Oil mogul, businessman and philanthropist, Femi Otedola, was in the news for uncommon positive reasons recently, as he gifted 750 students at Augustine University, Ilara-Epe, Lagos State, N1million each. Otedola made the announcement for the scholarship largesse at the 5th convocation of the university, and during his investiture as the second chancellor of the institution. Beneficiaries of this noble initiative are the 500 returning and 250 new students of this varsity, that Otedola said deserved to be assisted, as part of his commitment to alleviate their financial plights, and those of their parents and guardians, amidst Nigeria challenging economy. He further stated that his action was geared towards encouraging academic excellence and fostering national development.
AT the ceremony, Otedola additionally pledged N140 million for the furnishing of the Engineering Faculty building he earlier built at N2 billion, and another N110 million for the installation of streetlights around the campus as well as purchase of a generator set to power the lights, bringing his total donation to N1 billion. This kind gesture by Otedola is, no doubt, highly commendable, as it is emblematic of the funding model required to rescue higher education in Nigeria from abject paucity of funds, in the face of dwindling allocations from the government. It is instructive to also remind ourselves of the resolve of the Tinubu-led administration to allow full financial autonomy in public higher institutions, with the introduction of student loan to guarantee access to education by the less-privileged.
WHILE commending Otedola, The Hope is conscious of the past dispositions of some other Nigerians who similarly extended funding support to public universities. One of such people was Chief Mrs. Folorunso Alakija who once supported the University of Osun (UNIOSUN) with N250 million to complete the main access road to the Oshogbo campus of the institution. Another worthy contributor was Chief Afe Babalola who, as Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) between 2000 and 2007, donated to the institution an auditorium, and mobilised some of his clients like Julius Berger, Mobil and others to support the institution, with a billion naira raised. Similarly, based on the facilitation of Afe Babalola, Julius Berger resurfaced some roads in the institution. The company also built and equipped a new Engineering auditorium. It was also on record that Afe Babalola and other members of the university council during his tenure did not take sitting or any form of allowance.
THE justifiable appointment of Otedola as Chancellor by this private university patently contrasts with those of public universities where political patronage and compensation are at the base of such considerations. In most cases, Chancellors appointed for public institutions are burdensome parasites, that feast on the little resources of the institutions. Some of the appointees for public universities lack capacity; they do not have degrees and lack appreciative values for such. Arguably, we are of the opinion that people to be appointed into these privileging positions that are unlike other government boards should be those that could improve the lot of the institutions.
THE HOPE is also mindful that while private universities like to put their money where their mouth is, with a corresponding intellectual sense for values, visitors to public universities are too detached from the institutions to which they have responsibility, with spaces in the public universities converted by some appointees of government as an extension of the Nigeria space on which they could exercise a sense of entitlement. It is evident that private universities in Nigeria are fast overtaking public ones in demonstrating the ideals of a university.
AS we celebrate and commend the uncommon philanthropy of Otedola, we call on the benefiting students, management, and council of Augustine University to make a good use of the huge donations to them, as individuals and institution. Other well-to-do Nigerians should imbibe the good disposition of Otedola, to contribute to the funding of education in Nigeria, as we all stand to gain from the developmental potential therein. It is plausible to opine that helps extended to less privileged Nigerian youths to access university education would succour depressed individuals, renew their hope, and discourage them from taking into anti-social behaviours.
THIS is more so as the collaboration of well-spirited Nigerians with other stakeholders in the funding of higher education would reinforce the assurances of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu that the student loan initiative would come to fruition in January 2024, as the new fillip would help stop incessant industrial actions by staff unions in the universities. No doubt, working together, particularly through the Otedola-like funding synergy, we can recalibrate higher education in Nigeria, through adequate funding, for needed national development.