Outgoing Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Prof. Isaac Adewole, reflects on his tenure. – Source: Punch Newspaper.
What do you expect the incoming administration of Muhammadu Buhari to do to raise the standards in the education sector?
I will first tell him that it is easier to get to office than to succeed in it. I will tell him to minimise the number of visits and start working hard. The period of honeymoon is about six months after which he will start facing hard tackles from Nigerians who are expecting so much from him. People are expecting the exchange rate to drop; they want improved electricity, good road and water. Between now and May 29, he will need to sit down and constitute a credible team that will be a rich blend of politicians and technocrats.
There are minefields in the education sector. There are agreements on ground and the unions, especially the Academic Staff Union of Universities, will tackle Buhari if he fails to act in his first six months in office.
The outgoing administration signed an agreement with the union and promised the release of N1.3tr to the universities. It has released less than N200bn of the promised fund so far. So, Buhari will have to find money to pay for the settlement of the 2014 and 2015 agreement.
If he cannot get money immediately, he will have to call ASUU to a meeting and tell its members that he needs a breathing space on the challenges he inherited. He must state his reasons and I am sure that the union, being an association of responsible people, will listen to him. The President cannot pretend that the agreement does not exist.
He will have to do a surgical operation in the education sector. We need to rebuild from the foundation. We must not only pay attention to tertiary education, we also need to pay attention to tertiary and secondary education systems. Education cannot be an orphan; Buhari must put in place a mechanism to rebuild education in the country. People should not see the education sector as an item of expenditure but a short path to national development.
What has it being serving as the VC of UI?
I can confidently beat my chest that as part of the progressive management, we have built on what we met on ground. We added value to what we met and one day if I visit the university as its former vice-chancellor, I want to see my successor building on what we left behind. That will gladden my heart. I do tell people that no single VC can complete the programme of revitalisation. It is an ongoing work and the University of Ibadan is a work in progress. The next VC will have to continue building on what we have done.
We have contributed to its infrastructure. We have repositioned the university in the area of teaching and learning. We have added new lecture rooms and we have restored the laboratories. We have also introduced new idea in terms of governance. We have made welfare our keyword and put students in the front of what we do because we consider them as key to our national and developmental assignment as a university. We will love to see this endure and we will love to see the next VC take this to a greater height.
We have the water project, block making factory and fisheries as some of the projects put in place to add value to the university system. The UI Ventures gives the university N20m annually but in the past four years, we have not taken anything out of the fund. What we have done is to plough back the money to the renovation of the UI hotels. Today, it is a completely rebranded facility generating more money.
We are in this venture to ensure that the university generates funds to survive. We must be able to wean ourselves from the money coming from the Federal Government. A university should be able to survive for three months without the government subvention. This should be the target of any VC.
What measure did you put in place to ensure the sustenance of this development?
If you take a tour of the university and look at what we have done, you will realise that there are structures and projects that are essentially academic, such as laboratories and lecture theatres. There is also physical and non-physical infrastructure.
Processes are now in place to ensure that transcripts and results are ready at the end of every semester. This is one of the non-physical facilities germane to our function as a university. In the institution, there is an inbuilt sustainability structure. Even though the VC and the bursar are leaving, the two deputy vice chancellors, the registrar and the librarian are still around. Out of the six principal officers of the university, only two are leaving. The new VC will work with the existing deputy VCs. This ensures that continuity is in place. The university system therefore has an in-built mechanism to sustain its structure.
What is your retirement plan?
I am retiring into farming. It is a neglected sector. As VC, I have shown a lot of affection for agriculture. I believe in food security as a form of defence strategy. Any country that cannot feed its people is not worth called a country. God has granted us fertile land, good weather, good brain yet we are not producing; we import food.
The next set of millionaires in Nigeria will be farmers. As part of my support to promoting viable food security strategy in the country, I want to lead by example. I started as a VC and I want to go and put it into practice and show that I can work out what I have been preaching in the last five years.
You were the returning officer for Lagos State in the last elections. How would you describe the nation’s electoral process?
I am extremely proud to have been part of the transition process. I travelled to France after the election and the whole process gave me the joy to raise my head and be proud of being a Nigerian. I was able to show our success. For the first time in Africa, we have a President that accepted defeat. This is not happening in Europe or in the US but in Nigeria.
President Goodluck Jonathan has done something extraordinary. Jonathan and the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, are the heroes of our democratic experiment. They deserve worldwide commendation. The process is not 100 per cent okay but we are moving forward. We are ahead of where we ought to be. We are a patient nation and comparing ourselves with nations with 200 years of democratic experience. The declaration by the President had a bandwagon effect as other losers conceded defeat.
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