• Professor Isaac Folorunso Adewole is into two years of his five- year term as Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan. The medical scholar has grappled with the challenges of taking the premier university to greater heights, compounded by a flood which left over N10 billion teaching and research facilities damaged on the campus in 2011.

    In this interview, he provides insights into the journey of actualizing a development blueprint he enunciated and which won him the popular support of the university community in 2010.


    Sir, there is this partnership with the Oyo State Government concerning Quality Assessment Programme on schools and teachers. Any progress and challenges?

    Thank you so much. We must congratulate the state government for bringing about such a unique innovation. The government recognizes that Ibadan, being the intellectual capital of Oyo State and Oyo itself being the intellectual capital of Nigeria does not deserve to feature so low on the scale of successful states when it comes to education.

    The government said it will want to partner the UI to improve on the quality of teaching and learning, particularly at secondary school level, which we know would also rub off possibly on what we do in the university level.

    So, this unique partnership programme is being implemented by our Faculty of Education and what it entails is for us to look at the curriculum, look at how it is being taught, motivate teachers to be punctual and to teach what they’re expected to teach and also to ensure that our students are being properly graded in order to prepare them for the task ahead.

    It’s been an interesting assignment and we’ve gone round even as I have a copy of the interim report and all we plan to do is to submit our monthly report to the state government. With challenges, occasionally are some resentment from the schools, my people believe they ought to do it, they could do it and why bringing you on board.

    And there is also the belief that “why are they policing us, we are teachers who have been doing our job. We don’t need them”. And then there is a challenge of transportation. But I want to assure you that this is being addressed.

    We’ve been given two vehicles, although we would like to have four. Currently we have two. And what we are also doing is to reassure the stakeholders that we don’t want to take all the job of the inspectorate division. We also do not want to cause chaos. We want to add value. What we care to do is to improve quality and at the end of it all it’s going to be a win, win situation for everybody.

    Our students will come out well and our schools will perform. And as an outside body to the secondary schools, we are also in a unique position to comment on the state of infrastructure. We are in a unique position to bring to the attention of the Governor, the Honourable Commissioner for Education, the state of infrastructure and what ought to be done to make things better.

    What is your appraisal of the state of infrastructure and quality of tuition?

    Well, the state of infrastructure is of various grades. Some are in top shape, some are not too good and some are on the low side. But when we conclude our report, we will make sure that all of them are brought to first grade level. And in terms of tuition, we would look into all the teachers distributed.

    Quite a number of them are well trained, well motivated, some have lost focus, some are off track and we would try and bring them together.   Let’s come to U.I, sir. The Federal Government has issued a directive to universities to boost their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).

    How far have you achieved the goal set for you?

    Really, we’ve not been given a target, but to improve IGR to diversify funding sources is an imperative. And there was a time U.I. was the only university in this country.

    But we now know that at the last count, there were 127 universities and about 40 of them are federal institutions. So, there is no way Federal Government can fund us free. In other words, we must diversify; we must look into all those streams.

    And what we’ve done in the University of Ibadan is to lay the foundation for the future. We are investing in programmes; projects that will yield resources and that can sustain U.I. in the future. One, we are looking at some of our units like the Teaching and Research Club, which we believe can be rehabilitated, repositioned to conduct research, train and deliver effective service to our people.

    We are looking at the fishery, the zoological garden and botanical garden. We want to turn the entire U.I structure into a tourist attraction. And it will become the Mecca of Nigeria, where people can come into, learn, see things and also acquire experience and knowledge. I think we are moving on well. At the end of the exercise, by the end of this year, we would have invested close to N2 billion.

    In terms of investments and more returns, we hope that over time things would improve. We are also grateful to the U.I. Endowment Fund for putting in place the elegant edifice, I’m sure you saw it at the second gate. That is the University of Ibadan International Conference Centre. It is the first of its kind in this country, which can accommodate about 6, 000 guests all at a go sitting under one roof.

    And that makes it unique. There is a majestic car park adorning the premises and that’s a good sight to behold. We believe that when you add this together in the next five years, U.I. should be set …in terms of requirements.

