Professor Michael Umale Adikwu was elected Vice-Chancellor of the University of Abuja on June 30, 2014. He will complete his five-year tenure in the next few weeks. In this interview, he talks about his achievements and challenges. He speaks with Kuni Tyessi
With the end of your tenure in the next few weeks, what leadership legacies are you leaving behind?
There are so many things you can’t explain in life. But the real thing is that God has helped us in life. What we have basically is that we are not too hard on anybody. Sometimes when a leader gets into an office, people begin to shiver. They get things done but sometimes grudgingly, and not in a refined way. I always tell people that there is no one who is 100 per cent right and no one is 100 per cent wrong.
Look for the good sides of everyone and work on that. If a man complains about his wife and puts her in a black spot but others testify about her in the positive, it means the outcome is as a result of the approach towards her and the same thing happens in our approach towards life. It also depends on how close you are to the person. During a launch three days ago, we did mention that there is someone who can’t write well; that there is a need to look for someone who can write well to be of assistance. If you are going to a place where there are many quarrelsome people, go with someone who is prudent in speech and he will save you from such persons.
So, we all must learn that everyone has a quality reposed in him. But, what we usually do is to focus on the negative aspect of people, and that is why most people fail. I listen to people when they come to my office and have a story to tell. It might not be what I want to hear; but I just listen and I tell them my own perspective and they leave. So, I am not rigid. Most times, people fail in leadership because even those below them find it difficult to work with them. Assume all my subordinates don’t want to work with me, what would I do? I can do nothing. Sometimes Nigerians will blame the president and say our problem is the president; but that is not true. For you to catch a mad man, you have to be mad yourself.
But, if you are mindful of your hygiene and announce to him that he must come to the road, while you are there, the mad man will never turn up. For you to catch him, you have to follow him to the bush. Assume there are five mad men to be caught, who will be caught and who will be spared? So leadership is not usually at the top. What happens below is very critical. There are people who will not want to see me for one hour and will not want to hear anything about me; but I don’t bother about them. They need to exist; because if problems don’t exist, people will have nothing to solve, and if you don’t have what to solve, then you are not living. It’s only when one is alive that problems can be solved.
University of Abuja had several issues about non-accreditation of courses. Have they been completely resolved and, if no, how many are yet to be fully accredited?
We now have 100 per cent accreditation; but not all have been approved. 90 per cent are now okay, while about 10 per cent are interim. When there is interim accreditation, it will take two years before the regulators come back and it usually depends on people’s judgement. I give you an example: People came some two years ago and failed accreditation in physics. Within the interim period, they came back again and passed it. Sometimes, accreditation can be nonsense. So, it all depends on who comes. You might look at this classroom and say it is terrible and someone else might say otherwise. We called some people to do accreditation for the Faculty of Law and they said the place was so dirty and capable of spreading Ebola and that was very abnormal. We invited the Council for Legal Education and they said the Faculty of Law was very wonderful. So, beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder and it depends on the people who come. So, if you are careful, you wouldn’t fail accreditation.
How many of the courses fall under the 10 per cent, which are yet to be fully accredited?
I can’t count them. However, we have about 53 departments and about five or six of them are yet to be fully accredited. But in other departments, we also have programmes. For example, if you go to Science Education, you can get different certificates under different programmes. So, the Department of Science Education is fully accredited, but in Geography and African Education, some have full accreditation, while some have interim.
Not so much has been heard from the university management about the case of a 100 level student who got drowned at a swimming pool in one of Abuja’s hotels. Why the passivity?
We didn’t even know immediately that it happened. As a student, you came here to read and you are going to swim in town. I have told the Dean of Students’ Affairs to give exit cards as it is done in private institutions. You cannot leave the hostel and go to town without anybody getting to know where you are going. It has been in the news and just two or three days ago on radio, there was an analysis of the suicide rate in the country. So, you will find out that the students of these days are not like the students of the past. In those days, when a student was introduced to you, you could even entrust your life to that person, but not today – because these are people who cannot even take care of themselves. We are getting it all wrong by practicing the white man’s culture.
There are many things we are doing that are so ‘un-African’. Look at the Europeans, what keeps their countries going? It is their attitude to work. When they see work, they put in all their time and energy. When football is played in their countries, look at the turnout in terms of spectators and compare that to ours. You will notice that not too many go to watch football in our stadia, but for them, such is what keeps them happy. So, the problem we are really having is multi-faceted and not just the problem of cultism. Humans are degenerating by the hour. Killing has now become like a joke. What we have done, which has helped us, is that we have some vigilante on campus. Today, a child that is still being carried in the stomach is already thinking of the Mercedes he will ride.
Tell us more about what you have done in the past five years?
If I must say some, they include the construction of more buildings and physical infrastructure. Some have been completed, some are on-going and some are yet to start. By next year, all our faculties would have moved from the mini campus. We are awarding contracts for the Faculties of Education and Environmental Sciences as the world is shouting about global warming and others. Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences is also in the kitty. But, as I will always say, what impress me are not the buildings, but the capacity to develop the human minds. Many will come to me and say, “Oga, I have no office”, and I would say, “what happened to your personal office?” The position is just a name. But they want new cars, new buildings, new fridges and everything new without bringing 10 kobo.
Many of them don’t want to do research in Nigeria; they want to go overseas where they will be given estacode; and you will hear them say that government is not funding education. So, those are some of the problems in the system. Have we been able to develop the human mind? In an attempt to achieve that, I have tried to organise inaugural lectures. From the beginning of this university to when I came, it had hosted only 11 inaugural lectures. Since I arrived here, the last we had was the 35th inaugural lecture; when, for 26 to 27 years, there were only 11. We have awarded the contract for our stadium and this will keep the students busy. I am advocating that a recreational centre be built and this has been budgeted for.
What were some of your challenges?
There were some things I felt we should have done, which we didn’t succeed in doing. I felt that we should have had the best equipment in pharmacy laboratory, but we do not do these things outside buildings. There are also courses that I would have loved to introduce. This university is in the Federal Capital Territory, and we don’t have Fine Arts. The other day, I was watching TV and I saw that one of the paintings of Leonardo Da Vinci sold for 450 million dollars. Such places are where people can get themselves employed, and we keep talking about oil. We don’t have music (department).
We get to hear unpleasant stories about admission. Why has this become a trend till date?
That is not true. I was told when I came that everybody was involved in admission rackets; but we have been able to reduce that. I have a committee that is in charge of admissions, and I must tell you that the competition is indeed very high. This institution is in the FCT and everyone wants to come here. Many parents from the south are no longer comfortable sending their children to the far north. There is insurgency everywhere, and people don’t want to go to those places. Now, when you are going to Kaduna, your heart is in your mouth. So, the pressure is very high here. Sometimes we hear few complaints; but they remain just that. Of course, we do not have a perfect system. I am not too sure if it’s still going on. Last week, I watched the committee very closely.
The National Universities Commission stated recently that it had over 300 private universities proposals and that the country was in dire need of more. Do you think this is good for the system, especially in terms of quality and global recognition?
I see it as a positive move. The more the number of people trained, the more geniuses will be discovered. Some institutions in America don’t offer Masters and PhD programmes; and some of them are specialised.