Prof Olu Akeusola is incumbent provost of Michael Otedola College of Primary Education (MOCPED) Epe, Lagos State and his second term of four years has just been renewed. He speaks with some journalists on sundry issues including his reappointment , why chief executive of tertiary institutions are not accessing fund and the need to be fair to every staff member. Titus Eleweke who was there reports
How did you feel when you received the news of your reappointment for second term?
Let me tell you the genesis of the entire thing. I was expecting second term and also was not expecting. That is the truth. The truth of the matters is that as a normal human being, I was growing bigger than MOCPED. I came to MOCPED with the sole ambition of turning the institution around, and if my achievements could speak for me, it could lead me into better achievements that might launch me into political appointment or a something national.
MOCPED was a jungle when I came in, and I decided to use my national and international influence to make the place better and attractive. My first tenure which ends August 1st, I was looking forward to see what Lagos State Government could do, or the national body could do. I had the ambition of going back to National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), to do something better. I had the ambition of looking towards the Lagos State Government for a better appointment.
However, the thinking of the college and the state happened to be in consonance with the proposal that we wrote, that we want to take the college to the next level. His Excellency Mr. Ambode was sworn in May 29, but on 1st of June he invited us for a meeting and he told us to come with a solid proposal that will address the past, present and future that could be instrumental to the development of every other sector in Lagos State.
I wrote a proposal which is anchored on taking MOCPED to becoming MOCPED- Open and Distance Institute. Based on my qualification as a professor of comparative grammar and immediate past Dean of School of Arts and Social Sciences of NOUN, I make bold to say I am a specialist on Open and Distance Learning (ODL).
If, Lagos is centre of Excellence, and the best state in Nigeria for now. Lagos State has 10 per cent of Nigerian population, 10 per cent per capital income in Nigeria and 10 percent of monetary value of Nigeria budget, then Lagos should be the first to have ODL institution in the country. That was my thinking.
What did you meet on ground upon your assumption in August 2011?
When I came in, I was welcomed into a glorified secondary school, a replica of that old teacher training college where they had only one auditorium. The only storey building in the college happened to be one built by Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), and the Universal Basic Education (UBE) blocks there. In fact, everything was in shambles.
I then said that , if this is going to a college of education that could compete favourable with other colleges of education, not only in Nigeria, but globally something need to be done. I decided to approach both national and international donors that could be instrumental to the development of infrastructures in the college. I make bold to say that, I tried within my limits to move the college to loftier height. There are some agencies of federal government that were instrumental to development of MOCPED.
First, is TETFund, it has been very magnanimous to the college. Majority of the things, we have in MOCEPD were done by TETFund. The other major donor is the National Communication Commission which gave us a lots of computers to develop our Information and communication (ICT) system. Some of our international partners from Saudi Arabia where I happened to be a visiting professor also gave us some other items. I am grateful to them all.
How were you able to achieve much when other managers in sector are complaining about inadequate funding?
Let me explain in this simple way. There is nothing in a post than the person that occupies the position. The person that occupies position, decides how the position would be run. Majority of our leaders and chief executives have what we call inferiority complex. Some of them are not well prepared for the position they are occupying. I am sorry, but that is the truth. Majority of them are simply wheelchair chief executives. I have spent 21 years as a lecturer and director at in college of education.
I have also been into the university, risen to the position of a professor. I have been a Dean of a Faculty before becoming a provost. So I am not the kind of person that could be intimidated by anybody. I have faced a lot of people and fortunately or unfortunately, I am from Lagos, I am socially inclined, academically endowed, and I am not lacking in intelligence.
I know what to do, when to do it and how to do it. I put everything in place and develop my goals and objectives, and I have the strength to follow things up. Majority of our CEOs, especially those in universities are simply lazy, because state or federal government are extremely generous to them, they have the tendency of tapping only from one source without thinking of the other source. TETFund grant happens to be very fine and solid but it has rules which you must meet to access the funds.
