It is no longer news that six important courses at the Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma, have failed the accreditation test conducted by the National Universities Commission (NUC). Given the critical role education plays in the development of any society, this is quite unfortunate and sad. This is an embarrassing, shocking development the Edo State government should not have allowed to happen, in the first place, had it decided to get its priorities right. This is because the government had enough time to prepare the state-owned university, by way of strategic and targeted funding, and by upgrading all its courses, ahead of the scheduled and routine visit of the NUC accreditation team.
However, by failing to do the needful, Architecture, Building, Botany, Microbiology, Biochemistry and Political Science have now been downgraded by the NUC, thus plunging the students, both indigenes of the state and non-indigenes, offering these courses in a quandary. By no fault of theirs, their collective fates now hang in the balance until a sensitive and reasonable government moves in to reverse the ugly situation. Indeed, ensuring that all courses at AAU were accredited was the basic minimum expected from the Adams Oshiomhole’s government. It is a minimum standard Oshiomhole has failed to meet.
How far has AAU fallen? Well, according to the NUC, in 2011, the university was ranked the 19th best university in Nigeria. Five years later, under Oshiomhole’s punitive and directionless leadership, AAU has plummeted to 57th position.
The state governor, more cunningly than intelligently perhaps, knew what agenda he was pursuing by refusing to fund infrastructure development at the AAU. He certainly understood what he was doing when he released a paltry N120 million to AAU, about ten per cent of N1.26 billion requested by the management of the institution for the accreditation of all courses and upgrade of teaching facilities. I personally do not find it difficult to understand the stratagem the governor has employed to punish Esanland for always presenting a formidable opposition to his political agenda of taking over and manipulating Edo Central, the same way he has done with Edo North and Edo South zones.
But for the political influence and fighting spirit of some leaders in Edo Central, Esanland would have become a conquered territory for Oshiomhole. Therefore, as recompense, the zone must be strategically dealt with and defeated, no matter the collateral damage suffered by the innocent, tax-paying citizens of the state. The most critical knowledge infrastructure to decimate in this unconscionable war is the citadel of learning in the heart of Esanland and specifically at Ekpoma. Instead of adequately funding AAU, the governor decided to establish another so-called Edo University in his village at Iyamho, an ambitious project into which billions of naira have, so far, been sunk.
This then raises the question of priority. Why did he not prioritise an altruistic commitment to educating the state by first ensuring that the required funds for accreditation of courses at AAU were provided, even if he was determined to build the Iyamho university project? To treat with scant regard the fact that AAU, which has existed for over three decades, should enjoy a big brother’s treatment questions the sincerity of the governor about his claim that Edo is one entity, not divisible by politics. His disposition to the issue of accelerated development of a university in his village presents him rather, unfortunately, as a clannish, selfish and bigoted leader.
Some commentators had once described as callous, the establishment of a new university where the existing tertiary institutions are in a shambles with staff salaries and allowances not paid as and when due. AAU, like most others in the state, has not been able to answer the potable water question. The question of in-service training for teaching staff members is also yet unanswered. Indigenes of the state who are students of the institution do not have the privilege of being provided with scholarship and bursary. So, what has the institution done to deserve this official abandonment, nay shabby treatment? Some people are quick to answer that it is because it (AAU) is sited on Esanland. Is this true, Governor Oshiomhole?
Is it also true, comrade governor, that your outright lukewarm attitude towards the institution was due to your failed alternative plan to relocate it from Edo Central to Edo North; and that when the plot failed, you decided to embark on a brand new university project in your village? The money (billions of naira) so far sunk into the building of the university at Iyamho, according to informed watchers of the development, is more than enough to upgrade all the existing tertiary institutions in the state to an international standard. It is noteworthy that in this year’s budget, N1.2 billion (about 10 per cent) was earmarked for Edo University, Iyamho, from the total budget of N13.64 billion for the education sector. What a brazen way to give preferential treatment to a pet project, especially when the alleged status of the Edo University as the private, personal project of the comrade governor has not been convincingly disproved to this writer and, I am sure, a host of others.
The point being made is: why did the governor not consider AAU worthy of full release of N1.2 billion requested by the university management to address the issue of accreditation for all courses on offer and to upgrade teaching facilities in the school? With due respect, the comrade governor has been very unfair to the legacy of Second Republic governor of the old Bendel State, the late Professor Ambrose Alli. He has also been very unfair to the students offering these downgraded courses and whose fate he has condemned to limbo.
The development in AAU would embarrass a responsible government. The failed outcome of the visit of the NUC Accreditation Team is, pure and simple, an indictment of Governor Oshiomhole and his attritional education policy. Unfortunately, Edolites have come to realise that the concepts of shame and atonement are alien to him. As long as he manages to build his “private” university with public funds, we can all “go and die”!
- Mr Ojeme, a graduate of AAU, Ekpoma, contributed this piece from Ikeja, Lagos State.