By Kemi Kasumu
It started two years ago when some media people were discussing among themselves how the tablet that was the ICT initiative in the University of Ilorin e-teaching/e-learning programme came about. Later towards the end of 2015, one said introduction of the tablets to the students of the university to be paid for as much as N36,000 was the personal business of the then Minister of Finance under the PDP administration of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Worse heard of was that the tablet payment was woven into the e-payment of the school fees system such that to be able to pay for tuition fee to be able to do course registration at all, fresh student must first of all have paid for the N36,000 the tablet fee.
It then became an issue agitating the mind of this reporter as to why should personal business of a public officer, which the minister was, be forced on students who were only going to learn to be proper human beings in life? The agitation became rife as questions began to rise as per why is it only University of Ilorin the then Minister of Finance of the Federal Republic was able to do her business of tablets? There are other universities owned by the Federal Government of Nigeria where the issue of tablets was not as agitating as of UNILORIN.
This was why six months ago that The DEFENDER launched into the mainstream of Nigerian media practice the matter was picked up as a major editorial assignment to be investigated with a view to unveiling the truth and reporting the result of the investigations to the public, in a society where falsehood told repeatedly without response makes a liar truthful, and it was decided that the result of the investigations would be made available to the public without the mindset to witch-hunt anybody neither to sabotage the government or any of its institutions.
One thing that this media organisation insisted on was to wait until after it had concluded its investigations before anything was made public about the matter since the media outfit was established to be a difference in Nigerian journalism by not sensationalising unnecessarily.
In the course of its investigations, all stakeholders were contacted from the students, academic and non-academic staff of the University of Ilorin and the institution’s administration to the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu and even the Presidency. Some of the students contacted were drawn from Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun and Kwara, their views sampled. Some of them who are now in 300 Level said they never had any issue of tablets not being given to them. Those who said they came in 2015 and are now in 200 Level however confirmed that truly since they were admitted, they had not been given tablets they paid N36,000 for, cost including other fees as the real cost of tablet was learned to be N25,000. They however informed The DEFENDER that the university authorities briefed them from time to time why the tablets were not ready since end of 2015 that they entered the school. How it became issue of complaint in the outside world remained a matter left to people who were described by some friends of the university as envying the progresses being made by the university.
The only alarming area of the tablets issue however came as some students claimed that PC tablet this year for fresh students had been increased from N36,000 other fees inclusive paid year to N50,000 this year. One of them who became apprehensive told The DEFENDER that, “If the students before us have not been given tablets, what is the assurance that we will ever get ours? Although we have information that it had never happened like this before last year.” This reporter however found out that on campus in Ilorin, there was no visible tension neither was there any apparent apprehension existent to suggest that there was truly an issue concerning the tablets.
The DEFENDER was however applauded by some members of the university community interacted with who said, “We want to express our appreciation that you came all the way from the comfort of your office in Lagos to come and see things for yourself. You have indeed reinforced our confidence in the ability of the media to right the many wrongs that have afflicted our progress in Nigeria by carriers of false news,” a university lecturer who pleaded anonymity particularly said.
This media went to Ilorin for one clarification but returned to Lagos overwhelmed by discovery of many undeniable achievements that no media organization has ever mentioned about the Nigeria’s most subscribed university. The DEFENDER, though not praise singer of anybody, has taken it upon itself to serialise the sweet things that it brought from its two-day verification visit to the University of Ilorin community with a particular media engagement with the Vice Chancellor, Professor Abdulganiyu Ambali, who is found to be another brilliant Nigerian. It should be noted that Professor Ambali’s immediate predecessor as Vice Chancellor is Professor Is-haq Oloyede, who is currently the Registrar and Chief Executive of Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB).
The university, The DEFENDER found out, apart from being the Nigeria’s most subscribed higher institution of learning, also has a feat of having succeeded in actually being the Nigeria’s university of many firsts. In University of Ilorin, power supply is constant, staple and contributory to progress and development, all of which are obvious to even any unsuspecting visitor.
The visit of this media organisation to the institution near Tanke in Ilorin has proved many things: One that the information about how a former minister of finance imposed her personal business in form of tablets sales to fresh students was merely a rumour that no sane Nigerian must join in spreading. Two, that the PC tablets project is truly existent in UNILORIN but not in the mode that was being spread about. It was discovered that the tablet thing was just and is still one of the many projects that the university administration had put in place to make University of Ilorin stand out as best university in Nigeria and beyond. The visit of this reporter cleared a mix-up that Professor Okonjo, a well learned and well travelled Nigerian leader, Chairman of the University of Ilorin Governing Council had the idea of equipping the students with skill in the ICT which was also found out to be in line with existing programme whereby the university system had already been operating a paperless and cashless policy. “There is therefore no reason to link Professor Okonjo, Chairman of Council, with Okonjo-Iweala, the minister of finance. The two are not the same except that somebody wanted University of Ilorin to be afraid of taking steps to move forward and develop simply because some people would pose a challenge,” a source in the university, who said only the Vice Chancellor could speak clearly on the matter, told The DEFENDER.
It was the second major national assignment by The DEFENDER the first being the interview it conducted in the Presidency with Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, on November 27 bothering on the state of the nation. The visit to Ilorin therefore by this reporter was like a heart desire granted by Almighty Allah whereas, one had always looked forward to one day he would be able to make a difference in Nigerian journalism, trying to get to roots of matters without just jumping at conclusion on sensitive national issues. Hence, the stress of travelling by road via the very highly trailer-populated Oyo-Ogbomoso route, which elongated the three hours journey to eight hours between 7.30am and 3.30pm, was no issue since achieving the result for which the travelling was necessitated mattered most.
Arriving at his Quarters at about 4pm, having earlier informed him of the reporter’s visit, the media meeting with the Vice Chancellor, University of Ilorin, Professor Abdulganiyu Ambali, started in earnest.
Watch out for the VC’s interview on The DEFENDER Education Page.