Professor Bamitale Omole was a former Vice-Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University (2011-2016) He is currently the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti. He holds a BA (History) Hons, Ife, MSc (International Relations) Ife, MPhil and Ph.D. (Political Science/International Relations) University of Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France, and Post-Doctoral Diploma in International Law and Organization for Development, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, Netherlands.
At various times in his career, he was a consultant to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) African Development Bank, World Bank, Ford Foundation, and UNESCO.
He was a former lecturer at the Nigerian Foreign Service Academy and in 2014 he was the INEC State Returning Officer for the Gubernatorial Election in Osun State. Prof Bamitale Omole is an Alumnus of the prestigious International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) the USA.
What do you think is the reason for the incessant strikes in Nigeria’s universities?
There is no scintilla of doubt that university education in Nigeria is grossly and abysmally underfunded by successive federal administrations. Let me quickly give you some statistics so you will not think it’s all about my imagination. In the 2018 budget, education was allocated 7% of the total budget. In 2019 it was 7.02% and in the 2020 budget, it was reduced to 6.7% of the total budget. Whereas in Ghana for the same period, a country that is much poorer in terms of GDP, the allocation for education for three years consecutively was 12% of the total budget.
And to think that the UNESCO average recommendation on education for developing countries is between 15-20%.
Do you know that Kenya’s budgetary allocation for the education sector in 2019 at $4.95Billion was twice the combined allocation for the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Health, and the Presidency! Whereas in Nigeria the budgetary allocation in the 2020 Budget for the National Assembly was N128 Billion plus another N37Billion for renovation!
You see, education in any serious nation is seen as the bedrock of development. A nation that prioritizes the development of human capital via education, is a nation on the road to overcoming basic human challenges and vicissitudes of existence. Without education, there will be no innovation, no creativity, science will not develop, technology will be stunted and the whole landscape will be littered with ignoramus and criminals who are dangerous to themselves and deadly to society.
Some might say there are other competing sectoral priorities. Yes, but a serious nation must be able to identify and prioritize that one sector that can catalyze and dynamite and pull other sectors from the bootstraps.
Let me tell you, if not for the incessant interventions, interrogations, and interposition of ASUU with recalcitrant and contumacious governments over the decades, education in Nigeria would have become a museum piece of the dark ages. Most times when ASUU goes on strike, the issue of salary is just an item in the myriad of demands. The central plank of ASUU in all of these is to ensure that governments put the necessary infrastructure in place in our universities for teaching and research.
What is your take on the current face-off between ASUU and the Federal Government over IPPIS and Pension Fund Administration?
You see, I have spent over three decades of my life in the university system and I know where the shoe pinches in the university system. I spent my entire life learning the ropes in the university system as a researcher, a teacher, a mentor to many students who today are excelling in different walks of life of whom many are today professors.
So what I’m saying is that I understand the morphology, the sociology, the mores, and the norms of the university topography into-to.
IPPIS as it is designed is a scheme that is responsible for the payment of salaries and wages directly to government employee’s bank accounts with appropriate deductions and remittances of third party payment. All the MDAs are on the platform and it is conceived to eliminate ghost workers on the payroll thereby save government billions of naira. It’s been operational since 2007. The trouble with ASUU and IPPIS started however in October 2019 when all public sector workers including ASUU were directed to register on IPPIS.
All over the world, universities are meant to be mobile, fluid, and responsive epicenters for intellectual firmament. In its Latin origin, the university was rightly called “Universitas magistrorum et scholarium” meaning the community of teachers and scholars. They are not civil servants.
If I understand the narrative well, ASUU is not saying that the government should not eliminate ghost workers nor is ASUU encouraging corruption in the university system. What ASUU is saying is that all over the world, universities are known for their flexible personnel recruitment and management.
For example, a Professor or Lecturer from Harvard or MIT or Oxford or Makerere University Uganda, University of Bordeaux, France, King’s College, London, etc may want to come on an exchange program as a visiting faculty to a particular university for a semester, for a session, even for a month, etc.
ASUU is saying that there are peculiarities in the university system as an emporium of scholarship that should make it responsive and receptive to urgent and critical global and national academic demands given the speed, the rate and attrition of the knowledge economy and the mobility of its purveyors in the global intellectual market of the 21st century.
