The Vice Chancellor of the Osun State University, Osogbo, Odunayo Clement Adebooye, a Professor of Plant Physiology/Food Chemistry, in an interview with the Editor of DOES2LEAK Online, Adesoji Adeniyi, spoke on issues concerning the university system, including the ongoing ASUU strike, multi-campus status of the UNIOSUN, university politics among others.
Question: Gradually, politics is creeping into the university system, what could have been responsible for this?
Answer : Politics is part of life. Even in the homes we play politics among the father, mother and the children, politics comes into play. So the same thing in the academia with the politics of research. In research itself, there is politics, the funding, in funding itself, there is politics. When you talk about funding, funding of the university itself as well as research funding, there is politics. As it is in the society, so it is in the university system. Perhaps it is worthwhile to mention that politics in the university system is more toxic than the politics in the civil society. So politics is part of life and it plays out everywhere, even in the church of God and in the mosque and even in the shrines, there is politics.
Question: Have you addressed if not all, some of the issues raised before your emergence as the Vice Chancellor?
Answer: What are those issues?
Question: The aggrieved party said the criteria set by the university management appeared to have deliberately sidelined candidates from Arts, Humanities and some other faculties.
Answer: In this business, the business of scholarship and academia is universal. Universal in the sense that we are subjected to the same gradient of parameters. By gradient of parameters, I mean what are the indices for measuring academic performance or for measuring scholarship? These indices or the gradient of parameters are universal, nobody dispute them anywhere in the world. For example, when you look at the capacity of a scholar to profess as a professor, he is rated on the basis of what are those literacies, the measures of global academic performance. If for example you want to recruit me at the University of Washington DC in the United States of America. What they would do is to look at my literacies, what I scored in the different gradients of parameter, what I call indices of academic performance. I will mention some of them, they may look at your citations, how much of your published works have been cited, not by yourself because sometimes we scholars, we cite ourselves. They will look at those people that have cited you, your work, is your work gaining prominence in the academic landscape globally? Two, they would say has he won grants? If he had won grants, how many of them? And who are the agencies that awarded the grants? And after asking that they would say how much is the grant? You know grants have father and mother, the father of grants run into millions of dollars.
These are some of the parameters. There are parameters that measure how much of time has each of your work been cited or read. How many times has your work been downloaded? So all these are measures, has he ever attended international conferences? Has he ever held leadership position in universities? For example, has he been head of department? Has he been dean? Has he been provost or director? Has he been deputy vice chancellor? They may go further, they may say scholars are truly universal, they are truly universal, you must have held some international positions. Holding international position does not mean you should be a director at the United Nations, No! has he been an editor of an international journal? For example, have you participated in leadership role in some international organisations?
So these are some of the measures that we look at in academics. So it is not true that some academic disciplines were sidelined. No the basis for scholarship is excellence, it is so defined and there is no other way to define it other than what I have told you.
Question: I want you to cast your mind back to the December 16, 2021 Osogbo High Court judgment that eventually put paid to agitations in certain quarters and your eventual emergence as the Vice Chancellor, what were the things on your mind before the court pronouncement that day?
Answer: I was far away in Germany. I had a big contract with a German research centre in Julich, Germany, that was where I was before the advertisement for this job was placed. Actually, I did not want to apply for this job because of the job I was having in Germany. It was something that would give me very big name in the field of science. I was investigating the location of the brain of plants at a German research center in Julich, Germany. When the advert came out, and I applied and immediately I applied, I think I submitted my application the last day, the closing day for submission of applications. But before then I had read a number of articles in the papers by aggrieved people that said the criteria set for the appointment were too tough, that they were too this they were too that. I sat down and I asked myself a question, is it worth coming down, even if I am appointed, to lead a university here with all these problems circulating at this moment. At a point, I decided that I was going to withdraw my application. I told a few friends, I phoned from Germany to Nigeria, please help me to withdraw my application. Some important people in this state told me that I should not withdraw my application that it was part of life. I was not used to this Nigerian system and they said you can’t withdraw your application.
