MEMORANDUM FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF UNIVERSITY OF ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE AND TOURISM
IN IDANRE LOCAL GOVERNMENT.
By Charles O. Akinde.Ph.D.
On the 18th of September 2016, the Owa (King) in the Traditional Council of Chiefs, representing the Idanre Community, passed a resolution, after a thorough consideration of the need for a Higher Education Institution in Idanre Local Government, to establish an institution of not less a status than a university, to serve the need of the growing population of youth in need of a functional Higher Education Institution.
Taking a clue from the yearning of the people for a higher, post secondary but vocationally oriented institution of higher learning that will be capable of meeting the demand for education, that will be capable of checking the migration of productive youth from rural to urban areas in search for employments that are hardly there. This situation in many places made the youthful, mostly productive population end up in shantytowns around State capitals and large towns and cities throughout Nigeria. They become a menace rather than assets to the community and the country.
Many universities and polytechnics have been established to cater for the post secondary aspiration of the secondary school leavers, after the students have left the walls of the institution they attend, they are mostly left on their own to vie for a life, which they hardly prepare for. No opportunities are open for them other than to get employment in the government ministries too often in the departments for which they are hardly qualified. There is no alternative avenue for most of them (the young school leavers) to make a living than to become terrors to their families and society at large. The most vulnerable of this population of youths are girls, who get impregnated prematurely, by the unemployed youths because of lack of hope for the future. Discussions have been going on for many years amongst the concerned people in and outside Idanre community. Some individuals and organizations gave scholarships to needy students; these are just a fraction of those who need such opportunity.
In spite of the fact that Idanre has one of the largest landmass producing cash crops and foodstuffs, the problem became exacerbated by the availability of logging woods for export to the towns and overseas, through illegal logging in Idanre. In this way the cherished forest reserves that Idanre prides itself have been depleted. The uncontrolled planting of cocoa beans results in the influx of encroachers from other places, who care less about the preservation of forests for the future generation. Many people see that the future of the community is at stake if a check is not made to the uncontrolled logging and depletion of the forest reserves. The question on the lips of many concerned people is what is to be done?
This concern generated the first educational summit organized in 2010 by a group of young men and women to find out the root of the problem and to find a way of a permanent solution to this and other social and economic problems. The answer to a social problem is to find a social solution. The result of this search shows that since the majority of the disadvantaged youths are school dropouts looking for possibilities to receive further education. They need to be encouraged and empowered through the provision of education that fits their various aptitudes either in sports; entertainment industry or entrepreneurship.
What is more, since many of the female persons in this category are the most vulnerable victims; because these largely unemployed and unemployable young school dropouts unavoidably impregnate them. The need to establish a functional and sustainable educational institution capable of catering for the yearnings of the community for further education becomes imperative.
Why environmental science?
Environmental science has got prominence in academic circles as a field of specialization just a few decades ago. Because of its importance, many old universities have added courses leading to Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate degrees in their curricula. United Nations Organization (UNO) also established an agency for environmental concern; UNEP (United Nations Environmental Program.) and other UN agencies also have environmental issues in their programs, World Bank etc. Universities have been set up in some countries for the purpose of studying environmentally related disciplines; some label it University of Environmental Science and Forestry; some call it University of Environmental Science and Earth Sciences, while some call theirs University of Environmental Sciences and Agriculture; in some countries it is simply called University of Environmental Sciences.
The field of environmental science covers a wide area of academic and professional disciplines. It is defined as the field of science that studies the interactions of the physical, chemical, and biological components of the environment; and the relationships and effects of the components with the organisms in the environment. According to the professionals, the field links many subjects related to ecology, economics, geography, geology, meteorology, politics and sociology. This fits perfectly well into the physical terrain of Idanre district or local government area.
Idanre is one of the largest towns in Ondo State. The population of Idanre is, according to 2006 census, 129,024 inhabitants comprising 66,996 males and 62,028 females, which is 3.74% of Ondo State. The area of Idanre district is 1584,6 sq. kilometers, which makes it one of the largest land mass areas of the State. Why does the Local Government provide a perfect place for establishing the institution that caters for environment as its main focus? Some of the reasons are given below.
