RENDERING THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF PROFESSOR AMOS IGBEKELE AJIBEFUN, 5th VICE CHANCELLOR, AAUA.
By TRIANGLE News Media
Following the completion of tenure of Professor Nazeem Olufemi Mimiko as the fourth substantive Vice Chancellor of Adekunle Ajasin University on Sunday, 4th January, 2014, enthusiastic University staff and students, on that warm, sun-lit Tuesday morning of January 6th, trekked to and thronged the Eastern Gate of the University to receive Professor Amos Igbekele Ajibefun on the 6th day of January, 2015, who was newly appointed as the fifth substantive Vice Chancellor of the ward-winning institution.
His sterling performance at the interview had earned him appointment as Vice Chancellor of AAUA, approved and announced by the government of Ondo State under the leadership of former Governor Olusegun Mimiko, on the 5th of January. Before his coming, his testimonials as the one who turned around the fortunes of Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo, had arrived before him. Small wonder, therefore, that Ajasin University Community readily welcome him with open arms.
Ajibefun, who was very pleased to have been so received, made his first and only promise, to make the University happy. Four years on, a lot have been done. This commentary is therefore a deliberate probing of the efforts of the University in the last four years under the leadership of Professor Ajibefun with a view to answering if he has truly lived his words to make the University better and happy.
In setting out, however, mention must be made of the fact that Professor Ajibefun regime commenced at a period of national economic stress, a situation which expectedly caused serious fiscal constraints. But despite the hard times, Professor Ajibefun expressed his resolve to build on the solid foundation already laid by his predecessors so that the University has continued to make steady progress in all facets.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
Research being one of the cardinal areas for which universities are established is one effort that this administration has given a prime of place. The University therefore has continued to promote policy-relevant and problem-solving researches. The University’s scholars have repeatedly won grants from different prestigious organizations, such as Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation ( AvH) of Germany, International Foundation for Science (IFS), Sweden, among others.
The University’s Centre for Research and Development was recently re-engineered to enable it delivers the University’s mandate to be a First Class Institution in research. While the University continues to sustain funding of research through research grants, active researchers in the University are encouraged to explore and secure research grants from Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund, and other sources so that they can continue to engage in functional and cutting edge researches. Under this regime, the University’s academic centres have collaborated with a number of credible institutions and agencies.
The Centre for Research and Development collaborated with the national office of Technology Application and Transfer with a view to establishing an Intellectual Property Desk that will coordinate the registration of patents arising from research activities of the University. This administration is highly committed to functional research as it does everything in its powers to encourage and promote this.
To this end, the University’s Centre for Research and Development is on the verge of signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Research Institutes to shore up the University’s research efforts. Even now, the management of the Engineering Materials Development Institute (EMDI) has agreed in principle to partner with AAUA in instituting joint research and development projects and also providing engineering services to the University.
Within a short period, AAUA’s Centre for Bio-Computing and Drug Development (CBDD), one of the newly established centres for innovative research in the University, took off in 2015 with the purpose of addressing medical and health challenges in Nigeria and other parts Africa, through drug development and using the instruments of computation and molecular biology techniques. This Centre has succeeded in establishing partnership with the University of Nagasaki in Japan, National Biotechnology Agency (NABDA), Nigeria, National Agency for Food and Drugs Control, (NAFDAC) and the Korean Research Institute of Bioscience & Biotechnology (KRIBB).
The University has continued to make good progress. The University now has active collaborations with several local and foreign universities. AAUA has expanded its networking efforts with top foreign organizations and universities, such as Delaware State University, University of Maryland, Eastern Shore; American Medical Foundation, Alabama State University, Auburn University, Morgan State University and Troy University, all in USA.
Under these partnerships, members of staff and students of AAUA continue to benefit tremendously. The University, since the year 2015, has also been receiving, yearly, scientists and professors from the partnering U.S Universities on joint collaborative academic programmes, capacity development and upgrade of academic programmes and facilities.
Under Professor Ajibefun, great efforts have been made to sustain the integrity of the University’s academic programmes through cutting edge research, strict adherence to merit driven admission, merit-driven staff appointment, zero tolerance for academic fraud and indiscipline. The University continues to absorb own alumni with First Class Honours degree and sending them for higher degrees at home and abroad.