What was going on on my mind was I never thought if you apply for a job, you should get the job. That is none thing Nigerians should know. If you apply for a job and if you assume that you have a very good CV, you must not bank that you are the one that will clinch the job. I never had such in my mind in my life, that whenever I apply for a job, I will get the job, no. That is my attitude. I just applied like a normal Nigerian. Those were the issues around that time. I wanted to withdraw my application when the ‘roforofo’ started. I wanted to, honestly.
Question: Are you regretting accepting the appointment?
Answer: No I don’t. I enjoy it because it is allowing me to bring my best to bare on the institution.
Question: Have you been able to tackle the issues that were raised by the aggrieved party?
Answer: Yes. One thing I did when I came in. I was appointed 8:57pm January 3rd of 2022 with the mandate from the government that I should resume the next morning at 8.00am here, so I had less than 12 hours, that is 11 hours, three minutes to prepare that was overnight and there was nothing to prepare over the night, so I assumed duty the next day the first thing I did when I came in was to organize meetings with various stakeholders. I met all the professors separately, I met all the collegiates separately, I toured all the six campuses within a week, I met all the unions individually separately, I met the principal officers separately, I made them to see that there is a provision both in the Bible and Quoran and even in the traditional religion, there can not be two kings, only one person will sit on the leadership seat at a time. And there is always a tenure, I made them realize that and whatever I have to do to make sure things run here normally I will do and since then I have been doing that.
Question: How receptive were they to you?
Answer: I must confess that I enjoy close to 100 per cent cooperation in this school. Both from principal officers and the staff of the university.
Question: The multi-campus system of the school is unique, I think UNIOSUN is the only university with this status …. (Cuts in)
Answer: No, there are some. Some universities are adopting that now. Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) has gone multi-campus, Ogun State University is also multi-campus.
Question: Talking about challenges associated with multi-campus institutions, how have you been able to manage it here?
A: We have designed methods and strategies to tackle challenges associated with multi-campus institutions . If we say that there is no problems in it, we deceive ourselves and truth is not in us. There are problems but you know what leaders should enjoy is confronting problems and bringing up solutions and that is what they call leadership. You see ocean of challenges in front of you, how do you walk through the ocean or the sea.
The challenges are the elective courses and part of what we have done is to hire what we call adjunct lecturers. Adjunct lecturers are professors in other universities who want to do part time job and whom we pay on the basis of semester performances. They will teach the courses, after they have taught and they have examined and they have submitted their scripts, we pay them the honorarium for doing that, our job allows that. We use a lot of that to run cross-cutting courses that lecturers that are domiciled in one college may not be able to go and teach.
But in several other instances, for example teaching of Mathematics in Ipetu-Ijesha College of Education for students who are running Bachelor of Education Mathematics degree, some of our lecturers, two or three would go to Ipetu-Ijesha.
Also, we have a system, we have recruited lecturers in specific disciplines at least two of them to be domiciled in borrowing departments. For example in Ipeju-Ijesha, there is Bachelor of Education Physics, Bachelor of Education Chemistry , Bachelor of Education Mathematics, Bachelor of Education Plant Biology, the fact that Chemistry, Biology and Physics are domiciled in Osogbo here, what we have done for those courses to be taught effectively in Ipetu-Ijesha was to recruit two lectures for each of those departments, domiciled in Ipeju-Ijesha. Two of them from here will complement their efforts. In disciplines where we don’t have adjunct lecturers, we hire people on sabbatical. We have devised strategy and it is working.
Question: Talking about the financial burden that goes with the multi campus system, and varsity the managements always complaining about financial challenges, would not the idea of bringing adjunct lecturers heap a financial burden on the university?
