Professor Andrew Dayo Akinmoladun is a Professor in the Department of Physics and Technology, Bronx Community College of the City University of New York, United States of America. Before he left the country, he was the Director, Quality Assurance, Osun State University and pioneer Lecturer, Samuel Adegboyega University, Ugwa, Edo State. Prof. Akinmoladun came into the country recently and monitored the recent Presidential and National Assembly Elections. In this interview with TUNDE OYEKOLA, he speaks on the 2015 Presidential and National Assembly elections, its outcome and what Nigerians expect from the incoming government. He also speaks on how to improve University education in Nigeria. Excerpts:
What is your view on the just concluded Presidential and National Assembly Elections conducted by INEC?
The election was not surprising because the people are yearning for change and with that view I think people are tired, especially with the style of governance of the present administration and with the advent of internet it has enlightened the citizenry of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable to the people. So this has actually gingered the whole citizenry to exchange views and ideas to the extent that one can be in Osun State and dialogue with people in Sokoto State. As a matter of fact, that has increased the level of awareness of people and the quest for a change. And the outgoing administration has failed the Nigerian citizenry in a way that basic amenities are not there for them. Having said this, the way the election goes is not a surprise. I can say that we really have to give kudos to President Jonathan because he would be the first President that we can say did not interfere with the electoral process. I think with that alone, invariably I think this is the first time in the history of Nigeria that an opposition will actually win an election. This is a step forward for more positive things to come. The People are now aware that if you are there and you don’t do it right, they have their vote to change you anytime there is an election.
How did you see the conduct of the election with the introduction of card readers and Permanent Voters’ Card (PVC)?
We have to really give credit to the electoral umpire for they are right in the middle. I think there is no process that is one hundred percent right, but with the level of what we have done in this particular election, using PVC and the card readers, I think I will give credit to INEC and Nigerians for a job well done. It takes time to achieve this level of development. Even in United States of America, we only have paper voter card and not the plastic card that was used in this election. So this is to tell you that we are one step ahead of US voting system. I voted in November 2014 in the US and I still use my paper card. That still shows you that the level of sophistication of our ballot is even better than most of the western world. With the level at which it was managed, within the short time, I think we have to appreciate and thank all those people that participated in the system.
Before the last election, we have some people drumming war and singing war songs, claiming that if a particular candidate did not win the election, there would be war, what is your reaction to that?
All of us are political animals, but with various distinctions, in politics, even in the Western world you will see them antagonizing themselves, but at the end of the day, they will still call themselves at night and fellowship with each other, so it is natural with politics. That is part of the game, but we still need enlightenment, we still have to let people know that at times the husband and wife can disagree and at the end if their main objectives is to serve the people, they should know that we fight to agree and we also fight to disagree. So these are areas where we need political literacy to let the people aware that this thing is in the interest of the entire country and not for the family business and it can be you today and it can be the turn of somebody tomorrow. If the purpose of going there is to serve your people; then you should be ready to go with whatever consequences that is attached to the position.
In which areas would you suggest an improvement for INEC and the electorate?
There are still more room for improvement on the part of INEC and electorate. The umpire has tried its best, Nigerians only need more enlightenment about the electoral process and system and play the game as expected so that we can achieve better results in future.
What advice do you have for the opposition party that has just lost the election?
Nigeria is one, we might be bounded South-west; North-west, North-east, South-east, South-south or whatever, but the word Nigeria is one and the person that wins is the President of Federal Republic of Nigeria. He is not the President of Northwest, or South-west, South-south, but the President of the entire country. He has to now sit down, take off the fighting clothes and begin the work because of the trust the people reposed in him, he has to keep up to that expectations. People are suffering; he has to evolve programmes that are germane to solving peoples’ problems. The easiest way to go is to find a lasting solution to epileptic electricity supply; lasting solution to potable water supply; if there is electricity, business will come; when there is water, business will also come; when there is good roads, business will thrive and people will be engaged. These are very important for the survivability of the citizenry. And the rate of unemployment is high, they have to come up with programmes that actually put people to work; create small loans for people, create micro finances that will propel business in individual localities; identifying most of the natural resources that is ascribed to a particular state and develop them so that all these graduates that we have can be gainfully employed and the very moment you solve the problem of unemployment; you have solved the problem of hooliganism and people then would be more aware and be more independent when he or she can wake up in the morning and go to work, he then can feel the better impact of Nigeria life.
What is your advice in choosing the caliber of people that will work with the president-elect; what qualities do you think they should possess?
