Kwara State University (KWASU), Malete is one institution that prioritises entrepreneurship training for its students in a determined effort to make them wealth creators upon graduation. In this interview with ABDULLAHI OLESIN, the vice chancellor, Prof AbduRasheed Na’Allah throws more light on this and the achievements of the young university so far.
You’re running a second term of another 5 years, how has it been so far?
A very good question. First, let me welcome you to Kwara State University and for your interest in this university and for paying attention to what is going on so much so that you know that I am running a second term. The truth is that the first term was entirely a laudable starting and entirely about recruiting, about developing, all these are really parts of starting something. And we thank God that the first five years we were able to graduate two sets of students which shows that what we built, especially in the various academic departments, some of the vision we put in place, some of the goals that we set, we were able to realise them at the end of the term.
When you look at what we were able to achieve, you would see that part of the achievements is that people throughout Nigeria began to understand that there is a new university that is about entrepreneurship, about community development which was also serious in terms of her commitment to research. It was a kind of humble achievements and all the same, we thank God Almighty. It was an achievement that our community in Kwara State clearly recognised and the government recognised.
Therefore, they asked me to stay on for another second term. It was not an easy task realising that the first five- years itself was quite a lot on its own and to take another five years again.
But I must also say that the first five years was also based on the kind of financial support which enabled us to do some of the things that we did. As you know our economy in Nigeria then was very buoyant, money was coming into KWASU on 70:30 ratio.
That is 70 from the state and 30 from the local governments and KWASU is also getting support from TETFund and we had the opportunity to collaborate with several of these organisations. For example, by 2010, KWASU already had a UNESCO share, it was a collaboration with UNESCO in energy. That is why KWASU has researched intensively in energy. As you know, If you ask Nigerians what was our number one problem, they will tell you it is irregular power supply. So KWASU on its own sought to resolve that.
So throughout the first five years we had scholars, students who continued to do research on this. We established a company called Rana Power. Rana Power is an energy company that is developing solar power that will serve as an alternative source of solving the energy problem in Nigeria.
So the initial first five years, we were able to get investors from China to establish an independent company in Nigeria and already, we have appointed a CEO, he is a Chinese- American and he has resumed duty.
So we also ended that first five years establishing a film village which is also in response to the Nollywood development in Nigeria and in 2009 when we started it was the third largest, by 2011 it was the second largest in the world and KWASU thought it wise to respond to this. We recruited Joke Silva as the MD and we also swung into action, we identified the former Tate and Lyle, Ilorin as the site for the campus which government also gave us. So the first five years were all of these and more.
The second term?
The second five years is a term which we seek to consolidate on the achievements of first five years as a university that is research industry, as a university that is aggressive in identifying Nigeria’s problems and solving them, bringing cutting edge research in solving these problems, as a university where students and scholars are working together to bring out new innovations, new products, new equipment, new ideas, all of them directed at solving problems of Nigeria and problems of humanity.
Apparently, this started very well and we will continue to do well. In KWASU we have developed a strategy that we will never look back. If you ask me what is the major problem we have had, I will say the major problem is the crash in Nigeria’s economy which found KWASU that is going aggressively in addressing all these in the middle of the crisis. If you ask me also I will tell you may be there is probably no any other institution that has felt this hardship greater than KWASU, is at the heart of what we are doing and probably we are the first and greater university that survived it.
It’s like a child that is on its own that needs a lot of protein, we need a lot of resources to grow and suddenly, the economic crisis just came just when we are six years, you can imagine, it’s like a major crisis that will disorganise us and keep us in disarray. We thank God Almighty. Unknown to us, our goal was not to depend 100 percent on government, our goal all along was to develop a university that will continue to find resources all over the world to sustain itself in addition to what government and the public is able to give to them.
We have always known that at the end of the day, the kind of resources that we need government cannot provide all but whatever government is giving, let it be regular, whether it is 30 percent of our budget, let them continue doing it and let it be regular, let it be constant while the university goes all over the world to mobilise resources for itself. So that philosophy from the beginning is what really helped us. So the major problem I will say of my second term is funding in which the state government practically for close to a year now has not been able to give us funds. The story has always been Mr Vice Chancellor, this is what we have been getting, this is what we got now, less than half of what they have been getting.
So how are you surviving?
Thank you, we just went back into the structures we have put in place. As a university we have different entrepreneurship centres that are doing some work, we went back to these centres. The initial investments we have made, we are doing them at growing levels, some of these centres are offering programmes that are serving our communities, they were self-sufficient and the university was able to get something from them, now we just capitalise on all of these.
Initially we were thinking of strengthening these centres to generate more revenues than what we are generating. So what government stopped giving us, we began to get it from these centres; so we collapsed virtually all the funds that we have to the centres, so we were able to pay salaries and some overhead costs.
But we’re also working obviously with some banks because you will remember that as we were doing this, the issue of TSA came so we had to resort to banks, we now began to work with them and the banks are also working with us but I am happy to tell you that as at today, KWASU is not owing any single kobo to any academic staff, we pay regularly.
We have developed our budget for the next year, though it has not been approved, it was a budget developed by KWASU staff, and our strategy also is to align our staff with whatever we are doing for this university, we have think tank, we have different groups, they always come together to say where are we going, what do we need to do? So it is the KWASU staff that are making it possible for us to survive, that is where we are, that is how we are able to survive it and we will continue to survive it. This budget year ends in September, the council will meet to approve the budget but the bulk of the funds to finance the budget will come from what we generate.
And do you know what this crisis has done to us? It has assured us that by the time Nigeria survives this crisis KWASU will be supper strong because then the state will not stop some of the things it’s doing and KWASU would have developed wider areas.
Do you really need subvention still from government?
We will forever, it is important because this is a public university, we need money for so many things, research itself requires lot of money and KWASU is eager. There is no way a university will not need a lot of resources to carry out activities because there are multi-disciplinary areas. We have undergraduate research as one of our strength in KWASU. In fact, we have an under- graduate research centre in KWASU, this centre allows our undergraduates to compete for money, research grants, they write excellent proposals, the university looks at these proposals and decide on who to give grants and several of them have been given grants; this contributes to development. So if we give N2 million this year, it could be N5 million next year. So you can see the need for money will continue as long as we have ambition to develop and to help Africa and humanity. It’s a public university and not about profit making. So we will continue to need money.