The Vision 20-2020 And Nigerian Universities

THE VISION 20/2020 AND NIGERIAN UNIVERSITIES*

The Vision 20-2020 And Nigerian Universities

By Akin Oyebode, Professor of International Law and immediate past Vice-Chancellor of University of Ado-Ekiti


Convocation lecture delivered at Kogi State University, Anyigba on Friday October 10, 2008

Introduction

Let me begin by expressing sincere gratitude to the authorities of the Kogi State University for doing me the honour of delivering the Second Convocation Lecture of this great institution. I wish also to pay tribute to the founding fathers of this citadel of learning for their initiative in establishing this university. Each time I go past this campus on my various peregrinations, I do not fail to marvel at its architectural splendour reflected in the gigantic structures that dot the landscape. Even if buildings do not a university make, anyone who has been privileged to savour the ambience of these precincts should not be blamed for thinking that the ends of pedagogy and proper upbringing of succeeding generations of scholars and scientists can only be served by the sheer beauty of the environment. And if anyone was in doubt about the destiny of the Kogi State University, the arrival on the scene of a gem of a scholar of the erudition, stature and eminence of Professor Francis Idachaba as helmsman of the institution was enough proof that the university was indeed set to join the ranks of the world's great universities.

Nigeria is today at a crossroads. After numerous false starts and inability to actualize the much-touted potentials of our great country, it seems we are once again set on a journey to nowhere, bereft of well-thought out fundamentals of Nigeria's political economy. The goal this time around is touted as leapfrogging the country from the nadir of hopelessness and underdevelopment to the rarified group of the most developed economies of the world, all within a spate of 12 years. Of course, there is nothing wrong in dreaming big but there is everything wrong in seeking pies in the sky or a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Accordingly, we are called upon today to reflect on Nigeria's new-fangled vision to place itself among the world's best within a very short period of time indeed and this, in the face of a track record of ineptitude, failed promises, indiscipline and corrupt practices. At a period of self-doubt, mass disillusionment and deepening socio-economic and political crises, it is quite intriguing that the powers-that-be continue to engage in quixotic and chimerical endeavours, not borne out by our existential realties but most probably aimed at hoodwinking the unwary.

It is hoped that at the end of the soul-searching experience which our interrogation of the promise of the Vision 20-2020 entails, we would be able to arrive at certain desiderata in relation to our universities such as to enable realization of, at least  some, if not all the goals envisioned in the 20-2020 project. To the extent that the universities are the repository of high level intellect and know-how, to that extent is it illusory to expect fundamental changes in the society without taking the universities into account. As the habitat of the best and brightest in society, the universities are and remain custodians of knowledge of not only the secrets of what holds society together but also of ways and means of transcending the existential conditions of society in a bid to ameliorate the suffering and privations of the masses of the people.

Pursuant to this, it is intended to begin by examining the broad aspects of the Vision 20-2020 before attempting to properly situate human capital development in the course of national goals and aspirations generally. This would be followed by an assessment of our efforts in pursuing growth and development of the universities with the concluding part of the presentation devoted to the role of the universities in the effort to actualize the Vision 20-2020.

The Vision 20-2020 Promise

  

Admittedly there is a feel-good factor inherent in any declaration of intent to "move Nigeria forward." Yet, if we as a people are to make progress, it is imperative that we constantly subject government policies to dispassionate and unbiased analysis or, as one of my teachers used to admonish, we must always wash every proposition with cynical acid!

With regard to the Vision 20-2020, the first observation to make is that it is not autochthonous or, to put it in plainer language, the idea is not indigenous or home-grown. It all came about as a result of the forecast of Goldman Sachs, the US finance house published in December, 2005. Agreed that it might not matter whether or not an idea was local or imported so long as it was workable, yet, it is still a mark of prudence to remind ourselves of Virgil's admonition not to trust the Greeks even if they were bearing gifts. With that caveat firmly behind our minds, we can now proceed to lay bare the prognostications of our well-wishers from Wall St. who, as we speak, are themselves embroiled in considerable self-doubt and a crisis of confidence in view of the current global capitalist meltdown.

