By Abiodun Komolafe
When the history of Osun State is written for posterity, one of the critical areas of intervention where Governor Gboyega Oyetola’s name will be written in gold is education. While other areas of his Midas touch are already in the public domain for inquiring minds, the recently-upgraded College of Education, Ilesa to University of Ilesa necessitated this piece.
On Tuesday, September 27, 2022, Governor Oyetola assented to the law seeking to upgrade the College to a full-fledged institution of higher education. According to the governor, the “carefully conceived as a thoroughly entrepreneurial and innovative” University of Ilesa was “not a product of fanciful effort” but “a thorough and rigorous interrogation, characteristic of the culture of deep engagement” which his “administration is known for.” According to reports, the assent was the joyful culmination of a journey straddling over-40 years.
Now that University of Ilesa has come to stay, what next? To start with, the southwest zone in the context of Nigeria is perhaps the foremost region to embrace western civilization, just as no region can compete with the Northern part of the country in the area of Islamic orientation and civilization. For the SW zone therefore, the idea of having a university and the longing for it could not have been lower than that of the other zones of the country. Impliedly, the agitation for, and the location of a university in the heart of Yorubaland, especially, in Ijesaland is long overdue. Let us thank God that there are neighbouring towns where our children can acquire university education; but then, that Ijesas have an enduring sentimental attachment to western education is as true as ever. It is like Ekiti purportedly having the highest number of academic indigenes occupying professorial chairs, both at home and in the Diaspora.
Yes, Ijesas might not have produced the number of professors like Ekiti but, sentiments apart, the former are unbeatable in terms of being socially immersed in the transformatory philosophy and enlightenment benefits of education. Take it or leave it, the average Ijesaman takes pride in the virtues of education. So, it is a good thing that the Oyetola-led government decided to give this sub-ethnicity of the Yorubas a befitting University. One can only hope that the promoters of the proposed Federal College of Agriculture in Ijebu-Jesa, my Native Nazareth, would also fast-track the processes leading to its establishment to complement Oyetola’s noble effort.
As fate would have it, the few antagonists to the establishment of this new University are people outside the beautiful landscape of Ijesaland. Of course, there’s no doubting the fact that the spinners of insidious logic who are notoriously trying to destroy the threads of communal togetherness woven together over a long period of time are doing so for obvious crass negativism. It’s simply because the Pharisees who cry even when they don’t have tears must come up with something to catch their fancy.
Of a fact, the funding of our education institutions in Nigeria remains problematic. Had it not been so, there would have been funds sufficient enough to train our brilliant students abroad and bring them back to the country. Singapore, under Lin Kuan Yew, did it! In the United States of America, General Motors once approached Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), over the problematic electrical circuit of one of its SUV type cars. General Motors funded the research and MIT demonstrated how the gown could be relevant and empirically useful to the town. In the end, the world was better for it! When Yew was struggling to educate the Singaporeans, he was already an ex-Oxford. Unfortunately, here in Nigeria, the opposite always has its way. Isn’t it sad that the educational qualifications of our leaders are oftentimes questionable? Of course, it’s that bad! It is therefore time Nigeria’s universities thought along this inspiring line of problem-solving, not just gathering students in a classroom for the purpose of vomiting turenchi and savouring tales by moonlight that have no bearing on our communal survival.
Talking specifically, the sad truth is that the people are not weighing the enormity of the challenge before us. Gone are the days when, before one graduated from the university, the goodies of life were already at one’s doorstep, beckoning one to accept mouth-watering job offers. These days, parents sell their belongings to train their children up to the university level only for their graduate-children to return home to continue being fed by their parents. Those who feel uncomfortable with this pathetic arrangement simply embrace ‘yahoo-yahoo’ business scam, and the society continues to suffer crossness, even from foreign countries! In the midst of these, our leaders send their children to private schools in foreign countries. Imagine the children of the poor who have been at home in the last 8 months due to the avoidable industrial action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Isn’t that enough to trap a country’s future in a darkroom of indistinctness?
It therefore behoves governments across board to make sure that education truly pays. Otherwise, people will no longer be motivated to study, but rather succumb to the social vices that guarantee survival. There and then, stealing, banditry, kidnapping and ritual activities will become a routine because people want money. Even, if the government decides to visit the celestial planes to hire angels to man our anticorruption posts, once ‘ise la fi n d’eni giga’ (work is the antidote for poverty) fails to achieve its aims, the society will be ruined and we will all live to regret it. If we ruin the legacy of university education and allow the thriving of ‘yahoo’ business; then, the importance of education will become totally repudiated. Why? A student who is in school must have a focus and a thrust at the back of his mind; that, one day, he must be able to feed himself. It’s the absence of this thrust that fuelled #EndSARS, especially, when the youth saw that they left school only to go back home only to become liabilities to their parents again. But, here we are, in the throes of a system that’s already been rigged against them.
Perhaps more importantly, it is the notion that we should not embrace education that has energized the presentation of rubbished school certificate holders as leaders. If we begin to rubbish education, we will continue to produce and reproduce nincompoops who will sooner rather than later aspire to become presidents of Nigeria. If we don’t reverse it – if we continue in our unwholesome art of thievery; if elections continue to be upturned by the courts based on technicalities rather than merit; and if our leaders prefer being Wikileaks-compliant to being of help to the downtrodden – we will only be postponing the evil days. Until we go back to the drawing board, Nigerians will continue to clap with one hand, even if one million ‘Emi lo kan’, or ‘Atikulated’, even ‘Obedients’ become Nigeria’s First Citizens!
Still on Ijesaland’s new baby, let it be in the consciousness of the Nigerians that, apart from just having schools, Osun State will also attain greater heights if only it has the intellectual capacity; and the intellectual capacity can only come from a well-funded and focused University, such as the new University of Ilesa.
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Osun State!
KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State ([email protected])