The images that rushed at me when I heard the name, University of Abuja, were images redolent with the Abuja razzmatazz. I had reckoned that as the nation’s capital and centre of unity, I shouldn’t be too castigated for expecting that its university should be a reasonable representative of the city’s ambience. I did not also expect to be thought stupid for assuming that as billions of naira were sunk in constructing those imposing edifices housing officials and machinery of government, it should not stand reason on its head to expect concomitant development in that very sensitive area of human capital development – a university. For me, proximity and assumptions based on this error in this reasoning process led me to contemplate pursuing a third degree there. But thank heavens, I have not invested my hard-earned cash in that forlorn exercise as it would have been a costly mistake. Pardon me, my academic antecedents both from the Benin and Lagos universities were built on high standards of scholarship and our degrees [like most of other universities] were awarded via sweat and toil. Based on my conviction that a University of Abuja should be one also constructed and nurtured with this sort of ideological and academic template, I had gone ahead too quickly to recommend it to some young people close to me.
But if we’re all to think along the lines of the University of Abuja’s physical landscape, we will miss my point. The best schools in the world, Oxford, Princeton, Harvard, MIT, are not the best schools because they have imposing buildings no. Rather, most of these schools boast some of the oldest building in Europe and America, where some erudite scholars once conducted researches and experiments leading to many breakthroughs in science and technology. These schools tick because they drink from the deep waters of knowledge and the academic culture initiated by the progenitors of the university system.
Now, I know many of us can vouch that some of our universities are world class, with very specific reference to the University of Abuja. When it was set up January 1, 1988, the idea was that the university will be an agglutination of scholarship and an emulsifying factor for unity. It was supposed to conduct a unique blend of conventional and distance learning programmes, fashioned after the modules prevalent in the civilized world. However, investigations conducted by Bob MajiriOghene Communications, and some things I saw with my korokoro eyes, I am certain that the sundry cases of official sleaze expressed via sundry accusations of fraud in the admission processes in the University is room for worry.
Take the example of some distraught candidates who visited my office recently. According to one of them, she scored 250 in the University matriculation examinations. In the course of writing the exam, she said she noticed her fellow candidates initiating an intense lobby for admission. She said that for admission, a female student had to sleep with a university official or pay a hefty sum. I dismissed all of this as that familiar story that makes the rounds whenever ladies write and fail exams. They eventually and heap the blames on a lecturer. I advised this lady to go her way and wait for the results of her exam.
She took my advice. But next time she made contact, she blamed me for dissuading her from paying her way through the admission process. She said she had scored very high marks and I was responsible for not allowing her ‘follow up’. I couldn’t believe it and asked her to send me her particulars for the post-UME. When I checked online for her result, she scored a pretty 70 marks. Surely, her name must be on the merit list, mustn’t it?
So I visited the mini campus of the University in Gwagwalada. The first thing I saw sobered me – yes the results were there but were on a shack, all torn and scattered on the floor and covered with dust. I retraced my steps, wondering perhaps that this must be a primary school with the results of an entrance exam posted. Hell no, this was [and is] the mini campus of the University of Abuja! Well, I shrugged this initial shock off and struck a pose like one ready to defecate in the bush [all the candidates had to squat like this] to get a good look at the results. Of the193 that made the dust-covered and tattered merit list for Law, I saw a wide range of scores from 101, 75, 60, and 50 with the candidates’ state of origin written against their names. This lady’s name was not there.
I couldn’t understand what was going on so I headed to the University’s law faculty to see the Head of Department. He was not there but I gathered that this lady’s case was not a peculiar case. Some university staff told me that their wards, family members and children too who scored higher marks were not admitted as well. According to one who chose to remain anonymous, the selection process is often mired in controversy apparently because of the secrecy that went with it. ‘If the university’s admission body is transparent, why not let everyone know what the conditions are and reduce the level of speculations that shrouds the process?’ the anonymous staff member asked me. ‘Why not put all of these results on the internet? Why put everyone across the country that chose the University of Abuja through the risk and ardour of traveling down to check these results that candidates had already bought scratch cards for?’
Why ask me? Am I the VC? So off to the VC’s we went. At the VC’s, his secretary did not allow me see him, preferring that I discuss with a junior official instead. That official had no answers to the weighty allegations being peddled around that his school is a Mecca for the human vultures exploiting hapless young people seeking admission. I had hoped that at least he would be there to debunk the stories making the rounds that his lecturers rip marks off the good students and sell them out rightly to the lousy ones. Maybe he would do so now.