‘My Vi­sion is to Make El­izade Var­sity At­trac­tive to the World’

A Nige­rian en­tre­pre­neur and founder of El­izade Univer­sity, Chief Michael AdeOjo shared with Uchechukwu Nnaike his vi­sion to build a world class in­sti­tu­tion, ded­i­cated to the pur­suit of aca­demic and moral ex­cel­lence, for the growth of knowl­edge and char­act

THISDAY - - EDUCATION -

What are the val­ues, vi­sion and ideas that mo­ti­vated you to estab­lish El­izade Univer­sity?

My core mo­ti­va­tion be­hind this no­ble dream is to raise stu­dents and grad­u­ates who would be con­fi­dent enough to stand strong any­where in the world, and can be re­lied upon in what­ever they say or do. We are train­ing stu­dents, who upon grad­u­a­tion, can mea­sure up to other aca­demics and pro­fes­sion­als any­where in the world. Note that we are not just ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple for aca­demics alone, but morally too, be­cause with­out good char­ac­ter, the whole ef­fort will be a waste of time. We are build­ing peo­ple who will make sig­nif­i­cant im­pact in the so­ci­ety.

With so many pri­vate and pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties spring­ing up in Nige­ria, what are the unique ad­van­tages that can en­cour­age par­ents to send their chil­dren to El­izade Univer­sity?

We have so many ar­eas that stand us out. One of the ways among many that stand us out from other uni­ver­si­ties is the qual­ity of in­tern­ship part­ner­ships we have with dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies and or­gan­i­sa­tions within and out­side Nige­ria. Our in­tern­ship pro­gramme is a com­pul­sory course for the stu­dents, and through this, they gain prac­ti­cal qual­ity work ex­pe­ri­ences as they reg­u­larly fa­mil­iarise them­selves with real work sit­u­a­tions. Clearly, many of their peers will not have the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence this even upon grad­u­a­tion. So, we are train­ing them to be­come all round per­sons with su­pe­rior ca­pac­i­ties to com­pete with their peers from other uni­ver­si­ties. As far as our in­fra­struc­ture is con­cerned, we are above our peers. Any­body that gets to our univer­sity will have noth­ing but praises for our phys­i­cal struc­tures. And the gen­eral be­lief is that it is un­like any­thing within Nige­ria. In fact, some peo­ple say they are car­ried away be­cause when they are there, they feel they are not in Nige­ria, but in a de­vel­oped coun­try. Well, my vi­sion is that it will be­come one of the best, if not the best univer­sity in the coun­try. I want a univer­sity that will com­pare very favourably with the likes of Har­vard Univer­sity, with Ox­ford and Cam­bridge and other first class uni­ver­si­ties all over the world.

As a ver­sa­tile busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tor that has ex­celled in Nige­ria’s tough busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment for many years, what are the help­ful coun­sel you can give young, up­com­ing pro­fes­sion­als like your stu­dents to help them rise to the top?

First, I will let them know that it is not the cer­tifi­cate they will get that is their most valu­able tool, but re­ally, what they have learnt here and what they will make out of what they have learnt. This is be­cause knowl­edge is dif­fer­ent from wis­dom. Knowl­edge is what you ac­quire up­stairs, but wis­dom is the ap­pli­ca­tion of that knowl­edge. And if you can­not ap­ply what you have learnt, then you have very lit­tle chance to suc­ceed. So, in this univer­sity, we lay em­pha­sis on the ap­pli­ca­tion of knowl­edge. You can grad­u­ate as an en­gi­neer, but you will be good enough to fit into some other pro­fes­sions be­cause of the var­i­ous op­por­tu­ni­ties made avail­able for you while you are here. You are trained to be ver­sa­tile even though you have a core spe­cialty in your dis­ci­pline. I will ad­vise them to aim to be in­de­pen­dent, to think deeply about what they can use what­ever they have learnt in the univer­sity to achieve in their life­time. For prospec­tive stu­dents or those who are just com­ing in, well, the thing is that they have to learn to en­joy them­selves, to en­joy the univer­sity life and to learn how to make them­selves use­ful be­cause here, we are train­ing our stu­dents to be to­tal per­sons so that they will be use­ful, not only to the so­ci­ety, but to them­selves and their fam­i­lies. We are also in­cul­cat­ing in them the spirit of en­trepreneur­ship that guar­an­tees a fu­ture for them and au­then­ti­cates their cer­tifi­cates. Our cer­tifi­cate con­firms that the holder has done well and is ready to ex­cel in his or her cho­sen field of en­deav­our and in the so­ci­ety at large.

Apart from the in­tern­ship pro­gramme and qual­ity aca­demic train­ing, what other com­pet­i­tive edge does the univer­sity have?

All the qual­i­ties put to­gether amount to the com­pet­i­tive edge that the univer­sity has been in­vest­ing heav­ily to build. An­other thing is that our fees are still very rea­son­able, com­pared to what the stu­dent will go back with to func­tion in the so­ci­ety. I think we are just train­ing them to be­come re­spon­si­ble cit­i­zens at an af­ford­able cost so far. But this is not to say that it will con­tinue like that be­cause the fa­cil­i­ties that we pro­vide are be­yond the av­er­age that you see any­where in Africa.

The cost of get­ting the univer­sity to this level must have been high. What op­por­tu­ni­ties are there for the in­sti­tu­tion to op­er­ate on the global or even con­ti­nen­tal stage. How do you plan to build on the suc­cesses of the past five years?

Well, the univer­sity has dug a very big hole in my pocket in the sense that it has cost me a lot. But re­ally, I am do­ing this as a huge legacy that will def­i­nitely out­live me. So I am still de­ter­mined to spend a lot more. We have spent over N27 bil­lion on the univer­sity’s struc­tures and I be­lieve we still have a long way to go to get to my ex­act vi­sion. It has been my de­ter­mi­na­tion to estab­lish an in­sti­tu­tion that will re­main a long-term legacy, which will be use­ful to the younger gen­er­a­tion and will be a global ci­tadel of learn­ing, not only in aca­demics, but in morals as well. So this project is very im­por­tant to me and I think, es­pe­cially now that the dream is un­fold­ing rapidly, it should be very im­por­tant to ev­ery par­ent be­cause what we are do­ing now is quite com­pa­ra­ble to what is hap­pen­ing in uni­ver­si­ties in de­vel­oped economies.

What is the to­tal pic­ture or vi­sion of El­izade Univer­sity in your head?

I have this vi­sion of mak­ing El­izade Nige­ria’s big­gest aca­demic at­trac­tion to the world. I want peo­ple across the world to as­pire and strive to send their chil­dren here be­cause of the stan­dard the world will see. An­other great news is that with just a frac­tion of the cost of go­ing over­seas, Nige­ri­ans will have the ex­pe­ri­ence of a world-class univer­sity in their coun­try. I know within me that it is just a mat­ter of time; El­izade Univer­sity will draw the type of na­tional pride that Har­vard and Ox­ford at­tract to their var­i­ous coun­tries.

Ade-Ojo

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