are to interrogate the issue of quality assurance in universities across Africa, we will discover that its absence is one of the problems dragging African countries below the benchmark. Is it truly a problem of a lack of funding or a lack of management, quality assurance, and effective management of available resources?
Undoubtedly, private universities in Africa have impacted university education in diverse ways. One of such is the absence of strike actions in these private schools. Public university education in Africa, especially in Nigeria, is notorious for strike actions, which cannot be blamed on the striking workers since they are entitled to their earned rewards. Sometimes even, their clamours are not about their earned rewards, but about the development of the universities. Another factor is the quality of student experience. By their structure, private universities in Africa are more student-centred than public universities. These institutions understand the essentiality of students in the university education system; therefore, they make the system more student-centred. From the environment to the facilities and the teaching methods, the system should be designed to make learning easier and safer for the students.
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Participants at the conference also highlighted one fundamental misconception about private universities in Africa. Private universities are often seen as profit-making establishments. But in reality, many of these private institutions are not necessarily more financially buoyant than the public ones. It is then more of efficiency and the effective management of the inadequate resources available. Since private universities are owned by individuals, organisations, or society, it becomes difficult to use resources indiscriminately without factoring in several options and possible consequences. It is easier for a university administrator in a government-owned university to mismanage funds than it is for an administrator in a private institution. Thus, private universities are not always smiling to the bank, as many people believe. Rather, they know how to put the available resources to use and achieve optimal results from their investment.
But why is this not so in public universities? Could the reason be the mentality that government-funded projects do not directly affect the financial stance of individuals? Is it the “it is not my money” mentality that allows public university managers to squander resources? If we so claim that public universities are not adequately funded, how do we account for the underutilised or unutilised assets? How do we account for the duplicity of assets? The ridiculous budgeting?
Management across various levels of the university system — from the Head of Department to the Dean, to the members of the Senate, to the Principal Officers — is one of the problems militating against public universities in Africa. One of the issues raised during the conference is the need to distinguish between academic and administrative excellence. A professor’s academic success is not a good gauge of whether they would be an excellent administrator, and this is one of the biggest dents in university administration. It was proposed that training and re-training of university staff members be done across different cadres, with leadership training and certification a prerequisite for holding administrative positions in the university system. It is myopic to allow leaders who have no fundamental knowledge of negotiation, communication and correspondence, crisis management, among other issues, into the system. A university administrator must understand the importance of scale of preference while factoring out personal benefits and objectives.
So, to what extent have universities impacted the societies they belong to? How innovative are our public universities? To what degree do they propose solutions to the society in which they are domiciled? Prof. Abdul Rasheed Na’Allah pointed out the importance of having universities as citadels of public good. This can be seen in how some private universities have contributed to the society they find themselves in. The gown-town relationship is symbiotic, and there is the need for a restructuring in the management of universities to allow for innovative ideas towards the reformation of public schools. The challenges being faced by public universities in Africa go beyond inadequate funding. The structure is decadent, and so are the results.
Furthermore, the role of donors and owners of universities — both public and private — cannot be handled with levity, especially in private schools. Prof. Jide Owoeye, a distinguished professor of International Relations and founder of Lead City University, pointed out the need to conduct university management and operations as strictly business while also allowing for the full functioning of all the organs of the university, including the Governing Council and the Senate. The founders need to be invested in their universities, though not to the point of infringing on the freedom given to the organs to function as they should.
Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.
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The 2023 Elections And The Newness Of Nigeria
By Hope Nwawolo
Despite the hues and cries that greeted the results of the 2023 elections, what if the court’s pendulum stays or swings otherwise in the expected litigations?
What will it teach our inquisitive young children?
What will it do to the hopes and dreams of the youths?
What will it do to the mind set of those in diaspora, waiting and hoping to return?
How will it affect our heroes still alive and yearning for the good old times?
One basic fact is that no matter where the pendulum swings, something new has started in the political sphere of Nigeria. And because it was unexpected, it has become almost impossible to strangulate it.
In every competition, there is an expectation that the best man will win. That may not always be in politics, particularly, in Nigeria…where the winner may not be the best man or even the better man. And when it is said that politics is a game of numbers, sometimes, the actual numbers may not be visible to determine the end result. It becomes a case of the more you look the less you see; until interpreted by respected learned men with high integrity.
Politics, they say is a dirty game, where money speaks and promises made are broken without an iota of guilt. Where the gullible minds of the masses are deceived, with as little as a box of indomie. Where some vibrant but jobless youths are brainwashed to risk their lives to snatch ballot boxes for the politicians who do not know them beyond giving them stipends through some third parties. Where market women are forced to come out for rallies and campaigns because they cannot afford the fine that will be imposed on them if they failed to participate. They also do not want the harassment of the market leaders.
