By Obinna Kalu
ANY time the history of Ajayi Crowther University, (ACU) Oyo will be written, the name, Dr. Mrs. Josephine Oyebanji, will certainly not just be mentioned but celebrated. Precisely, on January 1, 2006, this great woman mounted the saddle as the foundation Registrar of Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo. Today, March, 31, 2016, she will gracefully bow out as the Registrar of the University, after successfully completing her second term in office.
Born on November 12, 1952, she attended St. Michael’s (Anglican) Primary School, Omupo from 1958 – 1963; St Clare’s (Anglican) Grammar School, Offa from 1964 -1968; Queen Elizabeth School, Ilorin for her Higher School Certificate from 1969–1970. In 1970, she won the John F. Kennedy essay competition. She obtained a B.A. in English with Distinction from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, U.S. A in August 1974; an M. A in English from the Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, U.S.A in December 1976; and a PhD in Literature in English from the University of Ilorin, Ilorin in March, 1999.
From 1973 – 1974, she enjoyed the Foreign Students’ Scholarship at the University of Michigan and from 1975 – 1976, the Graduate Assistantship in the Department of English, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti.
In 1977, she joined the services of the University of Ilorin, Ilorin as an Assistant Lecturer in the Department of English. She started her University Administration Career in 1979 when she joined the Registry of the University as an Assistant Registrar. She rose through the ranks to become a Deputy Registrar in October 1997. At different times in the University, she was the University Examinations Officer, a Faculty Officer, the School Secretary at the Post-Graduate School, and the Academic Officer. She also served as Secretary to various University Boards/ Committees and was a member of various Committees and Associations among which were Students Welfare Board, Ceremonials Committee, Committee on Strategic Planning, Student Disciplinary Committee and Unilorin Press Management Board. She was the first Chairman of the Unilorin Branch of the Association of Nigerian University Professional Administrators (ANUPA).
In January 2006, she became the Foundation Registrar of Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo and has since been performing the functions of the Chief Administrative Officer of the University and providing leadership for the Registry. Dr. Oyebanji is a Christian of the Anglican faith. She is married to Prof. J. Oluwole Oyebanji and is blessed with children and grandchildren.
The legacies that Dr. Oyebanji is leaving behind in Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, can hardly be enumerated. It is on record that she assumed duty as the Registrar when the infrastructural and institutional status of the young University was next to nothing. Through hard work, commitment, enthusiasm and sacrifice, she was among those who turned the university into an enviable citadel of learning. On assumption of office as the Registrar, she had no official car, no accommodation, no office. In fact, for many months, she conducted the affairs of the Registry from the Council Chamber, lived in a cottage hotel, while a pick-up van was designated as her official car. Only a few University Registrars in Nigeria today would have tolerated that poor working condition. As a goal getter, the harsh working environment she met did not deter her from performing. Thus, step by step, with God and determination to succeed, she started building a vibrant and sustainable registry. Today, the result is there for everybody to see. This is a very big lesson to public office holders in our country today, especially in higher institutions. Leadership should be seen primarily as an opportunity to add value to the system and one’s organization instead of a chance to seek comfort and play demigod.
Dr. Oyebaji’s professionalism and competence as a Registrar will linger for many decades to come. She carried out the duties of the office of the Registrar as if she was trained as an Administrator in her mother’s womb. She never toyed with punctuality to work. It is usually not common to see principal officers of Universities report to work daily at 8.00 a.m. But, Dr. Oyebanji broke that record. Throughout her stay as the Registrar, she did not report to work beyond 8.00 a.m, except when officially permitted due to some exigencies. Today, she is bequeathing a responsible registry staff who understand that time is the soul of business. Her style of administration was anchored on planning, accountability, fairness, reward, excellence, hard work, due process, sanctions etc. She delegated tasks, and ensured that her team members know what to do and when it needed to be done. She was able to communicate effectively, whether in writing or verbally. She gave clear instructions that promoted optimum efficiency and teamwork. She commanded respect from both teaching and non-teaching staff. Dr Oyebanji is a good encourager who wants her subordinate staff to succeed. She celebrated her staff accomplishments, more than her own. Thus, she succeeded in building team spirit and cooperation rather than encouraging an unhealthy level of competition in the registry. Her positive attitude greatly influenced the whole workers’ spirits. Most times, she put whatever problems she had aside, and acted in a cheerful manner with the staff.
The entire students of ACU will definitely not be in a hurry to forget Dr. Oyebanji and the value she added to their lives. Definitely, her strong stance on discipline was disliked by those students who have penchant for misconduct. But for those who cherish a better tomorrow, her “iron hands” in handling their cases will be greatly missed. No matter who you are, or where you are coming from, she made sure that the students’ code of conduct was neither compromised nor treated with levity. As a loving mother, and the custodian of the University laws and regulations, she used her position to ensure that students’ discipline was not compromised.
Some bad habits that are common in various higher institutions like shabby dressing, exam malpractices, drug and alcohol consumption, cultism, rape, destruction of property, absence from lectures, etc are near absent in ACU due to the zero tolerance shown by the management of the university to these misconducts. Unlike other University Registrars who are seen by the students only on special occasions like freshmen orientation, matriculation and convocation ceremonies, she took time to interact with the students. In fact, she frequently holds Bible Studies and Sunday services with them and even visits the female students in their hostels. Many successful ex-students of the university cannot forget in a hurry the contributions of Dr. Oyebanji in building their characters.
The Statutory organs of ACU like Senate, Council and Board of Trustees, no doubt, received tremendous secretarial services during the tenure of Dr. Oyebanji. She managed and coordinated the secretariat of these bodies effectively and efficiently. The endorsement/confirmation of her proficiency as a University Administrator by the like of Professor Emeretus O.O. Akinkugbe, Professor Emeritus Ayo Banjo and Professor Emeritus Ayo Bamgbose did not come as a surprise, given her antecedents. It is also on record that Dr. Oyebanji maintained cordial working relationship with relevant stakeholders like the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC), Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), West African Examinations Council (WAEC) etc. The University’s host community, Oyo town, and the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion, will surely remember the good works of Dr. Oyebanji.
I wish to join ACU Community, family, friends and associates of Dr. Oyebanji in congratulating her and wishing her a happy retirement. I also welcome the new Vice-Chancellor and Registrar of the University and wish them successful tenure in office.
. Dr. Kalu, a Legal Practitioner, writes from Lagos