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The Dilemma of Post-Colonial Universities

 | 
Yann Lebeau
, 
Mobolaji Ogunsanya

I. Elite Formation: Political discourse and policies

The Discourse of Political Elites on Higher Education in Nigeria

‘Kunle Amuwo

Texte intégral

A crisis in education would at anytime give rise to serious concern even if it did not reflect ... a more general crisis and instability in modern society. (Arendt, 1968:185)
A crisis becomes a disaster only when we respond to it with pre-formed judgment, that is with prejudices. Such an attitude not only sharpens the crisis but makes us forfeit the experience of reality and the opportunity for reflection it provides. (Arendt, 1968:174-5)
It is no longer contentious that quality university education is already a rare commodity in contemporary Nigerian society; that standards have fallen drastically; that resources are inadequate for management’s coping efforts and that university managers need to manage the present crisis both by having a better understanding and ensuring a more effective coordination of the complex processes and structures which are internal to the university and by successfully harnessing resources from the external environment. (Sanda, 1992:87)
Persuasion and violence can destroy truth, but they cannot replace it. (Arendt, 1968:259)
What is indicated is a return to the universal idea of the university as a community of scholars free to pursue knowledge without undue interference from any quarters. Obviously, such an ideal cannot easily be achieved under a military regime in which conformity, rather than scepticism, is the greatest virtue. The greatest danger today in Nigeria is that even the civilian politicians and administrators have become so mentally militarized that they too wish to maintain a central authority over every aspect of the national life. The few years of civilian interregnum bear witness to this. (Banjo, 1997:177-8)

The issues and the problematic

1One sector of the Nigerian political economy on which there is a general agreement, is the increasingly worrisome ill-health of higher education, chief of which is the university. Even though successive military juntas since January 1966 may contest this, the crisis in higher education has given rise to serious concern, principally because the crisis is little more than a reflection of the country’s post-colonial state in its deeply entrenched militarist form. There is, to be sure, a counter-argument that preceded the arrival of the military in power, namely, that, left solely to itself, the Nigerian university qua university is unable to run its affairs in all quietude. The Njoku-Biobaku vice-chancellorship tussle at the University of Lagos in 1962/63, which occasioned the Balewa government’s intervention, is often invoked as a case in point, even though, by the advantage of hindsight, fragments of evidence from the First Republic (1960-1965), seem to testify to an era of relative tranquility. Indeed, that period, as in politics, may have been the golden era of Nigeria’s universities.

2How ever one looks at this discourse — that is, militarism as the principal factor in the decline of universities or the ‘university-as-its-own-worst-enemy’ argument — the reality on ground bespeaks of a crisis that is gradually snowballing into a major disaster. What worries the increasingly politically enlightened citizenry is that the signposts pointing to this disaster had all been visible since mid-1970s, except perhaps to the power-brokers and state elites. For the military, regime and personal security is the overriding concern. The twin processes of the militarization of the political space and the war of attrition against the universe of intellect, resulted in the latter losing its pride of place to the profession of arms (Adekanye, 1993). Whilst the military’s systematic neglect of the university did not declassify the university in one fell swoop; its authoritarian rule metamorphosed from Babangida’s dictatorship into Abacha’s personal tyranny, deepening the anti-university posturing, as the cadre of political generals began to come into bold relief. In the process, neo-patrimonialism, both as a form of government and a bizarre mode of non-production, has bred an arrogant class of state political elites, whose policy was virtually incongruous with the expectations of the people, both the elite and non elite. The discourse of state elites — that is, both official and semi-official — is often at variance with what is expected by a society, whose cherished higher education is in limbo; there are several public speeches that belie concrete political orientations and public policies. The point to underline is that in the light of the serious abuse of power that has set the Nigerian state apart from the Nigerian people in the last fifteen years or so, it is often forgotten that the political language and grammar of discourse was, in the beginning under military rule, somewhat civil, even polite.

3I illustrate. Joseph Adetoro (1972:249), Gowon’s Health Minister, argued in 1969, concerning ownership and control of the nation’s universities that though government owns them, ‘the control of university policy should be largely in lay hands’. He continues:

The university in Nigeria is the people’s institution. General policy and direction should be invested in a body which is composed of well informed, respected and progressive citizens ... the lay composition should not be based on political alignment. It would indeed be a great misfortune if the councils of our universities should degenerate into political battle grounds. The direction of academic policy is, without doubt, the exclusive concern of the Senate.

4Similarly, in contradistinction to the sordid experience of Nigeria’s recent past, when uncivic military might and brutality, sometimes in civilian garb, virtually supplanted civil discourse on higher education, Brigadier General Adeyinka Adebayo, the military governor, of the former Western State, under Gowon (cited in Adetoro, 1972:250), made the following statement about the then University of Ife:

I am aware that there are certain ancient rights and certain universal functions that are the preserves of all reputable institutions of higher learning. I am also conscious of the fact that a great university can only emerge in an atmosphere in which the teacher is secure in his tenure and is free to push forward the frontiers of knowledge through unfettered teaching and research...

5He then made a solemn pledge:

... the military government has no intention of interfering in the administration of the university. On my part, I am determined to preserve to the University the full enjoyment of its ancient rights.

6Five military juntas and two civilian interregnums later, this discourse has run full circle. ‘The Visitor’, that is, head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, has supplanted the University Senate; highly politicized and centralized government agencies have replaced ‘well-informed, respected and progressive citizens;’ and university teachers and students - the victims - are blamed for falling standards.

7A semi-official publication titled (Giant Strides, 1997:83) prepared the following scorecard on university education:

... in the university sector, the National Universities Commission (NUC) has appointed accreditation panels in all the major disciplines offered by the Nigerian university system ... The aim is to ensure that quality education is given to our students in compliance with Decree number 16 of 1985 on national minimum standards of education. ... The Visitation Panels appointed by the president (Babangida) to the universities of Ibadan, Lagos, Ahmadu Bello, Zaria, Obafemi Awolowo, and Benin have all finished their assignments and have submitted their reports. The Visitor will make his views known on each of them very soon.

8General Abacha’s address at the Foundation Day ceremonies of the University of Ibadan on 17 November 1995, which alluded in part, to the Academic Staff Union of the Universities’ (ASUU) strike of the period, was nothing if not paternalistic and patronizing:

I appeal to the staff of Universities and other tertiary institutions to reciprocate the good gesture of the government by working extra hard to produce graduates that are qualified to contribute their quota to the growth of our country. Dissipation of energy in pursuit of personal gains or unnecessary union activities tantamount [sic] to misplaced priorities and contribute to lowering of standards of education. The recent dissipation of so much energy in campus politics by staff instead of devoting time to the primary duty of teaching is of growing concern to government.

