By Emeka Obasi
All eyes are on University of Ibadan as 18 professor target the position of Vice Chancellor which becomes vacant the moment Professor Abel Idowu Olayinka steps aside on November 30, 2020 after five years of meritorious service.
The good news is that the geologist is leaving with head still firmly placed on his neck. Unlike the biblical Abel, there was no Cain around to take him out of existence. Olayinka had friends, did his job and refused to tag them as enemies even when events could have been misconstrued.
I always keep an eye on Ibadan because there is something between the university and History. The first African Vice Chancellor, Professor Kenneth Dike was the first Nigerian professor of History. Two other Vice Chancellors, Tekena Tamuno and Omoniyi Adewoye studied History too. Another product of UI, Jacob Festus Ade-Ajayi, an equally distingushed Historian, moved to University of Lagos as Vice Chancellor.
For those who are not versed in History, Ibadan has affected Nigerian historical development a great deal. This institution that produced Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna. It is the place of Professor Wole Soyinka, the home of Professor Chinua Achebe, John Pepper Clark and Chris Okigbo.
We have to remember Emeka Anyaoku, Grace Alele -Williams, Bola Ige and Gamaliel Onosode. No other Nigerian university can boast of the first Nobel Laureate, first Commonwealth Secretary General of African descent and first female Vice Chancellor.
We must salute the courage of Soyinka who stormed the Radio House in Ibadan, ready to blast the announcer if his pro-Obafemi Awolowo speech was not treated with the speed of lightening. He dared, was jailed and came out a hero, receiving long-overdue apologies from his persecutor Gen. Yakubu Gowon.
Okigbo, the poet, was even more daring. As a crash programme major in the Biafran Army, he went after an armoured car with a grenade at Opi, near Nsukka. That was the last anyone saw of him but his works are still very much alive.
Another buddy was not spared. He was in the group of officials who tampered with electricity metre in their homes. Olayinka was godfather to this man’s son and both men visited Germany together. Discipline took centre stage when an offence was established.
The VC also makes things happen. There is the case of Dr. Ajayi of the Linguistics department who was seconded to the Registrar’s office as Head of Human Resource.
He applied for Leave of Absence without pay to pursue a fellowship in Germany. When Olayinka saw the application, he was moved.
“When I got his letter, I said why should this gentleman go to Germany without pay. I changed it that it should be study leave with pay,” the professor told the Guardian.
Michael Ola Bolaji, an engineer, describes the professor as a ‘worthy Ambassador of Christ’. This was because as Dean of the Post Graduate School, he allowed the driver attached to his office to enjoy the services of the official bus during the funeral of a close relation.
Today UI is the best university in West Africa as well as Nigeria’s number one courtesy of the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings. It is also among the best 500 globally.
Prof. Tunji Olaopa, a retired Federal Perm. Sec. thinks it “ speaks volumes about the cumulative and ongoing reform efforts of the past helmsmen of the university, and especially, the sustained driving energy of the incumbent Vice Chancellor, Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka.”
Olayinka is an Ijesha Yoruba. Small wonder. They are so liberal. The President of Ijesha Progressive Association of Canada (IPAC), is Okey Okeke, from Enugu.
The husband of Dr. Eyiwunmi Bolutito Olayinka, who teaches European Languages at the University of Ibadan sees himself as ‘ lover of Jesus’. In 1977, he was a freshman, lecturer in 1988 and professor in 1999.
And the Ijesha spirit is all over this VC who exudes the confidence Ogedengbe. It is in their blood. They produced the first female Minister of Defence, Erelu Olusola Obada.