We’ve received 3 critical bailouts – RUGIPO
Mr. Gani Adebola Ogundahunsi was appointed barely a year ago as Acting Rector of Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo. He spoke on his efforts so far to reposition the institution in this interview with The Hope Line Editors.
You have been in the office as an Acting of Rector of Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo, about a year now, what have you been able to achieve?
Let me sincerely appreciate God for the modest achievement one has been able to record. It has been a very challenging job, because of the problems I inherited in January. The school had a lot of issues whereby students went on rampage, got a lot of things destroyed and that one slowed down the peace and modest achievement the school had been having before. It would be recalled that for almost six months, the school was locked against the students. Let me quickly say that I am happy for the modest achievements we have been able to achieve. We have been able to do some little things, courtesy of the massive support of the State Government and the Council.
First and foremost, we have been able to maintain peace which is very paramount. Almost after I came on board, the school had challenge of accreditation of its programmes and that one was even a very difficult thing, because if a particular programme is not accredited, it shows that whatever you are doing or think you have done may amount to waste. So the programmes had to be accredited.
I want to sincerely appreciate our amiable Governor who made funds available for us. We started immediately and we are able to put things together, we presented 37 programmes for the accreditation and reaccreditation, I am happy to tell you that everything got approved, we have 100percent accreditation. So let me say we have maintained peace, and that one is massive too. Then we have a lot of infrastructural development. Some projects that were abandoned for long, we have been able to complete them. Like the administrative block, it’s almost ready, particularly the registry. The registry is about 95percent completed. If not for the present weather, the painting would have be done two weeks ago. Then we have the Rectory which is getting to about 80percent completion. These have been abandoned due to paucity of fund, Kudos to Mr Governor who gave us capital vote which has been put into use.
We have a lot of dilapidated structures, like hostels, the building that houses our Cottage Hospital, etc. The contractors have been mobilised, any time from now, some of these ventures that have been giving us money, like water, bakery will come back to life. I can say our bread is one of the best, because it’s handled by professionals. There are certain things we do not tolerate in making our bread that make it special. The first production has been out and will be in the market any moment from now. On water, the NAFDAC wants us to paint the place round and that one has been awarded. Based on that, our water is going to flood the market any time from now.
We are also increasing our IGR base. And I want to tell you that we have market. Because we are going to make sure that our water, bakery, will not be sold principally within the campus, we will be extending our tentacles to the town.
Before you came, how much was the IGR and how much is it now?
It was nothing to write about, aside of the school fees. I can say the major IGR is from the students’ enrolment. Before I came on board, it was ok, but later dropped, Then the enrolment was so poor, the whole students enrolment for last year was 1,948 when we were supposed to be having about six to seven thousand students, definitely, the IGR from that side must drop. Our guest house is there, we are re-moulding it. We are re- gigging a lot of things so that they can fetch us money. We have a block industry and when we give out contracts, we can put it as part of the negotiations that you buy our blocks. In the aspect of our guest house, I know a lot of people who ca.me to do some official things in the school and they will lodged outside but now we want to make our guest house become more functional then the money will be coming back to us, there is no point lodging our external examiners outside. That one will fetch us a lot of money too, we are doing a lot of massive renovations.
Since I came on board by we have brought to fore about 29 new programmes, we have tried to redeem, to tool and to re-engineer the place.
What are the new programmes?
New programmes like, Insurance, Cooperative Studies, etc. We are going to float programmes that are actually needed, because we want to really fulfill our mandate. The mandate is for us to make our programmes to be relevant to our immediate society.
Our FM Radio is coming on air any moment from now (RUGIPO FM). We have gotten the licence, even the studio is there and then the CBT building which I inherited, it is capable of accommodating 1,980 students. It will now be a source of revenue when people come and do their JAMB, POST UTME.
We have been able to leverage our connection with TETFUND and they are releasing money to us. These are areas that we have improved on amongst other things. Discipline, we are touching that area too.
What is your relationship with ASUP on salary?
I appreciate the present government, led by Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, as at the time this government got into the saddle, we had nine months salary arrears but now it has been reduced to five months. It shows that the Governor has been working. Any union for that matter will always fight for the rights of its workers. It is their right to get their money but I want people to be reasonably enough, the school can not generate a month salary, it is the same government that will have to bail us out and let’s say this government has given us three critical bailouts in our recurrent and capital projects. When I say we have done this and that, it was simply because the money was available. He gave us capital vote and we have judiciously appropriated the money. When I was talking about accreditation, the government gave us money. Actually, ASUP is not the only union we have in that school. Whatever we do, we can not afford to kill the hen that lays the golden eggs. ASUP is a critical stakeholder in that place but let us do things with reasons. The Governor, accepted he is owing us five months, he said it publicly and promised to pay and I believe he will pay, all that we need is to give peace a chance.
