The Kwara State University (KWASU), Malete, has announced the passing away of its pioneer Provost, College of Humanities, Management and Social Sciences, Professor Francis Abiola Irele. Aged 81, Professor Irele died in the evening of Sunday, July 2, 2017.
Professor Irele, who was also the pioneer Director, KWASU Press, pioneer Editor of The Savanah Review published by the KWASU Press, former Editor of Research in African Literatures, and former member of Directors of the Malete Film Village, won the Nigerian Order of Merit award for Humanities in 2015.
Announcing the literary giant’s demise in an electronic message to the University Community on Tuesday, July 4, 2017, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor AbdulRasheed Na’Allah, said: “Irele brought honor and glory to Kwara State University when he left Harvard University to join KWASU, believing in what we all could do together to create an enviable public University here in Nigeria for our people. As a pioneer staff, he was exceptional in his support for staff and students and in his total dedication to and love for KWASU.
“Kwara State University, continuing to lay claim to the goodwill and fame that Irele enjoys world over, named its School of Theory and Criticism after him, The Abiola Irele School of Theory and Criticism, with this year's edition taking place from July 17 to 28, 2017.
“His popular Inaugural Lecture, In Praise of Alienation, delivered at The University of Ibadan in the early 1980s, is still among the most discussed piece of African writing till date.
“The University will lower its flag for one week, starting today Tuesday July 4, 2017, in honor of the doyen of African studies and KWASU's own Pioneer Provost of Humanities. May God continue to support the wife and children he left behind and condole us all!”
Professor Francis Abiola Irele was a Nigerian literary giant who stood tall like an Iroko tree among literati in Nigeria, Africa and the world over. Professor Irele was indisputably the number one scholar of African literary studies and of African humanities in the world.
He began his tertiary education at the University of London where he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts (Honours English) under special relationship with University of Ibadan (UI), Nigeria in June, 1960. He followed it up in June, 1963 with a Certicat de Professeur de Franҫais à 1ˈEtranger, Ecole de Formation et de Perfectionnement des Professeurs de Franҫais à 1ˈEtranger, University of Paris.Reҫu premier, mention honorable.
In November, 1966, Professor Irelebagged aDoctorat de 1ˈUniversité, University of Paris (Sorbonne), mention trés honorable with a Dissertation entitled “Les Origines de la Négritude à 1a Martinique: Sociologie de 1ˈoeuvre poétiquedˈAimé Césaire”. That same year, Professor Irele was employed at the College of Education, University of Lagos, Nigeria as a Lecturer in French; concurrent appointment as Associate Lecturer, Department of English where he took courses on French Language and Literature, African Literature in English until 1967 when he was appointed Research Fellow, Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, Legon. While in the University, he organised Weekly Graduate seminar on African Literature and supervised MA Theses. Professor Irele also took courses in Francophone African and Caribbean Literature in the Department of Modern Languages. At the University, he equally served as Hall Tutor, Mensah Sarbah Hall (October, 1968 to December, 1969).
In view of his quest for academic excellence and intellectual development, the literary giant worked with the famous University of Ife, Nigeria (now Obafemi Awolowo University) from 1970 to 1972 as Senior Research Fellow, Institute of African Studies. He took courses on Yoruba Literature at the Institute and Francophone African Literature in the Department of Modern Languages. Professor Irele was appointed Co-director (with Michael Crowder) of The Ife Festival of the Arts, December 1970 and a part of Academic Planning Committee for the Yoruba Degree Programme (1970-71).
The Nigerian literary colossus’ contribution to knowledge, research and scholarship received a boost in 1978 following his appointment as a Professor of French at the Premier University – the University of Ibadan. Prior to that, he was appointed Head (Chair), Department of Modern Languages; a position he occupied from October, 1976 to September, 1979; and August, 1983 to July, 1987. Professor Irele had equally served as a Senior Lecturer in French between 1972 and 1978 in the same University. He taught courses at Undergraduate and Graduate levels on French literature (in particular Post-Romantic French poetry, from Baudelaire to the Symbolists) and French-speaking African and Caribbean Literature (Mongo Béti, Aimé Césaire, Birago Diop, Cheik Hamidou Kane, Léopold Sedar Senghor etc.)