In politics, fear is palpable in the air, before, during and after elections. The 2023 elections recently carried out, depicted these more than expected in both the politicians and electorate. What started like the usual political pattern took a drastic turn about nine months to the first elections and though it was said to be only a social media affair, it got everyone sitting upright and tightening his seat belt, particularly after the first elections.
Now, there is a generational shift, a new awakening, a new dawn and a new political birth, waiting to happen. To wherever the pendulum turns; where the court stands, it will make a turnaround in Nigeria. It may be turbulent at the beginning, it may be emotionally draining and psychologically traumatizing, but it will point to light at the end of the tunnel.
There is a new hope backed by a high spirit of determination. An unexplainable faith in many people for that newness of existence and purpose. An unprecedented emotional and psychological strength in the youths not to give up on their dreams. An unquenchable desire to keep praying. Soon a newness will break forth to calm all nerves and dry all tears.
A newness that will permeate conflicts and hatred,
A newness that will dissipate unnecessary anger,
A newness that will usher in unquestionable and transparent political systems in future elections,
A newness of freedom to choose a candidate without coercion or molestation
A newness of jubilation after the announcement of election results.
This is the new Nigeria that is awaiting delivery…
Nwawolo, PhD, writes from Lagos.
Overcoming Policy Execution Trap As Nigeria’s Development Challenge
By Tunji Olaopa
If I am asked to give a succinct and apt summary of the entire challenge faced by the Nigerian state in terms of her policy architecture and development management, in spite of contestation in the development literature, I will not hesitate in stating clearly and unambiguously that it is the challenge of policy implementation; the whole dynamics of getting things done. By elimination, the implication is that the challenge cannot be located as that of the dearth of development ideas, insights, models and paradigms. Right from her independence, Nigeria has been inundated with several ideas, both local and global, about development policy and frameworks. And yet, policy outcomes keep getting bogged down in the murky waters of political shenanigans. This means that the new administration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu has its challenge mapped out, in red, for it.
There is no shying away from this postcolonial predicament that has limited and kept limiting Nigeria’s capacity to honour the terms of her social contract with Nigerians. Hence, the Tinubu government will soon be inundated with the impatient agitations of Nigerians for a quick and tangible fix that will address their sufferings. And they are justified since they have not been given any real deal for the past sixty-three years of sovereign independence. And the new administration is obligated because that is the reason for seeking office in the first place.
Prof. Olaopa’s new book on public policy and development challenges
How then can we begin to understand this policy execution challenge? It is simple: how can an administration in Nigeria transition from governance vision and policy intention to policy outcomes that elevate and transform the quality of life of its citizens? Failure to understand and give critical and political attention to this question lies at the heart of the governance failures of successive Nigerian administrations. The new Tinubu administration cannot afford such a glaring mistake. And so, a fundamental case must be made out of the question of how policy intentions get circumscribed in the dynamics of policy execution that occasions policy failures in past administrations.
Modern states all across the world are distinguished by the traditional four functions they discharge as part of their administrative responsibilities—security i.e. securing the sovereign territory against lawlessness, policy formulation and implementation, governance regulation and service delivery.The capacity to perform each and all of these functions very well within an integrated framework in the governance context is what delivers the dividends of democratic governance to the citizens, and it enhances the state’s competitive and human development rating in global reckoning. With these functions, we have the metrics to differentiate between high-performing states like China, India, the United States,Botswana, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirate, Germany, Rwanda and the Asian Tigers (Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea), and low- or even under-performing countries like Nigeria that is still cluelessly stuck within a dysfunctional vicious cycle within her arrested development.
From the perspective of governance, there must be something these states are getting right in the connection between leadership, politics, and policy articulation. For instance, there is a trajectory of relationship that links elite bargains to development bargains. In other words, development is a
function of elite nationalism and the extent to which the political class of a state can commit elite suicide and gamble on development on behalf of the people they are leading. In Nigeria, low
manifestation of elite nationalism has made it really difficult for the political class to set aside their personal and egoistic class interests in ways that enable them to clearly and ideologically discern and navigate the deadly developmental landmines strewn all over our governance landscape by the
neoliberal implication of ideological apparatuses and frameworks to which Nigeria is beholden. And here, the factor of development gamble of the Asian Tigers’ elites comes into bold relief. From within the ideological ambit of the developmental state, the leadership of the Asian Tigers were able to define a policy space that consciously and critically weighed the benefits and shortfalls of external influences, especially the type that came from the World Bank, IMF and the other cohorts of the neoliberal policy dynamics. Their developmental circumspection paid off!
