FOR THE RECORD – Revitalising University Education: The Leadership Question

FOR THE RECORD – Revitalising University Education: The Leadership Question

By Professor Paul Omojo Omaji

Vice Chancellor, Admiralty University of Nigeria

 Lecture presented at the 2022 Distinguished Annual Public Service Lecture of 

the University of Ibadan Alumni Association, Asaba Chapter, held at the Press Centre,

Government House, Asaba, Delta State on Thursday, 23rd June, 2022. 



I salute the University of Ibadan Alumni Association, Asaba Chapter

(UIAA, Asaba) for allowing the subject matter of this Lecture to capture

its collective imagination at this time. Obviously, the Lecture is holding

during a period dominated by the four-yearly ritual of electing “political

leadership” for Nigeria. For some other organisations, it would have

been more ‘strategic’ to join the euphoria of political electioneering.

Afterall, the signs of what has now come to be known as the

‘dollarisation’ of politicking have been evident for quite some time. And

your Chapter, if so minded, could have jumped on the bandwagon. The

fact that the Governor of Delta State has now become a vice presidential

flagbearer would have made a politics-oriented lecture even more

attractive, in retrospect.

Nevertheless, your choice to spotlight the troubled university education

amid the current competing, and perhaps more salacious, interests,

demonstrates that the locus of your hearts remains firmly on the

business of your Alma Mater. I congratulate you for that. Since

University of Ibadan (UI) opened the vista of university education for

Nigeria (albeit as a University College) in 1948, it is fitting that its alumni

continue to relish critical opportunities to keep their Alma Mater’s core

business on the front burner. In a Convocation Lecture I gave at Port Harcourt about seven years ago, I went against a cardinal rule of presentation by telling the audience the conclusion of the Lecture right at the beginning. By so doing, I wanted to relieve them of the burden of suspense since the presentation was not a Hollywood or Nollywood drama which, as they say, requires such a spice. Then, I told them they could now snooze off anytime, if I bored them; and that I wouldn’t feel bad that my presentation, which was put together under hard labour – within a short notice while delivering a leadership workshop in Rwanda under the aegis of the Association of African Universities, was not served to my well-deserved patrons there present. In any event, I argued, it is a critical trait of effective leadership to “begin with the end in mind” (Covey, 1989).

I am tempted to do same today. Yes, UIAA Asaba gave me ample notice to prepare this Lecture. However, it ended up being put together under hard labour. The vicissitude of running the young Admiralty University of Nigeria (ADUN) as its pioneer Vice Chancellor and hosting the Governing Council in the weeks leading to this Lecture, robbed me of the precious time I needed to sit down calmly and write a ‘Nollywood’ lecture, with the expected finesse, for you today. Not even the well cultivated and widely acclaimed serenity of ADUN environment – which UI would envy – could settle me back into my usual intellectual self for

1 Omaji, P. (2015) “Raising Incorruptible Leaders: The Ethical Imperative For Tertiary Education”, Convocation

Lecture at Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rumuolumeni, Port Harcourt, Nigeria. 21 October, 2015.

today’s engagement. Therefore, to spare you the struggle of having to follow the rambling for the next one hour or so, I better give you the conclusion of the matter now. And, I will see your eyes again at the end when you open them with a sigh of relief that it is all over.

Beginning with the end

It is axiomatic that everything rises, stands and falls on leadership

(Maxwell, 1993; Omaji, 2015). Revitalising university education in

Nigeria is no exception. Leadership envisioned and established an

enviable university education – full of vitality (in integrity, hope,

aspiration and productivity), during the first 30 years in post-

independence Nigeria. Leadership failure destroyed that vitality. As we

clamour for revitalising university education in this country, it will also

take leadership (qua leadership) to actualise it. It is the type I call,

Virtuous Leadership. It is the key!


Let me present the essence of this point of arrival – in a syllogistic

framework: Major premise – In all matters pertaining to revitalising

university education, leadership is pre-existing and pre-eminent. Minor

premise – When the virtuous are in leadership, university education

rejoices; but when the wicked rule, university education mourns.