While at the Premier University, he supervised Ph.D. students to include Femi Osofisan, “The Origins and Development of Modern West African Drama” (1974); Olalere Oladitan, “The Theme of Violence in African Literature” (1976); Tokunbo Gbadebo, “The Novels of René Maran” (1978); Aduke Adebayo, “A Comparative Study of the Novels of Rechard Wright and Sembéne Ousmane” (1980); Grace Arowolo, “A Structural Analysis of Amadou Hampaté Ba’s L’Etrangedestin de Wangrin” (1982); and Moradeun Adejunmobi, “Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo: A Critical Introduction” (1985).
At UI also, he was part of various committees including Board of Studies, Faculty of Arts (1972-73); Curriculum Committee, Faculty of Arts (1973-75); Faculty Publications Committee (1976-84) and Chairman, (1980-84); Faculty of Arts, Appointments and Promotions Committee (1978-79); Faculty of Arts Postgraduate Studies Committee, 1980-82 (Departmental representative); Director, Audio-Visual Centre, Faculty of Arts (1981-83) and Chairman, University Publications Committee, (Ibadan University Press), 1984/85.
Also, between October, 1989 and June, 2003, the doyen of Africanist literary scholars globally, served as a Professor of African, French and Comparative Literature at the Ohio State University – Joint appointment, Department of African American and African Studies and Division of Comparative Studies in the Humanities. He equally served as Research Associate, Center for African Studies and had an adjunct appointment in the Department of French and Italian at the University. During this period, he was among the Search Committee, Woody Hayes Chair in History (1997); Chair, Graduate Studies Committee, Department of Black Studies (1989-1991); Research Grants Committee, College of Humanities (1989-1991); Chair, Ad-Hoc Library Committee, African and Afro-American Studies (1990); Chair, Search Committee for Professor of African History (1990-1991); Promotions and Tenure Committee, College of Humanities (1991, 1992, 1996-1999); Editor, Research in African Literatures (July, 1992-September 2003); Chair, Departmental Promotions Committee, Division of Comparative Studies (to consider cases of promotion to grade of Full Professor), 1995; Convener, Annual Conference, African Literature Association, March 15-19, 1995, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. Theme: “The Postcolonial Condition.”
He also taught several courses, organised Graduate Seminars, developed courses and supervised PhD and Master’s students at the University. He was equally part of various PhD and MA examining committees from 1991 to 2000.
In recognition of his remarkable achievements at the Ohio State University, the prestigious Harvard University appointed the literary heavyweight a Visiting Professor, Department of African and African American Studies, and Department of Romance Languages and Literatures on July 1, 2003. He was also made the Interim Chair, Committee on African Studies at the same University.
It is worthy of note that Professor Irele has authored many books, including the Cambridge History of African and Caribbean Literature and The African Experience in Literature and Ideology, and reviewed, peer reviewed and edited numerous academic journals locally and internationally. He has also convened and participated in quite a number of conferences, seminars and workshops globally.
A recipient of many awards, including but not limited to the prestigious Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) Award for 2013 (in Humanities) conferred on him by former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
Professor Irelesleft the prestigious Harvard University and joined forces with the pioneer Vice-Chancellor of KWASU, Professor AbdulRasheed Na’Allah, to lay a solid foundation for the Institution and make it a centre of excellence where strong scholarship, superior advancement in Science, Engineering and Technology, Humanities and Social Sciences are in high standards.
He donated his library collection sponsored by Harvard University's Du Bois Centre to KWASU, for enhanced research, teaching and learning.
Professor Irele was married to Bassey Efiom Irele (née Etim) and blessed with children.
Professor AbdulRasheed Na’Allah is the pioneer Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Kwara State University (KWASU), Malete. In this interview, he speaks extensively on how the Institution is making a difference in Nigeria within seven years of its existence. Excerpts:
How far has the University gone since its takeoff in 2009?