9The wide chasm between the discourse of the 1970s and the 1990s translates into a distancing of the university from its intended target of the first hour. A careful reading of contemporary town/gown relations shows that the town, - in its expanded meaning to include the governors of la cité (the latter being, both literally and metaphorically external to the universe of the gown) - has trampled on the gown, and at the same time has made it the butt of penetrating criticism. The critique has to do mainly with the seemingly increasing irrelevance of the university to the social, political and economic needs of the town. Indeed, Aboyade (1977: 150) noted that by the 1970s there was, ‘a loud litany of disillusionment with academic institutions being chanted by the general public’. By the 1990s, frustration had become ubiquitous. The question is: how long will the town have to wait to witness the resurgence of a positive gown/town relationship?

  • 1 Lack of funds stalls varsity’s activities, says VC. The Guardian (12 August 1997), p. 3.

10The general frustration of the citizenry with respect to the decay of the university system, does not signify, however, a desire on their part to abandon the system. Interestingly, state political elites think the same way. For instance, on receiving the complaint of the Acting Vice-Chancellor of the Ondo State University, Ado-Ekiti (OSUA) that the University’s activities were stalled by poor funding, the military administrator of the state replied that ‘we cannot allow you (the university) to crumble because that would mean selling our pride’.1

11Thus, the town, and to some degree the state, recognize and appreciate the importance of the university graduate. The university system is supposed to turn out well-rounded, proud, confident, and knowledgeable graduates who are capable of holding their own anywhere. The town is not unaware that knowledge is power; that the impending new millennium is all about that; and that nations and individuals who own, without knowing would, to paraphrase Ali Mazrui, be mastered by nations and individuals who, without owning, do know. The present stagnation and neglect in the Nigerian university system and the almost non existent job market for graduates, was engineered by the very high levels of corruption in successive military governments.

12What perhaps baffles the town is that, rather than address the issue of decay in the higher institutions with seriousness and urgency, our political generals deepened the crisis by paying inadequate attention to the salient issues involved (adequate funding; university autonomy and academic freedom; attractive conditions of service and good pay for the staff etc). The town was also surprised that military regimes tend to ignore, wittingly or unwittingly, the sensitive dynamics and politics of higher education in the country. The proposal, under Abacha, to rationalize the federal universities from 23 to 6, such that each geopolitical zone would have a university; the proposal to transfer the remaining universities to state governments under the pretext of reducing the financial burden on the federal government and the alleged ‘mad rush’ by southerners for higher education, (a phrase credited to, but denied by, Dauda Birma, Abacha’s last Minister for Education); the controversial order to satellite campuses to close shop, etc. are examples of government’s insensitivity to higher education. In other words, there is a tendency on the part of military regimes, to expend much energy on controversies whilst giving only nodding attention to major issues.

13In the heat of the propaganda war against ASUU in 1991/92 before the Babangida junta was forced to negotiate and eventually sign a historic agreement with the academic union on September 3, 1992, Attahiru Jega, then ASUU president, lamented the propensity of government to trivialize the salient issues at stake. On the specific charge that ASUU’s main interest was enhanced salary with funding and autonomy being secondary, Jega replied:

  • 2 See: The Guardian (3 December 1997), p.64.

Funding, academic freedom and university autonomy are also of importance to us. We only began with a discussion of salaries because it would have made no sense to reach an agreement on funding without knowing the salary bill, which is an important component of funding.2

  • 3 Cited in: Clobbering of ASUU. Newswatch (3 August 1992), p. 17-18.

14Whilst waiting for the military ‘Godot’, nothing was perhaps more worrisome, during the University of Ibadan’s 50th anniversary celebration in 1998 than the fact that the official discourse continued to be repetitive and, perforce, a big bore and, therefore, a deja vu and deja ecoute. Moreover, seemingly serious portions of it, e.g., Abacha’s December 1997’s argument - that ‘a functional and efficient educational system is a vital factor in the development of nations ... [and] deserves all the support and attention it can receive from the government, institutions and people of our country’3 - was not followed up with well-thought out plan of action. The tragedy on the country’s hands is perhaps better captured by juxtaposing the past and the present of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria’s first and foremost University. According to a perceptive corporate analyst,

The (University of Ibadan) was modeled after the best standards of University education abroad. From inception until the ‘80s, education at Ibadan was as good as one could get from anyone else in the world. U.I was both role-model and pace-setter. If there was any university to emulate or beat, it was the University of Ibadan. And on the scorecard, U.I did not fail the dreams of its founding fathers. Its products bestrode and traversed the land. Heads of industries, ministries and the professions were largely ‘Ibadan people’. They were the core foundational material for the growth of learning and the professions in other parts of the country. ... Perhaps, the Golden Jubilee of U.I ought, then, to be a national academic celebration...

15The past in the present continues:

Time was when the ‘Ibadan School’ in History, Political Science and the Arts was part of the vocabulary and arsenal of seasoned scholarly discourse. Excellence was the watchword. Men and materials were combined to pursue one goal: enlightenment. The university campus was beautiful and university education did produce persons who were truly worthy in character and learning.

16But then, the lamentations of the present:

  • 4 U.I. at 50. The Guardian (14 July 1998), p. 16. There is a twin process: the idea and ideal of the (...)

Not anymore. At least not to the same degree. The state of infrastructure and learning in U.I today has deteriorated significantly ... The present state of U.I epitomizes the decay of the academia. We now have the first, second, third and fourth generation universities. The younger universities do not have the same focus, tradition and rigour as some of the older ones. But a reprehensible policy of equalization and levelling has brought our truly distinguished and model universities into ‘bad company’. The old, revered institutions are falling into disrepute because of inattention, poor funding and the denigration of their academic traditions. We now have education without enlightenment; information without thought; data without analysis and social relations without grace. Yet a university is supposed to produce a properly groomed person. This is hardly possible given the present state of our universities.4

17The summary of the foregoing is that, save for isolated pockets, successive civil and military regimes have seemingly expended a lot of funds on higher education, even though, given the nature and character of the state and the ambivalent orientation of state political elites towards tertiary education, more funding has hardly translated to better or adequate funding. In theory, there is a discernible and nearly clear-cut commitment to quality education, one that is at once responsive and relevant to national needs. In practice, however, there is a near-visible poor prioritization of higher education such that whilst the declared objective is the production and export of products and ideas, the empirical result seems to be a university system steeped in the miry clay of consumption of imported material products. The formalism gap between theory and praxis is as interesting as it is instructive, both for state-civil society relations (as typified by an unequal engagement and dialogue between the town and the gown) and the consequent public policy on higher education.

  • 5 Whilst delivering the opening address at the 5th session of the International Congress of African S (...)