However, according to the study conducted by Goldman Sachs, by 2025, based on their parameters for growth and development, the 20 largest economies in the world would most likely include Nigeria and the BRIC nations-Brazil, Russia, India and China. More significantly, Nigeria would have overtaken countries like Spain, Belgium, Poland, the Nordic countries, Israel, Romania, not to talk of South Africa or Egypt! Taking a cue from this, our whiz-kids at the Central Bank then decided, without any research or empirical study whatsoever, to shorten the prescribed time frame by 5 years and thus came up with their own Vision 20-2020 built around their specifically-designed delivery vehicle, the Financial System Strategy (FSS) 2020. At the last Nigerian Economic Summit Group held in Abuja, September 5-7, 2007, the Vision 20-2020 formed the theme of proceedings, with presentations from Goldman Sachs itself, the President, Federal Ministry of Finance, Central Banks, the Organized Private Sector (OPS) and numerous other stakeholders.

Aside from the few skeptics that sought a lowering of sights by the overly optimistic audience[1], there seemed to have been a near-universal acclaim for the Vision, which increasingly has assumed the toga of a panacea for all the troubles afflicting the Nigerian political economy. With the somewhat comatose state of NEEDS, SEEDS, the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's) and the new-fangled President Yar' Adua's 7-point development programme, it is no surprise that the Vision 20-2020 soon came to be seen as a godsend for confronting all of the nation's predicament.

Nevertheless, even the Central Bank Governor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo has been compelled to admit the tall order of the Vision--requiring not less than 13 percent annual growth rate of the nation's GDP from the present 6 or 7 percent, aside from an annual capital investment of some $40 billion![2] Most worrisome, perhaps is the legitimation crisis attending the country's governing elite. After the failure of the promise of life more abundant to all by the year 2000 and the much-touted Vision 2010 which had been in a state of suspended animation for as long as one can remember, no-one can blame the generality of the Nigerian population for refusing to be taken in by yet another case of déjà vu.

It is quite obvious that Nigeria just cannot stand still. The country simply has to move forward. Accordingly, a new way would have to be found to galvanize the entire populace in order to transform the economy from its present peripheral, neo-colonial, dependent status to a modern, self-propelled and highly productive economy, ready and able to supply the basic needs of our people, meet their socio-political aspirations and properly situate the country within the global political economy. A situation in which we as a people are languishing in the labyrinths of pauperization, ignorance and squalor in the midst of plenty is definitely unacceptable at this time and age. The 8 MDG's among which are poverty reduction, improved education, gender parity, lower infant mortality and motherhood morbidity are receding in the Nigerian horizon even in the 7 years remaining before the target date.[3] If we have not made much progress towards achieving any of the MDG's, it does not require a rocket scientist to predict our failure in reaching the 20-2020 target on the appointed date.

It is instructive that as both the late Claude Ake and Bade Onimode never tired of saying, all effort to solve the malaise of Nigeria's disarticulate economy would come to naught except and unless Nigeria apprehends the necessity to produce what it consumes and consume what it produces. Without bridging this gap, attempts to lift the country from the quagmire of poverty and underdevelopment can attain, at best, only marginal gains. Accordingly, there is a felt necessity for the elaboration of a home-grown, realistic strategic plan which will be based on hard-nosed fundamentals of the Nigerian economy rather than one reflecting, to all intents and purposes, the fancies of foreign "economic hit men."[4] As Otive Igbuzor observed recently, the Vision 2020 as currently composed smacks very much of an agenda to deceive and not one that can effect the much-needed socio-economic transformation of Nigeria.[5] A new vision and mission statement or, better still, a perspective plan based on our own values and priorities would have to be elaborated as soon as possible in lieu of the externally inspired Vision 20-2020.

