4 December 2012

Nigeria: Time to Reform Higher Education


The quality of our leadership and governance and, indeed, of our national development, is a direct reflection of the quality of our university system. Our universities provide us not only with the critical manpower we require as a nation but they also bequeath us with the leaders who are expected to manage every stratum of state and society.

This is indeed an onerous responsibility which must be discharged seriously and conscientiously. We must realize that our universities are our greatest national asset. We can neglect them only at our own peril. It is therefore imperative for us to endow our younger generations with the best knowledge and skills not only to realize their full potential as bona fide citizens of West Africa but also to take their pride of place in a globalized and competitive world and make us all proud. Our success lies not in reminiscing in the good times and great opportunities we had, but in ensuring that succeeding generations are better equipped to face the challenges of the future and to manage change more effectively.

But how hopeful are we in achieving these noble objectives when the level of national investment in this critical sector remains inadequate and unsatisfactory? How can we aspire to achieving greatness in science and technology when many of our laboratories, especially in public universities, still subsist on outdated and outmoded equipment purchased in the 1960s and 1970s? How can we extend the frontiers of knowledge when our investment and engagement in research remains a marginal activity in our university system? How can we expect the younger generations to take up the challenges of leadership when we pay lip-service to character building and leadership development and in many instances, serve as the cause of their degeneration?

It is a matter of great importance for us to begin a serious and concerted reform of our higher education sector and refocus it to safeguard the strategic goals of the nation and to protect its future. States and the Federal Government would need to rise to the challenge and raise the requisite financial resources that would make a real difference to the system. There is also the urgent need to improve organizational effectiveness, build capacity of lecturers and managers and put in place a robust regulatory framework. We can also not relent in calling upon the private sector to play its rightful role in the resuscitation of higher education in Nigeria. We must endeavour to incentivize corporate giving and build effective and meaningful partnership between universities and the private sector. Wealthy individuals and major corporations should also be encouraged to establish specialized colleges and universities where and when it is feasible and beneficial to do so.

The time has also come for us to stop paying lip-service to leadership development in our tertiary institutions. We are a nation of rich cultural and religious values and we must strive to impart these values to our younger generations. We must endeavour to shore up the moral capital of our young such that they could make the critical choices of our national life with courage and confidence and in the firm belief that the choices they make are in the best interest of the country. It is a belief that I have held for many years that what has come to be called the Nigerian Factor could be regenerated to have a positive moral value which could serve as the driving force that could propel us to distinction and greatness.

No nation can develop, educationally and otherwise, in a state of insecurity and Nigeria cannot be an exception. The current spate of ethno-religious crises, armed banditry as well as terrorist insurgencies, can never advance the cause of development in Nigeria. We must put a stop to this wanton destruction and recklessness. Our developmental goals and community and interfaith relations must never be determined by the extremists amongst us. It is therefore, imperative for all well-meaning Nigerians to come together and work together to address the daunting challenges facing our societies. The pain of anyone of us must be a shared pain that should concern all of us regardless of creed or ethnic origin. The happiness of anyone of us should be a shared happiness, celebrated by all. Nigeria and Nigerians deserve no less.

The Sultan of Sokoto made these remarks at the award of honorary doctorate degrees to him and other personalities, including Mr John Kuffor, former Ghanaian president, by Igbinedion University, Okada, at the weekend.

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