Deduction – Therefore, to revitalise (make joyful) university education,

we must put virtuous people in leadership at critical levels” (adapted

from Omaji, 2019).


The interface between revitalising university education and the

phenomenon of leadership, especially in the Nigerian context, needs to

be problematised and explored. The observable conundrum that

bedevils university education in Nigeria, despite the apparent political

homage paid to it, needs to be illuminated. Our experience at Admiralty

University of Nigeria (ADUN) provides for me a useful springboard from

which to launch such illuminative inquiry in this Lecture. It will, of

necessary, be brief in scope, but sufficient to provoke further

engagement with this crucial subject matter.


In this Lecture, I shall x-ray what has, over time, become of the

education that UI pioneered in Nigeria and the role that ‘leadership’ has

played in bringing that education to the point of provoking numerous

revitalisation discourses in the last three decades. The vista of these

discourses is wide and can hardly be treated exhaustively within the

constraints of time and space allotted to this Lecture. I shall, therefore,

limit my exploration to the issues of ‘system integrity’ and ‘productivity’

as they pertain to university education. With the conviction that

leadership trumps all other factors in the dynamics that education has

experienced over the period, I will give a reasonable attention to the type

of leadership that can put university education in Nigeria back on the

path to revitalisation.


The State of University Education in Nigeria

University education is a key driver of growth and development. This is

widely acknowledged locally and internationally. Otonko (2012) made

the point that “the entire developmental apparatus of the socio-economic

structure revolves around a good university education”. It was,

therefore, a historic moment when the colonial administration in Nigeria

established the University College, Ibadan (UCI) in 1948 as an affiliate of

the University of London. Though designed originally to produce lower to

middle level manpower for the colonial bureaucracy, it became the

premier University 2 ; and was joined by five others 3 , by and large, to

constitute the first generation Universities in post-independence Nigeria.


Following the geopolitical restructuring of Nigeria into 12 States at the

end of the civil war, and within the context of the National Development

Plan, 1975-1980, the Federal Government established the second

generation Universities – 7 in number 4 . In the decade of 1980 and early

1991, the Federal Government also created University of Abuja (from

the defunct Open University) and four specialised Universities of

Technology, as well as three Universities of Agriculture 5 . About seven

States 6 also established their own Universities during this period. The

total of 15 constitutes the third generation Universities in Nigeria.

From 1992 to 2022, additional 192 Universities have been established.

This brings the total number of licensed Universities in Nigeria to about

217 as of today: 49 Federal; 57 State; and 111 Private. The growth from

five full-fledged Universities as at 1962 to about 214 by mid-2022 is

relatively phenomenal. Even more remarkable is the exponential growth

in student enrolments: from 104 in 1948 (the foundation students of UCI

drawn from Yaba Higher College 7 ), to about 2000 in 1962 and to about

2.2 million in 2020. This expansion in the number of universities, should

in the normal course of events portend good, especially in relation to

providing the much-needed access to the teeming population of persons

increasingly seeking university education in Nigeria. However, it has

2 It became full-fledge University in 1963.

3 Namely: University of Nigeria, Nsukka, established in 1960; University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University)

in 1962; Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1962; University of Lagos in 1962; and University of Benin, in 1970.

4 Located in Calabar, Ilorin, Jos, Kano, Maiduguri, Port-Harcourt and Sokoto.

5 The former at Akure, Bauchi, Owerri and Yola; the latter at Abeokuta, Makurdi and Umudike.

6 Anambra, Cross-River, Imo, Lagos, Ondo, Osun and Rivers.

7 The first post-secondary institution in Nigeria, following the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern

Protectorates by Lords Lugard in 1914.

turned out to compound the challenges that have come to bedevil the

university system, particularly in the last three decades.

Once there were Universities

Before I highlight these challenges, it is pertinent to underline the fact

that the Nigerian university system had made laudable strides in the first

three decades of its existence, from 1960 to the beginning of the 1990s.

