‘Southern Nigeria should wake from slumber, shun assumption northern students don’t embrace university education’
Adedibu Akinsumbo is a law student at the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) who decided to study in Borno State despite the security situation in the area. In this interview with DAYO EMMANUEL, Adedibu, an indigene of Osun State relayed how he wrote JAMB four times before finally securing admission into UNIMAID with his lowest score of 253 at the fifth attempt. According to him, the south should shun the old-time assumption that northerners don’t embrace education. He said the system in the north encourages students to study hard to gain admission while the south is living in the past and giving room for examination malpractice. He also said if care is not taken in the near future, the north may be ahead in terms of education. Excerpts:
What informed your leaving the west to pursue admission at the University of Maiduguri despite the news of insecurity in Borno State?
Actually what informed my choice of study in Maiduguri was the way we are being treated in the west. The system of education in the west today does not encourage the serious students. They believe they are setting a standard but they are only encouraging malpractice. How will a student score 283 or above 300 and not be admitted to study medicine? I have scored 296 and I was not admitted for Law in the University of Ibadan (UI). I have scored 284 and I was not admitted for Law in UI, so I just had to decide to go to the north where I can be admitted because that year I scored 253. Even there are times we would go to our professors and they would tell us we are not doing enough. If 296 is not enough to gain admission into our university here, then what will be enough? You can see that 296 out of 400 is already above 70 percent and that is a straight A-student, we are setting a bad precedence here and we are sending a lot of students to the north. There are many Yoruba people in the north today and whatever they are facing will affect us all because they will come and infect and affect our own side of the country here. So what actually pushes students from the south to the north is that our people feel they are setting standard but they are making it very hard for people to have access to education. Most of these students who get admitted with As and Bs in WAEC got those results through malpractices. If you go to most of our exam centres here, a lot of students are aided. I have seen a centre where they employed a PhD holder to write for students during the West African Examination Council’s (WAEC) exams. These are the students gaining admissions because the schools want As and Bs and those who have everything upstairs are not getting opportunities because they cannot be involved in malpractices. Another thing is the quota. The number given our students in admission in the west here is very low. From the information available to me, I found out that UI is admitting 3,500 undergraduates annually while University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) is admitting over 15,000 students. Meanwhile, UNIMAID cannot boast of having a quarter of the facility in UI and we are saying we are the ones having the highest number of students in school. If we have the highest number of students, should we reduce our quota? If those people are increasing their quota and we are admitting lower, then we are only pushing our students away, not allowing them to gain access to education. It will not help us and that is why myself and many other people had to go up north to have access to education.
With the news of insecurity in Bono State and the North East, how are you coping and how are you concentrating on your studies?
The truth behind insecurity I must say is that insecurity in this country today is not absolutely real. The insecurity in the north I can say is a kind of a gang up. Some people use it. I got there in 2018 and with what I have experienced so far, insecurity in the north is not real. When I was going in 2018, I thought we were going to be isolated in the university, I thought we won’t be able to go to the town. When I got to Maiduguri, I saw a very large crowd in the market. I asked if it is the same Maiduguri where they said Boko Haram started. Actually there are attacks in some places but the truth behind these things needs to be revealed, they are not telling us the truth. I don’t believe there is insecurity for real. Some people have ganged up and they are making money from it. The truth is that for those who studied Peace and Security Studies, they have testified that there is more money for the corrupt people to get from crisis than from peace. That is what I can say about it, we have no problem in Maiduguri, we are schooling peacefully and things are going on smoothly. Though there have been some attacks and some students were killed but insecurity is not as the media is reporting it. People from the south call us there they are hearing of attacks and those of us in Maiduguri will not hear of any attack.
We learnt northern students are supported by their state government through bursary. Is your state back home doing likewise?
The northern government and stakeholders are giving their students helping hands and aiding their education. There are bursaries and grants. When we resumed January 2021, Borno State government paid N30,000 to each Borno State student in tertiary institutions in every state in Nigeria and during the second quarter, they started registering for another bursary and that is what they do, they support their students with bursary, grant etc. They saw these things in the south and they are trying to emulate but today the government of the south is not doing anything. The last time Osun State paid bursary was in 2013 when they paid N10,000 each to students and up till today, Osun State has not paid N1 to any of their students and that is how southern government has denied their people access to anything from the government. The states in the north are trying. Borno, Gombe and other states are paying N500,000 to any of their indigenes going into the Law school. They pay it every year. Borno signed it in 2020, Gombe has been paying before them and some other states have emulated that. I heard some time ago too that Oyo State government has signed that too. But generally in the west what are we doing? What are we doing in the south. The northern governments are actually helping their people to see that they get access to education. The perception we always have in the south that the northern children don’t go to school will soon vanish. I know we are still living in the past but very soon our people will soon realise the northerners are getting educated everyday.
