It will be unfair to tag OAU as sex for marks institution —Olarewaju, PRO
•‘80% of Nigeria’s best journalists are Ife product’
Mr Abiodun Olarewaju is the Public Relations Officer of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile Ife, where he graduated in 1990. He is a member of Nigerian Institute of Public Relations and Nigerian Union of Journalists. In this interview, he speaks to ENIOLA OYEMOLADE and FAVOUR BOLUWADE on the state of affairs of the school.
Recently, Centre for World University Record (CWUR) released a list of 1,400 schools and only four Nigerian schools were on the list, however, OAU was not among. Is this something to point at as the school’s standard dropping?
We are not in competition with any university. We are just trying to be what we are; to meet up with the requirements as regards the standard of education all over the world. How do you know a university? You know this through its products. We have our graduates all over the place who are captains of industy, who are professors, vice chancellors, engineers, lawyers and among them, we have judges and Senior Advocates of Nigeria. OAU produced the first emeritus professor of law. You know the standard of a university by all these I have mentioned. I am a product of this university, the Vice Chancellor is also a product and several Vice Chancellors like that. We also have governors who are products, so when you talk about standard, how else do you measure the standard of a university? You measure the standard of a university by their products and how they are faring in their respective fields. As far as I’m concerned, Obafemi Awolowo University has a standard and that is why when other universities are taking 180 or 160 as UTME cut-off marks, OAU and some other universities like us insist on 200 because there is a particular level of academic excellence below which OAU is not expected to fall, no matter what.
You’ve been at the helm of affairs for a while now, how has the experience been?
The experience is just like the normal experience of life. I have been a Public Relations officer (PRO) since 1993 after my master’s degree but I became PRO here in 2006. So I have been a pioneer PRO, I have been the head of Press, Protocol and Public Relations. Each of these areas has different challenges and these challenges are bound to come peoples way. It depends on how you handle them that makes you who you are. As you meet different people, you meet different challenges and as people come to you with different temperaments and emotions, so also challenges come in their own forms and shapes.
It has been okay and it has been worthwhile.
How approachable is the office of the VC for students that want to express their grievances?
In OAU, there are procedures. As no commissioner can go to the President’s office in Abuja, except through the governor, so also we have different channels of communication that students can reach. Firstly, through the Vice Dean student affairs, then through the Dean student affairs, their head of departments and head of faculties. Before they exhaust those avenues, their problems would have been solved.
This does not mean the Vice Chancellor is not approachable. In fact, OAU’s vice chancellors are always approachable and this present one is not an exemption. In fact, the present VC goes to students’ hostels to ask for information on how they feel about certain situations. The VC, Professor Eyitope Ogunbodede is a father to the students; we don’t call them our students. We call them our children, and that is why the VC does not want any negative thing to happen to any of them. So he prefers to take anybody on, who wants to molest or do anything against the innocence of these youngsters. His phone number is all over the place and if you send him a text message, he will respond. If you even call him and he is not in a meeting, he will pick the call. If he picks, he will direct you to the appropriate authorities.
“Third class in OAU equals to 1st or 2nd class in some schools”, that is usually the point some make to defend the low grades of some of the students. How would you address this?
That narrative is among the students, not the view of the school at all or within the university administration. If you have a 3rd class, some students in that same class have first class, so what is the student doing? In the same area and discipline, we have students with 2:1 and 2:2, so what is the issue? You are exposed to the same lectures, taught by the same lecturers, exposed to the same tutorials and worked under the same academic and environmental conditions, so that is not an excuse or the fault of the university’s administration. It is the fault of the student concerned.
Why does OAU not offer some very competitive and important courses like Mass Communication?
It is one step at a time. If you observe, we don’t offer Mass Communication as a course, but almost 80 per cent of first class journalists in the entire country are products of this university. That tells you something about the academic standard of OAU, when you say Great Ife and you are proud. We will start offering that course but we want to have everything in place. Ours will be different from all other schools, reason being that apart from the lecturers teaching them, we will have people from the field who have experiences; like those in broadcast journalism, print journalism and other areas. Not only the classroom affair alone. So the building by the grace of God will fully be under construction and it will be fully equipped before we start admitting students. Also, any moment from now, we will have the department of aeronautical engineering and we will have our own airstrip. We will have the practical and theory.
#SexforMarks, going down memory lane has a history that attaches it to OAU now, how is the university responding to this case since the exposure?
It will be unfair on us for anybody to tag OAU. We are trying to expose the rot while some other universities are trying to cover up using expose detour. Are you now castigating the university that is exposing culprits? People have been giving us kudos and there are some international organisations that want to partner with us because they feel if we are doing this, we are protecting the interest of the girl-child, so the university administration particularly the current VIce chancellor has zero tolerance for this act and no iota of affinity with anybody involved in this. In fact we have no tolerance for intimidation, sexual assault, molestation, or harassment. Now than ever before, our students are much bolder to say they would not agree to such things and expose any one, because the university runs an open door concierge. Any student can approach anyone to lodge a complaint and the university will set up a committee and investigate. The last two cases blew up on social media after we already took actions. It was our action people got to see on social media, so you should give us kudos, we deserve a gold medal. In fact, the university lecturers know now that you cannot jokingly play with any foul or suggestive language, especially when the adults involved have said no. And that is what OAU is about, aluta against all oppression.
How has OAU achieved not going on incessant strike actions over the years?
We owe our uninterrupted academic session to the tenacity of the present university administration, the distinguished members of council that we have, and the cooperation of the entire management and staff of the university because a tree doesn’t make a forest. And the current vice chancellor is a man of open mindedness; he’s not diplomatic at all in all areas. He will tell you as it is and that has endeared him to the people. What we have, he says, what we don’t, he says. When the federal government calls for meetings of such, we hold our union high too.
What security measures have helped to get you to where you are now with so many students staying off campus now?
We do not tell our measures to our enemies. People know that OAU is security conscious and we will continue on that path.
What is your advice to students?
Students should feel lucky to be a part of this school, with the best architectural design in West Africa and horticultural excellence. This is also a school where students demonstrate with no issue of vandalism. That’s to say we have a culture of rights. When people come here, they are in an incubating state of political, socioeconomic excellence. When you come here, you will be involved in so many intellectual arguments. We do not call extracurricular activities, but we call them co-curricula activities. You can’t be here and be a triangular student; there are so many things to get involved in. That’s why I will encourage students to face their studies and get engaged in all these opportunities. We believe that a student can study a particular course and still do well in other fields that need talents and skills outside what was learnt in the classroom walls. Parents should occasionally come unannounced, if possible, to check on their wards. Youths should also be good ambassadors wherever they find themselves.