*’My vision to handover a better UNILORIN than I inherited is achieved’
*’Blackmail notwithstanding, UNILORIN remains most patronised’
*I wanted to be many things but find myself in Vet Medicine – Ambali
Prof. AbdulGaniyu Ambali, Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria, was born in Ilorin, Kwara State some 65 ago precisely 1952 to the family of Mallam Ambali Gidado and Mrs Husseina Angulu. After his primary education at Pakata Primary School, Ilorin, he proceeded to McBride Secondary School, Jalingo (non Government Secondary School, Jalingo) in Taraba State. From Jalingo, AbdulGaniyu went to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria for his undergraduate degree and then University of Liverpool, United Kingdom for his postgraduate degree. He was awarded DVM in 1981 from Ahmadu Bellow University and M.V.Sc 1984 and PhD 1989 from the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom. Prof. Ambali became a Member of College of Veterinary Surgeons of Nigerai (MCVSN) in 2004 and Fellow of College of Veterinary Surgeons of Nigeria (FCVSN) in 2009.
Prof. AbdulGaniyu Ambali started his career as a Veterinary Surgeon with the Ministry of Rural and Community Development, Kano, Nigeria in 1981 as a Youth Corper and later joined the services of the University of Maiduguri, Maidiguri, Nigeria as an Assistant Lecturer in 1982, rose through the ranks and became Professor of Venterinary Medicine in 1995. To date, he has over thirty years of teaching experience at University level. Prof. Ambali has supervised many postgraduate students at both Masters and PhD levels and at present has graduated seventeen postgraduate students at both Masters and PhD levels and at present has graduated seventeen postgraduate students and some are still under his tutelage. The students came from different establishments across the country. He has published over eighty articles in local, national and international peer reviewed journals. Ambalis has been Head of Department of Veterinary Medicine University of Maiduguri for five years, Director of Veterinary Teaching Hospital, University of Maiduguri for five years, Acting Dean and later substantive Dean, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Maiduguri and the Foundation Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Ilorin Nigeria. Additionally he was one time member of University of Maiduguri Governing Council representing the Senate and Member University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital Management Board for two terms representing Senate and the Vice Chancellor.
Prof. AbdulGaniyu Ambali, whose time as Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin has known tremendous improvement in the infrastructure and academic development of the Nigeria’s most patronized university, was engaged in this interview with The DEFENDER on Friday where he told his media guest why he is and will never be bothered about the challenges by some “minority” trying to pull down his personality and the university image in the name of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Excerpts:
“They wanted me to sway toward the minority and I told them that 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…This is a university where we encourage democratic principles and we allow our students to watch what we are doing with the hope of going back to larger society and practice the same. If we practice autocratic means of governance, that is what they would also do outside and that, we tried to discourage.”
ASUU from outside has continued to tell stories about your person but we are yet to find a single person that has confirmed those stories on our two separate visits to the University of Ilorin community, we have seen nothing to suggest to us that what we have been hearing is true. What exactly is the problem responsible for this contradiction, which we don’t know?
Thank you very much. I wish I knew (what the problem is) but what I can remember vividly is that they (ASUU) came to me about two years ago and they told me that they would like me to help them to intervene between them and Ilorin academics that they wanted to bring Ilorin on board with the national body.
And what was your reply to them?
I welcomed them. I gave them possible roadmap for them to follow so as to achieve their aim. I gave them all the different interest groups that we have so that they could consult with those groups. I also advised them to be an independent referee among all of them.
If they wanted to bring Ilorin on board with the national body, did they also remember the experience of Ilorin 41 of the past?
Well, I am sure they remembered.
They must have their reason that they probably told you on why they should bring UNILORIN back to national body, if they remembered the experience of Ilorin 41 and how since that time Ilorin’s major selling point has been in its achievement of never going on strike?
Really, that question I didn’t ask them. But they thought Ilorin has been out of their fold for a while and they thought 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, which you did not do but having to subject them to some kind of transparency?
(Laughs) Well, 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 was what I tried to encourage them to do.
