Thu. Apr 18th, 2024

Prof Faborode PhD, FNSE, FNIAE strikes one as a man cut out for speed and eminence. Professor Michael Oladimeji Faborode attended Victory College Ikare and came out with the best result in his set from where he moved on to the University of Ife in 1973 where his tryst with distinction would begin.

During his undergraduate days, he was University of Ife (Now Obafemi Awolowo University) Merit Scholar from 1975 until he finished in 1978. He was also University of Ife Postgraduate Scholar for the 1980/81 session during his postgraduate days and Commonwealth Scholar, 1983-1986 while pursuing his Doctorate Degree at the University of Newcastle upon Type, United Kingdom.

His name has been listed in the International Who’s Who of Engineering since 1983. He was awarded The United Nations Graduate Study Fellowship in 1986, the same year he finished his PhD programme. He won the 1989 Merit award of the Nigerian Society of Engineers and was a Visiting Fellow of the German Academic Exchange (DAAD) in 1991.

He became a Fellow of the Association of Commonwealth Universities in 1995 and was University of Newcastle Senior Visiting Fellow in the same year.

Since his final year as an undergraduate at Ife, Professor Faborode has demonstrated a hands-on disposition through the development of several technological innovations, including Design and fabrication of a feed milling machine, a cocoa plantation weeding machine, an experimental laboratory bi-axial briquetting machine, a cocoa pod breaking and processing machine, a cassava chipping machine, a polythene-bag-based cocoa fermentation system, a stripper for palm fruit and a Palm kernel separator (Award winner).

A consummate Agricultural Engineer, he developed IFEsifta-2002, a device for sifting/pulverizing pressed cassava mash, which won the Joint 1st Prize of the NOTAP National Innovation Award. The improved and optimized automated cassava mash sifter and continuous rotary fryer which he developed with younger colleagues including Engr. L. A. Sanni won the First Prize in the 2008 Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC) organized Process Engineering Design exhibition.

Other contributions to R&D include, Identification of in-store storage conditions for cocoa beans, Identification of optimum storage conditions for cocoa pods, fabrication of various agricultural and rural road making equipment like compactor, grader, tar boiler, hand water pumps and refuse handling equipment which he developed while heading the Consultancy Unit of the Department of Agric Engineering, OAU.

Through his visionary leadership and mindset of excellence, Dr. Faborode laid a solid foundation for the sustained development of the Faculty of Technology while serving as Dean from 2002-2006.

He instituted the Technology Hall of Fame, which the faculty alumni subsequently transformed into OAU Technology Centre of Excellence Foundation (OAU TechExcel Foundation). The establishment is now about to develop a Research Park in the University. That vision has demonstrated the immense possibilities of putting all hands-on deck for the University’s development.

He has provided effective leadership in managing the University, its intellectual and physical development since assumption of office as Vice Chancellor in July 2006 to the pride of the engineering profession and indeed all progressive minds.

He was among the 3 Select Vice Chancellors invited to the global Higher Education Summit in Washington DC by former US Secretary of State, Ms Condellezza Rice and Secretary of Education, Margaret Spelling.

He has served as Member of the Presidential Consolidation Committee in the Education Sector and has been elected and decorated with an Honorary Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Builders. His commitment to excellence and professionalism was also recognized with a Merit Award at the 40th Anniversary OAU Alumni Merit Award for technology development.

Professor Michael Oladimeji Faborode is a Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers and the Nigerian Institution of Agricultural Engineers. He is the serving President, West African Society for Agricultural Engineering (WASAE), a position he has been re-elected into for three successive two- year tenures since 2002.

He has been the President, Ife Humanities Society (IHS), a society for the multi-disciplinary study of issues in African development since 1990 and is the Immediate Past Vice President of the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN).

He served as President, Nigerian Institution of Agricultural Engineers from 1999 to 2003; Secretary, Centre for Agricultural Strategy (CAS) (1999 to 2000) and was a Member of the Technical Committee on Agricultural Engineering Standards, of the Standards Organization of Nigeria (1991-1995).