The general believe in the south is that northern children don’t go to school, is this the real situation?
This is a belief that I have been saying our people should desist from, I have heard a lot of people saying that they don’t go to school in the north, they are illiterates etc and when you go there you get to know that these people are getting educated. The rate of their admission into the university is alarming and when you say they are not educated, it is laughable. The last time UNIMAID admitted 18,000 in 2020 and another set are being admitted now. UI is admitting 3,500 students and fewer than 10,000 also being admitted at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU). How many students are being admitted by our universities? Just because they are not coming down south to get educated people think they are no in school but what we need to realise is that the quota they are giving their universities has provided enough space for their children but here we are not providing enough space, it is forcing our people to the north and because they are being forced to the north outside our own domain to get educated elsewhere, we are thinking we are the ones who are educated. That was in the past. Today they are going to school and will soon be far ahead of us if care is not taken.
Then it means gaining university admission is easier in the north than in the south…
Actually I can say admission is easier there but just not like that. What is making it easier there is the system. If we want to admit 18,000 in to a university and we want to admit 3,500 students into a university, we cannot stop at the same cut off mark. If a school reaches admission of 3,500 students at 230 marks, you expect a school that wants to admit 18,000 students to stop at something at 170/160, that is why the system here is choking our people, the people who are struggling to get admission could not reach the percentage required, the score they need there makes them consider examination malpractices. In the north it is not like that and that is why a centre has been closed because of examination malpractices and those who cannot go into malpractice have to go up north. I wasted a lot of years pursuing admission into some universities in the west and was not admitted and someone advised me. In the last JAMB examination I wrote that gave me admission in the north, I scored 253 and then I was working as a motor boy at the International Breweries, Ilesha, so there was no money, I am poor, nobody to help me, I was working as a motor boy, I had to travel overnight to Lagos and back to Ilesa during the day on the trailer and that was my routine then I scored 253. There are some students we wrote the exam together they scored 300, they were not better than I because they sat in the comfort of their rooms to read, they had access to available textbooks, they had all the assets to everything they need and I scored 253 which is above 60 percent. If I can score above 60 percent and that is a B which is good enough but here it is nothing to them and that is why I am encouraging people to go to the north so that they don’t get their time wasted because they are wasting the people’s time, they are choking them in the system and when people struggle at the end of the day, get admission at the age of 28, ASUU will come up and all these issues and four years will become six years. When they finally graduate you will say you want someone that is below the age of 30 for employment. So I am encouraging people to come to the north. There are courses you will get with 160 in UNIMAID, there are courses with 180 and there are courses you get with 250, 260, there are courses like Law if a student score 270, there are courses for those with 250. Medicine is nothing less than 270 and that is not bad. So when people say admission is cheap there, it is not true. There are some courses that the system will not permit you to study if you don’t score enough marks. Only that they have given ample opportunities for people to get admission, not here that you will score 300 and will not get admission. I have somebody who scored 300 in JAMB and OAU gave him Biochemistry in 2019/2020 admission and by now he is in UNIMAID. In 2019/2020 he scored 296 and I helped him with admission information, he is studying pharmacy now, what are we saying?
Do you have any regret that you were not admitted in the south?
I don’t have any regret whatsoever because even traveling to the north is an eye opener. Before I got to the north, what I heard was that people in the north don’t go to school, they are illiterates, they know nothing, Fulani people are just cattle herders, the Hausas only sell noodles by the roadside and other things like that. When I got there, I realised that things are different from what we hear in the south. So, traveling to the north is an eye opener, I have learnt a lot of things, I learnt that there are good people and also bad people among them. I learnt that you can easily connect with them. I got there and also learnt that there are a lot of things we do in the south too that are bad. So when you travel round we learn from ourselves. From secondary school I learnt that traveling is part of learning and going to the north has exposed me. Education is not limited to the four walls of the school. I have learnt a lot of things where they are better especially in the area of communalism, these people help each other. In the south it is you and your problem, up there, an injury to one is an injury to all. If someone sit here and start condemning the northerners it may not be just. Yes they can be wrong sometimes, we are also not always right here. So I don’t have any regret whatsoever. I have learnt a lot there. The standard is there too, we have professors and lecturers up north who are from the south, there are people on sabbatical from the south that come to the north.
How do you describe education in the north when you compare with the south?