Its “system integrity” was palpable and widely acknowledged. And, the

“productivity” of its quality delivery was a notable factor in national



As the National Universities Commission (NUC) (2019, pxi) testified a

few years ago,

The early decades of the Nigerian university system were

characterised by impressive achievements. Graduates from the

system were reputed nationally and globally for skills that tilted

them high up on the relevance scale. Research output from the

system was adjudged about the most impactful in solving national,

regional and global challenges facing the society.


Those were the glorious early years, when strong political will and

determined institutional leadership for effectual university education held

sway. The pre-civil war years witnessed massive investment in

education. They were the years of high hopes and great dreams for the

future of Nigeria. The ruling elite competed among themselves on the

provision of infrastructural facilities and expansion of social amenities;

and various governments boasted of education as taking the ‘lion share’

of budgetary allocation (Babarinde, 2016, pp15-16).

8 Adapted from Achebe, C. (2013) There Was a Country. Penguin Random House, London.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the first generation Universities were centres of

academic excellence. Graduates of the university education led in the

(re)construction of critical national assets and the productivity of various

companies in the manufacturing sector; and a Nobel Laureate as well as

many international award-winning scholars littered the system’s

landscape. Little wonder, expatriates flocked to the system, both to

educate and be educated; and foreigners undertook medical tourism to

University Teaching Hospitals; among other laurels.


Decline of University Education: Leadership Complicity

In the last 30 years, the narrative has changed. System failure has

become rampant. Productivity has dwindled. The trend smacks of an

agenda to systematically destroy the Nigerian university system.

Consequently, a general decline now pervades the system. It is a classic

case of how are the mighty fallen!

This week, a clergy (Bishop Dr David O.C. Onuoha) remarked about the

parlous state of public schools in one of the States in Nigeria. What he

said can, with necessary adaptations, capture the state of decline in

university education:

We decry the state of public schools… The level of decay of

facilities as well as the near absence of teaching and learning in

these schools… is intolerable, unjustifiable, inexcusable,

regrettable and unacceptable. When one remembers that these

schools were once the pride of the various communities that had

them, as well as the hope for guaranteed future for both the pupils

and the entire society, one cannot but nurse a sense of pain,

regret and loss, as to why successive administrations… have

sustained this criminal negligence of the most critical sector of

human society (Sunday Vanguard, June 19, 2022, p18)


The NUC (Ibid, p14) had identified and ranked about 12 items in the

challenges that now confront university education in Nigeria. They are:

  1. Inadequacies in facilities for teaching, learning and research
  2. Inadequate funding
  3. Deficit in teacher quality and quantity
  4. Governance deficits
  5. Depressed quality of graduates
  6. Inadequacies in access
  7. Deficiencies in research and post graduate training
  8. Academic corruption and other social vices
  9. Regulation by NUC and other professional bodies
  10. Promoting ICT-driven universities
  11. Fostering skills development and entrepreneurship
  12. Gender issues.


A core argument in this Lecture is that, these items are artefacts of

leadership failure with regard to university education in Nigeria. They are

intricately interlinked – in genesis and manifestations, but I will select a

few to illustrate the failure principally at two levels of leadership: political

and institutional.

Political leadership:

In the last 30 years, it is the failure of the political leadership that has

plunged university education in Nigeria into several challenges, including

the funding crisis; inadequacies in access as well as facilities for

teaching, learning and research; and deficiencies in research and post

graduate training. In the mid-1985s, governments in Nigeria took

International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans and implemented its structural

adjustment programmes. They did so in a manner that seriously

devalued and defunded higher education. Although the strategy was

upturned in the early 1990s, the misadventure had gone far enough to

foster the destruction of the then outstanding educational systems in



The unfettered political interference, under the guise of necessary

structural adjustments, resulted in, among other things, some Professors

being made political Vice Chancellors and their professorial positions

were politically influenced. The ensuing suppression of university

autonomy, the silencing of intellectual voices and the unpredictable

salary environment, gave rise to a mass exodus of many brilliant

lecturers from the Nigerian university system. Some left to join the rat

race in the business world and others left Nigeria.


