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Folorunso Adewole: 65 years of service and selflessness


Nigeria Minister of Health Isaac Folorunso Adewole . REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde – RTX231AG

The maxim that “heroes are born to do more” rings ever so true in the life of the outgoing Health Minister, Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole who has put unbroken nine years of meritorious selfless service into the development of Nigeria. He was about concluding his five-year single tenure as the 11th Vice Chancellor of University of Ibadan (UI) in 2015 when his sterling performance earned him the confidence of Buhari administration, thus, becoming Health Minister in a quick succession.

Some said he was exceptionally lucky, a few other argued that the appointment was as a result of his hard work, pointing out that the best way to appreciate the diligent is to offer them an opportunity to do more. However, a number of people have attributed the success in the life of Prof. Adewole to his natural compassion for the needy, citing the biblical reference which says “blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy”. Whichever be the case, the fact remains that, Prof. Adewole who turns 65 today is, in the words of Winston Churchill, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” Those who are close to him may as well observe that he is a man of amazing grace.

In the pantheon of patriots imbued with compassion and uncommon touch, he stands out. He has risen from a rustic, humble background, under quite limited circumstances to become a star with a global recognition, respect and relevance. Having worked and walked closely with him for five years as his media aide in UI and later monitored him from the sideline following his relocation to Abuja, this writer is of an impression that Prof. Adewole is a special breed, almost at a supernatural level, with an uncommon gait that is all his.


Indeed, being short in stature does not mean one cannot walk tall across the globe. His life perfectly illustrates this notion as he demonstrates outstanding resourcefulness, foresight and dogged determination in all his undertakings. Prof. Adewole is supremely self-confident, bold, daring and always in control of his faculties. Little wonder he ranks among the best ministers ever worked with President Muhammadu Buhari in his closing first term in office.

If re-appointed or given another national assignment, it is certain that Nigeria may as well be waiting for the next paradigm-shattering offering from Prof. Adewole who is ever more energetic than some of the younger generation. He hardly shows sign of fatigue. Among the crop of Ministers, it is on record that Prof. Adewole is perhaps the only one who was bold enough to suspend an officer under his Ministry on the grounds of corruption, before corruption fought back, engaging the Minister in an war of words. Unfazed, Prof. Adewole stamps his feet as a man in charge with the right value paradigms for transformation, sustainability, effective and relevant partnerships, as well as processes and procedures that ensure best practices. On his twitter handle, he daily gives his stewardships, telling the world what he does to move health sector forward. He is never among the non-performing Ministers. He is leaving exceptionally commendable precedents in office.

A richly precocious mind, bristling with uncommon intelligence, Prof. Adewole so far in all his years of stainless and selfless services to humanity has developed a culture of working himself to a breaking point with only a few hours of sleep. In fact, only God knows when and how he sleeps and rests. Send him a text message in the dead of night, he responds as if he had been waiting for you.

Interestingly, there are many lessons one can glean from the rich life of this workaholic Minister. With the benefit of close contact, it could reported that Prof. Adewole is a deft minefield walker with intellectual heftiness. He is wise. He is circumspect. He does not leave his flanks open for his opponents. He fills his ears before he empties his mouth. He will not sign an document that will be used against him, neither will he engage in any deal that will dent his image. He knows that there are banana peels here and there! He is always conscious of the antics of the opponents. There was a time I stepped out of line. Hear him, “you had better go on prayer and fasting. You know you are working in a hostile environment, yet, you want to play into the hands of your opponents, be careful” Prof. Adewole does not joke with prayers. He believes prayer is a weapon with which he can soar and he has not been disappointed as he embarks on various routes less travelled, creating his own path, and directing his passion in the desired direction.

Besides, he is a cultivator of acquaintanceship, radiating interpersonal magnetism, drawing all and sundry closer as light attracts moths. Prof. Adewole who has a mammoth followers as a result of his amiability, believes nobody succeeds without synergy. He has thus become an expert in dealing with various strata of the society. Without doubt, he is an achiever extraordinaire. It is more amazing that he never gets discouraged even when his motives are misjudged. With pure fidelity to facts, he is ever re-strategizing, rebuilding, rehabilitating, reconstructing, and reconciling, always giving his time, treasure and talent to the task at hand, just as he handles issues with magisterial skills.

However, if immortality means being remembered, then, it could be said that Prof. Adewole will not be forgotten in a hurry as he lives in the hearts of thousands of people whose lives he has touched positively.  For example, Many of those he employed while serving as UI VC are still praying for him till tomorrow. The beneficiaries of his kindness even claimed that it was their prayer that facilitated his ministerial appointment! A multi-dimensional personality who has found many ways of assisting humanity outside the confines of donation and benefaction, the out-going Health Minister simply derives joy in alleviating people’s problem. Clearly, Prof. Adewole is a transcendental icon who deserves to be celebrated all the time.

In his tribute, the Director, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, (NIMR) Prof. Babatunde Salako described the out-going Health Minister as a phenomenal personality whose devotion to duty, love for humanity and service to fatherland deserve national accolade” Prof. Salako further remarked that Adewole’s achievements as Health Minister would not be forgotten in a hurry given his passion and enthusiasm towards lifting health sector out of the woods. Corroborating the same sentiments, the Chief Medical Director, University College Hospital (UCH), Prof. Jesse Otegbayo pointed out that Prof. Adewole’s contributions to the health sector remain legendary. According to the CMD, “the out-going minister understands the problems in the sector and spiritedly tries his best to proffer solutions. He seems to have silver bullet to many of the challenges. He deserves our applause”

With his gift of the gab, Prof. Adewole has a fascinating way of shaping the tone and texture of public discourse. He is an engaging conversationalist. He can’t even be caught off guard. His greatest asset is his belief in God and himself. So far, so good, his strength has been tested, his performance has been proven. His modesty, graceful airs and rich mind certainly stand him in good stead always as  he conducts himself with class and decorum. The UI community feels happy that Prof. Adewole serves the country without compromising his integrity for a filthy lucre. A cock which is owned by a family has crowed for the entire country to wake up! He has done well.

As he marks his 65th birthday today, it is my prayer for my boss and mentor who employed me against all odds that, may the moon of mercy continue to mother Prof. Adewole with milk and mirth. May he live much longer before he becomes an ancestor. Happy birthday sir. Born on 5th May, 1954, Prof. Adewole attended Ilesa Grammar School from 1966-1972. And even at that tender age he was a role model to his schoolmates on account of his good conduct, exemplary character and exceptional brilliance. He obtained Grade 1 with Distinction in his West African School Certificate in 1970 and scored AAC grades at the Higher School Certificate Examination in 1972.

He enrolled as a National Award Scholar at the University of Ibadan in 1973. He obtained his MB BS degree in 1978, winning the Glaxo Allenbury Prize for the best overall performance in Pediatrics. He underwent further medical training in Nigeria, becoming a Senior Registrar in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, in 1984. He then proceeded to the United Kingdom for a Research Fellowship in the Department of Medical Oncology at Charing Cross Hospital in London. He obtained the Fellowship of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria (FMCOG) in May 1986 and the Fellowship of the West African College of Surgeons (FWACS) in January 1994. He became the UI VC December 1, 2010

Saanu is media assistant to the Vice Chancellor, University of Ibadan.


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