In this interview, Prof. Rasheed Ijaodola, who recently bagged Ph.D in Christian Studies explains why he did so.
Why did you go for a PhD in Christian Studies as a Muslim?
Professor Rasheed Jimoh Ijaodola: I attended a Catholic primary school where we were taught about the Bible – from genesis to revelation, and it was interesting. Because of the interest, I did Christian Religion Knowledge in secondary school and Higher School Certificate (HSC) and I pass very well. Aside that, the late Prof. Bopamu of the Faculty of Science University of Ilorin, who was amazed by my knowledge of the Bible asked me to do a PhD in Christian Studies. When I went for the Post Graduate Degree, I wrote the examination and passed very well hence they admitted me for the Masters Degree and then I proceeded for PhD.
My thesis was very interesting; I wrote on end time prophecies, which said ownership of a single city (Jerusalem) will lead to end time. So, I was interested in knowing what was special in the city because the Hadith of the Prophet also said that one of the end time signs is the problem over a city. My interest led me to going for a PhD in Christian Studies.
What was the reaction of your family and friends on the idea of going for PhD in Christian Studies being a Muslim?
Ijaodola: There was no objection; they took it in good faith because they know that I love education. I am even planning to go for another PhD in History. If you look at Yoruba history and the Fulani incursion in the area during the 18/19 Century, which led to the decline and fall of Oyo Empire, you’d discovered that there were no coherent literature in respect of the wars, particularly the Ilorin-Offa war in the 19th Century. My great grandfather was the one who led the war on the part of Offa, and if you read the history books of the Yorubas, there are many inaccuracies. Again, the Fulani incursion into Yoruba land needs to be properly written in line with the reality on ground at that time.
Being a Muslim, will this Christian Studies not influence your faith?
Ijaodola: If you look at the encyclopedia of knowledge, there are about nine religions on earth; Islam and Christianity are the minority religions if you consider the population of the world. But the religions that are almost the same, which we call Abrahamic religions are Islam and Christianity, their sources are from almost the same place. It is only the view of the personality of Christ that differs in the two religions. So, the two religions should be seen as a unifying force that will make people live in harmony and not to divide us. Islam believes in all the prophets including Jesus Christ but the only point of departure is the tradition of Paul. The Muslims believe Jesus Christ is a prophet of God but the divinity as proclaimed by the Christians is not acceptable to Islam. In my view, there are lots of similarities about the religions that ought to be studied by way of comparative analysis.
Religious crisis is common in our country, how can this be addressed?
Ijaodola: We should not let some people deceive us. I am close to both Muslims and Christians, the religious disharmony in Nigeria is political, and people only use it to their advantage. I was invited for an interview for a vice chancellor position in one of the universities, and it was presided over by Prelate of the Methodist Church, but they couldn’t take me because I am a Muslim. That is what happens anywhere the Christians preside, and on the Muslims’ part, it is also the same anywhere they are head. The problem we have in Nigeria is that we are not interested in merit. This idea of this person is from my town or religion is tearing the country apart. Religion is for good neighbourliness and to get a person closer to God. So to avoid religion crisis, we have to fear God and believe in the unity of country.
What do you think is the problem of our education system?
Ijaodola: I wrote to the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, commending him for being focused. Some people will assumed office and discard what others have done – either good or bad, and introduce new things. The teaching of History was cancelled in our institutions but Adamu came and restored it. A nation without history is doomed.
During our days, we went through Higher School Certificate (HSC) system and we were better for it. HSC then was more difficult than the university but today, it is from secondary school straight to the university and lots of immature students are in the university. We have problems in our education system today because instead of complementing the work of our past leaders by bringing new ideas, we are destroying them.
In order to enhance our educational development, we should go back extensively to the HSC tradition. Most of the good secondary schools should offer HSC and that will not put pressure on the university as it is now. Also, the universities should be allowed to admit their own students as it was in the past as well as conduct their own examination without JAMB. There were lots of interference in our education sector which hindered its development.
What is the difference between the time you went to school and now?
Ijaodola: During our time, both teachers and students were committed to impact and acquire knowledge respectively, but now there is no such commitment. Also, there was emphasis on education and food security then which made everyone to work hard but now emphasis is on acquisition of naira, dollars, cars and corruption. I think there should be proper orientation on that to save the education system.
What is your view on strike action in public educational institutions across the country?
Ijaodola: I work in a private institution and we don’t go on strike because the proprietors are there to listen and attend to demands immediately. Government should always listen to lecturers and not wait until they go on strike. One thing that is not good in our university is the appointment of Vice Chancellors. They pick people not based on merit but because they have people in government. I have applied in five universities for Vice Chancellor’s position but I was not taken because I don’t know anybody in position. I have been a member of the university community for about 31 years; I was Dean of law for about eight years, HOD nine years, member of Council of Legal Education eight years but I don’t have anybody to say ‘come and be this’.
What is your take on President Muhammadu Buhari’s corruption fight?
Ijaodola: President Buhari is trying in the fight against corruption. For him to expose the big people who embezzled billions of naira of public fund, he should be commended for his courage. Whether there are flaws in the fight or not is immaterial because he has been able to expose them. People are talking about recession, who caused it? It was caused gradually by the previous government. So let us commend President Buhari but my fear is the judicial system with its slow adjudication system and unnecessary objections.
To effectively fight corruption, the Ghanaian tradition is needed. We must have a tribunal or special court for corrupt cases with a mandate to finish cases within three to six months period. It should be done in a way that human rights will not be tampered with.
What do say about governors who have collected bailout fund but could not still pay salaries?
Ijaodola: Governors are part of Nigeria’s problem. If state and local governments use their money judiciously, there would be robust economic activities at both levels of governance but the state government corners all the money meant for the state and local government. The governors are killing the economy of Nigeria because they collect money every month but can’t pay salary to their workers. It is a clear case of diversion of fund. I think financial autonomy for local government would be the best.
2019 is around the corner, what is your advice to the electorate?
Ijaodola: The citizen should open their eye and vote in credible people. INEC should regulate the amount of money political parties can charge for form, they should streamline election and demystify money politics so that credible people can contest election. I have interest in contesting election but I don’t have the money. Political parties are asking for millions for nomination form and with that, it is difficult for professors like me to delve into politics. When people spend much money on election, what do you expect from them? They will first recoup the money they borrowed.
What is your message to President Buhari?
Ijaodola: He should continue to exhibit courage in the fight against corruption because it is our problem. All the money they have stolen, if collected, can fix our roads, provide free education at all levels. He should search for credible people that are intelligent and technocrats from the university and other places and make them serve their country. The vice president, who was my teacher in the university, is there. He should join the president to get the right people to complement the good job the Buhari administration is doing.