A leading light in the African Science, Engineering, Technology and Innovation (SETI) Community, he is a widely published don whose research interests cover biomaterial properties and bioprocess engineering, gender issues, technology and development, agricultural technology policy- with emphasis on machine commercialization and diffusion of innovation; innovation, competitiveness and technical change in agriculture; environmental impact of agricultural mechanization; natural resource management and rural development.

He was Coordinator, Regional Conference on Gender, Technology and Development, organized by the Post-Harvest Technology Research Group at the Conference Centre, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, from October 23-26, 2002.

Professor Faborode is winner of the 2009 APBN Award for Professional Excellence (AAPE) in the Environment, Engineering/Construction Sector category. APBN is the Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria, an umbrella group of all professional bodies in the country. The award will be conferred at a ceremony that would hold at the forthcoming 25th General assembly of the Association scheduled for August 26, 2009.

He is happily married to Mrs. Helen Folake Faborede (nee Ajayj) and the union is blessed with four Children.

He is not your regular aloof, white bearded professor who speaks in hiccups. Not given to airs, this professor of Agricultural Engineering interacts with genuine humaneness and enthusiasm, displaying a penchant for detail and accuracy. His communication skills and easy grasp of ideas and issues reveal a quick mind, cultivated through vast reading and academic discipline.

His disarming simplicity and humble mien ensconce a very deliberate and decisive disposition. Meet 53-year-old Michael Oladimeji Faborode PhD, FNSE, FNIAE, Professor of Agricultural Engineering and 9th Vice Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University (Ile-Ife).

Professor Faborode’s leadership style and achievements demonstrate that there are limitless possibilities when we enlist the participation of others in building a sustainable structure.

He has been able to harvest the goodwill of his colleagues, leadership of his operating environment, the OAU Alumni, and even the students to boost the rising profile of the Institution as a centre of excellence and a world rated institution of higher learning.

In this interaction with CACHE, he speaks on the goal of university education, the role of the university in its environment, how to develop multiple streams of income and so on.

Professor Faborode is an inspiring figure. His views as expressed in this interview would certainly motivate leaders in diverse organizations and institutions to aspire to higher levels of achievement:

Media reports have it that only about 25% of students who sat for WAEC in 2008 passed with credits in English and Mathematics; and today, employers complain that present day graduates are usually poor quality material for employment- meaning, the raw material is faulty and so is the output. As a stakeholder, how does that make you feel and how would you rate the quality of raw materials and output of this Institution?

What you have just outlined is a shortcoming in the system that may not apply to an institution like the Obafemi Awolowo University. In terms of the issue of raw materials, the post UME examinations have made it possible for us to admit only those materials that we can use and in terms of output, we run a curriculum that produces great minds that are willing and ready to make valuable contributions to society wherever they find themselves.

Previously, students who were not prepared to study were forced on us and all they did was cause trouble on campus, engaging in disruptive activities and this is often because they never came with the intention to succeed.

Some of them became professional students, they had no idea of what to do if they left campus so, they would stay for ten years or more but all that has since changed. Through the admission process we have instituted and the learning environment we provide here. We have enjoyed stability for the past five years, so we are able to revisit the original vision of the founding fathers of this great institution.

Ife was founded to be a centre of excellence and you can see that from the topography, the architecture, the rich programmes; everything was put together to produce what we call the uniqueness of OAU, which engenders pride in the minds of the students and inspires them to excel. You cannot pass through this institution without it really impacting on you.

The liberalism of studies here aims at impacting the total person, allowing the individual to become aware of himself and his responsibilities to his environment. We build an individual who can take his training anywhere in the world and succeed because he has been groomed to become a master of his own destiny.

Unfortunately, the system got seriously distracted some years ago and the wrong students came in; a set of people we could not engage and direct positively. But like I said, we have put all that behind us now.

The first set that came in since the post UME process was introduced would soon be graduating if the ongoing strikes do not disrupt our calendar further. The current student union president is part of the new breed of students we are proud to present anywhere. They are focused, are aware of what is expected of them, and they are willing to put in their best.

On the lighter side, a good example of the orientation of the new crop of students we have played itself out at the beginning of the last academic session. The students report that the usual ‘jambite rush’ was not exciting at all because the new set of female students are serious minded; they know why they are here and they are determined to succeed.