    When you assumed duty, you had a development blueprint, but you’ve had added to this, other things with the challenges thrown up by the flood disaster of July 28, 2011.

    How far have you gone with respect to the problems of power, water and damage to the fish farm and infrastructure?  

    Well, it would be nice for you to visit UI today and I would like to have your comments about how far we’ve gone. And you need to visit the Fish Farm. What you find there is an improved elegant structure and what we are putting in place is the largest department of Aquaculture and Fish Farm in any public university in Africa.

    We are also putting in place an Aquaculture Research Laboratory, the first of its kind also in Africa. And what we’ve done is to turn the entire Oba Dam into a huge research and economic corridor. Ranging from the Aquaculture Lab, the Fish Farm and the Zoological Garden down to Oba Dam, we are really on course.

    The last would be turning Oba Dam into a tourist site, where we want to build a conference facility. Where we want to build some chalets and then have a good park there, and also to enable you to fish here in Oba Dam.

    And I think we’ve started, I think about 70 per cent of the work. What we’ve done is to turn the flood or disaster of 2011 into a huge advantage. We are doing the channelization and we hope that in the next one or two months the channelization should be completed down to Oba Dam.

    How about power and water?

    When we came on board, we had a huge challenge on water and we identified the problem correctly as that of distribution and supply. Essentially, we succeeded with the supply problem. We are now looking at the distribution.

    We rehabilitated our 33KVA sub-station. And the 33KVA sub-station would effectively ensure that we could tap into the national grid and we also acquired two additional generators to the two newer ones so we have four huge generators, each two megawatts, which means we have enough power for the campus.

    So, we are now coming back to look at distribution. And we hope that in the next one year, we’ll be done with distribution challenge. It requires money, but we’ll get it. On water, we have rehabilitated the water treatment plant. We intend to double the water supply in U.I. in the next 24 months.

    We are using our entire 2013 capital allocation to kick-start the water improvement plan. So, in another two years we would have done with electricity and water, and that will be a huge improvement.

    What research breakthroughs are coming from your professors, various departments and faculties?

    Well, quite a number of things are happening in U.I. and I think you should just wait until November when we are going to have a Science Fair and we would put on display all that we have- ranging from Basic Medical Sciences, where we’ve identified new viral streams down to Clinical Medicine where we’ve done a lot of research on aging and so on.

    Down to Agriculture, Veterinary Medicine, Technology… I think you should just wait. U.I has a lot to show and we would make sure that we also partner with the larger society.

    Sir, how come UI was overtaken by Obafemi Awolowo University in the ranking of varsities in Nigeria and Africa.

    I remember you were number one about two years ago?  

    There are several types of ranking. One is the webometrics that looks at the Web site. That’s where OAU overtook us. We are looking at our web design.

    We are looking at our web content and I can assure you that at the next ranking, we would be back as number one. But when it comes to research output, U.I. is indisputably the number one institution in this country.

    The quality of staff we have, the research infrastructure and over 300 professors – we are clearly the leader. And no university can compete with us in terms of research output.

    Let’s go to national level. It is believed that the proliferation of private and state universities is lowering tertiary education standard. What is the Committee of Vice Chancellors doing to stem this?

    Well, I think it would be wrong to subscribe to that general impression. We have a problem of access and we must address the problem of access in tertiary education. The government is trying to solve this problem, believing that when you start a new institution that you would disperse and increase access. There are two schools of thought. Some of us believe that you can invest more in the only ones and achieve the same result. Government is also trying to be political.

    It’s like a big father with many wives and you want to make sure that you listen to the yearnings of the different communities. So, the Federal Government has adopted the whole content of a university per state.

    I’m not so sure anybody can fault that political agenda. What we would want to see as Committee of Vice Chancellors is the government trying to be methodical and being sufficiently motivated and supportive to ensure that those universities take off well. When U.I. was established, it took about five years of good planning. In other words, even when you decree that there should be a university, it cannot take off until you have shown minimum investment on ground. Good planning, infrastructure, the staff capacity development strategy and some mentoring.

