NIGERIAN EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM HAS CHANGED FROM WHAT IT USED TO BE – Prof. Olugbenga Ogunmoyela
Prof. Ogunmoyela, a native of Ifon in Ondo State, is a scholar per excellence and an experienced industrial skilled manager of over two decades.
He had his post primary and university education in Ibadan and worked with Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria, Ibadan, Oyo State before he was privileged to be awarded an overseas in-service training in 1977 for his Masters and Doctor of Philosophy degrees at the University of Readings, United Kingdom. He had worked as a lecturer and after his industrial experience, he returned as a lecturer and at present, he is the Dean of College of Food Science at the Bells University of Technology, Ota, Ogun State.
As much as he is devoted to his secular work, he is also devoted to the work of God as a worker in the ushering and Sunday School Department of his church, indeed Ben is a man of many parts.
In an interview with Adegbuyi Adejare Olawale in his office at the Bells University of Technology, he bears his mind on several areas that concern his discipline and spoke on the need for the government and parents to wake up to their responsibility.
Can we know more about you sir?
My name is Professor Olugbenga Ogunmoyela and friends call me Ben, I’m a professor of Food Science and Technology and the Dean, Faculty of Food Science at The Bells University of Technology, Ota, Ogun State. I had been in the industry before I came to The Bells University. I was the Director of Quality Assurance at Honeywell Flour Mills Limited, Apapa, Lagos and before then, I had been in the university system, and rose to the position of a reader in 1990 before I proceeded to Cadbury Nigeria Plc, where I worked for 10 years, first as Technical Manager, then I occupied various positions in the Commercial and Production Units.
Can we go through the lines of your academic development?
I had the privilege of attending Government College Ibadan, Oyo State for my O & A levels, but I can tell you that I actually went to primary school in Ifon in Ondo State. I was at Saint Barnabas and Saint Paul in Ifon, and then in those days if you hand could not be stretched to the other ear through your head, you cannot be admitted into secondary school and that happened to me. After I completed my primary school in Ifon, I proceeded to Oyo State to spend another year in the primary school, where my parents were at the time.
I was really small in stature at the time, infact I was the smallest in my class, and afterwards, I gained admission into Government College Ibadan, that is one school that probably shaped my life, my thinking, and my personality as it were. From there, I went to the University of Ibadan for my first degree between 1972 and 1975. I had B.Sc Agriculture with option in Biochemistry and Nutrition from the school, and then I had the honour to visit major agriculture establishments in Nigeria. I visited Cocoa Research Institute and I fell in love with the place. I came back home after my youth service programme in Mubi, Maiduguri, Borno State in the North East, and I was posted to FIIRO, but I said I preferred Cocoa Research Institute because I was an Ibadan boy. I waited at home until interviews were conducted and I eventually joined the institute in August 1976.
By the following year, I gained admission to the University of Readings on in-service training sponsored by Cocoa Research Institute. I finished my masters degree in 1978 and I got my PhD in 1981 at the University of Readings because before we finished we had actually signed a bond that we would come back home after the programme. At that time, I was offered a tenure appointment somewhere else after the completion of my PhD, but I eventually returned to Cocoa Research Institute in January 1982. Of course, I was there till sometimes in April 1985 when I gained admission to the University of Jos, Markudi campus, which was the beginning of my teaching career. I am very happy that some of my students today hold very high positions in industries and some are in government establishments.
Let me also state that I cherish my membership as a fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology. I’ve been a fellow since 2001 and presently, I am the 2nd Vice President of the institute of Public Analysts of Nigeria (IPAN). Perhaps, I should also mention some interesting aspects people may not know about me; while I was in Cadbury I had the privilege of attending Advance Management Program at the Lagos Business School. Also I am an alumnus member of MPE7 Class of 1997, long time ago you will say. I think by education, which was the last time I went for a classroom education.
The last time I registered was when I went for post graduate studies in theology, which I completed in 2010 at the Redeemed Christian Church of God Bible College. I have a singular honour of having distinction in that program.
Can you quickly take us through your family background back in Ifon?
I came from Ogunmoyela family in Ifon, of course that is the family that I’m very proud of and my mother of blessed memory had nine children. I’m the 2nd child of the family and I have four brothers and four sisters. One older brother and the rest are younger and by the grace of God, they are doing very well, we don’t say it often, but the truth of the matter is that God has been kind to us. My older brother is a Professor of Mathematics at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State. I have another younger brother, who is a Professor of Medicine at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State. Some are in public service and some others are in private organisations.
