(Being address delivered as Chairman of a Roundtable on ‘Reimagining Higher Education in Africa’ by the Graduate Research Clinic Network to Commemorate its 3rd Year Anniversary on Sunday, 28th of February, 2021)
The Graduate Research Clinic (GRC), an online platform of eminent scholars, erudite intellectuals and budding researchers, has thrown the gauntlet on the state of higher education in Nigeria’s national development agenda. And it did this through a most timely roundtable on the theme, “Reimagining Higher Education in Africa: The Role of Learned Communities and Professional Associations.” With the array of invited speakers and discussants, the GRC leaves no one in doubt as to how serious it is taking, and wants Nigeria and Nigerians to take the issue of higher education. The keynote speaker is by no other scholar than the president of Nigerian Academy of Letters, and a professor of Linguistics, Francis Egbokhare. And the discussants are two able scholars from two different but significant spectrums of the academy. Professor Moses Ochonu, from Vanderbilt University, has demonstrated his concern for Nigeria’s higher education dynamics over and again through many engagements with several dimensions of it. And Professor Yakubu Ochefu is eminently involved with the administration of higher education in Nigeria; first, as the vice-chancellor of Kwararafa University, Taraba and then as the Secretary-General of the Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities.
To have been invited to chair the occasion of the roundtable is a huge honour. The Graduate Research Clinic, over the three years since its establishment, has grown to become one of the reference points for how a professional and academic platform ought to be — sane, informative, engaging, and the very essence of scholarly discursivity. This is a site that makes intellectual dispute and informed narratives a beauty to be involved with. And there are arrays of academic benefits flowing daily from the platform—from a daily English refresher course to nightly cultural proverbs that sting one into awareness. And in between are myriads of timely and urgent discourses on the state of nearly everything in Nigeria. The roundtable on higher education is therefore a natural concern for a network that has as one of its objectives the facilitation of academic and scholarly interaction among scholars and academics of all hues. I think it is high time that the GRC started the process for its own institutionalization as a professional network, with a pride of place among the already established high-end networks.
I am not new to discourses on higher education in Nigeria or on the continent. My reform philosophy and advocacy have brought me to that axiomatic moment about the relevance of education not only to the human capital development of any state, but also to the development of other institutional dynamics that all cumulate towards national development and good governance. Right from my time as the coordinator of the education sector analysis and head policy division at the federal ministry of education, I have been opened to the multiple deficits of Nigeria’s education system compromised politically, infrastructurally, academically and policy-wise. Without mincing words, the Nigerian education system is not capacity and intellectually ready to backstop Nigeria’s entry into the knowledge age or even support her aspiration to be a top contender in global competitiveness in the twenty first century.
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The recent celebration of the University of Ibadan among the top 500 hundred universities in the world is a good place to start reflecting on how to move the Nigerian education system forward. That achievement, for me, speaks to a lone feat; the sustained desire of one university to keep pushing the boundaries of qualitative and competitive tertiary education in Nigeria. Unfortunately, a lone effort, or a series of lone efforts, is not sufficient to catalyze Nigeria’s human and national development. The challenge is to deeply rethink the fundamental philosophy of education in Nigeria in the light of global benchmarks, continental peculiarities and national imperatives. Let me start my brief diagnostic analysis with one of the issues about higher education that is close to my heart—the sidelining of the humanities and the social sciences (HSS) in the overall scheme of things, according to the Nigerian Policy on Education. The disturbing issue here is that Nigeria is conceiving of a robust understanding of higher education by simply unreflectively following in the market-propelled neo-liberal ideological tradition with a low ratio for the HSS. The question then is one of how development could be holistic within a context that favors the physical and managerial sciences to the detriment of the HSS? True, the global benchmark for development now references STEM education. But then, STEM education cannot be regarded as a one-size-fits-all solution for all national education and development need. Rather than STEM, we need STEAMSS—Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics and the Social Sciences.
