Aliyu Bahago Ahman-Pategi is the Pro-Chancellor of Ahman Pategi University, Patigi, Nigeria. He was a member of the House of Representatives between 2007 and 2019, where he represented the people of Edu/Moro/Patigi Federal Constituency of Kwara North. Aliyu was two-time Chairman of the House Committee on Water Resources. The former National Assembly member was also the Chairman, Legislative Budget and Research. He was effective in all the committees he served. Aliyu, who is the Galadima of Patigi and one of the children of the former Minister of Health and Agriculture, late Alhaji Ahman Pategi (also Galadima Patigi), a politician in the 50 to ’60s, is no doubt a lover of his community and Nupes in general. Nupe people are in Kwara, Niger, Kogi, Nasarawa, and Kaduna states. They are also in the Federal Capital Territory. Because of his love for the community, a desire to preserve the good name of his family and to change the narrative of his people as being educationally disadvantaged, Hon. Ahman Pategi established Ahman Pategi University. Students from his community and other Nupes are to pay lower tuition fees. According to the former lawmaker, the institution will pay the best salaries in Nigeria to Professors working at the university built on 200 hectares of land. He told Sunday Oyinloye, Publisher Green Savannah Diplomatic Cable, in an exclusive interview that he wants the children of the poor to have quality university education.
Read the interview below:
Q: Why did venture into Ahman Pategi University?
Ans: I could have set up the university here in Abuja if I was looking for money because some private universities here take about N3million as tuition fee a year. I am also a student; currently doing my PhD in Nile University. Education at the Federal Capital Territory is very expensive, and I come from an area that is educationally backward; so I decided that I should take this university to my people after serving them at the National Assembly for 12 years as a member of the House of Representatives. For me, it’s a legacy project. Charity begins at home. I have lived in Patigi. I went to primary school there before proceeding to Government Secondary School, Ilorin and later Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. All my holidays, I spent in Patigi, so I know them, I know what they want, and I know how we can help them. Anywhere there is a university, that town grows astronomically and the people are empowered. Campuses grow from zero population at the beginning to 10,000 to 20,000 in about five years. The university itself creates an economy and also empowers. People will come from different parts of the world to eat the foods that are produced in the community; it’s a solid way of empowering any society. These are my reasons for building the university.
Q: What other reasons?
Ans: When I leave this world, it will be said that somebody called Hon. Aliyu Ahman Pategi lived in Patigi Local Government area of Kwara State, Nigeria and he left an institution behind, People will remember it. There are universities that have been established for centuries in some parts of the world, I pray that ours will be like that. When you are blessed by God, you must think of how to give back to society. When I was at the National Assembly, I used to get my stipends; what you people (media) call jumbo pay. In 2007, my housing allowance, furniture allowance, motor vehicle allowance which added up to N17 million then was donated to my Federal Constituency. I gave out N15million out of the N17 million to my people (Edu Moro Patigi Federal Constituency). That is our tradition as a people. When you are honoured and favoured by the people, you must go back and seek their blessings from your first salary or whatever God blesses you with. That was my own way of saying thank you.
Q: Does it have to do with your background; I mean the way you were brought up?
Ans: Well, the truth is that, I am one of the luckiest politicians in Nigeria. My people don’t ask me for money when it comes to election times. All my three elections; there was none that I spent N10 million one month before the elections. You know the way we do our things in Kwara State, It is usually by consensus and secondly, the delegates usually won’t ask you for anything. We have a leadership structure that takes care of most of these things, so I was favoured. Again, coming from a political family where my father was in the 50s and 60s a Minister in the Northern Nigerian Regional Government and also doubled as the Secretary General of the Northern Peoples’ Congress, in the 50s before independence, I cannot afford to let the family name down. I must achieve and I must think beyond the day that I will leave government and continue the legacy of service bestowed on us as a family. A brother of mine from the same father was a member of the House of Representatives, the same National Assembly where I represented the people between 2007 and 2019. My late brother; Ahmad Sardauna was a PDP Chairman in Kwara State. Some people have even come after I left office. My younger sister, Aisha Ahman Pategi was a Commissioner under the present Governor of Kwara State. She’s the same mother with me. And so, I come from a family of service. Therefore, my family is bestowed that responsibility by the people of my community. Currently, I am also the Galadima Patigi, an honour also bestowed on me by the traditional institution in my community. With all these, a person like me cannot afford not to leave a legacy behind, because as we grow older and we think about the day we go into the grave, we must also think of the things of value that people will remember us for. They won’t remember us for the number of cars , houses, wives, or even children, but they will remember us for those institutions we established that will live after us and benefit the down trodden and society in general. I looked at it and said if haven served my people for 12 years where I was able to influence roads and bridges to be put in the budgets, I must leave something great in my family name, which was why I established the university.
Q: What is the focus of the university?
Ans: I come from an Agrarian society. We have a very solid Agric Extension Department because the focus of the university is on Education and Agriculture. With good Agric Faculty and Agric Extension department, you can add value. Professors of Agric, at the university will make sure that our people are sensitized with regards to modern Agric techniques. The university will also produce quality teachers and train the existing ones. A teacher has to know well before he can impact knowledge on the children. If we don’t have such an institution, there, nobody will come in to better their lots which is why we domiciled all these things within the university. If I die today, I am fulfilled because I have been able to bring education and development to my people.
