When the first Principal of the University College of Ilorin and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Prof. Tekena T. Tamuno, was to leave office in 1979 under circumstances that were less than salutary in Ibadan, he said something striking. According to the well-respected academic giant, “all things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, Nigeria kills them all.”

Prof. Tamuno’s words came to mind when my attention was drawn to the July 20, 2014 story of an Ibadan-based newspaper, headlined, “Religious fundamentalists invade Unilorin” (p.7). I knew within me that hack writers were at work because it could not be true. By the time I read the story, I was convinced that it was a report without a scintilla of substance.

Well, the fact that the University of Ilorin has managed to carve a niche for itself as the bastion of peace and stability in the Nigerian university system would naturally ruffle some feathers. It is therefore not expected that once in a while, misguided reports aimed at rubbishing the gains of the University over more than a decade now would appear in the press.

What was strange about the story under reference is that it was anchored on the complaint of a parent that her son was “forbidden to take pictures or watch television on the basis that it is evil” by some students and she took her case to the newspaper. The reporter ultimately traced the activities of the “exuberant Muslim youths” to the university staff quarters (not even the student hostels!)

In a socio-political environment that is religiously hyped, writing of a fundamentalist group “invading” a campus without proof is mischievous, to put it mildly. Besides, everyone that has done a basic research knows that the issue of taking photographs is a controversial topic in Islam and it has been like that for several centuries generally and for decades in Nigeria, including higher institutions.

The way wearing ear-rings is not acceptable to some Christians, taking photographs is also to some Muslims unacceptable. It is a matter of choice just as some people choose not to eat meat. If there was any investigation at all, it would be found that the University has an impressive security apparatus that does not condone any form of extremism or indecency in whatever guise.

As if the story was not in bad faith enough, the rejoinder written by the University spokesperson, Mr Kunle Akogun, who was quoted in the report was not published the following week despite the assurance given to him by the editor, I was told. The principle of “the right of reply” was thrown overboard and that was too bad on the part of the newspaper.

For our collective peace, Nigerians should be wary of media organisations and groups that exploit religious and ethnic sentiments to drive home their parochial objectives. That was why it is heart-warming that despite the unfortunate pseudo-religious propaganda of “Boko Haramising” a political party as evident in the same edition of the newspaper in question by some desperadoes, the victim of religious stereotyping in Osun State still won because truth is unimpeachable and our people are wiser.

Meanwhile, barely a week after the said publication, precisely July 29, 2014, as if to ridicule the report and its sponsors, an international organisation revealed that the University of Ilorin is the best in Nigeria. The truth then dawned on doubting Thomases that religious fundamentalism and high ranking do not go together, no way.

Apart from being the most preferred university in Nigeria by admission applicants (with over 105,000 candidates) as the statistics from the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) this year shows, the University is now ranked by For international Colleges and Universities (www.4icu.org) as the 1st University in Nigeria, the 20th in Africa and the 1,842nd in the world. It is the first time that a Nigerian university would be ranked among the best 2,000 in the world!

The last time the University enjoyed a similar impressive ranking was in January 2011 when the Ranking Web of Universities (www.webometrics.info) placed the University the 1st in Nigeria, 20th in Africa and 2,668th in the world.

This development is so good for the University that has become the beautiful bride and it deserves to be congratulated. Those who assume it is a fluke, and not a product of hard work, as the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Abdul Ganiyu Ambali, said it is, should also aspire and find how easy it is to be Number One.

The smear campaign against the University eventually thawed into insignificance as no other newspaper would desecrate itself with such a hatchet job. The University now dominates the news on account of achieving the leading feat. For the University of Ilorin, it was too bad a mendacious report was published on it and it was too good that it emerged first at the same time in web ranking.

FEEDBACK

Re: Nonsense teachers, hatred preachers                          

Your piece was thought-provoking. I believe it must stir the hearts of Nigerians who profess these callings. The moral debasement in these realms (teaching and preaching) over time has plunged the society into social anomie. Comrade Ogbu Ameh Alex

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