All over the world, universities are established with the mandate of teaching, research and community service or development. While some universities emphasise teaching and others community service, the most crucial component, indeed the heart of the matter, is research. It is research or lack of it that actually makes or mars universities.
Fortunately, the University of Ilorin considers research as the cornerstone of its mandate. At the end of the “International Conference on the 50 Years of University Education in Nigeria” spearheaded by the University of Ilorin but held in conjunction with the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCNU) between September 27 and 29, 2010 at the NUC, Abuja, a very important document was produced beyond the usual communiqué.
The report partly puts research in perspective thus: “The pursuit of research is what distinguishes universities from other types of tertiary institutions. Research is aimed at advancing the frontiers of knowledge, seeking solutions to major social and technical challenges, and providing materials for evidence-based decision-making. Quality research is that which conforms to rigorous, acceptable standards of scientific investigation appropriate to a discipline….”
In his inaugural address to the Senate on October 30, 2012, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Abdul Ganiyu Ambali, underscored his commitment to research and he has demonstrated that commitment. “Research is the heart of the academic exercise and no effort will be spared in making the University of Ilorin a research centre par excellence. Attention will be given to the provision and maintenance of state-of-the-art facilities and equipment,” he said.
It is obvious to the discerning that the University has for some time now been sparing no effort in boosting the research capacity of its academic staff through sponsorships and training opportunities. The establishment of the Centre for Research Development and In-house Training (CREDIT) under the dynamic directorship of the highly esteemed and well-known Prof. (Mrs.) Temidayo Oladiji and the creation of the office of Research Managers are practical steps in that direction.
For instance, the ebullient though self-effacingly quiet Research Manager (Humanities Cluster), Prof. Yahya Oyewole Imam, who the University engaged, has been doing a lot. Apart from emerging the best among those who applied for the position, Prof. Imam has shown leadership, mettle and élan in increasing the capacity of lecturers for winning grants and writing award-winning research proposals in Humanities.
Having won more than once the French Institute for Research in Africa (IFRA) competitive research grants, the UNICEF consultancy grant, the Metanexus Institute Local Initiative Grant Award for the promotion of constructive encounter between Science and Religion, a consultancy grant on anti-corruption manual for religious leaders, which the Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies also won, sponsored by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), at various times, there is no doubt about his requisite capacity to mentor and guide researchers.
Through his focused research grantsmanship, lecturers in the Department of Arabic (Dr. Onireti Ibrahim) and Faculty of Law (Mrs. Maryam Abduraheem) have respectively won the African Humanities Program for Postdoctoral Fellowship and Dissertation Completion awards of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), New York, recently.
Prof. Imam’s research skills and mentoring capacity have also helped in winning the Social Science Research Council Fellowship award for Dr Gbemisola Animasawun of the Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies and the Summer School travel grant to the University of Erfurt, Erfurt, Germany, for Mr Isiaka Abdulraheem of the Department of Religions. Two weeks ago, he attracted a travel grant under the auspices of CREDIT to Prof. Lawrence Owusu-Ansah of the Department of English, University of Cape Coast, Ghana, to the CREDIT-organised AHP workshop. CREDIT certainly deserves credit!
Given the role of research as “the heart of the academic exercise”, as the Vice-Chancellor put it, or the backbone of the University, which made the University to even commission at the recently concluded 30th convocation ceremonies the Central Research Laboratories and Researchers’ Accommodation, it would be clear that the University is giving research the required impetus to thrive through investment in human and material resources.
I think at the University of Ilorin, much is being done in the area of the question of “facilities and facilitators” as raised by a lecturer of this University in his letter published in The Nation newspaper of last Monday (November 3, 2014). While more research facilities and facilitators are still needed, it is only fair that, just as the National Universities Commission (NUC) recently did as evident in the editorial of The Telegraph newspaper, captioned “The NUC directive on PhD” of Monday October 27, 2014, we proudly acknowledge what is being done at this University. Then, we should ask for more; and for more on research we still ask.