Perhaps, while many of us are in education is because my father was a civil servant, who spent a good part of his life in civil service in those days in the inspectorate of education. I’m not saying that was the reason, but he encouraged us to study our books and make something good out of it. And incidentally, we were also very privileged to have attended Government College, Ibadan. I was Ogunmoyela number two at the Government College Ibadan, there was Ogunmoyela one and Ogunmoyela three it was a very interesting kind of experience as it were, but we cherish it till today. I was very active, and I’m still committed to that till today. I will say by way of family, even though my parents are both late, we thank God for the value they impacted in us. I must acknowledge the fact that I have half sisters and a brother, everybody is grown up now and they are all doing well in their various fields.
You spent a little time in Cadbury; can you tell us how this has affected your teaching job now that you are back in the classroom?
I spent seven years in Cadbury and I thank God for the courage He gave me. I look back and I feel it was the best thing that could have happened to me; here I’m still very much able to play my part in affecting the industry. Our services were required in one research or the other right from the classroom; it means one cannot just be confined to the classroom. One is able to make his service available to the benefits of humanity; it has also helped us in projecting the image of the University. People come around to tell us that in The Bells University, we encourage a blend of technical people from the industry and the academics. And I think really that’s how it should be. When I was at the University of Readings, many of my professors were people who had spent 20 to 30 years in the industry before returning to lecture rooms, and that made a lot of differences because when I looked back, I appreciate how that school has shaped me.
You said your experience in the industry helped you to impact more in the academics, are you saying in essence that the people who will go to the academics sector should have experience in the industry so that they could train our graduates to be self-sufficient?
I have a philosophy based on my own experience in the industry, I will prefer you go to a small and medium scale industry where you are not just seeing, but learning, not just about production and quality assurance, but learning about book keeping, marketing, finance, human resources and raw materials handling, which are very crucial in setting up a food industry at small and medium scale levels. It’s even now part of the curriculum of most institutions now that people must have. Before I went into the industry, one of the advantages of being a lecturer is that there is no way you will visit the students where they are doing industrial training without having a feel of what they are doing. That alone has been of immense help to me even before I found myself in the industry.
Lecturers who are creative and who have passion for what they are doing in their various disciplines can always gain an in-road and in any case even if you don’t work there directly, you must be able to create a kind of partnership that allows gradual development. I remember in the late 80s, one day in my class, while I was teaching a subject on food chemistry one student put his head under the table and said ‘we don’t need all these big structures and whatever, we are going to the bank,’ and I stopped that lecturer and asked that, who said that, it was a very large class. Eventually, I fished her out and it was a female student, who actually said that. I remember that I called her after the class, and counseled her severally. I wasn’t surprised that the young lady ended in one of the finance houses after her graduation, and about five years later, in the mid-90s, the finance house crashed. I was in Cadbury then, she tracked me down and said she wanted to see me, I asked her what she wanted to see me for, she said she wanted to come back to food technology. I said ‘you have been too far from food technology, your degree is stale, if I were you, I will have to return to school may be for masters degree,’ or else, we should not condemn the Nigerian graduates for the way they are, it is not something that just started today. There had been a gradual decline in the system and it is the societal decline that brought it to life. You will observe that it’s not just about a particular industry or a particular discipline, it’s all over because an average Nigerian student in the university now doesn’t want to read, but he or she wants to pass exams. He just wants to get a degree and go, and as far as they are concerned, it’s about connection and who you know. In those days, when we travelled abroad for our post graduates, in the class, most of our lecturers wondered how we knew certain things saying, ‘you mean you already know all these as masters degree students, how did you manage to know all these.’ It means we were way ahead of our pairs in the class in the United Kingdom. Now, you have to beg students to come to the class, infact, parents need to ask about the performance of their children from 100 levels to 400 levels, degrees are not sold, and that would encourage your wards to work harder. If the Nigerian graduates are not employable, well, it’s the result of the societal values. How many students actually passed West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), may be every year, you talk of about 10 – 15% average, that’s enough to tell us that there is something fundamentally wrong with the system.
What’s your advice to the young ones sir?
If you are learning what, forms of lesson are you learning,
What’s your view about Movietainment Magazine?
I can see a blend of Nollywood with events coverage, arts & culture and life & style. I think it’s a rich blend of many things that are actually good for our society like we have pull-outs in other newspapers. It really cut across even to people like me as well. It’s a magazine every segment of the society can benefit from whether you are a theatre lover or a man of God, it’s a magazine that will add value to every life.