Challenges before Prof. Olayinka in UI
PROFESSOR Abel Idowu Olayinka, who was sworn-in as the 12th indigenous Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan (UI) yesterday, following the smooth transition which culminated into his appointment, will be leading the university for the next five years. He started his term after a rigorous selection process sequence to the tenure expiration of Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole, who is now the Minister of Health.
Prof. Olayinka who was chosen from the 13 eminent professors who vied for the position has thus achieved historical immortality, joining the exclusive club of bright lucky minds who had opportunity of leading UI. Indeed, it is the height of academic career to have been appointed as VC. But beyond the celebration of this great achievement, there are inherent challenges awaiting the occupant of the hot seat.
The job he has accepted requires an extraordinary amount of courage. However, one of the major challenges the new UI VC will be facing is paucity of funds. Prof. Olayinka is coming at a time that is regarded by many as tough; the resources are not just there. Economic indications from the federal government clearly show that Nigeria is in dire straits. Prices of crude oil, the nation’s mainstay, have crashed considerably. Many states are unable to pay salaries just as budgetary allocation to different government’s agencies and parastatals cannot be guaranteed in coming. Olayinka has to think of raising additional funds to augment whatever that is coming from the government.
The new VC must ask critical questions, such as how much did financial consultants make for the university last year? How much have they raised this year? How much has the University spent on them? Where is their annual report? The current economic reality today does not allow lackadaisical attitude to work.
Closely related to funding is the need to maintain ageing infrastructure in UI. Most of the structure in UI which have been put in place in the 50s and 60s are old. Many of the classrooms require facelift. Cables for electricity are old. Water pipes are begging for replacement. All of these are predicated on money. The immediate past VC, Prof. Adewole tried his best to remedy the situation, but there is still a long distance to destination.
Staff welfare is another challenge. His predecessor creatively warmed his way into the hearts of the workers by taking their welfare as a priority. Many workers in UI will forever be grateful to Prof. Adewole with some steps he took. The new VC can replicate the idea. The question is, where will he get money? Will the workers understand that resources have considerably diminished? Prof. Olayinka will need to persuade the workers to show understanding in the face of “money palaver.”
Beyond the financial constraint, the 57 years old Prof. Olayinka must find a way to fight the inherent lethargy and bureaucratic bottlenecks that usually delay service delivery in public service. As an Institution, services should be computerized in such a way that alumni get their statement of results and certificates without facing frustration. The university has offended some of its former students by not attending to demands expeditiously.
It is the new VC’s duty to ensure that the university ‘s vision of becoming a world-class institution does not just remain a mere refrain. To achieve result, he may need to wield a big stick. Stick and carrot approach may serve as deterrent to misdemeanor, just as commendation and reward for hardworking staff can stimulate productivity .
Prof. Olayinka should not be afraid to step on toes. A leader is a dealer in hope. He should be hopeful of the best. The good news is that he has the capacity , and he is not lacking in experience . In addition to his intellectual fecundity , the new VC enjoys popular support in UI. His amiability which has drawn the admiration of the majority of members of the community will certainly go a long way to assist him to achieve success. He equally has a solid contact across the globe as a result of many years of teaching and community service. This is the time he needs the support of all his friends and well-wishers.
If UI is to be listed as one of the best 20 universities in the world, this is the time to activate the momentum.
Born at odo-Ijesa, Osun State on February 16, 1958, Prof. Olayinka attended St. Bartholomew’s Primary School, Odo-Ijesa, from 1964 to 1969. He was admitted into the famous Ilesa Grammar School in January 1970 and completed his West Africa Secondary School Certificate in 1975, in Division one. He entered the University of Ibadan in 1977/1978 to study geology and graduated with a Bachelor of Science (B.sc) degree (2nd class Honours, Upper Division) in 1981, and he was the best graduating student in his class.
He proceeded to the United Kingdom for postgraduate studies in September 1983, first at Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London. He earned an MSc degree in Geophysics of the University subsequently received the Overseas Research Students’ Award from the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals of United Kingdom Universities (now Universities UK); he utilised this scholarship at the University of Birmingham for his Ph.D. research in Applied Geophysics which he completed in April, 1988.
As the 12th UI VC, one can only pray for divine support and peaceful tenure as he engages the students, staff and various publics of the university .
• Saanu is with the Directorate of Public Communication, University of Ibadan.
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