AAUA has also consistently earned 100 per cent in the accreditation of its courses by the National Universities Commission, NUC. In 2015, for instance, the University made especial achievement with the accreditation of courses wherein 25 out of its 26 programmes received full accreditation. The University has a similar outing in 2017 with equally successful outcome.
In spite of economic stress, the University has been able to make commendable progress by partnering with Government Agencies such as the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFUND, and the Federal Government Needs Assessment and the Alumni Association to deliver significant projects, which include the construction of gigantic projects, namely, Laboratory Block, Faculties of Arts and Education Buildings. Others include the construction of the Faculty of Agriculture Building, 500-Capacity Lecture Theatre, construction of 300-Capacity Lecture Theatre and construction of Student Hostels.
The University is presently working on establishing 4 Megawatt solar power project on Campus, which, upon completion, will bring enduring cure to the challenges associated with the supply of electricity in the University and safe the University’s purse from the humongous amount of money which is spent on diesel, purchase and maintenance of generating sets.
Under the leadership of Professor Igbekele Ajibefun, the University’s dream of birthing own Community Radio was achieved. Today, Radio AAUA 90.3 FM, which was commissioned in December 2017, has since added to the list of the University’s infrastructural development and has been enhancing the programmes of the University as well as the socioeconomic life of the host communities.
STAFF DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMMES
This regime particularly believes that conferences and workshops are stout parts of academic culture that promote academic culture, hence, AAUA organizes and hosts international conferences on regular basis as part of the University’s internationalization drive. Between 2015 and 2017, the University has hosted over ten national and international conferences on its campus to issues of national and international relevance.
The University has also held different capacity building workshops, including a 3- day workshop on University Culture in 2015, which was conceived to set the tone for achieving efficient service delivery and responsible University governance. Officers of the University, including the Principal Officers, Professors, Deans of Faculties, Directors of Centres, Heads of Departments and Units participated in the training. The outcome and resolutions at the training formed important components of the various ingenious reforms that have been carried out by this administration.
Between 2015 and 2017, a total of 223 academic and administrative staff were sponsored on local and international conferences and training by the University and TETFund. Currently, about a hundred of academic staff are on study leave to undertake postgraduate programmes in different universities across the globe. These efforts have remarkably helped in enhancing capacity building.
INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS AND STAFF WELFARE
Conscious of the place of peace in any organization, this regime has always toed the path of cordial relationship by regularly engaging the staff unions through dialogue in the past four years. Where crisis had unavoidably occurred, especially when there was delay in salary payment in 2016 due to economic challenges, efforts were made to ensure that it was a win-win situation.
The three non-teaching staff unions – the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, the National Association of Academic Technologists, NAT, and the Non-Academic Staff Union, NASU, which have been in limbo before this tenure (since 2012) as a result of crisis in the unions have been restored with elected executives in place.
The welfare of staff, to this regime, remains a matter of utmost priority; hence, it has been doing all it can to ensure that salaries are paid regularly. In addition to regular payment of salaries, the University has also activated different loan schemes for all categories of staff. The loan schemes include Housing Loan Scheme, Car Refurbishing Loan Scheme and Furniture Loan Scheme.
SUPPORT FOR STUDENTS
This administration has sustained the work-study scheme programme established by the previous administration, an initiative that allows indigent and interested students to work for two hours daily and earn stipends to take care of their financial needs. Four hundred students have benefited from this programme in the last three years.
With the increase in school fees, the present Governing Council approved financial support to assist the students cope with payment of the new fees.
These include introduction of loan scheme, scholarship scheme as well as expansion of the existing Work-Study Scheme, in addition to other forms of support. Also, a new office, Students’ Support Centre was created under the Vice Chancellor’s office. To this end, a committee was also set up to work out modalities and criteria for the implementation of all forms of financial support to the students.
Professor Ajibefun has undoubtedly built on the solid foundation that he met on ground, and that explains why the University has been making progress in all areas. Only recently, the result of ranking of Nigerian Universities by the National Universities Commission, NUC, was released in August 2017, and out of the 164 Universities, AAUA was ranked 31st best University and the 3rd best State University in Nigeria, moving from 46th position in 2014 to 31st position in 2016.
There is no telling, therefore, that Professor Ajibefun has, indeed, justified his preferment as a Vice Chancellor of one of the leading Universities in the country. We congratulate him, heartily on these landmark achievements and for the tone of altitude that he has succeeded in setting for AAUA.