Nevertheless, it is worthy of note that in recent times, there has apparently developed, especially in government circles, a more down-to-earth consciousness of the desiderata of the Vision 20-2020. For example, in his address at the last Annual General Meeting of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, the Federal Minister of Finance, Dr Shamsudeen Usman admitted that a lot was required to be done if the Vision is to be realized.[6] Also, the Federal Minister of Education recently announced the establishment of the Nigerian International Science Committee with a view to driving development strategies towards the achievement of the Vision 20-2020.[7]

Furthermore, it is instructive that, in his 2008 Convocation Lecture at the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Professor Soludo recognized the need for greater effort in the banking sector, especially in the area of effective management of the capital inflow into the economy if Nigeria was to attain the 20-2020 dream.[8] In his own words,

"To catch up with the world economy that is moving at 100 kilometres per hour, the Nigerian economy must be driven at 1,000 kilometres per hour to rank among the first 20 economies of the world."[9]

Interestingly, this view is also shared by some key players in the private sector.[10]

 What it all boils down to is that the new awareness among our policy-makers of the need to move away from grandstanding and begin to focus more on what concretely needs to be done might, in the long run, help actualize at least some of the lofty dreams of the government even if that goes beyond the time frame of 2020. Based on the facts on the ground, it is most unlikely that Nigeria can attain the dream within the prescribed period but the idea itself could still become an elixir or motivator for the different players within the economy to enable them to add value to their various engagements such as to generate necessary growth and development within the socio-economic matrix. In other words, the heuristic advantages in re-thinking the Vision 20-2020 more as a tool of socio-economic transformation than the mantra that it had since become needs to be well appreciated by all concerned. It is for this reason that a new and re-worked Vision 20-2020 could well become the anchor for the nation's multifarious development programmes , if properly elaborated. More important, the time is ripe for 'thinking out of the box' in recognition of the peculiarities of our predicament rather than being bogged down with attractive but chimerical proposals, more so as the time for lamentation has since passed. There is now a dire need for practical solutions to lift us up from the pit of misery and misplaced priorities into which we had sunken for such a long time. While it is agreed that nothing succeeds like success, we should not be afraid to try novel ways of transcending today's difficulties even if such might be fraught with danger and difficulty. If it is possible to marry the ideals of the Vision 20-2020 with today's realities, then we just might be able to envisage a scenario that would enable us navigate successfully through most, if not all of our existential problems.

Human Capital Development and Achievement of National Goals

It is self-evident that nations and peoples are not equally endowed. It is this disparity that gave rise to concepts such as international division of labour and comparative advantage. Thus, in furtherance of their national interest, nations always endeavour to maximize their advantages vis-Ă -vis other members of the international community. More often than not, the nuisance value of a country within the international system depends on the quality of its work force. A country with a highly educated population, for example, would attract greater direct foreign investment than one with a majority of its people illiterate, ignorant and superstitious. Furthermore, productivity is closely linked to the quality of the country's work force while good governance is frequently a function of enlightenment. It is conventional wisdom that education makes a people easy to lead but difficult to oppress. This is why dictatorship had always thrived in situations of ignorance, obscurantism and resultant timidity among the population.

Accordingly, the educational profile of a people has a lot to do with the quality of their lives. Even in free enterprise economies, the state does not completely remove its hands from the education of the citizenry. When not prescribing curricula in a bid to ensure that there was a minimum standard of education that every citizen should have, governments usually make appropriations for subsidizing the cost of education, whether capital or recurrent expenditure not merely because of the need to meet one of the basic needs of the population but also in recognition of the fact that an educated taxpayer is eminently preferable to one lacking in education. Not only would an educated person be a better voter, his prospects to earn some income are also so much enhanced by the sheer fact of having been educated. The utilitarian value of education is, therefore, not lost on responsible governments everywhere. This explains why as far as education or human capital development goes, government financing is indeed a matter of enlightened self-interest.

Ignorance constitutes a veritable component of the human misery index and any country that wishes to navigate out of underdevelopment would have to take the education of its citizens very seriously. Indeed one of the determinants of a country's location on the international totem pole is the standard of education of its people. In other words, derision with which the developing countries are visited upon by the developed ones stems from the fact that the former lack knowledge or know-how which the latter tend to monopolize and exploit.

