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Appraising Prof. Olayinka, New UI VC




THE recent smooth leadership transition at the University of Ibadan clearly indicates that the level of political maturity among the academics is not only commendable but also serves as a big lesson to the political class.

Thirteen distinguished and eminent professors engaged in fierce battle to occupy the coveted position that would be vacant December 1, 2015. The five-year single tenure of the incumbent, Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole, runs out November 30.

The selection process, which began a couple of months ago, was indeed tough and tedious. But with transparency and honesty of purpose on the part of the Dr. Umaru Musa Mustapha-led governing council, a winner emerged without acrimony at the end of the rigorous exercise.

Since the announcement of the new vice-chancellor, there has been peace and jubilation. Nobody has threatened to go to court. None of the contestants is writing any petition. They gallantly conceded defeat in order to preserve the system. Nothing illustrates political maturity more. They should be commended for not heating up the system in pursuance of their ambition.

In the same vein, Dr. Mustapha and his team should be applauded for organising a credible and transparent system that produced Prof. Adewole’s successor. With this feat, UI has lived up to expectation as the first and best university in the country. It is not only providing academic leadership to other higher institutions in the country, University of Ibadan is equally leading politically, as there has not been a serious crisis over appointment of a vice chancellor, which is often tempestuous in other places.

But then, who is the winner of the contest? He is Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka of Faculty of Science, Geology Department. Born at Odo-Ijesa, Osun State on February 16, 1958, Prof. Olayinka attended St. Bartholomew’s Primary School, Odo-Ijesa, from 1964 to 1969 and was appointed senior prefect in his final year, as a result of his brilliance and exceptional performance.

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 (II Class Honours, Upper Division) in 1981. He was the best graduating student in his class.

He went 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 at the University of London and Diploma of Membership of Imperial College in July 1984.

He 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.

Prof. Olayinka had postdoctoral research experience in Germany, first at Technical University, Braunschweig, as a German Academic Exchange Service Visiting Scholar from April till August 1996 and later at Technical University, Berlin, as an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow from July 1997 till April 1999.

However, beyond sparkling academic attainments, the question remains: who exactly is Prof. Olayinka? Does he have what it takes to lead UI? Is he capable of taking UI to the next level? Is he popular among his peers? These are some of the questions this writer attempts to answer.

With extensive search and research into his background, using some common investigative tools including content analysis, observation and interview, the subject of investigation clearly comes across as an effective and efficient manager of men and materials who has positively impacted lives in the course of his career trajectory. Using his social media platforms to analyse what his admirers are saying about him, Prof. Olayinka is an embodiment of gentility, an epitome of simplicity, very unassuming, brilliant and kind to all and sundry.

As soon as he was unveiled as the 12th VC of Ibadan, his network of acquaintances, ex-students, admirers and friends, cutting across the strata of the society and regions bombarded his Facebook and Twitter accounts, fulsome in their tributes to a placid man of extra ordinary mental acuity. His two mobile sets literally collapsed following messages and calls. Going through some of the messages, one is convinced that Prof. Olayinka is not only popular but also generally perceived to be suited for the job.

A senior lecturer in the Department of Communication and Language Arts, Dr. Olusola Oyewo, described Prof. Olayinka as a chivalrous and courteous personality who treasures friendship and association. According to Oyewo, “Prof. Olayinka is a great leader. He never forgets to send me birthday messages every year, even without prompting. He is good for the job.” A non-teaching senior staff, Mr. Olumuyiwa Olusegun Soyanwo, echoed similar sentiment, painting the new VC as an admirable and unruffled scholar-administrator.

However, it could be observed that his naturally restrained physiognomy is much antithetical to his robust sense of humour, just as his laconic response to greetings largely betrays his reverential and deferential dispositions to people. Engage him in phatic communication, by saying, “Good morning, sir.” His response will be, “Ah! E pele.” (Well done) So short, almost curtly, yet he is harmless.  But when you meet him cracking jokes, you will never believe it is the same Prof. Olayinka who had just answered you as though you were an enemy. It is his nature; he is a man of few words with a large heart.

Prof. Olayinka’s popularity began to soar on campus in 2002 when he became the Dean of Postgraduate School. He displayed outstanding resourcefulness, foresight and dogged determination, as he repositioned the school as the flagship of postgraduate training in sub-saharan Africa. He used his fund-raising skill to ensure massive fund mobilisation with 253 per cent increase in total revenue generated.

Again, Prof. Olayinka and his team introduced overseas conference grants for postgraduate teachers after nearly 20-year period of inactivity of such scheme in the university. The UI PG school scholarship scheme is also to his credit, just as the UI PG School Teaching and Research Assistantship scheme was the product of his imagination.

When he was the Head of Department, and later the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic), his sterling qualities kept propelling the machinery of administration to the extent that those who saw his capacity foretold his ascension to the current position. As it is often said by the outgoing VC, Prof. Adewole, “anybody who is privileged to be the VC is not the best, the brightest and the most intelligent. Such a person is just the luckiest among the best.”

Therefore, as Prof. Olayinka takes over on December 1, 2015, it is expected that all other best and brightest in the community would support him to move the university to greater heights. Prof. Adewole has done so well. He has exceeded public expectation in performance. Prof. Olayinka must work harder to be adjudged better than his predecessor.
Prof. Olayinka is happily married to an elegant Dr. Eyiwumi Bolutito Olayinka. The union is blessed with children.

* Saanu is with the Directorate of Public Communication, University of Ibadan.

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