18In short, the perfect double-speak between the force of logic (gown) and the force of violence (town, in its expanded sense as used above to include principally the state) or between the force of logic and the logic of force cannot but attract sustained intellectual attention. Thus, the theoretical position espoused by Babangida in 1985,5 to wage a war of attrition against ignorance as part of a generic war against injustice and inhumane treatment, turned out in practice, to be a rather disquieting policy of abandoning the drive for justice in the elusive search for peace, and of regarding and treating critics of the imbalance as if they were enemies to be crushed by military might.

19Juxtaposed against a military-driven culture of intimidation of the opposition as epitomized by the country’s state political elites, is the need to interrogate the character, logic and purpose of the discourse; the dynamics of the dialectical relationship between the discourse of state political elites and the opposition, mainly typified by ASUU and a growing and vibrant network of NGOs; the intermeshing of politics and education in the sense that the opposition to the general politics of the state actors is nearly coterminous with the opposition to the state’s specific higher education policy.

20The major problematic we seek to elaborate upon is that there is a military mind that is fairly well-tutored in the importance of the power of knowledge, as a sine qua non for national development, but whose military heart, versed in the knowledge of power, its uses and abuses, prefers the latter and, necessarily, works towards the preservation and entrenchment of the status quo. Military political posturing gives conflicting signals. In the matrix of social choice, I argue, the military and their objective allies in and outside of power, prefer market choice (the maximization of power bloc-regarding interests) to public choice (the maximization of a putative ‘national interests’).

21In consequence, in the contemporary struggle for the definition of self/group and national community, state elites seem to sacrifice national interests on the altar of self and group. There is considerable dissonance between the state on the rampage against higher education and the opposition that seeks its rehabilitation and renovation. The perverse character of the military state, however, puts the opposition trial.

22What follows is the elaboration of our thesis. Before that, however, a word about the significance of this study. First, within the ambit of the macro project on ‘Recruitment of Elites and the Restructuring of Higher Systems in sub-Saharan Africa’, this study seeks an elucidation of the contemporary contending perspectives on higher (more specifically, university) education - with a view to assessing trends and trajectories. Second, a study of this nature necessarily brings into sharp focus the processes of domination-construction and domination-deconstruction that, are respectively pursued by state elites and their homologues in the civil society. Discourse constitutes a non-negligible part of process. Third, a study of 16 years of military rule that has been virtually coterminous with the IMF-imposed structural adjustment programme (SAP), is significant in terms of contextualising a public discourse that claimed a continued prioritization of higher education while practicing a public ‘retreat’ vis-a-vis the people’s socio-economic welfare programmes.

Understanding the nature of the discourse

23We have already alluded to the fact that the process of vitiating the country’s federal practice and the drive towards uniformity and centralization have been rather long and arduous. Military regimes and political generals have come in quick succession resembling one another not so much in their positive use of power, but in their abuse of power. Thus, the country has experienced different forms of military rule: benign, benevolent, malevolent, and personal tyrannies. Augustus Adebayo (1989:81) talks about the ‘gradual process by which most of the military rulers progressed from rational decision-makers to absolute dictators during the period 1966 to 1975’.

24In the beginning, political generals were receptive to expert advice due to their acknowledged inexperience; all that changed as soon as some experience in policy-making was garnered. Thereafter, military leaders ‘began to spurn all rules and procedures, both legal and administrative, and became a law unto themselves’ (Adebayo, ibid). Since the Gowon era, the quality of military juntas and the personalities of the commanders-in-chief have taken a turn for the worse. Over the years, undue concentration of formal powers and oil wealth in the hands of one man - if not one couple - has almost turned Nigeria, for all her structural heterogeneity, into Bertrand de Jouvenel’s ‘principality with one head’. The result is the tendency of the militarist state to create the Nigerian university space in its own commanding image of unalloyed obedience and untainted loyalty to a single authority and to one voice. By virtue of their training and temperament, university faculty cannot be so regimented. They, predictably, resist. In a fundamental sense, the attempts at domination-construction and deconstruction that place the military and ASUU at cross-purposes are a fall-out of what Ayoade (1997:6) referred to, in a different, albeit related, context, as ‘an adversarial relationship of near incompatibility’.

25In this respect, Baike and Omoregie (1989:298) report three events that transpired during the Shagari (1979-1983) and Buhari (1984-85) eras that would shape future public policy on university education. Two of them were manifestly negative, whilst the third was positive. The first two events relate, respectively, to a robust assault on university autonomy through a novel resort to the use of circulars and directives in appointing, posting and removing vice-chancellors and a gradual erosion of academic freedom by the use of ‘financial incentives and reprimands to guide the spread of admissions in universities’. The third event was the attempt by the two governments to encourage academic excellence by granting the universities a new salary scale as recommended by the Cookey Report.

26As the Babangida and the Abacha juntas became increasingly repressive -with Abacha perfecting the use of violence in power relations into a fascist personal tyranny - the state became at once politically and intellectually distant from the university. The nature of the discourse between the two, to the extent that they were still communicating, can hardly be said to have been a dialogue. It was, at best, a monologue; at worst, the equivalent of the dialogue of the deaf in inter-state relations. Indeed, the military’s discourse, no less than their practice, has been conceived largely, if not solely, in terms of power relations. There has been a sustained attempt to dominate, anchored on the sophistic doctrine that ‘might is right’. Although they have had a on monopoly of arms, they have had to contend with the counter-discourse of a counter-power woven around ASUU and like-minded groups and individuals who, in the last ten years or so, have been fired, like never before, by an enormous moral anger and power to salvage the university system. As a riposte to the military’s duplicitous double-speak and contraption of lies, half-truths and, perforce, total falsehood, non-state elites, possessing their own active social sites, have often responded with a discourse of bonne raison, driven by an abiding public interest in good governance. In a fundamental sense, ASUU not only offers public leadership in terms of setting the pace for discourse on higher education, it also represents (albeit not always successfully), a variety of discourses ranging from a purely syndicalist perspective to a more political and mobilizational discourse.

27Thus, unlike the peasantry who make their political presence felt through ‘guerilla-style, defensive campaigns of attrition reinforced by a veritable popular culture of resistance’, both of which may ‘make an utter shambles of the policies dreamed up by their would-be superiors in the capital’ (Scott, 1985: xviii), though the effects are often similar - academics hardly go off-stage. Rather, they tenaciously abide in the on-stage of power to express dissent to the official transcript of power relations (Scott, 1990). In the process, they suffer enormously, not in the least of which is being treated like legal outcasts by both the state and many vice-chancellors, and as social rejects by a materially-driven, uncivic society. If the military go to such an extent, it is because public discourse and actions by ASUU, a veritable counter-political elite, threaten the basis of their claim to power, by virtue of an open contradiction to the military’s discourse (Scott, 1990: 11).