It is also high time we began to rethink the complicated relationship between the concept of autonomy and the funding of the universities in Nigeria. The nature of autonomy is such that it provides a university with self-regulating capacity not only to generate its own sustenance but to also calibrate its own research designs that speak to the context that gave birth to the university. In both cases, funding becomes very significant to the idea of autonomy, and demands some modeling that will catalyze the creativity of university administration to transform the university into an institutional driver of change. Unfortunately, our present reality is such that universities go cap-in-hand to Abuja every month in search of subventions that are grossly inadequate to cater for the twenty-first century needs of a functional and innovative university. The simple implication is the current model is not working. In essence, waiting on government hands-out forecloses the possibility of strategic planning for any creative vice-chancellor. This is even more so in an undisciplined governance environment where establishment of universities fulfils political consideration with scant regard to their viability and sustainable funding.
Rethinking the model of autonomy implies that funding could be generated to allow university administrators the leeway to deepen a university’s administrative and academic traditions. And without totally taking the government out of the autonomy picture, the idea is to factor the cost of educating an average student into a benchmarking of a negotiated financial model between the university, the government and the private sector. The negotiation is to arrive at a mutually agreed framework with inbuilt flexibilities to accommodate variability in government earnings. Government, through the National Universities Commission (NUC), can then empower such institutions like the Education Bank, Students Loans Board, with other stakeholders contributing to ameliorate equity concerns through bursary, scholarship, etc. This will ensure that the craving for sustainable funding does not snowball into untrammeled commercialization of higher education.
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We cannot emphasize enough the relationship between universities and industries/private sector which, to all intents and purposes, has not really taken a firm root in the operation of Nigerian universities. This relationship has a lot to do to backstop the financial modelling of university funding. And this is even more so because such a partnership also suggests a collaborative dynamic that facilitates the research focus and direction of universities. As we noted earlier, a university is responsible to its context. This means that a significant aspect of the research framework of any university ought to be channelled towards meeting the challenges of where the university is located. This truism plays right into an industry’s research and development framework geared towards meeting the development needs of any state. The universities ought to be the natural point of call for all industries and the private sector in terms of R&D. Outside of this urgent collaboration, the universities will keep on with abstract research that fails to impact, while the industries will not enjoy the benefit of sustained and robust research. Such a collaboration defines knowledge management for the greater good.
The last point is definitely not the least. The notion and nature of community of practice and of professional associations is one that I am grounded in as an institutional reformer. A community of practice (and even of service) is a gathering of a group of people who are united by an endeavor they are passionate about and which they learn, through the sharing of experience and competences, to do better through critical collaborations, engagement and interactions. And the trajectory of this community of practice to the evolution of institutional reform is something I have charted for many years. In public administration, the communities of practice challenge researchers, scholars and practitioners of public administration as to the new frontiers and research issues that could facilitate breaking new research grounds and problem-solving framework for moving public administration theories and practices forward. The beauty of such a framework comes out fully in the emergence of the scholar-practitioner paradigm—a professor of practice that unites in her person the dynamics that bring town and gown together in deep and mutually beneficial relationship. The universities do not need less. Each discipline has its own professional association which acts as the gatekeeper for intellectual and academic agenda setting. But I will go further to recommend cross-disciplinary communities of practice that will be founded on the scholar-practice paradigm. Such communities serve the greater purpose of achieving a knowledge management framework that utilizes the professional competence of different disciplines and discourses. Universities certainly do not exist for the sake of producing unusable knowledge.
I sincerely hope that this roundtable will further tease out the other dimensions of the issues involved in making higher education more effective as a system from which to commence the transformation of the Nigerian state and her governance.
Prof. Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary & Directing Staff, National Institute For Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos. He can be reached at email@example.com
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Tinubu Urges Obi To Caution Supporters Against Spreading Lies
The All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Bola Tinubu has urged his Labour Party (LP) counterpart Peter Obi to caution his supporters against spreading lies, denigrating him and other candidates.
In a statement by Bayo Onanuga, the Director of Media and Communications, in the Tinubu Campaign Organisation, the politician warned that “falsehood and disinformation will not win elections.”
“The Tinubu Campaign Organisation has appealed to the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi to call his supporters to order and to allow this election circle to be about issues that will advance the growth, progress and stability of Nigeria,” the statement said.