I think the new President has to learn from the outgoing President because you could be a very good person or be a good manager, but if you don’t have good lieutenants, invariably you would be a failure. My advice is that Mr. President-elect should make sure that whoever is going to man a particular ministry has an idea of what that ministry is all about. You don’t put somebody that does not have military experience in the Ministry of Defence. You don’t put somebody without educational experience to be in charge of Education. These are the people that you have to make sure that they are experts in their respective fields so that when they are giving them report about such ministries, they know which one is valuable and which one to use and which one to discard. This is very important because the mistake the outgoing government made was just putting anybody as long as he is party man and put them in the ministry that they don’t even have a clue about. So invariably, instead of the minister running the ministry, it is the permanent secretaries or career officers that do the work. The new president must be very aware of that issue and he should take his administration to the grassroots.
Reports of Constitutional conference has remained controversial, especially on its implementation, that it has become a subject of campaigns, among political parties; the outgoing government said that it is only the PDP government that can implement it, what is your advice in this regard?
There is nothing bad revisiting the report of the constitutional conference and if government finds the report valuable I think they can extract from it and implement those that help the cause of Nigerians to enjoy. If the government finds it valuable, the government can try as much as possible to extract the usable part of it for the benefit of Nigerians as a whole.
What is your advice for Nigerians on democracy?
Democracy has started in Nigeria a couple of years now, but I think today, we have seen lot of people who fight because of these; but now majority of Nigerians are happy about the election and democratic transition but some are not; Nigeria is Nigeria and life continues. We have history of being our brothers’ keepers; we have history of living together; we have history of doing it together; so what I will implore everybody to do is to think of working together with the government, remain calm and be peaceful so that we can remain one.
What is your assessment of the nation standard of education and what do you think the new government can do to enhance the standard?
As a seasoned university administrator that have seen what is going on here and abroad, the rate at which our educational system deteriorates need to be addressed. I have the opportunity to serve in two university systems in Nigeria and I saw the way we started and with the standard that we put into it, but three, four years down the line, I am surprised with the rate at which all the educational system is going down. This new government has a very good policy on education and I think that one thing that is missing is the quality assurance within the educational system. They should put a ministry in place that solve the problem of quality assurance which means that it is not just about accrediting the courses, it is not just about monitoring the curriculum; but it has to be about how the curriculum is being taught; the qualification of the people that is teaching the curriculum; the methodology of teaching that curriculum so that by the time they do evaluation of the students being taught and doing the evaluation of the teachers, they would be able to see whether there is need for another orientation to be able to bring both the teachers and the students at the level at which we can be competitive with the western world. Because I have seen instances where students with Bachelor Degree over here come to US and we do an assessment, we give them remedial courses to do before they can be admitted to their Master degree programmes. That is to tell you the level that we need help within educational system.
Within the few years, government has encouraged establishment of private universities, do you think we have enough universities or there is need for more?
No we don’t have enough universities at present. Access is very important but we still have to control the establishment. That is one area I like about National Universities Commission (NUC), especially those in charge of private universities. They are so meticulous in their criteria for licensing these universities. One other thing that they are doing that I so much admire is in the establishment of new private universities, they will look at that catchment area and assign them to mentor university. These are the things I think is good and make things very easy. But we still need more universities in the country because when you look at the number of students passing JAMB yearly, but unable to get admitted; if you have all the requirements as a student and you can pass JAMB, you don’t have to go through the stress of being admitted into the university system. In order to create more rooms and access for these young students, we need more private universities.
What other areas do you think NUC can enhance the standard of education in Nigeria?
I think there is need for the introduction of Entrepreneurship courses in all the academic units within the university system. This is the only thing I think is missing in Nigeria university system because every university is supposed to have entrepreneurship unit that even if you are History major you still have to take some courses in entrepreneurship so that by the time you are waiting for government job you can actually engage yourself and be your own boss with the little entrepreneurship course that you have mastered. I want to advocate that it should be included in all the academic units within the university system.
What is your advice to PDP that just lost power to APC?
The PDP has grown and it has over grown so that it has success and do not know how to manage the success. Majority of the leaders are only concerned about their pockets. They are not concerned about the people they are going to serve anymore. That is the main problem of that party. This is just a lesson because in politics, if you say you want to serve the people, you have to be able to serve them and then you have to listen to the people and there is no more room for hooliganism because people are now wise. Within a family you will find about two to three ND holders, they might be riding Okada, but they are educated but they are jobless. If you are a party leader that is only concerned about how much you are going to make from contestant one to contestant two, then there is no more room for that. They need to realign their party. Four years is another tomorrow down the lane, if they are able to rebrand themselves; know that politics is not just about making money but it is about service, it is about being around people then things will change.