Home Uncategorized No regrets working in varsity for 14 years after retirement – EKSU ex-VC

No regrets working in varsity for 14 years after retirement – EKSU ex-VC

by Admin

Former Vice-Chancellor of Ekiti State University, Prof Israel Orubuloye, talks to ABIODUN NEJO about his post-career and how Nigeria can address its educational and developmental challenges

Why did you decide to return to Nigeria after obtaining a doctorate abroad?

I obtained my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Sociology from the University of Ibadan in 1972 and 1974, respectively, and a PhD in Demography from Australian National University, Canberra, Australia, in 1978. The PhD was funded by the Population Council in New York. I had the opportunity to stay back and work in Australia, but I returned to Nigeria to honour the condition attached to my fellowship and my employer, the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Ibadan, that granted me study leave without pay. Life was very good in Nigeria then, so there was no reason for me to stay back (in Australia).

Can you assess the university system in Nigeria in the 1970s and what it is today?https://live.primis-amp.tech/content/video/amp/videoIframe.php?s=113240#amp=1

When I was at UI, the student population was less than 4,000 and the students lived on campus and were fed three times a day. I think UI now has well over 25,000 regular students. There were only five universities in the country at that time – UI; University of Lagos; University of Nigeria, Nsukka; University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University); and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. The population of students in all five universities then was probably less than 15,000, whereas smaller universities today have thousands of students. Population increase has taken place between then and now with more secondary schools producing potential students for universities. Despite the increase in population, the facilities have not increased in the same progression as the population. Of course, when the number of students is growing at geometric progression and that of resources and facilities are growing at arithmetic progression, there is going to be a gap between the two. This is what is happening in Nigeria today.

Do you see any way out?

First, we have to do something about the population growth rate. The rate of population growth in Nigeria is estimated to be 3.5 per annum and by 2050, Nigeria will be the third largest country in the world. People will have to accept smaller family sizes. This is one of the problems when people have many children. In addition to family planning, we have to invest more in education, particularly the education of women. Most of the studies I have done showed that there is a relationship between education of women, lower fertility, lower mortality, use of public health facilities, adoption of family planning, and improved standard of living. So, the education of women is key. As long as we fail to pay attention to the education of women, we will continue to have the problem of exponential population growth.

Nigeria last conducted a population census in 2006. What is the effect of this on planning and development?

We need population figures for proper and sustainable planning for education, health facilities, housing, employment, and food production, but there is a problem when we don’t know the number of people. Take for instance, when the head of a household does not know the number of people in the household, how can he plan for the members? That is the situation in Nigeria today. How will the government plan for housing, transportation, urban and rural development? Every aspect of human life has an implication on the rate at which the population is growing.

One of the biggest problems we have in this county is that we turn population census into a political issue. Population is not a political issue; it is a serious economic and developmental issue. The Nigerian government is paying lip service to the population census. There was preparation for the national population census in 2022, but all of a sudden, because the previous government did not want to go into the controversy of population census during the general elections, the government aborted it.

Do you think Nigeria’s population is 200 million people as it is generally believed?

We are made to believe that there are 200 million people in Nigeria. How did we come about this figure? The United Nations projection, which is based on estimated figures, is what is being used. When you project and the database is wrong, then, of course, you are going to get an inaccurate figure. I have been living in Ado-Ekiti for 40 years now; the Ado-Ekiti, which I moved to from Ibadan in 1983, is not the same today. When I moved to where I live today, the area was empty, but highly populated now. The issue of population is very critical. No amount of projections can replace population census.

The absence of a population census is affecting the country in many ways. Take the issue of urban congestion, transportation, education, and health, among others. Nigeria now has close to 200 universities and yet we still have youths who cannot get admission into those institutions because there is not enough space. First of all, we have to address this issue of population growth and all the other development efforts are directly related to the number of people.

What were your experiences at NISER, Ekiti State University and Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti, where you worked?

I spent 10 years at NISER. My assignment was research. NISER’s mandate is to research social and economic aspects of human endeavour. The institute was, at its inception, located and administered as an arm of the UI. This was the situation when I was employed there in 1974. Later, it gained autonomy from the UI and became a department in the Federal Ministry of National Planning. I think the institute is now in the Presidency. It was a think-tank for the government on socio-economic affairs. If there was a national problem, the government would mandate NISER to investigate. When I was there, I took part in many national research projects such as resources of the Nigerian states, primary health care, traditional health care, population and development, migration, etc. In doing that, most of the NISER staff members had the opportunity to teach part-time at the university; for example, I taught part-time at the Department of Demography and Social Statistics of the University of Ife, now OAU, and the Department of Sociology of UI.

In 1983, I moved to EKSU as a senior lecturer. My assignment was teaching, but later, I was able to attract foreign grants from the Swedish Agency for Research Cooperation with Africa to research sexual behaviour and HIV/AIDS. This was the first behavioural research on HIV/AIDS in Africa. I coordinated the research programme that lasted for almost 10 years, where I brought in international researchers from West Africa, East Africa, South Africa, Australia, Sweden and the USA. In the university, I rose from senior lecturer to reader and professor in 1989. In administration, I was the head of a department, dean of a faculty, deputy vice-chancellor for two terms of four years, and finally a vice-chancellor before I retired on March 20, 2008, after 25 years.

When and how did you join ABUAD?

