We look at engineering in totality, without seeking favours - Maduka
Posted: 11/Apr/2018


Mrs. Joanna Maduka, President Nigerian Academy of Engineering.

Nigerian Academy of Engineering is set to honour one of its own, Alfred Okoigun on Thursday, April, 12. For a body that is over 20years, one would’ve thought it will parade a legion of Fellows, but not so this Academy, because of its steep qualifying criteria. It’s President and Nigeria’s first female Engineer, Mrs. Joanna Maduka, in this chat with Group Business Editor, SIMEON EBULU, speaks on the Academy and its next honorary recipient.

How did the Nigerian Academy of Engineering come into being and what are the objectives?
The Nigerian Academy of Engineering was started in 1997 by a group of matured -engineers  who have reached the peak of their profession, either in academics or professionals, and they fashioned it after some foreign academies that have been established well before the post war, as a Think Tank in engineering. The membership is not for very young people. As much as possible, we keep our membership to people older than sixty, people who are retired, who are no longer hustling for jobs, and so you don’t have to beg people. When they are supposed to say anything you are free to talk, so that was the founding thought. And since then, we’ve tried to keep to that so that people who are Fellows here are generally matured and unless you are very exceptional, we don’t nominate you. Members are nominated, they don’t apply, there is no election or anything, they are nominated, so you must know who you are nominating.

How it is distinct from the Nigerian Society of Engineers
All our fellows must be fellows of the  Nigerian Society of Engineers and registered by COREN, so there is no conflict. We are supposed to be the peak of the engineering profession.

What are the goals, the objectives?
The objectives and goals like I said, we are supposed to be a Think Tank to the government, the private sector and everybody in general, and so we try as much as possible to influence the government on policies. We look at engineering in totality and in a broader light without looking for favours. We look at the whole gamut of engineering, engineers, technologists, technicians, craftsmen.  For instance, we found that the craftsmen in Nigeria are not properly trained, or literate. So we’ll have to look at that level and at the same time, we have to look at engineers at the University level, Polytechnic levels. How are they teaching them? When they finish their course, can they be directly absorbed into the industry? So all that sort of thing will generally influence policies, both academic and otherwise. We carry out what we call pilot projects, we do it generally because the main objective is to impact the society.

In trying to achieve that, do you have structures in place or how do you try to enhance the quality of the engineers?
What we do is to work with established institutions to make their lots better and for instance, there is curriculum development which we work with the British Royal Academy, so that even at the undergraduate level we interface in a sort of way with the institutions.

How do you generate your fund, how is the Academy sustained?
It’s pretty difficult we have our membership dues which is not enough at all, but we try to raise funds from different bodies, private and public to sustain us. Again we are finding it difficult  and so we are talking of offering maybe, some consultancy advice to the private sector. So that sort of thing, but we are private sector financed.

Do you derive any assistance, support from government, or any foreign body?
No, not government. Anyway as I said, we have some support from the British Royal Academy. One or two organisations  have funded programs here, like the old Yaba Trade Center which is now the Federal Science and Technical College.

What is your membership  strength?
I know we are less than 150, maybe we are 136 or one forty something

Is the membership voluntary, or you reach out canvassing, or soliciting?
No we tell our members, our members nominate, you can’t just come in on your own to apply.

So how have you impacted the profession, bearing in mind the sort of challenges we have in building collapse and things like that. How have you  addressed some of these issues?
We are not taking up specific issues. We look at engineering generally. If you’re talking about collapse building, that’s the sort of thing the Nigerian Society of Engineers will take up, because at that level, the practitioners are younger people, and so if there is a collapsed building, they have their own way of investigating. We are involved in the broader aspect. For instance, if we are looking at the policy guiding construction of buildings, or the sort of materials used and so on,  that’s the difference.

That brings me to the question of engineering education. How are you addressing that, to at least bring it to a standard that this Academy will be comfortable with?
That is what I said, that we had the support from the Royal Academy of Engineering in Britain and we’ve finished that package. We are looking for another institution, or body that can sponsor the second phase. But in that first phase, we had the pilot project, for instance where we used the Mechanical Engineering Department here (UNILAG). When we came out, we talked and we were satisfied and we are still at it. We are developing curriculum specifications for the different professions and that’s why I said in that Committee, we have NUC which is where graduates are certified. We have to bring in all these regulatory bodies to see what we can do.

I must say congratulations to you because you turn out to be first in so many fields. Now you are the First Female President of this body, how do you feel?
Its okay, it’s a lot of work but it is very satisfying.

How have you employed this exceptional skill to influence your peers to take up engineering, or other women particularly?
Not my peers, younger women are taking to engineering more and more. We have them in large numbers now, but at my own level, we still don’t have too many of us in engineering. I established the Association of Professional Women Engineers in Nigeria in 1992, and there were six of us at that establishment. There were very few of us at that time and so what we used to do, which took a lot of time anyway, was to go to secondary schools, give career talks, demonstrate and so on.  We were able to convince girls and as time went on, people would report to you, oh my daughter is doing engineering (proudly) or two of my daughters have just graduated in engineering, which was very good. So we still have programs to encourage girls to study science and mathematics which they require to do engineering. So it has been very satisfying.