But in any case, whether you belong to minority or you belong to majority, you are all staff of the University of Ilorin and that should be my primary interest; to look after the interest of everybody that works here in the university. Be you academic or non-teaching staff, everybody forms my interest group and that is what I tried to do.
They wanted me to sway toward the minority and I told them that 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.
In that case, coupled with the facts on ground in the university community, will it be correct to hold you up as being victim of your own transparency?
(Laughs) Exactly and openness because I gave an open arm to them coming to University of Ilorin.
Quite true that you gave them open arm but they probably wanted you to use executive fiat which you did not do?
This is a university where we encourage democratic principles and we allow our students to watch what we are doing with the hope of going back to larger society and practice the same. If we practice autocratic means of governance, that is what they would also do outside and that, we tried to discourage.
Is it your own deliberate contribution to the ongoing Change Agenda of the Federal Government?
It is our system here in the University of Ilorin and yes, we believe that the Change Agenda of the Federal Government should also begin from the university community.
But are you not therefore bothered by this seeming conspiracy of silence on the part of the majority who allow the minority to be this vocal dragging your name in the mud on the pages of the newspapers?
Probably so, but I try as much as possible to allow independent thinking and action. I don’t want to be the one instigating them to respond. But once I can have peace on campus I feel satisfied because, the essence of university governance is to have peace and that peace is what we have been enjoying for the past 17 years that we have never closed our doors to our clients.
And that has been my primary objective. I relate very well with Academic Staff Union of University of Ilorin (ASUU Ilorin) and also do the same with non-teaching staff union (NASU) SSANU and others on campus. That is what has seen us through for the past four and a half years that I have been here as Vice Chancellor.
By October this year, Prof, your tenure as VC will expire. What is it that, when you look back to, will continue to make you happy as legacy you left behind?
Thank you very much. When I first came on board about four and a half years ago, I granted an interview where they asked me what my vision was, and I gladly told them that my vision was to handover University of Ilorin a better university than I inherited, in all ramifications. 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 architectural landscape 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 university abroad where there is sanity, there is peace and where everything works. We have touched lives of almost every facet of the University of Ilorin community. If you are a staff you have a better office. If you are an academic staff you have a better classroom to teach and you have a better laboratory to operate from. If you are non-teaching staff you have a better atmosphere to operate from. If you are a student, you are more secured in the university and you have better facilities where you can go and read till the time that you want.
Going forward, we have better electricity supply on campus and we can now beat our chests that we have up to 24 hours per day of electricity on campus. If you are a student you can either go to the classroom and read or come out and relax at our students’ sit-outs that we have. Gone are the days when you would hang around the classrooms when you didn’t have lecture and you would hang around at places because there were no places to relax. Now we have a better environment for academic activities. If you were a junior academic four years ago, today you can beat your chest that you have been given opportunity to go for your post-graduate training at Masters and PhD levels both 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.
So, now you have more opportunity to relate with your colleagues from other parts of the world. If you are a non-academic, we have embarked on training and retraining of our staff to make them more productive in terms of what they are doing. Also our security personnel have undergone training and retraining to make them more efficient, more civil in their activities. And if you reside within the University of Ilorin community and environs, we have been able to reach out through our community services or community engagement to, at least, let the people out there have some impacts 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.
The last time we came, you said it was one week that the licence for the power generation project of your university was secured. What is the update, I mean have they started work?
Now they are at the point of mobilization. They are busy signing papers with their sponsors in the United States to get the money to come to site and start the project. They have done some level of survey and then, by the time they come back, they will be starting at a very high velocity with the hope of finishing it as quickly as possible. I was in touch with them this morning (May 12) they said they were trying to sign the necessary papers in the US and once they finish that, they will be mobilizing to site.
Now, while you are putting all these developmental projects in place and somebody or some people sit back and begin to write petitions to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) claiming that you are corrupt, if the claim is not true, do you have any feeling of disappointment?
Yes, initially, I was feeling disappointed asking myself, “How can you sacrifice your time, your energy and your interests,” you know 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 sit there and write disappointing articles?” For those that know this place, when they come in and see what we have been able to put up, they take a back and ask, “What are these people talking about?”
