Sir: I read in The Guardian of Tuesday, November 10, 2020, the following headlines about admission of students to Nigeria’s universities, namely: “Nigerians query 25-year old quota policy in varsity admission; Say Kano, Rivers, Kaduna, others not disadvantaged anymore; Stakeholders call for end to policy; Policy attacks excellence, celebrates mediocrity and Bayero lecturers defend policy, blame northern leaders.”
Therefore I wish to draw readers’ attention as follows:
When Nigeria from 1960-1965 operated a relatively True Federation that Nigeria had a total of five Universities, two Federal Universities and one each, for Northern Nigeria Regional Government, ABU, Western Nigeria Regional Government, (UNIFE) and Eastern Nigeria Regional Government, (UNN) respectively.
That each of the above universities determined its own admission requirement which conformed to international standards,
I recall that immediately after the Civil War in 1970, that Bayero College wanted to convert its college into a Regional University and came to us at UNN in the Department of Physics and asked us to sponsor their Department of Physics and we agreed to do so by stating that for admission to the Department of Physics a candidate must have Credits in English Language, Physics, Mathematics and Chemistry, they left us. We never saw them again,
In 1951, when Nigeria Amalgamation Administration was being restructured into a federation of three regions, North, West and East, it was agreed that Education at all levels shall be the responsibility of the respective three federating regions and not that of the Federal (Central) Government and that is why the Eastern Regional Government, Western Regional Government and Northern Regional Government set up their own respective universities, namely UNN, UNIFE and ABU, respectively.
When the question about what happens to the then University College, Ibadan (UCI), established by the British Colonial Government in 1948, the departing British Colonial Authorities through its British Colonial Secretary, Sir Oliver Little, asked the three Regional Governments to develop the UCI to a full university and own it together as a reminder of Nigeria being amalgamated entity. The above was the situation from 1952 – 1965, when from 1970, the military intervention in politics dismantled the existing university admission system and introduced what is now referred to as Federal Character/Quota Admission System, leading to an ugly situation in which students in competitive admission entrance examination to Nigerian universities from some states of Nigeria who scored 6, or 9, or 12 marks in competitive University Entrance Examination get admission to Nigeria universities, but students from some other states with 200 marks and above in the same examination cannot get admission or denied admission into the same universities.
This, I believe is one of the issues that led to a vociferous cry and agitation for a return to a true Federation of 1952-1965 so that merit will be the basis of achievements and progress in Nigeria.
I am writing the above observations as a rejoinder of support for those Nigerians who want to get the ugly situation to be scrapped and calling for a return to a relatively true and sustainable federation as existed in 1952-1965 in order to address these anomalies effectively and speedily.
Felix N. C. Oragwu wrote from Lagos.