The ambience evinced no Less. Already seated are Principal Officers. As sprawling as Mahmood Yakub Lecture Theatre is, it was almost filled to the brim by scores of members of the Congregation of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.
For the sake of non-members of the Academic Community, Congregation is a University Statutory body comprising academic and non-teaching members of staff who are university graduates.
It is a virile and vibrant arm that is represented in the apex decision making of the nation’s Ivory Towers, the Governing Council.
Congregation also serves as an arm of the University through which information from the Management is disseminated, assimilated, received and responded to.
As a matter of fact, the action or inaction of the body is germane to the progress and development or otherwise of the University.
DATELINE: Wednesday, October 31, 2018. Time 2.08pm. The mien of members portrayed expectations like a bride awaiting the arrival of her groom at the nick of commencement of wedding ceremony. Their form and poise is understandable.
Congregation meeting in FUNAAB is not a cocktail party. Experience recalled and lend credence to the fact that it is usually business unusual. It is the forum where the programmes, policies and activities of Management are sufficiently laid bare.
It is a platform where knotty issues affecting the mutual interest of cadres of staff are consensusly addressed.
This particular meeting is no exception. The second of it kind since Professor Felix Kolawole Salako mounted the saddle as the Sixth Substantive Vice-Chancellor of the University; so also for fellow new Principal Officers: Professor Morenike Dipeolu, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Professor Lateef Sanni, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Development), Dr. ‘Bola Adekola (Registrar), Mr. Chukwuwinke Ezekpeazu (Bursar) and the University Librarian, Dr. Fehintola Onifade. The stage is set; Not a stranger to public communication.
Experience has taught him that it is his statutorily responsibility to kick-start the meeting. Exuding confidence, the Registrar, Dr. Adekola walked focusly to the dias, he took hold of the microphone and his voice reverberated thus:
“I am delighted to welcome you to the Congregation Meeting dedicated to mark the One Year in office of our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Kolawole Salako.
Today, our Vice-Chancellor will share with us his Administration’s score-card. He has come specially loaded to give us a feel of his activities in the last one year”.
Truly the Vice-Chancellor was “loaded” in the real sense of the word as he held his audience spellbound for over two hours, churning and reeling out catalogue of meaningful achievements that squarely addressed the teething needs of members of the University Community.
Setting the tone of his speech which he delivered fluently with intermittent enunciation of salient points, the Professor of Soil Physics dug beneath the surface of the thematic concerns, pin-pointing crystal clearly that “I want the Congregation to know that I have not come to access myself but I owe it a duty to intimate you with what we have done in one year of office”.
Professor Salako who titled his speech, “Here We Are” said it was imperative for him to rub minds with the Congregation because they are strategically important to the day-to-day running of the University, more so that they are a combination of academic and non-teaching staff whom he described as intellectuals.
It is indisputable that only in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility that meaningful progress and development can be achieved.
Professor Salako, himself a lover of peace emphasized this much as the hallmark of the direction and focus of his Administration on his assumption of office.
Enabling atmosphere is more desirable and crucial at the time of his assumption office, taking cognizance of the fact that the dusts raised by the subtle ‘family’ crisis that rocked the University was just settling down.
The Vice-Chancellor in his first year of office lived up to expectation in this respect.
Knowing that he’s a father of all, the bridge across the divides and fence mender, Professor Salako held the Olive branch, extended his hands of fellowship and in the process assuaged and calmed the frayed nerves of the aggrieves without compromising standard.
Today, FUNAAB is a safe haven of peace, where normalcy of robust rapport and harmonious co-existence of stakeholders has been deeply restored and under which successive meaningful achievements and development evolves.
Within his first year in office, the scientist in the Vice-Chancellor with unreprentant passion for food security came into play.
As a former Director of the food security arm of the University, Agricultural Media Resources and Extension Centre (AMREC) and former Director of the Community Based Farming Scheme (COBFAS), coupled with his research and other academic activities, he has carved an enviable niche and he’s widely revered for contributing immensely to poverty alleviation through increased food production.
Little wonders that barely five months in office (November to March 2018), Professor Salako built and upgraded the Cassava Processing Factory in the University Industrial Park Unit where odourless fufu, gari, plaintain flour, poundo yam flour, High Quality Cassava Flour use for Composite Bread and cashew-nut are scientifically processed.
The processing factory shares philosophy with the Bill and Melinda Gates sponsored Cassava: Adding Value to Africa (C:AVA) where the duo of top ranking members of the University Community, Professor Lateef Sanni, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Development) and Professor Kolawole Adebayo are C:AVA Country Manager and Project Manager respectively.
Peace and security are like siamese twins. They work parri-passu such that they are inseparable. You can’t have one in isolation of the other.
This explains why the Professor Salako led Administration resolved to beef up security of lives and properties within campus and the neighbouring host communities where a chunk of students and members of staff are resident.
As the immediate past Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Development), the Vice-Chancellor on his assumption of office realized the need to reduce the vulnerability of students and staff, especially those living in the neighbouring communities by reducing crime waves to the barest minimum.
In order to achieve this, the University supported the Nigeria Police Force in practical demonstration of the mantra that “Police Is Your Friend” by supporting it with the construction of a Police Post and relevant facilities, to enhance the operation of the security outfit.
Feelers informed that since the operation of the Police Post, crime rate has drastically reduced to the point where students and their hosts are now sleeping with their two eyes closed.
