Why I took the risk to establish Achievers University in Owo –Hon. Dr. Bode Ayorinde
Why I took the risk to establish Achievers University in Owo –Hon. Dr. Bode Ayorinde
‘Industrialisation will solve unemployment, Boko Haram problems’
‘Those querying my involvement in politics are ignorant’
‘Don’t be surprised if I run for president tomorrow’
What PDP must do to reclaim Ondo State
A successful businessman and educationist, Hon Dr. Bode Ayorinde came into the limelight as one of the pioneer proprietors of private universities in the country 12 years ago. The multitasked teacher, lecturer, banker, confidential secretary, lawyer and doctorate degree holder in law speaks with YEMI AKINTOMIDE and FEMI SALAKO about his multi-million naira education business in Ibadan, Oyo State where he established Achievers High School and Achievers Professional Institute that later gave birth to Achievers University, Owo (AUO). What could have informed his decision to take the university to Owo since his business was booming in Ibadan, one of the largest cities in Africa? Find out in this interview where the former House of Representatives member also talks about his political career and ambitions. Excerpts:
You are an educationist, a businessman, a politician, and lawyer; so many things rolled into one. How will you define yourself on a scale of preference?
Thank you. Firstly, I am a teacher. I was trained as a teacher but I later studied Secretariat Studies and became a confidential secretary. Much later, I studied Banking and Finance and qualified as a chartered banker and went ahead to become a chartered accountant. I later studied law up to PhD level , and from there, I became a businessman. So, whatever you want to call me, you can call me a multitasked professional in achieving life purposes.
But you intend to tilt more towards the education sector as a lecturer and proprietor of a secondary school and university?
My business is more of education, but my profession is banking and law. As a businessman, I have invested so much in education and I have a passion for it. My business is hundred per cent education, but I don’t work here (Achievers University), and if you go to Achievers High School in Ibadan, I don’t work there either. My profession is law; that is why you see me on Monday morning in court fully robed to take cases before their lordships on behalf of my clients. So I practice commercial law and arbitration. I have also worked as an accountant in a commercial bank. I was a politician in my polytechnics day as a student unionist and everywhere I have worked, I have been part of the workers’ union leaders; for instance, in my days in the Cooperative Bank. So, permit me to describe myself as someone with politics running in his blood. I joined politics by joining the All Progressives Congress (APC). I was a member of the constitution drafting committee of APC. I was also in Labour Party and I later joined Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) before I was elected into the House of Representatives on the platform of APC. When the party derailed from its initial objectives, I then joined my colleagues to defect to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) shortly before the 2016 governorship election in Ondo State. So, currently I am a proud member of PDP.
What have you learnt as proprietor and chairman, Governing Council of Achievers University, Owo?
Thank you very much. Achievers University can be seen as a child of circumstances. I was based in Ibadan, Oyo State when I started Achievers Professional Institute, initially providing tutorial services with the intention of preparing intending students for professional examinations such as the Institute of Chartered Accountant of Nigeria (ICAN), Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) and the rest. Later on, we added secondary school, Achievers High School, also in Ibadan. We further anchored and established a satellite campus of Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo in Ibadan for 10 years and as time went by, when licenses for the establishment of private universities were approved by the Federal Government, the Lord gave me the vision to join the applicants and four years after, that is, between 2003 and 2007,the Federal Government approved Achievers University as one of the private universities in the country in 2007.
Why establish the university in Owo, your hometown and not in Ibadan where you nurtured the dream into fruition?
As an educationist, I studied the distribution of tertiary institutions in Ondo State. The state has three universities, one in the North Senatorial District, one in Central and one in the South. Then, we have two polytechnics; one in Owo, one in Ile-Oluji and a Federal College of Agriculture in Akure, the state capital. We only have one college of education: Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo. I brought Achievers University from Ibadan where it can quickly bossom into fruition because of rapid urbanisation, to Owo because Owo as a kingdom with nine beaded crowned kings lost four chances to host a university. This was so painful. When the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) was to be established, everybody that mattered in Owo at that time stood up and came strongly together to lobby for the town to host the university, but we lost the hosting right to Akure. Very painful.
