Professor Ignatius Onimawo is the Vice-Chancellor of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State. In an interview with some journalists including Funmi Ogundare , he explained why regulatory bodies like NUC and NABTEB should be strengthened so as to enhance quality through adequate budgetary spending on critical infrastructure
What opportunities do you see AAU playing in the national and international stage?
AAU is already positioned nationally and internationally in several areas. Several of our academic programmes are already celebrated. Our Law programme has consistently maintained best position in Nigeria and even in Africa. Our programme in Architecture is also nationally and internationally acclaimed. Our education programme has contributed to manpower development on a very large scale. One of the 65 neurosurgeons in Nigeria is from AAU and our medical doctors are excelling in their various fields. This can also be said for the rest of our academic programmes.
Ambrose Alli University has made huge leaps in digital repositioning. We are one of the few universities in Africa that conducts senate meetings electronically. We are also the only university in Africa that has conducted students’ union elections by electronic voting. AAU has been consistent in winning the award of best state university in use of technology and very many of our professors are fellows in their professional associations worldwide. We have stepped up training for our academic staff in the area of writing proposals for grant awards. Our professors and other academic staff are being recognised for groundbreaking researches.
What are the core strengths of the institution?
Our academic staff strength is a major assets. There is hardly any area in which we do not have professors of international repute. Our academic programmes are also an area of strength. We train manpower and engage in research in more than 80 academic programmes. We are also positioned as a major platform to remedy the disadvantage engendered by the quota system in students admissions for indigenes of Edo State. All sectors of the state economy are manned by graduates, majority of whom are trained at the university. Recently we have become giants in the use of ICT which has resulted in efficiency in service delivery and reduction of cost of administration. The university has on its payroll, efficient and well trained workforce to support the training of students at undergraduate and post-graduate levels to meet the growing needs of 21st century graduates.
Another core strength of the university is a vibrant research culture with local and foreign collaboration. In addition, the location of the institution on a very large landmass and a dam donated by European Union which can be put into effective use for mechanised farming is also a core strength.
What visions and ideas do you have for research?
Our vision is to make AAU one of the best research-focused universities in Nigeria. At the beginning of my tenure, we created the Directorate of Research Publication and Development. We also created the Directorate of Quality Assurance and Linkages. The aim is to create viable platforms for training our academic staff on groundbreaking researches, winning research grants, creating linkages with other universities and research institutions worldwide and establishing collaboration with other researchers in different academic fields. These directorates are achieving results in all the areas of their terms of reference. I make bold to say that research consciousness and repositioning of our staff on the path of edge cutting researches is now the order of the day.
What collaboration does AAU have with international institutions of higher education to enhance research quality?
AAU has collaborations with most professional bodies in Nigeria in all its academic programmes. Considering the fact that these national bodies are also affiliated to their international counterparts, by extension AAU enjoys these international collaborations. AAU has reached high level of negotiations with five Canadian universities, in Engineering, two universities and teaching hospitals in the UK in Medicine and several universities in America for exchange programmes.
Our lecturers have active research collaborations with their counterparts in the West African sub-region, in South Africa, Southern Africa and universities in East Africa. Recently, we invited a scholar from Germany and the US to deliver a paper and forge research relationship in philosophy and the Humanities. We have research affiliations with NASRDA and NIA. Besides, most academic staff are taking advantage of TETfund support to finance their research work. The university has hosted at least six international conferences in the past two years that have afforded a lot of opportunities in research collaboration.
How has AAU contributed to development in the country through research?
AAU has contributed a sizable quota to the staff of research institutions nationwide. Our alumni can be found in almost all research institutions in the country. Several of our professors have patents for several products developed in our university. We are in close collaboration with Pax Herbal of Ewu monastery for the development of herbal cures. We also have close collaborations with NIFOR, IRRI, Iyanomo and several oil production companies including; Shell, Chevron and Agip. Our consultancy division makes robust contribution through our staff to research efforts in Engineering, management, education, health etc. Our staff are involved in research efforts by WHO, USAID, UNESCO, among others.
What ways can quality be integrated at the tertiary level?
Once quality improves at the primary and secondary level, then quality at university level is bound to improve. The initiative of the Edo State Government ‘EDOBEST’ for the improvement of basic education will yield great dividends for quality education at tertiary level in Edo State. While this is being done, the tempo of initiative of TETFUND for staff training at tertiary level should be maintained. Furthermore, the education regulatory bodies like NUC and NABTEB should be strengthened to maintain and improve standard.
To achieve all these the budget for education in the nation and the states should be increased at the tertiary level of education. This will enhance quality through adequate budgetary spending on library holdings, training and retraining of staff, purchase of state of art training equipment and investment in critical infrastructure.
How do you build on the success of the institution?
Our vision for the university has been clearly articulated and publicised. All organs of the university, every unit and every staff are running with the vision. Every sector is working in synergy with others to fulfil this vision. The successes we have achieved in the past two years is dramatic. That is because the administrative machinery of the university is purpose-driven and everyone has keyed in. This has resulted in infrastructural development in all areas. For example we initiated and completed the faculty of life sciences building and that of physical sciences have which reached an advanced stage. Besides three new faculty buildings are in the pipeline. Extensive construction of roads, lecture theatre, hostel buildings, renovation of offices, huge leaps in development in ICT and an enhanced academic activities are given top priorities.
We have raised the bar of academic activities by entrenching excellence in teaching, examination and research activities. By the introduction of Computer Based Examination (CBT), vices such as sorting has now completely become a thing of the past in the university. Even in the conduct of students election, for the second time we effectively deployed e-voting method and the results have been transparent, free, fair and credible. Crisis that usually follow students’ union election is now a thing of the past.
AAU is a source of pride for Edo State, where do you wish to see the institution a decade from now?
My vision for AAU is very clear and has been widely publicised. Before the end of my tenure the university will be positioned as the best state university in Nigeria and one of the 10 best in the country by all standards. In the next decade, AAU should be the best university in Nigeria and one of the high rank universities in the world.