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Nigerian Universities, the interference of Professional bodies, and the time bomb

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Having worked with multidisciplinary teams during my PhD at the Department of Engineering of the University of Leicester and postdoctoral fellowship at the Department of Electric Power Engineering at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), I decided to experiment the acceptability of a multidisciplinary team in Engineering departments in Nigerian universities in 21st century on my return in 2015. Then, I was already due to be a Senior Lecturer in ABU since 2014. So I sent my CV and an application letter for the position of Associate Professor to the VC through the Head of Electrical Engineering Department of one of our public universities in November 2015. And I received the following not very surprising reply.
“Having perused your application documents, I found them interesting and relevant to the need of the department. However, I cannot pass your application for further processing because of the post applied for. For your information, the Council for Regulation of Engineering in Nig. (COREN) has fixed the bar of an Engineering lecturer who is not registered with COREN at Lecturer I regardless of the number of his/her publications.”
The question that came to my mind was that is the regulation of engineering lecturers in universities part of the mandates of COREN? I read the reply again and he was very emphatic on my PhD and postdoctoral research experience and the relevance to his department. I was made to understand that the University has no academic staff in the area of high voltage engineering, but for them to utilize my experience in high voltage engineering, if I was actually ready to move there, I have to accept to be demoted for 4 years because COREN said so. And I can’t grow no matter my research output till I am registered with COREN. Amazing offer! It will take a complete idiot to accept such an offer. That is the reality of the compartmentalization of our university system and the destruction of the Nigerian university system and the structure by supposed professionals.
This was completely different from my experience in my two universities in Europe. Prof. Len Dissado had a first degree in chemistry and a PhD in chemistry but was a Professor of Engineering at Leicester because his research area was in Dielectrics, a topic very relevant to High Voltage Engineering. He was retained as Emeritus when I left in 2012. Dr. Steve S. Dodd had his first degree in Physics and PhD in Physics but was employed as a Senior Lecturer in Engineering (High Voltage Engineering group) because his research area was in Electrical insulation materials. He retired as a Reader in High Voltage Engineering. The HoD of the Electric Power Engineering as at the time I left the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in 2015 had a PhD in Physics and was a Professor of Electric Power Engineering. Universities in the rest of the world are closing gaps, while we are widening the gap. Since I could not close the gap, so we decided to have a High Voltage Laboratory in the Physics department.
In universities, we are academics and research workers. Irrespective of the field, we are employed to teach and do research. The yardstick for evaluating your performance is research output. Engineering graduates in academia are not left out. They are not employed as Engineers. Universities have their Engineers to do the engineering work. As an academic, you can be COREN registered to enable you to practice outside the university but not for the classroom and research labs in the university. I once asked a colleague some years back if as a university worker, he is an Engineer for real or a teacher and he was silent. I asked about the value of COREN registration in his teaching of Engineering courses, research output, and student project supervision and he could not give me a straight answer.
I still find it weird that COREN, a body regulating practicing engineers on the field is now setting standards for promotion in the Engineering departments of Nigerian universities. They will soon be telling Nigerian universities what to teach and what not to teach. The other councils of professionals will soon follow to set what they perceived as standards for the respective faculties or departments.
The interference of the Councils of professionals in the affairs of Nigerian universities has grown beyond setting promotion guidelines. They are now deciding the establishment of faculties and the duplication of academic departments. It does not matter the burden of running such faculties and departments on the universities. I am still wondering how they are able to twist the hands of NUC and the universities’ Senate and Governing Council to achieve all that. Not long ago, the Faculty of medicine in Nigerian public universities were converted to Colleges of Medical Sciences with 4 faculties and several departments, thanks to the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria.
