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Interview with Professor Femi Lawal

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Interview with Professor Femi Lawal

A-CHOICES: Congratulations on becoming a Professor, Would you like to tell us a little more about yourself?

Professor Femi Lawal:  I am happily married to Barrister Tosin Lawal. We have three kids. I am an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and have practiced, both in academia and in a consultative capacity, for about two-and-a half-decades

A-CHOICES: Tell us a little bit about what you do. What does an average working week look like for you?

Professor Femi Lawal: I teach at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels in a university, specifically Lagos State University. I also supervise students at both levels. Besides, I conduct research, review journal articles for journal outlets, and render free psychological services. I am also a Parish Pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God, a responsibility that sees me overseeing a congregation and my parish’s neighbourhood on Sundays and during the week. All these I do as a routine every week.

A-CHOICES: What do you enjoy most about your role? 

Professor Femi Lawal: Helping and developing people

A-CHOICES: What are your proudest achievements in your career so far?

Professor Femi Lawal: Becoming a Professor and Facilitating the donation—by foreign donors—of 25000 books and journals to Olabisi Onabanjo University’s psychology and other academic programs 

A-CHOICES: It is generally believed that Nigeria is far behind South Africa in terms of education, funding, facilities, services, and, responsiveness. What is your take?

Professor Femi Lawal: This is true, but it is so not because South Africa has more or better academics than Nigeria, but because education is not adequately funded in Nigeria

A-CHOICES: In South Africa, the first you learn as a lecturer is to put the interest of the student. In Nigerian institution students barely have a cordial relationship with lecturers. Why is that so in your opinion?

Professor Femi Lawal: The assertion is incorrect! Many years of neglect of tertiary education may have created a myriad of problems in Nigerian tertiary education, but Nigerian academics still go out of their way to give students the best within the confines of what is available. Most of our students understand the constraints in the universities, especially with regard to funding and facilities, and a very good number of them cordially relate with their lecturers. I still relate with most of my students that have graduated from the university for example, including those that graduated almost 20 years ago. It is not different at all with current students, nor is it with the way many of my colleagues relate with their current and former students.

A-CHOICES: The Academic Staff Union of Universities has been on strike since February 14 and shows no signs of stopping any time soon, what then is the hope of the student and the education system?

Professor Femi Lawal: As I mentioned earlier, most of our students understand the fact that education, generally, is not adequately funded in Nigeria, and the efforts of ASUU, over the years, to rescue the situation. To the best of my knowledge, discussions have now resumed between government representatives and ASUU.  Everyone, including students, is hopeful for more vibrant university education in Nigeria going forward.

A-CHOICES: Talking 2023 elections, what are your expectations from the agents that would supervise the electoral process such as the INEC, the police, and other stakeholders like your colleagues that would serve mostly as returning officers?

Professor Femi Lawal: The general consensus judging from recent elections is that INEC has improved very significantly. One hopes that they would have improved more by 2023 so that peoples’ confidence in the electoral process can receive a boost. With good monitoring, the police and other agencies will do their jobs creditably well during elections. Unfortunately, some police bosses who are responsible for monitoring their subordinates sometimes become compromised themselves; this is usually the crux of the matter!

The wisdom behind using academics as returning officers in elections is that academics are generally very proud of their professions and would not want to be accused of aiding electoral malpractices. Therefore, any academic charged with such a responsibility would always want to be above board by shunning all offers from politicians no matter the academic’s propensity for corruption. For this reason, I can still vouch for my colleagues to a large extent.  

A-CHOICES: A lot is going on right now in the country, the security challenges in every part is biting hard among other issues. Do you think we are ready for 2023?

Professor Femi Lawal: I believe that the 2023 elections will hold and successfully too. I say this out of my conviction of peoples’ resolve—more than ever before—to participate in the elections. Psychologically, this goes a long way to defeat people whose intentions are always about causing problems in the system. I really do not share the belief that Nigeria would deteriorate so badly as for elections not to take place. Security would be beefed up in troubled locations and elections will hold. You want to ask why security cannot be beefed up in such locations now, only the government and security agencies can answer such a question

A-CHOICES: What’s your message to the voting public in the face of these challenges?

Professor Femi Lawal: Everybody of voting age should get their PVC and ensure that they vote for candidates of their choice. I believe elections will hold, successfully.

A-CHOICES: Would you say that Nigerians living abroad should get involved in the country’s politics as a way of supporting the leaders and helping to raise great leaders for the country?

Professor Femi Lawal: some Nigerians abroad have always been involved in Nigerian politics, some of them remotely. But it is now time for all Nigerians in the diaspora to take this very seriously. There are very many more ways they can help than they can imagine. 

A-CHOICES: There are a lot of unemployed graduates out there; do you think the current government is doing enough to bridge this gap of unemployment?

Professor Femi Lawal: No the current government is not doing anything near enough to bridge the gap, in my assessment

A-CHOICES: What do think the government can do to create more jobs?

Professor Femi Lawal: The government may not actually be the ones creating jobs, but providing an enabling environment for start-ups, investment, innovations, and creative thinking is a necessary and sufficient responsibility to guarantee job creation.  Provided government can be alive to this responsibility. The Nigerian environment is not enabling for any fledgling business to survive. No serious investor would want to invest in an insecure environment where power is very unstable and energy costs are very high and soaring, among other challenges

A-CHOICES: The West and the International community has strongly condemned the killing of Deborah Samuel, who was killed for allegedly blaspheming Prophet Mohammed describing it as barbaric and brutal. What is your stand about issues such as this? 

Professor Femi Lawal: This was a sad thing happening in 21st-century Nigeria! My profession teaches me that any wrongdoing in any society, whether culturally entrenched or just a vice in an individual, will continue as long as there are no stiff and unpleasant consequences for it. Killing a fellow human being under whatever guise is murder and a crime in all societies and this incident is no different. Until, the government, especially at the federal level weighs in to implement existing laws, especially on such a crime, and ensure that everyone involved is brought to book, regardless of who they are, I really do not think that all the noise people make about it can change or stop it

A-CHOICES: With happenings like this, would agree with agitations that the country is divided?  

Professor Femi Lawal: Nigeria is a great entity as a country and can be great again, and even greater than it used to be if we can be fair to one another at all levels. I strongly believe that there are many influential Nigerians who wish that the current real and perceived imbalances be corrected so that everyone is happy and the agitations will stop. If a convergence and realization of opinions and thoughts of such people can be achieved across the entire nation, Nigeria will bounce back stronger. But if the unfairness and agitations continue, it is not good for the future of this great and highly resourceful entity, Nigeria. 

A-CHOICES: For what in your life do you feel most grateful? 

Professor Femi Lawal: The grace to be a servant of the Most High and for the privilege and many opportunities my Dad gave me to be soundly educated 

A-CHOICES: Final question and taking you back to the Covid-19 lockdown. What were you doing during that period? 

Professor Femi Lawal: Reading, writing, teaching, online, and participating in workshops, short courses, and conferences, also online.

Author: Kangmwa Gofwen

Lagos Bureau Chief, Nigeria

gofwenjoy@gmail.com