Sunday Dec 04, 2022

That Unibuja Will Know Peace

i graduated from the University of Abuja in 2012. Funny, because I got my admission in December of 2006. From the very first semester, we became familiar with school being shut at least 3 times a year. in January of 2007, after about two weeks of lectures, (around 16th January) a student was attacked by robbers on the school field. they cut him down with a machete. fortunately for him, he was found by other students and rushed to the school’s clinic.

On getting there, it was pitch dar because of power failure (and the generator was out).  students rushed to the school gate to buy candles. after the 5 minute run to-and-fro, they got back and discovered that there was no cotton wool (or anything else) to stop the bleeding. they still rushed to the front of school. it was fortunate that the last drugstore/chemist was only just closing. when students returned the boy was almost dead, eyes glossed over.

the next day, the Student Union Government organised (or appeared to organise) a peaceful protest. students boycotted lectures (unfortunately i had to go get interviewed by my prospective landlord). i was listening to the car radio and i heard that University of Abuja had been shut down indefinitely and students were given till 4pm of that day to vacate the hostels. I rushed back from Wuse to get my stuff from the hostel, expecting that the school was burning down.

there were armoured Personnel Carriers, hot water canons and frightening soldiers circling the school. and by 4pm they did enforce the lockdown. For almost two months we were at home. when we came back, we saw lists pasted- all the SUG members except the Director of Sports had been expelled for either cultism or examination malpractice! that was the draconian empire under which we lived.

But the protest had its fruits. Whereas only the VC’s office had power supply 24 hours, the clinic and computer centre were connected to the VC’s generator and remain so to this day.

The vice Chancellor never moved without at least 4 gun-toting soldiers. he was allegedly receptive and acessibl (only to cultists who wished to renounce their cultism. He took a compulsory lecture in GST 222 (Peace & Conflict Resolution), always on a sunday evening. I remember one incident when he was talking about dangerous weaponry and my friend  Ope Owotumi was playing with a pen that doubled as a lighter. Immediately security officials swooped on him and consfiscated the offending dangerous weapon.

Professor Nuhu Omeiza gradually started turning from an administrator to a military ruler. All of a sudden, you couldn’t enter the university premises without a Universty of Abuja Student ID card. But if you wanted to use the mosque, you would be allowed in. All of a sudden, Fellowship generators were seized because they could cause fire outbreaks. But during Jihad week (surprising, right?), generators were used openly. I began to think this VC was an enemy of Christianity, until he finally banned all form of gathering. In fact, any gathering beyond 3 people was illegal. The circular stated that there were some “subterranean agitations” being planned by some “disgrutled elements”.

The situation on ground grew from bad to worse. from my 100 level, We struggled for lecture venues with other departments even though it was “law block”. watch a video here. A classroom meant for 60 people would hold 200 people sitting on the arms of chairs, on plastic chairs imported for the lecture (by students of course) and standing. Several times people fainted in class! The power situation was terrible. we could go two weeks in gwagwalada without power supply from the PHCN. The generator would come on at the pleasure of whoever was in charge.

My school fees increased from N11, 500 to N12, 000 and finally to N15, 000 all within my first 3 years on campus. In my 100 level, there were 13 occupants of a room that could hold only 3 metal bunks. The power supply dropped steadily, the water supply manageable, but I know that Gwagwalada was NOT safe. There were killings everywhere, cultist unrests and all of that. I’m not saying that it was the fault of Omeiza- i’m just bringing in a background.

Admissions into Unibuja kept increasing and increasing. I know I bought my Post-Ume Card for N1,200 (with bank charges). but under this man, the fee kept rising; more people were taking the exams and i remember one analysis that put the post-UME business at about 60 million naira per year. Even though Law school gave Unibuja a quota of 100, Omeiza admitted 300, then 400, then 450 students (successively). So our facilities were getting pressured even more and more; we were paying higher fees yet we were not seeing any results. Lecturers became (and still are) demigods, terrorising students, collecting money, sleeping with the girls and doing all sorts of things.

We never saw our results on time (always released at the start of the next semester’s exams). Our results were witheld for years on end. between my 200 level and 500 level, we never saw our results. By the time we were given 400 level results (at the end of 500 level firs semester), all our CGPAs had dropped miraculously and scandalously. Of course by this time a new VC had come in but it was by his instrumentality that we even saw those results.

In my 400 level (i think), Professor James Adelabu was made Vice Chancellor. First time a southerner, a Christian became Vice Chancellor. The rumours making the rounds then was that there were moves to remove him. I wasn’t surprised given the attitude we northerners seem to have, that anybody not of our stock automatically lacks the pedigree to lead. As soon as this man came in, I noticed a change in the school.

Before, the school generator went off at 10pm. It was now going off by 11 or 12pm.
Beforem water was a problem. Now water was stable. In fact, the one time I remember there was no water in the hostel, the Vice Chancellor in person came to the hostel, apologised to the students that the tanker drivers’ union was on strike and orders had been placed for emergency supplies from Suleja. Honestly i thought it was a lie but surely 2 hours later water trucks arrived!

I remember that because the generator was now working full time, students like Sheriff Okoh  and others went to the PHCN to negotiate with them. The deal they struck was that at certain times (when the generator was sure to be on, such as 8am to 4pm, 7pm to 11pm) PHCN would give power to the rest of Gwagwalada. so from 4pm-7pm; 11pm-8am PHCN would now give us power. Power became so stable in school that those of us who moved off-campus started visiting the hostel when we had a long paper or project to work on!

