That the University of Ilorin is the best in the country is a settled matter. What with the myriad of awards from internationally renowned ranking agencies and superlative applauses by independent analysts as well as regular commendations by impressed government officials and muted endorsements by parents and admission seekers, who yearly jostle for the limited slots at the institution.
The fact that Unilorin is the institution of first choice is understandable: it is academically stable, with its assured excellence and predictability of programme duration; it is socially conducive, with its legendary zero tolerance for cultism and other anti-social vices; it is politically ahead of its counterparts, having pioneered the electronic voting system for students’ union leaders’ election both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels; it has also raised prudent economic management to the level of an art, with its practical adoption of fiscal discipline, transparency and accountability in all financial transactions.
All these attainments have been well documented in previous editions of this column. But the University continued with its winning streak recently with the resounding verdict by the Council of Legal Education, which pronounced its Faculty of Law “the best in the country”!
This verdict was based on the cumulative performance of the University’s Law graduates in the 2014 Bar Final Examinations of the Nigerian Law School. It was contained in the Report of the Ad-hoc Committee it set up to assess the performance of students in the August 2014 Bar Exams. The nine-man Ad-hoc Committee was headed by the Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Ade Ipaye.
According to the Committee’s Report, students from the University of Ilorin Law Faculty beat products of other universities’ Law Faculties in the Bar Examinations. Other universities in the top five category are the University of Lagos (2nd), the University of Ibadan (3rd), the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (4th) and the University of Uyo/Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko (5th).
In the 2012 and 2013 Bar Final Examinations, the University of Ilorin consistently came second. And apart from the University of Lagos that closely ran neck-to-neck with Unilorin in the last three years, coming fifth in 2012, and third in 2013, no other University appeared consistently on the Top 5 Table in the three years under review.
For instance, Babcock University that led the pack in 2012 has not returned to the Top 5 Table since then. Likewise, the University of Ado-Ekiti that came first in 2013 is not even listed among the top 5 in 2014.
The Report noted that while some universities have consistently been in the bottom 5, the University of Ilorin and the University of Lagos have consistently been in the top 5 in the last three years with Ilorin coming clearly ahead even in consistency rating.
This Ad-Hoc Committee was set up in response to growing worries over poor performance of Law students from various Faculties of Law from different Nigerian Universities. A disturbing trend was obvious in the Commiittee’s analysis of failure rates at the Bar Final Examinations in the last three years. For instance, it noted that the “inability of various Faculties of Law to have uninterrupted academic activities in a Semester as prescribed by the National Universities Commission (NUC) for LL.B students contributed to declining standards”. It added that “in a bid to meet the Nigerian Law School calendar, some Faculties of Law abridged their programme to compensate for incessant strike actions and other disruptions”.
One issue that sticks out like a sore thumb from the verdict is the steady fall in the standard of legal education in the country. It could, however, be deduced from the Council’s observation that the attainment of excellence is a function of consistency and stable academic calendar, factors that are the indisputable hallmarks of the University of Ilorin since the past 15 years!
This, indeed, is why it is difficult to fault the verdict of the Council of Legal Education. And, in any case, has anybody ever been able to pick hole in any of the past laurels won by Unilorin or any of its personnel? No, because they have all been based on sound, objective analysis of realities on ground. Indeed, legally speaking, Unilorin is the best! Congrats, all.