ASUU is saying that given the rigidity and cumbersome nature of IPPIS, it is not adequate to respond to that demand. This was why ASUU came up with the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) as the alternative to IPPIS. The government has virtually rejected this as ASUU members have been migrated willy-nilly to IPPIS. I am of the opinion that the government should have allowed ASUU to stay on UTAS.
Do you think it is a wise decision to reopen schools at this time despite the rise in COVID-19 cases?
I believe the decision by the Minister of Education to postpone the resumption of schools and to disallow students from taking WAEC examinations was a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea.
No doubt it is always good to err on the side of caution, but the reality is that schools and universities cannot be closed forever. On the threat by the Minister of Education to disallow students from taking the WAEC examinations should be balanced with the diplomatic hoopla and crises that it will cause. Nigeria is just a member of the organization and as such, any decision should be diplomatically and collectively agreed upon.
WAEC is an Anglophone transnational institution comprising Ghana, The Gambia, Sierra-Leone, and Liberia. So any action that Nigeria wants to take must not be unilateral but in tandem with other member states
I think the Ministry of Education should be doing what the Aviation Ministry is doing. Give guidelines for reopening of schools and start to test the waters gradually by taping in different categories of students and see how it pans out. We are in uncharted and giddy terrain.
As the Pro-Chancellor of Ekiti State University, what are you putting in place to ensure that EKSU moves up the ladder as a university to be reckoned with.
As the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, our job is to set policy direction for the university. The Vice-Chancellor is in charge of the day to day running of the university as the Chief Executive. I know however that following our policy guideline for the university, the Vice-Chancellor, a capable and brilliant man with the relevant faculty members are introducing new and relevant courses in the university.
You see, for any university to be worth the name, it has to be very good in research, teaching, and training and fundraising.
So for our university, the Vice-Chancellor in collaboration with the faculties are introducing courses in Artificial Intelligence & Robotics, Big Data Analytics, Bioinformatics, Cyber Security, Nanotechnology, Cloud Computing Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality and Mechatronics. Beyond this is that COVID-19 has brought to the fore the need for online delivery of courses and increasing digitalization of activities in the university environment. That’s where the world is going. We are in a new normal.
The Fayemi administration came up with a mantra “restoring our values”. How well have things been restored if we look at the infrastructural development, agriculture, education, industry development, and social investment, etc?
Before I answer this question, let me make a caveat. I am a development expert, a technocrat, and an academician in the public arena. However, given my background as a student of history, political science, sociology, International Relations, diplomacy, and development, I have always been interested in power politics and the politics of power. What dynamizes it, what modulates it, what catalyzes it, and why do men behave the way they do in the political arena?
So any answer that I might give to your question on the government of Dr. Kayode Fayemi and his performance will be from the prism of my background as a development expert and as a social scientist who has the first-hand experience on what is happening in Ekiti today in the area of development.
As a development expert, I am interested in knowing what Dr. Fayemi said he would do if he becomes the Governor. That is, what was his agenda, how did he say he will achieve these objectives, I am talking about methodology and lastly what are the deliverables.
When he came on board, Governor Fayemi set out five clear agenda/pillars on what he would do viz (i) governance (ii) social investment (iii) knowledge economy (IB) infrastructure & industrial development (5) agriculture and rural development. The question that arises is to find out his fidelity to this agenda.
As far as I know, I can say that he is repositioning Ekiti and laying the fundamental bedrock for a better tomorrow.
Historically Ekiti people are known for their decency, respect for values, hard work, firm principle, and simplicity. Ekiti people are not known to be hooligans, fraudsters, and street urchins. But in the recent past in Ekiti, there was this unwholesome sub-cultural aberration that virtually became the guiding principle of state with its narcissistic and epicurean philosophy of “jêun soke “ or the very demeaning and humiliating philosophy of “stomach infrastructure “ which the French political scientist François Bayart referred to as “ la politique du Ventre” which is a post-colonial expression for politics of the belly, patrimonialism, clientelism, corruption, and inanity of power in that nexus.