The University is seven years old now. Classes started on December 17, 2009. If you count from that date till today, it tells you that we are seven years old. In seven years, we thank God Almighty, it’s been an interesting story. On campus here, I would say we do not walk, we do not run, but we fly. We fly not because we are too proud but because we realise that Nigeria cannot afford to run, we have to fly because where we must be yesterday, we are still struggling to be there today and KWASU has come to fill that gap. I remember the State Government made it very clear from the very beginning that if it was just about starting another university, there would not be any need for KWASU, because the UNILORIN is there, likewise so many other universities. KWASU is not going to be just another university; it has to be a University with a difference.
We want to be a University that makes a major impact on our society by creating wealth for our state and by giving quality education to our students, in such a way that they cannot roam the streets like you have in typical Nigerian universities. Many are being produced every year but what do they do? They roam the streets of Nigeria. So, KWASU started, understanding that clarity about its existence.
In seven years now, the University has graduated four sets of students. All our students, without exception, are trained in entrepreneurship, in the sense that they create wealth even before they leave campus. Many of them have businesses incorporated through the CAC (Corporate Affairs Commission). In fact, CAC wrote to us recently that we have the highest number of businesses of any group in Nigeria… That is why I tell parents that if a KWASU student graduates and you take his/her CV running around looking for job, you are doing a disservice to the University. And we tell our students, ‘if you roam the streets looking for employment, we will disown you; you are not a KWASU student.’ Because a KWASU student is being equipped and many of them started learning businesses before they leave campus. It doesn’t matter what their specialisation is. We teach them also that agriculture is a viable business for survival in Nigeria.
We have what we call Farm to Wealth, as part of our entrepreneurship in which every student is meant to go through, number one, understanding the wealth of Kwara State because Kwara has Agric Development Plan. We ensure that our students understand the wealth and the resources in Kwara State agriculture and we therefore prepare them to go into agric business as an option. We are not just talking about farming, we are talking about processing, and many other things, including import and export.
As a University, we have to fill the gap to make a difference. So, we are constantly asking ourselves where is the gap for Nigeria? We saw that aerospace is a gap. This is a nation that is sending satellite through China’s space. This is a nation that had its satellite crashed and is going back to the same China to say ‘help us out’. We think it’s a shame. It is a nation that must empower its young people to understand that this is another vision for our country. Develop Nigerians with passion and create passion in them for satellite and for space research. KWASU is the only University in Nigeria today that has Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. We are the one that have worked with NUC (National Universities Commission) to create a benchmark. We are the one that have the laboratory, the equipment and everything and are working very closely with the International Aviation College here in Ilorin. We are training our young people from all over Nigeria in this area. Today, if you want to repair aircraft, create a new aircraft or work on surveillance drones, our young people, undergraduates, less than 20 years old, are doing it right here on KWASU campus! They are working very closely with the Nigerian Air Force. We do very important things together. They call us when they have issues or research to do and they come here too. Very soon, we are going to be establishing a major Space Research Centre on this campus. This is a need for Nigeria looking into the future.
Again, we are the leading University in Entrepreneurship Education. We are the only University in Nigeria that is doing a Degree Programme in Entrepreneurship Education, which is teaching young people to become teachers. This is because the Federal Government has made it compulsory for all schools in Nigeria, elementary and secondary schools in particular, to teach Entrepreneurship to young people, to catch them young. But nobody is producing teachers in that area. What you do in Nigeria is that you just pick a teacher of English, Mathematics, Economics or Commerce to come and teach Entrepreneurship. However, Entrepreneurship Education is neither English language, nor is it Mathematics. It is not even Economics or Commerce, as it deals with how do you plan business; how do you do survey; how do you identify a company doing business that can give you money; how do you find resources because you need money to invest. It is uniquely special and we realise that we must produce teachers in that field, if Nigeria must get it right. We are the only University today that is doing it and we are already working with the NUC to create a benchmark. I can go on and on.
Nigeria is in dire need of resources. Oil is gone. If anybody tells you oil is coming back, he is a liar. Oil is gone forever. But we have resources. Look at the enormous resources in Nigeria. Tourism is one of the ways and this is the only University in North Central Nigeria that has a Degree in Tourism, Hospitality and Events Management. I am just taking a few but that is the characteristic of Kwara State University. We are looking at those areas with gaps; we want to create wealth for Kwara State. If you ask me, therefore, what is your achievement? I will say our achievement is in our ability to fill those gaps, our ability to produce students with quality, our ability to ensure that we do not waste time. We fill those gaps in ways that Nigeria can be competitive in the comity of nations.
