By Gabriel Dike
It was tributes galore recently at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, Lagos, where a special Senate session was held in honour of its late former vice-chancellor, Prof. Oyewusi Ibidapa-Obe, who died on Sunday, January 3, 2021, as a result of COVID-19 complications.
Prof. Ibidapo-Obe, an accomplished scholar with over 100 international publications, was the first alumnus VC of UNILAG; he was appointed on May 1, 2002. The Federal Government also appointed him the pioneer VC of Federal University, Ndufu Alike Ikwo, Ebonyi State, in 2011.
At the special Senate session on Wednesday, February 10, 2021, held at the Main Auditorium, tributes poured in from his bosses, mentors, colleagues, associates, family, friends and UNILAG management.
On the same day, a commendation service was held in his honour at the Chapel of Christ Our Light, UNILAG, and, again, it was another round of tributes, this time from the larger society, including the alumni association.
At the Senate session, the first son of the late VC told The Education Report that his father had accomplished everything in life and it was only two things he looked forward to.
The Senate session was graced by principal officers of UNILAG, led by the VC, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, former VCs and deputy VCs, professors, retired colleagues, family members of Ibidapo-Obe, his wife, Mrs. Olusola Ibidapo-Obe, his children, staff of the university and alumni.
Among prominent Nigerians who paid tribute were former pro-chancellor of UNILAG and founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, Aare Afe Babalola, general overseer, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, general overseer, Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries Worldwide, Dr. Daniel Olukoya, and executive secretary, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Prof. Suleiman Bogoro.
Others who acknowledged his giant strides in the Nigerian university system (NUS) were the VC of Mountain Top University, Prof. Elijah Ayolabi; former UNILAG VC, Prof. Rahamon Bello; Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Federal Universities, one of his mentors, Prof. Ayo Ogunye; former dean, School of Postgraduate Studies, Prof. BabaJide Alo; former DVCs, Prof. Soga Sofola and Prof. Duro Oni; current DVC (academics and research), Prof. Oluwole Familoni; dean, Faculty of Engineering, Prof. O.M. Sadiq; and imcumbent VC of UNILAG, Prof. Ogundipe.
In their tributes, Senate members recalled Ibidapo-Obe’s contributions to the development of UNILAG, the NUS, system engineering, Faculty of Engineering and the country at large.
Prof. Ogundipe, in his tribute, described Ibidapo-Obe as an icon, a strong force to be reckoned with in the NUS who made history on account of being the first alumnus to become VC of the university and also become professor at age 33, a feat that has not been equaled since then.
Ogundipe disclosed that the late VC repositioned UNILAG as one of the best in Africa: “His laudable leadership and achievements won him the award of the best VC in Nigeria. His enduring legacies and footprints will remain for many years to come.
“The university will miss Prof. Ibidapo-Obe greatly. However, we are consoled by the fact that he lived a life of service to this university and his legacies in the NUS will forever be remembered.”
Afe Bablola observed that Prof. Ibidapo-Obe left giant footprints in the sands of time and it would be difficult to replace him in the academic world because of the stellar qualities inherent in him.
According to him, with the cooperation of the university management under his leadership and the supportive governing council, he recorded a lot of milestones during his seven-year tenure.
Pastor Adeboye, in his tribute, said he knew Ibidaop-Obe in the 1970s as a student to watch out for in the Department of Mathematics while he was a young lecturer.
“He demonstrated, even then, that he was going to be one of the greatest mathematicians, at least in Africa. So, I was not surprised when he because the VC of the university,” he said.
Dr. Olukoya said Ibidapo-Obe used his post-career period to make unimpeded impacts on academic and national life.
He explained that the late VC etched his name in gold in Nigeria’s hall of fame as an outstanding academic who came, saw and meritoriously conquered.
The secretary-general, Committee of Vice Chancellors, Prof. Yakubu Ochefu, described Ibidapo-Obe as honest and hardworking academic who gave his best to the NUS and humanity.
The TETFund scribe, Prof. Bogoro, said the death of Ibidapo-obe, an erudite scholar and seasoned administrator who contributed immensely to science, academic and national development, was a big loss to the family, the nation and humanity at large.
In an exclusive interview with The Education Report, his first son, Mr. Bambo Ibidapo-Obe, said his dad finished all his dream projects but had two things to accomplish before death came calling.
His words: “The last thing he wanted was the emeritus professor title. It was approved by UNILAG Senate but for the postponement of the convocation and COVID-19; it was planned for 2020. My dad knew he had gotten the emeritus professor title but, unfortunately, he died before it was conferred on him.
“We spoke all the time. The last thing we discussed was how to celebrate my mum’s 70th birthday. This was his second wish, which didn’t come true. He was looking forward to celebrate his wife and, unfortunately, today (special Senate session) is my mum’s birthday. What a coincidence that today’s event is on her birthday!
“He was energetic, friendly disciplined, a family member, hardworking. He was an expert in his field. My dad, despite his tied schedule, found time for his family, church and academics.”
Ibidapo-Obe was born in Ile-Ife, Osun State, on Tuesday, July 5, 1949. He was a Western Nigerian Government scholar at UNILAG, from 1968 to 1971. The late VC made first class in Mathematics in 1971. He was the overall best graduating student of master of mathematics in Applied Mathematics with a minor in Computer Science in 1972 and he bagged Ph.D in Civil Engineering with specialisation in Applied Mechanics/System in 1976 from University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
He was also the VC, Federal University Ndufu Alike Ikwo, Ebonyi State, from 2011 to 2016. Ibidapo-Obe was pro-chancellor of Technical University, Ibadan, and Crawford University, Igbesa, Ogun State; he won best VC awards in 2004 and 2005 and was chairman, Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities.
Indeed, it was a day UNILAG stood still in honour of their late VC and outstanding scholar.