20 years after Prof. Omole’s trials and triumph at Great Ife
There are some events in a lifetime, which neither time nor event can obliterate from one’s memory. One of such occurred from July to November 1999 in the life of Wale Omole, a Professor and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ife, (now Obafemi Awolowo University). He was in the eye of some externally induced storm, exactly twenty years ago as the first alumnus of the University to be sworn in on November, 30, 1991 as Vice Chancellor of the iconic university. It was a classic story of trials, travail and triumph, of course. The tenure of Professor Omole was eventful as Vice Chancellor until 1999, coincidentally the year of restoration of democracy in Nigeria when a successor was to be appointed. The process of appointing a successor was on course until a political actor from the new political class in Abuja tacitly put a spanner in the works – to protect his kinsmen – one of whom he wanted to be successor (to Professor Omole). This is the origin of the great plot to the 1999 epic battle, which resulted in death of some student’s union leaders, trials, exoneration and strong finish as Vice Chancellor in November, 1999.
But despite all the hostility, Professor Omole ended strong as he was cleared by even a Visitation Panel set up by government to look into the finances of the university for the eight years of his administration. The Panel ordered audit of the accounts three different times using different audit firms. They even found out that the Vice Chancellor had used his personal money to do official business on the request of the Bursar.
And so by June, 1999 Council meeting Professor Omole had announced his retirement plans effective November that year. In September 1999, he forwarded a letter of voluntary retirement to the Council Chairman Hon. Justice Anthony N. Aniagolu, Justice of Supreme Court (rtd). And in his acceptance letter dated September 27, 1999 he (Aniagolu) wrote to the Registrar as follows:
“I hereby accept on behalf of the Council that Professor Omole should retire as Vice-Chancellor on 30th November, 1999, as requested. While conveying the acceptance, I wish to place on record, for myself and for my and on behalf of my Council, my appreciation of Professor Omole’s hard work and unstinted devotion to this University. I have found Professor Omole to be a dynamic Vice-Chancellor with original and progressive ideas for which the University is greatly indebted. Hardly ever resting, Professor Omole is every minute of the day, thinking and working on the affairs of Obafemi Awolowo University, approaching them with his prodigious mind. He deserves accolade for his vast knowledge of the affairs of Obafemi Awolowo University and for his unreserved application of all his energies in solving the problems of the University”.
This was how the tenure of the first alumnus to be Vice Chancellor of Great Ife, ended on a strong note. It is hoped that a reporter will follow up on this remarkable story of university management and leadership.
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