How I Became Professor At 39 — Aremu, Landmark Varsity VC

The Vice-Chancellor of Landmark University, Prof Charity Aremu, tells BLESSING ENENAITE about her achievements, challenges and other issues

What inspired you to be an educationist?

I was inspired to be an educationist because I love to build destinies, impart knowledge to the young ones coming up, and I have the passion to see the young ones become responsible in life. I love to build them to be relevant and make an impact wherever they find themselves. I am the first born in my family and this made me see myself as a teacher. I gave directives and provided pathways for my siblings. Up until now, I still play that key role. I also did it in the classroom as a teacher and in the university. No matter the level I find myself, I keep up in the assignment as an educationist.

What are your roles as the vice-chancellor of Landmark University?

 

I have three key roles as the VC of LU. The first role is academic; the second is administrative, while the third is the mentorship role. In my academic role, I provide directives and plans for the university. My plan is a typical university curriculum. I follow up to ensure an adequate direction for what we intend to do. Also, I provide guidance and organise my team – the deans and the academic directors. I ensure that everything is done with a sense of responsibility and in line with the directive we receive from the proprietor.

What are your achievements so far?

They are quantifiable and can be identified. What I call my key achievement is in the area of providing leadership and driving innovativeness towards excellence. I have been able to carry along the academic leaders and stakeholders of the university in driving quality academic teaching, giving a sense of team playing ground, where everyone is involved in the school’s activities. This has also helped to ensure that the vision of the university is achieved.

What are the challenges you face as the VC of LU?

(Laughs) Challenges will always come. Human beings and their complexities are a challenge, and ensuring that no matter their shortcomings one is able to carry everyone along is a challenge. Embracing the complexities of human beings and ensuring that one achieves results in the midst of everything is a great challenge.

What is your career trajectory?

God took me from a very humble background. My struggling parents endured to train me and to bag a first degree, second degree and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), which qualified me as a lecturer. Before I became a professor, I served in the university as a member of the congregation of the Senate, head of department, and then I became chairperson of key statutory positions. Then, I became the dean of the college of agricultural sciences, the dean of school of postgraduate studies, and today the privileged vice-chancellor of Landmark University.

What prompted you to leave your administrative leadership position at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, Oyo State, for Landmark University?

I left because of the passion I had to make an impact using the spiritual base of where I belong. I belong to the Living Faith Church. Contributing back to what we learnt from the proprietor is what actually motivated me to join the LU. I wanted to contribute my quota to train students in the pathway of leadership and success.

What influenced your decision to major in Agriculture?

I grew up to discover that one seed will give multiple seeds, and it is a mystery. When you plant one corn into the soil, you harvest multiple corn. This made me inquisitive. After three months of planting tomatoes, I discovered that I could harvest a bowl of tomatoes. I felt that it was interesting. Initially, my parents wanted me to study Medicine, but I ended up with where my passion was. That was why I studied Agriculture and I still practice agriculture. While I was studying at the university, I still planted around the hostel.

It has been said that youths are not usually encouraged to embrace agriculture as they prefer white-collar jobs. What will you say is the cause of this?

One thing about agriculture is the gestation period, which puts the youth off. Almost everyone wants to make quick money. If one plants maize today, it will take three months to harvest. If one does not tender that maize, it will not grow, and that is a problem. So, these youths do not want to take care of anything, but they want ready-made maize. The gestation period of agricultural products is a problem for the youth.

One must be rugged to practice agriculture. People believe it is poor or old people that practice agriculture. They believe they will remain in rags if they practice agriculture. Hence, they want smart things, quick money and smart looks all the time, which will take them away from the practice of agriculture.

In what ways do you think the youth can be encouraged to embrace agriculture?

The youth can be encouraged to practice agriculture through awareness. I have come to discover that if one has a tree plant, it will take not less than three to four years before one can start harvesting from it. However, one can develop a business line that is not more than six month. The period of planting to harvesting takes a lot of time. The same thing goes for animals. If one has cattle, the gestation period of cattle is not less than seven months. How many people will want to wait for their cow to reproduce after seven months? One does not even know if that animal will die or survive.

