In this interview with Straightnews, Dr. Emmanuel T. Abraham, founder of Top Faith University, Mkpatak in Akwa Ibom State, roasts Nigerian universities of suffering from intellectual brain drain- focusing research on faraway things but seeing not things that are closer.
Who is Dr. Emmanuel Thomas Abraham?
Dr. Emmanuel Abraham is a man from Mkpatak who has been part of the educational journey of the Top Faith Group of Schools and currently part and parcel of the Top Faith University’s Vision.
Why did you nurse the vision to establish a university?
Passion! Passion for good and transformational education for humanity. That’s what inspires me to embark on this mission.
When did you conceive the vision?
Since birth, I have always nursed the vision and ambition to be part of the transformational education process.
A university of this magnitude should gulp a lot of resources. How do you cope with the resources?
Resources are of many types: financial, physical, mental, psychological, emotional and spiritual. All these are relevant for a project like this. The galvanizing factor that amalgamates and harmonizes all these resources is the spiritual dimension. So, I cope by asking the Almighty spirit of God to guide me in the right direction.
How much have you spent in putting up these modern facilities?
The much that has gone in here is the much that has produced what you have seen.
What is the land mass of the university?
The land mass is currently 138.1 hectares of land, fully fenced round and properly sectionalized and partitioned into various units and sectors, geographically, philosophically and environmentally. They are all done with the spirit and vision of the Top Faith University.
So far, what are core academic disciplines approved for take-off in the university?
Well! What you have just seen is only the Phase One of the university. Normally, a university project is done in phases. This is basically Phase One which is expected to operate in the first five years.
By God’s grace, we’ll be expected to run programmes in Faculty of Management and Social Sciences; Media and Communication Studies where you have Journalism and Broadcasting. We will do programmes in the Faculty of Engineering.
We have the Faculty of Computing and Applied Sciences, where we will give special attention to trending 21st Century-compliant programmes. That is the faculty that will house Computer Science and Software Engineering. As we advance, the Faculty shall offer programmes in Cyber Security, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, among others.
In the Applied Sciences, what we intend to take off with include Biotechnology. It is very relevant for entrepreneurial and environmental transformation. We’re going to have Microbiology, Biochemistry, Physics, and Chemistry.
At the Engineering Science, we’re going to have Electrical Electronics. Of course, you know the world is going totally digital. We will concentrate with research and programmes relevant to drive the digital and electronic world. We will focus special attention on Telecommunications Engineering. You will notice that no human endeavour can function in the modern world, without the application of telecommunications.
We want to domesticate that within our programme structure and profile. Oil and gas is part of what we intend to do. We will crown it all with something legal. We will instill in our students, strong empowerment in the exposure to the practice of Law, internationally, nationally and locally.
Having obtained accreditation from the National Universities Commission, when will the first set of students be admitted?
Before the end of this year, academic activities will commence here. Normally, we are in the 2020/2021 academic session. By the time the current session is concluded, we shall commence academic activities here.
What’s the staff strength of the university?
The staff strength is a strong workforce. In number terms, that is still ongoing because it has to be determined by the operational dynamics of the institution.
Are some principal staffers of the university?
In a proactive manner, discussions are ongoing.
What’s your projection for the university in terms of expansion?
Growth is phenomenal to natural course of existence. Growth is better than stagnation. We intend to grow carefully, systematically and prudentially. The growth has to match facilities on ground. Whatever expansion we do has to be cautiously done, in line with affordability, functionality and necessity. We have to put together, things that are arranged according to our philosophy, where we have to grow systematically and sequentially.
What challenges do you envisage to drive this huge vision?
As a very serious positive thinker, I always believe that challenges are necessary. Some challenges have even spurred us up as a team. These have compelled us to do serious thinking, rethinking and even critical thinking. Yes, we talk of certain constraints. Of course, these are hurdles that one must cross before arriving at the ultimate. There’s no time in the epoch of man where there is no hurdles. If the road is too smooth, watch it. That may not be the road to good success.
What do the public expect from the pioneer students of Top Faith University?
As a matter of fact, we will run a very serious byline identified as 3D Philosophy. This means Discovery, Development and Deployment. In other words, founded on the Motto of the University which says: ‘Wisdom, the Greatest,’ it has set for itself the wonderful pathway that would make our tasks, jointly and severally, to discover talents in everybody, provide the enabling environment for those talents to be developed and provide the inspiration for the developed talents to be properly deployed.
That is why we will sharpen the entrepreneurial philosophy of our students. Our entrepreneurial thinking will not be about craftsmanship. We find certain institutions and places where people talk about entrepreneurship as if it is craftsmanship, where they prepare suits, shoes, bags, sew fabrics, among others. Entrepreneurship is a philosophy. It can be discovered; it can be developed; it can be deployed.
In simple terms, we’re going to point the light on the path for our students to follow. In other words, we will create an enabling environment for our students to have the instinct and the consciousness to see, recognize and take advantage of business opportunities and add value to that gap, create products or services and make money out of it.
