By Rotimi FASAN
TODAY, the first day of February, marks the golden jubilee birthday of Siyan Oyeweso, Professor of History, Provost College of Humanities and Culture and Chairman Committee of Provosts, Deans and Directors of Osun State University, Osogbo.
Oyeweso was one of those pioneers who, led by Professor Peter Okebukola and Sola Akinrinade, Council Chairman and Vice Chancellor respectively, left the comfort of their professions in some older universities in the country to begin the unique experiment of running a multi-campus university system in Osun State.
The university which was the 30th state university in Nigeria and the 80th university in the country, hence the ‘3080’ in its logo, evolved a unique funding formula that came from subventions from local governments in the State, one that is fast turning into a best practice in tertiary education funding in this part of the world.
That formula and aspects of the overall management style of the university, still being fine-tuned and perfected, today serve as a model that is being emulated by other new comers to university administration in Nigeria. Establishing the university is one of those things that can be counted in favour of the Olagunsoye Oyinlola administration, especially now that the joint ownership of Ladoke Akintola University by Oyo and Osun proves ever acrimonious, hanging the fate of both staff and students of the institution in the balance.
Wisdom thus demands that any consideration of adjustment to the present funding/tuition style should be well-informed, done with input from present administrators and against the backdrop of similar adjustments across universities in the country.
With six campuses spread across six geopolitical zones in the State, Osun State University presents unique managerial challenges that could only have been met by some of the unique individuals that pioneered its establishment. Siyan Oyeweso, as the first Provost of the College of Humanities and Culture, was one of such individuals and the College could be rightly called his baby.
The milieu that now serves as the location of the College of Humanities and Culture in Ikire was one vast wilderness in one corner of the sleepy community famous for its unique recipe of fried plantain called dodo Ikire. Even as the tractors continue to tame the rawness of nature, beat back the wilderness as the University population grows, no first time visitor to the environment would fail to notice signs of the dogged human efforts that must have gone into turning the stubborn topography of Ikire that defies the drilling of boreholes into its present state of relative civilisation.
The credit for this should go no less to the man, Siyan, who led the march to roll back the wilds, who was and is still the leader of the ‘thinking’ machine that undertook the task of bringing modern university management to an area many might be inclined to call a backwater of development.
The credit, I stress, for this unique management of resources and human engineering should go no less to Siyan Oyeweso, leader of the team of managers, than to the University Management and the State that provided the resources for the initiative. And talking about resources, a lot what has gone into the transformation of the College came, not unexpectedly for a pioneer, by way of personal contributions from Siyan Oyeweso. This much has been confirmed by several of those who were part of the initial move to Ikire as is being attested by ongoing effort at improving what’s already on ground.
It was no mean feat bringing things to their present state. All credit to the people on ground. In about five months time, the first set of graduates from Osun State University would leave the portals of the various Colleges that played host to them four years ago. The path of the pioneer is never easy and in the specific case of the College of Humanities and Culture uneasy, indeed, was the head that wore the crown.
Much effort went into moulding the minds and bodies of these students, many of whom were entrusted into the personal care of their provost and lecturers who played the role of parents, guardians and instructors rolled into one. There was the question of taming the wild exuberances of the students, many of whom were coming straight from secondary school, leaving home for the first time, and managing their relationship with their host community, a matter that continues to task the human management skills of the College authorities.
But in all this, the College of Humanities and Culture has been able to balance scholarly achievement against moral and social skills. This no doubt owes a lot to the human-oriented leadership of highly motivated, self-starting staff led Professor Oyeweso. This leadership style has seen the College achieving full accreditation in the National Universities Commission’s moderated exercise for the various programmes on its curriculum.
In an academic career that began at the University of Ilorin and has spanned nearly 25 years, the experience gathered over the years places Oyeweso in good stead for higher responsibilities: either as Vice Chancellor or such other position. Having served variously as Head of General Studies Unit, Head of Department of History and Strategic Studies which name change he initiated with others (from simply Department of History) resulted in the rejuvenation of interest in History as a discipline, and later Dean, Faculty of Arts, all at the Lagos State University where he was originally appointed Professor of History, Siyan Oyeweso has paid his dues and seems poised for higher responsibilities indeed. One of Professor Oyeweso’s special interests is the History of War.
But not being warlike his birthday, today, would be marked by a public lecture. As a man of culture, he had been ushered into the 50s Club by a roundtable discussion around his scholarship on 31st of January and a special poetry/performance evening attended by distinguished poets, performers and writers from within and outside Osun State including former president of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Odia Ofeimun and members of ANA from Osun and Oyo States.
The performance session was also meant to inaugurate the Creative Arts Club of Osun State University, a body that would serve as avenue for the ventilation of creativity among students of the institution. A gregarious personality and veritable man of the people whose popularity extends well beyond his College, Professor Oyeweso possesses a large heart, one so large that it sometimes fails to discriminate between the deserving and not-so-deserving beneficiaries of his generosity.
As he enters his golden years, it would be hoped that he would slow down a bit more, create more time for rest and be more circumspect in the dispensation of favours.
This is to wish this distinguished son of Ede, the Chief Historian, Baapitan, of Lagos many more health-filled and happy years.