28In order to comprehend the nature and content of the military discourse on higher education as they relate to the three major dossiers that have retained public attention in the last fifteen years or so (funding; autonomy and academic freedom; and conditions of service), we need to properly apprehend the notion of public discourse in its rich epistemology. Insights from certain aspects of Kantian political philosophy and Scott’s anthropological studies of class relations in a Malay village furnish us with some complementary paradigms of discourse that are germane to our discussion. Tied to some salient elements of militarism and neo-patrimonialism (already adumbrated), we get a fairly robust framework of analysis.

29The first aspect of Kantian political philosophy is the critique of practical reason, that is, the principle of law-giving as in the ‘categorical imperative’, where all that is required for a thinking process to be rational is that it is in agreement with itself. Thus, it suffices, in Immanuel Kant’s own words (cited in Arendt, 1968: 219-20) to ‘always act in such a manner that the principle of your action becomes a general law based on the necessity for rational thought to agree with itself.’ The second is the direct antithesis of the first, that is, Kant’s reverse political philosophy in the critique of judgment which stipulates that the thinker and the policy-maker-as-thinker requires an ‘enlarged mentality’ to go beyond merely being in agreement with him/herself and ‘think in the place of everybody else’. As elaborated upon by Arendt (1968:220), this way of thinking is expressed in:

the power of judgement (which) rests on a potential agreement with others, and the thinking process which is active in judging something and is not, like thought process of pure reasoning, a dialogue between me and myself, but finds itself always and primarily ... in an anticipated communication with others with whom I know I must finally come to some agreement. From this potential agreement, judgment derives its specific validity.

30In other words, such an agreement, not being reached by oneself with oneself alone, will translate to the rejection of the private realm and the triumph of its public vice-versa. Arendt continues:

This means, on the one hand, that such judgment must liberate itself from the ‘subjective private conditions’, that is, from the idio-syncracies which naturally determine the outlook of each individual in his privacy and are legitimate as long as they are privately held opinions, but which are not fit to enter the market place, and lack all validity in the public realm. And this enlarged way of thinking, which, as judgment, knows how to transcend its own individual limitations, on the other hand, cannot function in strict isolation or solitude, it needs the presence of others on whose place it must think, whose perspectives it must take into consideration, and without whom it never has the opportunity to operate at all.

31The third insight is also from Kant: his notion of ‘wooing’ or persuading. In Greek dialogic forms of discourse, which the global intellectual community has appropriated, an individual or a group of individuals can sway his or its interlocutors to his or its own side not by talking to him or it, but by talking with him or it. Besides, if ‘persuasion ruled the intercourse of the citizens of the polls’, as Arendt (1968:222-23) reminds us, it was because persuasion not only forbad physical violence, it also excluded coercion by truth, however non-violent the latter may sometimes appear.

32The fourth and final insight is from Scott’s two monumental works, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday forms of peasant resistance (1985) and Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden transcripts (1990). Since much of his argument concerns, stricto sensu, the peasantry, we will only adopt and adapt aspects that relate to counter-elites.

33First, for ASUU and other non-state elites who are conscious of the dynamics of the dialectical relationship between power elites and non-power (in this case, symbolic) elites, there is hardly any off-stage dream of ‘violent revenge’ against either military qua military or military-in-government. Rather, their discourse and actions seem to correspond to Scott’s (1990:9) ‘millennial visions of a world turned upside down’, by ineffectual military rule. Expressed differently, there is an

34ASUU discourse of Utopia, in the Karl Mannheim sense of dreaming great dreams about historic changes, which seeks a return to the status quo ante in which, during Nigeria’s pre-coup years, government copiously attempted to ‘match education with income or skill with remuneration (Adekanye, 1993: 12). Non-state elites also seek to reverse, vis-a-vis soldiers, the social jeers of the immediate pre-independence years. As reported by Adekanye (1993:7), ‘people are jeered at when they want to join the army, the reason being that soldiers are treated no better than labourers’. This phenomenon, for him, was merely a reflection of the psychology that ‘when someone is badly paid that man (or woman) is inferior’.

  • 6 For all his well-known eccentricities and excesses, Sani Abacha did not fail to acknowledge the pri (...)

35Second, implicit in the domination drive of the military against the academics is the latent brain versus brawn conflict to which Adekanye (1993:33) alluded in his seminal inaugural lecture, but which was earlier postulated by Mazrui in respect of militarist Uganda under Idi Amin in the 1970s. Whilst the Nigerian military, three decades into a routine brutalization of the psyche of the country’s intelligentsia, must really be surprised that there are people who still express public dissent, suggesting that some people are still thinking, there is no illusion whatsoever that they understand the power of knowledge.6 The military understands that ‘words do matter’, insofar as they can easily ‘become political weapons’, thus, ‘predatory regimes fear them, combat them and censor them’ (Fatton Jr., 1995: 69). The military are not unaware of the extent and depth of ASUU’s outreach - buoyed up, as it has been, by ‘a burst of groups and associations in civil society in the late 1980s and early 1990s, that made the democratic movement a match for the predatory tendencies of those in charge of the state’ (Gboyega, 1997:150) - in terms of doing violence to the military’s dominant political culture, both on- and off-stage. This culture is negatively valorized to the extent that, to borrow from Mme de Sevigne, ‘the humbling of inferiors is necessary to the maintenance of social order’ (Scott, 1990: 45).

36What the Nigerian military are, perhaps, not aware of is that, almost by definition, a public discourse necessarily possesses a double culture - or Michel Foucault’s thesis that power engenders counter-power and Scott’s (1990:45) argument that relations of domination’ are, at one and the same time, ‘relations of resistance’. Thus, by mounting and relaying in the same public stage what, for the peasantry, constitutes hidden transcripts’ of resistance to domination of political generals whose ultimate stratagem is to ‘crowd off the public stage any alternative view’ of power and power relations (Scott, 1990: 47), Nigerian academics robustly resist military domination. To the extent that the relationship between a given power structure and a counter- power structure is dialectical, the notion of a zero-sum game is almost an alien category, an oddity of sorts; nor are the two power structures, standing in an unstable juxtaposition, mutually exclusive. When they lock horns, the outcome can hardly be pre-determined.

The discourse

  • 7 For a sample, examine the following: Colonel M. Marwa, Lagos State military administrator, at the U (...)

37We have implicitly argued, in the foregoing, that two ‘logics’ that are, to all appearances, wholly antithetical to each other, drive the discourse of state and non-state elites on higher education - the former being more subjected to ‘private conditions’ and thoughts than the latter. This does not mean, however, that there is an ossified bifurcation between the two sides or that thought patterns are fixed for all times. Thus, some of the time, respected academics, former vice-chancellors and politicians may believe, like government, that the state lacks the funds to provide free university education.7 Where matters of basic principles and the minimum requirements to make the university system functional are at stake, however, false notes or discordant voices are few.

