By Steve Ovirih
The public presentation and launch of a new book titled “Experiences on Starting A New University in a Developing Country Setting, Nigeria – OSUSTECH” edited by Prof. Tolu Odugbemi, has held in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria.
The book review, an intellectual masterpiece by all academic standard was anchored by Professor Ngozi Osarenren.
In the book, the cerebral scholars observed that, “the building of a world – class University, especially in Nigeria is usually characterized by a lot of challenges. Apart from the routine preparation of a good and workable master plan and the drafting of academic briefs for the various programmes to be mounted in the proposed University, the venture requires the input and ingenuity of an experienced academic with vast experience in University administration who will provide the needed leadership and direction for the institution. ”
The book extensively traced the process that led to the establishment of the Ondo state university of science and technology (OSUSTECH), Okitipupa, a desire that was borne out of the need for Ondo state to own a 21st century University of science and technology that can compete with its peers all over the world.
In the build up to the establishment of the University, the Executive Governor of Ondo state, His Excellency, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko had set up a committee under the late Professor Ifedayo Oladapo to among other things, take a holistic view of higher education in the state with a view to advancing and improving the quality of the system. A fallout of the recommendations of the Professor Oladapo’s committee was the resolve of the Ondo state government to resuscitate the erstwhile Ondo state university of science and technology and the appointment of the erudite scholar and distinguished Professor of Medical Microbiology and Parasitology, and the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Prof. Tolu Odugbemi as the first Vice Chancellor of the University.
Among the issues that had the attention of the editors of the 406 page book, aside the index pages are – setting achievable goals, which focused on action plan and time line; first staff capacity Building workshop, Establishment of the Herbarium /medicinal plants Garden; Entrepreneurship and a new order and many more.
In Prof. Tolu Odugbemi’s treatise on the “OSUSTECH of our Dream”, the cerebral Parasitologist noted that, “we are determined to make OSUSTECH a modern tertiary institution of academic excellence, with emphasis on academic research and service. We will pay full attention to practical and result – oriented technology that will provide solution to local and international challenges”.
Prof. Odugbemi stressed that character development will also be of highest importance as the management of the University was determined to make OSUSTECH and its products thorough – bred individuals who are able to respond positively to the needs of their environment in a globally competitive world.
In the book, emphasis is laid on research activities and as a result of this determination to make the University a bedrock of academic research, the University has established the OSUSTECH innovation Group (OIG) with the responsibility of coordinating various research efforts of the University.
The book reviewer, Prof. Ngozi Osarenren, Head, Department of Educational Foundations University of Lagos has this to say about the book, “This is a Ten Chapter 406 paged compendium of experiences flowing from determination, perseverance, painstaking efforts, sacrifices and heavy doses of integrity.”

“Chapter one focused on the Action Plan and the series of consultations which metamorphosed into the appointment of the pioneer Vice-chancellor, Prof. Tolu Odugbemi, OON, NNOM, and the inauguration of the Governing Council led by Prof. Funso Akere. In this same chapter, the clear plans to select the take-off site and the moves to reclaim the withdrawn National Universities Commission’s ( NUC) Licence were explained in details. The many committees that made the take-off smooth are enumerated. Seasoned administrators from University of Lagos were invited to screen the 1500 candidates that applied for admission. At the end of the exercise the 98 pioneering students were admitted and the maiden matriculation was held on 3rd March, 2011. On the 8th of June, 2011 the senate of the university was inaugurated. At the inauguration, the Vice-chancellor and Chairman of Senate, Prof. Odugbemi admonished members to buy into the vision of the university and take up the challenge of building a new modern and world class university.”

“Chapter Two captured the realistic and achievable goals set by the Vice-chancellor. The 12 point achievable goals were implemented methodically and “he accomplished almost all the goals as itemized and within the time frame allotted.”

“The council of OSUTECH was inaugurated on the 27th of September, 2010, and, between this date and the 3rd of March, 2011, some unprecedented and landmark events took place i.e. selecting of appropriate site for take-off; restoration of withdrawn operational license by NUC, screening and admission of pioneer students, resumption of formal academic activities, organisation of orientation programme and the maiden matriculation ceremony. The colourful ceremony was aptly celebrated with the attendance of the Executive Governor and Visitor with the full complement of his cabinet. All these activities took place within a period of about five months; to some uninformed people this must look simple and easy. But it is only the calibre of Prof. Tolu Odugbemi and his dedicated friends and members of staff that could wrought this feat. This is like the proverbial saying that, when the hands are on the plough there is no looking back; when you look back you become distracted and derailed.”