 While some still argue that there is no right to education as such, it is submitted that international law generally frowns against ignorance.[11] Furthermore, in realization of the importance of education, the constitutions of some countries specifically entrench the right to education.[12] Regrettably, however, under our own Constitution, the right to education has been consigned to Chapter II on Fundamental Principles and Directives of State Policy[13] which, as is well-known, is non-justiciable and is, therefore, in the final analysis, a mere paper tiger. In view of the crucial importance of education, we cannot wait too long for the day when the Nigerian state would be constitutionally compelled to ensure free education at all levels for its citizens.

Unfortunately, many parents in this country remain unable to provide the wherewithal for the education of their children and wards. The high incidence of street urchins in both our rural and urban areas is a veritable blight on our social policy, especially when it is remembered that Nigeria is signatory to human rights instruments aimed at protecting our children.[14] The unholy traffic in children for their use as domestic servants, street hawkers and sundry acts of child abuse amounts to shooting ourselves in the foot and sowing the seeds of class warfare in future. We are living witnesses to the truism that an idle hand is indeed the Devil's workshop. The upsurge in criminality evidenced by the almost daily reports of armed robbery, kidnapping and murder across the country is enough to trigger off alarm bells in the ears of policy-makers that drastic action needs to be taken urgently if this society is not to descend into anarchy and mob rule. As Marx had admonished, every morbid society inevitably gives birth to its grave-diggers.

The current attitude of the powers-that-be to bury their heads in the sand like ostriches, believing that criminality would simply go away or that the state of siege on our roads and in our homes can be treated with indifference or prayers can only suggest one thing-- they have run out of ideas. It is the firm belief of this presenter that education is the key to most of the nation's problems, be they armed robbery, electoral malpractice, corruption or prostitution. For as long as the country continues to harbour a large army of the rural poor and urban disinherited, for that long would the country know no peace. Poverty and ignorance constitute indisputable breeding grounds for all manner of anti-social behaviour including armed robbery and disrespect for constituted authority. It is self-evident that we are in dire need of social justice in this country and the place to begin is surely education. Without a liberally educated citizenry, it is practically difficult, if not impossible to realize our national goals. This is especially so in relation to the Vision 20-2020 but before addressing that issue, it is apposite to examine the situation report in Nigerian universities.

Score Card of Nigerian Universities

  

Nigerian universities can be truly said to have come a long way. From the singular University College, Ibadan established in 1948 to the more than 90 universities in contemporary Nigeria, observers of the educational scene in Nigeria are indeed in a position to make informed pronouncements on the state of our universities as well as prognostications on what the nation can expect in the years ahead. 50 years might not be all that long when compared with universities that had been in existence for centuries but for a country that is yet to clock even that age in terms of its independent existence, it is not too soon to demand the mark sheet of its university system.

As is well-known, universities from ancient times have always been charged with the triad functions of teaching, research and community service.[15] As a result of colonialism and the necessity to engage the post-colonial government in nation-building, especially high level manpower training and development, African universities (Nigeria's inclusive) have frequently had to endure distractions from without and compelled to dance to the tune of transient political masters. The notion of academic freedom having not being sufficiently deeply ingrained in the general consciousness, it has not always been a bastion for the universities in the performance of their functions. More important, since governments were largely proprietors of the universities, they had no qualms in dictating to the universities, if not, in fact, completely usurping their autonomy. The shibboleth has always been about the piper dictating the tune.

In view of the foregoing, the life and times of our universities have been somewhat chequered. Saddled with the task of producing successive generations of the nation's elite, they have been denied favoured treatment with regard to allocation of resources. In what is reminiscent of dispatching troops to the war front without military materiel, the universities have generally been called upon to make bricks without straws. The consequence of dwindling resources has been a fall in standards. Lacking the wherewithal for quality assurance, Nigerian universities have unsurprisingly been uncompetitive when compared with their counterparts in Africa and the rest of the world. As their world ranking tumbled, many of the lecturers and intending students have considered it imperative to vote with their feet. The brain drain which has seen some of our leading academics ministering to universities in Europe, North America, the Arabian Gulf and Southern Africa has nearly rendered all our universities prostate. In fact, we might be witnessing the last generation of committed, patriotic lecturers in our universities who refused and have continued to refuse rosy offers from abroad on account of their resolve to stop the roof from caving in.

