Professor Idowu Akanbi Sobowale, described as a “teacher of teachers”, administrator par excellence, astute manager of men and resources and an opinion leader, is a veritable example of how a man can make significant and far-reaching contributions to the development of his country without necessarily occupying any high office.
Professor Sobowale is not a politician, nor did fate ever draft him into the office of the vice chancellor of any university, a position he is eminently qualified to occupy. But his name has gone down history as one of the founding fathers of the Lagos State University, LASU.
Before his forays into education, Sobowale had a distinguished career as a journalist. Born March 29, 1941 in Ashipa, a small town near Abeokuta, of a humble background, he began his elementary education in 1954 at the age of 14.
He attended the Lagos Baptist Academy, graduating in 1964. Later, he was employed by the Lagos City Council as a health inspector – a job he did for only six days because he met by chance the late Chief Bisi Onabanjo, a fellow alumnus of Baptist Academy and first elected Governor of Ogun State. Chief Bisi Onabanjo introduced Sobowale to Mr. Babatunde Jose, the editor of the Daily Timeswho gave him a job in the newspaper.
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He later attended the University of Lagos, UNILAG, from where he earned a Diploma and BA (HONS) degree in Mass Communication. In 1975, he left the Daily Times to join UNILAG as assistant lecturer in the Institute of Mass Communication. After one year at UNILAG, Sobowale left for Syracuse University, USA, for his Master’s degree. He returned in 1978 with a PhD, specialising in Scientific Journalism.
From UNILAG, Idowu Sobowale introduced Opinion Polling to Nigerian journalism by establishing a public opinion polling desk at The PunchNewspapers under the leadership of Mr. Sam Amuka. He later became a Special Assistant to the former Governor of Lagos State, the late Alhaji Lateef Jakande. According to Professor Abisogun Leigh, a former Vice Chancellor of LASU, there were two people who instigated the idea of establishing LASU: Idowu Sobowale and the late Professor Femi Agbalajobi.
Between 1999 and 2003, Sobowale served as the Lagos State Commissioner for Education. Later, he was appointed a Professor of Journalism by the Lagos State University. Idowu Sobowale became the pioneer Dean of LASU School of Communication (2004-2007). After his tenure, he moved on to the Olabisi Onabanjo University in his home state, Ogun. For his contributions to national development, former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, decorated him with the Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON).
At the age of 80, we wish Professor Idowu Sobowale more years ahead in good health and greater prosperity.