The IMF influence also encouraged the Nigerian government and

members of the ruling class to make Nigeria a dumping ground for

imported products in the name of economic liberalisation, away from the

then prevailing indigenisation policy. Coupled with the Nigerian

government then preferring to patronise foreign firms, even in simple

projects, allegedly in return for 10% kickback, local industries lost the

market to support employment of university graduates and Universities

lost the opportunities to hone in on locally developed technologies or tap

into technology transfer by foreign firms manufacturing in Nigeria.


The failure of the political leadership at the federal level, which has

contributed to the loss of vitality in university education, also manifested

in unstable ministerial appointments for education. From 1960 to 2022, a

period of 62 years, there have been 46 ministers (26 – senior and 20 –

junior). The senior ministers served on average for two years, four

months. Between 2001 and 2010, a period of 9 years, it was even a

quicker turnover. There were 8 senior ministers, serving on average for

one year, one month. This has severely inhibited continuity in

implementation of university improvement (revitalisation) plans.

Since each [minister]wanted to be remembered for improvement

plans literally named after him or her, the education space became

littered with a staccato of such plans which were hardly scratched by

way of implementation (NUC, 2019, p10).


The reason for this scenario is not far-fetched. Most of the appointed

ministers where charactered as “political party lackeys”. The few who

could be described as “expert education ministers”, and under whom

education was said to have fared well, include: Aja Nwachuku, 1958-

1965; Professor Jubril Aminu, 1985-1989; Professor Babs Fafunwa,

1990-1992; and Professor Sam Egwu, 2008-2010 (see Ekundayo,


Recently, Olukoju (2022) provided a critical view on the political

leadership – governments at the State level who are creating multiple

universities and converting colleges of education and polytechnics into

full-fledged universities, without rigorous planning. This, he argued,

“amounts to an abusive of the university system and a lack of

understanding of how it works. And, that the approach stands in stark

contrast to “the planning, execution and funding that produced the

regional universities at Nsukka, Ile-Ife and Zaria” in the early 1960s.

He further averred that “it appears that the decreeing of universities is a

distribution of political patronage completely at variance with the idea of

a university”. He called them “toy universities” sited in politically strategic

places to win elections. The universities may get infrastructure from

TETFund, but how about the paucity of qualified staff – holders of PhD

degrees, grant winners and scholars with reputable publications? And,

where are the viable strategies for absorbing the graduates into gainful

employment, in the face of mounting rates of graduate unemployment

and unemployability?


The most visible symbol of political leadership failure which has sent

university education in Nigeria into a tailspin, is in the area of funding. In

the last 30 years, the percentage of the budget allocated to education

annually has been abysmally low. For instance, as against the UNESCO

recommended 15%-26%, the federal allocations in the last seven years,

ranged downwards from 10.7% to 5.6%, averaging 6.5% (i.e. a total of

about N3.6 trillion for education out of about N55.4 trillion).


It is trite knowledge that the incessant strikes that have further

bastardised university education in Nigeria, emanated from this issue of

inadequate funding of public universities and lackadaisical attitude of the

political leadership to implement agreements around funding. Since the

Academic Staff Union of Universities was established in 1978 to

represent academic staff in Nigeria’s universities, there have been

several strikes, disrupting the academic calendar: 16 times since 1999,

spanning over at least 50 months. That is, 4 years, two months of

university education time lost to strikes in 23 years. As Bishop Dr David

O.C. Onuoha observed recently:


If there is anything an undergraduate in any public university in

Nigeria is sure of today, it is that he/she will not graduate on

schedule, no thanks to incessant strike actions that presently

define the university system in Nigeria… The inability or

unwillingness of government and the university staff to find a

lasting solution to the unstable academic calendar… is not only

inimical to the future of our youths, but may also be part of the

reasons for the worsening insecurity in our land (Ibid).


Laying the responsibility squarely at the feet of governments, Professor

Olukoju (2022) argued pointedly that, by and large, strikes are indicative

of a political leadership that is “not alive to its best interests of providing

a good university education system that runs on a stable calendar and

produces high quality, globally competitive products”.


Institutional leadership

A deeper reflection on the decline of university education in Nigeria

must, of necessary, bring one face to face with the failure at the

institutional leadership level as well.


