Prof. David Soji Adejumo, a professor of animal physiology and former chairman of the Oyo State Universal Basic Education Board, speaks with Ibadankiniso about the calls to restructure Nigeria, the university education in Nigeria, and why he wanted to become the governor of Oyo state during the 2015 election before he lost the ticket to Sen. Teslim Folarin among other issues
Ibadankiniso: How was growing up like for you?
Prof. Soji. Adejumo: I was born into an illustrious Christian family from Ibadan. My grandfather was a priest of the Anglican Church, my father was a priest and my great grandfather was among those who embraced Christianity when it was brought to Ibadan. So, Christianity had been in my family for so long. Though, I was born in Sokoto, but my connection with Ibadan was very strong as my father ensured we communicated in Yoruba dialect even while growing up among the northerners. This was a way he kept us in touch with our root. Growing up for me was a mixture of joy and discomfort because of the nature of my father’s job. As a clergy of the Anglican Church, he was always on transfer from one place to another and this really affected my education. I went to about six primary schools in seven years. This nomadic upbringing was one of those things that propelled me to push for excellence in all my levels of education because I was scared of failure. This fear of failure, for me was the beginning of excellence. From my Form one in Ibadan Grammar School, to the post graduate level in the University of Ibadan, I was on scholarship from various agencies. This was not something that came automatically. It came because I was scared of failure and this fear was the impetus upon which my determination to succeed was anchored upon
Ibadankiniso: Education during your days was better. Do you think, we are getting it right in our educational system?
Prof. Soji. Adejumo: Of course we are not getting it right. The standard of education is falling every day and it all started when Obasanjo took over the 1970s. These days, universities in Nigeria are busy constructing structures and neglecting contents. Go to UCH, you will see giant structures coming up every day yet there is no corresponding content development. Most of the structures are just there without modern medical facilities. Every university wants to be known as ivory tower with a standard. If I become president today, I will place a ban on the building of structures and concentrate on content for the next ten years. Most of our graduates today are not employable outside Nigeria and it is not their fault. It is the fault of the system. Can you imagine, that what we teach our science students today, were things taught in Russia in the 1980s? How do you expect these young ones to catch up when they are using the methodology of the 80s? In the world today, technology is changing everything fast. The technology of 2015, is quite different of that of 2016. So, tell me, if we are sticking with the technology of 1980s, do you think we are getting it right?
Ibadankiniso: How do you think we can salvage this situation and the falling standard of Education?
Prof. Soji. Adejumo: It is simple. We need to de- emphasize the craze for structures and place much premium on contents. Then, we had various support systems which made it possible for us to learn. At 26years, I already had my Ph.D. but these days there are so many Ph.D. students who cannot express themselves in faultless English. We need massive investment in content and not structure. There are some universities in the UK that has not added a structure to their building in the last ten years. Some of them are as old as 400 years yet, you would not see them craze for structures. Don’t misquote please, I am not saying infrastructural development is not important, but I am saying content should be given more priority and not buildings.
Ibadankiniso: How would you describe your time in the Universal Basic Education, as the chairman?
Prof. Soji. Adejumo: I was looking forward to you asking this question. When we came on board, Oyo State was nowhere to be found educationally in Nigeria at that time. In fact, we were not among the first 25 states to be more precise. We felt the need for urgent attention and we declared state of emergency in the education sector. Within two years, we attained the second position in the state. What we did was to concentrate on contents. We organize trainings for teachers and school administrators. I personally move to all zones to train them along with other facilitators. We ensured them were impacted with modern skills and knowledge. This eventually paid off.
Ibadankiniso: For sometimes now, there have been call for the restructuring of Nigeria. What is your take on this?
