IT CAN HAPPEN ANYWHERE!
How Bishop Oyedepo’s scriptural permutation created a world class university.
By Leke Beecroft
Part 1: A tale of Nigeria’s foremost universities.
Part 2: The Rot sets in.
Part 3: On the shoulders of the sages, Oral Roberts and Benson Idahosa.
Part 4: Breaking Limits on Every Side.
“I was on ground in Oral Roberts University for many years, and I would keep saying “THIS IS GOD BUT IT CAN HAPPEN ANYWHERE ELSE. No, this is not Oral, this is God.” The grandeur: “This is God.” This is God and can’t you see what God is doing in Covenant (University) today”.
Dr David Oyedepo
Part 1: A tale of Nigeria’s foremost Universities
THE FIRST AMONG EQUALS: As Nigeria approached independence on October 1, 1960, it had a single university: the University of Ibadan, established in 1948.
The origins of the university are in the University of London. It was established in 1948 as the University College Ibadan, as a College of the University of London which supervised its academic programmes and awarded degrees until 1967. The establishment came as a result of recommendation of the Asquith and the Elliot Commissions on Higher Education in the then British colonies, that two University Colleges of the University of London be set up in Ghana and Nigeria.
Today, the U.I has a most ambitious vision which is “To be a world-class institution for academic excellence geared towards meeting societal needs.”
OBA AWON UNIVERSITY: The greatness and popularity of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) is by no means an accident. Founded in 1962 as the University of Ife but remamed by the Federal Military Government as the Obafemi Awolowo University on May 12, 1987, in honour of one of its most distinguished founding fathers and former chancellor, Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo.
The decision to establish the University of Ife (popularly referred to as “Great Ife”) by the ruling Action Group party of the Western Region of Nigeria was in protest at the recommendations of the Ashby Report.
U.I was established in 1948 as an external college of the university of London. However, the needs of Nigeria (then a British colony) far outstripped her productivity.
In particular the University College at Ibadan had no faculty of engineering or technology, no law school, no pharmacy school or management training abilities.
The Ashby commission, set up by the British, was to review tertiary education needs of the soon-to-be-independent nation of Nigeria. The government of the western region did not want to rely on the federal universities or those of other regions to admit its numerous secondary school leavers.
The commission was headed by a Cambridge lecturer, Eric Ashby, master at Clare College, Cambridge and also included a labor economist, Frederick H. Harbison. However, the expectation of the commission’s final report by the Western regional government was University of Ibadan will satisfy the needs of the Western region, a position, the government disagreed on, thus the Western government began preparations for the establishment of a new university.
The Ashby commission recommended additional (regional) universities in the northern and eastern regions of Nigeria and another federal university in the Lagos protectorate, but none in the more educationally advanced western region which had a ‘free and universal primary education’ program. A minority report that was accepted by the government recommended a new university within the Western region and facilities of the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, Ibadan was provided to the region. In 1961, a vote establishing the Provisional Council of the University was passed in 1961 by the Western Regional Assembly. The final site chosen, a 13,000 acre land was donated by the people of Ile-Ife as the location of the proposed university. The first financial grant provided for the takeoff of the university was £250,000 from the Western regional government.
Architectural planning of the University was led by a Jew, Arieh Sharon with a team that later included his son, Eldar Sharon and A.A. Egbor of Lagos.
Arieh Sharon who died on July 24, 1984 at the age of 84 was an Israeli architect and winner of the Israel Prize for Architecture in 1962. Sharon was a critical contributor to the early architecture in Israel and the leader of the first master plan of the young state, reporting to then Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo meant business.
The vision of OAU was to be
“A top rated university in Africa.”
OF LIONS AND LIONESSES’: The University of Nigeria was the first full-fledged indigenous and first autonomous university in Nigeria, modelled upon the American educational system. It is the first land-grant university in Africa and one of the top universities in Nigeria.
A law to establish a University in the Eastern Region of Nigeria was passed on 18 May 1955. While that date marks the formal beginning of the history of the University of Nigeria, the enactment of this legislation by several Nigerian leaders, and inspired particularly by the then Premier of the Eastern Region, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe.
One of the first steps taken by the Eastern Nigeria Government towards the implementation of its commitment was an invitation to both the United States of America and the United Kingdom to send advisers to help in the planning of physical and educational aspects of the proposed university.
Under the joint auspices of the Inter-University Council for Higher Education and Overseas and the International Co-operation Administration (now the United States Agency for International Development), J.W. Cook, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter, Dr John A. Hannah, President of Michigan State University and Dr Glen L. Taggart, Dean of International Programs at the same university, came to Nigeria in 1958. The team surveyed the site at Nsukka, and extensively investigated a great variety of factors pertinent to the establishment of a new university.
