Our personality of the Week is Dr. Emmanuel Uteh Tibi, former Provost of College of Education, Agbor who just clocked sixty five years, is the chairman of the Board of Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (DARDA). Dr. Tibi, a Rotarian and was recently installed as President 2018/2019 of Rotary Club of Agbor. In recognition of his contribution to his community, Dein of Agbor kingdom, HRM Dr. Benjamin Ikechukwu Keagborekuzi I conferred on him the title of ‘Ojenebo Dein’ of Agbor kingdom.
Dr. Tibi belongs to several professional bodies, and has received many awards in recognition of his enormous contributions to educational development. He is a retired Vocational Teacher Educator. He was a onetime Secretary to the Ika South Local Government Transition Committee. He is a devout Catholic, married with children and grandchildren.
May we meet you sir?
I am Dr. Emmanuel Uteh Tibi from Ekuku-Agbor in Ika South Local Government Area of Delta State. I was born on 4th November, 1953 to Chief Patrick Mgbeonyjeugbo Tibi, and Mrs. Mary Oriole Tibi (Nee Iseh), both of Ekuku-Agbor community.
I attended Roman Catholic Mission Primary School, in Ute-Ogbeje in Ika North East Local Government Area from 1959 to 1963. My father enrolled me in the Local Authority Secondary Modern School, Ute-Ogbeje in 1963 but I later completed and obtained the Secondary Modern School Leaving Certificate (SMSLC) in 1966. I was later taken to Boy’s Secondary School, Akwukwu-Igbo by late Mr. Vincent Azani in 1967. As a result of the Nigeria Civil War, I was brought to Ika Grammar School, Agbor, in 1968 where I spent only four years and got Division One (A-Alpha in Geography and Agricultural Science) in May/June, 1971 because of my Modern Three School Certificate. I then proceeded to Saint Patrick’s College Asaba, for my Higher School Certificate (HSC) course.
By September 1972, I got admitted into University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where I graduated with B.Sc (Hons) Second Class Upper Division in Animal Science in 1976. On completion of my University Education, I was retained and appointed Junior Fellow, the equivalent of Graduate Assistant along with the other two graduates in my department who also made Second Class Upper Division. I had to turn down the appointment when UNN extended the period of foreign study by two years. Having been bitten by the bug to teach at the tertiary level, I joined the College of Education, Abraka (now Delta State University, Abraka) as an Assistant Lecturer in Agricultural Education in 1977.
At what point did you move to the College of Education Agbor?
There was the emergence of Colleges of Education in the then Bendel State; Igueben, Ekiadolor, Warri and Agbor. In 1981, I moved to the College of Education, Igueben as Lecturer 1. Unfortunately, I lost my job, when the college was closed down. I was then posted to Eghosa Grammar School as a teacher, which I turned down. It was in January 1986, that the then provost of the College of Education Agbor, Dr. Tetshola appointed me as a Senior Lecturer in the college.
Do you have siblings?
Yes I do. My father was a polygamist, so aside my mother, my father had two other wives. I am presently the eldest surviving son in the family. Some of my siblings are around, while others are outside the shores of this country or living in other parts of the country.
From what you have said, no doubt you grew very fast in your academic career. What would you ascribe as the reason for this accelerated growth?
First, my father served as a mentor and a great influence in my career. He actually served as the physical impetus for me to take to teaching. The most essential part is my experience at UNN, Nsukka. In those years, when you got a job of a lecturer, it was assumed that you have a flourishing future ahead of you in the academic world, and I used to admire lecturers. Another person who really influenced the speedy growth of my career is one Dr. Aikhionbare, who read Genetic Engineering in Detroit, USA, I wanted to pattern my life and profession like that of his. Significantly, I was highly focused and determined on becoming a lecturer and an excellent one for that matter. That was why I turned down other job offers from the military, Police Force, research institutes and others.
Having read Animal Science which is a branch of Agriculture, can you give your candid assessment of Agriculture in Nigeria?
Though, I took to agriculture then, I had little or no understanding of what it involved. However, as an agriculturist, over time, I started discovering a lot of conceptions of Agriculture. In fact, the economy of the nation, before the oil boom was predicated essentially on agriculture. Our foreign exchange earning was derived from agricultural crops such as, cocoa, oil palm, rubber, groundnut, hides and skins and so on. What is happening today confirms the fact that the only salvaging industry for the nation is agriculture. That is, agricultural practice is the basis of our productivity in Nigeria. What Nigeria needs now is agricultural value chain which prescribes production level to the end product and final consumption.
There are a lot of wastages and losses in the agricultural industry in Nigeria, especially the primary producers, that is our rural farmers in cassava, yams and so on. There is absence of processing and good marketing strategies to tackle the short shelf life of most our agricultural produce.
Dr. Tibi, do you see Agriculture as a means of revamping the Nigeria economy?
Our colonial influencers limited us in agriculture in that our farmers were used as primary producers of produce. The produce were taken outside this country and converted to all kinds of products and brought back to us in form of finished products which we now buy and sell at prices that are not determined by us.
When we are able to produce for instance oil palm and its ancillary by products and process them into useable products, our people will be better engaged not only as primary producers, but will have the processors and the industries that converts the agricultural produce into different end products.
