It is no longer news that Suleiman Age Abdulkareem, an indigene of Oro in Irepodun Local Government Area of Kwara State and Professor of Chemical Engineering emerged as the successor of Professor AbdulGaniyu Ambali, whose tenure as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin will lapse on October 15.
In this exclusive interview with MUTIAT OLUSHOLA, the University of Deltroit graduate and former Vice Chancellor of Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin, who could not conceal his joy, reveals the intrigues behind his emergence, his plans to place the tertiary institution on international research record as his other visions for the acclaimed ‘Better By Far’ University. Excerpts…..
As the newly appointed Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, what are your visions for the institution?
Well, I look forward to resumption of office on October 16 this year and my prayer is to see the University progressing positively. From the day I applied for this office, I have started putting things down and like I told you few minutes ago when you walked in, my visions are things I will rather discuss with the University community and not the general public.
Would you like to build on the legacies of your predecessors?
University is a continuous thing and it never closes, if that is the case, one should build upon whatever legacy you meet on ground, be it structure, be it foundation. You can modify if it is related to times or people’s demand and to give it a better look. So, I think I will build upon the legacies laid down by my predecessors. The idea is that the university is moving upward and onward. Essentially university is not a place where you tear things down; you build upon what you meet on ground.
Going by the interest of the University of Ilorin to obtain grant for research, do you think being a Chemical Engineering researcher gave you an edge over others and what are your plans to help the institution achieve this long awaited goal?
You are sitting beside a man who brought sachet (pure) water business to Nigeria and that business is worth over N7billion daily. I am not gloating, but with this notion of our university, we need to gear up on research. We have to make name for this university in the area of research.
Research grant cannot be single-handedly decided by an individual, but one thing I realise is that all my years, I have been a researcher all along. You see this issue is not just about being a good person; you need to have a good record of being sole administrator. All along, I have being a sole administrator and when I am given an assignment, people know I can deliver, but you cannot put all that on the papers when you are applying for this office. Believe me, when they are interviewing you, they notice some of your habits if they gear towards what they are looking for, they score you go or well. I don’t think studying Chemical Engineering gave me an edge over others. All the other contestants are professors in their various fields. So you should be able to speak confidently on sighting those interviewing you. I was an applicant and I never scored myself.
There is this notion that now that an Oro man is to occupy the apex seat, it is time to incorporate the people of your community into the university system, what are your plans to kick against “we are in charge syndrome”?
Those who know me know that I am practically a fair and just person. I am who I want to be outside the University campus and while on campus, it means everyone needs to be dealt with in fairness not minding if you are from my town or not, but one thing I can assure is that abuse is one thing I don’t allow and you give to people what they deserve. I was a Vice Chancellor at Al-Hikmah for five years, you can look at my record and you will be amazed.
Do you think being a former Vice Chancellor impacted on your victory?
I don’t think so, because there are instances where former vice chancellors contested the seat and lost. There are questions applicants would be asked that may oppose or favour them. I couldn’t read the minds of those who interviewed us.
Can we then say it was destiny?
Well, I believe in the power of God and if that is what we call destiny, so that is it.
Many have come and gone, but they all left one or two legacies, as you plan to mount the apex seat of this institution, what legacy would you like to be known for?
Hhhhmn! That I have not even started? Well, as a researcher in the chemical engineering field, at completion of my tenure, I would like that as far as this university is concerned; it becomes an institution that is reckoned with in terms of research internationally. Whatever the resources of this university, I will try as much as possible that the institution is more relevant in the area of research because I believe that is where the future of all the universities is being valued.
Why did you venture into the sachet (pure) water business as earlier stated?
I came to Nigeria to put my research to use. I began with the production of soap and later I moved on to pure water production. I was the sole producer until I taught people how to do it.
When and where did you start the sachet (pure) water business?
Between 1994 and ’95, here in Ilorin at Adewole, where I live.
Why did you go into such business?
I read Chemical Engineering and one of our methods is called membrane separation and that I put to use. It is just a way of research to get something pure from the impure.
What message do you have for the university community?
I wish them well and I hope they wish me well too so that we can work harmoniously together to move the university to greater heights.