Onanuga’s comments follow a false report purporting that Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo wrote a letter to Tinubu, asking him to support Peter Obi and focus on his health.
Akufo-Addo denounced the development via his official Twitter account, saying it was a product of deliberate mischief with the intent to deceive the public.
“I have written no such letter to the APC leader, and it will not occur to me to do so. Ghana and Nigeria boast of decades of cordial, strong and brotherly relations, and I am not going to be the one to interfere in the internal affairs and politics of Nigeria,” Akufo-Addo tweeted on Tuesday.
“We have found that the fake news about Akufo-Addo’s letter was first published on June 22 by a rogue platform, whose URL reads as worlsnews.space (sic) and site identity as World of News,” the statement said.
“A content analysis of the site clearly showed that it is a Biafra news platform. The fake news was reposted on Facebook by Peter Obi Support Group, same day – a clear proof that Biafra campaigners and Peter Obi supporters are the same.”
The Nigerian general election is billed for February 2023 but political shenanigans are set to ramp up as campaigns officially commence in September, according to INEC timetable.
Messrs Tinubu, Obi and former vice president Atiku Abubakar of the PDP are seen as the main contenders in the poll.
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Why Nigerians Should Return To Study Of History – Falola
A renowned historian Prof. Toyin Falola has urged Nigerians to return to an active study of history in order to overcome their myriad individual and national crises.
Falola made the call as he decried the relegation of history while giving the Second Distinguished Lecture of the Department of History of the Lagos State University today Wednesday.
He said: “While history was material in the predominance of Nigerian nationalism during the colonial era, it is rather lacking in contemporary society. Until recently, the Nigerian government stopped the compulsory teaching of history in primary and secondary schools, making the subject optional for students. Few university students now study history because they choose to or find themselves in that situation. If Nigeria would rebuild its nationalism values to keep a tab on its developmental course, there would be a need for more investment in historical research and studying the subject from primary to tertiary education level as a necessity and not an option. If history has been important in inciting nationalists and nationalism has been material in the development of the country across all sectors, it is, therefore, important to go back to the drawing board and reintroduce history to Nigeria’s educational system from the beginning of every Nigerian educational journey to the end.”
In the lecture titled “History and the Nation”, Falola declared that a “nation is the reflection of its history. History connects the past, the present, and the future in one streak of the line through problems, solutions, changes, continuity, legenderies, and normalcy; therefore, it is core to the existence of a nation and important for its future.”
According to the famous Nigerian scholar based in the United States, history is the memory of the nation by which all sectors, through their specific past, navigate current processes and prepare for other impacts.
“As the memory of the nation, history is built from singular lines of memories and records of the activities of individuals and the collective memories of everyone, institutions, and processes that have occurred through time. These memories cut across the nation’s social, cultural, and systematised past, as well as the foundation for co-existence within a society and interaction with other societies”, he said.
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He noted that what “makes a nation is not only territorial distribution or the occupation of the spaces but also the historical properties and ties that bind the people together. Generational identification is passed down, which binds the social structures that constitute the nation.”
Thus, for Falola, if Nigeria will be involved in nation-building, “the people must understand their cultural activities in order to reclaim their African pride and strive according to their pace and orientation. The nation can only achieve this by circulating historical knowledge in its objective and authentic form. Even if the world cannot change from those periods, exposing contemporary Nigerian citizens to the past would help develop their minds and make them see the wisdom in the cultural attributes of the past. It would allow a sense of belonging to an origin and ways of life distinct from contemporary ones.”
According to Falola, Nigeria can look back at its past to find solutions to the contemporary problems plaguing it.