I believe that the State Government has been exceptionally committed to this University. From the word go, they told us this is the kind of foundation we must set and they are totally in support of this. So, we do not look back, we keep looking forward. We also have the help of Almighty Allah. I always tell people this is a destiny for KWASU. This University is destined to be great and there is no doubt nobody can draw us back. It is our destiny.
What is your take on the research efforts at KWASU?
We are a University with a difference. The purpose of a University is community development. It is to do research that are relevant to the growth of the University and to collaborate with industry, such that they can start new things, in terms of creativity, in terms of new product and so on and so forth. Having understood this from the very beginning, we know that we must put our fund in those areas. Let me tell you what we are doing in terms of research.We are supporting our undergraduate students to do aggressive research under the supervision of academic staff.We have a Centre for Undergraduate Research, the only University in Nigeria with such a Centre. Just tell me another university that has it. We are the only one. We are giving money competitively;our undergraduate students have to submit proposals and we give them grants to go and do research. We fund them and so they are able to identify different areas of research.
When I told you about drones being done, these are our Aeronautics students who are already doing surveillance camera, sending it to the space right here from our campus. We put a lot of money into research and every semester,we have what we call Undergraduate Research Day, in which we invite people from all over to come to our campus. The undergraduate students do exhibition to show what research areas they are working on, what they have found, and what new products will come out of it. They find some industries that are ready to collaborate with them. And on that Undergraduate Research Day,new researchers who have submitted applications will find results, whether they get new grant or not.
We also have for our staff, University Research Council that constantly gives research money to academic staff to do their own research. Again, if you say define KWASU, what kind of a University is it? I would tell you that Kwara State University is a Research Intensive University. That is the only way you can describe us. That is our category. Therefore, to us, research and collaboration with industry is important. I will give you an example.When we started in 2009, one of the gaps for Nigeria was electricity. This is a nation that is regularly irregular when it comes to electricity. We now said okay, how can we resolve this? Asa University, we have to research. We identified the alternative energy and said we do have so many; biogas, solar, and different other areas. We, therefore, submitted an application with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to place a UNESCO Chair in KWASU. I am happy to tell you that we are the only University in Nigeria with a UNESCO Chair in Alternative Energy… What we have done is research, which is ongoing…
What they are doing in Materials Science and Engineering Department is incredible. I can’t even begin to tell you some of the new things they are trying to form, new ideas that they are bringing out, and new products that they are creating. But this is where I’m going; we realise that we cannot be doing research alone because we are in a hurry to get Nigeria to benefit. We have to create an industry that will begin to manufacture products that will get to the public. So, we started Rana Power Solar Energy Manufacturing Company. We have that company incorporated and that company has got a Chinese partner, which is the Chinaland Solar Energy Company, with about 43 per cent share. We have our factory and the good news is that this company is already working on the campus to create solar farm. We have to start it from here. Our library has to be 24 hours, our laboratories have to be 24 hours, our classrooms, the same. So, we are first and foremost building a solar farm on campus.
The first set of solar energy is already being installed… This is where we are going and we now have a company that will begin, by the grace of God, to manufacture as a result of our own research. Where we are going is that even though we are starting with a technology that is foreign coming from Chinaland Solar Energy Company, we are starting with importing materials from abroad. Our commitment, based on the first MoU we had, is to replace any foreign element with local element. We will continue to do research to find indigenous resources that will replace anything being imported into Nigeria. That is number one.
Number two is that a lot of money must continue from this company to flow into research, which will be looking at a new technology that will be Africa-based. When you are bringing a foreign technology, their technology will fit into their own country. We have so much dust in Nigeria. They do not have dust in the US. If you create a solar panel for US market, if you bring it into Nigeria, it does not take into consideration that dust reality. Maintenance culture is low in Nigeria but high in the United States. So, if you create a panel that is meant for America or China, where they have maintenance culture, it may not survive in Nigeria. When you go around and say solar panels are not working, it is because research has not informed their creation; they just imported them and installed them. Our own is not going to be like that. We are going to create panels that are relevant to our nation. I am just giving you that as an example because we have really done a lot.