And again, when our son, Baba late Adekunle Ajasin became the governor in 1979, he was the only UPN governor then who did not put a university in his town simply because the Ondo State Polytechnic in Owo was established a year before he got elected as governor. So when Pa. Ajasin wanted to establish the state university, Owo people started pushing for the upgrading of the state polytechnic into a full scale university, but the old man resisted the temptation to favour his hometown, and took the University to Ado-Ekiti in the spirit of fairness and even distribution of projects in old Ondo State. The only institution on the Ekiti side of the state then was the College of Education, Ikere. However, when the late Adebayo Adefarati wanted to establish another university for Ondo State after Ekiti State was created and the state university in Ado-Ekiti was taken over by the new state, he seized the opportunity to take the new Ondo State University to his hometown in Akungba-Akoko. For the third time, we (Owo) had lost an opportunity to host a university, when lesser towns whose people were riding bicycles to Owo to make phone calls were already university towns. You must know that Owo as a town was then the most developed and urban town in terms of social infrastructure such as telephone lines, pipe borne water, boreholes, street lights, motor number plates, asphalted road networks and one of the oldest communities in the Northern division.
This year, Owo has celebrated one thousand years of existence as a town. So, Owo was more or less the capital of Ondo North and a senior to both Ado-Ekiti and Akure. This is the story of Owo. You could see how painful it was for the town to have lost all the chances to be a university town after the long wait. So, when God started answering my prayer and put it on my mind to establish the first private university in the whole of Ondo and Ekiti states, I proudly brought the university to my hometown became Owo had lost chances to host a university four times and I was determined to break the jinx. It was so painful for every patriotic Owo indigene hearing about how the Obafemi Awolowo University was first brought to Owo before it was moved to Ile-Ife by government fiat. And as an indigene of Owo residing in Ibadan, I am bound to return home. Since then, the support and encouragement from men and women of goodwill and my kinsmen has been very massive , especially from the immediate host community, Idasen. The community wholeheartedly volunteered over 200 hectres of land where the university is now sited at almost zero naira. As of today, with God’s glory and infinity mercies, Achievers University is the first private university in Ondo state and one of the top ten private universities in Nigeria with 22 programmes and courses all approved and fully accredited by both the Federal Ministry of Education and the National Universities Commission (NUC).
We are happy that in a couple of days, we shall have the combined convocations of the 8th and 9th sets of graduands. Currently, we are working on our College of Medicine and Health Sciences which will soon kick-off. We have faculties of Law and Social Sciences, Engineering, Applied Sciences, Nursing and Medical Laboratory Science. We have all these courses and enjoy a stabilized management. Our first vice chancellor has completed a term of six years, we have now our second VC who will be completing his own term of six years next year March. There is no crisis in the council, no crisis within the management and no crisis among the students. We’re not in a hurry. You can see that every building in this university was purposely built. The buildings are architectural masterpieces because our target is to beat OAU, Ile-Ife as the most beautiful university in Nigeria if not in Africa. We had a target that in another eight years when we will be 20 years old, we can be proudly saying Achievers University is the best in Africa. That is our target and that’s our vision: to be one of the best universities in the world.
What is the relationship between the university and Owo community as a whole like?
Fantastic, I can boldly say. The relationship between the university and Owo community is fantastic. Every individual who is seeking university admission who is an indigene of Owo, either at home or in the Diaspora, considers Achievers University first. That is the level of our acceptance here. Our people always make Achievers University their first choice. Though, in the past, we had teething challenges as a growing university like in payment of staff salaries and wages, we have put that behind us. We now pay salaries as at and when due. You know Owo as being very sophisticated politically with highly cerebral and vibrant politicians, so my decision to join politics aroused their curiosity. It is within my constitution right to aspire to be governor of my state. If your brother or kinsman is currently the governor, it’s nature if people begin to be threatened, saying: “Why would he say he wans to be governor?” But really, it is my constitutionally right to want to be governor and even the president of this country.