What caused the low patronage of candidates in the school?
One critical thing is to maintain stable academic calender, the moment students know that your academic calendar is not stable they will go to another school. Don’t forget the fact that if a student applies to your school or university does not mean he can not change from the institution. So that problem of January 2018, I pray it will never repeat itself again in that school. It affected us so much in that school. At a point in time our school was a pride of people seeking admissions and we have come to do that again.
Was it not because of the increase in payment schedule(school fees)?
Well, that may not be the main point but it could be part of it. But it has been addressed. The school fee has been reduced downward and substantially.
Would that one not affect the IGR again?
The point is that, we looked at so many things before I set up a highly powered committee to reduce the fees. Our low turn up was among those issues, which made us to drop the school fees. Again, we have given the students a licence to pay twice in a session. All these ones should culminated in helping students to come to our institution and get enrolment. Let me tell you one thing that I am doing that people will be very happy about very soon. That is about the HND and BSC linkage. I am having a partnership with Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and the partnership is going to be like that of Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo and Ife. This one has gotten into a very advance stage myself and the Vice Chancellor have met with (NUC) National University Commission, as well as National Board for Technical Commission and JAMB. We have discussed with the Executive Council of all the bodies.
Honestly, the feelers I am getting is that we are going to get this thing done earlier than expected. That is my major plan, to get more students. The certificates that will be awarded will bear Obafemi Awolowo University, but the students will be in Owo. Not that we are removing our ND and HND programmes, we will run the two along with the degree programmes. I want to appreciate my brother, Tope Ogunbodede, the VC of Ife, who has been supportive in our drive to do this.
The degree programmes, how many?
It is not going to cover all the programmes in the school. We are looking at the areas where we have a very good strength, we have identified about 16 programmes which council approved. The NUC will be visiting very soon the school to do a kind of accreditation of these programmes that I have talked of, so that we can now float them. Those areas that we are having strength are, Agriculture Computer Science, some of the Engineering, Environmental Science and others.
Inaugural lectures are synonymous with universities, what brought about the idea in your institution?
My Polytechnic was established in 1980, that was almost 38 years ago, and I am not ashamed to admit that we have only done three. But out of these three, I have done two since I came on board about a year ago, and I can tell you two more will come, it is an academic culture. If you were there yesterday, (last week Wednesday) you will realised that I admitted the man that delivered the lecture as a chief lecturer. It is not that he has not been a chief lecturer for sometime, but the perfect I see of the cake. When it comes to academic culture, you see, just need for us to develop. what we have to do is, let people fulfill their mandate.
In the civilised economy, all that you need to do is to make sure that you are doing very well in your area of calling. You do not need all those unnecessary rivalry and especially when the rivalry is not even healthy. You do not need that, what you are saying is not peculiar to the universities. I will be happy if you now want to say we championed it so that the polytechnics can come up to relevance in academic culture. If you were there I invited a lot of my colleagues to that place, it was something I am very proud of.
In a civilised world, you can see institutions that their budgets are much more bigger than some States in Africa, because their discoveries are patented. Look at Israel, not even a single litre of oil, or rain that will fall in Akure, within a week may not happen in Israel in a year yet can still feed the whole world. That is science, God has given us intellect to think and to bring support to man and where is the mandate of any tertiary institution if you can not be part of this development. That is what we are trying to do.
Let us take a look at your products, how are they doing in the labour market?
Let sincerely admit something, we all went to school, what is happening in the society now is not peculiar to academic segment of the society, it is the crying call for everybody to rise, to arrest this stench where the emphasis is about money all alone. In my school I told you discipline, no matter how beautiful the plan of man is, if you don’t instill discipline, human beings can stop it. So in our school, If you say our products are not doing well, I would have probably ask questions by the time I get home and this is not to say that we are already there. My school is not a finished product, we are working towards that perfection.
There are certain things I put in place, I instill discipline. I want people to be on the line and if you fall out I will show you the way out, if I see anybody causing academic infraction, I will send the person away.
Discipline is not witch-hunting, no matter how beautiful the heart of a man is, if you don’t instill discipline, you cannot get it right, so in our school, the products are doing well. If you have told me they are not doing well, I would have asked questions when I get back and this is not to say that we are already there. We are still working towards perfection. I have committee in place monitoring my staff so, I want to sincerely say that the curricular in meant to serve man. All this curricular that we are working towards them having impact and we will always do something, that one is essential getting feedback from the offices. We want to see how our products are performing. We want to see this gown and town relationship not only to award Diplomas but to equally ensure it is for the overall development of the society. We are monitoring this and we will be happy, those of you who are employers of labour, you can always send feedback to us, we want feedback, this can only make us to perform better.