As he put it : “The essence of history transcends the study of the past alone; it includes the study of the past to understand the present and plan for the future. The nation’s memory helps to understand a present predicament while reflecting on past problems and working towards solutions. History helps to bring back past wisdom, understanding, techniques and methodology to help solve today’s puzzle and create hope for the future. It has always been said that there is almost no event that does not have a similitude to its past circumstances and that the past holds answers to many of the contemporary ponderings …History offers the nation an opportunity to look back at the beginning of the problems to understand the underlying reasons. History allows the nation to reapply past solutions to similar problems or develop them to fit into the contemporary nature of those problems. ”
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Falola added : “The history of every nation is in the details of every path it has taken and events that have occurred over the years. History holds the nation’s memory so that when time and generations make the citizens forget their origin and how far their nation has strived so hard, history brings back the toils of past generations. With the advent of globalisation and western civilisation that has caused aggressive cultural diffusion, history has remained the only factor that keeps the nation in check and the hope of allowing the people to find their identity once more.
“Nations cannot survive or stand without strong men, women, and institutions to chart the trajectories of their development and integrity. These individuals are those nationalists convinced to fight for a better situation in the country. To build motivations geared towards recreating committed individuals who would swear unflinching loyalty to their country despite the disappointments, history must be made an inciting force to realise this national ambition.
“One other important national process in national development is the duty of every nation and government to ensure that the country progresses and that national development is ensured in order to guarantee good quality of life and standard of living. Any country that cannot do this has undoubtedly failed its purpose. The current state of Nigeria has made us doubt the development of the country, and the future is unpredictable. However, knowledge of historical facts and events empowers individuals with the skills to make good decisions and build purposeful leadership.”
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Akpabio, Lawan Remain Disqualified From Senatorial Election – INEC
The senatorial ambitions of former Minister of Niger Delta Godswill Akpabio and Senate President Ahmed Lawan in 2023 may have irrevocably failed.
This is because the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Tuesday denied altering electoral documents in favour of Lawan and Akpabio.
Names of the duo were missing from the list of successfully nominated candidates submitted to INEC by the 18 political parties in June.
Having lost out in their quest for the 2023 presidential ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Messrs Lawan and Akpabio have been making efforts to claim the senatorial tickets of the party for the Yobe North and Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial Districts, respectively.
While Bashir Machina and Udom Ekpoudom had emerged as candidates in the primaries supervised by INEC officials in their respective senatorial zones, the names of Messrs Lawan and Akpabio, who did not participate in the elections were instead forwarded to the commission as candidates.
The acceptance of names was justified by the Akwa-Ibom INEC REC, Mike Igini, but the ultimate decision currently rests with the court.
“INEC has no powers to reject names sent by political parties. Primaries are the sole prerogatives of parties. INEC’s responsibility is merely to monitor the primaries and make sure they abide by their own regulations, the Electoral Act & the Constitution,” Mr Igini said in a report.
However, a media report on Tuesday said INEC had backdated Certified True Copies of reports of the All Progressives Congress (APC) primaries “to accommodate” Messrs Lawan and Akpabio..
Although Akpabio had won a rerun held in the zone, there is no report of a similar election held in Yobe where Machina in Yobe emerged the winner.
In a statement by its spokesperson, Festus Okoye, on Tuesday, INEC denied doctoring or certifying any document in favour of either of the two APC chieftains.
The commission said it had followed through its timetable and there was no point in its schedules where the names of the persons in question were published.
“The forms of the two personalities in question were not published by the commission. The decision of the commission triggered legal actions which are still ongoing. It therefore defies logic and common sense to go around and submit doctored documents purportedly recognising the duo as candidates when the matter is clearly sub-judice,” the statement said.
Okoye said the copy of the form uploaded on the online news platform as evidence, was not properly fact-checked and had thereby encouraged misinformation.
“As part of the ongoing case in court, a law firm requested the commission for a Certified True Copy (CTC) of the Form EC9 submitted by the All Progressives Congress (APC) as its candidate for Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District which we are duty bound to oblige them under the law. The Form was certified on 15th July 2022. If minimum care had been exercised by the promoters of the story, they would have seen the two stamps of the commission bearing different dates on the form. It is this form that is now misconstrued as INEC’ s endorsement.
“For the record, the commission has not recognised either of the two personalities as a senatorial candidate,” Okoye further explained.
He called for responsible reporting of the development just as he described the story by the online platform as an unwarranted attack on the electoral body.
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