Q: Nupes and North Central students are to pay lower tuition fees in the university, why that?
Ans: I am a Nupe man, and then the university is in Nupe land. My people don’t have any higher institution other than the College of Education, Lafiagi. Usually, when they finish their NCE, many of them are not able to further their education which is why I took the university to them, so that they can sleep at home and come and receive close to free lectures. A university that is charging N100,000 per student is like ‘widow’s mite’ already, but at least we must charge them something so that there will be seriousness. We also have responsibilities; we have to take care of them and the environment. The environment must be clean since we want to have the best university in the country. Our fees range from 90,000 to 200,000 depending on the course for those within the catchment area. We also have between N90, 000 to N100, 000 for those doing pre-degree. We take and train for nine months those students who don’t have the prerequisite qualifications to make them ready to be able to pass their JAMB and then go to 100 level.
Q: How do you give the students quality education with such low tuition fees?
Ans: It’s very simple. When I applied for land for the university, the community didn’t collect money from me. They gave me 200 hectares of land. Again, I built the university with the resources that I was receiving from the National Assembly as well as from friends and family members. I didn’t borrow money to build it. Very little money came from the bank, so it is a university for the poor. It was not built with the intention of profiting. It is a legacy project; this is my giving back to the people that have honoured me. You know we the Nupes are in Nasarawa, Niger, Kwara, , Kogi and Kaduna states. There are Nupes at the Federal Capital Territory as well, which is why I put North Central. That is our catchment area because our people live in Agrarian communities, so they are very poor. As one of the leaders of Nupe, I want them to catch up with others in the society. Besides, I cannot say as a national leader that I will do things just for the Nupes. This is the reason why I extended the low fee to the North Central part of Nigeria. Of course, I still have my father’s foundation and my own foundation that will continue to give scholarships to indigent students.
Q: What other things are unique about the university?
Ans: Our intention is to produce complete graduates who will be employers of labour. They shouldn’t leave the university without being able to set themselves up. In fact, by the grace of God, by the time we are graduating the first set of students, some of them will be given tools to be able to establish in life. For instance, we have the university farm. Every student will learn something about Agriculture. They will learn how to make an orchard. We already have the orchard out of the 50 hectares university farm. In the orchard, we have banana, plantain, mango, citrus of various kinds, pineapple and others; everybody will learn some aspects of farming. They don’t need to go and look for government jobs after graduation. And then, we are going to have fish ponds so that every student will know how to keep one. There will be poultry. There will also be animal husbandry; they will learn how to keep goats and cattle. They will take turns to go and learn farming. And then, ICT is a must. Everybody must have the skills, it doesn’t matter the type of course they are reading; they will leave the university with the best possible skills in ICT. Let me make this very important point. Any student that cannot pay the N100, 000 tuition fees can work on the university farm to earn income to make for the tuition fees. Therefore, any Nigerian who is from a poor home and is ready to work doesn’t have an excuse again. We have created Ahman Pategi University for every Nigerian student that the parents don’t have money to train him or her. However, that we are charging low fees doesn’t mean that we are going to compromise standards. Very soon, you will see the quality of our graduates, because we intend to pay the best salaries for professors in Nigeria. Our professors will earn very good packages and everybody will see the university as an institution where they dream to work and retire.
Q: How do you intend to achieve this?
Ans: We will run the university with ventures and endowments which are what you use in the 21stcentury to fund university. You cannot depend on students tuition fees in a society where the minimum wage is just N30, 000 per month. Nigeria has to craft new ways to ensure that more youths have access to quality education because the youths constitute 50 percent of our population and we must take care of them. And the only way we can take care of them is by setting up institutions that will mold their character, so that they will become better human beings, and when they come out of the institution, they are useful to themselves, their families and the society at large. Any society that does not train its youth to partake in industry in the 21st century has failed. It is the reason why Germany is leading in Europe. They do precision engineering. Their education is tailored towards industry and that is what we should do in Nigeria. That was why Ahman Pategi University acquired 200 hectares of land so that can have demonstration farms where students will learn skills.
Q: Let me digress a bit, I remember vividly that when you were a member of the National Assembly, you lobbied for a new road to be constructed between the Federal Capital Territory and Ilorin. You said you would follow it up even if you are no longer a National Assembly member, are you still doing that?
Ans: Yes, you are correct. A new road to link the Federal Capital Territory with Ilorin direct without going through Jebba or Lokoja is being built. This is something that I have worked on for the past 15 years, starting from when I was in the National Assembly. I met with several Ministers in my years at the National Assembly and followed it up. Now, I am following it up with Minister of Works, Babatunde Raji Fashola. Most Nigerians are not aware that that road is being built, but in another three years, everybody going to Ilorin or Lagos will go through Nupe land. Already, a bridge is coming up on the River Niger at Baro; where already you know the port has been completed. So once you cross from Baro, you are in Kogi State, and the entire distance from Lokoja junction, Gada Biu to Yaba is 14 kilometres. That portion of the road has already been asphalted by the Federal capital Territory administration. Yaba to Gulu which is 20 kilometers was awarded to a company called Horizon. 20 kilometers Gulu to Baro was also awarded with three bridges; all of them are under construction. Nigerians will benefit tremendously because it is a completely brand new trunk “A” road that will reduce the travel time from Ilorin to Abuja by half the time.