Professor AbdulRasheed Na’Allah is the pioneer Vice-Chancellor/Chief Executive, Kwara State University, Malete. Since his assumption of office in 2009, the University has continued to grow from strength to strength, as evident in its stable calendar, unique programmes, and state-of-the-art infrastructure. In this interview with Aisha Olagunju, Temitope Salawu, Rasheedat Balogun, and Ayomikun Olagoroye, Prof. Na’Allah speaks on why KWASU is different from a typical university in Nigeria, among other issues. Excerpts:
Sir, how can you describe the development of the University since its inception?
I would say it has been phenomenal in the sense that we started from a virgin land; that place there was nothing there before except trees and if you go to that campus today and see where it is now from nothing to something and not just ordinary something, we have things on our campus which you can’t find on other campuses. We are the only one doing Aeronautical Engineering in the whole of Nigeria. We are the only one in the whole of North Central doing Tourism, Hospitality and Events Management. As a university, there are lots of things. We are the leading University in Entrepreneurship education. I mean these are unique things that we do. Our Mass Communication, our Microbiology, every course that we do stands on its own and they stand tall in the sense that our academic staff are absolutely dedicated, students are working exceptionally hard. We have a unique place and I am really proud of that campus.
Can you enlighten us about the Special Convocation coming up?
It is a Special Convocation where the Senate will award honorary doctoral degrees. You see the regular convocation is where we give normal degrees, we do give honorary degrees also at regular convocation but because we have held this year’s convocation in June as you know, we have a fixed date for our convocation so we want to make sure this year that the award of honorary degree which has been approved since that convocation, we now call a special convocation to give it out. We have not presented it to the awardees; you know we should have done it at the regular convocation, so we needed a special one to do that which is the one you are talking about.
What can you say about the staff housing estate?
This is by the staff themselves. The unions and the staff are exceptional people. This university is very lucky to have staff that are up and doing. The ASUU group, they have acquired land, they are working with Mortgage Bank and so on. They are trying to help staff to build their own houses. The KWASU Investment Advisory Unit is also mobilizing to help KWASU to invest and also to build houses because you see, when people are working hard the way they do, they should not suffer in future. If you work very hard it should help you on how to save money here and there, you could invest in buying shares and other things so that in future when you are retiring your living standard does not come down. What you see commonly in Nigeria is people who have worked throughout their lives very hard as soon as they retire, they become poor persons, you go to them they live a very pathetic life. We don’t want that to ever happen to KWASU staff, we want them to invest, that is why the University set up the Investment Advisory Unit which regularly advises our staff on how to invest and how to prepare for future and the staff themselves have already been doing this which is excellent.
KWASU has the fastest academic calendar, how has this been possible?
It is all in the University that everybody is determined, both staff and students, to make sure that KWASU does not lose its status as the most stable University in Nigeria. The truth is that it a commitment by all staff and also by the students. Students have seen the benefit of coming in and graduating on time and they are determined to support this. It is a unique kind of way in which if the entire universities in Nigeria are closed, KWASU is open. As I am talking today, virtually every university in Nigeria is closed except KWASU and Unilorin. So, this is a unique thing for our University and we are very proud of it. We work together. It isn’t that we don’t disagree; I mean we are in a University where sometimes the staff want something from the management and we disagree and we talk and talk and dialogue.
Can you tell us about the ongoing library complex project?
The concept is that the library is the university; it is the life wire of the university and if we don’t have an excellent library, you do not have an excellent university because our vision is for a world-class university. We needed a library that itself is world class. This is the 21st Century library where every resource you need should be present, where a student can go in, if you want to sleep there, you can keep working and every resource you need by just pressing a button, you are able to get your resources and do the work. It is not just the building; the building is one but also the resources that are going to be in that library. It is a library that would carry resources on behalf of our state. We want the history of Kwara state to be in that library. We want the history of our nation to be in that library, and we want the library to satisfy a research intensive university, because our University is a research intensive University, wh ich needs such a library. That library is going to be a source of pride for Nigeria because we know that the whole world will be coming to KWASU to use our library. So, we are very proud of it.
What is the opening date for the Library?
Well, we are hoping that by January we should have finished. We should have finished by now but we had some delays here and there but we are hopeful that by January, we should be able to open that library by the grace of God.
With your busy schedule, how do you relax?
It is a tough thing for me, but I do. I rest with family, I rest with friends and sometimes I just write. I am a poet, I love writing poetry, so I usually feel relaxing when I write poetry sometimes, I read the Quran and I feel relaxed, happy, and joyful. Those are the kinds of things I do. I also exercise. I like going to Kwara Hotel in the morning sometimes to jog and do some things. It keeps me healthy and happy.
How has your experience been as the longest serving Vice-Chancellor?
It is very humbling to feel that I am spending my tenth year as a Vice-Chancellor. It’s been a fulfillment that we have a university that is unique in Nigeria. That all these years that we have served together, we all worked together; staff, students, government, parents all of us. What you see in KWASU is not the work of one person; it is a work of all of us that have contributed. The staff have contributed, I as a leader as a Vice-Chancellor have mobilized, so I feel fulfilled that if you work together and collaborate to make great things happen, it is possible. Anybody who says it is not should come to KWASU and see the possibility, it is possible and that is what we are showing.
After your tenure in KWASU what’s next?
I have no idea. I just know that this is what I am doing now, I am passionate about it, I am excited about it, I am grateful to God every day and I know God is great. Before I did this, I had no idea I was going to do this, so He knows what next is there for me but I am happy to be a Professor. That is what I do.