On Friday, Nov. 17, I joined other family members for my sister’s graduation as part of the 69th Foundation Day ceremonies of our dear University of Ibadan, Ibadan. She was part of those who bagged doctoral degrees that day.
As I drove into the International Conference Centre, venue of the ceremony, someone with a UI identity card asked me to stop, brandishing a receipt booklet and demanded for a thousand naira. “What for,” I asked. “It’s for parking, sir,” he replied. I asked why and he muttered, “That’s the university’s decision,”and he promptly tore a receipt from the booklet. I wanted to turn back and go to my uncle’s house at Barika to park or find a way to get to Anatomy or Biochemistry departments or Pharmacy or Staff Club to park and trek back to the venue.
It was not possible as the exits have been blocked. Reluctantly, I parted with N1, 000 even when there was no prior information or alternatives. At the car park, I counted 500 cars in the section where I parked excluding those who parked at unmarked places, and there were three other sections where people also parked. A rough estimate shows that at least a million naira would have been obtained by stealth that day. Bearing in mind that Friday was the fifth day of the convocation ceremonies, you can guess how much my former university would have made.
Some questions though, there were no scanners to determine how many vehicles entered the centre, and in these days of TSA, would the money collected be remitted to the school’s coffers? Was there a prior notice that money would be collected for parking?
The centre, beautiful by all standards, was large enough to accommodate all guests and the air conditioners worked well through the ceremony. The toilets also were sparkling and the attendants never harassed guests for money as we see in our airports. Sadly, the audio was crappy and there were no visuals for those of us who sat at the gallery. Not built as a theatre, it was impossible for us to follow the proceedings as the screens were blank, similarly at other rooms where some guests sat. Annoyingly too, there was constant mention of “first and the best” during the ceremony but yet money for car park was more paramount than guests’ comfort. The crappy visual shown to us were pictures of the new doctors, theses and supervisors’ names as they stood to shake hands with the chancellor.
Also, there were no ushers to direct guests apart from a horde of security agents at the entrance and those who moved around were hawkers in uniforms selling the convocation brochure. With my son and two nephews to mind, I left the hall before the programme ended as they got restless like other kids and some adults as well.
Granted that there is pressure on university administrators to raise money, but descending to ‘agbero’ level or tactics is bad for a university. Not thinking about guests’ comfort rubbed more salt in my wounds as a guest and an alumnus. For friends who are part of the current UI administration, you owe me a thousand naira, and please let there be visuals at the conference centre when next you have a university event there.
Mr Fatade a Senior Journalist is also an alumnus of University of Ibadan