People want to make quick money and there is always a short cut. One can raise animals and sell when they are still young and another person can raise the little animals till they become mature. For vegetables, it can be planted and harvested within two months. Encouraging the youth to embrace agriculture that does not take much time is a way to encourage them.

Your research focus is on crop breeding and genetics. What are the challenges you faced while conducting the research?

The challenges bother on thematic issues because what one learnt five years ago is not what one must practice today to get results that will impact the environment. Also, receiving the right instruments and the right laboratory facilities that will help one to achieve and produce results is a challenge. The cost of research is high and one cannot run a research with one’s salary and get results. There are certain pieces of equipment one needs that may not be available and one cannot use personal funds to purchase them. The protocols involved in carrying out thematic research areas that will receive attention and make impact are a big challenge.

What factors will you attribute your career success to?

The key factors are focus, following my path, not getting distracted, remaining resilient and diligence.

It has been said that it is often difficult for women to have successful careers and be at the home front. How were you able to achieve both?

I was able to achieve both through management. Time, money and people management are the three key things that helped me. My career is on one path, while my family is on another path. I do not allow both of them to clash. When I am leaving the gate of my office, I close my office and open up the next chapter, which is my home, and give it a hundred per cent attention. When I am leaving my home, I close home and open up the next chapter, which is my office, and stay put to whatever directives that I receive for the office. It really has helped me.

Do you feel pressured to take Landmark University to the level of Covenant University?

No, I don’t feel any pressure at all. This is because we share the same proprietor base. The chancellor of Landmark University is also the chancellor of Covenant University. We have the same vision and focus; so, why should I be pressured? I am not at all. All I do is to follow instructions passionately, without bias and without losing focus. That is what I do, and it has really helped me.

What makes LU distinct from others?

LU is distinct from others through our vision, core values and mission. With these, we have created a kind of departure from what we have in other universities. Our students, faculty and staff are guided by these three focus areas of LU. Our vision drives us and no one engages in anything outside the vision quest. Our core values provide directives for us and guide us on what to do. We want to ensure that we raise leaders, who will become reformers, job providers and bread winners, because in today’s world, no one will give you a white-collar job.

What is your vision for LU?

My vision is to take the university to greater heights and drive excellence in all operations in line with the university’s vision. I do not have a separate vision, but mine is to ensure that I drive quality academic and administrative processes towards the actualisation of the vision quest of LU. That is my vision.

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What lessons have you learnt in your over two decades in the education sector?

I have learnt great lessons. Firstly, I have learnt to lead a life of selflessness. Secondly, l have learnt to lead a life of commitment. I am selfless and diligent in all that I do and it is rewarding. I have also learnt that a life of team work reduces stress. By working alone, one achieves success, but working together as a team enables one to achieve excellence in success. That means that pulling a knowledge base together rubs on the assignment and one is able to deliver excellently. By the privilege of office and experience, I have been able to note that when one has an assignment and one has individuals who work respectively on such assignment, they deliver greater results than when one believes in only one person doing the assignment.

In my over 20 years in the education sector, I have learnt that building one’s capacity helps one to be recognised. Knowledge is not stagnant; it is a great lesson. Knowledge deteriorates with time. Hence, one must build one’s capacity to meet up with the current demands of society. I have learnt that building one’s capacity as one embarks on life’s journey is what keeps one on top. Also, I have learnt to listen to others and not make hasty decisions. I ensure that others bear their hearts. In addition, I have learnt that human beings are very complex. Anyone one works with, one should not expect the same measure of delivery from that same person.

Do you believe that formal education is a necessity for success in life?

Yes! When one trains a child, that person is building a nation. Formal education is one way to train a child. Informal education will not get any nation anywhere, not even an individual. Formal education gives one a place among individuals and organisations. It gives one a place in a competing world of work, politics and skill acquisition. I believe in formal education.

What measures do you take to discipline students who go against the school’s rules?

It is not a thumb print measure. Every organisation must have a policy document that guides disciplinary measures and anyone coming on board – be it staff or student – must first get full knowledge of such a policy document on disciplinary issues. Disciplinary issues are broad based. A disciplinary action can happen concurrently. There must be a document in the name of the policy that must guide every institution on what and how to issue such disciplinary measures. For instance, when an individual or student flouts a rule on lecture attendance, there should be a certain punishment or disciplinary measure that must be attributable to that. The punishments for a student who flouts the rule of lecture attendance once in a week and the one who flouts the rule of lecture attendance for five days are different. The disciplinary issue determines the disciplinary measure that will be used.

