Exclusive Interview With Rector, Katsina State Institute Of Technology And Management Babangida Abubakar Albaba, Phd.

Q. What is your brief biography ?
My name is Babangida Abubakar Al-Baba, a nigerian Citizen, borned in Albaba Katsina LG. I attended the public Dan-marna Primary School, I did both my Junior and Secondary School in Arabic Teachers’ College and Government Special Science Secondary School Dutsinma. Well, it is an Arabic School both with two sections; it has a complete Arabic section and the normal western education section with little elements of Arabic and Iam happy to have had the opportunity of learning in both languages ( English and Arabic). Having passed through the secondary education, I joined Hassan Usman Katsina Polytechnic to obtained my National Diploma and Higher National Diploma in Computer Science. Besides, I went to Bayero University Kano for my post graduate Diploma in Computer Science, after which, I secured admission in Greenwich University London for my Msc in Computer system networking and Engineering. Thanks to PTDF for the sponsorship. Having graduated with distinction, I was offered yet another scholarship for PHD but had already enrolled for the PTDF scholarship which paved way for me to attend University of Brighton in UK. Three months after commencing the PhD program, I saw an advert seeking for a qualified lecturing candidate which I applied and got a part time job with them in London. I worked till 2016 . Shortly after completing the programme, I got another job offer from the University for a Doctorate research fellow where i equally worked with them till when I was offered a part time researcher in the university. I came back to Nigeria for about three to six months and Umaru Musa Yar’adua sought for my services which I was offered an appointment as a lecturer at that university and they allowed me to go back for my PhD. When I came back, I resumed to my University ( Ummaru Musa Yar’adua University) and on secondment I was appointed the Rector of this institute ( KSITM). I am married with two wives and six children, my parents and siblings are all alive, so this is just a brief about me.
How can you compare teaching and learning in UK and Nigeria?
Alhamdulillah, I got the opportunity, the opportunity I had then was to be able to do my PhD and lecturing job and not only that, I was even part of the Major key figures in the academia I studied. I was among those that sit at the academic board and decide on the students results. In general perspective, the difference in terms of study here and there is that in UK they look at the need of the society, develop their curriculum on that and their curriculum is always in line with the societal needs. That is why you see a lot of collaborations among Universities and Industries which we lack in Nigeria where most of our curriculum are outdated; some we don’t even need them. I am telling you from experience as a computer scientist, if you go to some Nigerian Universities, they are still doing programming languages that are obsolete in the last twenty years. It is good to give a background to somebody about where we came from to understand where we started. UK study is a research based, when we are teaching the students which I have taught at different level from level one to level four and most of the courses are terminated at level three, you do the lecturing not teaching, you give them the synopsis of what you want them to know, you give them the basic rudiments and guide them for further research by themselves and read further, the teaching is a kind of engagement between the lecturer and the students, whereas in Nigeria, is just a garbage in garbage out. Whatever the lecturer gives the students they don’t even comprehend to see what is there, they just go and cram what is there and that’s all. And few weeks after the examination, they may not be able to answer a question on that because he/she doesn’t understand it, he just read it and give you exactly what you have given him.
Q. I understand you were a lecturer while doing your PhD in UK and you decided to come back to Nigeria to take this job, what motivated you to come back?
To be candid it was two things that motivated me, the first thing was I wanted my children to come back home, I wanted them to have the experience of what Nigeria is all about, I don’t want them to be staying there. They had already got the opportunity; my first daughter was in Primary 3 and before we came back to this country, she was almost finishing her secondary school. Those that were born there were becoming more of the English people and I don’t what that, I am proud of my country; l am proud of my culture and I am proud of myself. So, I want them to have the same background that I had. The second reason was that, I want to come back and contribute my own quota, I have seen a lot of people who were regretting staying and wasting their youthful age in UK because they would use because of your intellectual capacity and sagacity and later dump you after exploiting your talent to make their countries great. You see! you end up developing someone’s country at the expence of yours. So, these are the two reasons that motivated me to come back. It is amazing to serve my own country and my own state. I am always happy, but to be realistic I was 100% comfortable there. I know we pay taxes in the UK but my pay was quite. In fact, my savings in UK is almost my salary in Nigeria. The material aspect is one thing which I did not give much priority, my priority is what can I contribute, one day one time I will leave this surface earth but the world would speak about my achievements and the legacies I was able to leave behind and if I am in Uk I would not be able to do that. These are the reasons that brought me back.
Q. Youths are now shunning duly accredited and standard Universities and rush to substandard ones in some neighbouring countries for their 1st degree or diploma certificates, what is your reactions on that?
