Tuesday, September 15, 2015 7:51 am
Kano State born Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of council, University of Ibadan, DR. UMAR MUSA MUSTAPHA, a 54-year old scholar with five Masters and three PhD degrees in different fields, shares his dream about UI and how the institution’s new Vice Chancellor emerged in a conversation with GBENRO ADESINA
Q: What was the process that produced Professor Abel Idowu Olayinka as the 12th Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan?
A: After a long process, we were able to appoint Professor Abel Idowu Olayinka, as the new Vice Chancellor for UI on the 9th September 2015. His appointment takes effect from December 1st and he has been given a letter of appointment. The first process was that we advertised the vacancy of the position of VC in UI in three national dailies for interested persons to apply. The intending applicants must have a PhD, be a professor of nothing less than 10 years standing, and possess relevant experience in the administration of the university. 13 applications were received within the six weeks that was allowed for the submission of applications. After that the council met and agreed on certain criteria for screening basically based on quality of application, the quality of applicant’s vision statement for the university, academic records, international publications, responsibilities held within the university, community responsibility, state and national responsibilities, fellowships and so on. After the screening, we shortlisted a total number of six professors: Professor Abel Idowu Olayinka from Geology, Professor David Olaleye, a virologist from College of Medicine, Professor Augustine Eyiwunmi Falaye from fisheries, Professor Ayodeji Emmanuel Oluleye from Faculty of Technology, Olusegun Olusina Akinyinka from College of Medicine and Professor Adigun Agbaje from Political Science. They were further interviewed in greater details using standard guideline set up by the federal ministry of education with some adjustments here and there to suit the peculiarity of this institution. After the interview, three candidates: Professor Abel Idowu Olayinka, and two runners up, Olaleye and Falaye were recommended, out of which Professor Abel Idowu Olayinka was appointed.
Q: What stood out Professor Olayinka?
A: Olayinka stood out clearly because, first, he was a former deputy vice chancellor academics, dean, sub-dean, HOD, who has many local and international papers. He is a successful manager of resources and people in the university. He is a fellow of great institutions who has attracted grants to the university.
Q: How can you describe the new VC?
A: By my judgment, he is a very humble, social and accommodating person. One interesting thing is that he keeps to the rules of the game. He is strict with the issue of plagiarism, procedure and rules. He doesn’t break the rule but bridge it. He interacts well but never compromise on what the law says.
Q: How do you feel being a part of the process that saw the emergence of a new VC in UI?
A: I thank God for giving me the ability to conduct the exercise successfully. I attribute my success to God and the fact that we stood firm on the issues of integrity, fair play and justice. I am highly honoured to be part of this exercise.
Q: What is your rating of the outgoing UI VC, Professor Isaac Adewole?
A: He is a man of great integrity. He gives necessary supports to his subordinates. He is a team player. He is very creative. He has done a lot in agric sector.
Q: By your posture, dressing and others, people will hardly believe that you’re an important personality. What informed your simplicity?
A: I believe that in all situations, you should always endeaour to look up and down. You will look up to see the people that are above you, and down to see the people you are above. I believe in living a simple life. Modesty to me by background and training is key to success.
Q: Despite the fact that UI is the first university in Nigeria, it doesn’t have a place in Africa ranking not to mention international. What are the efforts of the council to ensure the premier university in Nigeria is better ranked?
A: It is true that one of the global ranking positioned UI as number eight in Africa. As regards global ranking, yes, we are far behind. One thing we can do is to increase research and development, making environment conducive for learning, be more creative and innovative in our teaching and students affairs. This will requires a lot of funding, which is key to carrying out these programmes. We are going to focus on internally generated revenue, IGR, in order to meet the needs of the university. The era of solely depending on government is over; universities should be able to generate funding that will take care of immediate needs.
Q: Would efforts are being made to increase IGR without increase in school fees?
A: Education is money and money is education. No matter how little you pay, it is part of investment. I am of the view that if school fee will be increased, it should be gradual, considering the facts that the economy is very bad now and many parents are striving to survive.
Q: How can IGR be increased in the university?
A: So many areas are there to be tapped. First, the expansion of distance learning programme; secondly, commercialization of research, conducting research on specific issues for government and companies on a commercial basis. We should look at UI ventures. The charges of UI zoo should be affordable to attract people.
Q: What is your take on the universities being exempted from maintaining a single account with CBN as advocated by the committee of VCs?
A: They are not saying it is totally wrong but that certain accounts should be exempted. I strongly align with the universities’ position on this.
Q: In your own view, why is it so difficult for the government to commit 35 percent budgetary allocation to education as prescribed by the United Nations?
A: I am aware of the pressure in the economy and the various sectors that are contending for the meager resources. I will not rightly say that the government is not putting enough into education; probably the best way to say it is that the government should commit more funding into education. The institutions themselves must wake up and try to finance themselves. The era of government financing everything is over.
Q: What is your take on government paying WAEC fees for secondary school students?
A: Looking at the Nigerian population, especially from the rural areas, I believe that many parents can’t afford the fee. For now, I suggest that the government shouldn’t pay less than 75 percent of the fee. Apart from that, government should provide infrastructure in the schools, provide necessary books for students, make learning environment to be conducive and be committed to teachers’ welfare without undermining training and re-training.
