HIS initial ambition was to become a farmer, for he was of the opinion that “farmers are kings “. However, providence seemed to have a better plan by boosting his intellectual fecundity, thus, becoming a cynosure of all eyes among his peers, following his exceptional academic brilliance.
Interestingly, yesterday’s potential farmer is today, the Vice Chancellor of Nigeria’s premier university, University of Ibadan (UI), Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka who is marking his 58th year in the land of the living this day.
Born at Odo-Ijesa, Osun State on February 16th, 1958, the young Olayinka who attended St. Bartholomew’s Primary School, Odo-Ijesa from 1964 to 1969 was appointed the senior prefect in his final year as a result of his dazzling academic performance.
The latent prodigious academic excellence keeps trailing his track throughout his academic pursuits, which ultimately culminated into his appointment last year as the 12th UI VC. Humble and unassuming, Prof. Olayinka, like President Muhammadu Buhari is extremely abstemious and frugal- the kind of a leader required by the current economic reality. Taking over on 1 December 2015, Olayinka has remained in thinking, radical in orientation, courageous in conviction and empathetic in his relationships; a human relations expert of persons, irrespective of status and position.
While on familiarisation tour to all faculties, departments, centres and units across the university campus recently, he easily recalled individual’s names, crack jokes and share some past stories regarding their departments. He takes pleasure in mentally storing people’s names as well as their birthday dates. However, his mission is to guarantee optimal human happiness, hence his decision to abandon personal comfort for the betterment of people. He has always been in his proverbial beehive to produce honey for the people. Just as great life comes with great trials, tribulations and travails, the UI boss has not been having it all smooth sailing, but he has been courageous. Olayinka experienced the first baptism of fire from the university workers.
The monthly allocation from the federal government was insufficient to pay salaries. Certain allowances had to be withdrawn by the management; workers insisted that their allowances must be intact. Pronto, the gate was locked in protest! Fiasco is the word. But the VC has been upbeat, radiating courage and strength, assessing various options to explore in order to quickly overcome the challenge. It is expected that a truce will be reached as soon as possible.
Certainly, the current economic hardship is a major wound in his vision for the university, but he is determined to turn the wound to wisdom. Having served as Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) for two terms under his predecessor, Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole, Prof. Olayinka has seen a great deal as a participant-observer, hence his experience to take UI to greater heights. Assessing him critically, one comes away with an impression of a strategically alert, consummate ‘multi-tasker’ who passionately hates disregard for deadline. He is in agreement with an American motivational writer, William Arthur Ward who says, “a well developed sense of humour is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life”.
Prof. Olayinka hates assumption, for he believes that assumption is the lowest form of knowledge. Therefore, he tremendously enjoys reading different maps of the same territory before launching any offensive. His wife, Dr. Mrs Eyiwumi Bolutito Olayinka is as friendly as she is dutiful, manifesting a study in unity and love for the family. Prof. Olayinka is not only lucky in terms of quality of his family but also with regard to the people he will be working with. With Prof. Ambrose Emilolorun Ayelari as deputy vice chancellor (Administration), Prof. Gbemisola Oke, deputy VC (academic), the Registrar, Mr. Olujimi Olukoya, the Bursar, Mr. Michael Alatishe and the Librarian, Dr. Benedict Oladele, the VC has the potential to bring home the bacon.
Prof. Olayinka was admitted into the famous Ilesa Grammar School in January 1970 and completed his West African Secondary School Certificate in 1975, in Division One. He entered the University of Ibadan during the 1977/78 session to study Geology. He graduated with a BSc degree (2nd Class Honours, Upper Division) in 1981 and he was the best graduating student in his class.
He undertook the National Youth Service Corps Scheme from August 1981 till July 1982 with the Hydrogeology and Hydrology Division of the Federal Department of Water Resources, Port Harcourt. He was privileged to participate as a Site Geologist in the National Borehole Programme, Phase 1, in the old Rivers State (now Rivers and Bayelsa states). He worked as a Geologist with Deptol Consultants from August 1982 till September1983 during which time he was involved in extensive fieldwork for hydrogeological investigations in Kaduna, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Taraba states.
Prof. Olayinka 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 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.
He 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.
He took up appointment at his alma mater, Nigeria’s premier university, the ‘First and the Best’, the prestigious University of Ibadan, as a Lecturer Grade II in Applied Geophysics in the Department of Geology on April 21st, 1988.
• Saanu is with the Directorate of Public Communication, University of Ibadan [email protected]