Funding

38Whether or not the Nigerian state has, over the last fifteen years, funded university education adequately, has been a major bone of contention between the military and the academic union. The argument has tended to shift back and forth on three main issues: whether it is realistic any longer for government to solely finance the universities; how to coordinate a funding partnership between government and the private sector; and the question of cost-sharing in the form of user charges, which would involve students and their parents.

  • 8 Daily Sketch (23 January 1988).

39It would appear that as mismanagement and corruption deepen in government, state elites have tended to settle for the controversial policy of cutting the rate of student intake in order, as they claim, to stabilize university finances. In 1988, Education Minister, Jibril Aminu, defended the establishment of more federal universities on the ground that ‘universities help to improve the intellectual atmosphere of an environment and develop the locality in which it was (established). That is why it is good to have more universities’8. About a decade later, the discourse has changed. Idris Gidado, Secretary to the federal military government of Abacha and Abubakar, in his acceptance speech on the conferment on him with a doctor of literature (honoris causa) by the Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, lamented that 36 universities are ‘still very high [sic], inefficiently run, unit cost ineffective and guilty of the same duplications and other distortions’. He argued that there was ‘madness’ in the country’s enrolment figure that rose, according to him, from 26,000 in 1975 to 236,261 in 1997. He then proffered rationalization as a means for saving costs:

  • 9 See Idris Gidado, Education for Development. The Guardian (8 October 1997), p.15. Cf the proposal b (...)

Some form of very drastic action in favour of hefty reductions and other acts of rationalization has become imperative to provide relevant and quality manpower and redress lopsidedness in manpower configuration...and cut the burden of having to fund too many universities when the economic situation is at best tenuous.9

  • 10 According to ASUU, funding allocation per student fell from ₦3,424.00 in the 1975/76 session to ₦40 (...)
  • 11 As if to underscore this, Abacha, whilst inaugurating the Etsu Nupe Committee on the Future of High (...)

40As a result, government has increasingly retreated from the social welfare and human resources development space of the society, in which higher education features prominently. Non-state elites have, on the contrary, not relented in canvassing, not so much for better funding, - government claims it is doing this already, apparently with scant regard to the gross depreciation of the naira10- as adequate funding. Whilst Banjo (1997:90) recently described the level of funding as ‘abominable’, Biobaku (1972:73) had argued, during Nigeria’s years of little corruption and plenty of petro-dollars, that ‘a developing country needs to provide its universities with plentiful funds for research, both fundamental and applied’. Government’s trajectory has been to raise, often subtly, the relational character of university funding and university autonomy in an inverse manner.11 Moreover, less autonomy is tacitly underlined as a precondition for more funding. The military confuse, both for opportunistic and corporate reasons, custodian-ship with ownership of the institutions, conveniently ignoring that popular sovereignty resides in the people, their real owners.

  • 12 See: ‘Education, responsibility of all’, says Abacha. The Guardian (10 November 1997), p.56. The Ab (...)

41However one looks at this situation, there are at least two responses worth considering. The first is the ambivalent nature of the state’s discourse on funding. Whilst government claims it is unable to foot the bill alone, it has no clear-cut discourse, let alone a firm policy, on private universities. In 1992, Babangida described as a ‘welcome development’ the possibility of cost-sharing between government and non-governmental concerns. He even called for the establishment of private universities. Abacha would later speak in the same vein,12 but neither of the two regimes was explicit on how government and private universities would peacefully co-exist in a polity where the state executive is extremely lawless.

42The second response is not to take government seriously when it claims that it does not have enough resources to fund higher education. There are several reasons for this. One, since 1992/93, government has failed, till date, to operate proceeds from the higher education tax fund (ETF). Two, it has refused to transfer unused government properties in Lagos and Abuja to the universities as demanded in May 1998 by one of the vice-chancellors - even though friends of political generals and some sub-regional leaders get such allocations. Three, political generals and their civilian substitutes have massively emptied the public purse - as typified by Babangida’s squandering of 12 billion US dollars windfall from the Gulf War and Abacha’s thievery of some 65 billion naira in four years. Four, and perhaps most significantly, government has been unable to empower itself. On the latter, Decree number 1 of 1974 setting up the NUC had, inter alia, charged it to make adequate funds available for all federal universities. The decree read in part, the NUC is:

  • 13 It is instructive to note that the Longe Commission’s recommendation that the country should expend (...)

... to inquire into and advise the federal government on the financial needs, both recurrent and capital, of university education in Nigeria and, in part, to investigate and study the financial needs of university research and to ensure that adequate provision is made for this in the universities (Sanda, 1992: 13).13

  • 14 Daily Times (10 April 1992), p.l.
  • 15 Why education is in shambles. Abacha. Daily Times (23 June 1995). p.l.

43Within this context, discourse destined to assure the allocation of enough funds to universities is vacuous and empty. Babangida’s statement in April 1992, after his government had approved a special grant of 25 million naira to each university, at the behest of a committee of pro-chancellors that ‘government will ... never waver in its determination to give our universities as much resources as is available to it,’14 is a case in point. So also is the Abacha’s promissory note at the opening session of the first triennial National Parents/Teachers Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN) in 1995 that "within the constraints of available resources, government will continue to give education the pride of place it deserves.............15

44Public speeches such as these are no more than attempts at winning a subtle war of words with non-state elites; they did have any meaningful effect on arresting the rot and decay in the university.

University autonomy and academic freedom

  • 16 Let JAMB hands-off varsity admission. Daily Times (14 February 1991), p.31.
  • 17 Sanda (1992:55) argues that ‘when there is a major upheaval or riot or mutiny in the army or a coup (...)

45There are, again, two dominant, antithetical perspectives that one can distill from the discourse of state and non-state elites on university autonomy and academic freedom. The first by non-state elites, leaves no room for any ambiguity about the intrinsic value of the liberal temper to a typical university system. Indeed, the liberal conscience is at once the backbone, sinews and blood of a university’s cultural infrastructure; remove it and all that is left are perhaps fine buildings -, aesthetic structures which have nothing to drive and fire them. It is because of the strong link between liberal values and the university idea, that Nigerian academics regard university autonomy as an article of faith, and academic freedom, its Siamese twin, as sacrosanct. Academics and other intellectuals do not suffer arbitrary violations of these basic principles gladly. The foundational one, as Banjo (1997:176) recently reminded us, is the idea of the university as ‘seeker after excellence, as a centre for the creation and exploration of new knowledge.16 According to ASUU, university autonomy and academic freedom, (often conceptualized broadly to include larger citizens’ rights), include the freedom of universities to appoint their own staff; select their own students and determine their conditions of service and training; the right of individual universities to set their own standards; decide to whom its degree, diploma or certificate may be awarded as well as the right of each university, rather than the NUC, to design its curricula. On the last point, Ayo Bamgbose has argued that only by a bold policy of differentiation destined at recovering past gains, would each university pick up again in its areas of specialization, a phenomenon that gave both ‘strength and character to each institution’.17

46Even before the State’s violation of university statues degenerated into the current aberration of imposing both professorial and military administrators as Vice-Chancellors, the military have tended to misconstrue, misunderstand and misinterpret university autonomy and academic freedom. Perhaps on account of their own sensibilities and proclivities (fear of the brain; lack of self-confidence; inability to manage intellect; poor priority placed on the academia as seen through the ease with which, at the slightest ‘irritation’, the campuses are put under lock and key etc.,) they often miss the linkage between academic freedom/university autonomy and academic excellence. Yet, it is difficult to realize the latter without the former. On this linkage, Roger Heyns (Sanda, 1992: 19) is clear:

the greatest universities have traditionally been the most free because the untramelled search for truth and its successful transmission through learning is most likely to be achieved with minimum constraints.