    In other words, I would like to see more of the newer universities partnering with the older ones. U.I. mentored University of Calabar, University of Jos and University of Ilorin. I want to see more of that, so that there could be some level of exchange – of academic staff, of students in a way that those new universities can also take off well.

    As for political agenda, you cannot fault the decision of the Federal Government to establish more universities. With a strategy to improve access, but then the older ones may not just be neglected.

    What we are asking for is what one can liken to a Marshal type of funding and the Marshal type of funding was used to reconstruct Europe at the end of World War II. We can liken the present situation to that and say “Nigerian universities, we would give you massive funding to recover from shock”. U.I should be specially treated because of her age, her reputation and because of what we can deliver.

    We have the largest Postgraduate Programme in Africa and U.I is better placed to supply teachers to the newer universities if we are specially treated and funded.

    But, don’t you think the Distance Learning model is better than the brick and mortar type of provision of tertiary education, building elaborate structures, recruiting huge staff, with the accompanying massive capital outlay?

    We are working on Distance Learning and U.I has a robust distance learning school. Our population is 15, 000, which is almost catching up with the regular. In the regular school we have about 20, 000. But Distance Learning has its own peculiarities. It is well suited or better suited for matured students, because in distance learning, there is little or no face-to-face contact with the teacher.

    It’s like the old correspondence college of the past and those who benefitted from the old correspondence college are essentially senior people – matured people. And so, a matured person would benefit more from distance education than a young student.

    You cannot expect a 15 -year-old to benefit from distance education. Staying at home and be learning. But somebody who is more matured and maybe has a job somewhere would be the ideal person for distance education.

    What is the average day like for the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan?

    Well, I can speak for myself. My day starts at 6.00am and ends at 2.00am. Meetings, paper works, chairing, receiving guests, looking at… discussing with what I would call my cabinet and before you know it the day is gone.

    What keeps you till 2 am?

    I also have some research responsibility and that I do, maybe after 11pm. By then, everyone would have slept at home. That’s when I start browsing the Internet, reading papers and writing papers. And up till now I still write papers. I am the President of Africa Organization for Research and Training on Cancer (AORTIC).

    And, we’ve just started publishing our book and about seven articles in the last… and I was involved actively in two of them. And they all deal with cancer in Africa, which is also my first project. I’m interested in stemming the challenge of cancer in Africa.

    And I’m sure you would be shocked to learn that the Deputy Governor succumbed to cancer and that was the tip of the iceberg.

    We’ve lost so many people to cancer. One of my pre-occupation is to ensure that we are able to tame cancer in Africa. Africa is facing what we call a double burden of disease. We have the burden of communicable diseases, but again in Africa we also have the burden of cancer. So, we have cancer and we have communicable diseases.

    Just like we have pneumonia, T.B (Tuberculosis), and the HIV, we also have the challenge of cancer. And what we are saying is that we know that 40 per cent of cancers can be cured and the remaining 30 per cent all you can do is take care of pain and give them comfort. In other words, Africa should concentrate on the 80 per cent.

    Nigeria must adopt a different approach to cancer. This country does not have a first class comprehensive Cancer Care Centre. And Nigeria, based on my recommendation, should have at least six, where we can offer prevention and clinical services. 170 million people – Zambia has a first class Cancer Centre, Mauritania has a first class Cancer Centre, but Nigeria does not have any.

    As a gynaecologist, do you still perform surgeries?

    I do, but not actively and I should be going to University College Hospital (UCH) in the next two weeks to do another one.

    Do you get invited for difficult ones?

    Yes. Sometimes, they seek my advice for difficult ones. I now want to do the difficult ones.

    As a doctor, what is the place of God in your life? 

    God is everything. As a doctor, an administrator and a chief executive, everything revolves around God.

    I start my day with God and I end my day with God. In the morning at 6.00am my own is to start the day with prayer and by 6.30am that is done.

    But before I sleep, there’s another round of prayer to thank God for the day.

    Source: Daily Sun Newspaper

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