Prof. Soji. Adejumo: Nigerians are very good with vocabulary. Anytime, we fail to find solutions to our problems, we bring a new vocabulary to confuse ourselves. We have had series of National Conventions and Constitutional Conferences. Why can’t we go back to the reports of these conventions and start working on something. There is nothing we want to say that has not been suggested in those conferences. There is no new solution. At a time, they called it true federalism, later they requested for regionalism now they are calling for restructuring. All we need is a government that is ready to take the bull by the horn and implement the recommendations of these conferences. In almost all parts of the country today, we have one of two challenges and if you look into the report of some of the conferences held in the past, you would see the recommendations but our government is not set
Ibadankiniso: Invariably, that means you are in support restructuring
Prof. Soji. Adejumo: I am in support of a better Nigeria. I am in support of anything that would make Nigeria the envy of other nations
Ibadankiniso: You gave a shot at the gubernatorial election in 2015. What informed you decision to want to be governor of Oyo state?
Prof. Soji. Adejumo: You see, people think people like us were not serious when we declared our intention to contest for the governorship position. Some concluded that we were just jokers but I must tell you, I wasn’t joking. There are so many things wrong with Nigeria and we cannot just fold our hands and allow any person to rule us. The size of Ibadan is equivalent with that of Israel. Israel had just one source of water which is the River Jordan, Ibadan has almost four. The whole of southern Israel is desert, the whole of Oyo state is fertile yet Israel can feed the whole of Africa while Oyo State cannot feed itself. It is not that we do not have the resources, but because we have not gotten our priorities right. I can tell you emphatically, that Oyo State can feed the whole of Africa if we cultivate just 50% of our land. Today, Nigeria is experiencing a hard time because of our over reliance on oil. If we had invested so much in agriculture things would not have gotten this worse. My decision to contest for the governorship seat was because I felt the onus was on me to bring the change I so much desire. There is this saying that if you want something done, you have to do it yourself. This was what propelled me to want to contest. Oyo State and Nigeria has no reason to be in this economic hardship. So, I decided to run because of this intention
Ibadankiniso: Considering the number of aspirants also running then, and their popularity, did you envisage that you wouldn’t be picked as the flag bearer of the PDP?
Prof. Soji. Adejumo: The issue is that I had my reason and my reason was to see how I could contribute to the development of my state. I don’t want to be among those who complain, I don’t just want to sit down, look and do nothing. I strongly believe in the philosophy that says, we have to be the change we want to see in the world. So, even if I never got the ticket, at least for the fact that I gave it I trial has brought me some kind of fulfillment because deep inside me, I know I at least made attempts. If we all make attempt to make a difference, the world would be a better place for all
Ibadankiniso: Are you still going to contest in the nearest future?
Prof. Soji. Adejumo: By December this year, I would be sixty years old, which means I am not getting younger anymore. There is time for everything under the face of the earth as my bible tells me. We will continue to contribute in our own way to the development of our state and country
Ibadankiniso: Talking about age, Nigerian youths have been clamouring for more participation in government. What is your take on this?
Prof. Soji. Adejumo: The issue is simple. If the youths can prove to have what it takes, they would be reckoned with. I don’t get wrong. I strongly support the inclusion of the young ones in government but tell, how many of them are well grounded enough to deliver if appointed? I was not up to 30, when I represented Ibadan in the Constitutional Conference called by the government of Babaginda. When, Babaginda saw me, he asked, if Ibadan people had nobody else to send to represent them the people around, quickly told him, that’s Dr. Adejumo, a young lecturer from the University of Ibadan. From that moment, till the end of the conference, I was able to network with other elderly people. So, what we should be talking about is that more attention should be paid to the development of our young ones. Once they are well developed and trained, the system will give them space
Ibadankiniso: What do you want to be remembered for?
Prof. Soji. Adejumo: I want to be remembered as that man who stood up when it mattered and volunteered to make things better for his people. This has been my guiding principle in all offices both political and academic that I have occupied
Ibadankiniso: Thank you very much sir for spending your time with us.
Prof. Soji. Adejumo: The pleasure is mine. You guys have exhibited a high sense of professionalism and I must commend your platform
Thank you sir.