What baffled me was the fact that the Department of Biochemistry, for example, that has taught medical students the biochemistry they know since the inception of the study of medicine in Nigerian universities is suddenly no more qualified to teach medical students because the Lecturers do not have a degree in medicine. Very amazing! We now have duplicated Biochemistry departments across Nigerian universities that they called “Medical Biochemistry” in the college of medicine. The “medical biochemistry” will possibly be taught by the Medical Doctors based on what they learned from the Biochemists in life science while in medical school. Could this be a case of trading quality for ego?
We also, for example, have a medical microbiology department in the college of medicine, a microbiology
department in the faculty of life science, and a vet microbiology department in the faculty of Veterinary medicine.
The microbiologists will be able to explain to us the difference between the different versions of the microbiology.
I was in Norway in 2014 when the Norwegian couple at NTNU shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine with a Professor at the University College London (UCL). I tried to check the structure of these 2 universities. The faculty of medicine at NTNU has no biochemistry department. The Department of Biotechnology and Food Sciences, a replica of the Biochemistry department, is in the faculty of natural science and they provide service to the faculty of Medicine as we had before the coming of the colleges of medicine in Nigerian universities.
How the increased number of departments helping to improve the quality of our academic output is what I can’t figure out. Rather than the duplication of service departments that will only increase the number of academic departments and won’t really add much value to the system but increased running cost, we should have created a college of life sciences and pulled the relevant faculties and departments into it.
Individualistic research is going extinct and most of the novelties of the 21st century are from interdisciplinary researches. One of the winners of the 2014 Nobel prize in medicine John O’Keefe is a neuroscientist in the Faculty of life sciences at the UCL with his degrees in Psychology. But the others, May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser are both neuroscientists from the Faculty of Medicine at NTNU and received their first degree from the Department of Psychology and PhD in neurophysiology at the Faculty of Medicine in Oslo.
There is nothing more fascinating than the fusing of different ideas together to produce a unique product. That is the exploration in the 21st century. The world has left us behind in individualistic ideology and moved into multidisciplinary academics. If we must make progress in our universities, we must break our erected artificial barriers that are keeping us apart. The academics in physical sciences and engineering must come together with possibly a research centre that is into cutting-edge research that will involve research groups from all the relevant departments. Same way to bring life science and medical complex together.
I have seen graduates of mathematics that became Professors of Econometrics in Economics departments in universities in Europe, but not in Nigerian universities. I have seen a graduate of Chemistry that became a Professor of Engineering in Europe, but not in Nigerian universities. I have seen a graduate of Physics that became a Professor of Electric Power Engineering in Europe, but not in Nigerian universities. In Nigeria, I have seen Engr (Prof) XXX boldly written on our doors in the department but not in the universities in Europe. Are we having an identity crisis?
Professional bodies that are supposed to focus on the regulation of Professionals in the field should focus on their mandate and not be given free hands to change University policies as it pleases them. If we don’t end their interference, just like the medical council, COREN could wake up one day to tell our universities that there is a need for colleges of Engineering with departments of mathematics and physics to service the college because those in Mathematics and Physics departments are not qualified to teach engineering students because they don’t have engineering degrees. Vet council, Pharmaceuticals council, builders council, architects council, Quantity surveyors council, etc, may follow. So, how are we going to handle that?
Let’s stick to the founding principles of the university. Universities have world standards. We can stick to our British standard or borrow a leaf from the world’s top universities to improve our system, instead of allowing professional bodies to manipulate us and create barriers within the university system that will further slow down the progress we are to make.
Our universities are not in it’s best form and we have to do what we have to do to improve them. We should be more preoccupied with that. We should be discussing how to reposition Nigerian universities to be able to stand up to our various challenges and not duplicate departments without facilities because some Councils of professionals said so.
Finally, to my colleagues in Electric power engineering or high voltage engineering in Nigerian universities, you are welcome to experience our High Voltage Materials Laboratory in the Department of Physics, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. We have a 400 kV DC generator and 100 kV AC source with a partial discharge measurement system to serve you. Join us to learn the physics of electric power equipment. We do not have barriers!