Coming to Ekiti then was with trepidation as those values cherished by an average Ekiti man were missing, bastardized, and thrown to the wind.
Today the values have changed for the better. And it’s all about leadership provided by the man at the helms of affairs today in Ekiti. Today, you go about the streets in Ekiti without any fear of molestation or harassment. For example, when the Governor goes about, it is without all the nauseating fanfare, gri-gri, and gra-gra accompaniment of loud and lousy power. Power is not meant to oppress and suffocate the people. It is for service. I think he has a sense that power is ephemeral and that is why he has brought decency, moderation, and self-restraint into governance.
Now measuring what Dr. Fayemi said he would do with what is happening now in Ekiti, I think it’s important to underline the following. On his performance on infrastructural development especially on road construction and rehabilitation, which he said he will do, I am aware that constructions are going on on the New Ado-Iyin Road, Oyê-Iye-Ikun-Otun Road, Ilupeju-Ire-Igbemo-Ijan Road, Agbado-Ode-Isinbide-Omuo Road, Ado-Ilawe-Igbaraodo-Ibuji Road, Aramoko—Êrinjiyan-Ikogosi Road.
I am also aware that there is a massive Civic Centre that is nearly completed. I read in a document that it will be ready by October 2020. Again, there is the Airport Project going on, there is the construction of new buildings in the State Secretariat Complex.
On the provision of portable water rehabilitation work is on-going on the Êro Dam and a total of 170km HDPE water pipes have been laid in Ado-Ekiti.
On education, it is important that I should mention that the College of Medicine at Ekiti State University was not accredited for ten years and medical students were stranded given the nonchalance and neglect of the immediate past administration. When our Governing Council came on board getting accreditation for the College of Medicine became a priority for us and the governor, being an academic himself he understood the importance of getting the College accredited.
He consequently assisted the university by allocating millions of naira for the purchase of medical equipment, construction, and infrastructure. Today the College of Medicine has been granted full accreditation by the Nigerian Medical and Dental Council and the first set of medical students have graduated. I should add that a new College of Agriculture has been established in Isan.
The Dairy Farm in Ikun abandoned for years has also been brought back to life. The social security scheme where the elderly and the vulnerable are paid some stipends every month is still in operation.
So to be fair to Dr. Kayode Fayemi these five items were his Magna Carta, and I think he is faithful and faithful to their execution. These are the things I believe he should be judged on, not on any vacuous and hollow yardsticks.
So, what do you say concerning some critics who underplay the achievements you portray?
You know Ekiti people are very well educated, enlightened, and very well aware. Ekiti people are good people, but many of us are a set of inconsolable and acerbic critics. We easily forget the past.
With the kind of projects going on Ekiti in all the senatorial districts that I earlier enumerated, can that kind of government be described as underperforming?
I think he is delivering on his agenda.
So, do you think that his achievements are under-reported in the media?
Yes. I am also in that school of thought that believes his achievements are under-reported and understated. And it is that lacuna, that space, and the gap that his adversaries are trying to occupy. Let me explain. Anyone that knows Dr. Fayemi will tell you that he is a very private person of little words who detests the ostentation of the average Nigerian politician.
He is basically a thinker, strategist, and achiever. And this is a paradox in our political landscape.
Having said this, I should say that recently I have noticed that there is a better presence in the media about government activities in Ekiti and I think that is the way to go.
Looking at Dr. Fayemi’s involvement in many APC issues, don’t you think that Dr. Fayemi is more focused on politics than governance.
Let me say this. I don’t know Dr. Fayemi’s involvement in APC issues. And I don’t need to know. My own concern is Ekiti. I have often asked this question which governance issues do people want him to attend to that he’s failing to do?
Some people have rumored that Dr. Fayemi is nursing a 2023 Presidential ambition. Do you think it is wise for him to be thinking of such considering that his leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu may be joining the race?
I noted your question that you said there is a rumor. I’m a social scientist and I base my intervention in the public space on facts and figures. I don’t answer rumors.
What’s your opinion on the handling of the COVID-19 by the State Governments?
Ekiti State was very proactive. It immediately shut down its entry points against interstate vehicular movements. And it worked. Today because of its pro-activeness, Ekiti is the least affected state in the southwest.