Answer: It doesn’t. The way it goes is this, in the university we have something we call establishment. We know the number of lecturers that will be in a department. For example, if there should be ten lecturers in Physics here, we will give them eight, we take two to Ipetu-Ijesha. Because Physics Education does not take the whole complement of Physics courses, it takes a few of courses in Physics together with some basic education courses, we now deploy two of our lecturers to commute between Osogbo and Ipetu-Ijesha to complement the efforts of the two lecturers who are domiciled in Ipetu-Ijesha. So, it doesn’t cost us extra. The only thing we do, those lecturers who commute, we give them what you call travelling allowance. Let me analyse this too, you look at the cost, in Economics we do what you call cost benefit analysis, that small campus in Ipetu-Ijesha is contributing a lot in changing the face of Ipetu-Ijesha. The small campus in Ejigbo, it has changed the face of Ejigbo. The little money we pay as transportation to our lecturers who commute is not as much as the benefits that are being derived by the Ejigbo community or by Ipetu-Ijesha or by Ikire community m.
Question: Students are agitating; parents are frustrated, what is the way out of this strike being embarked upon by the universities teachers’ union? Should they always go on strike to press home their demands?
Answer : Strike is a universal right of workers. Workers can go on strike and the law is explicitly clear and I would refer to the Nigerian trade dispute act as well as the international labour organization code, they allow strike actions. Even without notice it’s allowed but we should ask ourselves, does it appeal to commons sense that a union should embark on a one year strike or six months strike, well the answer is known to all of us. We would say well, since the workers have the right to go on strike, they should try to moderate how to do it so that the lives of the young ones would not be put in jeopardy and that is the way I see all those things.
ASUU is also right in some respects, government is right in some respects, where government is right and where ASUU is right should be the meeting point for the two bodies. I will give you examples, I want to say it without any fear of contradiction from anywhere, the salary of a Nigerian professor is too poor, given the present level of inflation. A situation where a professor has been earning the same salary since 2009 is not acceptable. ASUU 2009 agreement is what the lecturers are still earning, even if it is the civil servants that are still earning the same salary, it is not acceptable. The salary that was calculated in 2009 was based on 2009 situation. We should moderate on the way we do things, that is on the side ASUU is correct.
Another side ASUU is correct is the level of decay in the university system, you go to some laboratories in the federal universities, you will cry that this is where they are teaching students, things are dilapidated. Some of the state universities, including the UNIOSUN are far better than several public universities. If you go to the laboratories in UNIOSUN, you will have the wrong impression that Nigerian universities are very standard, if you go to some government universities you will cry.
Also, where the government is right but not right completely is Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). In universities, you have granted them autonomy, having granted them autonomy allow them to operate. What the government should do to IPPS was to bring the package to the university, ask the universities to domesticate the IPPIS. When universities domesticate the IPPIS, the government will now play a monitoring role. Do you get the point I am making? For example in Osun State University here, our government is doing something similar to IPPIS but they give our university the autonomy. And the role our government plays is a monitoring role. And that is excellent. Monitoring role in the sense that they monitor how much we pay as salaries, monitor how we operate our salary account, they capture our bio-metrics, bio-metric data every two years. But the state government allows us to manage our own finances as well as payment of our salaries. That is what the Federal Government should have done, borrow a leaf from the government of the state of Osun. Take the IPPIS to the universities, get the universities to buy into it, give the entire package to the universities, then set up your monitoring and evaluation team in Abuja, somewhere under the federal Ministry of Finance or the Nigeria Universities Commission, let them come to the universities every two years to revalidate all the data submitted by the staff. That would have solved the problem. But the government wants to control the salaries of the federal universities from Abuja. The Federal Government has too many problems. I am not saying they should not dictate how to pay, they can dictate how to pay by handing over this IPPIS to the universities, domesticate it in the universities, let the salary units of the universities manage it. Then you play the role of monitoring and evaluation agent, you send your officers to the universities to monitor how it is being operated. That is what we are doing in Osun State and it is working like magic.
Question: While you have a tacit support for the strike by the varsities teachers’ union, I understand your teachers don’t go on strike. How true is this?