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Doctor’s Spectacle: National Insecurity In The Face of Fragile Health System

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By: Dr Khalid Sunusi Kani

Do you know that “one-third of more than 700 health facilities in Northeast Nigeria, have been destroyed as a result of insurgency”? I was shocked the first time I laid my hands on the report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the year 2016. Hmmmm, na wa woo! We don die…

Nigerians are vanishing from earth daily, not because of our negligence but as a result of the cluelessness of those responsible for safeguarding our lives and properties. Citizens are forcefully ejected from their heritage homes and blatantly separated from their loved ones. Our shelters are not safe, some were put ablaze by some mischievous personalities, the so-called “bandits, militants and Boko Haram.” Health Personnel are gradually evacuating from the areas where insurgency is on the rise. This is the architectural written description of the predicament of common people in Nigeria. These events have resulted in an abrupt change in the front pages of our newspapers to a near-death announcing space. If the present situation that we are living witnesses today continue, it will be very worrisome if care is not taken.

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In the context of poor security, public health interventions and the delivery of healthcare to the individual are more difficult to perform and less likely to succeed than in the context of security. Violence – including the threat of violence – in such contexts results in injury, death, psychological harm, impaired development or deprivation. Insecurity therefore, potentially has a double impact on people’s lives and well-being; this is the reality of everyday life for many millions of people in Nigeria.

High insecurity, difficult terrain and lack of health workers, medicines, equipment and basic amenities such as safe water are making access to essential, life-saving healthcare services extremely difficult for people in these conflict-affected areas.

The rate at which the insecurity is going like a bat out of hell is very alarming. It has resulted in an indiscriminate geometric increase in the number of Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees in our country. Numerous researchers have shown the inextricable relationship between Maternal Motarlity, Under Five Mortality, and Malnutrition among Children with the insurgency. Insecurity worsens the health condition by causing numerous commotions and disturbances in the normal physiological and mental health of the indigenous people of the affected areas.

Hmmm, as I’m writing with my ink at this point, my heart is silently bleeding profusely, fully aware of the dilapidated health system that has been in existence for decades even before the worsening of the security situation. And could you imagine how the situation would be when augmented with the rascal behaviour of bandits, Boko Haram and Niger-Delta Militants? It would be just like adding salt to the wound. That simply defines the current condition in our country – “Insecurity In The Face Of Fragile Health System.”

There was a story of a pregnant woman with a poor financial background in Zamfara State, living in one of the Local Government Areas with the highest attacks by the bandits. She had an Intrauterine Fetal Death(IUFD), which means the baby died inside her womb, a few weeks before reaching her Expected Date of Delivery (EDD). However, this tragedy is related to the inability to access healthcare from the nearby Primary Health Care facility in their residential. The health workers were all transferred to other health facilities and most of all, they were not willing to stay in the village as a result of the perpetual kidnapping of their colleagues in the danger zones. That’s how she nearly spent nine months without attending Antenatal Care (ANC) clinic. Had it been the village is secured, it would have been a different narration. Unfortunately, she is presently depressed and placed on antidepressants and regular follow-up with the psychiatric clinic at a tertiary medical centre.

Truly, in a secured society, pregnant women would be able to attend ANC, and health workers could tackle preventable causes of poor maternal and perinatal mortality through early detection of dangerous signs of pregnancy and subsequently help the women to deliver safely without any complications. This sympathising story is one in a million; just a tip of an iceberg. That’s how insecurity continues to affect mothers and children in IDP camps. Hundreds are dying as a result of poor environmental sanitation in the camps as inhabitants of these camps keep battling with deadly infectious diseases, all as a result of insecurity in my country.

Nevertheless, the Nigerian Government has the greatest role and responsibility to play in securing the lives and wealth of its citizens. People’s security has been described as “a basic value because it is an essential requirement or condition of a successful and fulfilling existence; it liberates people (both physically and mentally) to get on with the business of building their lives without undue fear of those around them … It is also peace of mind: liberation from the anxiety and apprehension associated with fear of those who are in a position to harm us.”

The above mentioned description of personal security runs parallel to the “narrow” concept of human security described in the Human security report 2005: “it is about protecting individuals and communities from any form of political violence.” Given that the definition of health encompasses a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, it is both logical and intuitive that people’s security, whether viewed collectively or at an individual level, is necessary but not sufficient for their health.

With the above mentioned assertions, we would be able to believe that we need health for peace, and as well, we need peace for health. Nevertheless, Government must do the needful to renew its strategic approach in bringing to an end, this unhealthy Humanitarian disaster that has made our healthcare to be severely destroyed. Yes, We Can collectively bring it to an end!

Dr Khalid Sunusi Kani is a Medical Doctor| Public Health Advocate| Public Affairs Analyst.
Drkano01@yahoo.com

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Why Are Good Writers Bad Speakers?

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– Ibraheem Dooba

A certain minister who was an excellent writer gave a speech somewhere. It was one of his first speeches as a minister after his appointment by the President. Another writer who heard the speech complained that he wasn’t impressed by the minister’s performance. “It was as if he had never spoken in public before,” he told us.

“Well,” I reasoned, “he had never been subjected to an occupation where he had to speak all the time.”

Good writers get to be good because they write all the time. Which means that they are practised. Good speakers become orators because they speak frequently. In other words, they are practised. Accordingly, it is incredibly difficult to find an imam or pastor who is not eloquent. Why? Because they speak all the time. At least once a week. The imams during Jumu’a prayers on Friday and the pastors on Sunday.