In fact this morning (May 12) we had some people that came from 6-3-3-4 Magazine. Without me knowing they came a couple of hours earlier and went for fact-finding just like you (The DEFENDER) did the last time you came. So they interacted with 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 came in and started asking me question that why is there contradiction between what is happening on campus and what is being said outside? I just replied that it is either they are talking out of ignorance or they are talking out of mischief or they just want to be vindictive.
I used to tell people that I served under about four or five Vice Chancellors watching them the way they were doing their business. They included Professor Jubril Aminu, who later became Minister of Petroleum, Education and also a Senator, people like Professor Nuhu Alkali, former NIMPS director, Umaru Shehu, World Health Organisation (WHO) expert. I served under their vice chancellorship either as dean, director and that I saw the way they were doing business. Not only that, when I was undergoing my PhD training at the University of Liverpool, I saw the focus of my vice chancellor. He was the PRO of the university going here and there to the industry, to the government and making friends for the university. Seeing that, I said waoh! This is the way to run a university to be purposeful, focused and take the university to where it should be.
If you look at those vice chancellors I had understudied, they were not looking back or be deterred by whatever anybody was saying against them because, you have a business 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, I believe you can never satisfy everybody. Just do your best within the limited time available to you and then leave the rest for God to judge.
And I am glad that my team and I have been focused and that has resulted into what we have been able to achieve. In the last four and a half years we have commissioned almost sixteen projects that we have contributed to the University of Ilorin and very soon, by God’s grace, we shall start another seventeen projects to add value to what we already have.
Those that are busy saying one thing or the other are just concentrating on destroying my personality or the university, and that of the university they have been doing for quite sometimes.
How do you mean, that they also have problem with University of Ilorin work?
They have been doing that for quite sometimes. I remember about 17 years ago they were out to destroy University of Ilorin because they were busy writing in papers, on the internet even though the internet was not this robust. They were condemning and asking the whole world not to recognise the certificates of University of Ilorin.
For what reason would they say certificates of 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, they were aimed at making sure that those campaigns of calumny failed. And that is why today, for the last four or more years, University of Ilorin has been the most patronized university by the general public that is, the students and their parents because they know this is where they can get value for money and value for their time.
Even earlier few days ago when we paid a courtesy call on JAMB registrar, Professor Is-haq Oloyede, to congratulate him, and there and then he was telling us that the ongoing JAMP starting tomorrow (May 13) the statistics he had was that the University of Ilorin again for the 2016/2017 is the most patronized university in Nigeria.
So, you could see the judgment of the general public; both the parents and the students away from the judgment of the few. Which means the majority of more than 90 percent people on campus and the majority of community people in Nigeria out there are seeing the University of Ilorin as the university that they want to see, as the university they want their children to belong to and as a university that is worth its name. That is why everybody wants to be here.
And if you check the students, some have consistently been trying to get admission into the University of Ilorin. And some of them have told their parents that look, “It is either the University of Ilorin or you take me overseas.” That is a bargaining scenario some of them gave their parents.
“Those that are busy saying one thing or the other are just concentrating on destroying my personality or the university, and that of the university they have been doing for quite sometimes. I remember about 17 years ago they were out to destroy University of Ilorin because they were busy writing in papers, on the internet even though the internet was not this robust. They were condemning and asking the whole world not to recognise the certificates of University of Ilorin. 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, they were aimed at making sure that those campaigns of calumny failed.”
But talking more seriously, what is the secret of UNILORIN being the most patronized university in Nigeria and yet it did not emerge as Nigeria’s number one university?
I will only tell you what I consider to be the secret of why University of Ilorin is the most patronized university in Nigeria. And it comes from the stand point of what I have just said where the bargaining scenario some children give their parents is that, “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 years programme and he doesn’t have academic challenges, after four years he graduates. Which means you, as parent, can schedule your spending maintaining your source of income and then in four years time you are smiling with your child. Not in a situation where you send your child to university and in ten years you are not sure whether that child will graduate.
