The President and Vice-Chancellor of Babcock University, Ilishan Remo, Ogun State, Professor Ademola Tayo, in this interview with Funmi Ogundare is of the view that universities in Nigeria should access their core values before awarding honorary degrees to undeserving politicians.
Babcock postgraduate programmes seem to be attractive, especially the PhD programme, what is the attraction to students?
After successfully running undergraduate programme for over 18 years from 1999 to 2017, we discovered that we needed to consolidate on the achievements we have gained at that level. The essence of our postgraduate programmes is to train people that will proffer solutions to the problems inherent in our country which will not just be an esoteric research but that which touches on problems prevailing our society today. That is why we encourage our postgraduate students to identify problems. The attraction is that we have flexible timetable which allows professionals to run their programmes. We offer a wholistic programme, that is why many of our programmes are laboratory attached.
For instance, we have a very sophisticated accounting lab where we have current software that would enable the students have hands on experience, an econometric and mass communication labs which will help students bridge the theory and the practical aspect of their study. We also link up with the industry to facilitate an interaction between the town and the gown. Thirdly, there is a robust relationship between the lecturers and students. From what we see in Nigeria today, there is a gap between the lecturers on one side and students on the other side. Lecturers and supervisors are seen as mini gods.
We want an instance where students will be able to approach their supervisors. As a way of bridging that gap, we also encourage our faculties to see their students as colleagues because very soon, they will also graduate and see themselves as professional colleagues on the field. They have to be reachable through phone and there should be a one-on-one lecturer/students relationship.
Where are your supervisors drawn from?
Many of them are from Nigeria, but occasionally, we have some from abroad. For instance, in Computer Science, we have been having a professor coming from Netherlands to co-supervise and that has really enriched our studies. We are in a global village and graduates of today may not necessarily pick up employment in Nigeria, hence the need for us to have broad international perspective. Before our last graduation, we drew our external supervisors from all the geo-political zones in the country so that they can interact with our students, give them valuable advise and inputs as they polish their research work . We also attract supervisors even from outside the shores from this country. That is something which is very important in this present day world because there are movement of workers from one country to the another and we need to expose our students to diverse ways of doing research so that they can be marketable within and outside the shores of the country.
What resources are available to support quality postgraduate studies?
Aside the fact that we have a very good library, we also have collaborations with so many universities outside Nigeria; University of Birmingham, Savannah State University, University of Georgia, among others. This will enhance our interaction. The use of online also gives us a good pedestal for people to know our graduates and makes them marketable.
How would you describe the quality of research and what impact has this made on the development of the institution?
It has made a big impact for Babcock University. For instance, two of our graduates established Paystack; a safe payment system, which offers seamless money transactions between businesses and their customers. Within the first three months of this year, they had processed over N3 billion and generated about N40 billion annually for Nigerian businesses. The company is powering over 9,000 businesses in Nigeria alone and creating about 25,000 jobs. The young graduates of the institution brought this into being with about 50 employees under the age of 35 years. You can imagine what these young people coming up with innovation and learnings will do in the next 10 years! There is also ENACTUS Babcock, a student entrepreneurship group in the university.
What they did was that they came up with solutions to check road accidents mortality through the use of alcohol detector and car demobilizer. They also presented two smart solutions ; project gel to empower target communities . This project gel involves the use of organic biodegradable material, such as leaves and egg shell to make cooking gel in place of kerosene for local stoves. Secondly, they are involved in roll back malaria project to curb malaria pandemic in some parts of Lagos State. In essence, we train our students to be solution providers not just doing research that will gather dust on the shelf . For instance, they went to Ijebu Ode community, looked at their critical problems and proffer solutions to it.