Even the so-called waste products could be re-cycled back into agriculture and other industrial uses. In that way, we will have a lot of people who are engaged in agriculture effectively by way of employment and increased foreign earning from agriculture. All these in turn will go a long way in helping to revamp our economy.
Being an educationist, how would you assess the standard of education in Nigeria today? Is it dwindling or improving? And if it is dwindling, what are the reasons for it?
As a teacher educator, I get perplexed when people just take blunt sides and infer that the standard of education is falling. I have a critical case; of the fact that we have phones, those of us of the older generations are limited in our knowledge of the use of these communication gadgets, as such we need the knowledge and skills of the younger generation to operate these gadgets very well. And yet we claim that educational standard is diminishing.
Those who claim that education is losing its standard do not have the platform to say it. Let us look at classic case of what happened in Kaduna State and even nearby Edo State where teachers were given primary school examination papers to answer and they failed to answer them correctly. This is because the language of education is evolving. The contents of learning experiences are also changing.
To that extent, it would be highly unjustifiable for us to say that educational standards are failing. If the teachers do not have the needed teaching skill, how do expect the learners to learn effectively.
The unfortunate thing is that our kids have already been highly exposed digitally, so if you as a teacher are still in the analogue age, teaching children born in the digital age, certainly, those children will not benefit from that learning experience as the ideas of the analogue teacher would have become obsolete. To this end, it will be unfair to say Nigerian educational standard is falling. What has actually been happening is that we are not able to provide digital learning. The expected standard is lower than what it ought to be; this is because we are not operating in the appropriate environment. The current environment is digital in nature and the learners are “netizens” while we are “citizen.”
Most of the graduates in the labour market according to employers are unemployable. What do you think could be the reason for this?
The issue of our graduates being unemployable is predicated on the altar of academic fraud prevalent in our educational system. Let us look at a scenario where privileged children are made to attend schools where they are well taken care of, well fed with good learning environment compared to those less privileged children who attend school in tattered clothes, no good meal, and lack of good learning environment. When it is time to write general external exams, parents give money to examiners to assist their children in passing the examination and once parents have started indulging in such acts, this act will continue up to the tertiary institution, where their children will only devote themselves to things other than their academics, and at the end of the day, these children will turn out to be unemployable graduates, which will eventually lead to drop in the standard of education
Teachers’ lack of commitment to their responsibility is also an issue. I have seen cases where teachers would stay away from their duty post for up to two weeks.
Presently, the general approach of JAMB is to have the general examination, where candidates are made to fill the JAMB form, choosing one University, one Polytechnic and one College of Education. The whole idea being that if the candidate does not meet up with the cut off mark for university, he moves to the polytechnic, and if he does not meet up with that of polytechnic, then he opts for College of Education. Most of the candidates fill in the three options with their choice of university, instead of Polytechnic and College of Education respectively. Nobody wants to go the Polytechnic and College of Education, hence, the sharp drop in the number of enrolment for the NCE programme. Skills of the workplace are not being taught effectively in the disciplines.
You were the provost of College of Education, Agbor from 2002 to 2009. What would you say are your legacies as former Provost of the Institution?
My predecessors had done a lot, as at the time I assumed office as provost. They were two university professors and other highly qualified academics. Dr. Tetshola was the founding provost of College of Education, Agbor. When we came in, there were several obvious challenges facing the institution then. We first had to upgrade the physical structures such as the construction of the administrative block to which we added a floor to the administrative block at the new site, to make it a two-storey building.
We worked towards moving the provost office that is the administrative from the old site to the new site. Then we attracted NDDC sponsorship, and that was what we used to construct all the roads as well as dualization of the entrance of the institution; the gate house exit and entrance gates. We also completed the perimeter fencing of the new site and the NDDC Lecture Theatre.
However, one of our major challenges then was the drainage of the college, so all those roads that were constructed with drains in the new site was to ensure that there was good drainage system in the institution. Prof. Enaiho tried a lot in securing the three sides of the fence. The sport field was done during our time.
My tenure as provost has a modest record of the provision of physical structure in the institution through State Government funding, Tetfund and NDDC.
In the area of agriculture, we improved the agricultural facilities on ground, established commercial farms, and attracted IITA Cassava Cultivation Scheme, as we were producing hybrid cassava cuttings, which IITA in turn took to farmers who needed them.
One significant thing that we did was to introduce the College of Education, Agbor affiliation programme with Delta State University Abraka for the Degree programme. As things stand today, if not for that affiliation programme, with the drop in NCE enrolment the College would have gone under. It is a known fact that there cannot be a post-graduate programme without a first degree programme on ground. We also hosted sporting events, such as College of Education Staff Sports Association of Nigeria (CESSAN) Games in 2008.
Most importantly, we tried to create standards because when we are talking about tertiary education, we are looking into the future. Then, graduates with first degree were being employed into the various departments. So, when we came on board, we decided to change all that, though, there were some persons that had postgraduate degree. We sought the permission of the State Government for Master’s Degree to be the least qualification for recruiting academic staff. And Lecturers with only first degree were mandated to go for Master’s Degree programme or they will be replaced. This actually helped to reduce the pressure from different quarters for employment and improved our Faculty standing.
Today, that singular act has yielded much benefit to the affected staff and to the institution as well, the college can today boast of many highly qualified teaching staff, many of whom have expressed their gratitude to me for creating the room for them to upgrade academically.
TO BE CONTINUED