47Given the advertised military sensibilities, state political elites have often held a more circumspect view of the autonomy question, that is, not in a holistic sense but in a restricted manner, just enough, it would seem, for the pursuit of minimum teaching and research.

48Perhaps as a thinly-veiled disguise of his own conception of academic freedom, but apparently as a precursor of what would be his grand orientation as a Minister of Education, Aminu (1977:362) had argued that since the military "have the means to enforce their views in one way or the other, they usually have their way, whether this is intrinsically justifiable or not". He would add that “academic freedom can be exercised without autonomy”. As minister nine years later, Aminu was bolder and more forthcoming. In his address to the governing council of federal universities in 1986 (Sanda, 1992: 18). Aminu declared:

While we are absolutely committed to allowing the governing council to carry on with their lawful business, we all need to agree that university autonomy, such as we understand it, is no charter for privilege and does not detract from government the responsibility of protecting public interest and in ensuring proper accountability.

49Similarly, Chief A. Mbanefo (Sanda, 1992: 18), then chairman, Obafemi Awolowo University’s Governing Council, while also conceding the imperativeness of university autonomy, queried its applicability ‘in the light of the endless acrimonies and present deviant behaviours like examination malpractice, plagiarism, sexual harassment, misapplication of research funds and declining devotion to scholarship.’

  • 18 See: Adebayo Adedeji advocates reform of varsities. The Guardian (18 November 1997), p. 64.

50State political elites are yet to come to terms with the fact that universities are capable of sorting out their own internal problems - that it is incessant reactionary external official interference’ that, over the years, has not only dealt a fatal blow on the university’s liberal conscience, but has also deterred the flourishing of intellectual ideas.18 The internal crisis which is often used as an excuse by the state not to grant university autonomy, is largely the effect of official interference, and should not be the cause, of further interference. The preoccupation of ASUU and other non-state elites has, primarily, been to persuade government to refine its discourse and review its policy. The goals include: reversing the degeneration of university autonomy into a mere academic exercise; disallowing, through fundamental reforms, the state from being such an intimidating Leviathan - having at its disposal, Decree 17 of 1984 which empowers government to sack lecturers; Decree 47 of 1990 for the rustication and expulsion of students; and Decree 17 of 1986 which cut the link between ASUU and the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC). The Academic Staff Union of the Universities and other non-elites also find the notion of government imposing vice-chancellors and sole administrators on the universities as being totally unacceptable.

  • 19 The result is a moral dilemma for the vice-chancellors and a deepening social hiatus between them a (...)

51On the specific issue of appointment of vice-chancellors, the need to observe well spelt-out rules and regulations can hardly be over-emphasized - even though, increasingly, partly because of the state’s suffocating grip on the universities, duly appointed vice-chancellors often defend university autonomy only in theory.19 To interpret the contemporary role of the vice-chancellor in the dynamics of the dialectical relationship between the gown and the town is to underline the position’s utmost importance. ‘A vice-chancellor that is imposed on the academic community’, writes Ojo (1990:3), ‘becomes suspect, his loyalty to the institution is doubted, and even if he is genuinely loyal, his ability to lead is impaired’.

Conditions of service

  • 20 See: The War Goes On. Tell (13 May 1996).
  • 21 The Guardian (27 September 1997), p. 23.

52A statist discourse of domination whose quality, we have argued, has declined over the years, from near-civility to artful double-speak, seemingly reaches its apogee in terms of university teachers’ salary and non-salary conditions of service. The target audience, both in the gown and in the town, is often befuddled, not having a clear understanding of government’s declared objectives; and not knowing whether it will do what it says, having had the experience that government often does what it does not say, and says what it has no intention of doing. In recent years, the exodus of some of the best brains to European and American universities has brought the phenomenon of poor pay and poor conditions of service and work into bolder relief. The response of the State haso been perfectly predictable. Examples abound. When pro-chancellors met Babangida in April 1992 to highlight the financial predicament of tertiary institutions to the General, he responded by expressing government’s awareness of, and sympathy for, ‘inconveniences of life in the universities of both students and staff. He blamed ‘the economic situation in the country’ for the development. Four years later, during the 1996 ASUU strike, the Minister of State for Education, Iyabo Anisulowo, not only described the 1992 ASUU-government agreement as ‘ridiculous, ambiguous and outrageous’, she also apparently did not see why lecturers should get a pay rise. She argued that ‘there was no basis for the lecturers to compare their remunerations with what is obtained in some countries where salaries are paid in dollars and pound sterling.20 Yet in 1997, the NUC Executive Secretary contended that academics and their students deserve a better deal; that lecturers could not be expected to give their best if their living conditions were not improved.21

  • 22 After his first-hand assessment of conditions of academic facilities and infrastructures at Ibadan (...)

53It would appear that, partly because of government’s tendency at trivialization of issues, and partly because of the negative aspects of academia’s widely advertised financial straits, ASUU has been relatively more silent on the salary conditions of service. The Union has therefore, focused more on the non-salary conditions of service. These include a decaying and depressing working environment; obsolete equipment and facilities; grossly inadequate classrooms, hostels and allied facilities for students; outdated libraries; academic isolationism and intellectual autarky - occasioned by an information highway conspicuous in its absence; a non-viable and unenviable teaching and learning ecology that cannot even guarantee basic things like uninterrupted electricity and constant supply of water.22

54While ASUU has spoken less (and written much, as several submission to successive military governments show) on salary conditions, it has nevertheless often used intellectual jibes to drive home its message. Two most recent and popular ones are: “My boss is a comedian; the wages he pays me are a joke” (1992) and “My take-home pay cannot take me home” (1996).

  • 23 cf Interim award for universities. The Guardian (1 December 1997). p. 18.