Idanre district has three main towns fused together within three kilometers to produce megacity. It has about 450 medium and small sized villages. Idanre Local Government has the largest forest reserved areas in the country, according to the ministry of solid minerals; Idanre Local Government has a large proportion of Bitumen deposits in Ondo State. The population of Idanre Local Government is predominantly agrarian, producing economic agricultural products such as cocoa, palm oil/kernel, and rubber. The local government is the largest cocoa producing area in the country.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN,) designated the nature reserve in Idanre that covers 561 square kilometres (217 sq. mi) as Idanre conservable forest reserve. (Wikipeadia).
Idanre history dates back to between 800 and 1000 years. It has a rich cultural background Because of its unique history and spectacular natural environment, Professor Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Prize laureate in Nigeria wrote his longest poem on the district (Idanre and Other Peoms Methuen, 1957).
In recognition of the natural wonders, and as a testimony to its scientific importance, the first European to visit the Oke Idanre settlement, which was the main town in the district by then in 1894, observed among others that:
“ I have noticed many plants and ferns which I have not observed in Yoruba country,” he predicted that, “the district would I am sure be a veritable paradise for the botanist, or naturalist, and I deeply regret the impossibility of spending weeks instead of days in this particularly interesting neighborhood; Governor Carter described Idanre Hills as,“luxuriant environment with mountains in their eminences…burrowing their heads like hippopotamus through the forest” (Sir Gilbert Thomas Carter, KCMG, KCVO, Governor of Lagos on his visit to Idanre from September 1 – 8, 1894). Idanre Hills have since 2014 been declared a National Monument by the Federal Government of Nigeria, and the landscape at Oke Idanre has been on the tentative list of UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 2007.
Natural endowment of Idanre
There had been several scientific studies carried out in the district; both recently and in the past by scholars from around the world; one of such earlier researches was the one carried out in 1963 by Professor Arne Schlotz, a scholar from Denmark sponsored by Carlsberg Foundation of Denmark. The Professor remarked in one of his reports that he discovered a variety of Bufo Petretti (a kind of amphibian) in Idanre which is endemic on Idanre Hills and could not be found in any other part of the world. Other species of amphibians found in Idanre then were: Bufo regularis, Bufo perreti, Schoutedenella, sp., Ptychadena longirostris, Dicroglossus occipitalis, Phrynobatrachus calcaratus, Hyperolius picturatus, Leptopelis aubryi.
There are other discoveries of near extinct animal species and mammals in Idanre such as bats (order Chiropteran) colonies which would be found in Idanre caves. They had been subject of study by scholars interested in ecotourism.
Nigerian Field Society, an academic organization based at the University of Ibadan Nigeria, had special interest in Flora and Fauna of Idanre land. They have published many scholarly articles on the area many years back.
Organizations, like National Geographic had sponsored naturalists to study the natural endowment of the district. One of the many science oriented visitors observed that “there all kinds of unique species of plants that are not so common elsewhere, e.g. there is a herb that looks like water leaf specie, indigo plant that changes and takes on different colours from time to time, there is the red Aloe Vera plant, wild tomatoes not bigger than a groundnut seed, and there is Odan, alleged to be the tree of life, among others.” (Evelyn Osagie in her, Idanre:”Treasured relics cry for rebirth”, published in Life Midweek Magazine, January 2010). Mr. Babatope Okeowo from Akure in April 2009 was even blunter and emphatic is his comment that: Idanre especially the surrounding hills ” have a lot to offer in knowledge, health, physical fitness, recreation, history, fun and rejuvenation in body, soul and spirit. Get to Idanre Hills you will appreciate the unfathomable work of creation.”
A baseline data of the natural endowment of Idanre Hills had been collected by a team of scientists and naturalists, from the Department of Ecotourism at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, at the request of Federal Government; (“Biodiversity report on Oke Idanre” for the World Heritage document prepared in 2008.)
Among the various species that populate Idanre forests are rock hyraxes (procavia cadences), black rhino (deceros biocornis,), African elephant (Loxodenta Africana), red ground squirrel, Wild dogs (Lycaon pietus), chimpanzees and monkeys in large numbers; there are chameleons, several rodents etc. Apart from the fauna, there are various flora species many are useful for herbs and many are economic trees useful for logging and furniture making etc.