Do you think there is hope for public sector education in Nigeria?

Yes, I believe it is possible and there is hope for the sector. However, the hope lies with every individual going by what they believe in and not necessarily what is acceptable to one person alone. That is when we begin to look in the direction of hope. We must ask ourselves what other developed African nations are doing well in terms of education. Also, what is our budget for education compared to other African nations? If we begin to look in the right direction, we must revamp the education sector and the decadence will fizzle out. I believe that there is hope, but we have to do the right thing to restore that hope.

How would you describe your relationship with Bishop David Oyedepo?

Bishop Oyedepo is a father, spiritual mentor and guardian. Administratively, he is my instructor and a source of inspiration in all that I do.

Are any of your children following your path to become an educationist?

(laughs) Yes, they are following my path. One of my children is aspiring to be a professor like me. My children are on course.

What bold steps have you taken in your career?

Every day one must take a bold step. Someone said that a weak mind will see a solution as a problem because that individual is not willing to take a bold step to address the problem. So, it is a bold step that helps one not to see a solution as a problem. If not for the bold steps that I have taken, considering that I am from a humble background, I will not be a degree holder, Master’s holder, or even be a PhD holder. The bold steps have helped me to get this far. The bold steps have helped me even in the midst of nothing to ensure that something comes out of it. When things are not working, I don’t see it as not working, I ensure it works.

Who are your biggest cheerleaders?

Bishop Oyedepo, Pastor Faith Oyedepo and the late Prof Grace Williams. There are also people who I follow up. They include some female presidents in other countries. There is also the President of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwumi Adesina. I am a silent follower of him. I also have people who cheered me to become who I am today. One of them is Prof Omoniyi Ariyo, who was my supervisor at the PhD level. He followed me up till I became a professor. He mentored, cheered and inspired me. My first degree supervisor also helped me in my academic journey.

What are your memorable moments as the VC of Landmark University?

The day my appointment was confirmed as the VC of LU was quite memorable for me. The day I stood before students, staff members and professoriate to make a pronouncement that I was going to serve God and humanity in this assignment remains memorable in my heart. In addition, the day I presented a state of the university to the board of regents of my university for the very first time without anyone brushing me up or without shadowing anyone; God helped me to deliver. It remains memorable in my heart.

Also, the day LU was made a world-class university by Times Higher Education ranking, which is the recognised global ranking body that ranks universities across the world, gladdened my heart. The time I received the mail remains memorable in my heart. I became the VC of LU on October 1, 2021. LU was ranked by Times Higher Education in May/June 2022. Being the VC of the university when the ranking was done humbled me.

What are the things you wished you knew when you were younger that you know now?

I wished I knew Jesus Christ when I was younger; maybe I would have been able to become a professor earlier than I did. I became a professor at 39. Maybe I would have gone higher than where I am now. However, I am grateful for where I am today. I also appreciate God for where I am going.

How do you balance work and family?

I have made a list of what it takes to have a home and what it takes to sit on one’s job and do it well. So, I identified that there is no preference scale for this. Everyone must have their time. Whenever I am leaving the office and opening the door of my house, I package everything about the office and drop it somewhere. Then, I face my family one hundred per cent. I create time for everything. When I am on the job, I keep my family aside except on exigencies; that is when I take part of the home time to attend to my job. I run away from issues that make me compete with my home and my job. I give everyone my scheduled time.

What are your other areas of interest?

I love farming and I am into it deeply. All round the year, I do not buy vegetables and maize because I produce from my farm for my family, colleagues and friends. I don’t sell them. Another thing I love very much is travelling but for now, I don’t have the time. I love adventures and music. These are what I spend my free time on.

What is your favourite food?

I don’t have any favourite food. However, if I am eating rice, it must be with vegetables. I also eat other foods with vegetables. I don’t have any special meal. I simply eat anything that’s well cooked.

 

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