It was in July last year that I wrote a nomination for national honour in favour of Professor Suleiman Elias Bogoro highlighting his exceptional academic attainments as well as his outstanding track record as a technocrat in a specialized field of strategic importance to tangible national development. In particular, I drew attention to his appointment as a leader on the pioneer Council of the Think Tank for Translating Research to Innovations, Strategies, Evidence for Policy and National Development created by the University of Ibadan Research Foundation. That appointment eminently reflects the double-distinction in Professor Bogoro’s career, situating him “squarely in the engine room of the sorely-needed actualization of the wealth of research works in various aspects of national development into innovations, strategies and inputs for policy- formulation”.
The professor was then on an unprecedented meritorious recall to continue his unduly-interrupted tenure as the Executive Secretary of TETFUND, heralded by a news-breaking spontaneous episode of joyous celebration among staff at the announcement. Their happiness was a damning feedback on the descent to maladministration that engulfed the agency following Professor Bogoro’s untimely departure, which triggered resentment among staff who yearned for “good old days” of commendable administrative and operational performance. It was therefore hardly surprising when positive transformation swept through the entire TETFUND structures and functions soon after the professor’s momentous comeback to the delight of staff, reverberating throughout the tertiary education sector.
However, the impressive performance of Professor Bogoro in steering the course of events at TETFUND back to its founding objectives and fine-tuning processes to enhance attainment of greater successes with the benefit of his unique antecedents in facilitating innovative outcomes from seemingly sterile situations was bound to confront the status quo. Just about a year into his clean-sweep endeavours, the professor’s focused determination to make progress against all odds has predictably marked him for the retributive attention of the notorious “Nigerian factor,” now giving him the PHD he never qualified for by frantically seeking to Pull Him Down!
A retrospective analysis of Professor Bogoro’s major initiatives since his momentous return to the helm of affairs at TETFUND removes any doubt about the cause of the undeserved hostile attention of enemies of progress. To start with, he had no qualms shutting down the campaign by private universities to sneak into the bounteous financial facilities of the TETFUND, hinged on the false premise of deserving what goes for public tertiary institutions covered by the TETFUND law. He has repeatedly declared that there is simply no justification for private universities to enjoy TETFUND grants pointing out that they have far less student population than public-owned universities, which currently cater for 94% of university students. The professor added that limiting TETFUND grants to public institutions “makes a lot of sense” because “the truth is majority of Nigerian students cannot afford private varsities. The category of people that are less privileged and the majority based on the statistics and facts are more in the public institutions. Many of the private universities are charging actually in dollars and some local people out there, who are selling small things on the streets may not have seen the dollar.” Case closed!
Then we find the professor dealing decisively with university administrators on an issue that they have been closely guarding at the expense of lecturers sponsored for training abroad under TETFUND auspices. In a double-edged measure that redressed grievances of the sponsored lecturers many of whom end up stranded abroad due to unwarranted failure by university administrators to forward their TETFUND fees and allowances promptly, Professor Bogoro said “when I came on board, we had a huge number of stranded scholars. We decided to be sending their tuition fees directly to them, no more through the Nigerian institutions and they are excited as they appreciated the decision. We have treated over 1000 of such cases.” He also ensured that it is no longer possible for lecturers to attend low-ranking universities abroad for their postgraduates training, stressing that “no lecturer on government funding should go to institutions lower in standard than Nigerian institutions.” End of discussion !
Even these two drastic decisions against the vested interests of private university proprietors and university administrators who singularly and collectively constitute “powerful people” in Nigeria, Professor Bogoro should be counting his blessings for overcoming them and remaining “on seat”. It would however take more than the conjured clout of such cliques to rattle someone whose combined academic and technocratic prowess confidently qualified him for top-level national assignments in the distinguished company of fellow accomplished academicians, national professional officers, technical, business and administrative leaders selected from universities, research institutions, national agencies and the media.
A world class researcher and technocrat, regularly engaged to undertake project management and consultancy for international, national and regional projects supported by the World Bank, UNDP, USAID, DFID, IPCR, OSIWA, NDI, FHI, NACA, and IFES, among others, is not likely to blink first, even in the midst of local champions of parochial politics who too often put their clannish interest above national interest. So he has put politicians responsible for the proliferation of universities on notice: “We have to apply some break to the embarrassing issue of proliferation of institutions at all level, both federal and state. Yes, many places, regions want universities established but that does not solve the problem”, he remarked after pointing out that “in Egypt, one university has a population of half a million. So, it is the effectiveness and infrastructure of those universities, not the number of the schools that only reduce the standard and quality.”
All said, Professor Bogoro remains unperturbed in his focused determination to apply his enviable academic prowess, unique national developmental and international technocratic insights to make TETFUND achieve its precious objectives for sustainable advancement of the quality and positive impact of our tertiary institutions. He still enjoys the enthusiastic solidarity of TETFUND staff who cherish his insistence on transparency, due process, discipline and welfare as elixir for working hard and efficiently to make TETFUND a world class interventionist agency in tertiary education.
Elemdi Akowe wrote from Ilorin