A 19 th century Oxford University academic, Professor John Henry

Newman, once painted a picture of the “University” as the place in which

the intellect may safely range and speculate, where inquiry is pushed

forward, discoveries verified and perfected, rashness rendered

innocuous and error exposed by the collision of mind with mind, and

knowledge with knowledge. It is a place where the professor becomes

eloquent, and is a missionary and a preacher, displaying [their]science

in its most complete and most winning form, pouring it forth with zeal of

enthusiasm, lighting up [their]own love of it in the breasts of [their]

hearers… It is a place which wins the admiration of the young by its

celebrity, kindles the affections of the middle-aged by its beauty, and

rivets the fidelity of the old by its associations. It is a seat of wisdom, a

light of the world… (see Ogunruku, 2019, p115).


Describing ‘university’ as a seat of wisdom and a light of the world, is a

loaded code for seeing university education as the crucible in which

practical solutions and luminary leadership are formed. In the last

decade or so, I have focused on this perspective of university in my

intellectual outputs and professional practice as a university

administrator 9 . This is the backdrop our decision to recast ADUN’s vision

as a Global University Educating Luminary Leaders (GUELL).


At the intersection of this ‘theory and praxis’, I have established that

university education is uniquely essential to the production of righteous

graduates who would be competitive locally and globally; pursue

inexplicable goodness to make nations great; and contribute more

broadly to the upliftment of humanity in general through such things as

innovative and safe products as well as excellent and beneficial services.

Regrettably, the failure of the institutional leadership of universities 10 to

enact this core corporate objective, has compounded the challenges

See “Raising authentic leaders: a clarion call to Universities” (Omaji, 2013); “Raising Global Leaders: A University Mandate” (Omaji, 2015); Audacity of Leading Right: An Odyssey Towards Virtuous Leadership (Omaji, 2015b); “Raising Incorruptible Leaders: The Ethical Imperative For Tertiary Education” (Omaji, 2015); Lead For Life: 7 Essentials for Upright & High-Impact Leadership (Omaji, 2015c); and “Excellence in Academia” (Omaji, 2021).

10 Comprising the Chancellor, Pro-Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, Registrar, Bursar, University Librarians, etc, as well as the organs of Governing Council, Senate, Faculty Boards, and Departmental Boards.

bedevilling university education. In particular, such failure gives rise to

deficits in teacher quality and quantity, lack of entrepreneurship,

depressed quality of graduates, as well as academic corruption and

other social vices.


Talking about academic corruption and other social vices, part of the

lamentations over the dwindling fortunes of university education is that,

whereas the institutional leadership in the universities of the 1960s, 70s

and 80s enforced godly values and modelled uprightness in offices and

classrooms, such leadership in the last 30 years has abdicated this

responsibility. By so doing, they have allowed the ills of admission

racketeering, cultism, sexual harassment, ‘sex-for-marks’ and exam

malpractices or purchase of degrees/certificates in cash or in kind

without mastering what it takes to be worthy of the degree/certificates, to

thrive. That leadership failure has betrayed their institutions and exerted

additional toll on the running down of the university education.


Leadership Needed for Revitalising University Education

Let me now turn to the type of leadership needed to revitalise university

education in Nigeria.


Revitalisation presupposes a lost ‘vitality’ that needs to be restored. The

nostalgia today is that there was once a virile university education in

Nigeria; and that there will be no hope for a thriving country until such

education is re-enacted with all its development-oriented capabilities.

The core of my argument in this Lecture has been that a type of

leadership destroyed that education; and that it will take another type of

leadership to revitalise it. Thus, the question that guides this section of

my lecture is this: what type of leadership can deliver university

education in Nigeria from the body of death that has been placed on it in

the last 30 years?


At the political leadership level, it has been observed that since the

1980s, about 20 university system improvement plans had been

proposed but never implemented. The NUC (2019, pp9-10) found that

the major challenge to implementation is the inability of the political

actors to be faithful to the recommendations they willingly endorsed.

