Inside Sources: How politicians arm-twist VCs over money approved for TETFUND — Prof Jega

Prof Attahiru Jega

By Oluwafemi Popoola and Olumide Awofesobi

Some politicians have been accused of exploiting their positions to exert pressure on Vice Chancellors on the recently approved funds from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), by manipulating the system in diverting these funds meant for universities that are in dire need of funding for their own personal use.

The renowned Nigerian academician and former Vice-Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano, Prof Attahiru Jega made the accusation as he was featured on the “Inside Sources” with Laolu Akande which aired on Channels TV on Friday, January 26, 2024.

During the interview, the political scientist provided a stark revelation of the prevailing corruption in the spheres of governance and highlighted the challenges faced by the higher education system in Nigeria and the detrimental impact it has on the nation’s academic progress.

He shed light on the alarming arm-twisting tactics employed by Nigerian legislators on university Vice Chancellors regarding the release of funds from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) while expressing his deep concern over public officials using power and positions to access public resources.

His words, “I can tell you for example now, the TETFUND had just announced, with the approval of the President, funds to go into the tertiary education sector and if you hear what is happening, some people already positioning themselves and trying to arm-twist the Vice Chancellors.”

“It is terrible you know. That mindset of using power and position to access public resources for personal, selfish ends rather than using the opportunity of public service to contribute to adding value to institutional development and growth.”

“And in particular to ensuring revitalisation of institutions such as education institution that has been really bastardized in our country. You still see it and you still see worst things,” he lamented.

Also, expressing his concerns regarding President Tinubu’s handling of the country’s persistent challenges, the former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), contended that the government’s response to national issues has fallen short, emphasizing that government patronage remains unchanged.

He argued that Nigeria continues to grapple with deep-rooted socio-economic and political problems, which require urgent and effective leadership. According to Prof Jega, although he conceded that the president has only spent few months in power but he insisted that the trajectory of his governance doesn’t give hope that those issues would be resolved. He said President Tinubu has not adequately addressed these issues, leaving the nation’s citizens longing for real progress.

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Highlighting the persistence of government patronage, Prof Jega said, “The other example of-course relate to in general to the patronage system which pervades governance and which undermines the integrity of governance,”

He added, “We see example of it, not much seems to change. And even where things are done with the best of intention, the communication is such that actually miscommunication create fear and suspicion and feeds into mutual distrust and the confidence.

“All these issues frankly are worrisome and the hope is that with little we will move on into a situation where we will have more focus trajectory of addressing some of these challenges. For example, issues of the cost of governance, issues of the distorted structure of our federal system and the issue of equality of opportunity for all citizens,” Prof Jega noted.

Furthermore, Prof Jega appraised the past administrations from 1999 till present and disclosed that the Nigerian people expect more from President Tinubu but voiced his disappointment at the way the governance is being handled.

He said, “Well, I think they all shared responsibility. I will give little to late President Yaradua because he started and got consumed by clearly what was known before he even became the president in terms of his ill health and therefore wasn’t able to do much.

“But the little that he did for example the way and which he addressed the issue of militancy in the niger delta. I think everybody has commended it.”, he said.

He added, “But all of them have shared some responsibility. Again, Yaradua was able to create the framework for electoral reforms. Because he was courageous enough to admit right from day one that the election that brought him into power was faulty.

“And that he was going to create a committee to review the electoral process and make recommendation and that was how Justice Mohammadu Uwais’s committee was established which I was privilege to be a member and made a far ranging recommendation.”

“So but obviously he became ill, the governing process was seized or hijacked by some people who are too busy to satisfy their own selfish interest than to focus on what is required to be done in terms of governance and getting Nigeria out of the quagmire that we got into both economically and politically.

Continuing, “So all of them share responsibility but I think what is important which we must bear in mind is the fact that we commence this journey in 1999 after a very long period of military rule. Almost thirty years of almost a generation of military rule with it’s culture and mindset.

“The legacy of military rule were so deeply embedded and that some of those who became president were also former Generals who clearly in their mindset and orientation have also have those deep seated culture and attitude prevalent in the military.

“He added, “So, regrettably I must say that the issue of authoritarian disposition, the issue of undemocratic disposition of our leaders, the issue of lack of inclusiveness and the issue of hierarchy of authority that seems to have even distorted our federal arrangement are all the legacies of military rule.

“So the hope that people seem to have is that president Ahmed Tinubu has been somebody who has struggled, who has no military background and who people expect and have high hope that he will become outstanding in terms of addressing those challenges. But regrettably what we see so far maybe it is unfair because he has been there for a few months but what we see doesn’t give much confidence that the challenges will be addressed.”, he concluded.