You know that not everybody will like you. Jesus Christ Himself, not everybody loved him. These are the issues. If you ask anybody, they will say Ayorinde is very intellectual, very brilliant, so he should stay with his university. No,you cannot rob me of my constitutional right to contest for the House of Representatives or Senate, or to be appointed as a minister in the Federal cabinet. It is my right. You can not sentence me to my business alone. This (busness) is not an appointment from government that you will begin to query me, asking why should I have double appointments. This is my own personal effort to make Owo a universe city and we have achieved that and I should be compensated, but of course, I am not from a royal family, I can’t contest for Olowo of Owo stool. Nobody can say because you have done so much for this kingdom, come and be Olupeme of Ipeme or Alale of Idasen land. I am not a Prince from any town within Owo kingdom. So, what now remains for the community to appreciate my positive contributions so far is, what do you want to become in politics? I want to become a governor or a member of the House of Representatives.
Okay, let everybody come around and support Ayorinde on his ambition so that he can develop this town and state faster and better by leveraging on political opportunity. For example, when I became a member of the House of Representatives, I can proudly tell you that the dual carriageway leading into the university campus, I accessed it from the Federal Government. The Idasen-Ute road that passes through the university, about 2.7 km was done by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs with my sole effort and lobbying. When Dr. Olusegun Mimiko was governor, I pleaded with him severally to do the road, he promised but refused to do it during his eight-year administration. I have been begging my friend, (Oluwarotimi) Akeredolu to do it, maybe he will do it tomorrow. I have to go to the Ministry of Niger Delta cap in hand to lobby and the contract for the asphalt overlay of the 2.9 km Idasen-Ute road awarded to save the university from the bad state of the road leading to its main gate. So, the smooth road you drove on when coming to this university was attracted by me from the Federal Government through the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. If I didn’t go to the House of Representatives when I did, how would I be able to do it? Everybody is enjoying the road now, not only the university. This is to show that politics is not all about stealing public money but attracting government attention to the infrastructural development of your people and community.
The road that leads to my house in Owo here, I attracted it from Federal Roads Maintainance Agency (FERMA). Where will you expect me to tar three township roads in Owo community but for the fact that I became a federal lawmaker and how many of my colleagues would have had such opportunity as a classroom teachers? If you are a secondary school teacher, you will use the opportunity to assist students to become Rep members. If you are a farmer, you will use the opportunity to assist farmers. When I became House of Representatives member and because I was running this university, I had to attract two major roads to this community. It’s not only my children or students that will use the road, but the entire community. So if am qualified for a position, I will go for it without fear. Don’t be surprised by tomorrow, I might contest to be president of this country, it’s my constitutional right and it’s a different cup of tea weather am going to win or not. And if Nigerians wish, they may vote for me, and if they do not like me, I will come back here. Whoever that doesn’t like my idea of going into politics is ignorant.
I’m a man that has a lot of ideas about how to run a local government, how to run a state and how to run a country. I have been spoken on television, but they won’t listen. I approached former governor Mimiko with a printed proposal on the industrialisation of Ondo state, he personally took it from me but he never called me back. Before then, I gave the same proposal by hand to late Olusegun Agagu and even also late Adebayo Adefarati, all without positive response. I did this because I knew that the solution to the crisis in our country is employment of our youths, and when you solve the unemployment problem, you are solving all other problems. Creating employment is not by over employing many people into the civil service. It is through industrialisation. If I become the president of this country today, without firing a shot at Boko Haram, I will use economic development to conquer them. Put one industry in each of the 774 local government areas, one big factory that can employ about 5,000 people in each of the local government areas, I bet it with you in two years, there shall be peace all over. When people are idle without job, with B.sc, M.sc, beautiful ladies and strong young men, the devil will definitely find job for them. This is the major cause of the insecurity, kidnapping, armed banditry and all sorts of social vices we are experiencing across the nation today.
But if everybody is engaged in one job or the other, you’re not available for the devil to be engaged in criminality, and in other way, many will create wealth for the economic growth of the nation. Jobs create wealth. No state or nation can grow economically by relying heavily on going abroad signing agreements here and there. All these foreign bilateral and multilateral agreements are exploitation; they can’t possibly grow our economy. When I was in the National Assembly, I organized an economic submit during the economic recession as the House chairman on the recession. The vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo was in attendance. All our recommendations and deliberations ended at the conference without implementation. But if I were the Minister of Trade and Investment, if I were to be Minister of Finance, governor or president, all the solutions and economy theories propounded at submit would be put to use. Whatever happened in this country, blame the executive. What can you do as a Parliamentarianother than talk and talk, raising motions and bills, most of which won’t be signed into law by the executive? The Executive holds the ace. If you’re a president, a governor or a minister or head of a Federal agency, you can make things happen.
