“GREAT IFE” WERE IS YOUR GREATNESS?
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By: Uwa-Agbonikhena Isehi Agnes
Growing up as a child in Benin City in the early millenium, I was taught in primary school that Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife is the best and most beautiful university in Africa. I grew from a child into a teenager having that firm belief that Great Ife (as it is fondly called) is truly the best and thus looked forward to being admitted into the institution someday.
Here is my story. I sat for 2014 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) and narrowly scaled through scoring 201. Unfortunately and woefully I failed the post-UTME. Though frustrated, I said to myself that 2015 will not pass me by. With great preparation and God’s grace, I wrote the examination in 2015 and scored 234. This was enough for me to gain admission into the prestigious University with a merry heart.
We “Freshers” (as we are often called) were told to report to the Campus on May 29, 2016 exactly 9 months after writing the Post-UTME. Like my other colleagues, I arrived OAU in anticipation of hectic academic challenges I had anticipated.
The festivities attached to orientations for we freshmen made little impressions on me. But, Great Ife was to shock me! While preparing to commence full academic work.
I received a piece of news that I still find so difficult to believe till date – we were to vacate the halls of residence on the 23rd of June, exactly 3 weeks and 4 days after resumption due to the ongoing NASU protest . Gosh! I thought of the world collapsing under my feet.
Should I go back home, after saying goodbye to my family just some weeks ago? In order to pacify my soul I cooked and ate 3 plates of Spaghetti.
The questions that bothered my innocent mind at the time was: “Uwa why did you live Benin”? In what appeared to be a soul conversation, I replied: “It is well and we thank God”. These replies are the most common replies Nigerians use to calm their grieving souls.
My little story reflects the pathetic case of most, if not all, Great Ife students. If it is not ASSU strike, it will be NASU. If students are not boycotting lectures, light or water will bring crisis on campus.
Therefore I pose my first question – is all truly well at Great Ife? Are we really thanking God for Great Ife?
That the Great Ife is termed a snail amongst coeval first generation universities in Nigeria like the University of Ibadan, UI, and the class of 1962 universities like the University of Lagos, Amadu Bello University and University of Nigeria, Nsukka; that the second generation universities see us as Great indeed and of course to the private universities, we are only living in our past glory; is it really well that our parents say to us that OAU was great but not anymore? All things being equal as a result of internal strike a four-year course in OAU is almost five and a half if one is so lucky.
A school that claims the title “Great” and has a “but” such as causing delays for her students cannot be said to be truly great; hence my second question – is OAU Still Great or is she living in her past glory?
I was in the Amphi Theater on May 31, 2016, for a fresher’s orientation when the then Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor, Ayobami Salami, prayed for us that our 4-year, 5-year or 6-year stay, depending on the department will not be prolonged with strikes.
While some freshers laughed and did not see the possibility of an OAU session not disrupted with strikes, I shouted
a loud “Amen” because I knew that this was a possibility.
From decade to decade it has become a norm and culture that OAU must experience a disruption in its academic calendar.
Even the Great Ife has compromised her greatness and lost her confidence in the sense that we were boldly told during the freshers’ orientation and had it written in the freshers’ manual that a four-year course is written in this mathematical form: 4+X where X is a positive integer which implies a strike, to mention a few.
Whenever there is an internal strike, stalites put it in this manner to freshers – welcome to Great Ife.
The greatest force fighting the greatness of OAU is the unbelief in the hearts of all members that OAU can never experience a smooth academic calendar without a strike let alone a whole session.
I am not one of such members that think negative. However as a man thinketh in his heart so is he.
In his inaugural speech as the 11th Vice Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University which he titled, ”The Dawn of A New Era”, Professor Ayobami Salami centred his speech on all hands being on deck, that individually we can make a difference and together we can make an impact.
This signifies the need for us to work together to make OAU great again. But in the next 5 years of Professor Salami as the vice chancellor, I urge him to show us the truth in his speech by his works. It was Plato who said to Aristotle: “You are my friend but truth is my greater friend.”
So this is a clarion call to all members of OAU community – small and big; university management and students’ union; ASUU and NASU; buttery and cyber cafe operators; traders and food sellers; “town gboros” and bike riders; Alumni, stakeholders; all and sundry. Know ye today that if OAU fails then we all fail; If OAU stands tall then we all stand tall. I believe we all can. For in unity and love we can restore Great Ife back to her glory days.
Finally, I urge us to change our unbelief because since dry bones could live again then OAU can be great again and without strikes.
Uwa-Agbonikhena Isehi Agnes
Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife
Department of Quantity Surveying