It was a humble beginning for him as he started off as a lecturer at the Federal Polytechnic Offa, Kwara State in 1994. But after some years, Dr. Mufutau Olatunde Olatinwo was promoted to the position of Head of Department of Science and Laboratory Technology.
Soon after he was asked to proceed to take charge of the computerization of the payroll system. Before then, there were cases of inflation of figures and other corrupt malpractices but that came to a stop with the computerization and installation of payment software under his supervision.
It was also under his supervision that the school was able to achieve 100 per cent accreditation of HND Courses in the sciences as dictated by the National Board for Technical Education, NBTE.
When the post of Rector and Deputy Rector became vacant, he applied and was made Deputy Rector and Acting Rector and after 48 months. He later attended an interview for the post of Rector and was subsequently confirmed by the then President and Commander-in-Chief, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. The appointment took effect from March 1, 2008.
Incidentally, he came in at a period the institution was racked by crisis, a testy challenge he was immediately called upon to confront. In this interview with Mike Ebonugwo, the Rector explains how he was able to weather the storm and turn things around in the institution.
How did your management team and your Governing Council turn things around?
The Governing Council that interviewed me for the post of Rector was dissolved soon after and we operated without a Council but had an expanded management, including officials of the Federal Ministry of Education and National Board for Technical Education. That was the arrangement until the present Council was constituted.
When this Council came on board, on their inaugural visit to the campus, they observed that there were several physical projects, either ongoing or abandoned and the contractors were not cooperating.
The Chairman, Senator Onyeka Okoroafor, directed that the contractors must return to site and we issued them with first, second and third summons to that regard but they were demanding variations and payments which were beyond our means.
We managed to wriggle out of this because we had some money left in the treasury and we decided to use direct labour to complete our projects. We used our funds judiciously and you can see the completed projects yourself as evidence of our prudence and commitment.
When we came on board, we discovered there were no toilets and water supply was irregular. The lack of these basic facilities contributed to the heightening of tensions within the campus community. We quickly addressed this by constructing more toilets for staff and students.
We built a 200,000-capacity industrial water tank and 50,000-capacity overhead tank with pumping machines. We constructed three new biology, chemistry and physics laboratories. We procured generator sets to guarantee more steady power supply.
It is not only the structures we built or completed in the mini-campus and new campus that we are proud of. We have accredited all the programmes we met on the ground and added some.
The courses include Urban and Regional Planning, Surveying and Geo-Informatics, Estate Management and Catering, Hotel and Hospitality Management We also got accreditation for our HND programmes in Mass Communication and Library and Information Science.
To augment this effort, we put up a Mass Communication studio and I think it is one of the best in the country presently. We have achieved peace and stability in the school and we give thanks to Almighty God for this.
Our academic programmes are running smoothly. We have restored hope to our students and better relations with our community and other stakeholders.
What achievements have you recorded in the field of research?
In research, we are also making progress. We believe that an institution must be involved not only in teaching but in research. Our Food technology Department is famous for sweet potato research, having pioneered a breakthrough in using sweet potato in making bread, flour and confectioneries.
It has further developed ethanol and 19 other important products from sweet potato and as you know, Offa is famous for potatoes. The International Centre for Sweet Potato Processing and Utilization in Kenya, representing the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is currently partnering with us under a scheme for Sweet Potato Utilization for Poverty Alleviation in Africa.
Do you have plans to relocate to the permanent site any time soon?
We will run a dual campus system now and in the future, operating the new campus alongside with our mini-campus. The permanent site is a vast land and will accommodate some structures we require for future expansion but we have invested a lot here in the mini-campus.
It is inconceivable today that the new site was only a virgin area with overgrown bush some months back. Presently we have five buildings there which we completed within our brief tenure through direct labor.
We have the School of Business complex, the marketing block, the GNS (General Studies) block, the HND block and the ETF block. There are two hostel blocks and two halls. Five departments are having their studies there.
They are the School of Management and Business Studies which have the departments of Accounting, Business and Finance, Business Administration, Marketing, Insurance and Pre-ND and the School of General Studies.
Each department has a library and we have a resource centre for practical classes for our School of Management and Business Studies and a conference hall. In the permanent site there are more office space for lecturers and classrooms for lectures and we have provided water, generator sets and shuttle vehicles to make life easier.
We had our 7th Convocation on November 27, 2010. It was the first Convocation since 2002. This Polytechnic is 18 years old but we just had our 7th Convocation last year.
The Minister of Education was ably represented and we used the occasion honor some individuals with positive contributions to the development of education in the country, including Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State, the Chief of Staff to the President, Chief Mike Ogiahdome, the Olofa of Offa, Oba Mufutau Gbadamosi Ilufemiiloye II, an illustrious son of Offa, industrialist and philanthropist based in Abuja, Ahaji Kayode Aworinde.
The 2002 crisis was partly attributed to overpopulation; then we had a student population of about 30,000 which we have now reduced. The recommendation was that we should move out to the permanent site and spread out. In fact the NBTE disallowed us from admitting more students due to the shortage of classroom space.
All these contributed to the problems we had here then. In one instance, we had already sold forms to students but because we were disallowed from admitting them, the students demanded their refunds and we had to pay them back. To God be the Glory we paid all of them.
We had to cut down drastically on student intake with our overall population standing at about 11,000. But even with the two campuses we are still guided by NBTE’s “Carrying Capacity” Rule on students’ admission, the ratio of students to classrooms and facilities and other factors, so we are going to keep the number down to avoid overcrowding and future crisis.
Is the new situation of academic peace reflected in the number of new students seeking admission?
Presently, we are the preferred choice of several admission seeking students because we have been able to upgrade our facilities and we are enjoying a new era of peace and harmony.
Our staff training programme is an ongoing thing and we take the training of our staff seriously as we commit lots of resources to it. Some are studying for their Master’s and Doctorate degrees. We have modern equipments which helped us get accreditation. Our fees are moderate too; we decided not to increase student fees arbitrarily.
In fact this year, there will be no increase from last year’s fees. Our weather is clement. That is why many students like coming here from all over the country.