When late Prof. Olukoye Ransome-Kuti was Minister of Health, even under a military government, he was able to transform the health sector because he was in the executive. But if it was to be a Senator or Reps member, he wouldn’t have been able to transform the sector the way he did. That is why I am in politics because I want to join the Executive so that I can transform Owo, Ondo State and Nigeria. So if you see my billboards tomorrow announcing my presidential ambition, please don’t be surprised.
Your friend and brother, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), is now the incumbent governor of Ondo State. How lucky is Ondo state in having him as governor?
I won’t want to answer this question now, because I contested with the governor where I couldn’t go beyond the primaries. So, anything I say now can be misinterpreted. They will say is it because he is not the governor? But I will say that Aketi has done according to his abilities, within his intellectual capacity and vision. You cannot go beyond your resources. I will say on payment of salary of civil workers, he has done well. He has been paying salary as at and when due. He even paid parts of the backlog of salaries owed by the previous administration. However, in terms of economic development, he has failed woefully. I cannot see any industry, not even one, in any of the 18 council areas of this state. Though, they’re making a lot of noise about Ore, I have not been there. It’s almost three years on now, Akeredolu must wake up. He must spring surprises. Let him establish industrial estates even if it’s going to be three; one in the North, one in the South and one in the Central which can sweep our communities clean of unemployment youths littering everywhere across the state. You cannot continue to train the youths in colleges and universities without providing jobs for them after graduation. I remember that during our last convocation ceremony here with the governor in attendance, I said you cannot tell a graduate after spending four years in the university to go and learn tailoring or take cutlass and hoe to go farming. I said they would have been a better farmer or entrepreneur after secondary school, not after graduation from higher institutions. How can you give a degree holder a bag of fertilizer, some seedlings with cutlass and hoe to go farming? He can go ahead to use the cutlass to cut off his own head and commit suicide.
The idea that our youths are lazy because they don’t want to go to farm is bad. How can you tell me to go and farm after the whole lots of theories and all what not in the university? The idea of training our children on tailoring, catering, hair dressing and the rest, all these are just coincidental engagements. You studied engineeering, banking and financing, mass communication–all of these produced graduates en masse every year, without structures to properly engage them and give them good jobs. That is why we need massive industrialisation for us to develop and engage the large population of our graduates. The developed countries are industrialised countries, and those who are underdeveloped are peasant farmers. Why are Lagos and Ogun states so difference in this region? It’s because these two states are industrialized. Very simple mathematics. The two states have no oil well, they are not part of the nine Niger Delta states, but they are industrialised. That is why someone from Akure will pack his bag and head straight to Lagos with no particular destination in mind. He would look for job, get one, find a house and continue living in Lagos for years, contributing to the economic growth of Lagos. The wealth of Lagos State alone is more than that of many countries in Africa. Do you know that there was no time Lagos economy was distressed? When I went to Lagos with my team as chairman of House committee on Economy Recession, the governor clearly told me that I should go back with my recession because his own state was not distressed at all. The Lagos magic is industrialisation.
At anytime of the day when you visit Ikeja industrial estate, you will see crowds of people, workers, lorries loading and offloading from factories spread all over the large industrial estate. People are working all day on three shifts, engaging all manner and levels of skill and unskilled workers in large numbers. The multiple effects of all these is what is working for the Lagos economy’s rapid growth and expansion. When we have such massive industrialisation here in Ondo state, then we can grow our economy to an enviable height. So, if you ask me, Governor Akeredolu has not done well at all in the area of industrialization. We shall discuss the rest of his scorecard in another interview.
Okay! Let talk about your own idea of governance now. During your campaigns for governorship in 2016, you were popularly known as LUROS, LUROS. What did you mean by this?