My engagement at ABUAD is one of the uncharted journeys I have undertaken in life because it was not in my retirement plan. When I retired in March 2008, I planned to go back to Australia. I was 62 years old and I decided to go on voluntary retirement at that time, having accomplished my ambition to become the VC of the university where I was one of the pioneer staff members and the first ‘home-grown’. I wrote to the governor that I wanted to serve as VC for only one term. At 62, I had eight years that I could spend outside Nigeria before my final retirement from academia. Unarguably, Australia was my destination. All along, I went to Australia for conferences, study, and sabbatical leaves while working in Nigeria because of my strong connection with the Australian National University and its Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health. I wanted to go to the US first for a few weeks before going to Australia. On my way to Lagos on March 23, 2008, in company with my wife, we went to the office of Aare Afe Babalola to inform him that I had retired from EKSU and was going to Australia. This was in appreciation of what he did for me and the university when I was the VC. He donated a 350-capacity Law auditorium to EKSU.

What did you discuss with him?

During our discussion, I told him my plan to go to the US and from there to Australia. He said no, that he was starting a university in Ado-Ekiti and that he wanted me to take part in the setting up and nurturing of the university. That was how I aborted my plan to relocate temporarily to Australia. I asked about the type of university he wanted to set up and he told me. Immediately after I arrived in the US, I started looking at the structures of universities all over the world and I put a 100-page paper together, which I sent to him. When I returned from the US, Aare Babalola set up a 14-member planning and implementation committee and made me the chairman. He then proceeded to the UK for his annual vacation. The committee met on two occasions in Ibadan when he was on vacation. On August 9, 2008, he phoned me from the UK to meet some people at the site of the proposed university. On arrival at the site, I met a group of people, and that was how the journey started. My original plan was to stay for only two years for the university to begin in early 2010. I ended up spending 14 years and 19 days. I left on August 30, 2022, the day I turned 76.

What is the major difference between the private and public university systems in Nigeria?

It is very difficult to compare my experience in ABUAD with that of a public university like EKSU in the sense that the decision-making process is not comparable. At ABUAD, the founder is the visitor, the chancellor, the chairman of the board of directors, and the board of trustees as well as the sole financier. He takes the decisions and we all implement them, but in public universities, there are a plethora of steps that must be taken to arrive at a decision and implementation on any matter.

The biggest problem EKSU had and still has is funding. We never received enough money to pay salaries and for capital development, throughout the time I was there. When I was the VC, I paid monthly salaries of N65m, but the government released N45m and zero for capital development. The situation was very bad in 1986 to the extent that the university wanted to close down when salaries were not paid for three months. Although things are improving gradually, it was particularly very bad in the last two or three years at the university when salaries were not paid for months. At one time, salaries were paid in two or three instalments. It appears that things are gradually improving now. Nevertheless, it is not yet Uhuru.

What are your thoughts on the student loan scheme introduced by the Federal Government?

The student loan programme is a welcome development if properly managed. It will ensure more access to university education by a greater number of the teeming population of school leavers. It will help poor parents and the students will value the kind of education they have the opportunity to access because they have to focus well on their studies to finish quickly, get a job, and pay back their loan. It will help the majority of students who cannot have access to scholarships and who cannot pay their school fees to be able to study hard; and then, it will minimise cultism and unwholesome activities in the university because if students know that they will pay back their loans at the end of the day, they will want to finish their education on time. Student loans may be a catalyst for social control. In the past, there were scholarships and bursary awards by governments for students. Student loans anywhere are to support student education, but that does not remove scholarships. High-profile students will still be able to get scholarships.

You reached the peak of your career before you retired. What are you most grateful for?

I am grateful that I had the opportunity to meet the right people at the right time and in the right places, and they contributed immensely to my academic development. I am very grateful to those who helped me in one way or the other. It is not a question of giving money alone, but proper advice at the right time, and proper mentorship. Proper mentorship is one thing that I enjoyed in my academic career. And I am very grateful to those people who assisted me in one way or the other to reach the peak of my career.

How has life been in retirement?https://d-918051901852091968.ampproject.net/2310271806000/frame.html

Even though I am not doing any routine job now or going to the office as early as 9 or 10am and returning in the evening, I still do academic work. I started writing a book of about 300 pages titled, ‘The Uncharted Journey’, after I left ABUAD. I have finished it; it is now in the press. I have started working on another book on my research activities and publications of over 50 years, which are being put together in six thematic areas. I now have time to run my research outfit, Centre for Population and Health, which was in limbo for 15 years. I also go to my farm where I planted teak and Gmelina trees a few years ago. I also travel out of the country more often now than before. I am fully occupied. Professors do not retire.

How did you cope during the Nigerian Civil War?

When the Civil War broke out, we thought Ile-Ife was safe. The unexpected happened when the Biafran leader, (the late) Odimegwu Ojukwu, captured Ore and announced to the whole world that his soldiers would celebrate Christmas in Lagos. That was the turning point of the war. That announcement frightened everybody. My uncle’s wife became worried and said, ‘If Ojukwu could get to Ore, and Ondo is just a stone’s throw to Ore and Ife is a stone’s throw to Ondo, Ibadan would still be safer than Ile Ife’. So, we had to move back to Ibadan on August 20, 1967. That created a lot of problems for me, but my uncle decided that I should go back to Ile Ife and stay in the boarding house. There, I became a misfit; I could not cope well in the boarding school again. Nevertheless, I managed to finish the third term and vowed never to go back to the school for the second year.

It has become common today for public university lecturers to engage in part-time jobs in private universities and polytechnics. Is it morally right and legitimate?

There is no question of morality. It is legitimate. The rules are there that when you engage in part-time appointments, you are expected to pay 25 per cent of what you earn to your university. I doubt whether any institution has ever implemented this provision. When I was at NISER and teaching part-time, I was able to apply my research to my teaching. What we need to do now is to streamline this kind of appointment and give a limit to the number of part-time teaching jobs a lecturer can do. Nowadays, some lecturers do part-time teaching in more than two universities, which is very wrong as far as I am concerned. That is where the problem is. There is a need to streamline such appointments, especially when there is a shortage of university teachers

Related Articles

Leave a Comment