How Boko Haram bombed the ‘great’ in OAU

By Yinka Odumakin

AFTER close to 30 years I found myself entering offices at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and I returned with a broken heart seeing what the original Boko Haram (Western civilisation is sin) has done to a once national headquarters of authentic intellectual culture and a hotbed of progressive activism.
I speak of the Great Ife of yore where many of us honed our radical engagement, the place Prof. Jubril Aminu, one time National Universities Commission, NUC, Secretary and later Education Minister called “Ife fortress”.
It was a fortress of radical and progressive ideas. I recall some 29 years ago (I hope the mean-spirited,venomous bully and insufferable windbag quarreling with “thirty years” history read this!) when King Moshoeshoe of Lesotho was visiting Nigeria and the then Head of state General Ibrahim Babangida ordered the authorities of the University to award him a degree. The letter to the Vice-chancellor got into the union’s hands and Mr. Dele Momodu who was under going a Masters study in Ife then and working with African Concord magazine came around. As the PRO of the students union,I gave him a copy of the letter with a promise that we would not allow the king to take a degree from Ife because of his pro-apartheid stance.

Certificate printing company
Nelson Mandela was still in prison then and we were campaigning for his release . We also had some ANC cadres who were schooling in Ife then with whom we shared ideas regularly on the South African struggle. The story made the front of African Concord magazine with the headline “Give The King A Degree: Awo varsity Students Say No”. The story carried my exact words viz”We will not allow our university to be turned into a certificate printing company where every Tom, Dick and Harry can pick a degree at a dictator’s request”.
Immediately the publication was out, the late Ooni of Ife,Oba Okunade Sijuwade invited Messrs Fred Adegoke and Yemi Adegbite (Secretary and President of the students union) and I to his palace and passionately pleaded with us to allow the university to confer the degree as Babangida had promised to give some special grant on account of the conferment. We politely told Kabiyesi that if Babangida were to give the entire budget for the year to our school we would still not allow the award because Moshoeshoe was pro-apartheid.
That was the end of the whole attempt as Babangida had to approach Prof. Grace Alele-Williams to dole out the award at the University of Benin.
That was the power of Ife. A citadel of learning where the Buhari-Idiagbon military regime became uncomfortable with COBRA which was the least serious students magazine on campus in those days. That not a whimper comes from that institution these days in the face of the many challenges facing our country is a befitting tribute to the Boko Haram ideology that reared its head against the culture of true learning in our country from the middle of the 70s.
When I returned to our Ife last week, it was a famished environment. There were still essentially the same structures ( a few new structures here and there) but mostly weather beaten. A lot of the students seen around were not so radiant as you would find in those days with many dressed in second-hand clothing.

My first point of call was the office of Prof.Gbemi Adeoti, an old classmate who is now Dean of Faculty of Arts. His secretary told me he was in a meeting that has been on for long.I left the papers I wanted him to sign and my card so I could go to the Senate Building to sort out a few things. When I returned he was on the corridor talking with some colleague-professors who were heads of departments. The little I heard them saying communicated to me that they had been meeting over non-functional toilets!
From his office I went to see Prof. Alade Fawole in the Department of International Relations. The Faculty of Administration though neat has also lost its shine of yore. The Professor in the course of our discussion called my attention to the fact that the Senate Building at Ife remains the tallest building in Osun state and it is doubtful if a taller building can be found in neighbouring Ondo and Ekiti states. This showed that we have put nothing on the vision of Awo.

First Philsophy Department
I also stopped by at Professor Yunusa Kehinde Salami’s office. He is the Head of Philosophy Department whom I knew as Post-Graduate student in our undergraduate days. I asked him about the whereabout of perhaps one of the phenomenal teacher in the history of that department, Dr. Dipo Fashina popularly known as “Jingo”. His response was a reminder of all that is wrong with us as a country. He told me Dr. Fashina had retired from Ife and he is starting the first Philosophy department in a northern University at Ahmadu Bello University, ABU. First Philosophy department? He explained to me that from Unilorin down to Unisokoto, there is no Philosophy department. And that in the rest of the South outside Southwest, Philosophy is taught as a combine course in most universities.

Regional universities
That was the moment to remember General Olusegun Obasanjo who started the process of the original Boko Haram agenda against university education in our country . It was under him that the regional universities were taken over and placed under a Federal Government formed out of clash of civilisations. Then Naval Captain Akin Aduwo was removed as Governor of Western region because he dithered over Obasanjo command to surrender Ife to the Federal Government.The Aminus took over the reins of universities and began the process of uniformity of docility.They flushed out “lecturers who were teaching what they are not paid to teach”,pulling down the “fortresses” and firmly erecting a future of universities that are not relevant to the community.The whole process of “almajarisation” of our university system is now complete.

When one looks at what has happened to our universities today, one cannot but remember the Queen city of the western Sudan and the intellectual nucleus of the Songhai Empire called Timbuktu. The greatest days of Timbuktu came about in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. At this time African scholars enjoyed a renaissance that was known and respected throughout most of Africa and in parts of Europe…..

This article was first published in Vanguard Newspaper.

Disclaimer: This article expresses only the opinion of the author  (s)  . The views in the article do not reflect the opinion of www.ekimogunmirror.com or any of its employee.

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