Olayinka: An academic like no other
Sir: “I never believed I could live up to 20,” he disclosed with a tinge of stoicism. “Heeya!, were you so sickly when you were young?” this writer asked empathetically.
“No, I wasn’t sickly, but because I grew up in a part of the world where wicked people used “juju” to kill fellow human beings recklessly. They targeted seemingly prosperous people and did them in. Any brilliant child could be surreptitiously eliminated. So I thought they would have killed me before attaining age 20 because I was very good in primary school. Now, I am 59, I sincerely thank God for His mercies. It is indeed a miracle that I am what I am today.”
This is how the University of Ibadan (UI) Vice Chancellor (VC), Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka who tomorrow marks his 59th birthday, describes his feelings, having been born 16th February 1958 at Odo-ljesa, State of Osun, Nigeria. With his mannerisms of speaking, observers may note that he is absolutely down-to-earth, truthful and naturally unromantic. Many are of the opinion that Prof. Olayinka who is the 12th UI VC, does not know how to call a spade any other name, but spade. Those who really know him have submitted that he can’t be a good politician for he will say it as it is. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons he had it rough with various unions on campus when he took over the mantle of leadership on December 1, 2015.
As if the current economic recession was awaiting his appointment, no sooner had he taken over than the national economy nosedived. Personnel subvention from Abuja substantially plummeted with the attendant reduction in salaries of the workers. Staff members who had hitherto enjoyed luxuriant feast under Prof. Isaac Adewole administration would not immediately understand that the fasting period has dawned in Nigeria as a result of corruption, greed and crash in prices of crude oil. The union leaders, in their characteristic bravado to protect their posts, soon challenged the laconic VC to a frightening duel over shortage in salaries and non-payment of some allowances. But, did they know this was a national problem? They may not want to know!
Consequently, the belligerent union leaders heaped on the beleaguered Olayinka, insults dripping with disdain, lies, and malice. As calm as a millpond, Olayinka enjoys and radiates peacefulness of mind. Irrespective of any circumstance, he largely remains unruffled.
Having worked closely with him for more than a year now, I am in a better stead to describe Olayinka as a modest man. He never bothers about the trappings of power.
Although real achievements are not restricted to building gigantic structures all over the place, the VC says he will complete all on-going projects before embarking on new ones. Evidence show that he is doing just that. Despite recession, he is prudently managing the resources in the university to achieve optimal performance and satisfaction. As he marks his day today, one can only pray that he lives much longer.
• Sunday Saanu, University of Ibadan