The new Vice Chancellor of the University of Abuja (UNIABUJA), Prof. Umale Adikwu during an interview session with Education reporter, MARCUS FATUNMOLE, pledged to fight against rots in the institution and make the university meets with contemporary global intellectual needs. Excerpts:
What is your administration’s blueprint for the University of Abuja (UNIABUJA)?
I have 37-point agenda that will enable me look at all the difficulties in the institution. Of course, it is not a one-man show. What will be looking at in the university includes committee system, collaboration. We will be looking at what is good elsewhere, what we will borrow from what others are doing.
Are your plans distinct from your predecessor’s programmes for the university or it intends to build on them?
Yes, in fact, if you look at my mission statement, we have to look at the physical infrastructure, students’ hostels and the lecture halls, those that are not completed and also the human capacity. These are the things we will be looking at vigorously. There is no need having beautiful environment and the knowledge content is not there.
You have to look at the knowledge content. It is a gamut of things we are looking at like I mentioned earlier. We will be having committee system; we will be looking at our accreditation. Not many of the courses here have been accredited. And, you cannot pass some students, through four or five years that they are not having certificate; that will be deadly.
So, we will be looking at all those processes; have accreditation, if possible, introduce new courses.
What timeline would you set for a change in myriads of problems facing the university?
I think in the next two to three years, when you come here, you will see a different environment. We are already looking at landscaping; we are also looking for funds. We are going to do a lot of revenue drive; and I am not so sure government could support us. We are already looking at our monetary system.
Some of the staff unions protested against your appointment as the VC, how does your administration see them today?
The issue here is that we need some of the unions to run the universities system. I don’t see them as an enemy. As I always say, if you challenge me, do this, I want to challenge you too. That is how to run a system. The idea that the university administration knows everything should not exist during my time.
What I want to do is that when there is a problem, I can call the union and tell them this is the problem, tell me how we are going to solve them because one former Nigerian leader said Nigerians are fond of pointing out problems but they never proffer solutions. So, we should be in a situation where we are able to point at problem and find ways of solving them. There is no problem that cannot be solved. 150 years ago, nobody thought about flying machines, today, flying in the air is just a luxury. That is what academic is meant to be doing.
UNIABUJA is notorious for admission racketeering, how would you address this malaise?
Racketeering is only possible if you don’t follow the rules. There is an examination committee. They’ve already pointed to me; and I have told them that it is about bringing it to me and I say Exam Committee, look at it. Once you have the template, solving problem becomes easy. We are not going to create a new template. JAMB already has a template; we will follow it. So, how are we going to do racketeering? In this system, there is not going to be any racketeering. If you do not know the processes of examination, usually, there is merit; there is what they call locality, among others which we shall follow dutifully.
This is one of the things I have looked at critically. In fact, I am planning that I will have a staff member who is a professor. All he is going to focus on is that one, all our courses are accredited. Two, new courses like Environmental Sciences, as I am looking at it because everybody is talking about environment now; environmental degradation, global warming. We need that. These are the areas we will be going into. We will do our business the right way it should be done. The issue of accreditation will be topmost on my agenda.
There are allegations that most lecturers of UNIABUJA do not possess requisite certificates for teaching. How do you react to this?
If they are not qualified, how then are they teaching in the school? Nevertheless, we are not only going to do staff audit, we shall also do students audit. We need to know the number of staff we have. We are going to do that. But, on the issue of qualification, let me tell you, every person is a product of a system. Most of the staff you see here were not trained here. I am aware of few places where people say look, you graduated from this department, from this particular university, wonderful university, but we will not allow you to come and teach in the university. That is why people are talking about falling standard of education.
And, you know too that some of the things we are doing, we need to look at them very critically. Many universities are springing up by the day. Some staffers are teaching in more than two places. So, they are not even having enough time to look at their primary area of work.
So, these are some of the contributory factors. It is not that they are not qualified to teach, but they have divided attention. In Abuja here, I know in 2007, we had only one or two universities, but today, they are more than five. They need lecturers. So, the onus lies on us in the Nigerian educational system that we should pay more attention to post-graduate education.
How would you describe the capacity of UNIABUJA in research development?
The current level, I may not be able to tell. But, let me tell you a story I recently read from what they call World Universities Newsletter. I looked at the publication, where they were comparing 10-year period of some African universities with some universities in the Netherlands. South Africa published 47,000 papers in 10 years. Netherlands published that volume in one year. Now, Egypt in that period published 30,000 research publications, Nigeria had 10,000. Now, when you look at the population of Nigeria and those countries; that is very worrisome. But, that is not the worrisome factor. The most worrisome factor to me was that even small countries like Tanzania, Zambia and others had more of their research products competing in the market. (National Mirror)