Associate Professor, Nosiru Olajide Onibon is the Provost, Michael Otedola College of Primary Education, Lagos State (MOCPED). In this interview by SEGUN KASALI, he speaks on the readiness of the college to be upgraded into a university.
What is your reaction towards the proposed Lagos State’s upgrade of colleges of education into university?
I commend the state government for such a great step. How many states in the South-West have one university, juxtaposing that with the population of the states? In the South-West, Lagos houses 30 per cent of its entire population. With this, it would require that we take 30 per cent of state-owned universities in that axis. But today, we have only one. Ogun houses two. Oyo houses two. It is only Lagos State with one. Then, come to the population of prospective candidates. Lagos State University’s (LASU) carrying capacity may not be more than 5 to 6,000 students per year. And if you look at the population of students that subscribe to LASU as first choice, they are over 30,000. Where do we put the remaining 25,000? If you go to the second and third choice, you would discover that it accounts for over 100,000. In the last few years, LASU does not recognise second and third choices. It is only first choice because the number of the first choice candidates is enormous. So, the creation of two additional universities by the state government is in the right direction. This is where we should have been in 2006 when our population was put at 30 per cent of the south-western population. However, I must tell you that we are ready for the transmutation as a college.
I can tell you for free that MOCPED is ready. You can see that the bill is providing that MOCPED and Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education (AOCOED) jointly form a university. And I know for sure that if the government had got the wherewithal, it would have separated that AOCOED be a university and MOCPED be a university too. This is because we have what it takes to be a university. If you talk of the required land mass, we have it at MOCPED. And it would interest you that we currently occupy only 12.5 per cent of the total landmass. It is not swampy land; it is not hilly and not hollow but plain land. Our landmass for expansion was courtesy the host community under the jurisdiction of Aladeshonyin of Odo Noforija, His Royal Majesty Oba Babatunde Ola Ogunlaja. The Kabiyesi, in recent years, added to the landmass we have: about 70 hectares of land envisaging that we are going to be a university in the nearest future. It is happening now. So, we have the required landmass and we have the adequate infrastructure if we want to take off now.
Did the readiness become emboldened within the three and a half years of your tenure?
Within the three and a half years of my tenure, you need to see what we have done in terms of intervention from TETFUND and this would amaze any visitor to the college. We have also been able to improve on the working environment.
We have the working tools, working equipment. 70 per cent of our staff today uses new tables, chairs, desktops to themselves, printers, photocopiers, and many others. All are interventions from TETFUND. We have the facilities.
What about the receptiveness of the community?
The community where the college is sited is very receptive and I give that to Aladeshonyin of Odo-Noforija, who would necessarily postpone the traditional festive period to accommodate our students. In fact, our students live within the community. So, whenever our examination timetable coincides with the traditional festive period, the Kabiyesi would call that they should shelve the festivity till the students were done with their exams. So, you can now imagine how more receptive the community would be if we bring the university down there.
There must have been communal interventions too.
Yes. Apart from interventions from benefactors, we have communal interventions. I can tell you that Chief Femi Otedola has just renovated our gate. Hon. Wale Raji has just institutionalised scholarships for our students. He is also building rest places for the students scattered around the college. And the Honourable Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila recently came up to build our internet facilities. He boosted our Wi-Fi provision to the extent that almost half of the college is Internet-compliant. So, it gives us certain room to declare certain places multi-media super corridors for the students to be online apart from the one provided by the college itself.
What about the learning environment for the students?
We have an e-library. Today, I can also say that we have a library whose resources can accommodate a university status both physical and virtual. If you go to our website now and you click on our e-library, you can download thousands of books and you have access to them.
Won’t manpower be an issue?
No. This is because we have quality manpower. We can tell you this for free that our staff members are highly resourceful and very cooperative. We are paying salaries regularly and we are remitting deductions regularly. We have qualitative manpower both academic and non-academic.
Are the academic and non- academic staff members certificate-ready for the upgrade?
Yes. Some of them have gotten their PhD degrees; some of these degrees are of international status. Today, I have most of them competing with their peers to occupy the office of the provost of different colleges in the country. Recently, the deputy provost (academic) appointed by the Lagos State Cooperative College is from our college. He used to be one of our deans. He went for the interview and he won. Our Chief Librarian just went for an interview as a librarian of one of the polytechnics and I learnt he is one of the three that got shortlisted. Same thing with our non-academic staff. To crown that, we are affiliated with the University of Ibadan, running degree programs; same applies to Ekiti State University. In fact, the last time we had the NUC’s visit for the accreditation of our University of Ibadan programme, they were amazed and they told us we could move to become a university because of what they met on ground.
Two years ago, the Universal Basic Education in Nigeria gave the franchise to our college through the Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (LASUBEB) to train head teachers and re-train teachers in Lagos. Our resource persons were adjudged fantastic on the field.
What will then be your vision to the upgrade of the college into a university?
When I came on board, I saw on my table that there were moves to upgrade the college to a university. I saw this and said to myself that this is a nice vision I must drive. We began that and today it is becoming a reality. Now, upgrading to be a university, my first vision is to continue to improve on the standard and make it a university that any other university will compete with.
Today in the college, all the results and certificates of recently graduated students are ready and this is based on what I believe that an institution has a contract with the students and the contract ends only when they are certificated. When we came, we met a backlog of certification. I saw five years unreleased results and certificates. But, we cleared them. In fact, the certificates of the ones who are about graduating are getting ready. And you would agree with me that this is one of the things that will sell the university just like in the past years that University of Ilorin was sellable because students would finish on time and get certificates. That is what we are doing today in the college.
What would be the effect of this upgrade on the status of Lagos?
If you go to Lagos State’s ministries and agencies, you would find out that many of the staff members are products of Lagos State University. This upgrade is going to add to the quality of manpower and the quantity so much so that the state would be able to source from. Two, by extension, you know Lagos state houses about 60 per cent of the headquarters of industrial outfits in Nigeria whether large scale, medium or small scale and they would all require manpower. In addition, of course you know that a community that houses higher institutions is going to have a change. The college in Noforija for instance has changed the lives of the people in the environment. It has changed their economic, social and political lives because people can now come home and invest. So, it improves their economy. And today because National Certificate Examination (NCE) is not as marketable as it used to be before, we are struggling to get students. But, if we upgrade into a university, we are getting more students, and patronage will be high. It would remove miscreants on the streets and encourage entrepreneurship.
What is your advice to the government on this upgrade?
The state and the administrators (governing council and the management) that would be appointed into this university should be fair to the two campuses. Whichever of the campuses become the headquarters should not see the other as an appendage to it. They should let development spread in both campuses.
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