If you are not ready to follow the procedures you may not be able to get what you want. But the moment you are ready to comply with the due process, you keep on getting whatever you want and however you want it. Let me note this, majority of what I had despite that federal government was controlled by People Democratic Party (PDP), then, and I happened to be from a government institution controlled by a state belonging to All Progressive Congress (APC). I could get whatever I want simply because there is no discrimination in academics and TETFund is not just partisan. TETFund is purely academic and I have to give kudos to those managing it because they have no bias about political parties. Most CEO who are unable to tap from TETFund is as a result of their own laxity and not TETFund.
Things you couldn’t achieve in your first term, you want to achieve now?
You are wrong. I decided to develop 60- item project, 30 for staffers, 20 for students and 20 for development of the college. I set a four year rolling plan for myself and came with a kind of checklist. Whatever I planned to do for the four years, I finished everything within 24 months. So I have done extra within the last two years. There was nothing that I promised that I was going to do within the last four years that I have not done. That is why I was even tired ab initio about becoming the provost again. I did not see what I really wanted to achieve again. But when the new dimension of taking the college to the next level came, I saw it as a new challenge that I can key in to and make more development.
Prof. did you ever step on toes, MOCPED has history of being crises ridden institution, how were you able to manage the various interests?
If you look into history of MOCPED, it was established in 1994, the first provost who employed everybody was stampeded out, and the second provost Ekemode spent only two years and was stampeded out. The sole administrator also came in for two years and was driven away. Even, one other one that came in, spent only two years and some months before he was driven away.
I came in and had same challenges. Let me tell you sometime, government has been contributing to the problems of tertiary education management in the country. I did not perform any miracle. I only capitalized on my background to make meaningful impact in the college. Prof Tunde Samuel happened to be an admin officer who rose to Assistant Director in the ministry at Ministry of Education. He had his Ph.D, and after his PHD,he went to Lagos state University LASU from the ministry.
He was given lecturer 11 instead of Lecturer l and had only one promotion as a senior lecturer before becoming the pioneer provost of MOCPED. Automatically, the cognate experience happens not to be there with him to manage the college. He was running the college as a ministry. He employed everybody, all those people who could have been his superior, he forced them out.
No tradition, no orientation and no culture. So these people grew with that tradition for 27 years. So Ekemode who happened to be well grounded in education system came, he was not patient enough. When you want to be an administrator, you hold both the carrot and stick. You must be ready to blow hot and cold at the same time. You must learn to strike and retreat.
You must understand people and let them understand you. You must be able to say that my punishment is corrective and not destructive. They considered him too hard for them and he was driven away. The sole administrator happened to be an aberration. The administrator has never been academics. He was a registrar in LASU and Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education (AOCOED) and later to Alausa as a director, so you cannot expect much from him. Then , Prof. Oguntoye who has never had college of education experience in his life. He was never Head of Department or Dean or lecture college of education .
He came in as the provost and he kept on using the university theory to run MOCPED. But take my own example; I was a student of college of education for three years, then an admin officer for college of education for one year. I had to be a lecturer for college of education for 19/21 years. I was a union leader and I happened to be secretary of College Of Education Academic Staff Union(COEASU) .
I was among the people that drafted the constitution that COEASU is still using today. Automatically, I know the system very well. It was after all that time that I decided to go into the university. So when I came in it was just a question of happy reunion like coming back to join my family. All the antics of union leaders we were the people planning it. So it is just like putting my experience into focus. It is not as if I never had my challenges. But my theory is very simple. Do I destroy what you i build? I happen to be one of the grandfathers of COEASU.
Then, do I want to make myself the rebel of yesteryears becoming conservative today? Do I want my colleagues with whom we have been in struggle together to criticize me on what we once criticized our past leaders. You recall that we went for a tribunal the other time. Lagos State government actually wanted me to come with the names of people that had been disturbing me so as to get rid of them. I now asked, if I happened to be same age with Obama who did not ask for the cruxification of his critics.
If, I happens to be older than Fashola and Fashola tolerated his critics, so why would I want government to sack any critics for me. What is that thing we call academic liberty and genuine criticism? Can we all reason and think same way? How do I demonstrate to them that I am handling things with objectivity? The secret of my governance is that I was ready to tolerate criticism, I am being objective, and none of my rules are abnormal. My punishment is constructive and not witch- hunting or destroying. Let me place it on record that since I have been in MOCPED for four years, I have never sacked anybody out of vengeance or vendetta.