This lack of political will has caused many a “Blueprint” to pick up

dust on the shelves and turn brown for lack of attention to their

implementation. Another challenge is the overly ambitious targets in

the improvement plan. A third reason… is ego trip of political actors

who want to be credited with specific programmes and projects in

the university education sub-sector; [in such a situation], the belief

in the continuity of administration is not upheld… A fourth reason is

the short tenures of many ministers of education.

On display in this finding, were symbols of manipulative leadership:

proposing without implementing, failure to exercise political will,

ambitiousness, egotism or self-aggrandisement, and short-termism. The

ensuing circus show, lacking in sincerity of purpose, went on while the

university system spiralled through a slope of decline.

In the last decade of the period under reference, the Buhari

Administration seemed to have changed this course, when he made a

commitment to reverse the decline in 2016. Shortly after, the Honourable

Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, who has lasted for almost

seven years in that portfolio (since November, 2015), directed the new

Executive Secretary, Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, to work

within the Ministerial Strategic Plan 2016-2019 to begin the process of

developing a Blueprint for rapid revitalisation of university education in

Nigeria (Ibid, pxi). Professor Rasheed, in turn, tasked the NUC Strategy

Advisory Committee (STRADVCOM) to develop the Blueprint.


The ensuing document presented a five-year revitalisation plan (2019-

2023). It determined and ranked 12 challenges facing the university

system at this time. Further, it distilled 10 strategic goals – including

increased access, curriculum relevant for the production of high-level

human resources, upgrade of facilities for teaching, learning and

research, increase in globally competitive productivity by scholars,

reduction of academic corruption, and enactment of a sustainable

funding model for universities. The cost of implementing these goals was

put at N823 billion, shared as 75% from proprietors; 20% from IGR; and

5% from other sources, including alumni, endowment and donors.

Okebukola (2019) likened this Blueprint, which is part of what he

christened – the Rasheed Revolution in the Nigerian university system –

to the Marshall Plan of 1947 that was enacted to rebuild the economies

and spirit of western Europe which were battered during the World War

  1. He said the Blueprint has been receiving global endorsement and

support, such as the French Development Agency (AFD) and the World

Bank offering miscellaneous support for the implementation of the ten

strategic goals of the Blueprint.


Of a truth, a critical look at the Blueprint will show that it is a well-

thought-out revitalisation plan which, if fully implemented, can

reasonably create the stable conditions for university education to thrive

again in Nigeria. However, the budget allocation to education by the

Buhari administration since 2016 seems to be telling a different story.

The allocation has varied from year to year between 5.6% and 7.9%,

averaging about 6.5%, which is far below the UNESCO benchmark of

15%-26%. Further, it is not clear from the Blueprint whether the N620

billion share of the N823 billion cost of implementation that accrues to

the Federal Government is part of, or additional to, the annual budget

allocation that is already far low – not to talk of the actual releases which

are lower still.


To demonstrate that the Buhari administration has acted bona fide in

relation to this unique revitalisation plan, it should ensure that the

Blueprint is passed into law. That was one action the US President Harry

Truman took, i.e. getting the recovery plan signed into law, which made

it possible for the Marshall Plan to be very successful.


No matter how robust and genuine the interventions by the political

leadership might be, university education could still continue to flounder

in distressing challenges if the institutional leadership within the

Universities fails to tow the path of virtuousness.


An institutional leadership will be considered virtuous if it manifests

courage, temperance, justice, prudence, humanity and integrity. I dealt

with these variables in my work, Audacity of Leading Right: An Odyssey

Towards Virtuous Leadership (Omaji, 2015b). The work is essentially the

story of how I led Salem University, Lokoja, Kogi State, as its pioneer

Vice Chancellor, to keep transformational education in the University

and to keep academic corruption as well as other social vices out of the

University. To help us achieve a similar outcome at ADUN, we have

deployed virtuous leadership under the mantra or doctrine of “doing the

right thing, the right way, at the right time and for the right



A few months into my pioneer Vice Chancellorship at ADUN, one of the

proprietors who had noticed this doctrine at work, sent me an article by

Bolanle Bolawole, titled, “OAU: Where Integrity is Two-edged Sword”.