Within a year of getting into office, The faculties of Sciences, Engineering and Agriculture sprang up. He actually moved those faculties to the permanent site in my final year. The students who had barely any form of shopping facilities now have a rustic “market” known as Adelabu Market. There is an internet centre, photocopy shops and actual power supply.

I remember one day the VC saw me walking with a friend, holding my guitar. He called us over, asked what we were studying, how the school was (and ultimately how playing the guitar was compatible with studying law). I remember how he handed out his phone number to students, saying “if you have ANY problem, call ME  directly”. I remember how 5 lecturers were subsequently fired for sexually harrassing female students.

When Adelabu came in, he made a rule that results must be released ON OR BEFORE resumption. It took a while for that to work anyway, but I know that my results came in early enough for us to address our minds to the next exams.

Professor Adelabu quickly became unpopular for his leadership style. When he came in, he stopped admissions into the Faculty of Engineering, Medicine and Veterinary Medicine because they did not have the necessary accreditation from the National Universities Commission (NUC). All those who were actually entitled to admission in those faculties were transferred to other similar departments.
He allegedly single-handedly handled admissions, giving out admission to people personally (instead of allowing other lecturers to join) and actually collecting money. I think that allegation is true. I remember my friend who paid almost N600, 000 to one professor in order to secure her admission (even though she passed that exam well!). However, the professor could not deliver as the VC was handling the admissions all alone. The stories were the same all over campus. Professors and Lecturers could suddenly not squeeze money out of desperate students because it was all in the VC’s hands.

To make matters worse, the NUC came knocking and decided that the Faculties of Engineering, Medicine and Veterinary Medicine were not fit for universities standard. In fact, the Minister of Education (Alhaja Ruqayat) asked if the Dean of Vet medicine would allow a pet he loved to be treated by doctor,  trained in that sort of lab (Unibuja). The Deam Shamefacedly replied “no”.

Those bearing the burden of the constant closure of Unibuja are the students. It’s bad enough they do a 5-year course in 6 years; but their colleagues who got admission with them have already graduated. I have friends in that department! Some of them even got their admission by remedial studies, meaning they will spend roughly 7 years. These students pay house rents every year (roughly N120, 000 each year) and because of strikes and closures they lose about 3 months every year. If you add holidays to that, they pay for 1 year and lose 6 months!!!

It is wrong that the dreams of so many talented future kings and queens are being squeezed, choked and asphyxiated by the unfeeling leaders of our society.

The ladies are complaining seriously. Someone tweeted this morning:
“Oh God☹”: Lool,nothin yet o “: Uniabuja report pls..anybody? Shud we get married or wait 4 anoda 30yrs……. “

Now the Engineering Students have taken to frustrating any academic activity at the University of Abuja until their faculty is re-accredited. I totally understand and identify with their plight. I salute their courage and I encourage them to make their voices heard.

However, I would like to inform them that the current VC inherited the problems that started over 24 years ago. The permanent site has remained largely undeveloped for much of the time I’ve known university of Abuja. This current VC has done a lot. He made shuttle services avalilable for free during exams. He even went as far as providing rice for the students when they complained that they were broke. All the things i’ve mentioned above show that this VC has the student’s interests at heart.

He cannot suddenly solve all the problems that the school faces. He has a monstrous beast called corruption to fight. He has ethnic and religious bias to fight. He has fraudulent contractors to fight. Yet he pleads with everyone to bear with him. I assure you that under Nuhu Yaqub this would NEVER have happened. Here is someone that has given students opportunities to air their dissatisfaction. I assure you further that all the protesters that went on rampage last year (they even burnt a motorcylcle) would be in Jail by now.

I must also inform all who care to listen that Adelabu is not the accrediting body. He is merely an official, howbeit the governing authority of the school. It is for the students, lecturers and management to synergise and channel their voices to the right authority. To the NUC, to the president, to the Minsiter of Education, to Professional Bodies.

The situation on Ground needs the participation of all stakeholders. The Accreditation is being deenied because of INFRASTRUCTURE. Can the University not take a loan? Can there not be some sort of Private-Sector participation? Can the Ministry of Works/ETF not build something more? Can the FCT Administration not do something?! Can the National Assembly not donate some 500 million naira?

I plead with the protesting students that they keep their heads; that they stay within the bound of the law; that their voices be united with purpose, to keep the University afloat. God bless Nigeria! God Bless University of Abuja!

 

Peter

3 thoughts on “That Unibuja Will Know Peace

  1. I'm nearly in tears! Luvly piece! I totally agree wit u,d bulk of d problems on ground stems frm corruptn n greed. I only pray dt a lastin solutn is found in gud tym.

  2. it is corruption AND greed. new information available to me shows that there's more than it seems on the surface. I'll do a follow up on this later

  3. I cant think of what better describes our alma mater than this. Whenever anyone wants to know about my school, I'll just answer with this: 'check out this blog'http://peterademu.blogspot.com/2013/02/that-unibuja-will-know-peace.html?spref=fb. Again, on jamb brochures, instead of putting the official name of the school, it should be replaced with this link. hehehehe! dramatic school!

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