President Oduduwa University, Ile Ife, Osun State and Saviour University, Ghana Dr. Rahmon Adegoke Atobatele Adedoyin in this interview with the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief Nigerian NewsDirect Dr Samuel Ibiyemi speaks on the quality of education in private and public institutions in Nigeria. Dr Ramon, a Royal Eminence and the Maye of Ife kingdom has been consistent with steady investment in education and tourism sector nationwide. He is one of the very few indigenes with the passion for investment in Ile Ife despite absence of rail link and airports considered as major attraction for investors. Despite progress recorded in his business, in his suggestions, he called on the government to address challenges responsible for the drop in consumption and patronage in Nigerian economy. Excerpts.
Sir, as in indigene of Ife, you are so much interested in anything that will promote called Ile – Ife kingdom in view of huge investment on ground Why this special passion?
I have been asked that question severally by people. I have done virtually all my businesses in Ife. I cannot specifically say that this is the reason but I believe there is a certain force that actually works because each time I have houses in Lagos, United states and Ghana. Despite this, each time I travel out of Ile – Ife (not even out of Nigeria), my mind will not be at rest unless I come back to Ile-Ife and I cannot quite understand. At times, I make up my mind that I am going to spend a month outside, it does not work that way because within 1 week or 3 to 4 days, you see me coming back to Ile – Ife. I thank the Almighty God·
Looking at the economy today, how is the business doing?
Generally the business is very bad.I was even telling somebody that when I travelled to Ghana few days ago and I travelled with Arik Airlines and only 11 people were inside the Aircraft, I thought one or two things must have happened but when I was coming back again, it was the same set of people that were on board the flight back again. I asked, what is happening here? Maybe Arik had some experience in the past that is why there is low patronage in their system and I try to look at another airline coming back to Nigeria which is called Dana Airlines, I discovered that only few people entered the airplane. I looked at Hilton hotel and I observed that the number of people patronizing the hotel, was low. I looked at the way parents are complaining about the school fees and I begin to say in my mind that there are problems in Nigeria. This is because people in business must know when it is flourishing and when it is not flourishing. I have given you typical examples from what I have seen. If you go to local people selling goods, you will discover there are serious complaints. Something is wrong with the economy.
Coming back to you as an investor, how are you playing your role in the recession, how are you surviving now?
We try to stay within the range of our income. For instance, we don’t just employ unnecessarily. We employ people that the income is capable of s setting their salaries monthly either at Oduduwa University or The Polytechnic Ife. Nobody is going to tell you he was not paid at the right time. So, I think the best thing now is to cut your coat according to your cloth. We are coping and the Almighty God is with us. We thank God.
What stands out your institutions (both Oduduwa University and The Polytechnics Ife) based on our observation on quality of your students interacting freely with guests during the memorial lecture for Late Kabiyesi Ooni Okunade Sijuwade at Oduduwa University?
First, the students that you saw as vibrant are having one re-sit or the other. The school is not in session for now. We have a very good number of students. I think the best attention is given to them for reasonable school fee and all our programs are accredited by the National Universities Commission (NUC), up to the post-graduate level. If we look at it very well, people want quality and yet don’t want to pay too much. At Oduduwa University and the Polytechnics, we made entrepreneurship our major focus. Each student runs a three to four months programme on entrepreneurship every year. This implies that if you wish to learn carpentry, when you are graduating with your B.sc, you will also be graduating with your professional certificate in carpentry. This is how we engage our students. At least they are sure that when they graduate, they have something as a dependable source of income apart from the normal academic degree.
Looking at what you have just mentioned, the word “Cost”, how cost effective are your Institutions compared with Nigerians still sending their children abroad?