Drawing from your experience, do you think that the Nigerian educational system, the structure, is skewed in favor of the men to the detriment of ladies?
In fairness in Nigeria, I’m not sure in training that women and men are separated officially, or influenced. In those days, in fact that was a global campaign that you don’t stereotype some jobs for women and some for men.  If you remember in those old days, that we had many more female nurses than you have male, in fact very few men were nurses and very few men were secretaries, because those professions were more or less reserved for women. And so we had to, not just talk to the girls concerned, we also had to try and persuade the parents that girls should be allowed to do some of these male-supposedly professions. So the struggle is still on, we still don’t have as many as we will like, but the situation is much more better.

What was your motivation to studying engineering?
I don’t really remember, because when I was growing up, nobody around me was an engineer, my father was not, definitely not my mother or any immediate relation. So I think it came to me when I was at my A-levels, may be teachers influence and so on.  People who would normally influence your life when you are growing up, your parents and relations and then your teachers, and I was good in the subjects required to study the course. I wasn’t good in art and literature and all those things, not as much as I was good in science and mathematics.

 Let me come to your program, your forthcoming program, the one you have coming up next week, April 12

That’s the installation of our Honorary member- Alfred Okoigun!

What is unique about it?
I’m very happy because the person we are installing, Mr. Okoigun,  I call him our friend because I have known him for well over 20 years now, and he’s somebody who is been very kin on technology development. He rose through the ranks, he has developed himself in no small way and has encouraged the development of engineering and technology. He’s been very supportive in this Academy.  (the young man who was here when you came in,  kolawole, was sponsored by him). He established a grant here, where he said he will award Fellowship to both graduates to study abroad because there are some of our graduates here who have never been exposed to foreign studies.

When you graduate here (it’s not to run down ourselves), but when you graduate here, you need a little bit of foreign exposure to see how things are done, how serious they are, even equipment-wise, where we cannot afford so much modern equipment  here. When we go there, it is a different story, so he’s been very supportive on that. As I said, he gives us this Grant every year and in addition,  we are using his company as a Pilot Project on Academia-Industry linkage. So we have that sort of pilot project with his company and he’s a very interesting person to meet. So I think he deserves the honour in every respect.

How many Honorary Fellows have you?
We have four.

To have only four, I might want to guess that means your conditions, your criteria are very stringent?
They are, we don’t just give it to anybody. We don’t.

And how do you come about this selection?
You have to really assess the person and we are all sure that this person, if we give him Fellowship, nobody can query it because that’s very important. Nobody can say this their thing, if you give them N2million, we can get it, it’s not.

How is the program going to be organised?
We’ve been planning with Atoyebi. Atilade Atoyebi is well involved in it and luckily, Atoyebi is somebody who knew my husband well in the media in NTA, so I knew him.

What kind of encouragement will you give to both practicing engineers and up and coming ones or those who are showing interest in the profession?
I will say that engineering is not an easy subject, it’s not an easy profession, but at the same time, you can enjoy it and make your mark. But if you decide to do engineering, I wish you luck.  I will say that we shouldn’t give up, it’s only a matter of time and that’s why some of us are here. Those of us here for instance, we are not earning any salary, there is no personal benefit to us. But I must say that many of our engineers are doing well.

You mean there’s no personal benefit, so it must be something that all of you are very passionate about?
It’s a passionate thing. If you came here two hours ago, there was a meeting where people were shouting and banging things and so on. There was another one in there where people were talking and trying to do their own thing, so this sort of thing is a passion. Many of us as I said, are well over sixty, so somebody like me now if I go to anybody’s office, I’m not going to beg for work to do, unless I’m saying please give my son or my daughter a job, but for myself, I pray that I don’t have to do that anymore, it’s the same with many of us.

In a country where nearly everybody is thinking of their personal interest, how can we sell this kind of attitude to our leaders, our politicians?
It’s not just to our politicians, but to our younger generation as well, because most of the young generation, first, they don’t believe in hard work, number two, they want immediate gain. We have to start preaching that unless we de-emphasize money, that we are going nowhere.

 

Who is the President of the Nigerian Academy of Engineering?
Mrs. Olutunbi Maduka (laughter)
Yes we need a little bit of your background.
Many people don’t know I’m Yoruba, that’s the first thing, they even go out and they greet my husband in Yoruba and greet me in Igbo, both of us will be laughing, it’s just that he understands Yoruba very well, so he doesn’t have any problem. I’m from Osun State, Ilesha, I had my secondary school in Queens College  ,then Nigeria College of Arts, Science and Technology and then the University of Ife.

I was the first set of the University.  We graduated in 1965 and then went to do my Masters in Trinity College, Dublin, in Engineering and then lectured for a little while.  I retired and that is a sacrifice by women because the University moved to its permanent site in ife, we were in Ibadan to start with and I had to be commuting between Ibadan and ife and my husband, of course was in Ibadan WNTV.  So after some time, I found that it very difficult and so that’s why I said that’s the position of a woman.  Sometimes we have to make sacrifices.

By: Simeon Ebulu
The Nation