Since we cannot argue that Nigeria has been stumped by the lack of vision documents, development plans and blueprints, or even policy expertise, the locus of the new administration’s focus must be directed at the possibility of mustering the political will to undermine the mystified Nigerian Factor, and face the global neoliberal consensus in order to begin the crafting of an enabling policy architecture to drive development. And to achieve this translates to creating the delicate balance between ‘doing the right things’ (a function of decision making quotient) and ‘doing it right’(project and change management effectiveness), and overcoming the various political, cultural, structural and systemic constraints that trapped past well-meaning policies and intentions of Nigerian leaders in the dynamics of implementation.
There is first the conspiracy of elitist interest that ensures there is a poor resource allocation that focuses on elite bargain than development calculations and taking care of the national interest. Other constraints follow: (a) the disconnect between policy design and implementation due to weak implementation planning, risk assessment and incompetent change management strategies; (b) unstable and poorly managed macroeconomic policies; (c) policy and project discontinuity; (d) public service low capability readiness; (e) political interference; and finally (f) deep-seated political and bureaucratic corruption. In essence, development has failed not because Nigeria lacks the blueprint or paradigms to make it happen, but due to the dynamics of the politics that the political elite plays with Nigeria’s development potential.
Let me outline what we can regard as the “politics of policy implementation” that Nigeria has played for many years, a politics the new administration must take into serious consideration if it
does not want to fall into the category of failed administration right before it commences. This politics throws Nigeria’s development and policy non-performance right into the frame of the 2005 World Bank review findings about policy and development projects in Africa. According to the finding, 29% of development projects ever get completed, 45% of on-going projects are rated as satisfactory, while 26% of such projects invariably get cancelled. Such a review can never backstop a solid development project of a developmental state.
The politics of policy implementation in
Nigeria is founded on the following assumptions and practices. One: there is that dangerous presumption, that the new administration must resist, that once policies and development plan are designed, they are automatically implemented by the public service. And such a presumption is against the background of a scant investment in implementation analysis and planning, as well as the failure to facilitate the capability review, determine public
administration system’s capability readiness, and strengthening of the MDAs as the powerhouse of government administrative functionality. The MDAs, that is, are not working according to any
specific theories or praxis of change that can guide the functional integration of blueprints or paradigms. This kind of policy inattention draws attention to the policy contradiction: launching a
national development plan and strategy that are not implementation- ready in terms of adequate capability review of the MDAs integral to ensuring implementation success. Two: this
presumption is compounded by the uncritical reliance of past governments on policy experts and consulting firms who are tasked with designing high-end policies that are then dumped on MDAs whose capability reviews and implementation readiness have been neglected in the first place. The
extroversion of the policy design is then compromised by poor functional integration. The truth is that most of these consulting firms lack the appropriate deep content and solution frameworks that are in tandem with the context of policy dysfunction they are supposed to work with. Three: governance policy or project are hardly subjected to feasibility test determined in terms of scope and expectation that are captured by their framework of time, cost and risk assessments before
they are pushed into implementation. This makes it very difficult to benchmark funding projections for these policies and projects against revenue estimations, as well as facilitating in-built flexibilities that enable the policies and projects to adjust to volatilities and contingencies.
All the issues raised above constitute binding constraint that will undermine any governance possibilities the new administration requires to make a success of democratic governance. Undermining the binding constraints demands returning to the fundamentals. The first and most significant is that the new administration needs to interrogate the framework of how government business is currently being conducted. Governance successes are necessarily a function of how government business engages the complexities of the policy design and execution processes within a results-oriented frame. And that entails undermining the structural gaps between policy objectives, development strategies and policy outcomes. This demands second, setting the public service on a performance curve with the institution of a performance management system. This means that the public service must, for example, unfailingly now deploy KPI-based metrics to replace the cumbersome annual performance evaluation report (APER). And at the backend, it becomes imperative to have a monitoring and evaluation system supported by databases that enable staff and program continuous assessment, human resource development rooted in iterativep performance gap identification, supervisors-staff dialogue and multisource feedback mechanismsf for overall national development policy tracking and reporting.
The governance mantra must be on getting the balance between doing the right things and doing it right. And this cannot be achieved through the wanton multiplication or even duplication of
governance plans, programs and blueprints. What is needed is sequencing the blueprints into a coherent and feasible implementation programme, with the right amount of political will behind it. This gives the success of democratic governance a 95% chance of succeeding. The new administration needs that fighting chance!
. Olaopa, a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and Professor of Public Administration .
Rigged Elections And The Moral Burden Of Illegitimacy
By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
Adamu: A man who rigs his way to power carries a moral burden!
Orezime: A moral what?
Adamu: You heard me, didn’t you?
Orezime: I’m not sure I heard you right. Moral what you said?
Adamu: A moral burden, I said!
Orezime: Hahahahahahaha! You make me laugh! Are you from the moon?
Gani: Or Mars?
