Monday, December 29, 2008

Just before Adegoroye's crucifixion

THE Guardian (December 21, 2009) contained a story which claimed that the presidency has disowned a speech which was delivered by Dr. Goke Adegoroye, the permanent secretary in the Federal Ministry of Education. Dr. Adegoroye had gone to deliver the speech at the behest of the minister of state in the ministry who was to have represented the president at the occasion of the convocation of the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife. Some problems had been mentioned in relation to protocol which would be unhelpful to focus on now so as not to distract from the importance of the message in Adegoroye's speech.

The purported speech by the president was said to have lambasted university dons and accused them of corruption which in consequence has eroded the quality of university education in recent times. Assuming for a moment that it was true that the message was unauthorised in that it was not endorsed by the presidency but can it be said to be a reflection of the prevalent situation in our universities?

Permit me to state that Dr. Adegoroye must have been around in the civil service for a while and must be at home with procedure for clearance of presidential speeches or of the speeches of their other excellencies. Secondly, he must have some glimpses of the ways the president's mind works and must have been inspired by the president's anti-corruption zeal and had thus, though, wrongly this time, come to the conclusion that the president wont spare the university dons were he to make the Ife trip. Of course, there are others in the university who are as guilty as the dons.

I would like to highlight some frightening implications of the presidency's reported attempt to emasculate, intimidate and crucify Adegoroye over the Ife speech which was said to have been well received and elegantly delivered. First, can it be assumed that the university is not a reflection of the larger society in which it is constituted? Should the society be an ethical island in Nigeria's sea of decay and scoundrels? Should the university only be for saints that the lecturers are not? The world over, the university is known not to have risen substantially above its society except in research and the fitness of mind, and only in rare cases. It is impossible to think of the ills and moral lapses of the larger society that have not been reproduced and sometimes perfected with some intellectual and intimidating touch in the ivory tower. Really, how many universities and their chief executives can deny instances of sex or bribe for marks (quid pro quo) and of lecturers who indulge in absenteeism, of undue interferences in promotion cases, of intellectual fatherism whereby known lay-about lecturers are shielded from the university rules? Are there not university leaders who are aware of the presence of these impostors and still tolerate them for their nuisance value of being able to embarrass the perceived enemies of the university chief executives?

Can the university honestly deny that there are heads who divert funds or promotion cases that had attracted controversies in that the due process was not followed? I have been around the university for close to three decades and l know that not many of us can cast the first stone. Some of us indeed live in a glass house. Secondly, even, if only some of the above posers cannot be falsified, then should the university be unduly celebrated and treated as an island in the midst of decay? Adegoroye should not be prosecuted for being an alarmist. The truth is that the university in Nigeria is sick.

Supposing some optimists would rather excuse it on other grounds but, not on cases of sex or bribe for marks, this alone, as it relates to the core essence of a university - the enthronement of merit - is more than enough to sound the system's death knell and for which it must be lambasted. Thirdly, there is a danger in not being self-critical in that it would encourage complacency, and a life of uncritical reflection is not worth much. The impression must not be given by the presidency that all is well with our universities.

By these statements, it must not be inferred that the holocaust is total. There are honest and committed scholars who respect the rights of students and those who defer to logic and dissent. The truth is that these are an endangered species and their population is thinning out. There is proliferation of impostors, those who are really incapable of adding value to scholarship. The system is not sufficiently self-cleansing and this is what makes the alert sounded by Adegoroye to be appropriate.

The university is expected to produce future leaders in sectors of the modern world and the lecturers should inspire their students as role models. But if it is too busy in the pursuit of mundane things, then it is ham-strunged to so lead. It has so patently cultivated the habits of the town and in fact of the worst dwellers of the town.