Most of them came through the pre-degree prorammes we run so that by the time they are admitted, they already know why they are here, and they have built up the capacity to cope with their programme here; it will be hard to mobilize such students to riot or disrupt the system in any way.

All this came about because the university is allowed to have a say in the quality of individuals it admits. We ensure that intakes are people who passed jamb and whose scores are above the cut-off mark for the department of their choice.

They must also pass their O’Level examinations in one sitting. Then they also must scale our own screening process here. One, they must register online for the post-UME tests. This ensures that only students who are computer literate, who have been prepared to participate in the kind of learning environment we have here would be admitted.

The exam also helps us verify that the candidates are genuine. You know out there, sometimes students hire people to register for WAEC and JAMB on their behalf and even pay people to sit for the exams on their behalf.

We do not want such quality of students here, so our post UME process weeds them off. For those students who may be willing to join us but are not yet adequately prepared, we run a pre-degree programme that gives them proper academic grounding and orientation that will make them qualify for admission.

We are happy to state that we now have the quality of students who can contribute positively to any environment you place them in life, even when you interact with them; you can strike a chord with them, you will feel like you are dealing with reasonable human beings who have vision and aspirations and we are happy about that.

This management is prepared to put everything in place that will continue to build the kind of environment that tempers people to want to achieve.

Nigeria faces the burden of a huge unemployment profile, and the Government is encouraging introduction of entrepreneurial education within tertiary education curricula; to what extent is that thinking upheld at OAU?

OAU pioneered introduction of entrepreneurship education at the undergraduate level; we did not commission consultants to develop that programme for us, we used available internal resources to develop a concept that others are now trying to emulate.

A Central Working Committee was commissioned in 2003 to draw up a strategic Development Plan which we have been implementing since 2004. It was a very challenging and intriguing process. We not only involved our colleagues, but also co-opted our alumni in industry and captains of industry into the process. The view of industry was considered valuable because they are the employers of labour and we wanted to be sure that we produce graduates who can measure up to the expectations of contemporary industry.

We found that some of them wanted us to improve training on communication skills; some were more interested in entrepreneurial capability and others wanted us to incorporate IT skills.

At about the same time, we were getting a grant from the Carnegie Corporation; strengthening the university in several areas and we made ICT the central point of our development strategy and channelled a good part of the funds into it.

Then we moved in to enhance the entrepreneurial capability of the OAU graduate. Our commitment to entrepreneurship and enterprise development is part of a focused effort to empower our students to become generators of employment even right from the campus.

This effort has earned us the recognition and support of Oceanic Bank and its management who are now in the process of establishing the Ibru Foundation for Entrepreneurship Studies and Business Incubation here.

Our programme in Entrepreneurship studies has many components; it is designed with so much richness that you cannot but take it and feel the impact. It’s not just about sitting in the classrooms and receiving lectures; it has a lot of hands-on components.

Apart from that, there are some other elements that you cannot acquire directly from the classroom, which can only be picked up through interaction with other people; what we call the soft skills of life. These are the skills that move people through life; that will set them apart from the crowd; make the individual fit into leadership positions with minimal adjustments.

An individual endowed with these soft skills understands and appreciates the interdependence of life and can relate well with both the highly placed and the weak.

The OAU environment allows the student to develop these skills while here with us.  The campus is like a self-contained enclave, the grounds are vast and the student walks long distances or may need to use a vehicle to get to places on the campus and on his way, there’s a lot to soak in- the structures, the landscape, diverse kinds of people, all these present their own lessons of life and stimulate him to be a good driver of his own destiny.

There is so much to do within the environment that it shapes your perception of life; imbues in the individual the principles of self-help, the principles of neighbourliness, of taking your life in your hands- you learn to seek so you can find.

This training on the multiplicity of life, prepares the individual to deal with workplace challenges. The individual can prove himself in the workplace and demonstrate a willingness and ability to improve his environment.

Apart from that, there are other social engagements; we have the Students in Free Enterprise Programme (SIFES), we have other clubs that are semi academic that promote students’ cognitive abilities in several areas of life and this translates into this morbid passion for leadership which graduates of this university are known for, they always want to stand out wherever they find themselves.