To be honest with you it is sad, it is sad whenever I thought of this, I have seen a lot of these certificates here in Nigeria people applied for jobs but the whole world is changing, certificates are no more the relevant yardstick but the skills you acquire. It makes me to ponder how as a father, I would put my own child to go through this, you think is there any shortcut in any success, I did not believe there is a shortcut to success, you must fight for it, you must work for it. You come back and you are giving a job, do you think that is the only challenge you will face in the job, it is not. In fact more challenges will come, some of your subordinates will look up to you and mock at because you don’t know anything. It is really devastating and this is what is really crippling our educational system in the country. The authorities involved must do more than what they are doing now to make sure that things change. Thank God the narrative is changing now, even if you applied for the job now despite who you know at the top, there are hundreds with same connections, and the slots probably might be for one or two persons, at that, they go for competency. For example, I am happy to tell you that since I came to this institution, we have done little employment, I subjected it merit. When I came in 2017, I noted some deficiencies in terms of number of my staff that are requiring my accreditation, I wrote to His Excellency through the supervising department, I got approval and his Excellency granted my request to recruit based on merit and do you know what I did, I advertised, people were saying how would I handle this pressure but I don’t care about pressure, I did the right things. We went ahead and conducted examinations and aptitude tests and we selected the best out of the best and that is why we are here, that is why the institution is progressing. If we had succumbed to pressure and even your own family, can you all satisfy them? No, you can’t. Thank God it worked for us and since then, the potentiality of the institution is growing. So, I will like to use this opportunity to call the attention of institutions executives, ministries and parastatals to please conduct interviews with rigorous tests and employ the best. You can give someone who earned a degree in less than six months a job that entails making policies, it needs intelligence and knowledge. The best people in Nigeria in terms of academic excellence are those that went to public schools institutions not these private institutions
Q. So what have you achieved since you came into office as Rector of Katsina Institute of Technology and Management?
After I was appointed before resumption into office, I had a blueprint, I didn’t come as a rector to see what would happen. I had planned very well. My first plan was how to make this institution a first class learning environment in Nigeria and I want it to produce a skilled manpower that the society need. I want it to be an IT driven institute. So, this is what I looked at before coming in. As a Member of different International Organizations, I found it much easier in understanding what is needed and in that 2017, I was part of the European Union 5G Research cluster, we did a comprehensive research on 5G implementation. So, I was lucky to understand what we even need in the future. But when I came in I sat down and see what we have in the institute, what are our strength and challenges. The first thing I did then was designing strategic ways of addressing some of the domestic issues like accreditation because the institute cannot be able to provide these courses that we are offering without accreditation by the National Board for Technical Education ( NBTE) and that was why I told you about the recruitment exercise, what are the challenges, we reach to the government and they gave us what we required and we invited NBTE accreditation, we got all the accreditation for the program. Not only that, At tthat time, without requesting a penny from the government we looked at our capacity and resources including the manpower resources and added another program ‘Technology Multimedia’. And NBTE came and gave us accreditation to start the program.
When I started it was only 146 students but currently, we have more than 1150 students in ND1 and ND2, so a department that had only 60 students now has over 200 students in courses like Software Engineering, Network and Security and others. In terms of staff strength, we have about 89 staff strength. As part of my strategic vision and mission of making the institute one of the best in Nigeria, I also introduced new additional programmes such as: Telecommunication Engineering, Hardware Computer Engineering, Security Management, Islamic Banking, Electrical Electronics Engineering and Business informatics. All these courses are critical areas of need in world of ICT and Management. In fact, we are waiting for NBTE on resource visitation to accredit these Six programs now which will be added and that will give our teeming youths the opportunity to find more enrollment space into the Institute. So, we looked at the environment and then came up with what we want.
In terms of discipline, giving the background that Katsina is a disciplined society, so I put emphasis on discipline, our students know that any small breech in the school regulations has a penalty. We strictly upheld what the regulations say, so we have sent a lot of them home, we have rusticated some, we never tolerate Indiscipline, Malpractices, Indecent dressing, sexual harassment and Drug abuse we don’t tolerate them at all. For you to achieve other issues you have to think outside the box. We strengthened the operation of the consulting unit which provides more income for the institute, we felt there’s no reason to rely heavily on the government. In UK we wrote a lot of Proposal to Companies and Organizations to attract grant to the institute so the university can have its own resources to run its activities. So, I looked at that and came up with the consulting unit where we are providing a lot of trainings. I established Sisqo Academy in the Institute where people are paying and getting training to become Sisqo certified professionals. We have a Huwai Academy in the Institute, Huwai is a sister organization to Sisqo, Sisqo is an American Company that manage all the world network system. Chinese came up with the Huwai company that is managing their company, so they are all in Nigeria training you on how to use the equipment’s switches and routers and whatever devices we are seeing. People are saying internet but they don’t know what is happening at the back end, so this is the training our people are being certified. We have established a collaboration with the Chattered Institute of Bankers in Nigeria Training Examination Center in the institute, so our people from the banking operational department here can come and have their exams here and this has eased the burden of going to Kano, now we have it here in Katsina. We also established International Examination Center in collaboration with BUE so that whenever you have a virtual examination you can register online. You may have an examination in America but you can take it in Nigeria and we get paid for that also.
