By Tayo Ekundayo
When the Court of Appeal sitting in Ilorin pronounced Dr. Kayode Fayemi winner of the re-run election in Ekiti State in October 2010, I was in the State on a visit. The battle between the PDP and the ACN for the soul of the State had been on for more than three years during which PDP won at the lower court before the Appeal Court’s ruling in favour of ACN on that Friday. I was witness to how the entire Ekiti was agog in celebration. It was as if everyone just wanted Oni out of the Government House. Vehicles and Okadas sped through streets in Ado-Ekiti while all beer parlors were enjoying huge patronage. By the time the new governor would arrive later in the evening, Ekiti Kete was truly in ecstasy.
To most people in the state, the exit of the PDP administration was good riddance to bad rubbish.
I was however nonplused because I realized that embedded in that jubilation by the people was a high expectation from the new governor. He would need both good luck and cash, which was scarce, to succeed. To most, Fayemi was coming to Ekiti State as Messiah which was the main reason for the jubilation. He was believed to be bringing all kinds of manna which would translate to more money in the pockets of citizens. After all, some had ignorantly reasoned, Fayemi had international connections which would make the United Nations, World Bank and IMF to be throwing money into Ekiti. Even barren women, they had expected, would instantly become pregnant and be expecting twins in nine months.
Yes, expectations were that high, at least from what one could perceive from the crowd of well wishers including party supporters.
True, Oni and his co-travelers were at their wits end when the sack was handed down by the Court of Appeal. His government did not seem to have any clue how to quickly move the state forward. The sacked governor, whose tenure was voided by the judgment, had spent his energy doing so many projects in the face of limited resources at once that he hardly completed any before his eventual removal from office. For instance, Oni embarked on his road revolution programme by which he wanted 27 roads fixed at a go. Many of the 27 roads were abandoned at various stages by the time his time was up. Few completed were in far flung places and consequently grossly under utilized. What of his giving eggs and milk to pupils which became a controversy along the line? At a point, nearly every traditional ruler got a brand new car from the government that was complaining of low funding.
His reckless spending got to a head when Oni’s government announced the establishment of two more universities, one in his native Ifaki and another in Ikere Ekiti, for the state. By this singular action, many were of the view that Ekiti, then branded as fountain of knowledge became the spring of stupidity. A casual look into its only university would further magnify this view. UNAAD as it was then called was a university just in name. It lacked basic infrastructure to enhance learning. It was one of the universities that I know that did not have standard hostel accommodation for its students. Virtually all its students stayed off campus. Lecture rooms were always overcrowded. In this modern age, the level of ICT deployment was virtually non-existent.
That was the state of its only university when Oni, who studied Chemical Engineering at Ife, regarded as one the finest on this continent, was mushrooming universities in Ekiti. That was my parting of ways with the ex-Governor as I predicted without gazing at any crystal ball that his universities of education at Ikere and technology at Ifaki were just a matter of time. Ekiti state would be better of with just one university that was better funded and with an improved infrastructure to boost the level of education service delivery to the students. For this, I became an ACN apologist. I had told one Oni apologist during a casual chat in Ado that Ekiti did not have the financial muscle of Lagos that has just one university. And as luck would have it, Aare Afe Babalola, the quintessential Ekiti elder was then inaugurating his world-class university in Ado Ekiti with infrastructure that would make nonsense of UNAAD.
To argue that the level of education has drastically reduced in the state, whose industry in the past was education, is arguing the obvious. As an employer of labour in the state, I had encountered a graduate who could not construct one good sentence. That might, however, be an exception. At an interview, one chose to write a simple essay, wait for this, in Yoruba, and he confessed to me that he was in 500-level in Business Administration as a part-time student.
This is why I want to saddle Governor Fayemi, who I am thanking for ending Oni’s recklessness by collapsing the universities into one for better management and funding, the responsibility to take a further step by canceling the part-time programme of the university. After all, the present students would have completed their programme. By this, no fresh admissions should be allowed into the university on part-time basis. I learned that admissions to the part-time programme lacked rigour which allowed all kinds of students to gain easy admission. Governor-after-my-heart Babatunde Fashola has led the way with his recent decision on this part- time nonsense at Lagos State University, LASU. I do not know how the UAAD was comfortable with graduates parading its certificates who could not defend such certificates in front of would-be-employers. Worse still is that there is nothing to distinguish the part-time from full-time degrees. I attest to the fact that students who pursued full time degrees tend to perform better.
We all know the purpose of part-time programme, which was designed for older working class people who would want to improve their academic status. Most of the students running the programme are young people who took that option because they could not secure admission through JAMB, thereby defeating the very purpose of part-time.
Taking this step will be as painful as collapsing the universities, but it is the right step in the right direction. I am not unmindful of the huge amount of money the programme generates for the university which makes it so attractive to the authorities in spite of its shortcoming. In urgently taking this step, more attention has to be paid to the rot in primary and secondary schools in the state. The schools certainly need more funding and provision of infrastructure plus teacher motivation, not eggs and milk as provided by Segun Oni. The strategy or methods must change. Students should never be promoted en masse as this defeats the very essence of hard work and scholarship. The direct implication of this is that students will have to work harder to pass their examinations and gain admissions not just to EKSU but other universities in the country on merit. At any rate, not everyone can make it to university.
Though very expensive, I am still of the opinion that Universities must provide some form of standard accommodation for their students even if only for one or two sessions as undergraduates. Ekiti State University has a large parcel of land on which hostels can be built. It does not matter if this is done in partnership with private developers. A situation in which students do not experience university life as in the case of EKSU is not good enough. Perhaps these steps are those that will bring us back to where we belonged: the fountain of knowledge!
Ekundayo, Public Affairs Consultant and Public Policy Analyst, lives in Lagos.
This article was first written in The Nation newspaper on the 5th of April, 2012.
Last modified: April 5, 2012