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Wahab: Education sector changing for better

The Special Adviser to Lagos Governor on Education, Mr. Tokunbo Wahab, in this interview to mark his 50th birthday, x-rayed the achievements of the Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led government.


The Special Adviser to Lagos Governor on Education, Mr. Tokunbo Wahab, in this interview to mark his 50th birthday, x-rayed the achievements of the Babajide Sanwo-Olu-led government.

What has been the journey so far?
For two years and nine months, we had set out to change the narrative as encapsulated in the agenda of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu. From primary to secondary, which is where the honorable commissioner holds forth and then to tertiary, the governor didn’t hold anything back.

The Lagos State University (LASU) became a global brand by virtue of our collaboration with Cornell University, one of the Ivy League universities.

I want to thank the governor, my colleagues in the executive council, and the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, who with the House, deemed it fit to ensure that the executive bill for the upgrade of the polytechnic and colleges of education to universities was passed and assented to on February 8 this year. With that development, we now have three universities in Lagos State; one conventional university and two specialised universities.

These are legacies that would mark out Sanwo-Olu’s tenure in many years to come. LASU will be 40 next year, serving a population that’s about 22 million. It goes to common sense and good vision to say that it’s time to increase its capacity.

Beyond that, we are also executing projects, and revving up the technology and IT space. At the close of last year, we had 243 library interventions, libraries that were upgraded with IT facilities. That means that we took up public schools; gave them new libraries; put conventional books, and then set up a proper IT infrastructure within that same library. And we are doing 60 more currently to add to the existing numbers. By the end of the year, we want to see if we could hit 500. This is our target.

When we came on board, we reviewed some of the programmes by my predecessor. One of them was “Ready, Set, Work,” which we rebranded, deepened the content and changed the approach. We also now allow non-final year students to benefit from it since we have a lot of students at that level. We can’t let them just go out like that, so we renamed it Job Initiative Lagos. We also renamed the Code Lagos into Eko Digital. I know we have done over 60,000 for the Job Initiative Lagos across our tertiary institutions, including those that are in federal and private institutions. And for Eko Digital, we have done over 200,000 plus.

Why did universities’ management travel abroad for training when ASUU has been on strike for over a month?
Point of correction, no Lagos State tertiary institutions is on strike. They have not been on strike since we came onboard. There is a magic and process to it. I would thank the Lagos State governor for seeing to that process.

Now, why did we take them abroad? You have to expose these people to new thinking on how universities are managed. You can’t continue to be a big fish in a small pond hence the need to put them on a global pedestal and let them see things from that perspective, and also align their thoughts. It was beyond just management, it was also about funding and team collaboration.

It is also when you give them that level of exposure that you can call them to task, and say “To whom much is given, much is expected.

There are fears that with the two new universities, the government may not pay attention to LASU?
Let me create a scenario, If you have four children, are you going to abandon three and focus on one? As a responsible father, you would raise them as children from a responsible home. We won’t abandon anyone for the other.

You clocked 50 years a few days ago, what is it like?

It is with a thankful heart because I lost my mum when she was 49, and I said to myself that if God grants me, I want to be 95. I can’t be 95 without being 50. It has been a very unusual journey. Unusual because I was orphaned in my 20s, I lost my mum in my first year in the university, and my dad in my final year, but I never gave up on life and hope. I have been a child of unusual grace. God has granted me very good health. I am not on any medication and He has granted me very good family support -my wife and two kids.

Whenever I look back, I conclude that it is only God that can do all these, and he has done so much. But all I could say to Him is to thank him for the grace that he has granted me, and for standing by me and my siblings as orphans. It has not been a smooth journey, but even in the midst of the turbulence, He has never ever left me, and that has entrenched my faith in Him beyond human comprehension.

Also, at 50, I thank God because this is my first time in public service. I thank the governor and my family for sacrificing their time. I am someone that is close to my family a lot, but these days, I hardly see my kids the way I used to see them. I thank everybody that has been a part of my journey, for good or for bad. I have learnt some lessons. I have also learnt through life. For those that stood by me, God bless you and for those that left, abandoned me, thank you and God bless you. You had your reasons. But in everything, I give thanks to God for the wisdom He has granted me to manage myself, manage my family, and manage this public space.