‘How TETFUND is Killing Local Entrepreneurial Skills’

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Executive Trainers Limited, an arm of Executive Group, is one of the few consulting firms in Nigeria that adopts strategy and dynamism in its value added services, while providing a range of definite solutions to numerous clients in areas of leadership, management, marketing, strategy, innovation and change. It’s Chairman, Mr. Ayodele Ogunsan in this interview with Mary Ekah, talks about his passion for the educational sector in Nigeria while he unravels the myth behind the establishment of Tertiary Education Trust Fund and how its operations are thwarting the growth of businesses in Nigeria

What does Executive Trainers stand for?

Executive Trainers Limited came into place in September 2008 to address a gap in the education sector. We are primarily into higher education consulting. We train higher education professionals – academic and none academic, we train them locally and overseas at their various campuses. And most importantly, we take them out of the shores of this country to foreign land to train them and so most people call us international trainers and consultants. We dwell so much on the international arm of the training because of the preference and the delight of Nigerians in foreign education why because they want to travel out and explore other land and see how things are done overseas, especially in the education sector. Most of them feel that there is nothing much to learn from their local counterparts, so they need to go outside to learn from those they think are superior to them.

We travelled wide to establish this organisation; I remember vividly when we were about starting the programme the very moment we identified the gap, and we saw that the Nigerian higher education professionals needed this training. We went around the world and met with well trained professionals all across the globe. We picked notable business schools and universities around the globe and we signed MoUs with many of them and kick-started that programme in 2009. I remember that the first training we had was with Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom. We advertised the conference and virtually all notable institutions in Nigeria scattered across all the religions participated in the conference in England. And that was the birth of a great movement. What I am talking about today is not just a business, it became a movement, that if you were higher education practitioner in Nigeria, be it academic or non-academic, and you have not tapped into this movement, then you are not reckoned with. Everybody wanted to be part of this programme – the vice chancellors, the provosts and the rectors of Nigerian institutions were all struggling and at some points in this history of this company, you would think these the vice chancellors, provosts and rectors were applying for our programmes as students who run after their own institutions and want to apply for their courses. At that point our carriage capacity was quite high that we had break programmes into two just to ensure that we accommodated every one because they saw what they have not seen before.

What were the things they saw that made them believe so much in your programme? 

For the first time, they saw a local consultant who have link with foreign higher institutions and who was so passionate about the education sector. They saw a group of passionate people who were taking them to places they have not been before. To us, it was a total education and not just about training, we were exposing some of them to opportunities they did not really explore before – some have not even travelled abroad before and through this opportunity, some of them were able to travel outside of the country. Through the process, we were able to come up with exchange programmes with foreign institutions while some of these institutions started signing MoUs with us. Some of these foreign institutions were able to sign MoUs through us on technology transfer and other things. We had a lot of opportunities that opened up. But suddenly, the new administration at the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) lost touch with reality.

How do you mean by TETFUND losing touch with reality?

Now, one of the things that this present administration of TETFUND has done that it’s killing local consultants with foreign affiliations with is its new policies. I want TETFUND to see reasons in what I am saying, I am not attacking the organisation in the real sense of it, but I want TETFUND to come back to its senses. You don’t just come into a system and destroy what have been on existence but rather, you make it better. Most importantly, we want TETFUND to encourage local consultant to survive because this government said it was ready to fight any agency of government that kills local businesses. But with what TETFUND has done now, they have killed so many businesses in Nigeria. If Executive Trainers did not have some other business interests, we would have gone down too and because it is a movement and a dream, we are still surviving it. So we do not want any one to come into a place and just within four years, kills a dream of a life time that we have had. And if it is not agreeable and if they don’t reach a compromise on this, because it is a movement, we would fight it, sing it aloud and may turn it into a civil movement. Perhaps TETFUND may feel that some people are using that opportunity of training abroad to siphon money but that is not a justification to out rightly disqualified everybody. I think the onion is on TETFUND to establish a mechanism to actually know those that are aiding and abetting fraud and those that are doing their jobs legitimately and then encourage them. And it may interest you to know that we just signed a MoU with a notable anti-corruption agency in Nigeria, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) to join them to train professionals in Nigerian institutions on academic integrity. If we have been found wanting, ICPC will not find us worthy of being our partner.