Even in youth service camps, we hear that OAU students are usually to be found heading different activity and service groups in the camp, because of the participatory spirit they have imbibed here.

The entrepreneurship training, we give is aimed at enhancing the individual’s ability to envision, to embrace new ways of doing things. Even in youth service camps, we hear that OAU students are usually to be found heading different activity and service groups in the camp, because of the participatory spirit they have imbibed here.

This brings us to the issue of employment. Our products always come highly recommended in the marketplace. Oftentimes, a Second Class Lower Division from OAU is better rated than a First Class from other universities because industry has come to trust us and the quality of graduates we produce.

Our students participate in the highly competitive Junior Fulbright, Foreign teaching Language Assistance Programmes, and they always top the list. Anyone who is applying for any fellowship or scheme anywhere goes through our internal review process where we assist them with mentoring and house clearing to ensure that the best is sifted out.

We even recently received commendation from the American Embassy because of the quick response time and ability to send in good proposals. All these have been made possible through our ICT capacity. As leaders in ICT, we utilize IT tools in virtually all aspects of our operations. Indeed, the Internet has been one of the greatest facilitators of the successes we have recorded here. We use it for real-time gathering, dissemination and processing of information.

The modern university cannot rely on subvention. …There are several funding streams that the modern university can explore to meet its funding needs. The first is tuition but that can only really apply to the private universities. The second is assistance, in the form of government subvention. Then you can generate funds internally through research, competitive bidding for research grants, endowments, intellectual property and so on.

Funding poses a critical challenge to quality tertiary education across the nation, would you say this institution is adequately funded and, are there activities you engage in to augment your subvention? How has the resultant enhanced revenue profile improved educatio pictures

n and the quality of life in this institution?

The modern university cannot rely on subvention. In fact, sometimes we only get paid one fourth of our total approved budget and this means that we have to seek out other creative ways of raising funds to run the system.

There are several funding streams that the modern university can explore to meet its funding needs. The first is tuition but that can only really apply to the private universities. The second is assistance, in the form of government subvention. Then you can generate funds internally through research, competitive bidding for research grants, endowments, intellectual property and so on.

Harnessing intellectual property entails using the available body of knowledge to generate funds for the university system. This means that all extracurricular activities must be run in very corporate, profitable ways. They should not be run like government business.

Right now, all the OAU ventures that were almost running aground before I came have been established as part of OAU Investment Company Limited; with a single board rather than each little unit having its own board.  We also ensure that they are manned by professionals who are capable of running those businesses.

We also make it clear that those units must be profitably managed. We give you start-off capital as loan which must be repaid within a given period; after which you are expected to become self sustaining and on the long run begin to generate fund for the university. I think we are getting there, after one and half years of existence, ventures under OAU Investments Company Limited have been revamped and they are now beginning to post profits.

In fact, the university IGR (Internally Generated Funds) has now doubled in the last one year. About six businesses are now running profitably and we are expanding businesses and bringing in more lucrative businesses. Our IGR now accounts for about 27.5% of our total budget, an improvement from 13% recorded in 2007. 

NUC encourages us to generate 10% of our budget but we have exceeded that. We have some development projects we want to embark on; for example, we want to develop a Science and Technology Park, we want to go into commercial agriculture and a quarry. All these are going to further increase our income generating streams; so, it is not impossible, in the near future, to see OAU generate more than 50% of its total budget internally.

This also means that we will be able to develop at our own pace because sometimes, only one fourth of total approved budget is released to us but when we are able to generate our own funds, it will be easier for us to manage those shortfalls.

To be continued

By Jennifer Ihuoma Abraham

Jennifer Abraham holds a bachelors degree in English Language and Literature and a Post Graduate Diploma in Education. She has practiced journalism since after her national youth service assignment in 1989 as an independent TV producer/presenter and magazine editor; focusing on entrepreneurship, personal and community/natural resources development. She has attended broadcasting courses sponsored by the United States Information Service and Science Reporting Workshops with the African Technology and Policy Studies Network. She is also a teacher, a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ and has partnered with NGOs, Government Agencies and individuals to promote philanthropic causes.

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