Abdul Rasheed Na’Allah, for 10 years, 2009 to 2019, was the vice chancellor of Kwara State University in Nigeria, from July 1, 2019, before he became the Vice chancellor of University of Abuja.
Prof. Abdulrasheed talks to David Anaka about entrepreneurship in Nigeria, how he led a university to achieve world class standard through entrepreneurship during his tenure and also shares lessons from his latest books.
Presently, the major problem facing well over fifty percent of Nigerian graduates is that of securing a rewarding job in line and synchronisation with their field of study or discipline immediately or in most cases few years after their graduation. Most of these graduates, in a bid to make ends meet and also appreciate those who bore the cost and responsibilities for their educations, have ended up with jobs and careers far from their areas of specialization, interest and passion. They have reluctantly accepted these jobs just to have pay checks at the end of every month so as to ‘survive.’
This system or cycle only spells doom for the country because, it limits innovation and creativity, leading further to economic stagnation and backwardness.
This unpleasant story is getting quite different with a new ray of hope emerging through a visionary university executive who has decided to alter a system which only spells doom for the giant of Africa. Prof. Abdulrasheed Na’Allah, the vice-chancellor of university of Abuja, Nigeria, and the pioneer vice-chancellor of Kwara state university, Nigeria (an institution often referred to as the university for community development, because of its role in spearheading several projects aimed at improving quality of life and living standards of communities around the university) is passionate about creating global entrepreneurs and job creators from his institution.
From Kwara state university’s commencement of activities in 2009, Prof. Abdulrasheed used every opportunity that came across his path to create entrepreneurial platforms and also remind his students then of the university’s expectations for them which includes; becoming job creators and not job seekers, and also turning out to become global players within the business circle as solution creators and problem solvers.
Prof. Abdulrasheed embraced an amazing entrepreneurial model for the university that can be described as a positive-part solution to curb the problem of unemployment in Nigeria. This entrepreneurial model adopted by Prof. Abdulrasheed, has created a system where all students of the university are mandated to go through an intense and advanced entrepreneurial training spread across three years and in synchronisation with their major disciplines. The entrepreneurial training which is broken into theoretical, practical and mentorship stages also makes it mandatory for students of the university to have a duly registered business name before graduation. A registered business name gives each student of the institution the privilege to operate enterprises recognised and backed by the Nigerian law.
Thus, he set Kwara state university on the track to producing global entrepreneurs yearly and not just mere graduates.
Questions by David Anaka and responses by Prof. Abdulrasheed Na’Allah.
Speaking about some challenges experienced while implementing the entrepreneurial model adopted for the university at its early stage, Prof. Abdulrasheed had this to say;
The challenges I experienced at the very beginning was to convince and mobilize all my colleagues especially at the Senate to support the Entrepreneurship training model for our students. Almost all had not seen any University in Nigeria that had done this. There was no single public university and only one private University, then Pan Atlantic, taught entrepreneurship studies. This was 2009/2010 academic year and the idea of adding courses in entrepreneurship to general studies from 2nd year to 4th year was not popular. But I prepared and backed The Centre for Entrepreneurship of the university in its explanations and sought the trust of the university’s Senate that we were doing what was right for our nation. We also had the advantage of the strong review and backing of the Board of The Centre for Entrepreneurship where I was chairman, and where most were successful business gurus. I think the university’s Senate was also encouraged by their comments and strong recommendations.
When asked about recommending the entrepreneurship model to other tertiary institutions in Nigeria, Prof. Abdulrasheed responded with this.
Absolutely, I will recommend this model, as I am convinced there is no better model out there. All compulsory general course in entrepreneurship! 2nd year are generally introductory to the concept, ideas and practice of entrepreneurship; at other levels, students learn how to prepare and conduct business surveys, establish relationship with banks and lending agencies, then next level is Enterprise Creation and Management, establishing a company and registering the company with CAC (Corporate Affairs Commissions), to connecting to successful business firms and personalities around the country in a mentor/mentee relationship, providing them role models and advisers, and finally to actually practicing their chosen businesses. By the time a KWASU student graduates from the University, he or she already has grown into becoming an Entrepreneur with a clear choice in entrepreneurship. The next stage which in which a lot more investment is needed is in Incubation, which is a Post-Graduation facility for Kwasites. The Incubation currently is located in the Zango contact office Ilorin, which needs expansion and to be more functional, so that graduates who still need support and services in their business firms before they can stand on their own will use the KWASU Business Incubation until they feel they can move out and be on their own.
