80 loud cheers for Professor Wale Omole
It hasn’t been easy writing about the worthy and significant elders who have been part of ‘The Guardian’ great family. There have been great men who have been shaping discussions points of the robust editorials you have been enjoying. ‘The Guardian’ Editorial Board I have been part of for years is a great gathering of intellectuals no one would like to miss every Wednesday. The publisher and chairman of the Board of Directors looks forward to attending this conference every week. It is a remarkable intellectual cabal where social responsibility to one’s country is relived every week. The learning company embraces organisational learning and it is also a great place to learn every week. Even in this age of digital journalism that virtual meetings dominate, ‘The Guardian’ Editorial Board has continued to meet physically to discuss state-of-the nation topics every week apart from emergency sessions that in-house board members organise all the time.
That explains why ‘The Guardian’ editorials have been quite robust, remarkable and significant. Yes, the brainpower behind the fireworks is a thing of joy to members. As a reporter, writer, columnist and editorialist, I have learned a great deal from the classy editorial board members comprising the brightest and the best from the academia, the diplomatic community and even the military intelligence establishment.It is fitting to write today about the Chairman of the Editorial Board, Wale Omole, a professor and former vice chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University who clocked 80 years yesterday. I would like to claim here that Professor Omole has been a blessing to ‘The Guardian’ family. I would like to join others in celebrating the good old man with a medal.I would like our readers to note that the Editorial Board I have been reporting contextually parades notables such as Dr. Patrick Dele Cole, a product of Cambridge university, former managing director of ‘Daily Times’ and former Nigeria’s Ambassador to Brazil. Note that I am already leading us into the inner circle of ‘The Guardian’‘intellectual cabal’: Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, a former Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, is also a visiting consultant to the Editorial Board. Same for retired Lt. General Chris Ali, a former Chief of Army Staff, Nigeria, author of a classic, ‘Federal Republic of the Nigerian Army’ who is also a visiting consultant to the
Editorial Board. One of the great friends of the family, Ambassador Ahmadu Amzat too was visiting even from Sokoto until he died a few years ago: May his soul rest in Perfect Peace! There are other professors who are visiting members of the Editorial Board including Professor Sylvester Akhaine, former Head of Department of Political Science, Lagos State University, Professor Ndubisi Nwokoma, Director Centre for Economic Policy, Analysis and Research, University of Lagos, Professor Abigail Ogwezzi-Ndisika, former Head of Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Professor Jide Jimoh, of the School of Communications, Lagos State University. Other significant members are Dr. Tony Okeregbe, former associate of ‘The Guardian’ now of Philosophy Department, University of Lagos: He is also our chief special essayist.
There is also one of the oldest members of the Board, a U.S-trained economist, Elder Jacob Akindele, another bookworm and Tennis enthusiast. Then the erstwhile administrative secretary of the Board, who has become a member and now Secretary to the Board, Mr Matthew Ozah.There is also Dr. Uju Ogubunka, former Executive Secretary, Chartered Institute of Bankers (CIB). Other strong intellectuals and technocrats on the Editorial Board include Mr. Adaighofua Ojomaikre, an economist who retired as a senior civil servant. He is our Adam Smith in the house. There is also Elder Francis Onaiyekan, a senior journalism teacher, management consultant, motivational speaker and life coach. His problem is that he has too many classical books. We also have Dr. Luke Onyekakeyah, a widely travelled scholar on Geography, Urban and Regional Planning. Mr. Kunle Sanyaolu, a former Editor of The
Guardian on Sunday, who is also a lawyer, and now our Editorial Page Editor. Dr. Wole Oyabade, who in 2019 was honoured by the University of Lagos for writing the best Doctoral Thesis in the Faculty of Arts, is one of our in-house special essayists. He is the Deputy Editorial Page Editor. Our Business Editor who holds a doctoral degree in Communication Art, Femi Adekoya is one of our young scholars on the Board. Drs Okeregebe, Oyebade and Adekoya are the special essayists of the Board.There are directors of the company who are also members including Dr. Alex Thomopulos, a U.S trained technocrat and environmental scientist; Mr. Toke Alex-Ibru, London and U.S trained business executive and executive director of the multimedia company.
