Hon. Fatai Olukoga is the Special Adviser on Education to the executive governor of Lagos, Barrister Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), the experienced politician who retired as permanent secretary in the civil service told Faith Irabor his political plans come 2015. It is an interesting chat.
How would you describe yourself sir?
Well, as you already know my name is Hon. Fatai Olukoga , and I am the Special Adviser on Education to Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola .
What’s your score sheet for the Fashola`s administration especially in the area of Education?
Yeah, the administration has really gotten a lot of improvements in terms of the standard of classrooms that we have now, which is conducive for learning, it has also improved in the area of curriculum, we have given more books to students and there are lots of mock exams that prepare them for their final exams like WAEC or NECO and while you’re taking the exams if you do not pass, forget about going to the next class and also if you do not pass, Lagos State Government would not pay for your exams and this has made a lot of our students to struggle hard, and get serious with their studies.
What were the structures that were on ground before you joined the train and what are your contributions?
Okay, the same structures that have been there right from the days of Governor Bola Tinubu and Jakande unlike the Military era.
How exactly do you mean?
Yeah, Jakande tried as much as possible to get lots of land to build structures to hold on and these are what Tinubu laid on to build good class rooms that are very conducive for learning. And Fashola also picked it up from there. For example go to Agidingbi Grammar School, Mogaji Grammar school in Ojodu, and so on.
You’ve just talked about the secondary school, let’s go to the tertiary institution now, for example we have the case of the Lagos State University LASU where students are ask to pay through their nose?
Let me tell you that there is no way you can get your tertiary education free, it’s not free even in America, they pay between Twenty to Thirty thousand Dollars for you to get it, but in Nigeria we have Universities where students pay less and still get subsidized, what we call Bursary awards and scholarships. Pointing back to why the school fees were increased, these are the things that happened through the panel that was set up to look at the many strikes that happened in schools, it was even this panel that said school fees must be increased in order to have standard facilities in our campuses. The school fees was improved to One Hundred and Ninety Four thousand Naira which is the minimum and the maximum is Three Hundred and Forty Eight thousand naira and with that we still have a lot of them that are on scholarship and bursary awards. The non indigenes go to their state to get this money and come to Lagos state government to pay peanuts for getting best education. Our university is the best in Medicines, Law and Engineering. Go to their hostel in Ikeja, you will see that it’s of high standard with air conditioned facilities.
But I don’t want to believe that we still can’t achieve this without the school fees being increased?
Exactly, it is not the fees that would bring all that. If you look at the students that are coming in, let’s assume one thousand students pay the one hundred and ninety four thousand naira, you know how much that is if you calculate, while the Lagos state Government is putting about six Billion Naira yearly to improve the facility. If you go there, you will see the central library going on, so also is the Senate building, we also have the Law library just completed and well furnished, the science faculty, transportation and all are going on there.
What did the government do on the protest that held weeks back?
Well those who protested are not the real students of LASU. They are from the external campus. What happened about the protest is because the National University commission has directed that the external campus be scrapped and it’s been abolished since last year 2011 and it’s only those who are there that we are waiting for to finish their programmes and we can’t have new admission. It’s like a face out and they will get their certificates.
But do you think this is fair?
Yeah I think it’s good, they are scrapping it because you can’t compare the type of education they are getting to those at the main campus. These are people that go to work and would attend classes only in the evenings, they have the means and could easily want to lure lecturers to pass them if they need to, even though lecturers might refuse. So these are the issues. Let me also say that those that conducted the rally have their reserve. We wanted to know their actual numbers because some of them would write exams and not pay, so these are their grouse but the issue has been resolved.
So we won’t be seeing more of such protest?
No no no… they have also come to realize our point, though they were being used by the owner of the institution and we know because their school fees has not been increased, and the increase at the main campus does not affect them.
As an adviser on Education, what’s your view on the propose changing of University of Lagos to MAOLAG in memory of late Chief M.K.O Abiola?
Well to me, the Federal government should have first taken the opinion of the people before they do it and that’s what they have not done. They just woke up and say University of Lagos should be named after late M.K.O Abiola. The school has been in existence for over fifty years and they just want to change it all of a sudden. This is an institution that has made its name and mark in the area of education. I think what the federal government should have done is to create a new institution and name it after Abiola rather than the way they went about it. I think it has gone through reading in the National Assembly.
Do you think it would go the way they want it?
To me, it may not be because there are lots of agitation and people are no longer sleeping and are kicking against it.
Would you say Governor Fashola has done well in area of Education?
Yes of course, and that’s why everybody is coming to understudy Lagos because of the way things are been done in Governance, education, environment, medicine, transportation and so on. It’s a model and nobody can doubt the ability of the current governor.
On a lighter note, how do you find time to relax?
I unwind whenever time permits and besides we are used to it. I was in the system before and retired as a permanent secretary and I went back after retirement to join politics so it has been part of me and I don’t see any difference again.
Can you run us through your educational background?
I attended Ansarudeen College Isolo, after I left St. John School for my primary school. I attended Makome’s college to do Medicine but after going for some practical classes, I fainted and I realized I couldn’t cope with it, so I was given Diploma in Applied Science. I also had my Bsc. in Social Science and masters in Marketing & Industrial Relations. I am an author of a book titled Managing People and I also co author Personal Income Tax in Nigeria.
Do we see you contesting for any post come 2015?
Let me say this, in 2011, I ran for the House of Representatives, Ikorodu Constituency same as where Abike Dabiri came from so because of the party decision that Abike has to continue because she’s doing well, we all had to accept that she did it again but now that she has gone for third term, am sure that position would be vacant and I am going to fight for it.
It’s been nice chatting with you?