Prof. Omole’s footprints as OAU Vice Chancellor
Serving as Vice Chancellor (VC) of any public or private university in Nigeria is not only excruciatingly burdensome; it is also a hard furrow to plough. Not all professors can stake their lives for the ‘thankless job’, because they consider the position as carrying the cross for the salvation and comfort of the multitude. A Nigerian VC is not only expected to provide academic leadership, he or she is also required to provide municipal services on campus including uninterrupted electricity, pipe-borne water and security, things his counterparts in developed countries take for granted. Failure to meet staff and students’ demand could spark a crisis, leading to the termination of appointment of an unfortunate administrator. Indeed, being a VC is no different from walking on a tight rope. This scenario probably captures the experiences of Prof. Bamitale Omole, who was inaugurated June 23, 2011 as the 10th VC of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State. He is preparing for a safe landing, as his five-year tenure gloriously comes to an end June 23, 2016.
But before he bows out of office, it is apposite to review some of the promises he made in March 2011, when he was seeking the mandate of the university. Omole, a professor of International Relations/Political Studies, with the benefit of hindsight, fulfilled almost all the vows, and also recorded feats that will preserve his historical immortality in Ife. From academics to infrastructure, staff and students’ welfare to several other germane issues, Omole’s achievements are noteworthy.
He promised, for instance, to give the university a massive face-lift by developing infrastructure. Consequently, his administration embarked on 30 major capital projects, despite dwindling subventions from the Federal Government. Today, all the major projects have been completed, turning the campus to a modern place of information, reformation, transformation and innovation. Among the projects are: construction of an Olympic-size swimming pool, moot court, university hall, a 12-storey Senate building (Jubilee House), and rehabilitation of others.
As a result of his foresight, resilience and talent management skills, Prof. Omole, early in 2014, led Great Ife to win an $8m grant from the World Bank, to establish an African Center of Excellence, with specific focus on the OAU Knowledge Park. This grant, obviously, added considerable value to the institution. Prof. Omole, who believes in the possibility of situating OAU as a 21st century world-class African university, in terms of cutting edge research, paradigmatic shift in sources of funding, renewal of human resources and capital formation, and deepening of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), has lived up to expectation.
Without doubt, today, it is on record that OAU is a leader in Nigeria in ICT, as the institution boasts of a stupendous 730mbps, regarded as the biggest bandwidth in any Nigerian university. Ife is the only university in the country with telepresence studios and Cloud Computing Environment. Consequently, the university, rated 4th among Nigerian universities in 2011 and 78 in Africa, was for four consecutive years (2011-2014) ranked number one.
His legendary wisdom notwithstanding, Prof. Omole’s critics are not without a measure of success. They broke his heart at a point. Hear his. Omole’s confession, recently, at a forum: “The most traumatic experience I have ever had as OAU VC was when some union members fabricated a lie against me, saying I collected allowance from Abuja and kept it in my account. They even said I used their money to train my four children abroad. I never collected a dime; neither do I have four children. My wife and I broke down in tears. It was so painful because these are the people whose welfare I do not trifle with, yet they were so pernicious to embarrass me with unfounded allegations.”
And Jesus wept.
Leading educated people, whose anger and frustration with the Nigerian system have crystallised into melancholy, certainly require uncommon wisdom, patience and perseverance. A university is a place of dissent and controversy, which are the dialectics of arriving at the truth. Whoever succeeds as VC can effortlessly rule a state or country. This is what Prof. Omole has achieved; he should be decorated with garlands and awards.
Prof. Omole’s idyllic sense of organisation and goal setting put him far above his critics. He is a master of human psychology, constantly seeking unbeaten paths, in order to ensure stability, peace and progress. He manages his mood stoically, minds his manner diplomatically, and masters his mouth wisely. He is non-self announcing. He believes results are far more important than rhetoric.
As Prof. Omole’s administration gradually comes to an end, the university community owes him a duty to celebrate this achiever of uncommon feats. He has contributed immensely to the development of his alma mater. He demystifies the office of the VC without desecrating it. His strength has been tested and his performance proven. Nigeria should consider rewarding him with a fresh opportunity to serve: for the reward of hard work is an opportunity to do more.
Although, the major challenge before OAU now is the selection of a successor, it should be done transparently and spiritually. The university community must pray to have a worthy replacement who will consolidate Omole’s achievements. This selection process must not end in a fiasco. Enough of crises on Ife Campus!
Lekan Fatai writes from Ile-Ife.
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