You had a very rough background, looking out yourself now, what have you learned from your experience?
If you know my background very well. I am from Epe here. My father happened to be Akeusola Egemoni. I did not pass the Primary 6 six exam. I failed Form 3 twice, and I was withdrawn from secondary school to learn radio mechanics at Aiyetoro Epe there. I failed school certificate about three times. But can I tell you something, I was rascally.
I was depending on the wealth of my father; I was depending on the fame of my father. I was carried away, thinking I could make it without education. I entered into college of education in October 1983, it was then Lagos State College of Education and my father died November 1983 and everything died with him, money and fame. So I had to pick the pieces of my life. There, I realized I had some innate intelligence that should be tapped. Something in me told me that is the secret of my success. I just had to rediscover myself and that is why I am who I am today.
What do you want people to remember you for in MOCPED?
I want people to remember me as a man who came and saw and conquered. I saw a jungle and I turned it into a city. Go to MOCPED at night time, if you do not see small London, call me a liar. We have made a proposal to the state government and it is for government to take our proposal. We want to start a institution of ODL with at least six to eight faculties that will be human and per capital development institution. Remember, university is not for learning alone, it is a research base that could be instrumental to the formulation of new technological and developmental ideas for the betterment of the society.
Did you ever think you made some mistake, you wished to correct in your second term?
My achievements are numerous, I got to the college in 2011, and they only had a convocation since existence. But, since I came in , I have organized two convocations making it the third one. Then, I am the person that brought in the first digital e-library. I also brought in the first digital language and laboratory to the college. Before me Admin block was the only storey building in the college and today I have lots of storey buildings to my credit. We now have 750 seaters ICT hall, I brought it. I have been able to place the name of MOCPED on national and international arena. It is for you to go there and see things for yourself. The staff and students welfare were also taken serious.
We e4ncourage staff to go for further studies The mistake I can say I committed, If I had my way I would commit same mistake over and over again . In order not to hurt my colleagues and staff, I kept on hurting myself and hurting the system, but I enjoyed it .
There were lots of people I tolerated even though I was told not to have tolerated them. But it is for the harmony and peace of the system. If I should say I want to keep on sacking people because of one mistake or the other, my sacking that person would have been tantamount to sacking about ten others, wife and children, dependants and relatives. But if I keep on tolerating them despite that they are hurting me and the system, I know it is a mistake. Like the tribunal chairman Prof. Sobowale told me. I am a a teacher who is to train and turn people around for good.
What is the is the problem MOCPED has with Ekiti State university?
The truth is that EKSU programme is a compound programme. I was appointed a provost at MOCPED, an NCE awarding institution. But I came into a system where they have entered into affiliation agreement with EKSU. In consonance with their agreement, EKSU is to moderate everything they do upon payment of necessary money.
The programme started in 2007, When I came in 2011, I realized that they have never taken any results to EKSU and they have been indebted to EKSU because they were not paying regularly. It was not as if the college was collecting money and not remitting but students have been defrauding the college. The student operated several fraudulent accounts whereby they pay the money that could have accrued into the college account into their own accounts. Staff would just assume that they have paid when they bring their tellers.
So when I came, I did forensic auditing and discovered these faults. That was when they started calling me ‘Kowope’ . The bank wanted to take some of the students to court, but I said no. I am not ready to destroy them but let them pay the money and get back to conclude their programmes or they go away. So those who were able to pay, we collected their money and allow them to conclude their programmes. Others simply left.
EKSU was not patient with us. When you are running this kind of programme you don’t rush to press to allege your partners. We have to be partners in progress. Although, we have paid the money and now working on their portal. But it is not a debt owed by me. The accumulated results were errors committed by past administrations. But the truth is that when you inherit asset, you must also inherit liabilities. I made bold to say I am responsible. We have been correcting things now. We have a large batch of the results that will be considered soon.