the good old days, when many of the nation’s decision makers of today were still in the university or polytechnic, whether in Nigeria or abroad, they justifiably had the sense of “I have arrived”.

The kinds of food easily available to all categories of students on the campuses did more than fill their stomachs; they were also delicious. Indeed, secondary school students and those studying privately at home had enough motivation in the socio-economic conditions of students of institutions of higher learning to work harder at their studies in order to join them.

The basic necessities of life were taken for granted because they were easily available within the academic environment then. The  social, economic and political conditions within and outside the campuses were very favourable.

In those days, when a student was leaving a tertiary institution, his major headache was not where or how to get a job. Rather, it was how to make the right choice of where to work.

Those were the days that almost everything could be said to be working well in the country. They were the days that sanity reigned in all sectors and every one felt proud to be a Nigerian.

To today’s students of institutions of higher learning in Nigeria, the above situation might sound like a tale from outer space or a mere fiction.

One happening during the recent official visit of the wife of the Vice President, Mrs. Titi Atiku Abubakar, to Ado-Ekiti, vividly demonstrated the painful reality of poverty in Nigeria’s institutions of higher learning today, which, of course, is an accurate reflection of the larger society.

According to reports, some obviously poverty-stricken students of the Federal Polytechnic , Ado-Ekiti, at the venue of the official function, perhaps wondering whether they actually belonged to the same Nigeria with the privileged woman and members of her entourage, started shouting “money! money! money!” when the woman thought that all she needed to do was to wave and say bye to the students.

An obviously embarrassed or confused Mrs. Atiku was said to have promptly ordered one of her aides to give the students some undisclosed amount of money.

If the shouting of “money! money! money!” was a reflection of the needy condition of the students, what happened after the windfall was received  brought out what can be regarded as the shame of a nation.

According to the reports, a female student who, perhaps, had been stripped off her dignity by poverty, snatched the money from the hand of Mrs. Atiku’s aide and attempted to bolt away with it. But her fellow students were also too hungry to allow her escape with the windfall. They pursued her, caught up with her, beat her up and stripped her naked before they retrieved Mrs Atiku’s largesse from her.

As if that incident was not enough to reflect the pervading poverty on the campuses today, another equally degrading one happened in the same town during the visit of the wife of the vice president.

At that event, some NYSC members and some students of University of Ado-Ekiti in a hawkish fashion swooped on the loaves of bread brought by a reputable company after a request for some loaves was perceived as being delayed more than their hunger could tolerate. They struggled  with the officials of the company and the security men employed to guard the place in their attempt to take away the loaves of bread .

It is quite unfortunate that academic pursuit in Nigeria’s institutions of higher learning today is tantamount to an exercise in dehumanisation. At the end of the harrowing experience called academic sojourn in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions of today, there are no jobs for the majority of  young men and women.

No wonder the nation’s elite class, including the decision makers, send their children to other countries where sanity reigns in the education sector.

University teachers in Nigeria have shouted themselves hoarse in their bid to persuade the government to allocate adequate funds to education. Rather than see reason with them, the government tries to present the ASUU members as the spoilt and stubborn children of the ivory tower whose insatiable desires have become an unwarranted embarrassment to the government and inimical to the polity.

The dons may not have always exercised restraint but the government has no excuse for its strangulating education policy.

Yet today, the escapist sermon being preached by the failed leadership, their apologists and chorus singers is “don’t ask of what your country can do for you, but ask of  what you can do for your country”.

Those who preach this callous and satanic homily cannot seriously expect a student who had struggled and suffered to pass through the university and yet remain unemployed  many years after graduation to think about his country before thinking about himself. He had spent between five and seven years for a course that ought to last not more than between three and four years due to avoidable disruption of the academic calendar. He has no idea  where to get a job after graduation or what the future even holds for him. In fact, no hope and no future! What does the nation expect from such a fellow?

No wonder undergraduates and fresh graduates are swelling  the ranks of the ubiquitous armed robbery gangs in the country. The glaring poverty in the nation’s institutions of higher learning calls for the serious and urgent attention of the government.

We are quite aware that the situation in tertiary institutions is a reflection of the sorry state of many Nigerians today in spite of the huge revenue being made from the nation’s resources everyday.

We believe that it is in the best interest of even the ruling elite to do something urgently about the pervading poverty in the nation’s institutions of higher learning and in the country before it is too late. 

Copyright © 2003 African Newspapers of Nigeria PLC