Answer: It is true and I will explain to you. Universities are funded on three models, the public universities, I am not talking about private universities. Public universities are funded on three models. The first model is 100 percent funding of varsities by the state. The second model is 100 percent funding of salaries by the university themselves. The third model is shared funding by the university and the state. In universities where 100 percent of the salary is generated, one of them is in Kwara State, so where a state university exists and all they get from government is the capital funding and not the personnel you cannot expect the university to use the funding of students to pay salaries and when workers are on strike. All the federal universities fall into the category of total Federal Government payment of salaries, they pay the salaries from Abuja, that is 100 percent. Then the third model is the model of shared funding of salaries that is where the government will contribute 50 and the university will contribute 50, or 60/40, 70/30, depending on how the whole thing is shared. You don’t expect such universities would allow workers to draw salaries from tuition paid by students and that is what you see. The public universities that are run on the basis of self-sustenance, catering for 100 percent of their salaries or those that on shared contributions payment will not feel comfortable to go on strike because they would not want to use the tuition of workers or lecturers when they are not at work, it would be cheating to those paying for running of such institutions.
Question: Some of your colleagues would tell you that they would not have anything to do with private universities, why this aversion?
Answer: Well it is an opinion and I think they are entitled to their opinions.
Question: Your students are facing challenges as a result of lack of accommodation. Are you not considering hostels for students even if it is going into partnership with the private sector?
Answer: When this university was established in 2006 and it took off in 2007, the brief that established this university stated clearly that this should be a non-residential university. Having said that, some three years ago, this university realized that the rate at which this university is growing, there is the need to change over and become a residential university. So, this university on her own built 104-bed space hostels across our six campuses and those hostels are named after the monarchs of those communities, the Ajalaye Hostel in Ipetu-Ijesa, the Ataoja Hostel in Osogbo, the Akire Hostel in Ikire, the Olokuku Hostel in Okuku, the Olubosin Hostel in Ifetedo and the Ogiyan Hostel in Ejigbo. We believe we should begin to think differently because if we don’t think the society will not move forward.
Question: With this, are you not acting outside your mandate?
Answer: We are not acting outside our mandate, they are written down rules and they could be changed. We changed the content of the brief, all the hostels were commissioned by the governor, so we have become residential. The good news is that the BoT is now constructing 1,500 capacity hostels for university. The university is also already building another 600 bed hostel for students, who are coming in this October-November. At our College of Health Sciences, we have secured some agreement to build 500 capacity hostel for our medical students. At Ajegunle in Osogbo, we have 240 bed hostel for our medical students. And by the grace of God, across our six campuses we are going to multiply 104 to become 208 hostels in the next one year. We are changing the narratives of the university. We have become a residential university.
Question: On a lighter note, what was your growing up like?
Answer: It was rough and devastating. I should have been a palm wine tapper by now or a very big hunter.
Question: What changed the course?
Answer: Everybody has a story to tell. Before I completed my primary education, when I was in Primary 4 in 1974, my father who was the only educated person in our family died and the moment he died, there was nobody to encourage anybody to go to school. In 1978, when I completed my primary school, my mother called me and said look we don’t have money and how do we do this? And I said the best for me was to learn tailoring, fashion designing from one of our local tailors in our village, Akiribito now in Ayedaade Local Government Area of Osun State. I started learning tailoring. I combined tailoring with haunting and farming. I was planting a whole lot of maize and cassava and I was hunting, killing all sorts of animals. I could kill any animal as you see me. I would go to the then Ife-Ibadan Highway and raised up the animals to sell. I was making money on a daily basis but fortune beaconed at me in June 1979 when the catechist of my church, St. Davids Anglican Church, Akiriboto, Gbongan came to my mother late in the evening and said application for admission for secondary school form was out and that Odunayo should try, that may be this Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) would win the forthcoming election. He said the party promised there would be free education. And my mother asked how much was the form and baba said it was free, that I should take one. You know catechists at that time were very powerful in the Anglican schools. I filled the form and submitted the form and sometime by late August in 1979, the admission letter came through the Post Office. It was signed by Mrs. Tejumade Alakija, the then permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education in the old Oyo State. That was how I registered in school the second week and they said we should pay school fees and my mother said how are we going to get this money? I said let me go to my fashion designing and hunting, after all I was getting money every time, the following morning, my mother woke up and said, some days before you were born, I met a prophet who told me that the child inside my womb is a boy and that he would be a great man and that he would stand on top of people and he would command respect not in Nigeria, but all over the world. And my mother said her father gave her gold when she was getting married. My mother was one of the daugthers of the Ademiluyi Ajagun, the Ooni of Ife before Oba Adesoji Aderemi. My mother said she could sell one of the gold to give me money to go to school. My mother sold the gold left to her by her father and that was how I paid my school fees that was N10.50k but as soon as I pay the school fees, Bola Ige won the election and declared free education. That was how I went through secondary school. Today after worshipping God I declare my loyalty to anything that has to do with the late Chief Ajibola Ige and late Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo, they gave me the chance.
