Prof. Hussein Oyelola Oloyede is the pioneer Vice-Chancellor of a faith-based tertiary institution, Summit University founded by Ansar-Ud-Deen Society of Nigeria. In this interview with Funke Olaode at his office in Offa, Kwara State, he speaks about the mission and vision of the founders to make the one-year-old institution a sought after one in Nigeria and beyond
Can we have an insight into who you are?
I am Prof. Hussein Oyelola Oloyede, the Vice-Chancellor of a newly established Summit University based in Offa, Kwara State. I had worked previously at University of Ilorin and also served as a pioneer Vice-Chancellor of Fountain University in Osogbo, Osun State before my present appointment.
When did the founder conceive the idea of this institution?
The institution is a product of many years of painstaking planning and harnessing of human and material resources. The Ansar-Ud-Deen Society remains one of the foremost religious organisations with impressive records in the provision of education for Nigerian students at primary, secondary and tertiary levels irrespective of their religious, ethnic, geographical and political affiliation. Summit University happens to be their first university in Nigeria. The process to establish a faith-based university with a world-class standard of teaching, research and community service began in February 2002, when the National Education Board of Ansar-Ud-Deen Society of Nigeria set up the Higher Education Committee with a view to actualising the dreams and yearning of members.
On April 3, 2004, the National Executive Committee of the society resolved to locate the university at Offa, Kwara State. In June 2005, the society applied formally for opening license as a private university from the National Universities Commission (NUC) in Abuja. And in July, 2013, the Special Committee on Private Universities of the NUC conducted the third verification visit of facilities on the campus of the proposed university. The takeoff of the university was granted in February 2015 with the formal presentation of the provisional license to the society, which held at a ceremony presided over by the then Minister of Education, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau in March, 2015 at the NUC office in Abuja. The university eventually commenced operation in 2017.
What makes it tick?
Well, it is an Islamic faith-based university that doesn’t discriminate because the admission is for both Muslims and Christians. What makes it tick is that if you look at universities in the country, the three key aspects of learning: knowledge, skills and morals are taught separately. But at the Summit University we blend the three together so that when we are giving knowledge to the students we are also emphasising the skills aspect and at the same time we are talking about the moral component.
Considering the fact that it is a new institution, how many of the courses have been accredited by the NUC?
Well, talking about accreditation, it doesn’t happen until after two years of the commencement of the programme. We are just one year. But I can tell you that the various programmes we offer are marketable. In the College of Natural and Applied Sciences, we have Biochemistry, Microbiology, Computer Science, Mathematics, Physics etc. In the College of Management and Social Science, we have Accounting, Business Administration, Economics, Political Science and Mass Communication.
Why informed the name ‘Summit University’?
It means peak, it means zenith, it means on top of the mountain. What we do is that immediately a student wants to enter the school and if he/she is someone who always thinks low of him/herself, as soon as he/she comes in the low esteem is boosted and that is the way to the top. So everything we are doing here must be excellent, standard with high quality education.
There is a problem with the public tertiary education in terms of falling standard. How do you think the Nigerian education system can regain its lost glory?
I think the problem is that our priorities are wrong and because of this, we don’t really care for the children. And today, the thinking of our upcoming generation is different and that is what we want to change here in Summit University. Morality is the basis and once you have it, you have had it all. You may be knowledgeable but if you lack morality you will get it wrong. That is the aspect we try to emphasize to change the negative view of our students so by the time they finish from here, they will occupy important positions in the country where they will be able to effect positive changes.
But there is this general impression that government policies sometimes hamper the progress of the education sector?
For me, it is two ways: government policies and the implementation. If you have the right people in right places how committed are they? Having an expert in a particular field doesn’t necessarily guarantee maximum delivery if the fellow is not committed. The experts are in the ministries, they are the ones that will tell the man that is there that this is the way and if the fellow is ready, he will listen to them and they will be able to move forward. The problem with Nigeria in most cases is implementation and commitment. No matter how many times you change the constitution of this country if you don’t have people who are committed, the people who are ready to work for this country we are just wasting our time.
What foreign affiliation does Summit University have?
It is in the pipeline because any affiliation both locally will enable us to network in the areas of exchange of knowledge and idea. We have started at the local level with universities around us. For instance, University of Ilorin is the mentoring university for Summit University and from there we would extend our tentacles across the country and outside.
How do you get funding?
The founders, Ansar-Ud-Deen Society are huge and we are taking advantage of that in driving funding. But it is not enough. We also have philanthropists who are showing interest in us. Recently, a 500-seater ultra-modern lecture hall was donated by the CEO of Caverton Helicopters, Mr. Remi Makanjuola and his family. It is a beautiful edifice that has not only cut off and reduced some of our financial burden, it has also changed the face of the university. We look for donors, philanthropists, and the founders. And of course, we are looking for grants outside the country.
How do you intend to bring your wealth of experience to take this university to higher height?
I thank God that even the one I pioneered in Osogbo some of my ex-students are doing well now. I always ask this question occupying a position is different but how committed are you. If you are committed the students also will be committed. In private universities, the fewer students you have the more attention they are going to get. We talk about staff student ratio. Here in Summit University the staff student ratio is one to four. Often time, people say why are private university students getting first class? It is simple. It is because of the staff student ratio. Don’t forget that most of the lecturers we are engaging are from the public universities.
There is also the general notion that private universities are not meant for the poor. What is your view?
I will use Summit University as an example. The cost here is affordable compared to other universities. Here, students pay N280,000 for science based programmes, while N275,000 for social science based programme. And being an Islamic faith-based university, we don’t want education to be only at the prerogative of the rich. We want the poor too to have access to quality education. In addition, we assist them by offering rebates. We offer scholarships as well and this will continue to ensure that not only the rich will have access to quality education but the poor also.
You left an indelible mark in Fountain University where you worked as a pioneer VC. Where do you see the school in the next five years?
I want the Summit University at the ‘summit’ and I want its graduates to be driven by the political and the economic affairs of this country and to show to the world that Summit University Offa, the university of Ansar-Ud-Deen Society of Nigeria is the best.
By the time you quit the stage what would you like to be remembered for?
That a man has come to this world, gave his best so that this university that God has allowed him to pioneer will continue to be the best.