So, our multidimensional aspects of entrepreneurship will cut across the whole gamut of the university system, no matter which programme a student does. An Accounting student will see himself or herself as a potential entrepreneur who can walk into this place, look round and see any available business opportunities.
Capacity to smell business opportunities can be taught. That is exactly what we shall devote our time to achieve, in addition to the core academic content of our programmes. We will sharpen their mentality so that wherever they go, all that they look out for would be to take an existing business opportunity for their work. This is what I mean when I say it is a 3D Philosophy. Our staffers would be part of this philosophy and our students would be the greatest beneficiaries. To answer your question straightway, our educational system in Top Faith University is extremely going to be philosophical and remarkably achievement- oriented.
Do you intend to collaborate with government agencies or corporate bodies to achieve this?
Education is a multidimensional concept. The word ‘collaboration,’ to say the least, is an understatement. We are going to work with everybody. We will emphasise the issue of Town and Gown. Gown is the university and Gown is the general human society. There must be synergy between Town and Gown.
Without synergy between the two, no educational domain will achieve its aims. Yes, we’re going to be quite involved in all sectors of the world economy, not just collaboration. We shall relate, interface and network with entities, business communities, research world, government and nongovernmental organizations, personalities and people, events and places.
These are all research-oriented facets which the university should explore. We will dedicate ourselves to serious and robust research avenues to be able to come up with certain things that will integrate Town and Gown, so that the Gown can benefit from the Town and vice versa. When this synergy is established, you can imagine the ultimate.
To favourably compete with other top universities around the world, what nature of research will Top Faith University periodically undertake?
I just mentioned the Town-Gown synergy. Research does not happen in a vacuum. We have to start from what is readily available. Let me ask you this, why is it difficult to have a succession plan in our local businesses? Is that not a proper research concern? Can’t we propound a useful theoretical framework to address the minds of our locals to consciously create a dynamism that will establish succession plan? If I’m consciously running Top Faith while I’m alive, the school should not die when I naturally cease to exist on this plane.
The general feeling of people around here is that individuals will always die with their business ideas. People die with their businesses. Why can’t we work hard to establish a principle and correlate it with facts, coming up with a proposal that can be taught as a principle or field to groom young people in a succession planning philosophy?
Why are we still having wild palm trees all over the place? Why do we still have the so-called land tenure system, or land fragmentation? You cannot think of fragmenting your car for your children.
Why are we not addressing the spirit of partnership? Is it a natural process? Is it sociological? Is it due to greed? Is it due to avarice? What is it? These are the things we take for granted which can be tackled by research. Let’s think about the scientific way. Why does a bonesetter find it difficult to teach the skills to his children or other persons? Is the talent not learnable? Is it hereditary? If it is, how do you sustain the ‘hereditariness’ of it in the family?
Unfortunately, a lot of our Nigerian universities are victims of what I call ‘intellectual brain drain.’ Intellectual brain drain simply means that your focus of research is blind to what is closer to you, only seeing things that are far away. You think your fundamental problem is too small to attract your research attention. In other words, your brain is taking you too far from providing the research needs of your community. That is what I describe as intellectual brain drain. Your physical brain drain is the one you carry yourself to the Western world to display your talent.
There is something called cocoyam. If you do not cook it well, before eating, it will itch your throat. What is in that cocoyam that causes the itching? Is it useful? There is another one called sweet yam. If you keep it some hours or days after harvesting, some species of it won’t be edible again. Can’t we commit resources to carry out researches on these?
Look at the raffia palm. Kaikai (illicit gin) used to be brewed from it. The White man came to deceive us, calling it illicit gin. What is the difference between kaikai and Schnapps or whisky? Why can’t we look at these things? Now we have abandoned kaikai. It is now more of ethanol because the raffia palm is almost extinct. Why can’t botanical and cultural researchers look into these things? There are a lot of things to look at.
Top Faith University is going to try as much as possible to look into these things. We will reinvent some of these things and ensure that we become very relevant to the realities on ground. We shall empower our students to develop interest in these areas of research.
Are there plans to get the public adequately informed on the official resumption date of Top Faith University?
There used to be a saying that a good wine needs no bush. But recent marketing principles do not seem to agree with this. I’m only talking to journalists for the first time on this development. We are still taking our time, crossing our T’s, dotting our I’s and aligning our issue with our philosophy. We are still putting things in shape so that we can take off. You do not just enter an aircraft and take off. They will tell you what to do: fasten your seat belt, observe the instructions and rest. So, we are at the stage of giving operational instruction. At the point when the pilot wants to take off, he will announce it appropriately.
What is your advice to prospective students of Top Faith University?
This is a domain of knowledge and wisdom. When you put the two together, it creates the enabling environment for talents discovery, development and deployment. Students, parents and stakeholders are in for a wonderful and tantalizing educational ride based on a vision of capacity building, transformation and focus.