Salvaging The Obafemi Awolowo University

University TeachersThe Obafemi Awolowo University should be a national monument and a pride to all the children of Oduduwa at home and in the diaspora. As the name implies, it is a national recognition of the landmark work of the indomitable lion, Chief Obafemi Awolowo of greatly cherished memory. We may care to make a comparison to other monuments erected to propagate the memory of great men.

In societies which realize the importance of keeping the memory of those who had served society meritoriously alive such monuments are handled with great care and nurtured with affection. A couple of examples should suffice. Churchill College, Cambridge was founded in 1960 as a national memorial dedicated to celebrating the life of the great wartime leader, Sir Winston Churchill. A component of the University of Cambridge , it has gone on from strength to strength. A cherished and carefully nurtured and nourished national edifice. The same goes for the John F. Kennedy School of Government a component of America ’s Harvard University . So highly rated is this school that our freeloading governors in Nigeria wanted to go there to build up their self-assessed inadequate capacity.

The Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) should not be different. It was well conceived and put together by a man who resisted the vaingloriousness of naming it after himself. The neglect and increasing despair of a hitherto fine institution constitutes devastating indictment of the present crop of leadership in Yorubaland. With the University of Ibadan (UI), the OAU should be the foremost centre of learning and skills development in Yorubaland. Apart from the historic value of this institutions, Yorubaland as elsewhere suffers from a dearth of a critical shortage of skills. The modern global knowledge economy is based on skills, lack of it leads to an inability to compete. Therefore, self-interest and self-preservation alone should provide the key reason why these institutions should become centres of excellence. They are extremely vital to the development of the economy.

The Yoruba state governments made up of Lilliputians induced by the Obasanjo/Iwu era ‘do-or-die’ selection mode obviously do not give a damn. This should not surprise us. Governments whose operating mode is based on corruption and fiscal profligacy cannot be expected to think let alone act sensibly. However, every Yoruba person has a moral obligation to find a solution to what is now an embarrassment. OAU is simply falling apart! As this paper has correctly pointed out, a lot has to do with managerial ineptitude. In our own words, “O.A.U. has been turned into a campus of multiple crises. On the part of management, a combination of dereliction of duty; misplacement of priorities; laissez-faire attitude and insensitivity to others’ genuine and deserved needs; corruption and inordinate ambition to acquire wealth;” The litany of woes is long, but this captures the genesis in a nutshell.

The terrible infrastructure of the OAU will make Awolowo who was a stickler for excellence spin in his grave. Scam after scam as well as misappropriation and mis-allocation of resources prevents the infrastructure from being maintained. For example, accompanying the debilitating acute water shortage is a disgusting N400 million heist. The N400m has simply vanished and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should be very interested in this misappropriation. This particular heist is extremely dangerous. It means that thousands of people who use the campus on a daily basis are now exposed to the threat of an epidemic. Anyone who has seen pictures of the ‘toilets’ on campus will realize that this is no hyperbole.

We cannot just lament the disgraceful atmosphere. The sage, Obafemi Awolowo, would want us to provide an answer to the question – what is to be done? The road ahead is straightforward. Every Yoruba speaking state must set aside self-defeating statism and get involved. They must make budgetary allocating to rehabilitate OAU. In addition, the alumni association which has commendably done so much must do more. All the modern forms of fund-raising used by alumna associations in the advanced countries must be copied, modified and put into place. Alumnae and Yoruba in the diaspora must be marshaled to make an input into a worthwhile cause. A central endowment fund to which all the Yoruba are obliged to contribute must be put into play immediately. It will be an on-going and continuing project.

The self-esteem of the Yoruba is tied up with the state of health of the OAU. Everything must be done to restore it back to good health.

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