Emeka: In which country? In Nigeria? That principle does not apply in Nigeria! There is no moral burden on anybody in this country! The election which produced Bubu in 2015 was rigged. Where are the two million voters from Kano State who voted in 2015? Was an INEC official not burnt alive after that election? The one which brought Obj to power was also rigged by the forces which wanted him to ease the tension of the Abiola tragedy on the Yoruba people. Yet those men had the temerity to preach against corruption!
Orezime: The international community winked at the whole exercise.
Gani: Yes! That’s why those two could only preach; they couldn’t really act decisively. A moral burden? They spoke from both sides of their mouths on the issue of corruption. The late President Yar Adua confessed that the election which produced him was compromised. An honest man, he didn’t live long enough to right the wrong of the period!
Orezime: That’s why I laughed when Adamu talked about a moral burden arising from rigged elections.
Bankole: In the ideal world, any power that is stolen and acquired through a dubious means imposes a moral burden on the power holder. No matter what the person does, that power remains stained.
Orezime: What does that amount to in our country? Even the brigands who shot their way to power in the notorious days of military misadventure in Nigeria soon became legitimate.
Emeka: You are going too far in our history. See what happened in Lagos State in the governorship elections of March 18. Ethnic jingoists went about preaching hatred against Igbo people and warned them against coming out to exercise their constitutional rights. Security officials looked the other way when ballot boxes were snatched in broad daylight in places where the opposition was leading.
Gani: A serving state governor personally went about snatching ballot boxes and threatened to shoot whoever got in his way. The same governor declared somebody wanted without recourse to the Inspector General of Police! He worked against the party on which platform he won the seat to spite the party hierarchy!
Adamu: And to think that this is the President-elect’s state. He kept mute through the horrendous attacks on Igbo people in Lagos State just the way the incumbent president has looked the other way when herdsmen went on the loose!
Bankole: Rigged elections are so familiar yet notorious in our land. It was the main trigger to the crisis in the Western Region in the First Republic because the people reacted when they saw a rape of their rights and wishes! It soon snowballed into a conflagration that consumed the nation in the late 1960s. Already, the youths are talking about a protest in the ENDSARSNOW# manner. I hope it doesn’t result in disaster. We have lost too many lives already!
Orezime: What I fear is the rise of ethnic profiling in a supposedly democratic society. To be sure, Governor Sanwo-Olu and the party hierarchy did not single out any ethnic group for verbal attacks. They even courted them. Yet they didn’t caution their followers to stop the degeneration into ethnic hatred. It is a dangerous curve what is happening in Lagos. I don’t subscribe to the Lagos is no man’s land nonsense which some misguided fellows are spewing, but threatening anybody not to vote their candidate is a new low! Can a Sanwo-Olu victory be said to be legitimate if a significant percentage of the electorate is disenfranchised?
Emeka: Good question. They did not stop there. They rolled out the culturally dreaded Oro rituals on election night. Come on! Who is fooling who? The Oro festival was designed to drive fear into non-Yoruba in Lagos. In the 21st Century?
Gani: I am sure the reports from election observers will be damning.
Bankole: I don’t care about those biased observers.
Adamu: Where are we headed in this country?
Orezime: We are on the road to Kigali!
Bankole: May we not travel that route!
Orezime: It’s a good prayer. But what are we doing to avoid the descent into anarchy? Nothing. Those monkeys are simply interested in acquiring power.
Gani: The Obedient Movement seems to have lost steam once it was misbranded as an ethnic agenda to grab power at the national level. Peter Obi needs to tread carefully so he doesn’t become another June 12! Some people are egging him on to challenge INEC through protests.
Orezime: If he decides to lead a protest, it would be within his constitutional right to do so, especially as INEC is stalling on the issue of inspecting elections materials despite an order from the courts. Peaceful protests are guaranteed by the Constitution.
Adamu: No one can be sure whether a peaceful protest will remain peaceful after it starts. That’s the experience the ENDSARS people had.
Gani: It’s not enough to stop people from taking to the streets. Protests are fundamental to democracy.
Adamu: We do not want dead heroes! Mark my words.
Bankole: That’s ominous!
Emeka: It means nothing. Nigeria must change. We cannot go on like this forever! Things are just going down. No cash. No fuel. No power supply. No security. No nothing. Peter Obi gave a glimmer of hope. Now that has been dashed to the ground.
Adamu: Rigging will remain a moral burden each time our President-elect travels outside the country, each time he meets foreign observers, especially those ones who have a dossier on him. History will also judge him and assess how he came to power. This applies to all the states as well where some politicians have turned themselves into demigods and have compromised poor INEC officials with mouthwatering sums. This is not how to build a democracy. The votes must be counted and must count. Seventeen people have their lives during the governorship and House of Assembly elections. We are supposed to count ballot papers, not bodies. Sad!
Bankole: The moral burden of rigged elections is on all of us. Without our connivance there would be no rigging. We can only hope that this will end some day!
Emeka: Tough luck!
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