Like I have said there is no farfetched difference, it is the same system. It is the same curriculum; there are lots of lecturers in the north who studied in the south. There is nothing much difference, though there are some differences. You cannot be hearing issues of lecturers harassing students for marks. Those things don’t exist in the north, there is sanctity. So there are things that differentiate them from us, there are things that are good about us and there are good things about them too. Honestly in their education system, there are things in their system that they do better but people here live in the past. We need to stop living in the past and embrace what is happening right now. The system of education in the north is fine and if anybody wants to contest that, they can bring a 300 Level student from UI to compete with me and see if the person is going to beat me or not. The standard is fine and there is nothing bad about the standard of education in the north.
At the end of your studies, what aspect of law practice would you like to go into?
As a law student I am studying Public Law which covers our Constitutional Law, Administrative Law, Criminal Law, there are aspects of law that deal with public matters. So when I graduate, I intend to settle with criminal law because the truth is our society today is so much engaged with criminals and we need to curb this issue of crime. So going into Criminal Law is not just to make money because when you amass wealth and there is no peace, you cannot enjoy the wealth. There are poor people that enjoy their lives when there is peace and the rich will not enjoy their lives when there is absence of peace. So I will like to specialise in criminal law and I will be glad to contribute my quota to curbing crime in our society.
Can you advise the government of the day on education?
Education in Nigeria requires an overhaul. If anybody is saying the standard is better here than there, there is nothing like that. The ratio of lecturer to students and pupils to teachers is not encouraging at all. We need to work on this. I have been a guest at UI many times and I have seen what is there, I have been in the lecture hall in UNIMAID where the noise from the fans in the lecture hall was depriving us from hearing what the lecturer was saying. How do you expect a lecturer to be taking a class of over 1,000 students without a public address system? This applies to almost all our universities, so we need an overhaul. We need sophisticated infrastructure in our schools, things need to be changed and the way school is being run in Nigeria needs attention. We don’t need to bring politics into everything and our people need to be well informed, not that we should bring politics into everything and someone will be commenting on education and issues that concern education and the person will be talking about politics, because I like the party in government or because I hate the party in government, no. We need just to say the truth and education in Nigeria needs an overhaul. The government in Nigeria has seen education as a ministry were they can be getting money. Education should not be an asset from which you make money, it should just be an asset that will produce people who will work for the nation in the future but today we can see that schools are now business centres; you see government schools where students are paying N200,000 as school fees, this is not good enough. You see schools especially in the south where they are charging students acceptance fees. Somebody applied for admission and you offered the person admission, the person will have to pay over N50,000 for acceptance to accept the admission the person applied for. It is like asking me to pay to accept a job I paid for. I want to apply for admission in our school, I paid for JAMB, I paid for post UTME and when you offered me admission, I still have to pay you to accept that admission before being allowed to pay my school fees. This is too bad. We need to change a lot of things in our system and this is why a lot of students are not having access to education and the more they are deprived access to education, the more we are creating criminals and thieves. That is why the nation is almost in a state of total breakdown. Now if you bring something up, people will be commenting from the area of politics, ethnicity and religion because they have been deprived and nobody wants to hear anything again. The system in Nigeria today is such that people are just confused, things are not in the right channels and people are not thinking right. So there are a lot of things to do in the education sector like JAMB. An exam of fewer than three hours, students will pay to register for JAMB, after payment for registration, you are writing e-exams and your result will be delayed for seven or eight days, you will have to send code for you to be charged. Some people will send codes ten times before getting their results and after getting their results they have to pay for original JAMB result. After paying that, if you want to change institution, you will have to pay. If you are changing institution ten times, you have to pay ten times. If you are changing courses ten times, you have to pay ten times and a school that must admit you, you have to pick the school as first choice. If you pick a school second choice and you are admitted, you still have to go to jamb to change the school to first choice again. This is nothing from extortion. We are doing extortion in the education sector today so we need an overhaul. Some people spend about N50,000 on JAMB, just to get admission in a year because if you do change of institution four times with N2,500 each, that is N10,000, you pay for JAMB result slip, you want to correct something. If there was an error during your registration made by those who did the registration, you have to pay. You pay to accept admission, you pay to print your admission letter from JAMB, you pay to print your result slip, you pay to do a lot of things so we are being extorted. We are denying the children from poor homes access to education and the only way you can help them is to let them have access to education so that they don’t think in the way of crime. But when you don’t give them access to education and they see their friends making it, what would they do? They will be criminal minded and that is why a lot of them go into cyber crimes today. If people are educated and they are gainfully employed only few will go into crime.