In 2018, NIITDA established a state of the art hub in the institute where we have #D painting and design facilities, PVC board design and printing facilities, IOT devices which we are using for special training to people. Currently, we are collaborating with NIITDA to be sponsored by PTDF to train 36 thousand youths across the nation. There are some of the collaborations we are doing with NCC which they supported us and gave us a lot of computers about 220 laptops and 50 desktops and equipped one of our Tertiary Knowledge Centers here. We reached out to International bodies also.
Q. What type of assistance are you getting from agencies, companies and other NGO’s?
As you said, the law that established the institution gave us the mandate to collaborate with other institutions, so we went out looking for relevant institutions in Nigeria that can support us and provide services to the people. That was why I told you we have collaborated with NITTDA, NCC, PTDF, Federal Ministry of Science & Technology & Federal Ministry of communication. In that regard, we also have within our mandate to reach out to International Organizations and Centers like CISCO and HUWAEI, we are also going to collaborate with the University of Southfield and my former University Brighton University to do other programs. So, when our students graduate here, they can proceed to earn a degree in a year or two. In fact, if not because of Covid-19 could have started, the management of Saltford University were in Nigeria, we discussed all the modalities and I was invited to Brighton University for a research discussion. I went and we had all the discussions and came back 3 weeks after the Corona pandemic came up.
Since then, we couldn’t continue till today. Recently I met with the DG NDDC Mr. Jailani & Governor Masari on how we can go to collaborate on the issue of mechatronics. Vehicles are nowadays electronic and mechanical which are driven by Computer software. So, we have a lot of impact on this and we wanted to provide training for our teeming youth. These are all part of the achievements we have recorded.
Q. Can you enumerate some of your vision?
My strongest vision is to make the Institution a research and innovation-driven. I always sleep over this because this is what is leading the whole world. You need to be innovative and you can never be innovative without research. I want to build a Research and Innovative Center where ideas can be matured to solve our own internal problems. Like in the agric sector, some of our people don’t have the knowledge of what it takes in the agric sector, they are just farming. The world is changing but little we know on what we can do to improve agriculture using technology, we have the health and the education sectors, most of our lands are fertile but the level of fertility is different, some will come and dip a small equipment stay for 5-10min and will be able to tell you this is what you have in your farm and these are the crops you can be able to plant and so many things. In the Health Sector and other sectors. We have a ministry that have mandate on digital economy. Giant Companies within the whole world are tech companies and how do we do that, by innovating, bringing our people to discuss and work with start-up Companies. Technology is all about bringing solutions. This has been my vision and aim.
Q. Lastly, what are some of your challenges?
You can’t succeed without challenges, but I believe there won’t be any success without challenge. Yes I had a lot of challenges; the mindset of our people was one of the biggest challenge, the people you are working with, people you are relating with in all level, they have their own different mindset. I believe in steadfastness in whatever you are doing; stick to your principle and God will guide you. Other challenges are finances, you can’t run an Institution without finances, the world is battling with finances too but should I fold my hands that I don’t have money? That is why I came up with these initiatives so we can get money and keep the institution running and we are getting the support, because people have seen what we can deliver and we are delivering. So, there also challenges from the students and parents, they couldn’t understand what we wanted to do. They even little awareness about the institute and this is why we engaged in aggressive media campaign, awareness creation and again we are doing something different. In the beginning when we introduced a national innovative diploma, people don’t know about it. When I came, we have to wait for other Universities and Polytechnic to finish admission before we take the ruminants, but now we finished admission even before Yar’adua University and Hassan Usman Katsina Polytechnic because people have seen our impact. Now our students are writing 1st Semester Exams while Yar’adua and Poly are yet to commence their 1st semester Examinations. So without these challenges we wouldn’t have succeeded. So, I challenge anybody that want to succeed to confront his challenges with passion.

The inteview was conducted by Muhammad Danjuma and Jamilu Isma’il Mabai. The video interview is on KATSINA CITY NEWS TV youtube channel.

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