14th August, 2010
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) on Friday called on Nigerian Universities to re-examine and reposition themselves towards reproducing the quality of education that the present set of leaders received so that they can attract patronage from every level of society.
Governor Fashola who gave the charge at the Lagos House, Ikeja when he received the members of the University of Benin Alumni Association (Worldwide Council) on a courtesy visit added that there are dark clouds now because the universities which provided opportunities for the children of all classes are endangered.
â€œMy heart bleeds when I hear stories of lecturers going on strikes and universities being closed down because it sends an ominous signal for the future about our nation. The universities served as a leveler where children of the drivers, ministers and peasants mixed freely and became lifelong friends irrespective of backgroundsâ€.
We are now stratifying society along class lines with only children of the rich being able to go to private universities. It creates very ominous signs ahead for us. We cannot build a United Nations and a United country if we stratify along class lines, Governor Fashola saidâ€.
The Governor was certain that the State will not rest on its oars until it positions the state owned university, Lagos State University (LASU) to become an institution of excellence which will compete with any private university.
He explained that through this, the present crop of leaders can give back the kind of opportunities they got while schooling, adding that although there are tough decisions to be made, government would find the courage to take them.
Noting that all his educational training and accomplishments took place in Nigeria, Governor Fashola posited that if they could all be achieved in Nigeria it means the nation can produce more of better leaders than him.
While canvassing that there are critical roles to be played by universities, Governor Fashola asked that the nation should go back to the basics and to some of the things that have been left undone, saying: â€œlet us go back to selflessness and patriotism as well as critical roles universities can play in the life of a nationâ€.
Governor Fashola told the visitors that the debates that usually lead to the emergence of great leaders in all countries which Nigeria seek to emulate always come from the universities, charging Nigerian varsities to get involved in the process of electing leaders at all levels.
He said they can also become think tank for government by ensuring that issues that challenge the leaders can be resolved through conscious efforts of the Universities.
â€œYou can set term papers, research papers, project papers for young students who would become the solution warehouse for issues about power generation, extraction of crude oil, redevelopment of sports institutions and so on. The data from such students who write the term papers can be collated into aid memos for those in governmentâ€.
The Governor reiterated that the Universities should not assume that those in Government have all the solutions. â€œThis is what is happening between the Oxford University, Cambridge and the British government. Same as in Harvard, Yale and Hopkins University for the United States. This is the role that our Universities can play for the Government at the State, Federal and Local levelsâ€.
He said now is the time to offer curriculum changes in what the nation is offering in the last 30 to 40 years, saying the nationâ€™s institutions need to offer more courses in transport management because of the prevalent problem of public transportation across the country.
Said he: â€œOur roads are broken up, our rail is not working. This are the courses I belief Nigerian Universities should be offering to the public for the new generation to provide the needed knowledge, otherwise Nigeria will continue to import that knowledgeâ€.
â€œWe cannot generate our own power yet how many Universities are offering courses in power generation. We are unable to extract and refine our crude without foreign inputs. How many Nigerian Universities are offering courses in those areas?â€.
He also noted that same applies to the entertainment film industry which though surviving on its own require Nigerian Universities offering courses in cinematography and photography to strengthen and provide the technical base of that industry.
â€œWe cannot address unemployment if we continue to generate graduates in areas where the Nigerian economy has no needâ€, Governor Fashola emphasized.
Governor Fashola who said it is a great pride for him as product of the University of Benin to be serving as Governor of Lagos State.
Speaking earlier, the President Worldwide Council of the University of Benin Alumni Association, Chief Richard Ahonaruogho said Lagos State has undergone tremendous transformation under the leadership of Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN) adding that when the Governor first assumed office only very few people gave him any chance of making any headway.
He added that Governor Babatunde Fashola has become an epitome of the spirit of the University of Benin products which is that of excellence.
Chief Ahonaruogho explained that just as Lagos State has become the most sought after State in the federation, the University of Benin is the most sought after institution of higher learning whose products never remains the same.
He said the members were in Lagos to celebrate one of theirs who has become a success story.
Also speaking, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin who was represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Administration, Professor John Okhuoya said Governor Fashola has become a point of reference for other Alumni members.
He added that his leadership style and qualities have become an inspiration to everybody.
Prominent among those who were present at the event were the Bursar of the University of Benin, Dr (Mrs.) May Nwoye and members of the State Executive Council especially Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Rotimi Oyekan who is also an Alumnus, the Secretary to the State Government, Princess Adenrele Adeniran Ogunsanya and the Head of Service, Prince Adesegun Ogunlewe.