Prof. Abdulrasheed’s view on the direct impacts and results the entrepreneurship model has on the Nigerian economy?
The direct impact on the Nigerian economy is that KWASU graduates are creating wealth in the nooks and corners of Nigeria. Many may not yet notice them but this nation would soon realize the tremendous contributions of KWASU graduates to changing our nation and mobilizing the God-given resources and talents and population of Nigeria for wealth creation, and ensuring that the number of graduates roaming the streets are reduced, since KWASU graduates are drastically never part of the roaming syndrome. At KWASU graduating students are told that their University will disown them if they abandon the wealth creation ideas they developed in KWASU and join those roaming the streets. We encourage their parents not to go around taking their CVs to Government ministries lobbying for government jobs for them, but to support them in their training to create their own business ventures and be on their own.
We created a record in this country as a University, with CAC (Corporate Affairs Commissions) informing KWASU that it is the single entity in Nigeria with established thousands of registered companies, mostly by own students. This is a thing of pride to KWASU. Kwasites are all over Nigeria and the world now creating wealth and managing their firms and companies very well.
When asked what the approach of the students to this entrepreneurial model had been like, considering it has taken them out of the comforts of the classroom and exposed them to the ‘real world,’ Prof. Abdulrasheed had this to say.
The students’ approach have been very exciting and Joyful, as most of them understand the crisis of our nation and how its able-bodied youths suffer from unemployment. Most came into KWASU wondering what the future holds for them, even wondering whether they would join the bodies of unemployed and roaming youths of Nigeria after graduating. Many have their brothers and sisters just sit at home or go around constantly to government ministries looking for jobs unsuccessfully.
So the students are excited about the concept that KWASU is introducing to them from their 2nd year and the Entrepreneurship courses they take up till 4th year. They are proud to own businesses and to practice these business ventures and start earning money even as students. For example, the Farm to Wealth program, part of the Entrepreneurship General study, especially introduces them to Agricultural businesses and how they can turn our fertile soil to wealth, including storage, processing, adding value to the raw material, and more, and finding and delivering products to end users, and exploring e-businesses. What is even more rewarding is the way most students pursue and create original ideas and bring new products to the market, something highly needed by the Nigerian teaming population but never done before! Obviously the customers are satisfied and grateful and become loyal as their needs are being met easily. The students’ excitement in the Entrepreneurship programs is contagious!
| About Professor Abdulrasheed Na’Allah Prof. Abdulrasheed describes himself as an Ilorin boy, but also a Sokoto boy, a Koko boy and a Yauri boy, as he grew up in these towns and cities and claims his childhood experiences especially the Ilorin experience are reflected in his creative and scholarly writing. As a thinker and scholar, his goal is often to take up society matters and unwrap them for clearer understanding. Cultural issues, identity issues and more. As a poet, his poetry come in the mode of popular and grassroots poetry that explore metaphors that are enjoyable and recognizable by the people so that the urgent messages contained therein won’t miss them, even as they enjoy the powerful images and personification and more. A graduate from the great University of Ilorin, who taught there for some years before going to take his PhD from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, and later taught comparative literature, folklore, African and African American studies, and worked as higher education administrator in the United States. He also attended programs at Harvard University, all of which prepared him for the leadership role of starting a University of the Twenty-first Century. |
Recently, Prof. Abdulrasheed launched three books to the public. ILORIN O – Poetry of Praise, Globalization and OBAMA-MENTUM: An Anthology of Transformational Poetry.
When asked What salient message the public can we take away from each book, here is his response? Each of my 3 newest books has lots of messages that can be taken away from it: the Obama-Mentum is a celebration of the inspiration of the people of the world towards their aspiration for Barack Hussain Obama’s transformational presidency of the United States, and putting in white and black the world’s response to the emergence of a Black President in USA. Globalization is about the effect of the global capitalist and post-human exploitation of the down trodden of Africa, and especially how the forces of globalization have affected the African values and the traditional products like the oral poetry. Ilorin O, is poetry of praise for my city of Ilorin and her people, invoking my people’s love and dreams, and providing for others around the world some knowledge of what it means to be Ilorin.