UNILORIN is Nigeria’s most patronised university despite ASUU’s adversarial politics – Prof. Ambali, VC
Prof. AbdulGaniyu Ambali, Vice Chancellor of University of florin, florin, was born in “florin, some 65 years ago into the family of Mallam Gidado Ambali. After attending “Pakata Primary School, florin, he proceeded to McBride Secondary School, Jalingo. “From Jalingo, AbdulGaniyu went to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, for his first “degree and University of Liverpool, United Kingdom for his postgraduate degrees. He “started his career as a veterinary surgeon as a Youth Corps member with the Ministry of Rural and Community Development, Kano in 1981 and later joined University of Maiduguri as Assistant Lecturer in 1982 from where he rose through the ranks and became a professor of veterinary medicine in 1995. He has over thirty years “of teaching experience at the university level with 80 published articles in local, national and international peer reviewed journals. In this interview, he speaks about why he is not bothered about the challenges he faces from people he calls the “minority” trying to pull down his personality and the image of University of florin in the name of the Academic Union of Universities, ASUU Excerpts: Chancellor of a notable university. Did “you actually set out in life to be in the academics? I have always left things about my life to God. I always concentrated on one thing at a “time. When I was in secondary school, I concentrated on being the best mathematician “that I could be. We were a group of three in the class who used to be the best. I “remember one of my classmates then from among the three who scored 100 percent in “mathematics. I also struggled and scored 100 percent. The third person also struggled and “got ninety something. “And so, by the time I left secondary school, I wanted to be many things; first of all, “loved to be an accountant because I love figures, but by the time I went to Maiduguri “for entrance examination into School of Basic Studies, inside the examination hall, I “changed my mind. Instead of going for mathematics/physics/chemistry, I went for “physics/mathematics, then chemistry and biology and changed my direction to “medicine. But then I decided that, being a Muslim who used to slaughter rams during “Ileya (sallah), I am more comfortable (with animal health) than going to the hospital “(laughs). That is how I found myself in vet medicine. And before I finished I found that I liked “industrial chemistry, that is working with coke factories (laughs). In fact, I tried so “many things on my mind before God now chose vet medicine for me. Way to the academic Before I finished the course, I prayed to God that I wanted a situation where I will be “stationed in a particular place. I don’t like a situation where today I will be in Lagos “and then tomorrow a circular will come and say ‘go to Sokoto’. I prayed to God that I “couldn’t have a settled home by so doing. By the time I finished in ABU, God chose “University of Maiduguri as the starting point of my academic career. And here I am “today. From which part of the country is Professor Ambali? I am from Ilorin. I was born here and started primary school here before I joined my “uncle in Bauchi, spent sometime there and then moved to Gombe and then Yola. From “Yola, I relocated to Jalingo where I had my secondary education. I read vet medicine in “ABU. When I meet great people, I try to link their status with what they were as “unknown little ones. Does it also occur to you that you, an unknown little boy of “those days, are now what you are today? Yes, it does, but whenever, it so occurs, I give thanks to God that it could not have been “my making but God’s blessing. That is why I love little children particularly those in “school. I love to look at a class and say silently, “Look, among these young children we “have presidents, governors, senators, doctors, judges and yet none of them knows what “tomorrow holds for him.” I remember one of my secondary school mates back then, who was our head boy and I “was class captain, who came and sat where you are sitting and he said, “We never knew “you would become what you have become today; if we knew, we would have treated “you differently.” But I just see myself as having responsibilities to do here. I never “thought it’s a big thing. For a classmate of over 40 years ago now looking back and “saying that, it touched me because I was just one of the boys. ASUU from outside has continued to tell stories about your person in un- “complementary terms. What exactly is the problem? I wish I know (what the problem is) but what I can remember vividly is that some “national leaders of ASUU came to me about two years ago and told me they would like “me to intervene between them and the local chapter. And what was your disposition? I welcomed them. I gave them the possible roadmap to follow to achieve their aim. I “gave them the different interest groups to consult. I also advised them to be an “independent referee in dealing with the groups. If they wanted to bring Ilorin back into the national body, did they also remember “the experience of the Ilorin 41 of the past? I am sure they remembered. They must have their reason for wanting to bring UNILORIN back to the national “body, if they remembered the experience of the Ilorin 41 and how since that time “Ilorin’s major achievement has been never to go on strike? Really, that question I didn’t ask them. But they thought Ilorin has been out of their “fold for a while and it was time for them to bring it on board and it turned out to be a “different thing. But how does that get to affect your personality? I asked them to consult with my people and let them decide what they want. “Unfortunately they now wanted to impose the minority on the majority. And since they didn’t have the majority, didn’t it occur to you that they probably “wanted you to use your powers as Vice Chancellor to do it? I didn’t know that was what they wanted me to do because I know that. in democracy, “the majority should have their way and then the minority should have their say. That is “what I tried to encourage them to do. But in any case, whether you belong to the minority or the majority, you are all staff of “the University of Ilorin and my mandate is to look after the interest of everybody, “academic or non-teaching