Aside that in our agric department, they invented the integration of Arbusular Mycorrhiza fungi amd poultry manure as alternative to fertilizer in the production of vegetable in Ogun State. This project was co-founded by Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in partnership with Babcock to the tune of $153,448 . One of our staff in Babcock University Teaching Hospital, received a research grant from the European Development Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCPT) to solve the problem of malaria among pregnant women. The EDCPT career development fellowship is worth 85,875 Euros. There are lots of researches going on here. But these researches are not esoteric but rather they are that which will impact our society and provide solutions. As I talk to you now, we have 30 of our research that we want to patent. Once it is patented, the implication of that is that it is going to have wider impact on people.
In terms of NUC ranking, where does the university stand and how many of its programmes have being accredited?
All programmes are accredited. The good thing is that Babcock University as a faith-based institution, don’t believe in running programmes that are not approved because the NUC works in concert with NYSC and a programme that is not accredited places the students’ programme under jeopardy when they want to go for NYSC. Because we have an obligation to our parents and students, we will never subscribe to a programme that is not approved.
Since your appointment as VC in the last two years, what would you say have been your biggest achievement?
It is in the area of academics. We have been making giant strides in externally moderated exams, especially in Law and Accounting. I foresee a situation whereby in two or three years, we will have chattered accountants in almost all over the country coming from Babcock University. The same thing with Law. Our students are all over law firms. Also in the area of Medicine, we have had two graduations now and the Medicinal and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) came to induct them. The first set had 100 percent success rate in the externally moderated exams.
The second set had 100 percent also and the secretary general of the council also came here for the induction, which is unheard of. The same thing if you go to our cardiovascular centre , within one year, we have had over 120 successful open heart surgeries. I cannot find anywhere that is done. The university has personnel running the centre. It is the only sustainable cardiovascular centre in Nigeria with professionals working there everyday of the week. Babcock also runs an Independent Power Project (IPP) which supplies electricity for 24 hours everyday to the university community as almost all our programmes are powered by electricity and we cannot afford not to have it.
How do you get funding for that?
It is as a result of prudent management of our resources; we have Babcock University Ventures, and our school fees, so through that we are able to generate power for the institution. The IPP has helped for research, laboratory exercise and all other things. Beside that, we have also been able to have a stable calendar. When our medical students came in, we told them the day they will be graduating and it has been like that all the while. The environment is very conducive with 15 halls of residence. Almost 90 per cent of our students live on campus because we believe in wholistic education. Knowledge is not only gained in the classroom but through social interaction in the halls of residence. In essence, it is a total package we have here.
How do you think university management can perform optimally so that the goals of national development can be achieved?
Universities should be a centre of human development. In Africa today, Nigeria is one of the countries that places little attention to education. That can be found in the budgetary allocation to the sector. When you look at the benchmark and gross domestic profit and what is supposed to be attributed to education, that of Nigeria is one of the lowest. That is why many of our laboratories are poorly stocked with consumables, no state-of-the art equipment for students to have hands on experience. Go to the libraries , you have 20 years old books gathering dust there. Check out their ICT, you discover that some universities don’t even have it. I feel it is high time the government should not pay lip service to the funding of education in Nigeria so that we can be in the league of committee of universities that are reckoned with in the society today. I strongly believe that this problem starts from the basic level. Today, a teacher that is disgruntled and not motivated for months will go on doing other businesses while leaving the students to roam about. So when the basic is poor and the secondary too is poor, what do you expect at the tertiary level?
Universities seems to be abusing honorary degree awards, what is your institution doing to stem this tide?
It is very unfortunate. At the meeting of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors in Nigeria (CVCN), we have agreed that it is not right to give honorary awards to serving officers in government. It makes a mockery of the whole exercise . We believe that before honorary degree should be given , they should ensure that the people to be given such honorary awards have imbibed core values that are in tandem with that institution, such as values of selflessness, dignity and fear of God, not just because you want to get some money from them. We looked at the pedigree of the person we want to give the honorary degree awards to. I think universities in Nigeria should access their core values so that we will not make mockery of the whole exercise. It must be something that will be dignifying.