Prof. Hassan Isah is the Vice Chancellor of Kogi State University, in this interview with our correspondent, Joseph Amedu. He speaks on sundry issues affecting the institution, among others. Excerpt;
What is the magic behind the success stories recorded in your two term in office as Vice Chancellor? I run an open door policies and all inclusive type of administration. I worked with students through the students’ Union Government. That is a good channel of communication, and there was none before I came in. You cannot pick everybody and begin to talk to him; there must be a defined leadership through which you can reach members of a particular interest.
I am that kind of leader with open door policy. The students’ leaders and the labour union leaders have my personal phone numbers and I have theirs too. Recently, the Nigeria Labour Congress, (NLC), kogi State chapter protested to the state governor, Captain Idris Wada asking him to sanction you over the sack of the Chairman of Non Academic Staff Union of the University, (NASU), Mr, Yusufu Audu, what really happened ? It is unfortunate that the NLC has to come out in that way without hearing from the university authority. The NLC supposed to have come to the university and do its investigations before arriving at that type of conclusion. The sacked former NASU chairman may have fed them with all manners of lies and I thought they should have asked questions before taking any action.
I discovered from the first day, I met the NASU chairman that he was a liar. He came here first when he was elected and I was alone, we discussed certain issues and I said I was going to follow up the discussion, he went out and said the Vice Chancellor had promised something, I did not promised. It took us time to clear that because when you tell Union that somebody has made promise, everybody would want to see the outcome. From then till date I have not seen changes in him. If I can recollect from what people said that NLC said before the Governor, there was an impression that the VC just took the laws into his hands and tempered with the appointment of the union leaders, without stating the facts. The person at the center of the crisis at that time whose appointment was terminated was no longer a Union leader.
His tenure expired in February and he wanted to re-contest which was greeted with protests from his union members because there were so many things he could not account for. He wanted a platform to elongate his stay. So on 23rd of February, they met somewhere and said they had passed a resolution and they were calling on his Excellency as a matter of necessity to remove the VC from office. Incidentally, the letter they wrote asking the Governor to remove me was addressed to me and copied the Governor. It was not based on issues at stake.
The issues they raised were those not within the purview of management. All welfare issues that can be tackled within management I have been handling them. I came and met a backlog of the promotion of staff for about two years, I cleared them. Since then there is no backlog of promotion. Staff training, when I came, I opened door of opportunities for every staff that is interested in adding Knowledge to go for further trainings. To be specific about Yusuf. When he was elected as the union leader, he used the platform, and came to me, told me the first lie that the former Governor f the state , Prince Abubakar Audu was his Uncle. I said that was good.
Few weeks later he came and said he was in trouble and I should help him. I asked to know the problem and he said his wife needed a job. That he was having it difficult at home. And I said in addition to having Audu as an Uncle? I employed the wife. He was also battling with his o’level, and he had no degree And because of the policy I had he said he wanted to do a degree course and I obliged him, and said if he could write Unified Matriculation and Tertiary Examinations (UMTE), and get the minimum requirements I will give him admission.
He did UMTE and his mark was not up to the cut off mark for political science which he wanted to read, but it was okay for History and International Studies so I offered him admission. He is presently a student in the faculty of Arts, history and International Studies, at 300 level. He said he needed support I employed his wife, he needed admission and I gave him and he is doing his study with pay. He is on his Salary. At any opportunity he will insult the VC raining all sorts of abuses on me. I kept calm in all of these because I felt it was youthful exuberance because he may not know his focus, he may not be seeing beyond his nose.
In March 2013, there was a strike where they took laws into their hands. When they are on strike, because there was no essential services like water supply, power supply and it become extremely difficult. So, I made arrangements to get water from outside and liaise with Power Distribution Company for support and bought drums of diesel to power the generator. The water tanker that we engaged after agreeing with students to bring water for students, Yusuf climbed the water tanker and had the windscreen of the water tanker vandalized.