We have created Malate Film Village.This is another company, headed by Joke Silva, which will be providing places to produce a film from beginning to end; casting, editing, and everything from beginning to end. We also collaborate with our School of Visual and Performing Arts to train actor son acting, dramatic writing, some composition, and different elements.The Nollywood today is the second largest film industry in the world but we have to shape it in ways that when it goes all over the world, is going to be better than what it is today and people would respect it. That is where KWASU is coming in. Again, we are the only University in Nigeria doing this.
How do you describe the impact ofyour community development efforts and what the University is doing to attract best minds?
To start with, a university with mediocre staff is nothing but a mediocre university. You cannot be research intensive, you cannot be after excellence and bring low level academic brains.It is not going to work. That is why in KWASU, we are very thorough in the processes of our recruitment. People have to present their research, and so many have to listen. There is a process of assessment; everybody present must fill out evaluation. These are professors in attendance. Other scholars will also listen and fill out evaluation. They will go through department and college processes and at the end of the day,they still have to meet with me one-on-one.As many as my staff are, especially academic staff, I have to meet with them one-on-one, because we have to let you know our vision. You come here ready to hit the ground, understanding that our aim is to be world-class University,in terms of standard, contribution to community, and the quality of delivery.So, you must know that is what we do.Therefore, we are very anxious and very eager and constantly looking for the best scholars. That is why we have recruited from all over the world. We have recruited from Europe, America,Nigeria, the best of the best brains.
We have not stopped at that; we have set up the Centre for Innovation in Teaching and Research that is constantly doing workshops and seminars, to improve staff in teaching and the use of technology. How do you bring the latest technology into your classroom? How do you connect to the world? You are teaching, maybe,currency devaluation and exchange,can you connect to Wall Street at that moment you are teaching in your classroom, to let your students know what you are talking about, so that they can see how it goes back and forth, even in the Wall Street or somewhere else in the world? This is an electronic age and it must inform what you teach and that is what we are doing in KWASU. But, again, it is important for us to ensure that those who teach in KWASU must first and foremost have a 2:1, if they don’t have a PhD. If you have 2:2 and so, we don’t accept you into KWASU to teach. That is just a beginning; you still have to go through that rigorous confirmation process.
Having said that, we look at our community development as a platform for this University because everything is about the development of our community and we do have a Centre for Community Development. This Centre is an Award Winning Centre. It gets money from all over Nigeria. In fact, KWASU does not fund this Centre in most cases. They use money they get from around the world, including Nigeria. The Centre has its own programme which is all over. They go and find communities without water. They started with Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and now they have moved to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). So, they are attacking poverty, illiteracy, HIV, different kinds of issues. They have Mobile Health Programme, in which people go on bike to places where motor cannot go. They reach out to young people and women and give them health care. They have saved many lives not only in the immediate community, but all around. They have provided water to places where, for more than 200 years, they never had drinking water. They were using streams and other sources. They have gone to schools to provide furniture materials, educational materials, and different kinds of things. They have a loan programme similar to the Bangladeshi project that was done, in which they look at market women especially, men also, in rural areas who need only N20,000 to do business. They give them this money to do business and these people pay back and they are able to give others. And they have so many people that are benefiting from this project.
What I am saying is that this is just a little from what that Centre does. But, more importantly, this University has the requirement of every academic staff, whether you are a Professor or Graduate Assistant or Lecturer, to do what we call Community Outreach anywhere in Nigeria. What it means is that you must go out there to use your knowledge and expertise to do an outreach solving problems for that community in which you do not take a kobo... It is just your own contribution to community development and it must be successful. And so we will say they must have a successful record of Community Outreach. If you are a researcher, you are outstanding, you are an excellent teacher but you do not have community outreach programme, you can never be promoted in KWASU. That has made it compulsory for all our staff and they are going all over Nigeria doing different kinds of projects. The Centre for Community Development gives them money. They call it Action Research Grant to support these people and once they take this money, they use it anywhere and sometimes they use it as seed money, so that they later get external grant to do their project. They can work with a Local Government where there is an infection, a Local Government where they have water problem and different kinds of problems. You find individual lecturers now establishing projects in which they are the directors serving their own people.
