By Abdulkabir Olatunji If Professor Dibu Ojerinde was the previous…
By Arinbomen Star
In one of the quotations credited to him, John Emerich Edward observed that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. While this timeless assertion can be considered a truism in the context of wrongful wielding of power, the same connotation can be inferred when allusions are made to abuse of precursors of power, such as attainment of great feats in academics or other walks of life.
Does power or any of its precursors truly corrupt the human instinct? Although the foregoing deconstruction suggests an affirmative take on this question, I strongly uphold the position that power and incorruptibility are not mutually exclusive; it is a question of the true nature of the instinct. A bad seed will always bear bad fruits, not minding the fertility of the soil on which it is cultivated. In the same vein, those who get corrupted by power or its precursors have innate warped mindsets.
This work is borne out of exasperation by the current feud between the management of the University of Ibadan and the students of the institution of learning. The students are protesting against the exhibition of sheer insensitivity and domineering proclivity by members of the ole caucus who superintend the administrative processes of the institution of learning. While there have been progressive increments of the various fees payable by the students, especially in the last three years; the latest increments take the cake. All the fees payable by the students were geometrically increased, including acceptance fee, tuition fee, and accommodation fee, among other fees. Students in the Faculties of Basic Medical Sciences, Clinical Sciences and Dentistry have the highest margin of increments in their fees, a situation that has triggered a cascade of heated reactions that are still smouldering.
The current fee schedule indicates that students in the Faculties of Basic Medical Sciences, Clinical Sciences, Dentistry and Public Health are expected to pay between #115,000 and #140,000 each on the average, depending on their level of study and their faculty. Based on the previous fee schedule, students in the aforementioned faculties paid between #35,000 and #40,000. Students in other faculties of study are to pay between #45,150 and #65,000 each, depending on their level of study and their faculty; while the previous fee schedule stipulated payments of between #29,150 and #36,000.
It is worth-knowing that among the federal universities in Nigeria the University of Ibadan charges the highest fees for the various services it offers its students. This situation readily boggles the mind. If other public universities in the country can thrive well without making their students pay exorbitant fees for their services, why should the situation be different with the University of Ibadan? It is understandable that increments in the fees payable by students in public tertiary institutions in Nigeria are inevitable, given the paltry budgetary allocation to the education sector by the federal government. Nevertheless, such increments should be effected with utmost discretion, and within the confines of the prevailing economic reality. Also, all relevant stakeholders should be carried along with adequate consultation about such a proposal.
The management of the University of Ibadan claimed that students’ representatives were privy to the recent increments, and that they formally accented to it. However, emerging facts have shown that the students’ representatives were not let in on the nitty-gritty of the blueprint of the proposed increments; but were hoodwinked signing the said documents. Personally, I do not see much wisdom in the meeting the management had with the students. Before such an important decision that bordered on increments of all fees payable by students was taken, parents or sponsors of the students should have been consulted as well. Students’ parents or sponsors are in the best position to negotiate with management in this regard. Reaching this decision without due consultation with all relevant stakeholders qualifies the decision as unilateral. If the management can invite students’ parents or sponsors for consultation when students get restive or stage protests against perceived irregularities in the institution, then it behoves them to also invite these stakeholders before important decisions that border on the welfare and academics of their children or beneficiaries are made.
Furthermore, public tertiary institutions are considered the beacon of hope for the socially underprivileged to get tertiary education. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the government, the socially privileged and past beneficiaries of the system in its heyday to sustain this fundamental role. Making the fees of public tertiary institutions unaffordable for the socially underprivileged is tantamount to making these institutions the exclusive preserve of the socially privileged. Education is the only enduring legacy that any nation can bequeath to its younger generation; thus all hands must be on deck to ensure that these folks are not denied this bequest.
Admittedly, government funding is on a nosedive in public tertiary institutions; nonetheless, the University of Ibadan can still fare well without denying the socially underprivileged students the right to education. Therefore, the management of the University of Ibadan should look inwards and evolve ways of easing the toll that their current decision might take on the students. They should expand the frontiers of their internally generated revenue, secure grants from national and international corporate organizations and solicit donations from philanthropists and alumni association. Most of the members of the current ole caucus of the University of Ibadan are beneficiaries of the largesse of the government and corporate organizations and the benevolence of philanthropists. They should replicate similar gestures.
By virtue of the current fee schedule of the University of Ibadan, the Medical and the Dental Students are to bear the brunt of the increments in fees; more so, with the introduction of the trumped up “Health Professional Pre-clinical and Clinical Training Levies”. The management claims that medical students’ training is expensive worldwide. While this position is incontrovertible, it should be reckoned that every civilized country has measures in place both by the government and the institutions of learning to ensure that eligible students get medical training without much ado. For instance, in Europe and North America, government scholarships, access to bank loans and internal scholarships by the institutions of learning are some of the measures in place to ensure seamless study by medical students. What measures are in place in the University of Ibadan?
Again, they said the times have changed, as the system operates on a different pedestal now. Yes, the times have changed. However, I believe that if adequate planning is made within the scope of current realities, the socially underprivileged students can still study medical courses in public universities without being subjected to psychological and physical traumata.
The ole caucus of the University of Ibadan should reflect on how they can be sources of succour to their students through genuine sacrifices on their parts. They should stop living for themselves and their families only; and avoid using their statuses as indices for assessing other parents. They should remember the proverbial white pap that emanates from the black pot. Rather than intimidating their students with their academic feats and their intellectual prowess, they should deploy these assets to provide the right platforms for their students to rise up to their levels.
Anyone who gets overwhelmed by power or its precursors, and forgets their fountain is no more than a barbaric pig. Men who climbed on the shoulders of others to reach the zenith of a cliff should be willing to offer their shoulders to others to achieve a similar feat. Great men are bridge builders; they facilitate the journey of others who share their vision through the path they have treaded. However, men of dark inclinations navigate their way through the bridge built by their predecessors and then burn it down.
In one of his works, Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare wrote: “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones”. The ole caucus of the University of Ibadan can continue with their current display of insensitivity and highhandedness; however, they should reckon that one way or the other they will reap the consequences of their actions. Their students can see how far they have gone and, perhaps, predict how much further they will go. They cannot make such predictions about their students with certainty because greater potentialities repose in these young and enterprising folks. What goes around surely comes around.
Arinbomen Star writes from Ibadan. He can be reached via Starins4real@yahoo.com