There is wisdom captured in the Igbo proverb that the complimemnts you pay to the one who cooked sweet bean cakes is a motivation for more offering from the same source. Same motivation for which I have undertaken to devote this space to raise the hand of a man who has consistently left his imprimatur of success and good tidings everywhere he worked. You could call him a turnaround man, given that he always leaves a place way better than he met it. Bishop Dapo Folorunsho Asaju, a professor of Biblical Studies at Lagos State University, Bishop Theologian of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), son of the former president of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, late Oba Michael Asaju, deserves a pat on the back.
I have known him for over one and a half decades and I know that he has undertaken every assignment with zeal and made a success of it. Little wonder he has risen to the apogee of his career in the academia and priesthood. His current job as Vice Chancellor of Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, has yet marked him out as an embodiment of positive change. We could track back to Lagos State University, where he rose to become Deputy Vice Chancellor and acted as the Vice Chancellor at some point.
When he was coordinator of the Centre for General Studies in the school, a compulsory course for well over 50,000 students of the institution, which held back some of the students from graduation, he found a way out of the bad trend and freed thousands of students from the clutches, as it were, of the almighty course. Lecturers were made to record their teachings in video tapes such as would leave the students with the pleasant experience of playing back the tape and soaking in what was taught and could repeat the tapes of problematic courses until they get a full grasp of the course, well enough to make the required grades in the make-up examination he organised to enable students cross a hurdle that became the stumbling block in their academic progress.
It was a move for which thousands of students and the authorities of the university, who may have been at a loss about what to do with the students, will remain grateful. It was like solving a puzzle that was becoming a looming albatross assailing a smooth academic calendar in the university for students. Many students were set free from the hook of a course that impeded their academic progress. He was so accountable that he returned unspent money after assignments; an unprecedented move that stood him out as one who practices what he preaches.
If Asaju were a politician, the tag of a progressive would have been apt, given his disposition. He was an executive of the Academic Staff Union of Universities when the former INEC boss, Prof. Attahiru Jega, held sway as president of the body. He was among the eggheads who conceived the idea of Tertiary Education Trust Fund, a portion of the profit of corporate bodies set aside for improving tertiary education. Ironically, he now runs a university exempted from such funding on account of the skewed law that made it the exclusive preserve of government institutions. That anomaly stands justice on its head. That is a matter for another day. Little wonder the authorities spotted him and gave befitting elevation, and, who knows, had the leadership in the Anglican Church not beckoned on him to help firm up some of its institutions, he would have transited from acting as Vice Chancellor at Lagos State University to the substantive. But the church of Nigeria was quick in spotting his potential and leadership qualities and got him to pioneer the Crowther Graduate School in Abeokuta, where his success was remarkable.
Again there was need to re-invigorate Ajayi Crowther University and the mantle fell on him. The chairman of governing council of the institution, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, was one of those that rooted for and head-hunted Asaju to step in as the Vice Chancellor, making him the third in the 12-year-old university. His tour of duty there, which has barely seen him in the saddle for 18 months, has held the mirror for the larger society to see a man who has made a habit of beating his previous records. Anyone whose last visit to the university was before his tenure would be astounded by the sheer transformation that has moved the institution to a beautiful and serene campus, better than many contemporaries. No fewer than 52 buildings in the place were renovated with the icing on the cake being the Crowther Hall, a new auditorium that sits at least 2,500. The roads that were hitherto dusty have been asphalted and speed breakers put in place to slow the temptation for vehicles to cruise on the smooth roads. All the jobs were done through direct labour in the face of paucity of funds. The discipline that befits such an institution has been instilled in the students and the bad eggs have been shown the way out.
Spirituality has taken the pride of place as ought to be in an institution headed by a bishop who has the rare privilege of setting the record as the only bishop in Nigeria who also wears the cap of a vice chancellor. His streak of successes has followed him to the school. Specific items that have signposted positive change in the school cannot be captured in an article put in a space as this one.
Suffice it to say that the difference he has led members of his management team to make is not limited to infrastructure. New courses have been introduced just as the existing ones have been strengthened to take up postgraduate students, another first in the annals of the university.
The place has a lot in store for students.