LUROS LUROS was my campaign slogan during the last governorship struggle. When I say LUROS, every other person say LUROS. The first L.U.R.O.S: Let Us Rediscover Ourselves. The second L.U.R.OS; Let Us Rebuild Ondo State. I explained it in my campaign pamphlet that morality has broken down. Ondo state is widely known as a principled state. The idea is to bring back our lost moral values as Ondo state people. In Ondo state then, when you saw money on the ground, you couldn’t pick it. If you were walking on the road and your money fell off, if you later realised this and retraced your steps back, you would still find the money at the very spot it fell off. Nobody would pick it. That was what we met as core value of indigenes of this state. We must abandon criminality. You can no longer travel peacefully between Owo and Akure for fear of being kidnapped. That was why I say let’s bring back our moral values, our moral virtues. We have lost it and so we must rediscover ourselves. If a family is having a bad situation, you will first discover whether the father is a drunkard or the mother is lazy, so the children are not going to school. They should bring back moral value into the family by declaring the roles to play by each member of the family. Honestly, everyone of us must do it. We must rediscover our core values as a family, either you go to the mosque or to church to seek restitution. The government too must lead by example; the commissioners must follow this new path, the heads of parastatal must follow, the local government chairmen must follow and you will see that within six months of this new order, everything will be put back in good shape and we shall proudly say we are from Ondo, proud and principled. That was our plan then to make everybody happy and contended. Perhaps, if am contesting again, I may need another acronym or slogan.
You left the All Progressives Congress (APC) some months after Gov. Akeredolu took over. What informed your decision?
Well, I told you that I went to the House of Reps on the platform of APC. I told you that I was a member of the constitution drafting commiittee of the party. And I also said that I was a member of the National working committee of the party representing the South-West caucus in the House of Reps. With all these, I couldn’t have left the party because I lost the primaries. I was pushed out of the party. After the primaries, I collapsed all my structures into that of the governor now. We held a meeting in my house in Abuja. We embraced each other and both of us were happy. I then joined him during the campaign proper. I gave 22 sienna buses to the party, I didn’t recover any of them. They were used for Akeredolu’s campaign. I gave 250 motor bikes, brand new, to the party. Every chairman of the 203 wards across the state had a bike, I didn’t take it back. They were used for Aketi campaign. He won, I went to his inauguration as governor. I went to his house in Owo, I was advising him. But anytime I go to his house, the Aketi Team, all those surrounding him would be abusing me openly in his presence. And I told him your people are abusing me o, he wouldn’t do or say anything. So, the cluster called Aketi Team were the one with him and believed that they were only one that worked for his election and every other person must not come near Aketi. But I told Aketi that such a practice and group like Aketi Team was nonsensical; that as governor, you’re governor to everybody, including those in PDP, those who are not even politicians. I was still in APC over a year after Akeredolu sworn in as governor, but I couldn’t attend any party meetings, I was not invited to any state function, even as a member of House of Reps. I was not invited to any state or party meetings. They practically pushed me out of the party. Since I was not tired of politics and PDP were looking for people, I joined them. I joined because many people that were treated badly in APC like me from all the 36 states converged in Abuja to form Reformed APC (RAPC). We took our complaints to the national Secretariat of APC in Abuja. But the leadership of the party didn’t attend to our request. That was how all of us left the party for PDP. It has now become history. I even wrote a letter to Aketi on my planned defection, thinking he would call me to persuade me not to go. He never replied or called me. So, during the 2019 general election, I was happy I made him to lose in Owo local government.
You’re in PDP now. How’s the party treating you and how’s it fairing in the state as we approach another election year in 2020?
Well, PDP in Ondo State, to the best of my knowledge has not taken advantage of the lacuna in the current ruling party and government. It has not exploited the opportunity on the ground now. Therefore, there is the need for our leaders in the party to brace up and position the party to meet the yearning of our people. There is a lot to do as oposition party in order to defeat the ruling party in the forthcoming Govenorship election in 2020. I am not particularly satisfied. There are rooms for improvement. For example, since the last general election, there was no meeting that I was invited to attend and I am sufficiently a leader in the party. I know the chairman is doing his best on personal relationships. I know the director of publicity is doing his best reacting to issues, but it’s beyond all that. There is room for improvement which I can’t download on the pages of a newspaper. There is a wide gulf between our present political status and winning the next election which with hard work and strong purpose, we can cover. The ruling party is already saying 4+4 and you can see all that they did during the 2019 presidential election to retain Muhammadu Buhari in Aso Rock. Samething can repeat itself here in the state if we’re not careful and do the needful. I wish the leadership can wake up to reactive the party structures across the state, bring leaders together because a structure built on nothing or weak foundation will surely collapse. We must face the war as a united force.