By Sunday Saanu
He came in at a very turbulent time; at a time when the country was about to experience economic recession. Obviously, the climate was quite inclement, but as a good sailor is known only in tumultuous weather, Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka appears to be sailing through the storm with uncommon calmness and placidity.
Given all that he has gone through in the last two years of his five-year single tenure, pundits are of the opinion that God must have deliberately packaged him for this rough time with an innate stoicism and unfazedness. Despite all the insults and snide remarks from the critics of his administration, Prof. Olayinka goes about his job unflustered, telling whoever cares to listen that “I applied for the job, therefore I don’t have to complain in taking the rough with the smooth’’. Clearly, it is only the deep that can call to the deep as the faint-hearted would have either rocked the boat or abdicated responsibilities, going by the enormity of pressures of the job.
It may be recalled that no sooner had to taken over the mantle of leadership as the 12th Vice Chancellor of University of Ibadan on December 1, 2015 than he experienced the first baptism of fire from the workers under the aegis of the Joint Action Congress (JAC), who protested non-payment of their earned allowances. This was when personnel subvention was grossly reduced from Abuja following the fall in the prices of petroleum prices in the international market. He appealed, begged for understanding and persuaded the workers to sheathe their swords in the interest of peace on campus. However, he had hardly extricated himself from the workers’ talons before the students staged their own war, calling for the reinstatement of some of their erring colleagues who were on suspension. It was as if unmitigated crises were waiting for him in office.
Indeed, Prof. Olayinka’s administration had a rough takeoff in 2015, yet the reasons were not his own making; rather they were largely circumstantial. The poor financial situation in the country has taken a heavy toll on all aspects of life, including university administration. There was and still is, poor funding. Personnel cost is grossly inadequate, capital projects subvention is almost non-existent, facilities are poorly maintained, yet the system must run. The woes of federal government universities’ administrators are further compounded when they are barred from increasing tuition fees. Without doubt, the poor economic situation Prof.. Olayinka inherited adversely skewed his vision and mission statements for his alma mater, thus, portraying him as incapacitated.
Statutorily, a VC is expected to provide academic leadership for both students and their teachers. Prof. Olayinka has glaringly done so excellently in this regard. He takes keen interest in all academic matters in the university. For instance, recently, he posted graphic performances of all 100-level students on the social media for both students and parents to see. He drew the conclusions that the general performance was poor, thereby challenging students to buckle up, otherwise they may be asked to withdraw from the university. Over 200 people shared the post, signifying the relevance.This is just to show how serious he takes academic matters.
Under his watch, the university has witnessed tremendous academic growth. The Senate of the university has approved additional 10 new academic programmes including Urban and Regional Planning, Architecture, Estate Management and Business Education among others. This is in addition to the upcoming Accounting, Banking and Finance whose Faculty has been built by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Prof. Olayinka, with the approval of Council, has also established the new office of Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC), Research, Innovation and Strategic Partnerships (RISP), saddled with the responsibilities of facilitating innovation and collaboration for the overall development of the university.
To tackle the protracted energy crisis on campus, the VC has been driving the ongoing 10 megawatts/solar plant Independent Power Project (IPP) with missionary zeal. He has also led the university into negotiation for another 10MW renewable energy project with another consortium, headed by Highland Energy Solution Services Ltd and Greenleaf University, the United States of America. Both projects, when completed, will guarantee regular supply of up to 20MW electricity at UI .
Also, to the credit of Prof. Olayinka, the University of Ibadan has attracted more foreign students than ever before. Apart from those on the Pan African University (PAU) programme, Thirty-one students from different West African countries who are being sponsored by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are currently resident on campus, undertaking postgraduate studies. In addition, a set of 22 postgraduate students from the Republic of Benin are also on campus receiving intensive training in English language, preparatory to the commencement of their postgraduate studies in 2017/18 academic session.
In the area of capital projects, Prof. Olayinka’s administration has not done badly in the last two years with the quantum of projects springing up in all available spaces. While construction of private hostel buildings under the public-private partnership is adding value to the University, renovation of existing structures is indeed a spectacle to behold. From the newly built edifice serving Pan African University as a private hostel, the construction of Alumni Postgraduate hostel to the Dangote Foundation Building which is going to serve as UI School of Business, it is obvious that Prof. Olayinka is not only living his dream but also leaving enduring legacies with several donations he is facilitating. Along with his wife, Dr. Eyiwumi Olayinka, recently too, the VC commanded Bode Amao Creche/Nursery School Building into existence to the admiration of the university community. The Crèche has since transformed into a wonder, with an imposing and elaborate structure.
Saanu, Media Assistant to the Vice Chancellor, UI, writes from Ibadan.