Question: People say a lot of things about racism in Germany. How have you been able to cope and have you any cause to face racism in that country?
Answer: Oh, no. I never had any cause to be discriminated against, if there is anything, the German system had a lot of love for me as a person. Do you know that I lived long in Germany together with my wife and children? Apart from that, the German government up till today calls me to everything they do if it is within the Ministry of Education and in Humboldt foundation. I never experienced it. Racism in Germany? When they say it, I tell them it is not real, probably because of where I lived in Germany.
Question: Could there be a link between your hunting and farming background and the course you eventually studied n the university, the Plant Soil Science?
Answer: I first studied an engineering course, that was in 1985. But one thing happened, the course I was admitted to study in Ife were not bedfellow with what I was studying in the polytechnic. I was studying Mechanical Engineering in the polytechnic before I was admitted to study Plant Science in the Faculty of Agriculture in the University of Ife and then again I went back to my mother. When I got the admission letter, I said how would I change from engineering to plant science and my mother asked me, tell me the meaning, an illiterate woman, and I told her that engineering has to do with mechanics, electronics and other things and plant science, I would just be studying plant. And she quickly said that is what you should do. She said that prophet I told you about, he said this foetus in my womb is a boy. He would be a great person and he would be working with plants and leaves and that is where he would derive his might in the world. I didn’t think again before I packed my luggage from the Ibadan Polytechnic, Iree satellite campus and I went to the University of Ife now changed to Obafemi Awolowo University before I graduated.
Question: In almost all the universities in Nigeria, you often hear about sexual harassment, how have you been able to manage this in your school, particularly considering the average age of these girls?
Answer: These girls also harass lecturers. Male lecturers harass female students. Female students harass male lecturers and they equally harass male students, that is the truth of the matter. On this seat of Vice Chancellor we see a lot of things but I want to confirm to you with all sense of responsibility that females also harass males.
Question: Have you had any cause to punish a lecturer here because of that?
Answer: There is what they call sexual harassment code in UNIOSUN, we apply it. We have applied it in several instances that we got to know.
Question: What were the challenges you met when you assumed office and how have you been able to tackle them?
Answer: I met few challenges. The first challenge was the problem of interdicted staff who disrupted the university’s convocation ceremony. They have been interdicted for four years or so and when they came they apologized to the university. They met me and I told them that you have got to apologize to the Council of the university that you could not be rude to the Council and expect the Council to treat you with kid’s gloves. They came and pleaded with the Council in writing, I pleaded on the floor of the council and all stakeholders. We resolved the matter and they were back on duty, that was a major one for us.
Number two, the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), the medical programme, of this university was cancelled in 2012 and when it was cancelled it was painful because the students of that time were taken to Ukraine, we didn’t like it at all but when Governor Gboyega Oyetola came on board, I want to give credit to him for supporting us in this regard. He brought back the College of Medicine and told us to run the MBBS programme and we started three years ago and what will take some universities six years to achieve God has helped us to achieve it in less than three years. The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria came to this university here three weeks ago and our MBBS has gone through the process of accreditation, we are waiting for the formal declaration of the results by the The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria.