Dr (Mrs) Philipa Idogho is an alumni of the Federal Polytechnic Auchi and today she is the Rector of the institution after serving in ifferent capacities in the school.
She was re-appointed late last year as the Rector of the institution for a second term by the Federal Government but the reasons are not far fetched. Under her tutelage, she created a second campus of the institution and embarked on massive development of infrastructures. She instituted dress code for staff and students resulting to her being refered as the “Iron ady” of the institution.
Before her coming as Rector, Auchi Polytechnic was known as one of he notorious schools in terms of cultism but today, with the strategies she was able to put in place, engaging the students practically so that after their education, they can be self reliant, she was able to bring sanity to the system. However Saturday Vanguard spoke with Mrs Idogho last week how she has been able to cope with her family and job over the years and it was quite revealing.
You have spent over twenty years of your life in Auchi Polytechnic, how were you able to survive with the men folk and coping with family responsibilities?
Infact, I have never rested in Auchi Polytechnic right from when I entered as a student and staff. I started as a time table officer, then as exam officer, coordinator, HOD now Rector. And there is no committee that I will not be a member. But I was lucky that I have passed through raising up children. Right now, I don’t have any small child at home, all my children are grown up, I am a grand mother now. So it is just my self and my husband. My husband has equally been helpful because he is a medical doctor, he is always in the hospital, he can be called at any time for one emergency or the other. So we have been managing ourselves but most times we stay together in the evening.
Inspite of your beauty, some people who are not close to you see you as a very harsh woman, how do you cope with that perception?
If you are not close to me, you will be looking at me as an iron lady (laughter). You see me as a harsh person when you’re not close to me.
You see, leaders have different qualities. We have leaders who we easily know their character, we have leaders who are conservative and you will always misinterpret their characters. I am a very playful person and again my upbringing shaped my style of life. I can be an iron lady if you cheat in examinations, collect money from students or caught in illegal activities in the school (laughter). We have zero tolerance for corruption and that is why some people also feel that may be I am wicked but I am not. I grew up in a conservative family, we are not the out-going type, we were brought up to be on our own, not make friends, stay at home, so we are used to that type of life.
My routine is from work, to church because I am into a lot of church activities. So when you don’t meet me at home, you will either see me at the church or in the market. You will only see me in somebody’s house may be the person just had a baby or is having a birthday party. If you don’t have opportunity to interact with me, you will actually think that I am a no go area, but it is not so. My students call me directly or they send me text messages and they give me information on things bothering them and I will always call the people involved and sort out the matter. Like I got a text message recently where a student reported to me that a lecturer has not taught them any thing about doing assignment on the internet and now he wants to give them assignment through the internet. So I told the lecturer it is a good innovation that you are bringing but he should teach the students how to use the internet before he starts giving such an assignment. The lecturer was shocked and asked me how I heard about it but I said don’t bother, that we can resolve the matter. I got the information because I am very close to the students.
But how did you meet your husband owing to the fact that you came from a very conservative family?
No, it was not as if my background was a holy, holy, thing (laughter). Infact, I am following a male and a male came after me, so I am in between the two of them in the family. So you will even say that I am more of a tom-boy. So I did not have any problem relating with our mates both female and male. My parents are Catholics who are open minded and the truth is that when you are bringing up children, you don’t do it in a manner that they cannot mix with others. They will need their liberties to relate with others, but the most important thing is that we know our limits. Again, my parents don’t allow any of their daughters to exceed the age of 22 before they get married and that was exactly what I did with my only daughter.
Once you have finished secondary school, they will encourage you to get married while you go further in your education. My late mother married at the age of 13, so she does not want any of her children to stay at home because of education. So all the four females that she had got married before the age of 22 and if your husband could not train you, they would train you. That was the encouragement they gave to us.That was why we did not really enter so much into the world before we got married.
Some persons fought against your re-appointment, what was their problem?
I think it was lack of information because as a sitting Rector, I have the opportunity to be given a second chance if I have performed very well and it does not call for any body’s opinion apart from the opinion of my supervisor. If my supervisor says I have done well, I need to come back and continue with the good work I am doing. It is the prerogative of my supervisors. And when it was time, my supervisors recommended me to the President for reappointment which he did. So, I felt it was just lack of information on the part of those who were fighting me. God knows the passion I have for this school because I schooled here and I know the problems which I am tackling today.
What was your experience in Auchi Poly?
When I was in this school as a student, we did not have all the structures that we have today. We did not have the population that we have today but our lecturers then thought us properly. And when I came back after graduation to teach, we discovered too that. In my department for example, students were admitted with the certificate that they have. We did not have this over flow of population.
The school was going on smoothly but development was slow. But we did not know what was happening because we are not in government. Besides, I am somebody that does not like poke-nosing into other people’s affairs. I always work according to the rules and regulations.
So I worked very well as Head of Department for five years.
My Rector then did not even know who to appoint to replace me. I created the shorthand lab, I started the computer lab and so, all the type writers in my department then were changed. I was supposed to spend four years but the Rector then said I should stay on until I left. That was in the Department of Secretarial Studies. Then, I wanted t go for my PHD, I was relieved for one year, later I was appointed again as the Dean School of Evening Studies. I found myself again in governance and in such situation, I don’t know what was happening in the wider polytechnic because I spent all the day in school. But when I became Rector, I discovered that funding was a serious issue. And the vision I have for the polytechnic as an alumni of the school was high and I started thinking what should I do. It is not all about leadership, it is about your relationship with those around you and the people you can use to lift the school. So I contacted people such as the alumni association to come and help the school and when they came, they saw what we were doing and they said, let us help the polytechnic.
They came up with the idea of building a 500-sitter lecture theater for the polytechnic and even a workshop. So they are particular about the progress of the school. Apart from the normal intervention ,we have special intervention and that is why you see building projects coming up here and there in our campuses. So we allocate money more to projects so that when this administration is through, we should be able to look back to say look, we have left enough legacy that some body else can now take off from.
Apart from the infrastructures, we are building human capacity regularly. Last year before we closed for the year we had a workshop on capacity development. So we keep developing our people, we sent some to the UK, some to South Africa, some are in Malaysia. And these are the exposures we are getting. Like the resource person who came last week even noticed that we have a dress code in the polytechnic. Our lecturers who don’t put on suit before, they are now the best dressed staff now.
This is the discipline we have inculcated into them. Today Auchi Polytechnic is now the International Incubation Center in the South South. So we are to be incubating students and at the end of the day what they get here they can now set up their own businesses.
We have a student in the HND Mass Communication but he can bake cake and decorate very well. So we gave him an office here and we bought kitchen equipments and all he needed so that others will come and learn from him. Right now we have a saloon, a fashion out fit, where we train people and they go outside to open their own businesses.
You see this is the only way we can find solution to the unemployment situation in Nigeria because our youths have to be self employed, self exposed so that when they graduate they can sit down and start working on that field so that they can make money for themselves.
So we want to create more avenue where they can learn and be trained. Like I told some body, I have passion for sewing so that is why we have made the environment so conducive by buying state of the art machines, hair making machines such as driers. Any body who is coming to barb and make hair will be very comfortable.
We have been keeping our students busy with activities in school and we give them a lot of orientation. For example, I always go to the hostels to visit the students and when I started it, they ran away when they saw me.
I said no they should come that I came to visit them. I brought them closer to the management of the school. Any one who wants to talk to me always come up to talk to me, even personal problems. My students visit me in my house and I do the same. I am here to serve and not to be served. So that is the philosophy that we have.
You know that in any thing you do there must be proper planning. These projects we are seeing now we planned for them a very long time ago. We resolved that we are going to have a second campus, we renovated all the abandoned buildings and converted them into offices.
We created road networks, built more infrastructures so that the students will have conducive atmosphere for their studies. And most of the resources we are getting for these capital projects are from TESfund and our Internally Generated Revenue of the Polytechnic. We allocate funds appropriately to what we want to use them for, we prioritize projects and we try to get trusted contractors for the jobs and that is why you see that the entire area has changed.
Each time I enter the new campus I find it difficult to believe what we have achieved. Bulldozers are working every day on campus, the secret is proper planning and aggressive monitoring.