To cap it all, Senate decided that every student of KWASU must take a Certificate in Community Development, in addition to their degree. We have started implementing this now. It is exciting what our students are doing. What we are trying to instill in them is volunteerism; the idea that you can volunteer to your community without asking for a kobo. That if you are rich in whatever you do in future,community is important, go back and do something for them. Find out how to help the community and not by imposing your own desire on them but by listening to them to know what support they need,to see what problem they have and work with them to resolve it, so that you empower them in the process.For example, when they go to do borehole for community, they teach the community on how to maintain it, because after they have gone, the community still need to keep this borehole alive and if they do not teach them, if they do not empower them, after a little time, there could be a problem and the borehole would not be useful again. So, we empower them and we ask our students and staff to use the same method in their community development project.
The Kwara State University (KWASU), Malete, has topped the business registration chart of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in Nigeria.
This was brought to the fore by the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor AbdulRasheed Na’Allahat the opening ceremony of the 5th Entrepreneurship Directors’ Conference (EDC), organised by the Centre for Entrepreneurship.
According to Na’Allah, the University has recorded enormousachievements in the area of entrepreneurship, part of which he said, is the training of its students to become entrepreneurs, adding that it is mandatory for all students of the University to have registered businesses before they can graduate.
While encouraging students to focus more on entrepreneurship as they would make more money from it than the salaries they would earn inmany organistaions, he noted that the University would create an Incubation Centre for the students in support of their businesses.
He said the Incubation Centre would house secretariat services and all the students would need to start up full-fledged businesses after graduation.
The Vice-Chancellor also highlighted that KWASU is the first and only University in Nigeria with a degree in Entrepreneurship and that the intention was to produce certified teachers in Entrepreneurship.
Also speaking at the event, the Director, Centre for Entrepreneurship, KWASU, Dr. Hakeem Ajonbadi, saidthe 2016 EDC was to invoke the thought processes and tools that generate effective and productive entrepreneurship to act as major catalysts for social and economic progress.
Ajonbadi explained that the conference which is a forum for Directors of Entrepreneurship Centres of various tertiary institutions in the countryhad a goal to effect both incremental and structural changes.
Lamenting the high lending rate of banks, he said“governments reduced budget deficits but apply greater pressure on sometimes the most vulnerable in society; economies seek innovative solutions but government and firms ignore possibilities for democratising opportunity search and realisation.
" We seek global solutions but appear to entrench local problems; and the world is seen sometimes as technologically flat but spatially and contextually spiky. The forum will deliberate on ecological, financial, technological, governance and leadership issues.’’
He stated further that the conference would provide a launch platform for an entrepreneurial resolution of the problems of social sustainability and economic security.
In addition, Dr. Muritala Awodun, the pioneer Director of the Centre and Chairman, Kwara State Internal Revenue Services, said the conference was conceived by KWASU five years ago with the aim of bringing together Directors of Centres for Entrepreneurship in various tertiary institutions to have a forum to share opinions and discuss ways to better the various Centres for Entrepreneurship that were more or less imposed on most of those tertiary institutions by the National Universities Commission(NUC) five or six years ago.
``At that time, there was a lot of confusion in the air and most institutions didn’t really know what to do or how to go about it and since KWASU had started the Centre for Entrepreneurship two years before imposition by the NUC on the other institutions, we felt that it would be nice for us to bring all the Directors together and we will have a common frontier to exchange ideas and learn from one another,’’ he said.
While regretting that the turnout of Directors at the conference is deteriorating over the years and seeking redress, Awodun urged the Centre to work more closely with the community and get feedbacks from them as they are the consumers of its products and services.
The conference had as its theme‘Consolidating Stakeholders’ Synergy for Sustainable Entrepreneurship Development in the Nigeria Tertiary Education’.