A vice chancellor’s diary
Having been working closely with various vice chancellors of University of Ibadan (UI) in the last nine years as media assistant, I have seen a great deal as an observer, and I have also gone through a great deal as a participant-observer.
I often sympathise with the occupants of this hot seat, given what they go through daily.
As I was saying leading UI as its VC is as difficult and challenging as leading a multicultural country called Nigeria. This is because UI is an emporium of excellence.
This university, without exaggeration, is the intellectual capital of Nigeria, parading over 400 professors.
In UI, everyone is powerful in their own right because of their levels of education and enlightenment.
Figuratively, every dog in UI is a lion. It is a critical community of scholars where there is all manner of knowledge.
Therefore, the leader of this community must be someone who is intellectually profound, technically accomplished, tactically sound and strategically alert.
The leader of this kind of a community must be a man of an incandescent mind, who, as well, enjoys benefits of robust health.
The job requires someone who can work from dawn to dusk without complaining. Clearly, anybody can hold the helm when the sea is calm, but the job of the VC of Ibadan status is not meant for just anybody, rather, for such a person whose day surpasses 24 hours.
Anyone who is close to the UI VC, Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka and sees how he exerts his energies, will agree that some people are more naturally gifted to undertake troubles better than the others. Specifically, Prof. Olayinka, like many of his predecessors in office, is demonstrating some kinds of attributes in leadership that are perceived to be superhuman.
He resumes work around 7. 30 in the morning and will not close, at times , until 10.30 in the night.
The following day, you meet him at his table, treating files, attending meetings, hosting visitors, paying visits to people among other serious engagements. You wonder when he sleeps.
You marvel when he has time to relax! It is against this background that I asked him to share how he spent a particular week with the public.
Initially he felt reluctant, but when I mounted pressure with an assurance that the information would not be used against him by his detractors, rather, it would encourage people to pray for him, he yielded. This particular week, however, typifies how he normally spends his days and weeks. Hear Prof. Olayinka:
You have been away from home for a week. You were happy to be back to your beat. Not that you were completely absent though, apart from the physical distance.
At times, you think it is better to be around than to be away because while you were away, you kept thinking of the office.
Modern developments in tele-communication and IT do not help matters as you are regularly bombarded with phone calls, e-mails, text messages and WhatsApp messages wherever you are on the globe.
All the same, after your shower and dinner, you retired to your Study to catch up with some arrears of work. You went to bed about 1.30 a.m. Woke up some four hours later.
Had to continue some office work till 9:45 a.m. It was time to proceed to the Senate Chamber where Results of Final Year Students for the session were to be discussed. You were extremely delighted that the university produced 142 candidates in the First Class category.
Moreover, in the unclassified degree programmes, a number of students had distinctions in various courses. These include 13 students in Bachelor of Physiotherapy, 13 in Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and 18 with Bachelor of Pharmacy.
You have never been so proud of UI students. If it is from Ibadan, it must be of outstanding quality.
Meeting turned out to be massively attended. Through a generous deployment of humour you were able to calm frayed nerves and navigate the somewhat tense meeting to a successful end. Meeting over by 4:15 p.m.
You had to go to Agodi Government Reservation Area (GRA) Quarters to condole with the widow and daughter of your mentor who passed on while you were out of town the previous week.
A protege remembered his senior colleague and friend. It was a rare privilege to have known Professor Oluwole Akinboade (1949-2018).
We wish the eminent scholar, former Dean of Veterinary Medicine, who served our university for some 42 years, the last 32 years as a full professor, eternal rest.
And the family, friends and associates he left behind the courage to bear our irreparable loss. Went back to your office to attend to some visitors who had booked appointments with you. Finally you left your office by 9 p.m.
You woke up at night only to read a message on your phone from the Director of Academic Planning to the effect that your highly regarded Bachelor of Pharmacy Programme had been granted Full Accreditation Status by the National Universities Commission (NUC), with an overall programme score of 93%. Great news indeed.
The hard work of the Dean, Heads of Departments, the Emeritus Professor, Professors and all the Staff and Students of Pharmacy had finally paid off handsomely. End of the first working day.
Tuesday: Another Senate Meeting this time to consider the results of Non-Final Year Students. With the benefit of an advance copy sent to you which you had taken time to peruse it pained you to the marrow that as many as 328 students would be advised to leave the university at the end of their first year of study on account of poor academic performance.
This figure represents about 11% of the 2,998 students in that cohort.
You felt it was a big waste sending out one out of every nine students that you matriculated a year earlier.
No thanks to a faulty national admission policy which was made binding on all public universities some 18 months earlier, we have never had it so bad for quite a while. You cannot build something on nothing.
Senate set up an Ad-hoc Committee to work out modalities for counselling students who have challenges with coping with their course of study.
In an elated mood, you specifically requested the Dean of Pharmacy (with a brand new full NUC Accreditation) to give the closing prayer.
Saanu wrote from Ibadan.
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