The Vice-Chancellor Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, Professor Abiodun H. Adebayo, has reiterated that collaboration among Nigerian universities is pertinent, in order to showcase the country to the world. In this interview with Brand Visibility, the VC enumerated the University’s achievements over the years, and what the University aims to achieve with its new Agenda 7:2030.
What does the University want to achieve with the programme: Covenant Innovation Week 2023?
The ongoing programme, that is, the Covenant Innovation Week 2023, tagged, ‘Innovate 360° – Navigating the Future’, is being organized by one of our Centers of Excellence at Covenant University, which is Covenant Applied Informatics in Communication, Africa Center of Excellence (CApIC-ACE). It is a World Bank funded project that seeks to promote research at the cutting edge. The research we are promoting is on Prostate Cancer, Breast Cancer, Malaria, and also building a database that is Federated Genomics database that we want to gather.
We all know that Prostate Cancer has become an emerging disease among men these days and Covenant University is also championing this, to be able to provide the needed remedy that could also help people going through this challenge at the moment. That is what this center is driving at and of course Malaria is also a key focus in this Center, where we are looking at also providing therapeutic basis for Malaria, because it has also been an age-long challenge that has equally affected man till date.
Having said that, it is also important to explain why this programme is actually going on. This is the maiden edition and we are so excited because innovation is the way to grow, for us in this continent, Africa. Mind you, Covenant was principally set up to redeem the battered image of Africa, and innovation is key to development. You want to see growth, you innovate, you want to see change, you innovate. Like I said in my earlier remark at the commencement of that symposium, borrowing the word from Simon Levitt which says, “Creativity is thinking up new things, while innovation is doing new things,” and I admonished us at the programme, “Don’t just create, but innovate, because that is the ladder to greatness.” You are not just creating, creativity talks about thinking up new things, but the actual practice is now innovation, and that is the focus of this symposium; Covenant Innovation Week.
This is the maiden edition, we need to see how we can innovate in our researches. We have so many researches, so many publications, but it is time we begin to see how our publications can be converted to tangible products. It is time for us to begin to see how the projects of our students, the dissertations of our Masters students, the thesis of our students, are converted into products. Yes, it is good to publish, we have done those publications but we are saying here, let’s see what products can come out of these, and that is the whole essence of this symposium.
What products can we begin to see? People will not eat publications, but they will eat the products. The products become valuable to the common man out there. The common man cannot even read or write, there is hunger everywhere; so how can we also alleviate poverty? How can we emancipate the people? How can we cultivate these ideas so as to help reduce poverty in the land? That is the whole essence of this symposium.
It was stated that there are prizes to win for their innovations. Are there going to be mentors for them?
Programmes like this, will not just come out anyhow, we are not politicians, we do not play politics, particularly in Covenant University. Our things are orderly here, we do things in an orderly way. We have some structured programmes for those persons. We have a start-up lab in the University, and we have mentors in place, who are willing to equally mentor all of these people. This has been properly structured to accommodate persons for judicious use of the funds. The funds will not just be handed out without structures in place, of course, there are timelines to be met, milestones to be achieved, even before any form of disbursement is made; so certainly, there are mentors on ground. Faculty are there, the staff are there, the innovators are there, with pertinent skills to help guide them.
The University is now the 1st in Nigeria, looking at the Times Higher Education, (THE): Sub-Saharan Africa University Ranking, 1st in Nigeria, 1st in West Africa, and 7th in Africa. How did the University get there and what are you doing differently from other Universities?
We must return all the glory back to God, because no man can achieve anything except it be given from God Almighty. But we are not through, this is not where we are going, we are still going to go further. Recall that we had vision 1 of 10 in 10, tagged, vision 10: 2022, that spanned a whole ten years. At the time Covenant University was going to turn ten years, the Chancellor and Chairman Board of Regents, Dr. David Oyedepo came up with this prophetic agenda, and that time we had only national identity, but no global identity, and that was what actually informed that.
