Professor Muhammed Akaro Mainoma is a professor of accountancy and currently the vice chancellor of Nasarawa State University, Keffi. He spoke with LEADERSHIP’s OMONU NELSON on the impacts of collaboration among institutions, research and other sundry issues.
Pointedly, tell us what you want to be remembered for as the Vice Chancellor of Nasarawa State University?
Not to blow my trumpet, when I was not yet a vice chancellor, I was able to attract two buildings to the institution. The two buildings are still standing and in use today. Go down the Faculty of Administration, you will see Gafar Centre, I singlehandedly solicited for it from National Association of Accountants of Nigeria and they built that Centre. I spoke personally to the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria that we needed a befitting Postgraduate School and he has agreed to come and give us a lecture and then also built a Postgraduate School for us. The building is still standing today. It was my initiative. That is at a personal level, as a vice chancellor, I was able to make this roads feasible, the roads that you are seeing on this campus. Since the establishment of this university, there have never been hostels built. But we have built three new hostels.
In the area of infrastructure, we have commissioned 16 projects during the last convocation and all 16 projects were commenced and executed during my tenure. These are standing buildings in the university that can be verified. If you look around the university, you will discover that most of the buildings were constructed in the last five years that I have been in charge.
In terms of programs, when I took over as vice chancellor, we didn’t have up to 60 postgraduate programs in this university, today we have 270. So, you can see that the volume of development and programmes we have consummated in the past five years is significant. Even in terms of undergraduate programmes, when I took over, we didn’t have more than 41 programs, today we have up to 70 degree programs. Also, I took over with seven faculties, today, we have eight faculties, we have another faculty called Faculty of Environmental Science. In fact, we have done resource assessment hoping that in a little while, all the programs in that faculty will be functional. So, you can see that we are really focused in terms of the things we do. Apart from that, you will notice that since the establishment of this university we have never had what is called a public lecture to invite renowned people and do a public lecture. The first was done during my tenure, the former vice president; he presented the first public lecture of this university some years back, it was followed by Professor Ibrahim Gambari. The Speaker of House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, did the next. We have agreed with Professor Attahiru Jega to come and do public lecture. We have same understanding with Dangote; the only impediment is that the two always have a clash on the dates.
When I took over the inaugural lectures series, professor showed what made them to become professors. Then, the former vice chancellor, Professor Ademu Baki, did the first four and after that, it was only one that was done during the time of the acting vice chancellor. Since I took over, we have done the 19th and we are preparing to do the 20th. So you can see the volume of encouragement, even if you look at the number of professors we have in this university, when I took over, we didn’t have up to 40, but we now have over 100 professors. Apart from those coming, those we have promoted, within the last four years, we have consistently had four promotions, and in all these promotions we had people promoted to associate professors and some people promoted to professors. These are something that you can actually say are mild achievements that we have being able to make.
Again, we have being able to stabilise the system. I never had a situation when people said they were going on strike because of any form of maladministration; I have never had a situation when students had to go on demonstration in one way or another. We were able to resuscitate the banned student unionism, so you can say we have done some little efforts to sanitise the place and make it work. But most importantly, we have made the committees to function, which is why you can observe that everything moves seamlessly.
Every last Thursday of the month, we have senate meeting. We have done that consistently for the last 56 months, and the minutes of the last meeting is always up to date since I took over, but before then the minutes were not always up to date. So, these are things that can make the university to function properly as a university should. Of course, if you look at the level of attraction that comes to the university, it has gone up significantly. So we do things that will speak for us even after we are no more around.
What would you say were your challenges in the process?
The number one challenge is for people to understand you properly. Once you have a mission, you need to actually sell it to people to be part and parcel of it. Let them own whatever you are trying to do. Because we made it open and discussed it loudly, we have been able to overcome such kind of challenges. I made it a duty to sit as chairman for every senate and bring a paper that we would all discuss; opening speeches are presented in a way that everyone has a copy so that everyone can get access to it. In the paper I am working on now, I identified seven ideas to move the university forward, so that is what I am going to present to the senate tomorrow and see the workability of the points I am proposing. I do that every month that I chair the senate and that makes the barrier give way and people understand you better and are ready and willing to work with you.
The second issue is the challenge of perceived interference; people tend to want a role that isn’t theirs. So, it takes a lot of time to tackle such issue, sometimes the assembly attempts to conduct an oversight function or duty in the university and you wonder that if they do this, what then will the council be doing, on issues of admission, promotion etc. It takes time to clarify these issues and this is a major challenge.
The third challenge is the issue of finance, some projects cannot be actualised because of insufficient funds thereby causing the project to remain redundant and causes one to work within the amount of funds available. But as an accountant, I have learnt to cut my coat according to the resources I have.
What is your signature project or your most important project?
Well, my most important achievement is that people are willing to work with a different attitude. That I can go and sleep and have confidence that people can perform even in my absence and that’s what excites me most. In the quantitative sense, I see the establishment of research centres and it is currently self-financing in the execution of its research activities. People are getting involved and people get more remuneration. I established a research round table when I took over where all parties come to present what they have done in a whole year; it is presented in the first quarter of every year. Also we bring industries to see what they can actually borrow. We also invite other universities to come and see what they can do. In fact, it is a reflection of our own contribution to the community.
At the moment which institution do you have collaboration with?
We have collaboration with institutions in Malaysia, France, Cameroon, Ghana, USA, and Poland. In the past five years, we have being able to establish collaboration with 16 institutions in different parts of the world apart from the local ones we have in Nigeria with IRM, Institute of bankers.
What are the benefits of these collaborations?
The visibility of the university has improved. Improvement in things we do. NCC gave a contribution of about 300 laptops and so much recognition for the university and the staffs.
You have just turned 53, what have you achieved in the last 53 years?
I have achieved a lot. First, as an individual, I have reached the pinnacle of my profession, whether you take it as an academic or as an accountant. As an academic, I am a professor. As an accountant, I am a fellow of Chartered Institute of Taxation. I am a fellow of Association of National Accountant of Nigeria. I am a fellow of other disciplines I profess. Also, socially, I am married with children.
In terms of human capital development, I have taught over ten thousand individuals within the scope 25 years. There is no year that I have I not taught at least, one thousand individuals in the last 25 years. In that aspect, I would say I have achieved a lot. These 25,000 individuals are aside the people we share ideas with in conferences and seminars.
In terms of environment, within the community I operate, I have impacted on my younger ones to the extent that today, I am the ‘Gardi’ in 15 different emirates. I am the ‘Gardi’ Lafiya, Keffi, Nasarawa, Awe, Karshi, Keana, Obi, Kwandere, Uke, Shabu, Odege, Asakio etc. Beyond Nasarawa State, in Kogi State, I hold two chieftaincy titles. A community in Enugu State has also given me chieftaincy title. You find out that in terms of influencing human development, I have paid my due.
My most important achievement is that people are willing to work with a different attitude. That I can go and sleep and have confidence that people can perform even in my absence and that’s what excites me most
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