LASU New Fee Regime: Why Fashola Must Not Succumb To Blackmail

Opinion

To be a good leader, the vision to probe into the future, to set achievable goals is paramount. For instance, the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, dreamt of an emergent group of well-informed professionals and entrepreneurs to take over the baton of leadership from the colonialists, in both the public service and the corporate world. He conceptualised the free education policy for the defunct Western Region, using 25 per cent of the revenue that accrued to the region from the virile cocoa industry.

The beneficiaries are among the nation’s greatest leaders till now, in virtually all sectors of the economy.

One other rare ingredient of leadership which Nigeria needs now is the courage to do the right thing at the right time. The late General Murtala Muhammed and the duo of General Buhari and the late Tunde Idiagbon, had it in quantum. Similarly, one is impressed by the courage of the governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, in his first term, at the risk of not getting re-elected for a second term, to restore orderliness hitherto absent in the infrastructure, transportation and commercial activities of the metropolis.

We make bold to say the recent approval granted the authorities of the Lagos State University by Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, in his capacity as the Visitor to the university, to increase tuition fees to be paid by the new students, sequel to the reports of the visitation panel to the institution, is another rare act of courage.

Yes, it is. Like the saying goes, “diamond are forever,” changing global reality in our new world is making leaders that have vision and commitment to do the right thing looks like narrow-minded, satanic, heartless and wicked, while making those without vision look like saints.

Like Winston Churchill, Fashola can be vilified for his principle position, but he cannot be faulted for patriotic and altruistic motivations for his actions. It is an incontrovertible fact that constructive criticism is an essential ingredient of a virile democracy because it is a catalyst to progress.

It did not only help to keep leaders that are derailing on their toes, it also helps to promote accountability and good governance.

But when criticism degenerates to the level of propaganda, muckraking and personal abuse, it loses its essence. The students’ reactions that followed the tuition fee increment has, expectedly, put the issue in public domain where it has continued to elicit public reactions in the media.

We have watched and read commentaries by the media, professionals, stakeholders and mischievous critics on the issue. While we, members of the Oodua Youth For Good Governance, welcome all commentaries, we are of the conviction that to effectively appreciate the issues in question, informed opinions are necessary. It is in consequence thereof, that we want to lay bare these facts and challenge anybody to controvert them.

The importance of education, being a major catalyst to an all around development to any nation, cannot be overemphasised, whether economically, socially, politically, culturally, religiously or technologically. Today, the world’s economy is knowledge-based. In other words, knowledge industry is the fastest growing industry in the world today.

Let us situate the problem by stressing that no nation can make the transition to a knowledge economy if human capital formation and nurture remain in tatters, which the Nigerian political elite have left them. Truth of the matter is, academic excellence can only be aided by well furnished exposure and up to date libraries and laboratories, immersion in the latest scientific journals, exposure to great minds and mentors in the discipline as well as generous research and travel grants with which to track data and so on.

No serious nation allows the minds of its future leaders to be moulded by other countries without a countervailing cultural resource to project the nation’s aspirations and goals.

It is a matter for regret, however, that the degenerated status of higher education has resulted in a situation where Nigeria has become a “huge bonanza” for all sorts of universities across the globe, including those of less endowed countries like Ghana, Benin Republic and Togo, which actively compete for the training of young Nigerians at a huge cost of not less than $10,000 per student per annum (N1.5 million).

The reason for this downturn is that a decrepit environment replete with ailing infrastructure and a disabling organisation climate cannot be the right soil in which, proper academic work, much less excellence can sprout. In view of the above, can our bottom league academic status be disputed by any rational and well-informed mind?

The answer is an emphatic no. It is clear, therefore, that if our universities must return to the centres of excellence which they once were, a host of inhibiting factors, internal and external, must be addressed.

There must be a political leadership that is ashamed enough about the dramatically attenuated status of our universities to create the foundations of resuscitated academies that have an identity on the world map.

What we need to do is to create or, at least, foster world class universities well funded enough to undertake leading edge research and sufficiently divorced from the controlling hand of government parastatals to determine the payment structure of their own staff and consequently, to have the leeway to institute a pay structure calibrated according to productivity.

In view of the above, for having the courage to do what most of Nigerian political elite are shying away from doing, many will agree with us that Fashola deserves commendation rather than condemnation.

The focus of this intervention is to disabuse the minds of the unwary about the impression colourless politicians and a section of the media have created of him as insensitive and wicked. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fashola’s only “sin” is that he cannot compromise standard on the altar of political expediency.

His lofty dream is to make LASU a world class university.

Only recently, former Vice-Chancellor, University of Ibadan, Professor Olufemi Bamiro, underscored the need for every tertiary institution in Nigeria to aspire to be a global player and by extension, world class institution. Speaking at the third Redeemers University (RUN) convocation lecture entitled The Nigerian University System: The Challenge Of Building A World Class Institution, Bamiro said the university system is a sub-sector that cannot be insulated, in any way, from the forces of globalisation.

According to him, “the universe that is expected to be in a ‘university’ dictates that a university is not a local entity, but rather a global entity that must seek to establish its own niche in the global knowledge space without sacrificing its local relevance.

“While it may be acting locally in pursuit of relevance to its immediate environment, a university must, however, be leveraging on its global connectivity. This underscores the need for every institution to transform to a global player or, by extension, a world class institution.”

The above statement credited to the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan lent credence to Fashola’s good intention for LASU and its future products.  The decision of the Fashola-led administration to mitigate the impact of the increase in tuition fees on indigent students by provision of bursary and scholarship through its bursary and scholarship schemes, shows clearly what a leader’s compassion is all about. Our admonition to Governor Fashola is in the words of Pythagoras: “Rest satisfied with doing well and leave others to talk of you as they will.” Posterity is your best judge.

•Lanre Aminu is the National Coordinator of Oodua Youth For Good Governance