By Chinyere Nwachukwu
Lagos – An Ilorin-based legal practitioner, Malam Yusuf Ali, says Nigeria becoming an industrialised nation in the future rested on the shoulders of “egg heads’’ in the country’s institutions of higher learning.
Ali made the assertion while delivering the 10th annual lecture of the School of Postgraduate Studies of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) with the theme: “Governance and Democracy in Nigeria’’.
According to him, universities are microcosms of the larger society which some of the drawbacks are the same with the nation.
He noted that conversely, this had affected the quality of education in the country.
“It is therefore on the stakeholders to think about what constitutional, institutional and legal reforms that will be necessary for us to achieve good governance.
“The kind that will transform, protect and finally develop the higher education system in the country.
“There is the need to ensure a mass mobilisation of all available human and material resources for development.
“The quality of governance should be recognised as fundamental in ensuring the quality of higher education and good governance should also be important as a determinant of the sustainability and strength of institutions.
“The market for students is both expanding and changing, while competition from a much wider range of providers becomes more intense,’’ said the Associate Lecturer at the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN).
Ali said that it was within this more demanding environment that the internal governance of higher education was being reassessed.
According to him, Nigeria’s institutions of higher learning need to be able to develop clear organisational strategies backed by decisive and coordinated implementations if they are to survive and thrive.
“What makes the challenge for the leaders, if anything, more demanding is the inherent nature of a university’s mission as first and foremost, a generator of knowledge and a community of learning.
“Effective leadership must take that community with it as university leadership will fail if it leaves academic interest behind.
“The governance of higher education in the 21st century needs to develop a fusion of academic mission and executive capacity, rather than substitute one for the other.
“The institutions must develop the capacity to face the challenges of the 21st century with appropriate tools.
“Universities having successful graduates are dependent on the quality of the teachers and the programmes that the universities offer.
“Thus, invariably demands that good governance and democracy be entrenched in our institutions,’’ Ali said.
On some of the challenges militating against institutions of learning, Ali noted that there was an urgent need for the government to strive to reach the UNESCO benchmark of funding of education.
He noted that for the country’s institutions of higher learning to join the League of Ivy League institutions, well to do persons, industries, foundations and trusts must come in to help in funding the institutions.
Ali said that lack of drive for excellence was a grave bane in most institutions.
He added that this could be attributed to the fact that most of the staff, especially lecturers found themselves in the system, not as a result of passion for the job, but lack of better employment.
He said that lack of meritocracy and reward system was also a challenge in the growth of institutions of higher learning and the education system in general.
“Where there is no system in place that recognises meritocracy, which covers both reward for hard work, honesty and diligence by citizens and reward for whistle blowers who expose corrupt practices, governance will not be easy to come by,’’ he said.
Contributing, the Pro Chancellor and Chairman, Board of Governing Council of UNILAG, Dr Wale Babalakin, said that the beginning of the reformation of Nigeria must start from the university system.
He said that there was the need for members of the academia and indeed the general public to take the guest lecturer’s exposee as a stepping stone in fixing Nigeria.
The Vice-Chancellor of the institution, Prof. Rahamon Bello, said there was need to encourage due process in governance.
He said that transparency and accountability should be the watch word of any leadership, adding that it was only through this that the country’s quest for national transformation and development would be realised. (NAN)