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How Lecturers Underdeveloped The Universities (3) by Nnamdig2(m): 12:43am On Dec 01, 2013
on december 01, 2013 at 12:22 am in sunday
perspectives

By Douglas Anele

However, and this is the crux of the matter, those
responsible for running the universities on daily basis
have, through financial rascality, misused available
financial resources. Wastages and corruption in the
system are legion. They include explosive increase in the
purchase of official cars, frequent unnecessary trips by
top management of universities many of whom are
senior academics, huge allowances and gifts for
members of university councils, lavish convocation
ceremonies, overpriced contracts awarded to relatives,
friends and cronies of VIPs in various campuses most of
which are poorly executed, and so on.
I am sure that many senior academics at different levels
of authority will have serious cases to answer if the
federal and state governments undertake thorough
independent audit of the entire financial transactions of
universities.

Hence, although our political leaders
deserve opprobrium for neglecting the universities and
wasting available resources on self-aggrandisement,
sometimes criticism of government for not providing
basic facilities in our institutions of higher learning is
misplaced because highly placed lecturers in positions of
authority oftentimes misappropriate available funds.

Meanwhile ASUU leaders and activists insist that
government must provide everything universities need
to function, even relatively inexpensive items these
institutions, through imaginative financial management,
can comfortably provide for themselves. In this
connection, any university that does not have good
classrooms, decent toilets for both staff and students,
markers and dusters for lecturers, fairly good library and
basic equipment like Bunsen burners for laboratory work
ought not to have been licensed to operate by the NUC
in the first instance. Approving half-baked universities
just because of the explosion in the number of
candidates seeking university admission is a waste of
time, money and human resources.
Yet, NUC continues to approve such universities, with the
active connivance of senior academics and Professors
for whom “anything goes” as long as their financial
demands are met.

Now, instead of Vice Chancellors
wasting money on things of tangential value, such as
creating new directorates, lavish convocation
ceremonies and purchase of vehicles among others,
they should use such funds to provide affordable items
for teaching and learning. It is pertinent to observe that,
in virtually all universities transparent accountability with
respect to funds for capital projects and money derived
from internally generated revenue is lacking. For a
change, ASUU should be demanding from university
authorities across the country proper accountability with
respect to the subventions from government for capital
expenditure, instead of blaming government all the time
for petty items like Bunsen burners, toilets, fans etc. It is
well known that the new buildings and facilities in various
campuses are below the standard established in the
years from 1962 to around 1990, which is a reflection of
unimaginative planning and lack of Platonic aesthetic
sensibility amongst university authorities.

This is corroborated by the fact that buildings
constructed in Nigerian universities from around the
1990s, supervised by senior academics in the relevant
departments as consultants, are ghettoes compared to
the world class structures built before that time at the
University of Lagos, such as UNILAG library, faculty of
engineering building, the Senate Building the Council
Chambers, Main Auditorium, etc.
Another problem is the ethnicisation of key positions in
the universities, and I will use appointment of Vice
Chancellors to illustrate the point. Ideally, by its
mandate, a university is supposed to be universalistic in
orientation since its mission consists in the pursuit of
knowledge of The True, The Good and The Beautiful.
This implies that merit, excellence, and proven record of
performance must be the decisive factors in the
selection of candidates for the elevated position of VC.
Nevertheless, for a sizeable percentage of lecturers the
most important factor is the ethnic origin of a potential
VC; the question of merit and competence is secondary.
On several occasions, lecturers from a particular ethnic
group where a university is located insist that a “son of
the soil” must be the VC or else they will make things
extremely difficult for any non-indigene who has the
audacity to take up the post. It is a measure of
increasing indulgent narrow-minded provincialism in the
academia that virtually all VCs in our universities hail
from the culture area where the institutions are located.

Once upon a time, when Nigerian universities were truly
Ivory Towers, the Vice Chancellors of the Universities of
Ibadan, Lagos, and Nigeria, Nsukka, hailed from the
same ethnic group, and from my research, they
performed well. Why must the VC of UNN be an Igbo?
Must the VC of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, be a
Yoruba? I am not aware of any principled stance of
ASUU against the ethnicisation of Vice Chancellorship in
our universities, which is unfortunate because that
position is critical in the proper day-to-day management
of universities, and ethnicity is neither a necessary nor
sufficient criterion for selecting the most qualified
candidate for the job.

Anyway, Nigerian academics in general have retreated
into the cocoon of ethnic parochialism, because it
provides many of them a strong platform for negotiating
and competing effectively in the system to make up for
deficiencies in cognitive and emotional intelligence as
well as in character.
Even in the recruitment and promotion of lecturers,
several heads of departments, deans of faculties,
provosts of colleges and VCs have consistently sacrificed
merit on the altar of ethnicity. Students even allege that
some lecturers give preferential treatment to students
from their ethnic group while grading examination
scripts, tests and take home assignments.

To
summarise: the proclivity of an increasing number of
lecturers to put ethnic considerations before merit and
capacity to perform is a dangerous trend that has
impacted negatively on our universities; colleagues
should begin to think seriously about how to discourage
the practice. Lecturers are mainly responsible for the
skewed procedure and requirements for promotion of
academics, which allows square pegs to be in round
holes in our universities.
Now, the criteria for advancement from one cadre to
another are set by academics with the approval of
university councils. I maintain that the system is
inadequate because it places too much emphasis on
journal publications, especially foreign ones, and
neglects quality of teaching. Many truant lecturers with
poor teaching skills have successfully exploited the
weaknesses in the system and became Professors either
by cloning and plagiarising works written by others
(including graduate students), publishing in non-existent
or very obscure journals or by recycling the same set of
ideas in different publication outlets.
Indeed, some desperate colleagues connive with
unscrupulous individuals outside Nigeria to float
phantom journals just for attaining the professorial rank
after which the so-called journal will sink into oblivion. Of
course, some lecturers neglect teaching, and
concentrate on publishing half-baked and badly argued
ideas in order to be “high flyers” in the system. I just
cannot understand why ASUU has never worked to
ensure that a good system for students’ evaluation of
lecturers’ performance is instituted in universities as one
of the factors that determine the career movement of
lecturers.
TO BE CONTINUED

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