By Emmanuel Aziken

It was reflective of the degree to which Prof Suleiman Bogoro, the executive secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund has advocated the need for research in the country’s universities that finally, one of Nigeria’s leading universities named its first research centre after him.

It was even more remarkable that it was the Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, a private university which by law is not entitled to TETFund infrastructure grants that gave the befitting honour to Bogoro.

So, the recognition and honour could not have been said to be a quid pro quo.

The recognition of Bogoro during the 12th Founder’s Day anniversary lecture last November, was not just the only emblem of service for Bogoro. As many who were present for the anniversary lecture said during the ceremonies, Bogoro had also acquired to himself the appellation of Senior Advocate of Research, SAR.

The designation indeed flow from the fact that since his coming on board as Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund, that Prof Bogoro has acquired a near global fame among education sector stakeholders as about the most pushful advocate for research in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions.

Before now, TETFund had been more preoccupied with the provision of infrastructure. Indeed, Nigerian universities have over time quietly competed with one another in having the most beautiful campuses and Senate buildings.

However, that rat race has, however, left many of them blind to what some say is the primary role of the university in the ecosystem, to wit, to advance learning through research.

In his lecture at Afe Babalola University entitled: “University As Catalyst for Regional Economic Development”, Bogoro had advised the university administrators to place high premium on research.

He said: “Endowment, research foundations are the DNA of Ivory towers over time. But sadly in our country, we are treating universities as if they are political enclaves, rather than enclaves or platform for deepening knowledge, creating knowledge and innovation, which is beyond average; that is why universities are called the ivory towers.”

It is remarkable that Bogoro has helped to redirect the narrative through projecting research as a priority for the universities. This has been done after TETFund was able to advocate to President Muhammadu Buhari to increase the envelope for research funds.

Indeed, before Bogoro came what was obtainable was a seed money of N3 billion. However, following his advent the executive secretary was able to get the board of the fund to supplicate to the president to turn the seed money into an annual grant. That grant has now progressively increased over time.

In 2019, N5 billion was approved by President Buhari for research in the universities. In 2020, it was raised to N7.5 billion and in 2021 it was raised to N8.5 billion, a provision that gives the impetus to research minded academics to compete with their colleagues outside the country.

It is remarkable that this focus on research is now paying off with Nigerian universities rising in status among their peers as evidenced by the latest ranking of the world’s universities by the respected Times Educational Supplement.

In the latest ranking by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranked three Nigerian universities, University of Ibadan (UI), University of Lagos (UNILAG), Covenant University were listed among the best universities in the world in the 2022 World Best University ranking.

The 2022 World University Ranking listed the University of Lagos (UNILAG) in the second place (501-600) and Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State third position (601-800), respectively.

This is a significant leap for the public universities which for several years were not so listed.

The global ranking has also been helped by the TETFund facilitated internationalization scheme that has seen the pairing of some Nigerian universities with some leading institutions in the world.

TETFund has also worked on luring scholars to achieve advanced degrees by not just sponsoring but also saving money for the country through negotiating tuition discounts for academics sponsored by the government to some of the best universities abroad.

There is no doubt that the seed of research being planted by the present TETFund leadership is beginning to yield fruit, if not, then through the improved ranking of the universities in the country.

In due season, the fruit of the research in the fields of medicine, science and other fields of human endeavour would come to fore.

It is no surprise that education correspondents who monitor activities in the sector recently conferred on Bogoro, the Award of Excellence for his exemplary role in advancing research and lifting the lot of universities in the country.

Speaking when he received the executive of the Education Correspondents of Nigeria, ECAN, Prof. Bogoro opened up on how he came to be called SAR.

“You made reference to the appellation granted to me recently as Senior Advocate of Research. It is becoming increasingly popular by the day even at the convocation ceremony of ABUAD (Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti) where the first research centre of the university was named after me by the founder, Afe Babalola, it was mentioned copiously and indeed publicly about the reference (passion for institutionalisation of R&D), actually it is that particular reason he named the first research centre in that university after me, ” Bogoro said.

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