 In recent times, when ownership of the universities has been diluted with the establishment of private universities, a certain competitiveness would seem to have been introduced into the Nigerian university system in terms of things such as facilities, staff welfare and pedagogy. However, it has to be admitted that  considerable effort would still need to be exerted in order to enable our universities turn the corner. As I had observed recently, it is not enough to trumpet the existence of over 90 universities when we cannot boast of a single world-class university.[16] Despite the rot and decay, the universities have continued to open their doors to thousands of Nigerians, turning out in the process graduates with varying levels of knowledge and competence. It might, perhaps, be stretching things a little bit too far, as Professor Soludo recently did, when he pronounced 71 percent of the graduates of our universities "… [B]ad cherries [who] won't be picked up by any employer of labour because they are not fit for anything even if they were the only ones that put themselves forward for an employment test."[17] Regrettably, some notable voices have since lined up behind him in bashing graduates of our universities.[18] Mercifully, some newspaper columnists have retorted that it would be quite interesting to discover what Professor Soludo himself did to ameliorate the situation, especially as someone who had and still has the ears of the government.[19]

While criticisms of our universities are most welcome, someone of the stature of Soludo ought to have been a little bit more circumspect and charitable in his acerbic vote of no confidence in graduates of Nigerian universities if he intends to be taken seriously. As a locally trained economist himself, who had obtained all his degrees from one Nigerian university, he did not have to make such a sweeping condemnation of the system that produced him. Such a statement could ultimately prove dysfunctional and counter-productive in view of the well-advertised endeavour by our universities to pull themselves up by their bootstraps in a bid to enhance their status vis-Ă -vis other universities in Africa and the rest of the world. Even if he was motivated by patriotic or other noble intentions, he ought to have, at least, remembered that old saying about the road to hell being paved with good intentions.

 I would be the first to admit that most of our universities are in pretty bad shape.[20] The curricula generally require refurbishing and we can use more qualified lecturers in the face of depleted staff occasioned by the brain drain and natural attrition.[21] As anyone lucky and privileged to have studied in some of the world's most prestigious universities would readily admit, our universities lack the requisite ambience in terms of libraries, laboratories, lecture theatres, seminar rooms and even sports stadiums or gymnasia that would enable them compete favourably with the best in the world but that does not mean we should throw away the baby with the bath water.

It is true there is a short-fall of more than 15000 lecturers within the Nigerian university system arising, in part, from inability to attract the best and brightest of our graduates into the ranks of teachers of succeeding generations of students. What is more, a considerable number of university teachers see their job more as an occupation than the vocation that it is supposed to be. Accordingly, it has been extremely difficult to recruit new high calibre staff and standards have had to be lowered in many instances for some departments to continue to exist. To many, the allure of the private sector, especially banks, telecommunications and the computer industry has simply proved irresistible.

 While there has been an exponential rise in the number of Nigeria's universities, it seems little thought has been given to the question of where the teachers would come from. Emphasis would appear to have been paid more to numbers than the application of the Law of Transformation of Quantity into Quality. In other words, the question should be put as to whether the country would not have been better served by fewer high quality universities than an explosion in number of generally below average universities? When to all this is added the otherwise laudable NUC requirement of possession of Ph.D.'s by academic staff, the enormity of the staffing situation in our universities becomes palpable. The situation could possibly have been remedied through seeking academic staff from abroad but the universities are yet to recover from the exit of foreign staff following depreciation in the exchange rate of the naira from about 1987 onwards.

Similarly, for quite a while now, patronage of our universities by foreign students has taken a nose-drive. The unstable calendar of the universities occasioned by union strikes and other factors has not only sent some of our prospective students to other shores but has also served as a disincentive to foreign applicants. For example, there are today not less than 2000 Nigerian students in Ghanaian universities, not because they are better than Nigeria's universities but on account of the relative stability and predictability of their calendars.[22] While the quality of pedagogy in some of our universities might be suspect, it needs be stated that the technical skill of most Nigerian lecturers has never been in doubt, or else, they would not have been so much sought after elsewhere.

