Thursday, September 22, 2011

Let's Rebuild University of Ibadan

For many years now, geographers, climatologist and meteorologists have been warning about climate change occasioned by ozone layer depletion. We were warned about change in weather pattern and that there will be unusual rise in water levels and flash flooding. Our governments did little or nothing to prepare for the likely consequences of the climate change. Yes, we have National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) but how many states have their Emergency Management Agencies? How well-funded are our disaster management agencies especially the Federal and State Fire Services across the country? As I write this, after over 50 years of oil explorations, gas flaring continue unabated in the Niger Delta, there is growing desertification in the Northern Nigeria causing drought and threat to food security. I do hope we will not wait for Tsunami and Hurricane before taken pre-emptive actions.

Ibadan in Oyo State witnessed backlash of climate change on Friday, August 26, 2011. A seven hour torrential rain wreaked havoc on the ancient town. Houses were destroyed, roads, bridges, culverts were washed away, property worth billions of Naira were lost, thousands of people displaced and over one hundred died in the deluge. My alma-mater too was not spared in the disaster. My beloved University of Ibadan, the premier university in Nigeria, established in 1948 suffered destruction in the neighbourhood of N10 billion. The incumbent Vice Chancellor of the Ivory Tower, Professor Isaac Adewole in a statement issued to press and published by many newspapers in their edition of Wednesday, August 31, 2011 said that the loss was so much that the management had appealed to the Federal and State governments as well as individual and corporate organisations for assistance.

According to the V.C: “The major calamity suffered by the university include the washing away of the Fish Farm with different species of fish valued at about N300 million, over flooding of the Zoological Garden, leading to the death of animals, extensive damage of the Teaching and Research Farm and the destruction of books estimated to the tune of N2 billion. Besides, many gigantic buildings, laboratories and expensive equipment were destroyed by the flood which equally pulled down the university fence and 13 electricity poles, thereby compounding the hitherto poor electricity supply to the institution.” The Vice Chancellor added that the disaster also affected students living at the Obafemi Awolowo Hall, especially those in ground floor and topmost floor. Corroborating the V.C, Head of Department of Fishery, Dr Bamidele Omitoye, said that special species of fish such as claias gariepinus, heterobranchus bidorsalis, oreochromis niloticus and parachana obscura were swept away.

Ibadan is very dear to my heart. It is the land of my birth where I was also nurtured. All my schoolings were done in the ancient town with the exception of my first degree which I did at the prestigious University of Lagos. Before my admission to study for my Masters degree in the University of Ibadan, my first contacts with UI as the institution is fondly called are my family’s regular visits to the Zoological Garden during the festive period. At Easter, Christmas or New Year my family often form part of the annual pilgrimage to the Ibadan Zoo. For us, it is our primary contact with many of the wild animals and birds. If not for Ibadan Varsity Zoo, I would only have seen Lion, Elephant, Ostrich, Peacock, Monkeys, Gorilla and wide variety of snakes in films and documentaries on satellite television stations.

When I read about the calamity that befell UI, I could not resist the urge to canvass for the support of the Greatest UItes both at home and in Diaspora on the planned restoration of the destroyed assets. University of Ibadan is in its 63rd year of existence and has graduated hundreds of thousands of students from its various programmes spanning certificate, diploma and degree courses. I believe the Federal and State governments will assist the University to rebuild damaged infrastructure but considering the enormity of the loss, University of Ibadan Alumni Association has a lot to do as well. The Alumni Association both at the national and State level need to partner with the University of Ibadan authority to reach out to graduates of the school to come to the aid of their alma mater.

The school management also has to organise a fundraiser to rebuild the school. That apart, all the blue chip companies in Nigeria, both foreign and local should be formally written to donate generously to the rebuilding project of the premier varsity. The donation should not be limited to cash but also inclusive of materials. For instance, if the books that were lost could be identified in a database, UI authorities could write to their publishers to donate such books to the institution. Philanthropic organisations and individuals could also be formally contacted to help rebuild some of the destroyed hostels, auditoriums and laboratories. Corporate entities and public spirited individuals could also donate laboratory equipments, animals and fishes that need to be replaced.

Staff and students of the university are also not left out of the restoration agenda.
Staffs could donate 5 -10 per cent of their salary in a month to the rebuilding project. This could be deducted at source for easy accountability. The University management should therefore reach out to Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU), Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and other labour unions on campus to agree to the salary deduction for the sole purpose of restoring lost facilities. As regards students, UI authorities should partner with the student unions on campus to get their buy in for the compulsory development levy. The levy could be as little as N1, 000 for certificate, diploma and degree students, N2, 000 for Masters Degree students and N5, 000 for doctoral students. All these could be done over a six month period. However, all financial and kind gestures must be made public and accounted for. The N10 million donation from Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN who is the University’s Pro-Chancellor is exemplary and laudable. More help is still desired. I will do mine in due course, what about you, other greatest of the greatest UItes?