Breaking News

Olu Obafemi’s Commitment To Funding Nigeria’s Public Universities (2) By Tony Afejuku


We continue our serene trip in Professor Olu Obafemi’s Nigerian boat of public universities’ funding. The pudding we are being served is bewitching to tongues of all who are tasting it. No educational institution can run fluently and smoothly without adequate human and material/financial resources.

Notable Nigerian scholars and educationists have since the seventies, chronicled the history and foundation of the development of the Nigerian university system, vide among many others, Babs Fawunwa (1971), “A History of Nigeria’s Higher Education”, Ade Ajayi and Tekena Tamuno (eds.), “The University of Ibadan, 1948-1973,”  E.A. Ayandele(1974) “The Educated Elite in the Nigerian Society”, Segun Adesina (1977), “Planning and Educational Development in Nigeria” and Ojetunji Aboyade (1982), “The Making and Unmaking of Nigerian Universities”.

When the decay in the Nigerian university system became manifest, toward the end of the seventies, more recent scholars began to warn that funding, as a critical vortex of financial resources, constitutes the core of the core of the system evident in “Economics of Education” (Ozigi & Canham, 1979; Akangbou, 1986; Gambo O, Fasanmi, A, 2019). Ogbogu,(2011), and so on…We must reflect back to the beginning of University education in Nigeria, namely 1948, when the University College, Ibadan (UCI) was established as an affiliate of the University of London, itself an outcome of the recommendation of the Elliot Commission, which was set up in 1943 (Report 1945) to ‘report on the organization and facilities of the existing centres of higher education in British West Africa’ and proffer recommendations on the ‘future university development in that area’ (Fafunwa, 1971).

On the funding of UCI, two main sources were identified by Ukeje (2002)—70% and 30%-- from the Nigerian government and the United Kingdom respectively. It also needs to be stated that the policy to commit public funds, a part of Federal Budget, had always been in British education policy, relatively. Even though since submerged by the Conservative government’s triumph to minimize public funding of education (since the Thatcherite —Thatcher the milk snatcher-- regime in the late Seventies). This initial policy to fund universities became applicable to the Universities in British West African colonies, like the University College, Ibadan, Achimota and Fourah Bay Colleges in Ghana and Sierra-Leone respectively. 

Even though the policy has subtended till date, the attitude and policy of the Nigerian government since the seventies has not been favourable to aggressive funding of federal universities through appropriation.  Since the establishment of the First-Generation Universities (University of Ibadan (UI); Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (ABU); University of Lagos (Unilag); University of Ife, Ile Ife (Unife) and University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) between 1948-1962, the funding consciousness had been underlined with control, curtailing/containing and drawing the limitation of the autonomy of the university, based on the perception that whoever pays the piper dictates the tune. This so-called pay, we must remember is from tax payers’ money and the unconscionable bleeding of nature, by extractive oil.

Apart from the respective truly and partially Federal UI and UNILAG, the political motivation for university ownership has been paramount. As it were the other universities of the First Generation were influenced by regionalist ideals, especially in regard to their funding sources. However, the establishments of the Second-Generation Universities in Ilorin, Maiduguri, Benin, Jos, Sokoto, Port Harcourt, Bauchi (UNILORIN, UNIMAID, UNIBEN, UNIJOS, UNISOK, UNIPORT, Tafa Balewa, Bauchi) were informed by the Report of the Ashby Commission of 1959, which emphasized the craving for improved manpower needs of the country but emboldened by the windfall from petro-naira—the oil boom of the 1970s. The same drive for the expansion of the knowledge industry occasioned the establishment of the Federal Universities of Technology in Minna, Owerri, Akure and National Open University of Nigeria (FUT Minna, FUTO, FUTA, et al and NOUN), which together doubled the number of universities from 13 to 26 within a jiffy of three years.

Thus, from regionalist motivation in the sixties, to expansionist lure in the seventies and eighties to the sudden burst of statism and state politics and consciousness (which occasioned the creation of state universities from the nineties) to the marketization principle which led to the sudden burst of private universities by sectarian bodies, en-monied persons and groups of individuals exploded the university gates and catered for the ceaseless yearning for access that remains, today, insatiable, given our densely expanding population and the demand for tertiary education in Nigeria. Today, there are over 176 Universities (https:// 43 are federal, 48 states and 79 private. Our concern being with the public Universities, which are experiencing reduced funding and appropriate level of resourcing as it stands.