The dearth of much needed teaching materials, audio-visuals and other teaching aids in addition to state-of-the-art laboratories, workshops and libraries means that teaching in most of our universities has been lacklustre, ineffective and antediluvian. The sorry situation  also persists in the area of research and development. Not only is basic research in the universities not being pursued at an optimal level, some of the Ph.D.'s we produce locally fail to match the rigour of products of foreign universities. It is instructive that Nigeria is yet to produce Nobel prize winners in medicine, physics, chemistry or economics. The implication of this is that our universities are not yet at the cutting edge of research. Scientific research is highly demanding in terms of capital outlay, facilities and other resources and unless and until Nigeria decides to put a lot of its money in this area of human activity, we are unlikely to make breakthroughs or be taken seriously by the rest of the world.

It is sad but true that higher education, especially the universities has not been accorded its rightful place in the scheme of things. While elsewhere, enormous resources are channeled to the universities in recognition of their unique role in thinking out solutions to the existential problems of society, here in Nigeria, it seems the universities have been suffering some form of benign neglect. They seem to have only been grudgingly tolerated by the powers-that-be except, perhaps, at convocation ceremonies when they expect to be awarded honorary degrees for their largely questionable contributions to the society at which occasions, the awards are usually celebrated with fanfare and aplomb.

Nevertheless, it should be sounded loud and clear that no society can rise beyond the level of its universities. As the habitat of experts in the knowledge industry, the universities are better placed than probably any other institution to point the way forward for the society. Accordingly, if indeed Nigeria intends to make progress in socio-economic and political transformation, the universities should be given pride of place in the drawing of national priorities. The need for a radical, if not indeed revolutionary re-think on the way and manner our universities are treated is self-evident. This should begin with proprietors of the universities agreeing to let go of their stranglehold on their universities and give full reign to autonomy and academic freedom. They can, of course, continue to enunciate broad policies affecting the universities but this should not degenerate to the level of breathing down the necks of those charged with the day-to-day running of the universities. I make bold to say that university autonomy is a pre-requisite for rolling back the frontiers of ignorance for the benefit of the entire society.

Furthermore, it is my considered opinion that our universities deserve something akin to the Marshall Plan in order to re-position them among the world's leading universities. A situation where our universities are left to decay while the rich, powerful and famous dispatch their children and wards to prestigious and some not-too-prestigious foreign universities does not bode well for the country. One is not against foreign education, as such, of which many of us have been beneficiaries but when policy-makers find nothing good in the universities which fall under their superintendence, then something is surely wrong.

The universities embody the nation's best brains, highly trained, albeit over-worked and relatively under-paid. They possess the knowledge and know-how to solve most of society's problems. However, it does not appear as if this fact has been sufficiently apprehended by government which has been consigning major development projects to foreigners and foreign institutions with little or no input from knowledgeable scholars and scientists that abound in the universities. Nigeria should throw more challenges to its universities in order to enable academics make their contributions to research and development in the country. This would ultimately be cheaper than hankering after turn-key projects imported lock, stock and barrel from the supposedly all-knowing foreign firms some of which might actually be run by former classmates or contemporaries of Nigerian experts! All that is being said here is, give our universities the tools and they would surely deliver the goods. It is in the light of the foregoing that we can now examine the role of the universities in the context of the Vision 20-2020.

The Vision 20-2020 and Nigerian Universities

  

As stared earlier, one of the most distasteful aspects of the Vision 20-2020 is its disconnect with the people. The usual alienation felt by large segments of the population in relation to government policies and programmes has been exacerbated by the hoopla surrounding the Vision. Among some critical stakeholders, there is considerable disillusionment. For example, labour remains critical and skeptical of the promise of the Vision, suggesting that if Nigeria did not take drastic action to arrest the on-going shutdown of our industries, Nigeria would become not one of the top 20 economies in the world but actually one of the poorest 20 economies by 2020![23] Even to some key players in the corporate world, it is a gargantuan task to attain a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $800 billion in order to make the 20-2020 target.[24] Others have opined that except and unless we arrest the cancer of corruption in Nigeria's bodypolitik, we are not likely to make great progress towards the Vision 20-2020.[25] The fact of the matter is that there is already a large measure of lack of enthusiasm and self-doubt among many Nigerians.