Q: What is your expectation from the President Muhammed Buhari-led administration?
A: A well-educated and enlightened society is a successful society. I will expect this administration to focus on rural education, education for women, education for the physically challenged, and education for the youths in the various levels. I am quite excited to know that the government will be feeding the students in school. That is a good development. How it can be sustained is another issue entirely. The content of education and infrastructure should be looked into.
Q: Considering the endemic nature of corruption in Nigeria, do you think corruption can be eliminated in this country?
A: I strongly believe that together we can fight corruption. I believe if the current action against corruption is sustained, corruption can be brought to the barest minimal. Total elimination is our goal. For total eradication, we need to train and change orientation of people. This requires lots of training, persuasion, information dissemination and making known to the public the consequences and punishment that await corrupt people. Corrupt people should be punished for deepen their hands into public fund. The punishment should commiserate with the level of corruption discovered.
Q: What is your perspective on how to resolve the insurgency and militancy problems in Nigeria?
A: Insurgency or militancy is not a good practice and it must stop. Those in it, I call for their rehabilitation, and integration into the society. They should not be rejected. They should be rehabilitated through education, entrepreneurship and provision of basic needs of life. Above all, leaders should lead well.
Q: Why do you advocate for the inclusion of entrepreneurship in the school curriculum?
A: We should stop being bookish. I believe the curriculum should be conscious of the peculiar needs of our society. It should be done in a situation that after graduation, you don’t need to be looking for the job that is not there; rather, be an employer of labour yourself.
Q: Are our universities producing for the corporate world?
A: They are trying their best but there is always a room for improvement. One thing I don’t like is the fact that space is not enough for university aspiring students and that is why I will advice those seeking admission to look at the direction of distance learning.
Q: How do you feel about UIDLC?
A: For me it is the best in Nigeria. It is improving on a daily basis. What is key is to maintain high standard so that an average student will be convinced that the quality of regular students and that of the DLC is the same. To do that, there is a need for great professionalism. Materials must be made available to students. The system must be well controlled. The fundamental issue is to ensure quality and to ensure that all that are required is sent to the students and students are constantly supervised.
Q: There is a controversy about the recognition of the law course of distance learning programme by Nigeria Law School. What is your take on this?
A: Apparently, there is a claim that there is a gap between Open University and Law School. The best way to resolve this is to go through dialogue. Let the Law School take a look at the curriculum of Open Distance Learning. Where the Law School feels there is a deficiency, let it be pointed out for improvement. Law school must appreciate various ways of learning and that learning doesn’t take place alone in the classroom. I have known people that have studied law from the London School of Economics. I therefore call on the Law School to have a dialogue with the Open University with a view to resolving what problem that is stopping them from admitting students who pass through distance learning for further legal studies and accredit the law course of open distance learning so that the students will not be left hanging without clear future.
Q: Things are changing. What do you feel about the erosion of our cultures?
A: A number of reasons are responsible for this. First, training in the early stage of our children; two, society influence; three, globalization in terms of what people watch today, internet accessibility that its content is uncontrolled. Parents must be concerned about their children, know what they do and watch on TV and the internet. Elders and parents must dress well. We parents must set standard, we must not show an ‘I don’t care’ attitude.
Q: Why are you ‘repeating’ the same class over and over by going back to school for different Masters and PhD programmes?
A: Maybe I may not accept the word repeat. I keep acquiring new knowledge, which is to me a basis for success. If you look at my work background, I am working in diverse fields and I want to be recognized where I am. I believe in having total knowledge of what I am doing. That is the motivating factor responsible for going back to school for different programmes.
Q: Are you still planning to have another PhD?
A: Not at all. My plan now is to concentrate on religious learning which is of interest to me. That will be helpful to me now and later.
Q: I learnt that you are a successful farmer. Sir, how far do you think we have fared in that sector?
A: I believe that farming is one of the lucrative and successful businesses around. It is a sustainable venture. Sustainable in the sense that you can field yourself, your family, the community you live and probably part of other places. As a result, the government should begin to change people’s orientation towards farming by letting them know that farming is an occupation that can make one live a very comfortable life. Government should provide necessary support to farmers. I believe that if Nigeria can concentrate on agriculture, we will be able to feed ourselves and some other parts of the world.
Q: How do you unwind?
A: I am a family man. I enjoy staying in the midst of my children, wives, and friends.
Q: What is your best food?
A: Do I know it? I am flexible and I appreciate food from any part of the country. Here in Ibadan, I like to eat amala and egusi; up in Kano, I will like to eat tuwo and alkama and miyan kuka.
Q: Is there anything else you wish to achieve in life?
A: I thank Allah for where I am now but I believe I have not reached the point of retardation. I believe in hard work. I believe I have not reached the end of my career. I wish to continue to serve my nation till I die.
Q: What is your advice to the Nigerian youth?
A: Our youth both in UI and other places in Nigeria should show respect to elders and parents and be free from drugs and other social evils. They should be ambitious and creative and believe in themselves.
Q: What UI will you like to see in the next five years ?
A: I will like UI to be the leader in research. I will like UI to commercialize its research from the research desk to the end product. I will like UI to continue to lead, not only in Nigeria and Africa but to be a global leader. I want to see a lot of innovation, and creativity in this university.