Even as early as those days, the essentiality of government funding of public universities and its impact on the quality of university education as well as on the economic development of nations, was identified by the stakeholders of higher education. It is instructive to note that the university ideal and idea were linked to nation-building. As Livesey (2006) observed, University of Ibadan marked Nigeria’s entry into the University Age’ and the universities of that age would be ‘a first step towards eventual self-government. They would educate the new elites that would one-day lead independent nations, and drive the economic and social development of these territories’ (would) form part of the capacity-building schemes of present-day international development.

This must be the reason why the universities were funded from the Colonial Development and Welfare Funds in the United Kingdom. However, such lofty vision and aspiration of universities being the vortex of nation building did not seem to rub on the subsequent Nigerian governments, even as they established the universities and funding became the impediment of university grow within the Nigerian polity. Yet, as Gambo, A. et al. recalled, The World Bank (2010), cited in Famurewa (2014), observed, that the financing problem of Higher Education was already fingered as more acute in Africa than elsewhere in the world. This situation remains the same today with the Nigerian experience being about the most dismal. Why is this so, with smaller nations in Africa doing better and devoting more of their annual appropriation to University education, conscious of the fact that in the digital, knowledge society, university education—skilling and up-skilling manpower—is foundational to national development, and this is in spite of the explosion of Artificial Intelligences (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT)?One is that, as the craving and yearning for ‘modern education driven by knowledge’ in a knowledge society without a corresponding rate of available resources (Ogbogu, 2011) increased, the universities fell on evil days in terms of standard and quality, no thanks to gross funding inadequacy.

It is instructive to note that, even from my ‘conservative’ discomfort with trending Ranking of Universities – from the Report by Kazeem 2016), that the annual ranking by the Centre for World University Rankings (CWUR, 2016), reveals quite sadly, that only 10 African universities were counted among the leading 1000 in the world.  In that exercise, those African universities so ranked were located in South Africa, Uganda and Egypt. Five of the universities are in South Africa, including, the University of Witwatersrand (which ranked the highest in Africa), Four of the universities are in Egypt and One in Uganda. No Nigerian university made the list. What is more acutely glaring is that only four African Universities were among the top 500 in ranking, all of them in South Africa, namely Universities of Witwatersrand (176), Cape Town 256), Stellenbosch (329) and KwaZulu-Natal (468). It bears emphasizing that Nigeria, which is the largest economy in Africa with over 170 universities did not make that list. We must note that the wide range of indicators for the ranking largely include quality of education, quality of Faculty and alumni employment. We must also find included the factors of research, publications and citations.

The Ranking picture has since shown brighter glare and are said to be ‘surging in the world rankings (World Economic Forum: https://www.weforum.2023/4) from the 2020s, where African and Nigerian universities are reported as ‘find a places in the 250-100 bracket of the various Global Ranking. Also, some African universities, Nigeria inclusive, alongside Egypt, Ghana and South Africa, all have universities in the top 1000 of the global ranking.

In all of these, underfunding is the critical impediment of the much-needed advancement of federal universities in Nigeria.  Essentially due to poor and meagre funding, Nigeria’s universities have suffered decades of rot and decay—a reason why Nigerians rush, feverishly, to send their children to Europe and America, and indeed to poorer African states for their education, such that Nigeria loses more than their annual budget for national universities on overseas training of Nigerian children (Yomi Kazeem, 2016). The PIE News (https://the pienews. com>news>nig. reported that in 2022, ‘Nigerians spent a massive US$1.38billion on international education funding’ for students to acquire university degrees and diplomas abroad, a lot lower than what was spent in 2021 which amounted to $1.88billion. This is a one-sided, outflow from, without inflow of foreign currency to Nigeria. This huge forex capital was largely spent on 44,195 Nigerians students enrolled in the United Kingdom alone. (Higher Education Statistics Agency-HESA, January 19, 2023.) This constitutes a critical drain on the nation’s foreign reserves, inadvertently as the majority of the en-monied elite whose children are abroad, undoubtedly are those who have power and access to the national commonwealth.  They are also those who should be in the position to motivate massive funding of public universities but who are obviously invariably apathetic to a present or future generation and implementation of appreciable level of funding for universities and prompt equality of opportunity in the education sector.

To be continued.


Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.


No comments

Drop Comment