A story was recently told in a newspaper article by Professor Ernest Emenyonu about twenty-four post graduate students in a Masters course in Economics at a Federal University. They were in their last semester prior to graduation. But because of a strike action, the semester was extended, but unfortunately their professor’s date of retirement fell two months before the end of the extended semester. The professor therefore told his students that he was not sure if the university would let him finish the semester. So, if they wanted him to submit passing grades for them before he retired, they should pay him some kind of compensation. The students collected and gave him N250, 000.00. However as fate would have it the university later allowed him to not only to finish the semester, but offered him contract appointment after retirement; yet he (the professor) pocketed the students’ money.
There are many other similar stories that pain the heart. All these are daily dealings in our so called higher institutions. Professor Emenyonu had described these dirty realities as a cancerous disease that has attacked our institutions of higher learning, and is fast permeating veins. According to him, if the virus is not checked with a stronger antidote or vaccine, these might do to Nigerian education at tertiary levels what AIDS has done to the human frame world-wide. So combating it is a matter of life and death in all seriousness.
However, another embarrassing dimension to the extant ugly is the diversion of university funds by Vice Chancellors. I was ashamed to read a news story captioned: EFCC detains VC, bursar over N500m fraud. The news had it that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), had arrested and detained the Vice Chancellor of the Imo State University, Owerri, Professor I.C Okonkwo, the bursar, Mrs U.A Nwogu and an administrative officer, over an alleged N500 million fraud.In the story, the EFCC spokesperson, Mr. Femi Babafemi, had confirmed that the trio were arrested last week and were being detained at the commission’s facility in Abuja. It was learnt that the commission’s boss, Mrs Farida Waziri (AIG rtd), had ordered that a charge be preferred against the suspects. It was also reported that a raid of Okonkwo’s home by the commission’s operatives led to the recovery of cash in different currencies running into several millions.A source gave the recovered cash as N4.5 million, $11,200, 700 Euros, among others. He was said to have kept another N25 million which he allegedly collected from graduating students without receipt, with one if his friends. Also reportedly recovered from his home during the raid were shares certificates of blue-chip companies, cash deposit of huge sums in his name and bank documents showing that he has nine accounts domiciled in four banks.
Though this case is still unfolding, and the culpability of those arrested yet to be proved, one is very much surprised that the rat race for money is as rampant amongst the educated, the intellectuals and revered as it is amongst the uneducated, the rascals and even the mechanics. In this race conscience and integrity takes the backseat. In Nigerian university, the supposed citadel of leaning, greed and hunger for ostentatious living is the norm amongst most lecturers and dons. Everybody wants to live big and, well beyond his income. Nobody bothers about learning, research and development. What now matter are promotion, position, and wealth.
The bribe for budget scandal that rocked the Federal University of Technology Owerri and the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which led to the sacking of then Minister of Education and the Vice Chancellor of FUTO, as well as leading to the resignation of the then Senate President Adolf Wabara was another sour thumb in our polity. Though all those concerned had pleaded not guilty, but none, not even any one of them has proven his innocence.
I cannot agree less with Reuben Abati that greed is the main obstacle to the leadership process in Nigeria. According to him “It works out in form of an obsession with the self and an abiding contempt for society and its needs. The primitive acquisitiveness of the Nigerian leadership elite has been without regard for the objective conditions of the people: people who wallow in abject poverty. The poverty in the land is so bad, it is evident in the rising cost of food items, the failure of public infrastructure, the disconnection between the country's enormous wealth in terms of resources and the filth on our streets, and the rebellious streak of armed robbers and assassins”.
The result is that today, the Nigerian society is adrift, as almost everybody in leadership opportunity with budgetary allocation and revenue generating channels is behaving like “goal keepers”; grabbing and stealing and bending the rules to protect their personal interests. This is the situation in most churches and other places. Pastors and Reverends all have their eyes on lucre, same for both elected and unelected politicians, taxi drivers, civil servants, masons, traders and sadly university dons etc.
A former Vice Chancellor of the same Imo State University today lives in one of the most imposing and expensive houses in Owerri, yet this was a man we all knew before he became a Vice Chancellor. We also knew how much he earned as a Vice Chancellor, as well as his frail research and publication credentials. One wonders how he made the wealth that is the order in his home today.
Admission periods are now bazaar periods for those at the top from HODs to deans and of course the VCs etc. The result is so bad that nobody can easily give you the number of students actually studying in many of the universities. The way most of the universities are being run frustrates learning and research. Role models can hardly be found in Nigerian universities anymore as rat race for lucre takes the centre stage.
I am pissed that many of the men and women who go into public office in Nigeria are usually persons who used to be defenders of public morality, humble members of the community. But as soon as they are given the opportunity to control financial budgets they simply go berserk, and then grow a fertile ego.
Nothing can be more humiliating for a man or woman who had been promoted as a role model and as an achiever to be put in the dock and asked to explain how he stole or mismanaged resources entrusted to his care. I am pained that even university dons have joined the rat race; perhaps Prof. Okonkwo may need to prove me wrong. I am sad because I know what it costs in cash, time and effort to achieve academic heights. Why would university dons seek to grab all the money in order to hobnob with other less endowed?
Who then becomes the model, the pastor or the politician, who?