When he made up his mind to vie for the position of Vice Chancellor, University of Ibadan (UI), Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka certainly did not envisage that, Nigeria, which depended solely on crude oil as her major source of income, was going into economic recession. He had lofty plans, designed to take UI to greater heights, he probably did not believe his sublime and idealistic roadmaps would be skewed by poor economic condition of the country!.
Sadly, no sooner he took over on 1 December, 2015 as the 12th VC of Nigeria’s premier university than the country slipped into what is today known as economic recession. In his own words, “it was as if the recession was waiting for me to become VC”. The university system teetered on the brink of collapse, poorly funded and shorn of adequate wherewithal. Subvention for personnel cost was grossly inadequate as staff salaries could not be paid in full. Prof. Olayinka soon ran into a raging storm with the workers who would not entertain any excuse. On account of payment of what the workers called “half-salary”, the VC was nicknamed “Afusa VC” . This meek man of stellar character became the butt of derisive remarks and epithets as he found himself in an economic labyrinth.
It is his remit really as a compass to provide direction and stabilize the situation, having taken up the mantle of leadership. Interestingly, Prof. Olayinka who turns 61 years old today, like a gold that fears no furnace, took on the storms, the waves and the ripples with an uncommon candour, believing that the way forward is to face forward with faith.
However, one of his biggest natural advantages is his calmness of mind. As if God deliberately wired him for terrible season, Prof. Olayinka is hardly ruffled by any circumstance. He is stoic and unshaken. With his poker-faced visage, he accepts situations with good grace, taking things as they come. There is no doubting the fact that his placidity makes his travelling on a hard road much easier and bearable for his followers.
Like a determined hunter who is never frightened by the jungle, Prof. Olayinka has therefore been leading the road to recovery in the last three years with attendant smashing successes in many areas. He has thus been able to save the university several millions of Naira, as a result of his economic policies, developed to confront the recession. For instance, he stopped the yearly publication of calendar in 2016 which used to cost the university N12 million annually. He again stopped publication of inaugural lectures in national newspapers which used to gulp at least N3million per session, just as he asked the university to migrate to electronic bulletin, instead of hard copies of UI Bulletin which used to cost the university N8million in the past. Again, Prof. Olayinka administration has saved the institution about N8million by adopting the method of sending electronic copies of publications to external assessors, starting with foreign assessors, just as he compelled the development of In-house software for sorting of Post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (POST UTME) questions which an external vendor had charged the university N3million for. But for space constraint, one would have loved to list a number of his achievements in many other areas, including academic matters where so many programmes have been approved to commence. Many faculties and departments have also created.
On infrastructural development, Prof. Olayinka administration has facilitated construction of many projects such as the on- going construction of the Faculty of Arts extention, Construction of the International Postgraduate House at Ajibode and construction of a new Faculty of Law Lecture Theatre.
Perhaps it is appropriate to use today, being his 61st birthday to celebrate the man who has been able to calm the storm in UI with his training and temperament. An American author, Roberts Liardson couldn’t have been wrong when he asserts that “an internal security will always produce an outward stability. Prof. Olayinka is confident of himself. He is technically accomplished, tactically sound and strategically alert. He believes no matter how powerful a storm may be, it will surely calm down. His temper constitutes a template for enviable conduct. Indeed, he is a specimen worthy to be studied. Clearly, the stuff with which many in his class are made goes beyond the superficial. Rather, it is a function of a potpourri of several variables and factors.
His outstanding qualities may have endeared him to so many eminent scholars across the globe. Without doubt, Prof. Olayinka is loved by his colleagues. For instance, Emeritus Prof. Ademola Oyejide, of Economics Department, Prof. Oye Gureje (Psychiatry), Prof. Isaac Olawale Albert (Institute for Peace and Strategic Studies), Prof. Ademola Ariyo, Prof. Oyesoji Aremu of Distance Learning Centre as well as Dr. Gani Adeniran of Veterinary Medicine among others can go to any length to support the VC whom they consider as a rare breed and a gift to humanity. Many more people love him with the way he pauses and ponders before taking decisions. Others cherish and admire him for his humility. Prof. Olayinka is a man with high level of will power who is ever ready to trade away comfort for result.
He is not materialistic. He is not oppressive neither is he vindictive. He is largely unassuming, ready to play any role to ensure that all is well.
More importantly, Prof. Olayinka wishes all and sundry well. He wants he best for everybody. He encourages people to be the best they can be. Being an academic eagle himself, he always wants his students to be looking up to the sky. He always says “ If I help my students to make it, then I have made it.” He gives his time, treasure and talent to the task at hand in order to ensure that success is achieved.
Some of his critics say he is hard to read, probably because of his seemingly inscrutability and imperturbability, but some of us who are close to him know better. We know the keys that unlock him. Prof. Olayinka appreciates hard work, dedication, honesty and excellence. He loves those who can display values. And, he rewards them handsomely. I feel proud working with him. He has never denied me any request that is meant to enhance my job. Indeed, he has been so benevolent to me.
This UI boss could be gregarious with his penetrating jokes, for he possesses a robust sense of humor, yet, he is tough-minded, strong-willed and self-possessed. He daily interacts with all manner of people: the good and the supportive, the cocky without conscience, rude without restraint, in all the situations, this man of substance with cerebral endowments puts up his best behaviour, remaining a paladin of moral rectitude.
Leadership is about capacity-being the type of a person who is able and willing to learn, to demonstrate courage, tackle difficulties and question the status quo. These and many more are the values Prof. Olayinka has been espousing in the last three years as UI’s boss. He certainly deserves national ovation and celebration. He is doughty enough to assert integrity in the face of opportunity for self aggrandizement.
Born February 16, 1958 at Odo-ljesa, Osun State, Olayinka attended St. Bartholomew’s Primary School, Odo-Ijesa, 1964-1969, and was appointed the Senior Prefect in his final year. He was admitted into the famous Ilesa Grammar School in January 1970 and completed his West African Secondary School Certificate in 1975, in Division One.
He entered the University of Ibadan in the 1977/78 session to study Geology. He graduated with Second Class Honours (Upper Division) in 1981 as the best student in his class.
He started his postgraduate studies in September 1983, first at Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London. He earned an MSc in Geophysics at the University of London and Diploma of Membership of Imperial College in July 1984. He subsequently received the Overseas Research Students’ Award from the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals of United Kingdom Universities (now Universities UK); he utilised this scholarship at the University of Birmingham for his Ph.D. research in Applied Geophysics which he completed in April, 1988.
As Prof. Olayinka marks 61 years of productive engagements in the land of the living today, one can only pray for him to have more favour in his future endeavor. My VC, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to work with you as I have learned a lot under your feet. Happy Birthday Sir, and many happy returns of this day.
Saanu (08059436919) is Media Assistant to the Vice Chancellor, University of Ibadan. E-mail: [email protected]