He was not a member of their union and it was my duty to make sure I take care of my students. He deflated the tires of the vehicle of one of my staff. He went further to Agricultural department to damage the tires of motorcycle of people whom he thought were stooges of the management. Clearly these were Criminal matters, but I kept my cool. He did another one when students were to write their examinations at the computer center when I engaged a tricycle truck to come and move a drum of diesel to the digital center to power the generator there. As the tricycle truck was moving the drum to the center, Moses Balogun, Chairman of the Senior Staff Association of Universities (SSANU), and his union members accosted the boy and started flogging him with cane.
The Tricycle rider is an Anyigba boy, he is not a member of their union and he has a right to earn a living. They went into the digital center and assaulted one of the lecturers. So they were taking laws into their hands. In the process some of the supporters of the Commercial Tricycle rider and some students pounced on him and I had to quickly call on my security to save the situation from escalating. The security received beatings on their back before Balogun was saved. For about a month from that day I made sure there was security cover for him around his house. I issued them query for this criminal act because this has nothing to do with strike. As we were pursuing the query to the logical conclusion, some stakeholders intervened. I dropped the query that was in 2013.
From 2012, when the issue of my second term came up I thought they were working for some persons they were bent on stopping me but they could not stop me. Then, they had another plan which is to make the university ungovernable for me. I have been very fair to all, since all these years that I assumed How, have you been able to deal with staff welfare? My own concept of welfare for staff in the university consists of two Components, the temporary issues and the fundamental issues. The temporary component is payment of salaries, and allowances promptly, promoting staff as at when due. These are primary issues because these allowances and salaries will come and disappear.
I also know based on experience that a university staff whether they are junior or senior academic or non academic ought to be trained to acquire additional skills. For me it is not acceptable that you come to work at the university with your Higher National Diploma (HND), and after 20 years you are going out with the same HND. Opportunities exist, so when I came on board I made it liberally available for any staff to acquire additional skills. I made sure nobody is denied promotion. 107 of our staff including seven Professors who were promoted had already been paid their arrears. If not the recent financial problem facing the state, as soon as we received allocation, salaries is paid within 24 hours.
Before I came on board the slogan was if you want to study you choose between ‘your job or your study’ but I came in I said no, I opened the door for both academic and non academic and junior staff. As I speak with you, the number of academic staff that have obtained PHD between 2009 till date is about 95, those that have obtained masters 75, and about 5 non teaching staff had obtained PHD. About 15 to 20 non teaching staff have gotten their Masters, even my Personal Assistant has obtained his masters and many of them with masters are all on their studies with pay. Some of them are being supported by TET fund. Whether you study outside Nigeria or within the country ,we still give you study leave with salary. I have about 15 KSU staff in various Universities in Malaysia pursuing masters and PHDs .
I got a report on one of our staff doing PHD in Glasgow, Dr. Godwin Ebiloma his work is so excellent that the University facilitated an award for him to get two months in Japan with one international school. Another one went to Jawaharlal Nehru University in India, New Delhi sponsored by International Center for Genetic Engineering and Technology and he did an excellent work on Malaria such that he has received nomination to be a visiting researcher of three Universities; one in US, one in Japan and the third in Germany, Dr. Emmanuel Amulabu. For me, these are the fundamental components of welfare which is called a cascading effect. Amulabu when returned to the school he would be mentoring and teaching others, Godwin Ebola would be mentoring and teaching others.
So, we are empowering more people to acquire skills. The two outstanding scholars are in Biochemistry doing their research works on infectious diseases, like malaria. Again for me, it is more important for me if staff are exposed to meet their counter parts within and outside the country. I also make sure they attend conferences and workshops within and outside the country. There is no week as I speak that you don’t find KSU staff attending one conference or the other. Three just returned from Ghana last week. The headteacher of our staff school we sent him to Dubai to attend a workshop. Our staff are all over the world, Europe, South Africa, Malaysia and so on. I am not talking about those that have graduated, as I speak about 200 of my staff have graduated with about 20 of them outside the country. My security operatives are 240, a large number of them were employed with either secondary or NCE certificate. But as you know for the security of today and tomorrow information is important. You have to be skilled, you have to be educated to be able to gather information and Intelligence. So I also made it available to them that as they are doing their security work they are also in the class pursing degree programs. My chief security officer has just finished his first degree in criminology and security. He has enrolled for masters’ degree. There are hundreds of others pursuing different degrees on the campus.