FUNAAB has a cherished tradition of infrastructural development. The University is credited with having argueably one of the most beautiful campuses in the country.
Usually, guests cum speakers at national and international conferences hosted by the University always marvel and commend the institution’s for her beautiful environment. They are always quick to point out that the serenity of the campus is not only alluring but more importantly conducive for learning.
FUNAAB Campus is no doubt a miniature of the experience that spurred the saying “see Paris and die”, at least within the context of the nation’s Ivory Towers.
Professor Salako knew that this culture must not only be sustained but enhanced. In doing this, he bought into the principle of continuity in governance and Administration, he hit the ground running and before you could say “commissioning”, he had completed and commissioned 70 percent of the capital projects he inherited from his predecessor, Professor Olusola Oyewole with the support of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), leaving on its trail ongoing projects that are in rapid progress.
Impeccable information has it that one of the sterling qualities that earned Professor Salako the office of Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Development), prior to his appointment as substantive Vice-Chancellor is his innovative clout and prowess.
He’s reputed to be a genius when it comes to development creativity. His one year in office spoke volumes of innovations.
Check it out: As part of efforts to ease the complexity revolving around staff matters and ensure unfettered and enhanced service delivery to the university workforce, he restructured Staff Establishment arm of the university by simplifying and expanding it to Academic Staff, Senior Non-Teaching Staff and Junior Non-Teaching Staff Units.
In the same vein, the Professor Salako – Led Administration also extended the tentacles of innovations to students. As a matter of fact, this category of stakeholders are said to have benefitted more.
It is on record that in order to relegate the era of registration with stress to the dust-bin of history, within one year of office, he introduced operation ‘easy does it’ registration with the commencement of e-registration of students.
Similarly, Professor Salako, in his bid to lessen the hurly-burly effect of the early morning rush to lecture theatres on the teeming students, he adjusted the Time-table and increased the number of Marcopolo buses dedicated to students astronomically to ease movement to and fro campus.
In addition, the Vice-Chancellor through the Academic Planning Unit (APU) also initiated curriculum review of courses, in order to ensure that they are in line with global standard practice.
Professor Salako’s 365 days in office also witnessed conceptualization of Distinguished Lecture series, Registry Lecture Series and Nimbe-Adedipe Library Distinguished Lecture Series, among other innovations.
Though the University is largely non-residential, however within his one year in office, the Vice-Chancellor has shown that he will stop at nothing in ensuring that more students are accommodated on campus.
Consequently, he completed three hostels which were commissioned during the 26th Convocation Ceremony of the University.
According to the Vice-Chancellor while speaking at the Congregation Meeting, two of the hostels will accommodate undergraduate students while the remaining one will house postgraduate students.
In the area of research, the one year in office of the Vice-Chancellor also witnessed the registration of the University’s groundbreaking research in improved indigenous breed (code named FUNAAB Alpha) by NACGRAB.
With the feat credited to the lead Researcher, who is Nigeria’s first female Professor of Biotechnology, Professor (Mrs.) Olufunmilayo Ayoka Adedambo and her team, the university has again etched her name in gold and left her footprints on the sand of time.
One of the courses offered by FUNAAB at Postgraduate level is Agric Communication and it is sought after from far and wide.
Besides, FUNAAB is renowned for having a full fledge Directorate of Public Relations where communication is explore and deplore to prevent communication gap among stakeholders.
With the aforementioned in place, it is a plus for Professor Salako tenure that his tenure achieved the commencement of FUNAAB Radio 98.5FM full blast transmission, having earlier secured the much needed license and commenced tests transmission under his supervision as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Development).
Professor Salako achievements also include his ability to sustain and improve academic programmes which are not only the norm but the lack or absence of which can alter the essence of the University.
These include stable academic calendar, Inaugural Lectures, matriculation ceremony, Commencement Lectures, Senate Meeting, Congregation Meeting and Convocation Ceremony, among others.
The Vice-Chancellor expatiated the challenges of his Administration to include paucity of fund, irregular power supply, the deplorable Camp/FUNAAB/Alabata Road, and inadequate water supply, among others.
Concluding his Address, Professor Salako expressed profound gratitude to the President and Commander In-Chief of Armed Forces, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), GCFR, the Ministers and Ministries of Agriculture and Education respectively, TETFund and its Executive Secretary as well as other Federal Government donor agencies.
Professor Salako also thanked the Chancellor, the Pro-Chancellor, Governing Council Members, Fellow Principal Officers, Senate, Congregation, members of staff, students, the entire members of the University Community the entire host communities and stakeholders in general for their unflinching support and unalloyed cooperation since he assumed office in November 1, 2017.
Baring his mind on the way forward in the remaining part of his tenure of office, the Vice-Chancellor said his Administration won’t relent in tackling directly or facilitating interventions towards addressing the challenges of the porous Camp/FUNAAB/Alabata Road, erratic power supply, inadequate water supply, paucity of fund, infrastructural facilities, including Lecture Rooms, among others.
Apparently impressed and excited by his catalogue of achievements, the Congregation stood up elatedly and ushered the Vice-Chancellor’s back to his seat with a sustained deafening applause that rented the venue.
Giving his landmark achievements in one year of office, Professor Salako has no doubt justified the confidence reposed in him by the Paramount Ruler and Alake of Egbaland, HRM (Dr.) Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo, Okukenu IV, members of the University Community and stakeholders at large of his ability to take the University to greater heights.
Adepoju, FICA, (JP) is the Assistant Director of Public Relations (Media /External Relations), Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.