Nigeria: Federal universities as agents of tribalism, disunity-By NASIR EL-RUFAI

Nasir El -Rufai
Late professor Chinua Achebe in his fiercely controversial but facts-packed civil war account and biographical book, There was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra, indicted the intellectuals of Nigeria thus: intellectuals in Nigeria were [and are] the worst peddlers of tribalism.’’ As if this denunciation wasn’t enough, the great wordsmith in details narrated the rather insalubrious roles towering scholars such as: Awolowo, Kenneth Onwuka Dike, Aminu Kano, Gabriel Okara, Cyprian Ekwensi, Francis Ellah, Sir Louis Mbanefo, Zik of Africa, Christopher and his brother Pious Okigbo, Anthony Enahoro and unfortunately Achebe himself and others played in kick-starting and perpetuating the Nigerian civil war that killed approximately four million of our country men, women and children within a timeframe of just thirty-six months.
Somehow, Achebe by omission or commission, did not record in his book, the roles minority rights activists and brains like Ken Saro-Wiwa and Captain ElechiAmadi played during the civil war. The books: On a Darkling Plain and Sunset at Biafra,were the entities where Saro-Wiwa and Amadi respectively recorded their self-righteousness. It was so unfortunate that it was essentially only professor Wole Soyinka that defeated sectional and emotional sentimentalisms with his book-knowledge to call on both sides to sheathe their swords of war. When Soyinka’s peace and conflict resolution and management moves to stop the civil war became unsuccessful, he, unlike most of the intellectuals of those days stepped aside.
If I am allowed to apportion culpability, I will give 70 percent of the cause of the civil war to our intellectuals. The saddest thing is that; unrepentantly, the intellectuals narrated their near war-crime activities in their post-civil war books. Because public opinion has not taken time to scrutinize the noxious activities of this community—the intellectuals, in Nigeria they are still basking in the euphoria of their trade which is the promotion of disunity and tribalism. Besides teaching/learning and characters moulding of the youths, the federal universities are also set up to make our brand of federalism (unity-in-diversity) to work so well like its counterparts in other jurisdictions. A federal university is a melting pot, it is a centre of multiculturalism and postmodernism that bubbles with the mixture of aged and novel ideas and ideals.
Unfortunately, the federal universities in Nigeria are now the major workshops where the intellectuals of Nigeria manufacture and distribute their nation-annihilating trade of anti-unity. The 26th February, 1965, announcement (actively supported by the intellectuals) that relieved Dr EniNjoku (an Igbo) as the VC of the University of Lagos to be replaced by Dr Saburi O. Biobaku (a Yoruba) was the genesis of the end of our federal universities backed nation-building experiment. At present virtually all our federal universities are manned by intellectuals that are from the communities [or states] that the universities are sited because most of them believe it is their fundamental human right. The recent University of Benin VC’s appointment debacle (that the new VC was/is not acceptable because he is not a Benin man) is a modern example of the abysmal rot and debauchery in our universities. Our scholars in most of the federal universities are stone blind to merit and good faith when competing for promotions and positions.
At present most of the Deans of Faculties and Heads of Departments of the federal universities are appointed on the bases of ethnicity and geography. Principal non-academic staff appointments have also jettisoned merit for tribal or mere geographic origins of the applicants. All these waywardness of the intellectuals have resulted in a situation where 90 percent of students in most faculties and departments of the federal universities are from the same tribe or from the same terrestrial geographical area. Therefore, the federal universities are now incubating centre of what will finally explode Nigeria to oblivion. The seeds that disintegrated the former Yugoslavia were mostly planted by the intelligentsia in their various enclaves’ of learning and equally the genocide in Rwanda was orchestrated by the help of the universities’ dons.

The rate at which federal universities in Nigeria breed sectionalism and tribalism is very alarming, the intellectuals do all these disservices to the nation with reckless abandon. Senior lecturers are now comfortable speaking or using local languages as channels of communication in the classes. They promote stereotypes and prejudice in the lecture theatres with spineless highbrow rigour that transform and transfix the unsuspecting students to ‘hate-preachers’and ‘anti-federalists’ with bigoted Orpheus complexes. This explains why student unionism and even students’ faculties and departmental associations’ leadership elections have been reduced to nativism and an exaggerated clannish fraternity.
Consequently, the Federal Ministry of Education and the National Universities Commission should as a matter of urgency do something drastic to help the nation; because what the intellectuals are doing to this nation in our federal ivory towers is worse than what the crude oil illegal bunkers and the Boko Haram militants are doing. This is because the intellectuals are paid monthly, they are respected and their heinous and unpatriotic nation-devastating poisons are pumped into the future leaders of our nation cunningly and as gospel truths.

Like the nine new federal universities with VCs that are not from the localities that the universities are sited; the VCs of all federal universities should be shuffledgeo-politically. The ones from the north should be sent to the south and vice-versa. Also, 20 percent of all lecturers in any of the federal universities should be from other states, for instance, 20 percent of lecturers in UNN and UNIPORT should be northerners. The most important thing however, is that any reform(s) that will be devised to help free the federal universities from the leprotic grip of the dyed-in-the-wool tribalistic literati should be backed by law.

English poet, playwright and literary critic John Dryden (1631-1700) admonished; “all delays are dangerous in war” therefore, all hands must be on deck now to get rid of the Sword of Damocles the academics have been hanging on the nation courtesy of their detrimental activities in the federal universities. According to philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952): “progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness”, he therefore warned: “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. I rest my case.

via Peoplesdaily
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