Public Higher Education Governance and Nigeria's Development Agenda: The 12 'aces' Paradox.

Author:Mohammed, Iliyasu Biu


Higher education stands out as the ultimate piece in the pedagogy-learning construct anywhere in the world, the apex being universities, connected with other forms of education institutions as polytechnics, colleges of education, health schools, research institutes, etc. in order to attain their statutory mandates towards national development and transforming lives in global and local context. Though in Nigeria, universities have one goal establishing them: their unique autonomy allows for diverse intents connected to the core goal. Anyanwu et al (1997:599) outline the goals and objectives of universities in Nigeria thus:

  1. Encouragement of the advancement of learning in diverse disciplines;

  2. The development of high level "people power" to meet the identified needs of the economy;

  3. Generation and dissemination of knowledge;

  4. Research relevant to the national and local development problems of the country;

  5. The maintenance and transformation of the cultural heritage of the country through the preservation and adaptation of local traditions and value; and

  6. Public service.

    These goals are not too different from other branches of higher education, as they all lead to one path, 'national interest'. When the purpose of these higher education goals within the axis of national development seem to be on the decline, the obvious is to seek reinvention. Recent demand and supply push factors in Nigeria have seen public and private universities on the rise but with subsisting quality issues in the face of run-down infrastructures, laboratories, libraries in addition to poor information communication technology synergy and hostel accommodation, as well as distorted value systems among staff and students.

    Aside these operative factors, the systemic diseased political and socio-economic character of the Nigerian state suggests a trickle-down effect as public education through all spheres of primary, secondary and tertiary/higher education keeps declining at the rate of private education contrastingly gaining grounds. Anyebe (2015:3) argues that the developmentalist function of Nigeria universities ought to move to the entrepreneurial phase in its objective pursuit of being able to fulfil academic eminence amidst contemporary African universities that deliver quality teaching, research and public service. This may remain deja vu as the older generation universities decline in phases of their perceived 'glory' and the younger universities following in same reverse order.

    Objectives of Study

    This study seeks to attain the following primary intent:

    - To deepen the debate that African and specifically Nigerian higher education needs to reinvent themselves for the type of long-term development required

    - To demonstrate that the twelve (12) newly established Nigerian universities since 2011 may follow the path of "others"

    - Use analogy and narratives to buttress apparent inherent inconsistency (paradox) that may retard Africa's and Nigeria's continued development driven by democracy

    - To put forward the linkages necessary to foster the expectations for 'total' education and development in long view.

    The Twelve New Public Universities in Nigeria

    In more specific terms, the twelve new universities established in 2011 by the Goodluck Jonathan administration is of keen interest herein. These 12 public universities were expected to hold the aces of 'brilliance', 'excellence' and 'first-rate' academic scholarship required to push back the mediocrity trailing earlier existing public universities in all ramifications. Outlining the framework of this concept via its objectives demands congruence with narratives that unveil the reality confronting Nigeria. Wilmot (2005:54) aptly captures this picture thus:

    Despite record-breaking oil prices Nigeria, one of the world's largest exporters, remains near the bottom of the poverty and human development ladders. After earning $300 billion over the past 35 years, the country is poorer today than it was at the beginning of the...

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