A team of researchers and scientists from the departments of Archaeology, Anthropology, Botany, Entomology, Geology, Paleontology and zoology in the Natural History Museum of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife Nigeria, conducted an inventory of faunal, floral and cultural diversity within Idanre district from 14 to 17 June 2007, and again from 19 to 22 November 2007. The result was published in Nyame Akuma, No. 69 June 2008. (B. A. Ogunfolakan and A Olayemi “Preliminary Report of elephant remains in an archaeological site within Idanre Township, Ondo State Nigeria.”)
Because of its height, the district is also good for scientific observatory for geographers and astronomers. All these research activities confirm the observation and prediction of Sir Gilbert Thomas Carter KCMG KCVO of 1894, that Idanre district would be a veritable paradise for the botanist, or naturalist, and a haven for tourism.
With the catalogue of various available natural and economic resources in Idanre district, the establishment of University of Environmental Science and Tourism in Idanre Local Government area makes sense. The district is a fertile ground for training of experts in various disciplines, which relate to environmental study, sports and tourism.
Economic Resources of Idanre
In spite of the relatively small population, Idanre is one of the most resourceful areas in Ondo State that produce most of the economic resources in the State. Idanre district has more than 450 villages and hamlets spread over the land. It has a large forest reserve, which the IUCN has designated to cover 561 sq, kilometres (217 sq. miles) as mentioned above, where timber logs are produced; it is the largest producer of cocoa beans in the State and in Nigeria. Apart from these, Idanre produces food items such as plantain, bananas, Gari etc. in large quantities throughout the year, and it is one of the oil producing areas of the State There are still untapped resources in large quantities such as Bitumen deposits, quarrying etc.
Entertainment and Sports in Idanre
Idanre is the home of tourism in Ondo State. It has the most popular tourist resorts in Ondo State. The State government has established the annual sports and music jamborees in Idanre called MARE (Acronym for “ M arathon race; A rts and culture; R ock climbing; E xhibition and entertainment”), which is celebrated in December every year since 2009. Before then, many popular films such as “ OLOFIN ” and others had been shot on the surrounding hills at Idanre.
The MARE Concept and its effect.
The Mare concept developed by Governor Mimiko’s administration is another source of inspiration and encouragement for this proposed university; since in addition to tourism (and in fact as a part of it), sports in all its ramifications would be a major part of the departments or colleges of the university. The effect of this would be the promotion of Mare concept to include other sports. The creation of School of sports would relief our youth from taking to drugs out of frustration and they would direct their efforts and energy to more productive activities such as sports, agriculture among others.
Setting up of this University in Idanre which would include sports training or education will definitely result in giving an opportunity for youth of this country in general and of Ondo State in particular for pursuing courses such as (Bachelor of Physical Education) B.PEd, (Master of Physical Education) M.PEd, Diploma/Certificate courses in coaching, physiotherapy, fitness, sports management, sports journalism, and several allied disciplines such as nutrition and other aspects of physical education. Sports is one of the fulcrums of tremendous economic activity which could boost employment prospects for the youth of this State.
At one time in 1987, because of the favorable terrain for Sporting activities in Idanre, the State Government established the Ondo State Sports Institute at Odode Idanre. Idanre community provided a landmass of 50 hectares for the institution. The State government provided funds for running the institute to build facilities such as sports halls, transportation etc. about 250 Potential athletes were trained there and the Nittygritty of sporting activities were taught there. The institute lasted from1988 until 1993. The Institute was affiliated to The University of Ibadan with Professor Adedeji of the faculty of Physical Education as the head (Ondo State Government gazette of 1988). However, the Institute was removed from Idanre without any reason given; it has not been reestablished anywhere else in the State since then. In 2008, The State Government established the first 16 hole Golf Course at Atoshin Idanre and proposed a land for a modern stadium at Alade Town Idanre. These are the three congruent towns about 3 kilometers apart.
Educational Problem in Idanre
In spite of the popularity of Idanre as a tourist resort, and with all these stated nature endowed resources, there is no single higher education institution where the teeming youth from secondary schools could attend; except those whose parents are rich enough to attend schools outside the community. Today, Idanre kingdom has more than 71 functioning public primary schools, ten functioning secondary schools and more than six private secondary schools. Idanre Technical School is the only school in the State that has Tourism in its curriculum.