Accordingly, there is an urgent need for Nigeria to revise the assumptions underlying the Vision 20-2020. It is self-evident that nothing is done except it was done right. It is, perhaps, on account of this that it has been suggested that we need to scale down our expectations by aiming for a place within the 25-30 bracket by the year 2030 instead of an illusory or doomed 20-2020.[26] Even at that, realization of the goal would well-nigh be impossible without a well-conceived blueprint based on our experience as a neo-colonial, peripheral dependency. And this is where the universities come in. Nigeria must tap the high level intellect bottled up in the universities in order to generate worthwhile scenarios and feasibility studies on plans to transcend mass poverty and underdevelopment.

As I had observed on another occasion,

 "…without massive investment in human capital development, all hope and

 desire to be listed in the ranks of the top economies of the world by 2020 can

 only be mere wishful thinking. The production of the requisite high-level manpower to drive the engine of the Nigerian economy is mainly a task entrusted

 to the tertiary institutions…"[27]

Accordingly, "[t]o produce on a massive scale the necessary manpower to actualize the dreams and goals of Nigeria for the next decade and a half, there should be a heavy infusion of funds to rehabilitate and refurbish the facilities of the country's educational institutions in order to bring them to the standard of those of the industrializes world."[28]

Also, in the words of Remi Omotoso,

 "Turning brain drain into brain gain and the upliftment (sic) of quality of education at all levels through , among others, bench marking and extension  services by governments and playing their regulatory roles should receive  attention. Human capital development is very key to achieving any goals that our  New Vision Plan will set for the sustainable socio-economic and political  development of Nigeria."[29]

The recent decision by the Federal Government to allocate ^100 billion for human capital development in the country should be seen for what it is: a mere drop in the bucket in the face of the task at hand.[30] Interestingly, the Federal Minister of Education himself recognizes that "to have a world class product, you must have world class production and that cannot happen without world class students and institutions."[31]This, needless to say, requires a huge capital outlay instead of the band-aid that is being offered.

It is my respectful submission that our universities can effectively discharge the task of developing a new perspective plan for Nigeria which would not be inferior to the Goldman Sachs endeavour, if given the opportunity. Not only would the blueprint they produce be grounded on accepted theories of political economy, it would be shaped by the nuances and experience of the nation as a former colony and informed by the exploits of similar countries in the socio-economic and political transformation of their societies. More important, such a vision would facilitate re-connection between government and the people after decades of alienation and faithlessness. Our universities are definitely in a position to help cure the present disillusionment among the people by proffering solutions to the nation's multifarious maladies informed by the nation's realities.

It is no longer tenable at this time and age for a country like ours with abundant human resources to continue to depend on intellectual crutches borrowed from abroad. Not only is it imperative to abandon the prevailing colonial mentality among our policy-makers regarding things as varied as construction and football, it belies our claim to leadership in Africa and, possibly, the rest of the developing world. I am on record as saying that as Nigeria goes, so does the rest of Africa.[32] If this is so, then we have a historical obligation to always bear in mind the consequences of our policy choices and preferences for others that look up to us.

Nigeria has to re-invent itself and re-consider its position and status vis-Ă -vis other members of the international community. There is an urgent need to restore confidence in ourselves and our experts. A project as big as contemplating where Nigeria desires to be in the next 20 years or so is no task to entrust to foreigners whose brains are no better than ours. All we have to do is to re-tool and empower our universities and thereby cut our costs in seeking solutions to the multifarious existential problems afflicting the nation. Even, if in the process we make mistakes, they would be our own mistakes and not the consequences of an all-knowing foreign 'expert' who might actually harbour antipathies towards our corporate well-being. The time to restore faith in ourselves is now and the place to begin is the universities, which, if properly equipped and empowered can be counted upon to propel us along our long and arduous journey to modernity, social capital enhancement and a happy and glorious future.

I am done. I thank you so much for your attention.


