To my teacher, Banky Oke at 65
A teacher touches eternity for he never knows where his influence reaches. Every good teacher deserves the respect, regard and celebration of his students because it is the teacher, who, like a candle, consumes himself to light the way for his students. A good teacher plants the seeds of knowledge, sprinkles them with love and patiently nurtures their growth to produce tomorrow’s dreams. This was exactly what Prof. Bankole Olusiji Oke of the department of Veterinary Anatomy, University of Ibadan (UI) who is 65 years old today, did with us some years back in our undergraduate days in UI. The seeds of knowledge he planted yesterday have gloriously germinated in different dimensions and the influence he had on us way back then, is still creating waves across the globe.
To the best of my recollection, he strolled into the class of 47 students of Veterinary Medicine in the first week of November 1981 with a confidence of an intelligent lecturer. The students, among whom I was lucky to be numbered, had just completed the preliminary studies and had been admitted to pursue a degree of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, with some of us anxious and nervous to adjust to the challenges of a university environment. Looking extremely dapper with his stylish and swanky appearance, he introduced himself as Dr. Bankole. He told the class that he had just joined the Faculty as a lecturer, about a year earlier, from Ogun State Government Civil Service. Perhaps to further impress us, he added: “I must also tell you that I have a Toyota Celica Coupe (2-door). My rule is simple: I don’t tolerate absenteeism or truancy.”
No sooner he left the class than we engaged in the usual students’ gossip. Some of us fell in love with his practical approach to life based on our first impression of him; others felt he was an oppressor. A lady rhetorically asked “but why did he have to tell us that he owned a car?” Meanwhile, our amiable lecturer didn’t tell us that he was already in love with one of the then UI students of Dental Surgery and a Princess of Owu Kingdom, Gbemi Aderinnoku, who is today the mother of his children and also a Professor in the university! However, contrary to some of the negative tentative notion we had of him, with effluxion of time, we discovered that Prof. Oke was and still is, a good lecturer who inspires hope, ignites imagination and instills a love of learning in his students. As students, we were infatuated with his intellectual prowess as he proved and still remains a cerebral scholar of uncommon standing.
Given his blue-blood cultivation, he dresses up in his finest with his punk haircut as his bold style statement. He is, to say the least, very fashionable. Not a few commentators have described him as a man of prevailing taste, whose dress sense is not only colour-supplement but modish and stylish. Beyond his haute couture, Prof. “Banky” as he is fondly called by his numerous admirers is naturally courteous and chivalrous. He is always on his best behaviour in every situation. His gentlemanliness, as well as his graceful gesture has won him admirable respect in and outside the campus. Born on March 31, 1953, the young Oke, after his primary school education at Lagos; returned to his native Ijebu-Ode Grammar School (1966 – 1970) where he bagged Grade I in the West African School Certificate. He thereafter attended University of Ibadan and obtained Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (1977); Master of Veterinary Anatomy (1983) and Ph.D (1988) in Reproductive Biology. After a brief stint as a Veterinary Officer in Ogun State, he joined the services of University of Ibadan as a Lecturer II in the Department of Veterinary Anatomy in 1980 and rose through the rank to become a full Professor with effect from 1996.
Throughout my student days in UI, a classmate of mine, Dr. R.A.M. Adedokun and my humble self became attached to him, regarding him as a big brother and a mentor, until we graduated. This teacher-student relationship we have sustained with Oga Banky Oke till date. This is because Prof. Banky is a spectacular lecturer who has a way of opening the minds of his students and touching their hearts. He has three loves: love of learning, love of learners and the love of bringing the first two loves together. By the time I joined the Faculty as a regular staff in 1989, he was already high up in the hierarchy. It was obvious he was going to become the Dean of the Faculty whenever he became a Professor. He was elected the Dean, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine for two terms 1999 – 2003. Given the subtle politics and polarisation in our Faculty then, I voted for another candidate and I believed he knew because I was not in his campaign team. But soon after his election, he enlisted me into the administration – the Faculty think tank. I was the editor of the Faculty’s Newsletter; he listened to reasoned argument and allowed everyone to be part of his administration.
A man of peace that he is, Prof. Oke brought amity into the Faculty and no one was victimised on the basis of his leaning. At Faculty board meetings and other meetings where I was privileged to attend, Prof. Bankole demonstrated superb leadership qualities, free and open mindedness and tapping the innate qualities of everyone for the upliftment of the Faculty. Apart from the introduction of weekly Faculty bulletin, the guest lecturer series, he saw to the upgrade of the Eruwa field Station, the Student’s Field trip and of course regular interactions with our alumni and improved revenue drive. He also improved our Veterinary Teaching Hospital, being a statutory member of Veterinary Council of Nigeria. After a glorious tenure as Dean, expectedly, he targeted higher posts like Deputy Vice-Chancellor or Vice-Chancellor; he was neither unprepared nor lacking in courage to take the plunge. He was however elected to the University Governing Council in 2007 in an election in which I was also a candidate. After myself and another senior colleague from the same Faculty had been elected through Congregation to Council, our senior Professor Oke became anxious and despondent as his own election to Council Senate was days after. He could not fathom how he would win (despite his unassailable integrity and popularity at the Staff Club), since two veterinarians had been elected already.
Interestingly, he did not only win in 2007 he was also reelected in 2011, thus serving two terms. Year 2010 was the year of appointment of a new Vice-Chancellor and his body language indicated that he was interested in contesting. But when the then Council Chairman, Chief Wole Olanipekun asked those who were interested in contesting to excuse the Council, Prof. Banky stayed put, thus, confirming the speculation in some quarters that he had changed his mind. In Council, Professor Oke was always a delight. His presentations were always very lucid, his arguments were logical and sound just as his leaning towards the Management were not in doubt. However, he easily conceded whenever he saw where the direction of things would go.
Dr. Adeniran is of the Department of Veterinary Pathology, University of Ibadan.