I also have a school outside the country I know it is very costly for someone to go out of the country to study abroad. It is not a joke and with the advent of private Universities now, most of us have that quality of education. Hence, cost is no longer the concern of parents who are truly interested in making their children to be independent and compete effectively for limited high paying job opportunities after graduation. I won’t deceive you. For the Federal universities and State universities, if they are not careful, private universities will automatically overtake them completely. This is because the NUC does not compromise standard on either federal, private or state. When officials of NUC come for assessment and inspection, they want to ensure standard especially at the private schools. From my perspective, their eyes are on the private Universities and because of these, they believe that private universities are likely to compromise. At the end of the day, the private universities don’t. In practice, it is the intervention of Ministers, state commissioners and government’s that compromised standard in public schools. But here at Oduduwa and the Polytechnics Ife, it is business. There was a time at Obafemi Awolowo University, some people were chatting at their staff club and jokingly tried to belittle standards of private universities particularly Oduduwa University. Hence, they flip through the accreditation of schools in a book published by National Universities Commission (NUC). In that book, the NUC listed all accredited programmes and non- accredited programmes in universities. So,they opened the book and kept on looking at different universities in comparism with Obafemi Awolowo University. One of them said, let us go to the page on Oduduwa University and see what is going on there. He said, If we can have this kind of bad situation here on the page of public government’s owned institutions in terms of non-accredited courses,we are likely to have a worse situation there. So they opened the book to the page containing accredited courses in Oduduwa University, and they saw that all the programmes being offered are fully accredited by the NUC. Thery marveled and asked themeselves: ” How do they make it and so on? “This is to tell you the quality of education we give in our university.
Promoters of private universities have been criticizing Tetfund over discrimination against private universities? What is your opinion?
As far as I am concerned, I don’t believe government needs to give private universities fund of Tetfund or any fund. This is because when you invest in something, you also control it financially. If you give me money, then you can say that you want something back in terms of my money. Even for the federal and the state government, the institutions they are funding, they cannot control them. Go to classrooms of institutions established by the Federal and state governments you will see the level of rot among students in terms of quality and discipline compared with what you see in standard private universities. You will see that there is a hug difference, government cannot cope with the problems on qualitative education. So, let them continue to monitor and fund the state and the federal institutions. Government should leave private universities alone. Our case is just like someone selling milk we have different kinds of milk. We have the one that you have reduced the effect, we have the one that you draw from cows and some people still drink it. So, sell your own and let me sell, then people will see the difference. People have started seeing the difference between private and government’s institutions. As a matter of fact, the best universities are owned by private sector promoters, and so what are we talking about?
When we talk about research, what are you doing on Reasearch and Development?
We have recently set up a unit in our university, which we call Centre for Research and Innovative Studies. By God’s power, from the fund we get and the external fund, there is progress. Our staff are now interested in that. I delivered a paper about this very topic at University of Education, Ghana, it was fantastic. When I displayed what we are doing on research and innovation, they were very happy and have collaborated with Oduduwa University now. We have started doing that and we have moved to other universities looking at their own innovations and their research level. We are bringing some of the concepts we see there to our own centre too.
How are you battling with the issue of cultism?
If we look at the position of Oduduwa University very well, you will see that we are just at the centre of other universities in Osun and Oyo state.If we look at university of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University, you will appreciate efforts made to stop cultism in our schools but there are still some infiltrations. Our Director of Admission has a technique of discovering somebody who has already attended another university and he/she was expelled but despite that, they still beat in, how do they beat-in? When you ask them if they have attended any university before, they will say no. This cultism is not written on the face and they will not bring paper from university where they are expelled. So, before we know it such people are already in our system but as time goes by, we discover and then tell them to go away – That’s what we do.
So what is the future like, as an investor in education sector and also tourism sector?
The future is very bright. The Federal government and the state government need to make our country great because it is all about leadership in our country. For instance, electricity is not stable in the country. When I visited Ghana recently,for the period of my trip, I enjoyed regular electricity supply. Although, we cannot compare the population of Ghana to the population of Nigeria. There are challenges but we are coping. it is our belief that we will continue to progress in our business.
On your graduates, how do they stand among graduates from other universities?
On our products, we follow them after graduation. We also set up Alumni association but we specifically fund and monitor the Alumni association so as to know that our products are performing outside and they are very useful. As I told you, we know that if you have 10 people, you can hardly get three people securing employment but with qualitative education, our graduates are highly rated by employers. So we are coping with that, the future is bright.