So, all we need do, is to see what makes for a world class university, because, that is where we belong, and that is where our identity is, as a university that is raising a new generation of leaders that will impact Africa and the world. Given that we must know what it takes, we began to learn what makes for a world class university. It is through this learning, relearning and unlearning that we got help and received the help of God, and the funding and support of the Board of Regents, championed by the Chancellor; a very pragmatic leader who wants change and desires that Africa should come out from where it is right now and be placed in its right place.
We improved our research output, we improved our teaching skills, we improved on our international outlook by doing what we are supposed to be doing and we also engaged in driving some research grants and the Board also supported us and still supporting the University by making funds available to do these things.
Now you have vision 7: 2030; what is that all about?
Of course, you know that where there is no vision, the people perish. We ended the vision 10: 2022 last year and now this vision 7: 2030 is kicking off and that is going to run for another seven years. It is starting 2023 and will terminate in 2030. It is a seven-fold mandate that we have been given by the Board of Regents of Covenant University and we are excited to see how this seven-fold mandate which will terminate by 2030 will be fulfilled and we trust that the same God that did this other one will do this too, Amen.
So, you want to know what this vision is all about? Well, one is to see that we become full scale on our open and distant learning platform; that is to say, we are going to be coming up with our open and distant learning because we need to reach out to diverse people. I am touched when I have students I need to admit into the University and I cannot admit them because of limited capacity. I cannot admit a whole lot of applicants, that is, people who have applied to come to Covenant University. We had to turn so many of them down this year, because of lack of space.
You know, we are a full boarding University, we are not like public universities where some stay on campus and some off campus. As a result of the vision we are running as a university, we cannot afford to have them stay off campus and so all our students stay on campus and as such, there will be limited space and we don’t want to exceed certain capacities so that we can adequately cater for the whole number of them. That is the reason we are doing what we are doing.
Then again, to create access through launching of our Open and Distant Learning Education, which by the grace of God, will commence very shortly. We are on it, and as soon as the final approval is given by the National Universities Commission, for us to kickoff, we will start immediately. And of course, you know what COVID -19 has also caused; learning now should not just be restricted to physical learning, some persons should also be able to learn through virtual means. That is one thing COVID-19 has really helped us to achieve even as a university during that time.
The next one is also to see how we can increase our Entrepreneurial Education, and build Entrepreneurial Skills; how we can have impactful learning engagements. We don’t also want a situation whereby our graduates will not be able to get jobs after graduation and Covenant University has been on the entrepreneurial development skills for a long time now and since inception, we started the Entrepreneurial Development Studies and that has given leverage to our students and that is why our graduates became the most employable graduates among universities. So, we are upscaling Covenant University’s entrepreneurial programme where we nurture innovators, job creators and business leaders.
The third one is to increase our research excellence and our innovation here at Covenant University. We want to see how we can, as a university, come up with various research agenda, in all our different research clusters. Researches that will touch lives, bring impact to the community and save a whole lot of people, that is what we are also driving at in this third agenda, as part of vision 7: 2030.
The fourth agenda is to see how we can expand our programmes; looking at, the College of Medicine, College of Law and some other Colleges that we want to introduce. We want to see how we can strategically increase the capacity of the University. We are looking at floating some of these programmes within the next seven years.
Number five, is to see how we can sustain and also improve our global and local rankings. We want to sustain where we are, and also increase our ranking and that is why I said we are not there yet and we are on our way to getting to where God has envisaged for us.
Number six, addresses our leadership philosophy, that is, launching our Covenant University leadership philosophy and coming up with full-fledged leadership education as part of the expansion we are talking about.
We have quite a lot of unique leadership development courses which focus on Biblical principles and values. We will be floating that and we have quite a lot of success stories with our leadership programme.
