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Thursday, 12 September 2013

Forget Ghana. Consider Nigeria’s best private universities

By Dele Sobowale
“The truth is not so often made apparent as people might think”, Joseph Conrad, 1857-1924.
“Nothing is more costly than ignorance”, American professional con man. 1976.
Every monumental task I have assigned myself on this page, since the first article appeared in August 1994, always calls for too quotations. It invariably marks my departure from the tedium of present economic, social and political crises on which everybody is focused – especially my co-columnists writing for every paper.
For the next few weeks, I want to leave others to worry about Suntai, Madame President, ASUU versus FG, PDP (except the comment below on the break up of PDP) and other political organizations. They will all soon pass into history – some gloriously, most as villains. Incidentally, the Action Group, the N.C.N.C and the NPC remain our best efforts. In thirty years virtually all the main actors on the social, economic and political stages would have been rewarded with dust in the face in a cemetery somewhere. I will be there too; to be eaten by worms.
One thing will certainly outlive all of us – in one shape or another. That is the Nigerian university system, which is still in its infancy; and which we are working to send to an early grave by our utterances and conduct. Ask any Nigerian the question: “Which is better, Nigerian or Ghanaian universities system?” The likely answer will be: “Ghanaian”. And he will “prove” the point by drawing your attention to the $500 million (N80 billion) Nigerians spend annually sending their kids to universities in Ghana. You will also be told about the frequent ASUU strikes, in Nigeria, which don’t occur in Ghana. Yet, probably, never has so much ignorance been adduced to support a fallacy as on this one subject.
The truth is, most of the expenditure on Ghanaian university education is wasted because, right here, in Nigeria, there are private universities offering quality education comparable to any in the world in certain disciplines. Furthermore, ASUU strikes affect only public universities. Private universities, as this article is being written, are carrying on with their stated missions of educating our kids as if they exist in another country. Most of the best have never been shut down from the day they opened their gates to the new intakes.
In case you are wondering where I am going, let me quickly declare the mission – which started about five years ago. As a frequent traveler, by road, in this country, I had noticed the growing number of private universities. The figures are startling. There were only three private universities in 1999; the number climbed to nineteen by 2005; today, the National University Commission lists 50 approved private universities. But, I know there are more than fifty. For instance, the NUC website does not list ANCHOR University in Ogun State. Yet nobody can miss it going to Ibadan from Lagos before reaching Redeem Camp. There will be more on the unlisted private universities later.
Borrowing a leaf from the attempt by private sector assessors, over ten years ago, to find the best American companies, which resulted in the best-selling book, IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE, I decided, four years ago, to go in search of the best universities in Nigeria. Not surprisingly, I have found several good private Nigerian universities – which will feature on these pages. But, please bear in mind that the few highlighted have not exhausted the list of excellent universities in our country – some of which are relatively unknown and un-patronised – even when they have vacancies. For parents, kids, the universities, and Nigeria this is a colossal waste of resources. By my rough estimate, at least half of the $500 million thrown at Ghana can be saved and all the stakeholders will benefit; so will the Nigerian economy.
As can be expected, majority of the private universities are located in the Southwest and Southeast. For reason which I have not yet discovered, the Southsouth has established less than five. Akwa Ibom State has only one. Bayelsa, Delta and Cross River have none. Where is all the revenue allocation on account of 13% derivation, without onshore-offshore dichotomy, for which Victor Attah fought? Or the huge allocations to the NDDC and the Ministry of Niger Delta and the newly created private wealth on account of crude oil theft, by the indigenes, going?
Let me end this segment by providing two teasers arising from my four years of “I went, I looked and I documented” with regard to private universities. First, the arguably best private university is not in the South; it is not even in the Centre of Excellence. It is in the most educationally backward zone in the country – the Northeast. Though in Adamawa State, it is as secure as any campus in the world.
Second, if you are a parent; and you love golf as much as you insist on excellent university education for your kids, then the place to go is Ilara Mokin in Ondo State – home to delightful ELIZADE University and the best private Golf course in the Southwest.. Ilara Mokin is where “Gown meets Town” at the Golf Course.
And, if you need an additional reason to visit ELIZADE University this month, then there is the first Smokin Hills Golf Tournament in Ilara Mokin scheduled for September 20 to 22, 2013. The mission of the organizers is to include it on the global PGA annual tour. Excellent “Gown” and “Golf” in one place – absolutely enchanting!! Conventional wisdom holds it that “one tree does not make a forest”. Wait until you reach Ilara Mokin and see for yourself, how one TREE, Chief Ade Ojo, has made a mighty forest – which is just beginning to spread.
“All political parties die, at last, by swallowing their own lies”. Dr John Arbuthnot, 1667-1735. (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS p 191).
“Madam President”, as one funny fellow had called her, was there; accompanied by her husband. Their presence together would mark a date in the history of Nigeria – the day a great political party disintegrated in the presence of its two most powerful beneficiaries.
I did not bother to watch, on television, the fiasco called PDP convention at Eagle Square, Abuja. Earlier in the week, I had made urgent calls to several sources in the political class and I knew in advance what was going to happen. So, instead, I spent my afternoon at the wedding reception for Tunde Bajulaiye’s kid and then spent the rest of the evening watching Crystal Palace, the underdog, dismantle Sunderland. Unlike, the imminent collapse of the PDP, the English Premiership is compelling drama – you never know what would happen next. Jonathan will clinch the PDP party ticket to run for second term in 2015. But, his opponents have ensured that he will enter that race riding on a severely crippled horse….
P.S. Expect a cabinet shake-up soon. That is only one of the elements of the counter-attack which Jonathan must launch – if he is to survive politically.
“Anybody from the Southsouth, whether Governor or Speaker, or State Chairman of the party or any other person, who does not understand the importance of supporting Jonathan should have his head examined”. Chief Anthony Anenih, Chairman, PDP, BOT.
The PDP gave Edo, Delta, Enugu, Oyo, Bayelsa, Plateau, Abia, Jigawa, Bauchi, etc, governors automatic second term in 2003. Two were convicted; others are still in court for fraud. “Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result”

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