You mentioned earlier that the northerners are now going into education unlike the assumption in the south and you said if care is not taken they may be ahead of the south…
I said it earlier that the standard is not in any way different. The standard is very much qualitative; the standard in the north is not much different from what we are getting in the west just that we are living in the past. So the quality in the north is the same, we have seen students in the north graduating with first class in the Law School where everyone in Nigeria would come together to study so it is qualitative education nobody should sit here and be telling us the system of education in the north is this and that. I have met students in the north who finished from public secondary schools, I have course mates from the north who I can’t match, I can say it, there are some of them I learn from and there are some who learn from me. The system in the north encourages a lot of things. If something is taught in class and it is not clear to you, you can go to your lecturer and he will explain to you that is the system in the north, that is qualitative education, not a system where a lecturer will come to class, drop handout and leave, no. There is supervision, you can complain, you can call for your papers if you are marked wrongly or you feel something is wrong somewhere. That is how things are done, the system there is what it should be. That is the best way it can be with what is going on in the country today and there is no better in the south.
Can you give a brief about yourself?
I finished my NCE from the College of Education, Ila Orangun in 2013, I was supposed to finish in 2012 but there was a strike due to some crises. When we resumed, some of us who were comrades in the Student Union were victimised by the management at the state government so I finished in late 2013 and since 2014 I have been processing admission into the University of Ibadan. I wrote jamb in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and I later got admission in 2018. So in 2014, 2015, 2016 I was teaching. I taught for a while in secondary school, I was teaching at Osogbo and Ikire. I was also an itinerant teacher going from one tutorial centre to the other and I got paid based on periods I worked. I did that up to a period that it was not enough again so I had to go to work at the International Breweries, Ilesha. My target was to get a job there so I started as a motor boy, targeting recruitment. While I was there, I wrote my JAMB and I felt like if I continue like this, I would not make it. I saw my performance in JAMB as lower than what I used to get, the lowest I got was 284 which UI wasted so I just felt let me go back into academics. I went back to teach at Ife until I was admitted into the University of Maiduguri. I had to stop teaching and went to school. So it has been so hard, very hard for me but the truth is that the system is chocking our people and it is encouraging malpractices. When you know your classmates you perform better than now getting admission into school by going into ‘almighty exam centres,’ where they are being helped, you have no other choice than to go there if you have done your best and it is not giving you anything in return. That is how far and how much we suffered.
Does it mean that UNIMAID is admitting 18,000 students annually so that more northern students can be in school and will that not stress the limited facilities such that lecturers would have to shout to lecture in overcrowded lecture rooms?
It is not because they want northern students to get access to education. But because they know that the number of people applying is much more than what the school can admit and they are trying to ensure that people get access to education. If they are trying to make sure northern children get education then people like me and others who are from the south won’t be there. During admission there is no discrimination, if you are qualified you gain admission, if you are not qualified you will not be admitted regardless of where you are coming from. It is not that they are creating chances for the northern students. The floor is open for everybody to come in. If we can build lecture theatres that can take over 2,000 students what do you want them to use it for? To take 200 students in a facility that can take 2,000 students? What they should just do is to install gadgets not to say that a lecturer should take this number of students without providing facilities, the government should just provide facilities, there is no two ways to that. There is no excuse. Not because the schools are admitting much more, it is because the government is not putting enough facilities in place. In fact a conventional university should admit much more than that. We see the breakdown of students examined by JAMB, how many students eventually get admitted? A student will be writing JAMB seven or eight times without gaining admission, do we have to continue like that? They are even helping the situation, if not for universities that are admitting more than our schools in the south, we would have much more criminals in town. They have seen how their children have not been educated in the past and they have seen how much it has affected them in every aspect of their lives and they have opened the floor for their people to go to school and they are not discriminating. From my home town alone, about 30 students have been admitted into UNIMAID in just 2020/2021 admission. So we can’t say they opened the floor for their children to go to the university. There is no discrimination there.
How much is the acceptance fee in UNIMAID?
In UNIMAID there is no separate acceptance fee. You would see a university collecting acceptance fee of N55,000 and it is not refundable, in UNIMAID I only saw acceptance fee in the breakdown of the school fees I paid when I was in year one. The acceptance fee from the break down is N1,000 so if we pay acceptance fee in UNIMAID, it is yes, and that is N1,000 unlike what they pay here in the south. There are schools that charge N60,000. Ekiti State University is charging something around N57,000, Adekunle Ajasin is charging over N55,000, likewise UI and some other universities. There is far difference.