The story was about the then Vice Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo

University, Ile-Ife, Professor Ogunbodede. After reading it, I sent a

message to this member of ADUN proprietor team, saying: “Great read,

my Admiral. I can plead mea culpa to an alter ego in Ogunbodede”.


In Professor Ogunbodede, I saw a practical illustration of the virtuous

institutional leadership we are trying at ADUN, which we have come to

believe would clean the Augean stable that has been suppressing the

enviable university education that Nigeria had experienced in the 30

years after independence. The parallels with our own leadership

approach are so overwhelming, that I have taken liberty to reproduce

much of what Bolawole wrote about VC Ogunbodede.


When Professor Ogunbodede was announced as the Vice Chancellor,

“Ife went gaga with joy” and the atmosphere at his installation was

‘carnival-like”. I can relate to that at my appointment. As Bolawole further

recounted, Professor Ogunbodede was “a workaholic, principled man and

stickler for excellence, regardless whose ox is gored. He would

listen, express sympathy but stick to his gun once he is certain it is

the right thing to do… Ife was up for a great turn-around with

Ogunbodede in the saddle. Three years down the road, he has not

disappointed. As VC, Ogunbodede has worked tirelessly to clean


the Great Ife’s Augean stable. Fortunately, he has had a good

Council to work with.

Again, I can relate to all this. ADUN community knows that our

leadership is driven by ADUN’s Motto of Excellence in Education; and

that we are very firm with our leadership mantra.


We are told that Ogunbodede’s mantra is: Once due process is adhered

to with honour and integrity, everything else will fall in their rightful

places and Great Ife will regain its lost glory and occupy its exalted

position in the comity of Ivory Towers. He was nicknamed: “that VC who

does not bend”! Clearly, I can relate to this attitude as well.


Ogunbodede had zero tolerance for such nonsense or vices as ‘sex-for-

marks’; and he had occasion to unmask, disgrace and hand over to the

police three errant Ife lecturers who engaged in the vice. Professor

Ogunbodede insisted that it is only when such cases are firmly treated in

an open and transparent manner that the cankerworm can be stamped

out and the university’s good image preserved. Interestingly, my

administration has recently terminated three lecturers, who were found

culpable for sexual harassment of students, for the same reasons of

running a university free from such contaminations.


Bolawole argued that, by and large, Ife has been the better for

Ogunbodede’s type of leadership. This remains our unbounded

aspiration for ADUN; and my leadership team is committed to

prosecuting it unapologetically.


The central point in all that has been said in the foregoing, is that: with

adequate resourcing by all the stakeholders, particularly the political

leadership, and the deployment of virtuous leadership at the institutional

(governance) level, “our universities can truly be the citadel of learning

they are meant to be”.

Concluding Remarks

As UIAA Asaba would appreciate intimately, it is as emblematic of the

decline in education, as it is disturbing to our sensibilities, that your Alma

Mater (UI) that produced a Nobel Laureate (Wole Sonyinka) in 1986 is

not among the top 500 Universities in the world today. Needless to say,

the same university education had also produced the likes of Chinua

Achebe, Professor Awojobi, Dr Bala Usman and several other great

graduates. Many now see that same education as a bastardised version

of the ‘education legacy’ that the founding fathers of Nigeria bequeathed

in their own days.


As I have outlined in this Lecture, the dynamics of the Nigerian university

system, is intricately linked with the leadership phenomenon. I stated at

the beginning of this Lecture that everything rises, stands and falls on

leadership. I had observed in a previous work that

Today, more than ever before in the history of humankind, the

leadership question has become a matter of keeping a date with

destiny. It is the difference maker between compromised destinies

and fulfilled destinies. Individuals, organisations, communities or

nations that fail to grapple with [this axiom], do so at their own

peril. Such is the destiny-changing power of leadership that a

thousand lions following a lamb as their arrowhead would always

be defeated by a hundred lambs led by one lion… [W]hen it comes

to leading [virtuously]to post a flourishing destiny in a corrupt

world, it is the audacity of a fearless, ferocious and fervent lion that

can sustain (Omaji, 2015b, px).


