“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Being a student is a great thing for many obvious reasons. But being a student of the University of Ibadan is a greater thing. This is not only because it is the Premier University or because it is the best the nation has on its soil, but because, asides being ranked fourteenth best in Africa, it is the fountainhead to some of the best brains Africa prides herself with. Amazingly, asides the school’s numerouno status among the comity of institutions in Nigeria, it once ruled Africa and once gave the Ivy League of Institutions around the world a run for their money. Though the story of yesteryear’s glory cannot be said to have gone totally awry but it certainly has been coated in gory colours.
And like Nigeria herself is still groping in the darkness of educational negligence, the school’s current state is a reflection of the state of the nation. While the blame finger can be quick to point its way to the government nay management, the students are not exonerated from the bite of the blame pie. They certainly have a chew and a swallow in it. Yes, the government may not be waking up to its responsibility to adequately fund the educational sector. Yes, the management have also been sleeping on the warfront; they have been minoring in major and majoring in minor. Agreed! This is where we often look each time the chips are down. You see, students too have their faults. Shall we then, for once, cut ourselves some slack too?
Being in the students’ comity exposes one to an array of anomalies, vague to those outside their folds. One of them is the management of school amenities. In the name of ‘I paid for it’ or ‘after all, it is neither mine nor my parents’; it is the government’s,’ students starve school-owned properties with insouciant maintenance culture. This is the reason we often see seats of many lecture theatres in shatters. The hinge of the door to my room, for instance, has long been dislodged from its frame. Not because it was not properly fixed but because I have roommates who chose to ensure it is so for easy entry and exit because they had no key. Currently as I write, the door itself has been completely dislodged from its frame.
This carefree attitude of my recalcitrant roommates is a badge ingrained on the skin of many of us. Mind you, when I say ‘we’, I mean we — myself inclusive. In our lecture rooms, we bang and mishandle the furniture therein as though they were made without money. In our Halls of Residence, we litter the floor, cross the lawn, deluge the lawn behind our rooms to become a slog. In our lavatory, we mess things up. Rather than allow water to wash down our focal matters down the tunnel, we allow them to float and await the next pair of retinas to lock gaze with them. We do worse things than these. And trust the management, if there is something they hardly keep a date with, it is repair.
Meanwhile, as it is up, so it is down. The management ineptness battling those at the echelon of our academic affairs has its root from the grassroots, the students. I have seen a Hall Chairman leave his room, flanked by two ladies (female Tedderites someone called them), all heading for the exit of the Hall in the early hours of a day. More often than not – if not too often – we hear of disconcerting cases of misappropriation among students. The delusory Janglass gate in the Faculty of the Social Sciences still trails our memory like afternoon shadow. January 16, 2015, TheCable revealed to us the heartrending tale of some so-called youth leaders fighting over a two million Naira ‘gift’ from Governor Abiola Ajimobi.
Just two months before that, the same crop of individuals also scrambled for a sum of 500,000 Naira from the same ‘philanthropist’. It is in the same institution wherein we were shocked by the news about some faculty executives who unabashedly claimed that they spent 40,000 Naira to buy kolanuts for some Chiefs at Ooni’s palace. At other times, the funds do not walk their ways into the itchy palms of some thievery genius per se; they just travel to not-too-worthwhile corners. They get spent on parties, dinners, concerts and other lavish, frivolous ventures. They are used to promote intellectual numbness and nadir of mediocrity. They are lost to few minutes of noisy razzmatazz from ‘stars’ who dazzle their fans in the night, and are gone before daybreak. Many of them have forgotten that only a person with head can haggle and shop for caps.
Yet, unfortunately though, and sadly too, we are quick to fault the efforts of the management whenever things go wrong. If things must change, then how we think and do things must also change. If the rhythm of the music on our lips must change, the resonance of its beats must not remain unchanged.
I’m not opining that schooling should be bereaved of such things as dinner and its ilk. Of course not. But when our choices are to be weighted on a scale of preference, our cerebral proclivity should always outweigh our visceral propensity. It is a matter of setting our priority right. And of course, because what plays out in the microcosm scene on our campuses is what grows to the macrocosm scene, we have to get it right from the grassroots.
We can blame or curse Olayinka for all we like. We can heap the blames on Buhari for all our woes. We can badmouth those in the political class for failing us, the younger generation as we deem fit. For all we want, we can indict our lecturers for taking our wizardry in la cram la pour to the next level. Every time we do these, we can sure always be justified. But, we must not forget that they are from among us. They are one of us; they are not aliens. Their antics sprouted from what they grew up to learn as youths.
So, our justification will always be unjust if we are not responsive to our responsibilities. It therefore goes that you have to be the Nigerian with the kind of instinct upon which you want Nigeria to flourish. Better put: be what you want Nigeria to be. I’m not suggesting it will be easy. Neither am I saying it will happen in a short while. But it can happen – eventually. What we need is progressive, sincere, resolute conviction to act right. It won’t be easy, no doubt. But with these bold steps, gradually, we would match our way into the future of our choice — a future which students and youths are at the forefront of societal development, that which we’ve always craved for ourselves and the generation yet unborn. Exactly as the insignia for HIV/AIDS goes: to attain the Nigeria of your dream, it begins with you and me!