Professor Aize Obayan is the vice chancellor of Landmark University, Omu Aran, Kwara State. A professor of Counselling, and a former vice chancellor of Covenant University, Sango Otta, Ogun State. He spoke with BIOLA AZEEZ on issues bordering on standard of education, youth unemployment and impact of agriculture in national development. Excerpts.
Do you agree that the standard of education has fallen in Nigeria?
That notion is erroneously conceived. In the actual fact, standards don’t drop; instead, we should examine the conditions, the capacity building and provision of infrastructure. Our universities used to be a beauty to behold in the past, but today, we are battling with the issue of admission into these universities. We need to examine the number of candidates who sit the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). We must consider the issue of the population and the ratio of the available facilities, among others. Today, in many of those universities you see students going for photocopies in machines without ink. There are no good toilets and dining facilities in many others. Students sort out their own accommodation, losing precious time in the process. In the area of quality and standard, only very few universities can today compete with their peers in Europe or the United States. Again, in the area of policy formation, I want to fault the idea of each of the successive ministers of education coming on board with different policies causing disconnect in the system. The input of technocrats should be added in this respect. We need proper statistics on what our needs are at every time, especially knowing the time and the type of training to embark on. We need to support bursary and bring back the golden era of scholarship awards to students. Under the Internet technology, are we putting our vision where our mouth is. Very soon, 2020 will come to an end, but where is Nigeria in all these? We need to holistically examine all these before we should be talking of the standards of education in Nigeria.
How useful is agriculture in solving the worsening youth unemployment in Nigeria?
The issue of unemployment can’t be arrested without us creating massive job opportunities. When we talk of economic theory, land is no doubt a major factor of production. Every arable land should therefore be turned into farm land. Many rural dwellers are becoming aged and sickly. How much support do they get? I want to say zero, especially in the area of health facilities. As we make the agricultural sector very attractive, it begins to make sense, but it will not be fully attractive without technology which will surely make it grow. Even in the areas of dairy and livestock, we need chemical applications to make them grow. But modern technology should equally come with the issue of bio-sciences. We must also ask for the place of research and development, especially soil test, and not this trial and error thing. We need to forecast weather to know when to plant and when not to plant. Farmers must know this. These and many other things are what we do here and the nation can borrow from it. We did most of these things in the 60s in Nigeria. We had groundnut pyramid, cocoa exportation, rubber plantation and palm oil exportation. Last year after much teaching and research works between September and December, we today have rice on our table. If we use every arable land to plant rice in Nigeria, importation of the staple food will stop and our nation will be better for it.
What is your personal experience as a vice chancellor of a university promoting agrarian revolution?
I have the best of gardens at home; in fact, we have harvested fresh cucumber, garden eggs, tomatoes and vegetable there. Do you know that I have not bought okra for nine months now! I am eating well and saving money. You don’t have to be a big farmer to be a part of this revolution. You can start from the planting of corn. The mindset is to have little garden at home. Agricultural revolution has a way of restoring the dignity of the black race. Good meal has a way of changing our health habit. Charity must begin at home. We need to go commercial and not teaching alone. That is our aim and we are gradually getting there. Very shortly, we shall become the food basket of the nation.
What is the vision of Landmark University?
The primary vision of Landmark University, in addition to its emphasis on it becoming a world class university, is its quest to drive an agrarian revolution by digging the treasure in mother land Africa towards bringing out the dignity in the black race. It is clear from the idea of the visioner/Chancellor, Bishop David Oyedepo, that the university will have a clear focus and that excellence will be her pursuit as far as research focus, community development and enterprise that take cognisance of agricultural issues are concerned. These were excellently put in place and brought into manifestation on March 21, 2011, which was the ‘Founder’s Day’ of the great university. Our graduates are produced with the mindset that agriculture must be practised. Among the existing colleges in the university, it is the College of Agricultural Science that encapsulates the vision. College of Science supplies the much-needed research into agricultural projects, soil crops and agricultural economy; and very soon, veterinary science, food science and veterinary medicine will spring forth.
Is there any collaboration with the state or federal government in this respect?
We are working towards a one-stop shop idea in such areas as deliverable, processing, packaging and exportation. The Ilorin International Airport will be helpful on these. We recently paid a courtesy visit on Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State to further drive home our vision on agrarian revolution, not only for Nigeria but the entire African continent and the world at large. The current government at the federal level no doubt has agrarian revolution as its focus and agenda. However what Landmark University has brought to the fore is to make the efforts international.