The results of their efforts were contained in a white paper issued by the Eastern Nigeria Government on 30 November 1958. They had recommended “that the development of the University of Nigeria based upon the concept of service to problems and needs of Nigeria, is a desirable project and one that should receive support from any source which could help to make it a sound endeavor”.
The University was formally opened on 7 October 1960, as the climax to the Nigerian independence celebrations in the Eastern Region. Her Royal Highness, Princess Alexandra of Kent, representing Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the Nigerian independence celebrations, performed the opening ceremonies and laid the foundation stone of one of the University’s early buildings.
The university was fully autonomous, with the power to grant its own degrees. Technically speaking, therefore, it became the first fully-fledged university in Nigeria, since Ibadan was still at that time a university college granting London degrees. It also became the first university established by a Nigerian Regional Government. The University College Ibadan, the oldest degree awarding institution, cut its umbilical cord with London in January 1963, becoming the University of Ibadan. In July 1967, it turned out the first graduates holding Ibadan (rather than London) degrees, by which time Nsukka had produced two crops of graduates and taken all the publicity for turning out the first graduates of an autonomous Nigerian university.
The main campus of the University is located on 871 hectares of land in the town of Nsukka. Additionally 209 hectares of arable land are available for an experimental agricultural farm and 207 hectares for staff housing development.
The Enugu Campus (200 hectares) of the University is located in the heart of Enugu, the administrative capital of Enugu State of Nigeria The teaching hospital (UNTH) attached to the University is presently sited at Ituku-Ozalla (25 kilometres south of Enugu) on a 500 hectare site.
The vision of the University is
“Through research and innovation, to become a globally reputed first-rate School of Postgraduate studies”.
THE UNIVERSITY OF FIRST CHOICE:
The Ashby Commission recommended the establishment of a new university in Lagos, the then Federal Capital, to offer day and evening courses in Commerce, Business Administration, Economics and Higher Management Studies. In 1961, the Federal Government assigned the detailed planning of the new university to a UNESCO Advisory Commission. However, whereas the Ashby Commission had envisaged a non-residential institution which would be cited in the business district of Central Lagos, the UNESCO Commission opted for a traditional university, “a complete all encompassing institution” with residential accommodation on a large campus. Following the acceptance of the UNESCO Commission’s report, the University of Lagos was established on 22nd October 1962 on the authority of the University of Lagos Act of 1962.
The Act provided for an 11 member Provisional Council for the University, a Senate to preside over academic affairs, and a separate Council for the Medical School located at the University Teaching Hospital at Idi-Araba, a few kilometres away from the main (Akoka) campus. This was rather unique for, by authority of the Act, the University consisted of two separate institutions—the main university and an autonomous Medical School. The link between the two institutions was tenuous at best, consisting of reciprocal representation on both Councils and membership in the University Senate by professors in the Medical School.
The University of Lagos is among the first generation of universities in Nigeria and also one of the federal universities which are overseen and accredited by the National Universities Commission.
The university has been called “the University of First Choice and the Nation’s Pride.”
The University of Lagos has as its vision “To be a top class institution for the pursuit of excellence in knowledge , character and service to humanity.”
By 1962, the number of Nigerian federal universities had increased to 5 namely: the University of Ibadan, the University of Ife, the University of Nigeria, Ahmadu Bello University, and the University of Lagos
Of a truth, the founding fathers had lofty and glorious dreams for posterity, dreams of setting limits that would almost be impossible to break by any succeeding government(s) or any individual(s) for any reason(s).
By the 1970s, the universities were in their glorious era. According to Jake Otonko in his paper, ‘University Education in Nigeria: History, Successes, Failures and the way forward’, he posited that “…in the 1960‘s, 70‘s and up to the mid 80‘s the five premier universities, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; University of Ibadan, University of Ife, University of Lagos, and University of Nsukka were centers of academic excellence. There were few universities and many students to be admitted while competition was very fierce but healthy. Even then, many students with grade II found it difficult to gain admission because there were so many excellent students to pick from”. One of the students who could not gain an admission into these prestigious citadels of learning was a young boy from Omu-Aran called ‘David Olaniyi Oyedepo’. According to one of his teachers in secondary school, his studies were ‘staggered’ and he was therefore not an exceptional student. David Oyedepo had told another teacher that he was a “full time Christian and only a part-time student”. No wonder he could not gain admission to a prestigious university. In consolation, he met a student of Economics at the University of Ife, Florence Abiola Akano and married her a few years later.