As we commit ourselves to revitalising university education in Nigeria so

as to re-enact its full of vitality (in integrity, hope, aspiration and

productivity), let us deliberately seek out the leadership (qua leadership)

that can actualise our dream. Both the political leadership and

institutional leadership must aspire to pursue virtuousness in their



To capture the essence of this point of arrival, I invite you all to consider

this syllogistic framework: Major premise – In all matters pertaining to

revitalising university education, leadership is pre-existing and pre-

eminent. Minor premise – When the virtuous are in leadership,

university education rejoices; but when the wicked rule, university

education mourns. Deduction – Therefore, to revitalise (make joyful)

university education, we must put virtuous people in leadership at

critical levels” (adapted from Omaji, 2019).


If there is any alumni association that can hold all of us accountable to

this syllogism, it must the UIAA Asaba. You have the wherewithal – in

membership, requisite resources and access to powers that be, to stand

for the revitalisation of university education in Nigeria, and pressure all

critical levels of relevant leadership to do same. You will make your

Alma Mater proud if you discharge this responsibility with all the

seriousness it deserves.


Thank you for the privilege to share my thoughts and for your invaluable



Long live UI – the first and the best!

Long live ADUN, the upcoming best!!

Long live a revitalised university education in Nigeria!!



Babarinde, K. (2016) “Evolution, Development, Challenges and

Prospects of the Nigerian Higher Education System”, in in Faborode,

  1. and Edigheji, O. (2016) The Future and Relevance of Nigerian

Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions. Committee of Vice

Chancellors of Nigeria, Abuja and TrustAfrica, Dakar, Senegal. Pp9-


Covey, S. (1989) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Free Press,

New York.

Ekundayo, (2019) “Nigeria’s Education is in a Mess. Five things to Fix it”,

Online, March 26, 2019.

Maxwell, J. (1993) Developing the Leader within You. Thomas Nelson

Publishers. Nashville, USA.

National Universities Commission (2019) Blueprint on the Rapid

Revitalisation of University Education in Nigeria. National

Universities Commission, Abuja.

Ogunruku, A. (2016) “Leadership and Governance in Higher Education –

Challenges and Prospects of Developing the Next Generation of

University Leaders, Academics and Researchers: HE Management

Models”, in Faborode, M. and Edigheji, O. (2016) The Future and

Relevance of Nigerian Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions.

Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigeria, Abuja and TrustAfrica,

Dakar, Senegal. Pp113-152.




Olukoju, A. (2022) “Nigeria’s university strikes: winners, losers and the

way forward”, The Conversation Africa. Online

( 9 June, 2022.

Okebukola, P. (2019) “Building a World-Class University in Africa: The

Role of Private Universities”, Convocation Lecture of Chrisland

University, Abeokuta, October 30, 2019.

Omaji, P. (2013) “Raising authentic leaders: a clarion call to

universities”. Occasional paper delivered to the Caleb Leadership

Academy Lecture Series, Caleb University, Imota, Lagos State. 13

March 2013.

Omaji, P. (2015) “Raising Global Leaders: A University Mandate”, Public

Lecture delivered at Botho University, Gaborone Botswana. 14

August, 2015.

Omaji, P. (2015b) Audacity of Leading Right: An Odyssey Towards

Virtuous Leadership. Charleston, USA. ISBN 9 78099429080 9.

Omaji, P. (2015c) Lead For Life: 7 Essentials for Upright & High-Impact


Leadership. Charleston, USA. ISBN 9 78099429082 3.


Omaji, P. (2019) “Leadership, National Security and Sustainable

Development”, a Keynote Address at the 1 st FMSS International

Conference, Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu Alike, Ikwo,

Abakiliki, EBONYI STATE. 25-27 June, 2019.

Onuoha, D. (2022) “Heartless Thieves: Nigeria’s money in 50 public

officers’ hands can pay country’s debts, fund universities”, Sunday

Vanguard, June 19, 2022. Pp18-19.

Otonko, J. (2102) “University Education in Nigeria: History, Successes,

Failures and the Way Forward”, International Journal of Inclusive

Education, Vol.1, No. 2, December, 2012. Pp44-48.

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