“What a reader will constantly see running through this book is the deliberate and systematic approach in ensuring all goals are realistic and achievable. For example, the process of Curriculum Development, library and e-library facilities, partnership and linkages, research activities culminating in the University’s Strategic Plan document which consisted of the two-year operational plan and the five-year rolling plan (2013-2018). He did not forget to carry the staff along to ensure that they key in into the vision and mission of the University.”

“I must mention at this point that there was heavy reliance on seasoned and qualified personnel in the actualisation of the goals and achievements in the institution. There was unalloyed emphasis on transparency and fairness by Odugbemi and his team.”

“Chapter 3 is entitled Entrepreneurship and a New Order. This is the aspect of the book where creativity is creatively displayed. The OSUTECH Ventures was registered to co-ordinate and market all the products from the factories and the University farm. The rationale for the establishment of the factories and the farm were two folds:

  1. Internally Generated Revenue Considerations
  2. Platform for the training of students and members of the public in the acquisition of various entrepreneurial skills.”

“This aspect is quite instructive against the background of encouraging young persons to be self-employed, self-reliant and job creators and not always job seekers. Within a short time, the products from the factories and farms were in very high demand. I personally bought some of the farm fresh products during my visit to the University. The fresh juice and water factories, the bakery, the animal farming (goats, sheep, grass cutters and pigs), fish farming, the poultry farm (rearing turkeys, quails) and a piggery were established. The “Open Day” policy I consider a masterstroke in maintaining healthy relationships between a University and the host communities. This should be emulated by administrators to avoid the ever- increasing clashes and conflicts with host communities.”

“Challenges! Challenges!! and not problems. The positive attitude of the pioneer Vice Chancellor and his team to the issues of funding and political climate account for the numerous achievements and successes of OSUTECH during the early years. How else can it be explained that a monthly recurrent grant of N50m was received when the monthly salary is N44.5m? How will the plethora of challenges competing for attention be adequately handled? But that is the hallmark of the prudent management witnessed at the OSUTECH during the period under review.”

“Going through chapter 5 of this book the reader encounters 15 speeches and lectures by the Vice Chancellor where he continually drove across to different stakeholders the passion of the OSUTECH Project. The reader could feel the sense of accomplishments despite the daunting challenges. The OSUTECH Farms readily comes to mind. During the visit of the Ondo State House of Assembly Committee on Education, Science and Technology on the 2nd of July, 2014, the Vice Chancellor in his welcome address informed that:

“we have forty-nine (49) earthen ponds stocked with over 700 fishes in each pond, forty-two (42) fibre glass tank ponds with about 400 fishes in each pond, piggery, goat rearing, snail rearing, turkey rearing, quails, rabbits and ostrich units… “

 

“What comes out from this is that once an individual is focused and sees challenges and not problems, so much will be achieved despite all odds. This is the recurring decimal that runs through the pages of this book.”

“Some sobering moments are reflected on the lessons learnt in Chapter 6. The typical Nigerian University Administrator still had to contend with provision of municipal services which, oftentimes, if not attended to may lead to unrest. The Editors after explaining some of these impediments concluded that: “the lessons learnt from OSUTECH make one to believe that universities in Nigeria can be relevant, reverent and purposeful if proprietors (i.e. Government and Private bodies) genuinely know, recognise and respect the essence of Universities which are teaching, research, learning and service. There should be proper funding and non-interference in the running of the universities.”

“As rightly observed, the first day in office marks the first day of exit for a far-sighted Administrator. Therefore, it is against this background that an insightful leader should hit the ground running. Chapter 7 summarised the exit plan beginning with the take-off plan. With this type of mentality leaders should be able to focus on what to accomplish and not living under the illusion that there is still time to do more. The Vice Chancellor answered honestly and objectively some questions that examined the metamorphosis of the Ondo State University of Science and Technology, thereby bringing out the major landmarks associated with his tenure (27th September, 2010 – 26th September, 2015). It is instructive to mention that a new university in less than three years had FULL ACCREDITATION in Nine (9) programmes (i.e. Industrial Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Geophysics, Microbiology, Zoology, Botany, Fisheries and Computer Science) and INTERIM ACCREDITATION in only one programme (i.e. Biochemistry). This is a feat many old and established universities do not often achieve.”