If you take a look at the Nigerian economy, we still find it difficult to believe our tertiary institutions find it difficult to bail us out of power outages, we find lot of innovations from China and so on coming up with solar power while Nigerian government have spent billion if not trillion on the power sector. Then take a look at the industrial sector, we are agro based area where we could develop agricultural machines to process our products like cocoa, egg, cassava into finished products, what is the problem?
In my school if you get to Agric Engineering Department, we have a lot of people that are full of initiatives, that can develop so many things. In an institution, when you have these discoveries, we must support it, we should stop embracing things that are alien to us, is it not shameful to still be importing toothpicks? Even handkerchief, we can do without it or even cut our materials and make beautiful handkerchief out of it. I may not say that our research is totally useless but we must support them, let them partner the institutions, build structures, hostels and probably collect peanuts from the students and after five years we return it to school. These are what Abraham Lincon and others did. When I was in university of Ibadan, Rockefeller was paying NEPA bills. Our research is not useless, but there must be synergy.
Are the institutions doing the needful in terms of showcasing what they can do to get support?
We are working in that direction, when Mr Governor visited China not quite long a ago, I have met with this people we are working in partnership. You have to put some gadgets in place to produce solar. It is not about sunshine alone even if you want to do inverter in your house, as cheap as it may be, you have to buy battery, panel etc to get solar power, we have started something. Let me tell you, until we start doing that until we face the reality, we will not be able to power Nigeria, let us do this little things. If my school can now generate enough energy to power that place, I known how much I pay on diesel, if that is removed we will be able to manage our scarce resources to fund other areas.
Is it out of place to commercialise these projects?
It is not out of place.
Then why is it difficult to do this?
People always want to invest where they will quickly get returns, it may not be in terms of money. Let me tell you, sometimes Mr Governor directed some people to partner us in terms of accommodation, will have even gotten to advance stage of that negotiation, around December last year but I saw a vacuum, if you want to build a house, you will have proto type, you will want to build it where the land will be cheaper or get the materials at cheaper prices. If you now feel the rent in Akure will be better than in Owo, that is it. But I want to believe that our society should change its mindset. Is not even investment some people will fear that is this money going to be judiciously used? That is a factor, some people will say, can I get returns? Is Owo big enough to accommodate what I want to do? No government can single handedly fund education. You will see people that will say I am donation this and that. When I was in UI, there were sponsors. Tertiary institutions can do so much but we need money and support.
Few weeks ago, the staff school was privatized and the staffers asked to go. What informed this?
It’s not that we just woke up one day and we said we should do this, it had been on. You know government is a continuum, I inherited a lot of things from that place. I did a press conference. In a tertiary institution, you look at many things, our salaries are not paid by the government directly, we are getting subvention, and that subvention we have to make judicious use, it will be better to balance it, we have got committees and panel to look into this even before I came on board, I came on board September 2018, I am part of the decisions. It was like handling a hot potato and I know it will be practically difficult, there we started negotiations and I told the staff that I will not leave you in the lush that we have done something so that we just could get this thing done. In that place, I had 59 staff, out 59, 13 of them were centrally deployed that is they are from the mainstream and some of them were centrally deployable. That is they could fit into the mainstream, what we did was to recalled those who were centrally deployed and those that fits in. Some efforts were made but we could not reach compromise. Let me tell you, I feel pain for some people, when such thing happened, it hurts but it is just something we have to do. The fact that I am priviledged to head the institution does not means I meant evil for them, we could not break through the funding of that place and it is like a disaster waiting to happen, what is the essence of keeping staff when you cannot pay their salaries. So, the decision had been taken not only in the management that I head, the council met, took the decision. You can even go around institutions around, some had addressed such before. There is no way you can satisfy the aggrieved 100%, so it’s not that just came up with this. We have called back those that were centrally displayed and have been given portfolios.
There are incessant strikes in public tertiary institutions, what is the way out?
The management that I am fortunate to head does not witch-hunt. We will continue to dialogue and maintain that balance but honestly when people agitate for their rights, it is normal . I have been trying to maintain good relationship, with my host communities, the relationship is so robust, cordial, we discussed about a lot of things that we can do to the gather particularly of issue of encroachment of our land and I have pleaded with then to help us out.
The council is working hard to make such that the issue is addressed. I want to plead with them to please understand the position of the government and be patient. We equally want students to come and the institution has been our pride, we won so many laurels and we are still going to win more, let them come and partner with us, we will continue to employ all agencies of govt to help us make the polytechnic fulfill its mandate.