Insanity has been described as doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result— Anonymous.
Nigeria’s public universities are once again on the verge of the recurrent convulsions called strikes. Bored by it? Sorry; boredom is a luxury we cannot afford now. Alarm is more like it; because once again our kids in public universities might be heading for another prolonged stay at home – if there is a home. Invariably, that means all the social ills of forced idleness will be visited on society.
Because idle hands from time immemorial had been the devil’s workshops, parents might have to cope with cars smashed, food in refrigerators depleted, noisy music and weird dresses (all minor concerns undoubtedly), as well as serious issues like unwanted pregnancies, prostitution, fatal accidents, cultism and increased arrests for armed robbery by university students. Those have been the inevitable harvests of previous strikes; and there is no reason to think that the Devil will take a leave of absence this time around. He is on duty 24/7 even if academics are idle.
Two reports in newspapers suggest we are in for another rough time with university education in Nigeria. The first is national – all public universities are getting ready to shut down again. The second concerns one university – Lagos State University, LASU.
Lagos state prides itself on being Centre of Excellence; the university guarantees excellent crisis each time it erupts. It is natural wonder that there are still masochists left who want to be Vice-Chancellor of LASU. The latest “ victim” or “villain” or “martyr” is Professor John Obafunwa, who, God willing, will be “saved by the bell” in October this year when his tenure ends. The two stories share some similarities; but, there are also some differences. Both of them will be analysed in this series of essays. We will also attempt to interview all those that matter in these disputes which will, once again rock the campuses.
The more things change, in Nigeria at least, the more they remain the same. As a Lagosian, the narrative starts with LASU which is not living up to the dreams of its founding fathers – particularly former Governor Lateef Jakande – or anybody else for that matter.
LASU closed once again – old story; new twist
To be quite candid, it is becoming a rare occurrence for LASU to remain open for a complete session since its creation. One day, an enterprising investigator or historian might want to look into the history of strikes and shutdowns at the university to determine if there is a discernible pattern which can help avert future occurrence. But something definitely must be wrong with the university. One of my nephews, admitted to LASU in the 1980s started there before gaining admission to Obafemi Awolowo University (then Univ. of Ife).
I advised him to cross over – despite his father’s objection to the move. Akintunde graduated from Ife two sessions ahead of his classmates at LASU and was already a staff of Diamond Bank when his classmates were just “begging to apply”. That summarises briefly how LASU impedes the progress of its students.
It is not a record of which any university should be proud. And, it is not a situation which the government of Lagos State should allow to continue. No university can reach world class if its classes are frequently disrupted and its science laboratories are shut down while experiments, which must not be interrupted, are in progress. What obtains in that university now is the closest thing to bedlam that I know.
Just as troubling is the pattern the disputes have established. None has occurred without the destruction of university and personal properties. Apparently, every set of students and staff includes arsonists and pyromaniacs waiting for any excuse to unleash mayhem. One eye-witness to the current one informed about vehicles destroyed and buildings vandalized.
Could such destruction be attributed to civilised and well-adjusted individuals instead of those deserving straight jackets?