staff. They wanted me to decide in favour of the minority and I told them I am a democrat “that allows the rule of law to take its course and allows the majority of the academics to “choose who they want as their leader. That is the problem. By October this year, your tenure as VC will expire. What is it that, when you look back, will continue to make you happy as the legacy you left behind? When I came on board about four and a half years ago, I was asked what my vision was, and I said my vision was to hand over University of Ilorin a better university than I “met it. And I am happy today, if you were here four and a half years ago and you are “here today, the first thing that will strike you is the beauty of the campus. We have been “able to change the landscape of the university, for better. If you come into the University of Ilorin, you feel you are in a university abroad where “there is sanity, there is peace and where everything works. We have touched the life of “almost every facet of the University of Ilorin community. If you are an academic staff, “you have a better classroom to teach and you have a better laboratory to use. If you are “non-teaching staff, you have a better atmosphere to operate. If you are a student, you “are more secure in the university and you have better facilities. We have improved electricity supply on campus; in fact, up to 24 hours per day of “electricity. If you are a student you can either go to the classroom and read or relax at “our students’ sit-outs. If you were a junior academic four years ago, today you can beat “your chest that you have been given the opportunity to go for your post-graduate “training within and outside the country. If you were an academic staff confined to your “office, now you have opportunity to relate with your colleagues from other parts of the “world either through our internet facilities or through conference or workshop “attendance. If you are a non-academic staff, we have embarked on training and retraining to make “you more productive. And if you reside within our environs, we have been able to reach “out through our community services to let the people out there have impact of the “university in their neighbourhoods. So, we have touched the life of almost everyone that has something to do with the “University of Ilorin. Now, while you are putting all these developmental projects in place and some “people begin to write petitions to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission “(EFCC) claiming that you are corrupt, do you have any feeling of disappointment? “Yes, initially, I felt disappointed after asking myself, ‘How can you sacrifice your time, “your energy and your interests’, because we all have family commitments, family “interest, friends within the community not getting the best out of you in terms of “relating with them, ‘then somebody just sits there and writes disappointing articles?’ “For those that knew this place, when they come in and see what we have been able to “put up, they ask, ‘What are these people talking about?’ We had some people that came from the 6-3-3-4 Magazine. Without me knowing, they “came hours before they were scheduled to meet me and went for fact-finding. So they “interacted with the local ASUU, some academic staff, some other staff members and “came up with something quite contrary to what they were hearing from outside. So when they started asking me questions about the contradiction, I just replied that it “was either my critics were talking out of ignorance or mischief or they just wanted to be “vindictive. I used to tell people that I served under about four or five Vice Chancellors watching “the way they were running the University of Maiduguri including Professor Jubril “Aminu, who later became the Minister of Petroleum, Education and senator; and “Professor Nuhu Alkali. If you look at those vice chancellors I had understudied, they were not looking back or “deterred by whatever anybody was saying against them because, you have a goal to “accomplish and you have only two years to do that. By the time you start looking left “and right, you are just wasting time. And whatever you do anyway, you can never “satisfy everybody. Just do your best within the time available to you and leave the rest “for God to judge. And I am glad that my team has been focused. In the last four and a half years, we have “commissioned almost sixteen projects, and very soon, by God’s grace, we shall start “another seventeen projects to add value to what we already have. Those who have been busy saying one thing or the other are just concentrating on “destroying my personality or the university. How do you mean, that they also have problem with the fact that University of “Ilorin is working? They have been doing that for quite some time. I remember about 17 years ago, they “were out to destroy University of Ilorin because they were busy writing in newspapers, “on the internet even though the internet was not this robust at that time. They were “condemning and asking the whole world not to recognise the certificates of University “of Ilorin. For what reason would they say the certificates of the university where they taught “should not be recognized? They gave a reason. They said because we didn’t teach but just award certificates. You “can imagine that kind of attitude. But I am happy that, based on the consistency of my “predecessors, the campaign of calumny failed. And that is why for the past four years, “University of Ilorin has been the most patronized university by students and their “parents because they know this is where they can get value for money and time. But talking more seriously, what is the secret behind UNILORIN being the most “patronized university in Nigeria and yet it did not emerge as Nigeria’s number one “university? This comes from the stand point of children who tell their parents, ‘It is either “University of Ilorin or you take me overseas’. And, of course, the parents know if they “should sponsor their children to University of Ilorin, if it is a four-year-programme and “they don’t have academic challenges, after four years they graduate. Which means you, “as a parent, can schedule your spending and then in four years time you are smiling “with your child. Not in a situation where you send your child to the university and in ten “years you are not sure whether that child will graduate.