Sokoto — Professor Gajam Von Ardo, is Special Adviser on Higher Education to Sokoto State Governor, Alhaji Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko. He is also Chairman, Implementation Committee of the Sokoto State University. In this interview he speaks on why Sokoto needs a state university, how it was conceived, and how far they have gone in its establishment.
When was the idea of Sokoto State University conceived?
The university was conceived on the same date the Department of Higher Education was conceived on June 11, 2008. We were sworn in as members of the technical committee on the creation of Sokoto State University under the leadership of Professor Risqua Arabu Shehu, the present Vice Chancellor of Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto (UDUS). So, after we were sworn in, we immediately earmarked 10 universities that we wanted to visit to see how they were operating.
We also interviewed prominent people including Professor Shehu Galadanci, the first vice -chancellor of UDUS, we equally interviewed Professor Mahadi Adamu, the second VC of UDUS, Abubakar Gwandu (now late), Professor Mikailu. We interviewed all those people and at the same time we placed advert requesting people to send to us their memoranda and opinion about the university, whether they like it, whether the capacity is there or not. We received all these applications. Meanwhile, before we started sorting out the applications, we divided the group into two; one wing of the group went to Katsina, Kano and Gombe and the other group went to Nasarawa, Keffi and Lapai, Niger State.
When we came back we compared notes and it was very clear to us that we needed a university and we also knew that we could pursue all the processes that other states pursued to establish their universities.
We equally started going through the memoranda we got and almost all of them said the state is due for a university. So we went ahead and at the end of the day, we submitted our report - three volumes - to the governor and he accepted it.
But some people still hold the view that there is no need for a state university in Sokoto as the indigenes are yet to fill their quota in other universities?
We need a state university because we want to grow education. We want to grow our educational capacity and you can only do that when the educational institutions are close to you.
For example, the school of Basic and Remedial Studies at Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, this year gave us 805 students. The previous year, they gave us 800-900 students. If you go to Funtua or to Minna, you would find about 45 students, not that they are not good but they don't want to go there.
When we take them to Minna, they would run away, we take them to Funtua, they would run away. So we said okay, the best thing is bring the facility here and all this talk about not getting teachers is not true because as you can see when we called for screening test for School of Developmental Studies alone, we got 1,542 and the whole idea is to take 500.
And when we asked for teachers we got over 3,000 who would like to come and we were only taking 73 and even the 73 we can't take all of them because they are not in the senior cadre, so we took only about 27.
How did you go about establishing the university?
There are many models of creating any educational institution but we chose a very orthodox model that will take you through all those details. First of all we thought, you cannot start planning anything particularly when it concerns an institution, you must first of all know your needs. So we immediately identified a resource person by name Dr. Myra Gordon, she was Assistant Provost Kansas State University which is the first state university in the USA, it was built in 1860.
She came here for 10 days. We reviewed all those things, we put our objectives right, we re-organized our vision, mission and core values and we now felt the need to go for a university which is a world class university. We are not building just a university, we are building a world university and that is what we are saying.
What about lecturers and students?
You know what makes a university tick, first of all apart from the hardware, the buildings, you need to have teachers - the most important question - you need to have good students. So we decided that we are going to go for some of the best teachers, we equally felt we will go for the best students, get the students to first of all apply and then get them screened.
The technical committee recommended the creation of three faculties- the faculty of Education, the faculty of Social Sciences and faculty of Science.
In addition the technical committee said at inception, the university should start with a kind of school of basic and remedial studies. When we called Dr Gordon as a resource person, she said they are not using the terminology or terms like basic, remedial in developed countries because they carry some connotation of learning disabilities; because if you say remedial it means you cannot catch up. She said the best name we could go for is a school of developmental studies. So if you look round now, you will see our sign board and you will see our school, which we call of developmental studies.
Then, the question of teachers - we called for advert of teachers who have first class and second class upper and second class lower. Even in Sokoto alone, those who are state indigenes, we got 193 people with second class upper across the disciplines and the whole university needed 73 teachers divided into the following categories; readers and professors 19, senior lecturer and senior research fellows 27, graduate assistants, assistant lecturers II and I, 27, so when you add all of them, they will make 73. We have already shortlisted, the only question now is to get the readers and professors, the NUC mix.
When is the university taking off?
We are starting the university in 2013/2014 somewhere around October; we still have about a year now. I told you our council has met for the first time. We are meeting for the second time on the 15th of this month and we have already written all letters. One, we have written a letter to NUC informing it about the books in the university masterplan we submitted to them earlier but then there were some observations. So we now made the corrections and re-submitted them.
We have also written another letter to include us in JAMB Brochure for 2013/2014. We have also written another letter to NUC for anti-jamb, and then we wrote a letter to the TETfund. We are ready now to take off by 2013/2014. We have already communicated to the NUC. The only thing they said they were waiting for was for the appointment of a VC, which we did.
How was the VC chosen?
It is because we do not intend the university to be another university, only Sokoto people can do, no. From wherever if you have the knowledge, expertise we bring you in. So we brought Nuhu Yakubu and he fits perfectly into our design. We had already advertised that we need someone who must had been a vice chancellor before, so you can only come to our university and be a vice chancellor for the second time, not to come and use the university as guinea pig, so this condition he fulfilled and the other conditions too we find him very much ready.
How much has the university gulped?
The first phase cost us N8.6 billion but now we have gone beyond that because of the interventions we did that involved money; it is almost getting to N12 billion or so. Phase I A is already on ground: the administrative building, the female hostel, the male hostel, the faculty building, and lecture theater and VC Lodge. For Phase 1B we are going to build 75 houses in different categories, professors, senior lecturers, graduate assistants, we are equally going to have a conference centre we would also have ICT centre, recreation centre, sports centre, shopping centre, university guest house, visiting lecturers lodge, we are also going to have one additional faculty building, and this is just phase one. We are going to phase two and we are going to phase three. So you see it is a gigantic project.
I have a feeling that no matter who succeeds his excellency would not allow this project to be wasted. I think he would buckle up and take up the challenge.