“Chapter 8 exhibits the thoughts and views of Prof. Tolu Odugbemi on the Nigerian Educational Sector. This is where the deep-seated passion for Education by Prof. Odugbemi is expressed. I suggest that this chapter should be read religiously by all lovers of quality education in Nigeria. Recruiting University staff on sentiment is dangerous because the mission and vision of the University WILL be affected, well formulated strategic plans will likely be abandoned and not much will be achieved.”

“He made suggestions to the then incoming administration of President Muhammadu Buhari on education and societal transformation. He observed that the Education sector was “marred by poor funding, ineptitude and sheer irresponsibility, urging the incoming administration to ensure that these factors are adequately addressed”. But the question is, are these factors addressed presently? The answer is for all of us to provide!”

“The intolerance for corruption in universities is reflected in the interview where he concluded outrightly that it is UNACCEPTABLE. “Corruption in my view is responsible for the intolerance we now witness… rather than allow the stinking influence of corruption to smear the reputation of universities, Odugbemi called for moral rebirth in ivory towers”.

“In the opinion of Prof. Odugbemi investment in education will bring hope to future generations. He is of the strong opinion that ethnicity and lopsided appointments are the main causes of poor ranking of universities in Nigeria. There are several indicators for a world class university to be so classified and we should strive to achieve this status. A situation where no university in Nigeria (The Giant of Africa!) is ranked among the top universities in Africa should be a source of concern to all lovers of education in Nigeria.”

“The book concludes with the comments and views of some of the experts that visited the university during the early teething period. The comments from each of them are the testimonies of dedication, teamwork and reliance on God’s guidance. The comments and views portrayed Prof. Tolu Odugbemi as the epitome of self-denials that led to self-fulfillment.”

“The book is replete with rich pictures of virtually all the activities and events that took place during the tenure of Prof. Tolu Odugbemi as the pioneer Vice Chancellor of Ondo State University of Science and Technology, Okitipupa. The pictures are so real and beautiful telling the story of the uniqueness of OSUTECH. Sustainability is important.”

“There are some editorial infelicities that should be revisited. For example, the last sentence on page 22 is incomplete “The successful 98 candidates finally resumed studies as the pioneer students of the…”. Secondly, there are some pages that are repeated. For example, pages 334-336 are the same as pages 353-356; also, pages 340-344 are the same contents as pages 347-351. However, all these do not distract in any way from the rich and comprehensive experiences that are shared in this book. The book is not about “statistics” but it is the compilation of what goes into starting and running a university. In fact, the proprietors of the eight (8) new licenced universities must have this book as a “constant companion”.

“ I do highly recommend “Experiences on Starting a New University in a Developing Country Setting, Nigeria-OSUTECH” to stakeholders in education, proprietors of tertiary institutions and above all those who sincerely are interested in quality education in Nigeria.”

As regards Entrepreneurship, Skill acquisitions and Leadership Training, Prof. Odugbemi noted in the book that OSUSTECH is poised to blaze the trail among Nigerian Universities. Hear him, “the University’s center for Entrepreneurship and Leadership Training (CELT) provided a platform for the training of its students in various vocational trades and leadership skills namely, fish farming, fish smoking, animal farming, poultry keeping, Palm oil and palm kernel technology, rubber extraction, crop farming, juice production, bottled and sachet water production, tailoring, traditional embroidery and many more.
Odugbemi is of the view that these services will provide the University a unique nature and a departure from the traditional norms of most of the universities in Nigeria.
The book launch took place at The University of Lagos Staff School Hall and it was attended by academics and dignitaries from all walks of life.
In the response by the Editor, Prof Tolu Odugbemi, he noted,  “This book gives a simple account of practical experiences on taking off of a new university in a developing country, like Nigeria. It emphasizes the importance of teamwork , courage and faith in God. University education is highly valued and prized in Nigeria. An average parent or guardian aspires to see his / her ward /child obtain university education. Locating or siting a university in a community confers a special status of ‘university town’.