I was somewhere in Nigeria a couple of months ago and somebody saw me and said, “You are VC of University of Ilorin.” I said yes. He said, “Thank you very much.” I said what did I do? He said, “My child was in my university and when he was going to 200 level he sat for another JAMB and left his colleagues preparing to go to 200 level and went to University of Ilorin to join 100 level. Do you know that he graduated almost three years before his colleagues he left at 200 level in my own university graduated?”
So, you can imagine the amount of human resources, time and money that were wasted. I am not condemning other universities for doing things which prolong years of studies before students graduate; they must have their own reasons.
But then, is there no solution to this kind of prolonged years in Nigerian universities other than UNILORIN and as a university that has tried it successfully, is there is no way you can help others turn Nigerian universities around with suggestion based on the experiences of you and of your predecessors?
There is a solution. However, I am sure they are all academics. They have PhD in their respective chosen fields. If they want solution, I am sure they will find solution.
Can one be right to say that campaign of calumny against University of Ilorin failed in the times of your predecessors and will also no succeed in your own time?
By God’s grace.
If so, what about after you will have left, do you have any cause to fear for your successor that the campaigns of calumny may succeed in his time?
You know, my predecessor (Prof. Is-haq Oloyede) used to say that, “University of Ilorin is a chosen university and if God chooses something, be rest assure that it will be protected.” As I am here as the Vice Chancellor of University of Ilorin, I am not the one sustaining the legacy that I inherited. We have to give kudos to God. I am just here putting up a little bit of skills that I have. But it is God that crowns somebody’s effort with success. I am sure that the God that has been supporting the University of Ilorin for the last 17 years will not sleep and the same God will also ensure that my successor is equally supported.
Today you are at the peak of your career as Vice Chancellor of a notable Nigerian university. Did you actually set out in life to be in the academics?
All along I had been leaving everything 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 had a clique of three of us in a class who used to be the best. I remember one of my classmates then from among the three of us got 100 percent. I also struggled and got it once. The third person also tried and got ninety something.
And so, by the time I left secondary school I wanted to be many things; first of all I loved to be an accountant because I love figures but by the time I went to Maiduguri for an entrance examination into school of basic studies, within the 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 medical arena. But then I decided that, being a Muslim used to slaughtering rams during the Ileya (sallah) festival, I am more comfortable (with animal health) than going to the hospital (laughs).
That was how I find myself in vet medicine. And before I finished I said, again, that I liked industrial chemistry working with coke factories (laughs). In fact, I tried so many things on my mind before God now chose the vet medicine for me.
Way to the academic
And by the time I finished the course I prayed to God that I wanted to 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 can’t have a settled home by so doing and so that He should make stationed in a particular place. By the time I finished, God chose the University of Maiduguri for me to be the starting point of my academic career. And here I am today.
From which part of the world is Professor Ambali coming from?
I am coming from Ilorin. I was born here and I started my primary school here before I joined my uncle in Bauchi, spent brief moment there and moved to Gombe and then from Gombe to Yola, from there to Taraba State where I had my secondary school and then from Taraba to Zaria, Kaduna State for my degree and then from Kaduna to Kano for my NYSC and from Kano to Maiduguri for the starting point of my career. Then from University of Maiduguri to the University of Liverpool for my postgraduate studies, I came back and continued with University of Maiduguri before I finally moved down here in 2010.
So coming to your question about which part of the world I am coming from, I would say that I am coming from all parts of the world (laughs).
On a final note, when I look at great people I try to link the current 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 of big status today and if it does, what do you do?
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 little children in school. I love to look at a class and just screen all of them with my eyes and continue ruminating that, “Look, among these young children we have Presidents, governors, we have Senators, we have doctors, we have judges and yet none of them knows what tomorrow holds for him or her.” And I look at them with admiration and amazement.
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 called me, “AbduGaniyu” and I said yes. 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. We argued a lot but played football together and we were just concentrating on subjects being taught by the class teacher and not thinking of what we would become in future. So, looking back, I can repeatedly say that I thank God.
“…initially, I was feeling disappointed asking myself, “How can you sacrifice your time, your energy and your interests,” you know 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 sit there and write disappointing articles?” For those that know this place, when they come in and see what we have been able to put up, they take a back and ask, “What are these people talking about?””