MONDAY February 13, leaders and governors of states in the South-West geo-political zone comprising Lagos, Ogun Oyo, Ondo, Osun, and Ekiti states gathered in the zone’s capital, Ibadan, to strategise for a roadmap into the future.
The roadmap is expected to emanate from a blueprint for economic integration meant to restore the lost glory of the region, which is expected to be produced at the end of a three-day economic summit which began same day.
As expected, the outstanding feature of such a summit would be speeches, delivered by notables invited for just that purpose. Also, at such events, policy statements and general direction of government activities are usually revealed.
One such revelation came from Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, who announced that his state would establish a university by September in order to end “the raging controversy over joint ownership of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso.” He added that such a university would put us “among the foremost universities in the world rather than bicker over the management of a jointly owned LAUTECH between Oyo and Osun states.” That was not all. Governor Ajimobi said besides the one his state is setting up, there should be a South-West Nigeria university.
This is quite remarkable. At a time when university lecturers and other staff are perpetually on strike, mainly on issues that border on funding, it is astonishing that state governments who can barely afford to fund previously established institutions are even thinking of establishing more. Besides, is the bickering between Osun and Oyo states over LAUTECH sufficient reason to establish another university? If another varsity comes on stream, will it stop the bickering and solve all the problems that led to the bickering?
All the states of the South-West have universities, in addition to the federal-owned ones in the region, and they all, without exception, suffer the problem of funding. The announcement of the new university for Oyo State is an indication of how our leaders formulate projects. University education, we aver, is a very serious undertaking, not one to merely settle quarrels with. Ghana, which has a land area that approximates the South-West in size, has six public universities.
Ghana has a population of 24 million (2011 census), while the states of the South-west combined have a population of 23.4 million (2006 census). Before Tai Solarin University of Education was scrapped, the entire South-West has 24 universities (private and government), with Ogun having the most (9), and Ekiti, the least (two).
It is our position that the South-West zone has more than enough universities, especially when you add the private ones. What is needed is adequate funding and capacity building for them, so they can take more students, and train them more qualitatively in response to the needs of the society.