55Other non-state elites have sought to fill in the gap. In view of the increasing relevance and salience of research to national development and the deepening worry that Nigeria is not doing enough basic research, there is a seemingly contemporary awakening of the non-state elites through newspaper editorials, syndicated columns, and letters to the editor. Perhaps an excellent example is the editorial of a highly-regarded national newspaper on university teachers’ conditions of service. The editorial was prompted by Justice Kayode Eso’s call to government to grant ‘interim award’ to the teachers to stave off exodus and vitiate frustration.23

Our country cannot build the capacity to be competitive in the world unless we invest adequately in education and research. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure the conditions of work in the institutions of higher learning are attractive enough to retain our best scholars and attract others from abroad.

56Many editorials have warned that ‘the grand plans being made now for national development will fail unless there is a conducive environment for serious research and productivity’. To realize this objective, they counselled government to discontinue regarding the problems of the universities as if the are ‘industrial relations matters’, but to do everything possible to ‘facilitate their recovery.

Concluding remarks

57I am not unaware that the terrain of politics that provides the context and informs the nature of the public discourse on higher education is far more complex than our analysis has perhaps suggested in this piece. Indeed, the real world is a (n)adic not a dyadic one. What emerges from our framework testifies, nonetheless, to the intensity of conflict situations that the Nigerian State has to deal with. Even though current understanding on conflict and conflict resolution in both intra and inter-state politics is that the contemporary modern state need not resolve all conflicts. Nonetheless, it has to manage them. In other words, whilst conflicting situations, like the one analyzed above, are normally on going, recurrent and inherent, they have to be managed. This is because, according to Zartman (1997:1). unmanaged, they threaten to escalate, leading to a variety of debilitating outcome: blockage of the governing process; a widening split between state and society; outbreaks of violence and collapse of state’.

58It is clear that continued military rule is the bane of higher education in Nigeria. Political generals do not set much store by the development of the intellect. But this is not an irreversible national predicament; it is only the reality of a particular historical juncture and a reflection of low development of key social forces—in spite of the exciting progress of the past one decade or so. In consequence, the military have to vacate power. Nonetheless, no illusions should be entertained about easy or quick fixes by a duly elected civilian government. It would, however, be expected to generate new ideas; kick-start reforms and unleash a new momentum that can commence the cleansing of the Augean stables of university education. The least the gown and town would expect from the forthcoming fourth republic is the institution of the process of recovery of the civility of the public discourse of yesteryear, as well as a partnership that would be mutually beneficial, that would ensure the gradual withering away of the existing master-servant relationship. As Eke (1974:379) has argued:

... the national interest lies neither in an attitude of hostility or servility on the part of the university towards the government nor in government’s intolerance with the university, if the national interest is to be advanced smoothly and properly in the modern world, there is great need for cordial relationship between the government of a country and the universities of the land.

References

59Aboyade, O. 1977. The management of intellect. The Quarterly Journal of Administration

6011 (3) April, p. 147-151.

61Adebayo, A. 1989. Principles and Practice of Public Administration in Nigeria. Spectrum Books, Ibadan.

62Adekanye, J.B. 1993. Military Occupation and Social Stratification. Inaugural Lecture,

63University of Ibadan. Vantage Publishers, Ibadan.

64Adetoro, J.E. 1972. Reflections on the Nigerian universities. In: A Philosophy for Nigerian

65Education. A. Adaralegbe, ed., Heinemann Educational Books, Ibadan, p. 241-252. Aminu. J. 1968. The management of Nigerian universities. The Quarterly Journal of Administration 12 (4) July, p. 361-377.

66Arendt. H. 1968. Between Past and Future: Eight essays in political thought. Penguin Books. London.

67Ayoade, J.A.A. 1997. Nigeria and the Squandering of Hope. Inaugural Lecture, University of Ibadan, Vantage Publishers, Ibadan.

68Baike, A. and O.S.B. Omoregie. 1989. University education policies and programmes: perspectives of an educationist and planner. In: Nigeria Since Independence: The First

6925 Years, Vol. 3. T.N Tamuno and J.A Atanda eds., Heinemann Educational Books,

70Ibadan. p. 281-299.

71Banjo, A. 1997. In the Saddle: A Vice-Chancellor’s Story. Spectrum Books, Ibadan.

72Biobaku, S.O. 1972. The purposes of university education. In: A Philosophy for Nigerian Education. A. Adaralegbe, ed., Heinemann Educational Books, Ibadan.

73Eke, A.Y. 1974. Government and university relationships in Nigeria. The Quarterly Journal of Administration 8 (4) July, p. 275-279.

74Fatton, R. Jr. 1995. Africa in the age of democratization: the civic limitations of civil society.

75African Studies Review 38 (2) September, p. 67-99.

76Gboyega, A. 1997. Nigeria: Conflict unresolved, p. 149-196. In: Governance as Conflict Management: Politics and violence in West Africa. I.W. Zartman, ed., The Brookings Institute Press, Washington, D.C.

77Giant Strides, a publication of VBO International, Vol. 1, October 1997.

78Ojo, J.D. 1990. Law and University Administration in Nigeria. Malthouse Press, Lagos. Sanda, A.O. 1992. Managing Nigerian Universities. Spectrum Books, Ibadan.

79Scott, J.S. 1985. Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. Yale University Press, New Haven and London.

80Scott, J.S. 1990. Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts. Yale Univiersity Press, New Haven and London.

81Zartman, I.W. 1997. Introduction. In: Governance as Conflict Management: Politics and violence in West Africa. I.W. Zartman, ed., The Brookings Institute Press, Washington, DC.

Notes

1 Lack of funds stalls varsity’s activities, says VC. The Guardian (12 August 1997), p. 3.

2 See: The Guardian (3 December 1997), p.64.

3 Cited in: Clobbering of ASUU. Newswatch (3 August 1992), p. 17-18.

4 U.I. at 50. The Guardian (14 July 1998), p. 16. There is a twin process: the idea and ideal of the university episteme is alien to newest generation of Nigerian universities, whilst they are being eroded in the oldest ones. Thus, ‘Wole Soyinka’s characterization of the ideal university (in his 1994 Obafemi Awolowo Memorial Lecture) is as follows: ‘ the university is a community of teachers, learners, workers and the civil society within which it is based. These four legs are bound together in an indissoluble way—including economically. The ideal relationship between all four legs that prop up the superstructure of research laboratories, lecture rooms etc is, therefore, one that is based on a sense of mutual responsibility, not the dictatorship of any one group or ascription of over-seeing self-importance by any one group or the other. See Soyinka: ‘Democracy and the university idea’, as serialized in The Guardian (19 May 1994), p.9ff.

5 Whilst delivering the opening address at the 5th session of the International Congress of African Studies held at the University of Ibadan in December 1985, Babangida formulated what appeared like an education policy: ‘the goal of education and the aim of the war against ignorance must be to improve the conditions of Africans in such a manner that will enable them to live their lives in peace, dignity and honour. It is therefore essential that the war against ignorance must be extended to include a war against injustice and inhumane treatment’.

