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Fadeyi Oluwaseun
Ladoke Akintola University Ogbomosho
B.tech Marketing
200Level, Nigeria.

Recently, a delegation from the Independent Newspapers Limited, Lagos, led by the Managing DirectorEditor-in-Chief, Ade Ogidan, visited one of the most successful private institutions in Nigeria, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD), Ekiti State, where it presented the 2018 Achiever of the Year award nomination letter to its founder, Aare Afe Babalola. On the entourage was Donatus Duru, Chairman, Editorial Board; Sam Oluwalana, South West Bureau Chief, and Correspondent, Yaqoub Popoola. Excerpts from their discussion.

Having gone round the campus, we are amazed at the huge investment you made to provide quality education and skills to young Nigerians. Are you comfortable that policy environment may not be supportive enough?

Our greatest enemy is environmental challenges. First, most of the workers come from the immediate environment. When construction work commenced on the land, we did not adopt the civil service approach but we employed direct labour because we wanted to mould our own concrete blocks; that was about nine years ago. Thus, we invited quotations from local contractors in which they quoted N30 per unit of concrete block; a quotation we assessed was on the high side. Thus, I asked them to return in two weeks.


However, within the period I travelled outside the country to the Republic of Togo specifically where I negotiated for the same job at a price of N22.00. So, when our local contractors got wind of the information and award of the job to Togolese workers, they came back to me and said they were ready to do it for the same price. But I told them it was too late. That shows the kind of people we are in Nigeria. As for the lecturers, many of them as sourced locally and they are all products of public universities.

Managing a large number of professionals in an environment like this could be a challenge. How do you enforce discipline among staff and students?


We don’t tolerate lateness to work and early departure as it is in the practice in public service institutions. They come here because we offered them better welfare packages.

As you must have observed, there is a circular road and within it are the colleges and outside of it hostels and other facilities to enhance accessibility such that students can move from the hostels to their classes easily. That explains why students don’t bring personal vehicles on the campus because there is no need for it. Besides, such a luxury for students usually causes distractions. At ABUAD there are no class distinctions and you cannot differentiate between children from an average home or others from the affluent background. No student would oppress another.

But academically, we have sacred hours that our students must be in their classes. That is 8 am to 12 noon. Then there is a break and you return at 3 p.m. Like no other university, we also teach from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Our electricity supply is uninterrupted. So, this helps us to engage our students more regularly at all times. That explains why they outshine their peers from other universities who even scored higher marks in JAMB. The successes achieved so far can be attributed to strict compliance with the vision and mission of the university. Some of our staff that cannot cope with the pace at which we are moving had to leave the system.

We are a university that believes in the deployment of ICT. When you visit the lecture rooms, you will find interactive boards. We are the first institution in Nigeria to adopt this. As we teach here, if a similar subject is being thought elsewhere overseas we can see directly. Even in our medical theatres, it is possible for you to stay in your room and monitor how surgical operation is being carried out.

It is unique that you have directed your vision towards Human Capital Development. Could you explain what informed your investment focus?

I was the Chairman of the Governing Council of the University of Lagos from 2001 to 2007. I thanked former President Olusegun Obasanjo because after I turned down the ministerial appointment he approached me to take up the Governing Council position. The University had a big problem at that time as it opened an outreach in South Korea where degrees were being auctioned. There were lots of controversies by people that were opposed to the idea.


Then, I took up the appointment subject to not being paid salary or allowances. Two, that I will not use the Pro- Chancellor’s Lodge or vehicles. Thus, when I took over and saw the level of decay in the system, I cried within myself. The internal roads were bad; the teaching facilities were poor. First, we investigated the matter, discovered the truth and shut down the outreach with a promise to make a change.

The first thing I did was to put up a building personally now called Afe Babalola Auditorium. I decided that the building is commissioned by Mr. President just as I also invited my clients that comprise oil companies, World Bank, Julius Berger and others to the occasion. The purpose was to let them know that we needed their support to improve the facilities at UNILAG. I told them, how much I have spent.

Others took up a new structure for Engineering and equipped it, the postgraduate building and the hostels thus giving the university a new face. Consequently, I was declared the ‘Best Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council by the National Universities Commission (NUC) on two different occasions. This earned me the chairman of Pro-Chancellors in the country.

The successes we recorded was felt in the two campuses of the university; that is Akoka and Idi-Araba. When my first four-year tenure lapsed, I wanted to leave, but the authorities wanted to renew my appointment just as the University of Ife also wanted me to come over. They wanted me to be transferred there and I told them, I am not a civil servant.

So, in the seventh year of my stay in UNILAG, Obasanjo’s tenure expired and President Umaru Yar’Adua became the President. To my utter amazement, I learnt the new administration had dissolved all Governing Councils.

My colleagues in other universities suggested that we sue the government since it was a statutory board which is tenure bound. I told my colleagues that there may not be any need for that since I am serving free using my resources at the same time. Then, if the government says it doesn’t need my services why should I go ahead and sue to insist that I must serve. I told my colleagues to go ahead because they are taking money from them but nobody went to court at the end of the day.

But, let me tell you today, that singular act of the government against me at that time was a blessing in disguise. And that was what inspired me to establish a university that will be a reference point to others. And I am happy today that Afe Babalola University has attained that feat, both in planning, aesthetic structures, quality of staff and students who adhere strictly to the rules and regulations.

For example, in the law school examinations conducted in 2018, 12 ABUAD students got a first class with one emerging overall best. And out of the 36 prizes presented, our students carted away 24 prizes. This showed that keeping the students here under close monitoring has worked for us.

We shall continue to celebrate workers that are working to keep the standard we have achieved for ourselves. But whoever wants to bring it down among the students and teachers shall be sanctioned. Those who are not ready to share in our vision must go away.

We have been described as a model and benchmark for university education by the NUC. The Association of Vice Chancellors of Universities met in Ilorin and rated ABUAD as the most successful university in Nigeria just as UNESCO said we are a World Class Institution. Some say it is the Harvard of Africa and so on.

How would you describe the award bestowed on you?

I am highly honoured and I am particularly happy that genuine nation builders are now being recognised. In Nigeria today, you will see somebody who manages to own one bedroom apartment, once he or she can lick the boot of his or her godfather would be allowed to run for high political office. Then few years after, he or she buys up houses in choice places and parades ill-gotten wealth.

I urge you to look for entrepreneurs and their backgrounds. You look at how they become who they are. So, the government and the private organisations like Daily Independent should look out for these categories of people and showcase them to the world. You have to bridge the gap and I am convinced that your organisation has the capacity to do that and that explains my warm reception of the delegation to the institution.

Source: https://www.independent.ng/abuad-benchmark-for-university-education-afe-babalola/

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