You describe yourself as a local consultant, can you expatiate on that?

We have to get the definition clear when we say local consultant. We are local consultants with foreign affiliations and we deliver international standard programmes on foreign soils and we also certify participants there too. One of the benefits of our international programmes is that we do a sort of programme mix, we have the foreigners talk to our delegates when they are abroad; while delegates are abroad, we locate Nigerian professionals that are experts in their fields who reside abroad, to come and speak to their Nigerian counterparts in the language they would understand better and it has been very interesting. Even at some point, we signed up with Nigerian embassies in those various lands, we are able to relate well with them and they have had very lasting impacts on the local domain. So the point we are trying to let people know, especially TETFUND, is that whatever output people want, even of international standard, we are able to deliver such.  We are just like intermediary, through which these things could be done. And carrying us along and making us intermediary, means TETFUND is putting food on our tables. It is still the programmes that you want our people to do at the institutions in overseas that they are still going to do through us; they would still be certified by those foreign institutions but we are saying that those foreign institution can’t just come to our soil and be relating directly with our people. Talk to us and we would talk to them and the country, especially TETFUND, has a lot of advantage, if they have us on their side. For example, organisations can checkmate their delegates attending for training to ascertain if they really paid for the training and also attended the programme.

Most importantly, must you come into a system and kill local consultants. In other nations of the world, for example, just in nearby Dubai here, there is no business you want to run in Dubai that would be approved except a percentage of your business is given to their locals. So we want TETFUND to encourage local entrepreneurial skills rather than killing them. We employ a large number of people and there are also people that are not directly on our employment but that are attached to us. Apart from that, we have several other people who run these programmes, who have not been able to have the voice, which are already dead due to TETFUND present policy. Some of them are grounded all because somebody came into the system and the first thing he could do was to tell all local consultants who have foreign affiliations to quit the stage that Nigerians will go back to patronise those who are abroad. How do they justify that? They are killing entrepreneurial skills, passion and interest in Nigeria and in very short while, we will have no entrepreneurs in the country. This is our grievance and we are so passionate about it – TETFUND is killing local initiatives that have been able to address the Nigerian higher education problems to a reasonable extent. We are one stop shop in this country for higher education matters today in terms of training and consulting. We want TETFUND to know that we remain the best partner that they can work with. They can’t work with those guys who are abroad because they cannot regulate the foreign intuitions as they would regulate us.

What exactly is Executive Trainers’ focus as an international consultant on education?

Executive Trainers Limited is one of the rare few consulting firms in the sub-Sahara Africa in Nigeria that adopts strategy and dynamism in its value added services. We provide a range of definite solutions to our numerous clients in areas of leadership, management, marketing, strategy, innovation and change. Our edge is the unparalleled solution driven approach we adopt towards the need of our clients. Over the years, we have sustained high-quality methodologies in our services – right facilitators, right venue, and right solutions together with our local and foreign partners.

What exactly is this policy they are replacing you with?

I refuse to accept that they have replaced us.  What we have noticed right now is the fear on the part of the Chief Executive Secretary of TETFUND, Dr. Abdullahi Bichi Baffa. Before he came on board, he had this belief that international training is a medium through which Nigerian’s higher education professionals are sent abroad just to waste government resources and most of the time they are not monitored enough because those concerned regard it as a jamboree and so they come back home with nothing to show. The problem is most of these people have not been on the trip, especially the Chief Executive Officer and so they don’t know what this is really about. So I am challenging TETFUND Chief Executive Secretary to come and attend this programme free of charge and then after coming back, he can then make his own assertion about these programmes. Or TETFUND should just consult widely before taking this kind of step. They should call for a stakeholders meeting before they reach any decision. This present policy has disadvantages that far outweigh the advantages in the present policy.