[1]See, e.g., A Oyebode, Nigeria: Positioning for the Top 20 Economies: The Role of Institutions, paper presented at the 13th Annual Nigerian Economic Summit (NESG), September, 2007, www.nesgroup.org/prg.html

[2] See his presentation at the NESG meeting, ibid.

[3] Cf. Remi Omotoso, A Holistic Approach to Achieving Nigeria's Vision 20:2020? University of Ibadan Alumni Association Lecture Series 30 (2007).

[4] Cf. J. Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man passim (2005).

[5] O. Igbuzor, The Nigerian State and Vision 20-2020 Agenda, paper presented at a Symposium to mark the 60th Birthday of Prof. Akin Oyebode andMs. Yemisi Ransome-Kuti, www.actionaidnigeria.org/index.php?page=61&pid=5
[6] THE PUNCH, March 28, 2008, p. 20; DAILY INDEPENDENT, March 28, 2008, p.C5.
[7] See FINANCIAL STANDARD, March 25, 2008, p. 1.
[8] See THE NATION, March 20, 2008, p. 6.

[9] Ibid.

[10] See, e.g., supra note 3, at 45.

[11] See, e.g., Art. 26(1), Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Art. 13(2); Art. 17(1), African Charter on Human and People's Rights.

[12] See, e.g., s.25, Constitution of Ghana, 1992.

[13] S. 18, Constitution of Nigeria, 1999.

[14] E.g., Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989; Optional Protocol on the Question of the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, GA Res.54/263 of 25 May, 2000.

[15] For more on this, see A. Oyebode, University Governance and Administration in Nigeria in the 21st Century, 13th Convocation Lecture, Lagos State University (2005).
[16] BUSINESSDAY, January 29, 2008 at p. 30.

[17] See note 5 supra.

[18] A good example is the current ICAN President. See DAILY INDEPENDENT, April 3, 2008, p. A 2.
[19] Eni Ekisola, THE NATION, March 24, 2008 at p.15. .
[20] See, note 13 supra.
[21] Ropo Sekoni, THE NATION ON SUNDAY, March 30, 2008 at p. 30
[22] See DAILY INDEPENDENT, April 8, 2008, A6.
[23] See THE GUARDIAN, March 31, 2008 at p.96; THE PUNCH, March 28, 2008, p.17.
[24] Cf. DAILY INDEPENDENT, March 27, 2008, p. A4.
[25] See THE PUNCH, April 3, 2008, p. 6.
[26] See, e.g., Remi Omotoso, supra note 3, at 45, 50.

[27] Supra note 1, at 7.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Supra note 3, at 59.

[30] See DAILY INDEPENDENT, March 31, 2008, p. A8.
[31] THISDAY, April 8, 2008, p.13.

[32] See External Imperatives in NIGERIA: PATH TO SUSTAINABLE DEMOCRACY 203 ( Oseni et al., eds.), Obafemi Awolowo Foundation (2000).



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Re: The Vision 20-2020 And Nigerian Universities
Anioma777 posted on 10-13-2008, 19:03:17 PM
A very informative article. Your right in your assessment of the CBN chief Mr Soludo's comments about the poor quality of most Nigerian graduates, but the lecturers too must take some blame for not structuring their courses properly and getting their students to think outside the box. Whilst I understand funding is necessary the goverment has to play its part too.

The vision 20-2020 is a grand idea but without strong and consistent funding and encouragement of local content vision 20-2020 will remain a pipe dream.

If you look at the G8 countries you will see that many have very little natural resources but invest and nurture their INTELLECTUAL CAPITAL. The question all Nigerians must answer is "How much can we do to help realize this vision 20-2020".

In your spare time if you have not already visited this site, have a look and listen to Nigeria's greatest COMPUTER EXPERT TALK. Paying particular attention to the video clip or sound recording titled:

Intellectual Capital, Not Money, Alleviates Poverty

http://www.emeagwali.com/

It will be an UNFORGIVABLE SIN IN GOD'S EYES IF WE DON'T REACH AND EXCEED OUR POTENTIAL AS A NATION. IN A STRANGE WAY OUR DIFFERENCES COULD BE OUR STRENGTH.
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