We currently run Leadership Development Studies, where a diploma is awarded to all our students aside the normal course they have come to study. Each of them take these leadership courses, and at the end of their four or five-year programme, they get a diploma certificate for that. We want to see how we can introduce ‘Innovative Leadership’ courses, either at Certificate level, Diploma level, Masters and even Doctoral degrees in leadership. That is where we are going to, within the next seven years.
The last one, is that we also want to leverage on our strategic exposure to enhance our capacity, then increase on capacity building and visibility; in order to broaden our scope, and deepen our internationalization platform. We also want to connect to other platforms, other universities across the globe. That is what vision 7: 2030 is all about.
Looking at the vision 7:2030, what are your expectations from your team members in achieving all you have just listed?
Well, the expectation is just very simple, everyone will have to connect with each of these agenda within this vision that has been stated. God has helped us to do it before and we can do it again. Everyone will have to align with this vision, we are going to see how this can also be a part of our mainstream operations. That also will foster the connectivity we are talking about here.
What do you think the recent increase in the staff salary will bring out from the Faculty and staff of the University?
First, we will say all glory be to God and we appreciate what God is doing in our midst. Covenant University is usually setting the pace for others to follow and that has been what we are doing and we want to thank the Board of Regents, led by Dr. David Oyedepo, who has been very instrumental to this.
Well, it has boosted the morale of staff, a lot of people are excited about it because, of course, you are aware that the fuel subsidy removal brought quite a lot of socio-economic hardship on everybody. We go to the same market to buy things, we go to the same shop and the Board was very sensitive to all of these, and that is why the Board has graciously approved the twenty percent increase, not on the basic, but on gross salary, meaning that if you are earning a hundred thousand naira, your total package take home, will have a twenty percent addition, and that is what it has been and it has really boosted the productivity of our staff, it has practically enhanced their morale and we are very grateful to the Board of Regents for this initiative.
Recently, you were at UNIBEN to talk about the CU experience. How do you think that other universities can leverage on what Covenant University is doing?
I will reiterate that until we begin to see how we can help ourselves, we may not be able to get there. No university has it all, there is no great University you mention today that has no partnership or does not collaborate with other universities. I am talking about world class universities like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and so on, you know all of these great universities, they all have some level of collaborations. They have some level of partnerships, because they believe there are some things they do not know and when they get to other universities that know, they can become better and it is also in line with the scriptural injunction that says: “Iron sharpeneth Iron and so shall a man sharpen the countenance of his friend.”
What UNIBEN has done is the best anybody can do. You are not doing well in a certain area; it is wisdom to connect with others who are there so we can all fly together. UNIBEN has broken the glass ceiling, as I mentioned in my lecture, and it is nice. There is no competition anywhere, except the one you set for yourself, because if it is good for Covenant University today, if it is good for any Public or Private University, then it is good for Nigeria. Let’s take Covenant University out of the first ten, in the recently released sub-Saharan ranking, where South Africa alone has four among the first ten, then Nigeria will be nowhere, and if you are not there as a country, you are not there.
What Covenant University has done, is to see that we also help other Universities, who are willing. If it is good for the university today, whether private or public, it will be good for Nigeria. It is good what UNIBEN has done, other Universities should begin to embrace it. Let us all come together, and see how we can raise the Nigeria standards high, because we are not there at all and this is when government needs to wake up and invest in research, invest in capacity building. We are losing a lot of our vibrant youths today to Europe, America and even Asia because the economy needs to be fixed, government needs to wake up and see how we can reverse this trend.
Let us invest in our research. We have the best brains in the country but we have not been able to fully utilize the potentials of our professors and that is why it appears like we are not getting anything from them. Let government spend the money, the money that is being looted day and night, let us see how we can invest and re-invest that money in our education.
How much percentage is being devoted to research for instance or into education as a whole? And that is why it appears as if we are not doing anything, but Covenant University has taken this step and UNIBEN has equally taken this step to learn, to unlearn and to relearn and I think other universities should just emulate that. Public, Private and State Universities, should just follow what UNIBEN has done and together, we will raise the banner of our great nation up to the glory of God.