There are over 50 private Nursery/Primary schools in Idanre and the number is still rising. Although it would not be only Idanre students that would attend the proposed University, but surely the number of those that circumstances forced to frustrated because of lack of further education opportunity, would reduce considerably.
Those young people, male and female, whose parents are not rich enough to send their children to tertiary educational institutions out of Idanre, many of them secondary school graduates are at the dead end of education at the secondary school level. In order to correct this unfavorable circumstance, Idanre community decides to establish a community run and sponsored University.
Having a university in Idanre would create an enabling environment for the development of most of our youths, it would help to avert the imminent danger of condemning a whole generation to become a “wasted generation” if positive steps are not taken. It would go a long way in encouraging positive attitude towards education by Idanre youth living in the community. Providing these upcoming youths with hope for their future, there will be change in their attitude to life”.
After making a passionate plea to the youth to stare clear from the menace of drugs, and anti social behaviours, we must follow it up with the creation of enabling environment and opportunity.
In 1956, Farm Settlement was established at Oniserere Idanre by the old Western Nigerian Government, and CRIN (Cocoa Research Institute) a Federal Government Institution was established at Owena Idanre, in 1959, it is still functioning until now. In fact these two institutions, Farm Settlement concept and Cocoa research Institute could be used as a springboard for agronomic research and development.
All these favourable conditions put together, Idanre district is due for a higher institution of no less status than University. The University must as a rule take cognizance of the available social, and natural resources, some of which are enumerated above, which will help to make it grow and attract scholars worldwide.
The university being a private, community based institution; the community has released a landmass of between 100 and 200 hectares in each of the three main quarters in Idanre for this purpose. These locations are potential sites suitable for the campus facilities in the future, since the university is conceived to be multicampus.
Funding for the University
The members of the Traditional Council, Idanre, took the first step towards the fundraising for the proposed university; arrangements have been made to launch the fund raising campaign amongst the public. The community has also donated parcels of land not less than 200 hectares for the permanent site.
Meanwhile, a library containing about 50,000 books, journals and research papers has been donated to the university by Charles Oladipo Akinde, Ph.D., the High Chief Osore of Idanreland. Other members of the community have also pledged their support in cash and kind to the University.
Above all there is popular will amongst the public in support of the institution as many indigenes and non-indigenes have pledged support for the establishment of the university. By its very nature, the institution would, I am convinced, pull support from national and international funders, organizations or wealthy individuals. With your and other supports generated from the well wishers, we can make it happen beginning from 2017 for a Happy New Year.
We would need donations in cash and in kind, they may take the form of
- Donation of books, and other documents for the library.
- Donation of computers for instructions and administration.
- Donations of Laboratory equipment for the laboratory training and research.
- Financial donations for the provision of essential materials.
- Personal volunteering (where feasible) in all areas.
We will also need to build Main administrative building, Student hostels, Library buildings, Sports centres, Assembly buildings, Banks, Staff accommodations, and a host of others.
Urgent Buildings and Structures required include.
- Great Hall where inaugural lectures, degree ceremonies and examinations are held
- The University Library, with separate room for rare books.
- The sports centre and about 60 acres of playing fields. This will provide excellent facilities for most sports.
- Parks and recreation facilities.
- Halls of residence for students on about 40 acres of land and staff quarters, land is available.
- Preparatory schools and on-campus Primary to secondary schools with facilities for remedial courses.
THE UNIVERSITY WILL OFFER DIPLOMA OR ASSOCIATE COURSES, DEGREE COURSES AND POST GRADUATE AND RESEARCH DEGREES, in line with international standard and the provisions of the National Universities Commission (NUC).
Written by: Charles Oladipo Akinde. LL.B, MA, MBA, Ph.D,. MBIM MInstM, AMNIM FR.Econ.S. ICAHMExpert. Member, International Association of Critical Heritage Studies; Member, ICOMOS Committee on Intangible Cultural Heritage; National VicePresident, Nigeria ICOMOS Committee; Member, INTBAU; Founder and CEO, of Cultural and Natural Heritage Foundation, Ondo State, Nigeria. Osore of Idanreland (2016).
Email: email@example.com Tel. +234 7069308712.