“A university in a community, if well-managed is mutually beneficial to the individual, community, state, the nation and the global community. Therefore, universities should be seen as true CENTRES for learning, teaching, research and community service. Character and integrity are very vital, and should not be ignored in university education. Our universities should be seen bridging ‘town and gown’ in human development.”

“It is rather unfortunate that university education in a developing country setting is riddled with unpleasant and unproductive  consequences because of misunderstanding of what universities should be by various stake-holders. In some cases, undeserving applicants gain admission into the few places available in  our universities. In some situations the teaching and non-teaching staff who get employment into the university system do not know what universities stand for.  It is economic desperation of no other means of livelihood/employment that push majority to seek employment in universities. The qualifications, experience, skills and background of applicants for employment and admission do not often count. This suggests that our university curricula do not address how graduates could be self-reliant and job creators. There is too much attention to University education in Nigeria to the detriment of other vocational skills relevant to building our economy in Nigeria.”

“The governing council/ board members appointed by the government sometimes do not have a sufficient understanding of the educational system. The various communities also see universities in their locations as their ‘personal property’ to treat as they please. Perhaps, there should be “background checks” on potential management team and governing board members as well as staff and students.”

“There is undue and unacceptable interference by ‘outsiders’ in the running of our universities. Our universities most of the time do not have steady educational policies, no effective rules and regulations. This allows for abuse of various processes for admission, appointment and promotion.  It is therefore, easily seen why the factors that have just been highlighted make universities dysfunctional.”

“Corruption is drawing back this potentially great country. What roles are universities playing? Researchers have unbelievable huge research topics to address. Imagine the ongoing stories/ allegations on billions of Naira or US Dollars being stolen by individuals! What are our university social scientists doing, are these not potential topics for research with outcome of international prizes like Nobel prize? What about Psychologists? Writers? What are Psychiatrists waiting for in researching into these social anomalies? The Pathologists should be struggling to have pieces of the brain samples of those stealing to detect defects which may lead to discoveries of new syndromes? This is a serious matter. If you travel through Ajaokuta  Steel town, anyone with feeling will weep for the extent of the decay! Please note that the physical decay is just a tip of the iceberg of decay extending, even to spiritual decay.”

“It is unfortunate that technology in universities in developing countries is not directed at immediate challenges of making escalators or lifts function, getting simple means of transportation, finding alternative sources of energy and fabricating or upgrading tools to cool our homes and offices etc.”

“All avenues for gainful employment of all our youths with decent ‘pay’ should be open, encouraged, and sustained by governments and private organizations. The curricula of our educational system should make our university / tertiary education products employers of labour rather than job seekers. All professional groupings should enjoy and command respect.” 

“It is a known fact through the ages that universities are cradles for acquiring and disseminating knowledge especially technological and innovative ventures relevant to societal needs. We have to reconsider and rethink how to redirect and reshape our universities to finding solutions to various challenges facing developing countries.”

“Poverty begets poverty while hunger begets anger and social unrest creating abject poverty. It is unfair and unacceptable for salaries of staff and workers not to be paid as at when due. Salaries should take care of needs of workers and staff to prevent the situation in which two or more jobs are taken by an individual to survive in our economy. Employees should be assigned jobs in line with their skills.” 

“Our universities should pay more attention to researching into social and economic ills , hunger and ill-health, dirty environment with heaps of garbages adding to ill health, atmospheric pollution and current trends of local and global climate change.”

“The teamwork demonstrated with this write-up on experiences on getting a new university take off in the midst of scarce resources serve as a lesson which could further be improved upon by others . The comments by various experts are useful in initiating , planning or running tertiary institutions in developing countries where courage, focus,fairness and firmness in taking decisions should not be compromised .”

“This book is therefore not about quoting ‘statistics’ but rethinking on how to make Nigerians command respect in the comity of nations through research output applicable to the needs of the society. Thanks for sharing your precious time to add value to this public presentation and book launch.”

The book is available in all standard bookshops across the country, as well as in the Ondo state university of Science and Technology, Okitipupa.