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Not long ago, a friend told me this: “honestly, I prefer your writing to your speaking.” In other words, I prefer to read you than to hear you. Translation: “you are a terrible speaker!”

(I called him this morning to hear what he thinks now. Continue reading to see his new assessment of my speaking ability.)

People think that one ability seamlessly transfers to another. It doesn’t work that way.

Ask any neuroscientist and they will tell you that the brain grows new cells to accommodate new skills (neurogenesis). Thereafter, the more you practice, the more myelination. Myelination simply means the process of making brain signals travel faster for a particular skill.

Another minister in Nigeria, Dr Ali Isa Pantami, impressed the nation when he appeared in the Senate to be cleared as a minister of the federal government.

But I wasn’t surprised. The guy is a scholar and a preacher! Which is a devastating combination. He knows. He expresses the knowledge. Someone who has something to say and says it all the time is my definition of an orator.

You wouldn’t be surprised when Messi, Ronaldo or Salah plays well in a match. He is expected to play well. So that is not news. What is news is when he has a bad day and doesn’t play well.

So why are good writers bad speakers? If you have read this far, you must have figured it out by now: it is because they don’t speak!

The opposite is also true. Some great speakers are poor at articulating their thoughts in writing.

I know some good writers who are good speakers. Mahmud Jega is one of them because he is practised. He was a lecturer. He likes to share stories and he gets invitations to give talks.

Steven King is another example. He is a great American novelist who has sold millions of his books. But I wasn’t impressed by his earlier appearances on TV. But not surprisingly, he is now a better speaker (at least to me) because he put in appearances in shows like The Late Night Show of Steven Colbert.

Since I realized this, I’ve increased my speaking gigs and have accepted most of the invitations I received to give talks or lectures. It helped. What about the friend who said I was a terrible speaker? Before writing this article, I gave him a call. Here is what he said: “Sincerely, I think you have improved. You’re balancing both.”

Therefore, if you want to be a good writer, write every day. If you want to be a good speaker, speak frequently in public. But if you want to be a good writer who speaks well, do both.

 

PS: An even better way is to learn how to do both and then put that into practice. Put knowledge into practice.

#HowtoWriteWhatReadersLove

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The Onerous Task: Between Politics and Reality.

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By Abubakar Sadiq Dauda.

I watch with complete dismay how some People on social media use the opportunity of the recent arson that happened in Sokoto, to attack pro-buharist, in what looked like deviating from reality (destruction of the North) and attacking one another. Hence, misplacing our priorities yet again!

Perhaps the setbacks, Northerners are experiencing may be political and may also have the interest of our political masters both locally and internationally. The reality of it all is that it is being executed at the expense of our lives, properties and means of livelihood.

Therefore, the recent happenings call for the onerous task which is for us the followers and supposed ‘slaves’ to put our political undertone behind our backs, look for ways we can improve our lives, secure our properties and restore the lost glory of our region, the North.

The Masters in our political system have the capacity to recruit enough security agents to escort them, while they move on our highways from Sambisa to Shinkafi via Kaura Namoda, if they opt to move across that dangerous route. But the commoners, dare not move from Abuja to Kaduna except with the assistance of Allah alone.

The scenario I just highlighted above is the reason I believe we should halt the senseless tantrums and mockery we throw at each other. Let us drop politics and face our reality stained with hopelessness (unless we take measures and actions).

The issue of security in Nigeria has been a major challenge right from 1999, and it has been a major threat to our success. There has been an immense success in the fight against insecurity in the South, even when we were low on fighter jets, arms and ammunitions. Fast forward to 2021, from 2015 our security and armed forces were never equipped in the manner it has been equipped from statistics.

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Dozens of air fighting jets have been purchased, dozens of gunship helicopters were purchased and the majority of those assets were being deployed to the North, but still, there is no glimpse of hope even with the massive deployment of troops into our region.

With the short analysis I have laid out, I will still repeat what some people describe as a hypocritical gesture, which is to stop trading blames, drop politics and embrace reality by repeatedly calling on Allah to intervene.

Burying our differences and joining our heads is a must and it is a necessity for the quick growth and success of the North and Nigeria as a whole.

Quick reminder:

Last year exactly this period, we were mourning Zabbarbari massacre that occurred in Borno. A year after, it turned to innocent travellers in Sokoto. If this doesn’t make sense to us then I wonder what will.

May Allah’s mercy continue to be with the innocent souls we have lost to the hands of terrorists and enemies of our dear country.

God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
#SecureNorth

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