By Anthony Arugba
University education in any clime requires huge capital outlay. And as it is a common knowledge, universities are not established for profit making but for the purpose of knowledge advancement. Even those that have been established by prominent and well-meaning Nigerians, will not realize the dividends of their investment until after 30 to 50 years. If an individual wants quick economic returns on a business, the person needs not go into university business because such investment is for the future of young generation. As a university proprietor, you are involved in the training of leaders of tomorrow.
Logically speaking, running a university is not like going to Onitsha or Aba Market, where you pick an item from the shelve for N3 and sell for N10, thus making a profit of N7. It is rather unfortunate that a great university as Ambrose Alli University, AAU which is about the 3rd in the list of state universities established in the 80s to have been brought so low by a governor who is supposedly an alumnus of the foremost university in Nigeria, the great University of Ibadan.
Ambrose Alli University formerly known as Bendel State University (BENSU) was founded and nurtured by Ali of blessed memory, and successive governors including Chief John Odigie Oyegun, Prof. Osunbor , Chief Lucky Igbinedion, and the restless Comrade Adams Oshiomole, and even the past military administrators financed the university. The question to ask is, what will Governor Godwin Obaseki gain from embarking on stealthy liquidation of AAU?
The wage bill of the university is #474,000,000 on monthly basis. The governor was initially giving the Management of AAU #271,000,000 as subvention, which means they had to augment monthly to pay workers salaries. Obaseki then reduced the amount to #96, 000, 000 and further reduced it to a paltry #41,000,000 now. Where and how does he want the management to get money to finance the institution? How can AAU pay staff salaries with meager #41,000,000 in today’s Nigeria? Ladies and gentlemen, we are bearing witness to the systematic dissection of AAU by Obaseki. It’s only a matter of time, perhaps, before the university goes into extinction.
Since 2021 began, AAU has been on strike. The non-teaching staff-Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) and Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) have been on strike for the better part of 2021. They were merely paid half salaries after months of untold hardship.
Now, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), has joined their counterpart in the strike due to same problem, owed salaries, grinding academic activities completely. The great AAU has become a shadow of it former self. The place now look dilapidated and abandoned. It looks like a grave yard all thanks to the charismatic Governor Obaseki.
If AAU were a political venture, Obaseki will not hesitate to finance it. Regrettably, the average politician is not altruistic in terms of policy conception and behavioral tendencies. The average politician in Nigeria, of which Obaseki perfectly fits the bill is an exemplum of the selfish inclination of mankind. A politician can spend or do whatever it takes to get power. It is only on rare occasions you see some politicians doing things that will enhance the well-being of the poor masses. It is unfortunate that Obaseki allegedly spent #6billion to purchase ticket from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) when he was denied ticket in the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) just to satisfy his ego or being referred to as two time governor of Edo State.
Again, haven being re-elected as a two time governor, it will cost him nothing to provide quality leadership to the people of Edo State. He was re-elected to provide services to enhance the well-being of Edo people. Edo is one of the front line Southern states, where people yearn for education like a running stream. It is one of those states where the younger ones want to acquire education since they know it will provide the pathway to enhance their own future existence.
The management of AAU should write to NUC to intervene in the matter. If they decide to write to the Edo State Assembly, it will be an effort in futility because the state House of Assembly is rubber stamp. The Assembly cannot call Obaseki to order. In fact, governors dictate to state Assemblies what to do. Alternatively, the AAU authorities should embark on fund raising ceremonies. AAU has great alumni’s like Tony Elumelu, Aisha Buhari, Wife of the President, Festus Keyamo, Ali Baba, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, Don Jazzy and co because this is the time the institution needs their help, not support as the institution is going into extinction. The time to act is now. The great AAU should not be left to die. It will be a great disservice not just to humanity but to the black race. AAU was a pathfinder in the provision of education in the old Bendel State. Those who were denied admission into federal universities because of the prevalent quota system, found solace in the then BENSU and its been performing its role until now. It is even more unfortunate that in the run up to its 40th anniversary, AAU is embroiled in interminable crisis, occasioned by poor financial provision by the supposed Visitor and Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki. Another reason why this embarrassing scenario is playing out now is due to the establishment of Edo State University, Iyamho. It is wrong for any state to contemplate the idea of having more than one state university, except the state is very rich. Even when the state is very rich, it is still difficult because education is financial intensive. Maybe, if Iyamho wasn’t established, it would have been much more easier to finance the sole university at Ekpoma. Sadly, due to political considerations, AAU is bearing the brunt. Oshiomole wanted to score a political point too by leaving a permanent legacy for Etsako people, his own people.
Obaseki should raise money to finance AAU or best go to the capital market to secure a loan. Edo people should cry out like women in travail, particular the Esan people on whose land the varsity is located.
…Anthony Arugba, a journalist writes from Asaba and can be reached via 08066021395 (Text only)