I never got to know Pius Adesanmi before his demise. Not even through his books or social media handles. At his demise, I read Facebook posts that related Adesanmi’s displeasure over the height of mediocrity in Nigeria.
I make bold to say that Nigerians enjoy mediocrity. It is a way of life. It is honey in the sweetest tea Nigerians sip. With this lifestyle, I tend to doubt the success of this nation. Many of us might want to be religious and say God forbid. See, I am also a religious person. But as well, I am a moralist. The bible declares in Romans 6:1-2, “shall sin continue that grace may abound? God forbid!”
We want the best of life but we cannot salvage it. As citizens, we expect to have a graceful nation filled with splendor but we cannot make that happen. To make Nigeria a serving and deserving nation, then we need to break free from the loins of mediocrity. “Ibaje yii ti wowa lewu bi aso”* (We are so used to mediocrity that we make it a way of life).
Growing up, my father always mentions what he calls “the eight stabilizing agents of society.” At a point, I remembered he wrote them in a sheet of paper and told me to keep and memorize these agents. These agents include
— the bar – Nigeria Bar Association(of lawyers)
— the academics – primary and secondary schools, universities, polytechnics (professors, lecturers and teachers)
— the obas and the traditional rulers
— the press and media
— the Professional Body and Association (PBAs’)
— the youths/ students
— the non-governmental organizations (NGOs), churches, and other religious authorities
— the trade/ labour unions
Amongst these eight, I would like to focus on academics specifically the universities. I have known Nigerian universities for being a place of impunity and mediocrity (I am sorry to say this, but I am still not convinced).
As an undergraduate, I disliked the way my lecturers taught my classmates and me. Some of them prefer to call for an eight o’clock class and arrive at ten o’clock or nine-thirty in the morning. In the end, the class gets canceled. A lecturer would even teach a semester French literature course in one day. Who teaches literature this way? Another would prefer to attend political campaigns and not teach for the larger part of the semester and then still make up tough exam questions. I saw this ineptitude and I never expected more from my lecturers. These are some of the teachers we have in our universities and we expect to have a “magic wand” transform Nigeria’s educational system to match up with the twenty-first-century standards.
The most annoying part of this mediocre structure is the administrative and management of school affairs. Imagine, applying for your transcript and it takes you a whole full month to get it. A month of going and coming. A month of helter-skelter. You cannot even trust the system to get things done on your behalf without having to send someone to do it for you. It is that crazy. It is annoying. Administrative process such as this should be organized and structured. One should be able to make a call from a faraway distance and trust that something would happen without one worrying about flops.
Nigerian universities run blog-like websites in this era of advance information technology (IT) management. I am sorry to say that some blogs such as Bellanaija are better off than that of some Nigerian universities. These universities run websites that are not interactive. One cannot swiftly read about department programs and requirements just with a click. The landing pages are awkward and the user interface designs are just not attractive. These universities at the end pride themselves as very good schools. No wonder, it is difficult to have a Nigerian university rank as one of the top five hundred (500) universities in the world.
In this age and time, most of our university students do not have access to academic databases for research. These same universities pride themselves as research-based universities. I heard of a university that compelled students to pay six thousand (6, 000) naira for free on- campus internet access and at the moment, the school is yet to provide this access. Why demand students to pay when there is no standard internet service implementation in place? This is also the mediocrity in the educational system. They want to “chop money” early without working. No wonder the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) scream for a salary increase at the expense of curriculum review.
Many of these universities continue to state that they are promoting technological and entrepreneurial skills without making sure the school itself is running optimally technologically. They liaise with some so-called development agencies to foster training without mending the poor curriculum, poor lecturing, poor teachers, poor laboratories, poor websites, and poor internet facility before aiming for the utopian that they cannot create. Everyone wants to talk about industry 4.0 with the true training of her officers and tools. Sincerely, I am here laughing in Nigerian Pidgin.
At what point do we begin to acknowledge that Nigerian universities help propagate mediocrity? When do we begin to call these vice-chancellors out to make sure they do the needful. When do we begin to tell our lecturers that we no longer want to see their abroad pictures but the implementation and the impartation of the learning garnered at “the abroad” conference in the university and students? When? I ask.
If this chain of mediocrity continues to endure, I hope we survive it.
*** These story expresses the writer’s personal experiences, opinions, and perception of issues. And so, might not represent everyone ‘s understanding and perception of issues.