6 For all his well-known eccentricities and excesses, Sani Abacha did not fail to acknowledge the primordial role of the intellect in national development. In his address to the 16th Convocation ceremonies of the University of Maiduguri, he urged the universities to produce a blueprint for national growth and development: ‘the time has come when scientific means must be increasingly employed in tackling societal problems and our universities must become the prime purveyors of such solutions’. The Guardian (15 December 1997), p. 3

7 For a sample, examine the following: Colonel M. Marwa, Lagos State military administrator, at the University of Lagos Convocation, May 29, 1997 : ‘In as much as the federal military government recognizes the inalienable right of the Nigerian child to education, it must be stressed that the idea of free tuition at all levels is impracticable;’ Professor O. O Akinkugbe: ‘Any serious-minded person today would admit that it is not even desirable that the government should carry all this load ... so to say that education should be free at all levels.. .is a political gimmick’; Shettima Ali Monguno, a former federal minister: ‘Nowhere in the world that I know of, save for the communist world, has any government attempted to give its citizens free and full education’; See R. Oyekanmi, Again, controversy over free education. The Guardian (23 June 1997), p. 15.

8 Daily Sketch (23 January 1988).

9 See Idris Gidado, Education for Development. The Guardian (8 October 1997), p.15. Cf the proposal by Dauda Birma, Abacha’s last minister of Education, to reduce the number of federal universities from 23 to 6 (remarked above) was .informed, for him, by the need ‘to reduce the financial burden of education on the federal government’.

10 According to ASUU, funding allocation per student fell from ₦3,424.00 in the 1975/76 session to ₦409.00 naira in the 1989/90 session. The situation has continued to worsen. Similarly, in 1991 alone, whilst allocations to tertiary education virtually stagnated, those of Defence, Presidency (Police) and Budget and Planning increased, respectively, by 28 %, over 40 % and over 300 %. See: ‘The Stick, Now the Carrot’ Newswatch (10 August 1992), p.25-26. For more current statistics, see ASUU’s ‘Memorandum on the Review of the 1992 Agreement’ submitted to government in 1996.

11 As if to underscore this, Abacha, whilst inaugurating the Etsu Nupe Committee on the Future of Higher Education in October 1996 declared that ‘the government is the principal financier of university education in Nigeria; government allocation constitutes over 90 % of the total running cost of universities’, (as in 9). It is interesting to note that the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Munzali Jubrilu hinges all the hopes for a brighter future for the universities on the result of this Committee as well as on the Vision 2010 Committee. See: NUC promises new deal for universities. The Guardian (21 May 1998), p. 3.

12 See: ‘Education, responsibility of all’, says Abacha. The Guardian (10 November 1997), p.56. The Abacha regime would later impose two stringent conditions on prospective proprietors of private universities: payment of a non-refundable deposit of 200 million naira and the acquisition of about 100 hectares of land. Cf The Guardian’s editorial on ‘Operation of Private Varsities’ (7 October 1997, p.20), which advocates the following: ‘government should open up the space and allow individuals and groups some elbow room. With such liberalization, more colleges, institutes and universities will spring up ... Once the monopoly of government is broken, the private sector will be encouraged to make direct investment in support of programmes that can benefit that sector. This is the pattern in most parts of the world’. There is also a growing, discernible clamour for the establishment of private universities. For example, David Iomem, a senator in the aborted Third Republic, claims that ‘of about 500 universities in Japan, only 132 are government-owned. Only about one-fifth of the over 2000 universities in the US are government-owned. Over 100 private university-type institutions have emerged in Europe during the last ten years’. See his essay: Operation of Private Universities. The Guardian 15 September 1997, p.35. Private universities would eventually be recognised by the Abubakar junta, which took over the reins of power after the sudden death of Abacha on 8 June 1998. Three of such universities which got the go-ahead to start business in April 1999, obtained their certificates on 10 May 1999. According to the junta’s Minister of Education, Olaiya Oni, ‘the existence of private universities alongside public universities should offer students and parents a choice and also promote healthy competition for the overall development of the sub-sector’. See ‘Private universities recognised’ The Guardian on Sunday 16 May 1999, p.6. The three universities are Igbinedion, Babcock and Madonna, all of which are, for now, permitted to run degree programmes in five faculties. The fourth one, Heritage University, owned by Babangida and Shagari, has been given only a temporary approval.

13 It is instructive to note that the Longe Commission’s recommendation that the country should expend 15 % of its GDP on higher education remains a dead letter. In view of the deepening rot and the fact that Nigeria spends the least percentage of its GDP on education in West Africa (A. Ogunrinade, Surgery our universities don’t need. The Guardian on Sunday (9 February 1997), p. A8); Ayo Banjo suggests that 30 % of budgetary votes should go to education ‘over a number of years (in order) to arrest the decay that has overtaken the system’. See his interview ‘It is too late to kick out cultism from universities’, says Banjo. The Guardian on Sunday 13 July 1997, p. A9.

14 Daily Times (10 April 1992), p.l.

15 Why education is in shambles. Abacha. Daily Times (23 June 1995). p.l.

16 Let JAMB hands-off varsity admission. Daily Times (14 February 1991), p.31.

17 Sanda (1992:55) argues that ‘when there is a major upheaval or riot or mutiny in the army or a coup d’etat or any form of crisis in the wider society, nobody closes down the relevant government for an indefinite amount of time, even when a state of emergency exists’.

18 See: Adebayo Adedeji advocates reform of varsities. The Guardian (18 November 1997), p. 64.

19 The result is a moral dilemma for the vice-chancellors and a deepening social hiatus between them and ASUU. Banjo (1997: 88-89) explains the dilemma thus: ‘ASUU expected the vice-chancellors, through the Committee of Vice-Chancellors. to be more militant in fighting not only for better funding of the universities, but more important, for university autonmy. The government, on the other hand, through the Ministry of Education, clearly thought the vice-chancellors were the government’s representatives on the campuses, their first duty, above all else, being to ensure that the government’s will was done on the campuses’. To judiciously and successfully marry these two perspectives would require, on the part of the vice-chancellors, moral courage, strength of character, honesty of purpose, personal dignity and a penchant for the truth.

20 See: The War Goes On. Tell (13 May 1996).

21 The Guardian (27 September 1997), p. 23.

22 After his first-hand assessment of conditions of academic facilities and infrastructures at Ibadan in September 1997, Jubrilu Munzali said that the inescapable feeling he had was that of a ‘university in depression and decay, with facilities and equipment going obsolete and inadequate to cope with increasing demands occasioned , amongst other things, by students explosion’. See Jubrilu tours varsities, laments decay of facilities. The Guardian (23 September 1997), p. 56.

23 cf Interim award for universities. The Guardian (1 December 1997). p. 18.

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