Mrs Eki Durojaiye, the Legal Adviser of The Guardian is also a member of the Board. One can see clearly from the synopsis here the quality, technicality and even complexity that professor Omole has been managing since 2011. He had been a visiting member for years until 2011 when Dr. Reuben Abati was tapped by the then President Goodluck Jonathan who hired him (Abati) as Special Adviser, Media and Publicity. Professor Omole has since 2011 been presiding over the affairs of ‘The Guardian’ Editorial Board. No one would have suspected that he was even close to eighty until yesterday when we all celebrated him. The temptation to write on so many competing national and local tragi-comedies was high last night. For instance, I had wanted to send a message to the Governor of Rivers State, who seems to have lost control of his emotion. I had wanted to tell him to ‘calm down’ and ask for some expertise on reputation management and political communication before he loses everything. I had also wanted to ask the managers of the three major candidates to return to school to learn how to design political messages in 21st century. I had wanted to advise them on how to focus on issues that will save Nigeria from the brink instead of hauling missiles at one another as if they didn’t have issues to address at this perilous time. But then as I was reflecting over how to look at the architecture in the ruins of 2021 and so many promises not kept by this regime, I peeped again into the seeds of time and saw August 13, 2022
when Professor Adebowale Omole would clock 80.Indeed, I can’t ignore the significance of that landmark for a man from whom some of us have borrowed so much about management of complexity and intrigues in media agenda setting through the editorial board. I have been listening to Professor Omole’s seminal contributions and management of hidden agenda at the Editorial Board of ‘The Guardian’ where I have also served for years. There is therefore a sense in which I can say without equivocation that he is one of the reasons for the robustness and difference you often rely on in our comments. He isn’t a professor who lives on residual knowledge and influence. He reads and studies a great deal of classics on Nigeria and the world.Professor Omole isn’t about ‘The Guardian’. His life history revolves around that place called Ile Ife and its University that the federal military government of Murtala and Obasanjo seized in 1975. He weeps every day about the promise of the University of Ife that the Federal Republic of the Nigerian Army arbitrarily seized and destroyed. Professor Omole would always tell you off hand what the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo sought to achieve with that unique regional university designed to specialise in Tropical Agriculture and Health Science for Western Nigeria.
He believes that Nigerians should still fight for the return of the three regional universities, the newspapers, post-primary schools and the television and radio stations that the federal military government seized in 1975, which consolidated unitary system of government that set the tone for decline eventual destruction of federalism and development in Nigeria.Born to Pa Emmanuel Adedeji Omole and Mama Beatrice Aarinola Omole, Adebowale attended Ilesha Grammar School (1956-1962); had a stint as a civil servant at the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ibadan, before his tertiary education at the University of Ife where he bagged a Bachelor of Agriculture degree and an MPhil in Animal Science in 1968 and 1970 respectively. Thereafter, he proceeded to the University of Alberta, Canada, where he obtained a doctorate degree in Nutritional Biochemistry in 1973. He paid his dues at Great Ife, learning the ropes as Assistant lecturer, to become Lecturer and professor, Animal Science in the early 1980s. He became Dean, Faculty of Agriculture in the same alma mater between 1983 and 1985.He had a brief stint at the Alabama, A & M University, U.S. in 1986-1987 as professor of Food Science and Animal Industry. His academic career was capped by becoming Vice Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, between 1991 and 1999.
Besides, there are some events Omole’s lifetime, which neither time nor event can obliterate from his memory. One of such occurred from July to November 1999 in his life as Vice Chancellor of the University of Ife, (now Obafemi Awolowo University). He was in the eye of some externally induced storm, exactly twenty-three 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”.That was how the tenure of the first alumnus to be Vice Chancellor of Great Ife, ended on a strong note. I hope that a resourceful researcher will follow up on deconstruction of this remarkable story of university management and leadership of Professor Omole.