OAU: Applying the Omole balm


•Why I’m in a hurry to perform – VC


Even at 51, Obafemi Awolowo University, (OAU), Ile Ife, Osun State is still soaring, reaching for greater heights, both in academics and research.

Calling the shots as the Vice Chancellor is an alumnus of the institution, Bamitale Omole, a professor of International Relations who came on board in 2011 for a five-year term.

Education Review reliably gathered that he was one VC in the history of the university that his appointment was devoid of petitions; at least not from the ‘’aluta’’ Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) or any other association in the Ivory Tower.

This shows the consensus of his acceptance by all stakeholders in the university. During an encounter with Education Review, Omole, the 10th VC and third alumnus to lead the university which was recently ranked, first in Nigeria and the 14th in Africa, assured that the institution would not rest on its oars.

Truly, the Omole balm is working as evidenced by the recent leap from a distant 79th to the 14th position in Webometric’s world’s universities ranking.

“Before I became the Vice Chancellor, we were 79th in Africa and I remember very well that during my campaign I said within the next five years, OAU should rank among the 30th best in Africa. It is a thing of joy for me that just last month, we were ranked 14th in Africa and first in Nigeria,”. “

We deserve the recent ranking as the first in Nigeria and the 14th in Africa and I want to assure that we will not rest on our oars as our best is yet to come.’’ A pastor of the Foursquare Gospel Church, Omole said the result of the ranking was an attestation and affirmation that hard work, commitment and perseverance really pay. “Gradually, we are getting there, but we will remain focused and not be distracted by the euphoria of the ranking.

We will continue to soar in morals and academic standards as well as in researches. I will continue to improve on the standards already set by my predecessors.” Omole, a man driven by vision, rather than ambition, is embarking on many projects, including academic and infrastructural development in the university to the delight of the alumni, the students as well as lecturers.

Among these is the scaling up of the Information Communication Technology (ICT) which enables lecturers to upload students’ results within a stipulated period as well as provide convenient way for the latter to access their results. Omole believes in the private sector participation to further add to the university’s legacies in infrastructural developments. Many projects that have been abandoned as far back as 1982, are currently being completed by Omole.

Prominent among these is the Environmental Design and Management Building, and the Ecological Department, among others. The old popular “buka’’ (cafeteria) within the campus has given way to a modern building which is currently under construction, while a new central market has also sprung up to accommodate many shops and offices with parking lot and security network.

“We believe OAU, Ile Ife, is a brand, I can’t finish everything. I am building on what my predecessors built, and myself, my team are committed to total transformation of this great university.’’ In a recent interview with Education Review, he spoke on various issues:

Why I contested for vice chancellorship

I was motivated to seek the office of the Vice Chancellor because a tradition of integrity, good and open governance, transparency, hard work, recognition, reward of excellence and diligence among the university workforce should be entrenched and institutionalized. Personal challenges It has been very exciting, but exceedingly challenging in my life as the VC of this great university.

I am an alumnus, the third to become VC in the university, so I can’t afford to fail. That’s why you see me working as if I will quit office tomorrow. I must not deceive you, it is very stressful, but I am enjoying the fun and challenges.

I am motivated by the past efforts of my predecessors in office who toiled day and night to ensure that OAU remains the best in this country even after it marked its golden jubilee in 2012. No doubt, there are challenges confronting the university system which is not peculiar to us alone, but I don’t allow them to weigh me and my team down.

Students/lecturers welfare

We are doing our best in the areas that you mentioned and I want to tell you that my over 25 years as a university teacher, researcher and administrator have revealed that giving due attention to staff and students welfare issues is a sine qua non for peace, stability and industrial harmony on campus. It is my desire to allocate an expanse of land to estate developers for construction of personal houses to staff members as well as to encourage cooperative thrift and credit unions on campus to acquire spaces for development of staff housing. One of the things I did when I came on board was to get mini-cars that ply our campus. We don’t even go to town.

The political economy of this is not to ruffle feathers with the National Union of Road Transport Union (NURTW). The students’ population in this university is about 35,000 and of this, we have about 12,000 in the hostel, so you could see that just a third of the population of our students are accommodated by us.

Aside from that, we have a place we now call student village, so many of them are now coping with the annual rent. In the nearest future, we intend to have more of such hostels to cater for the needs of our rising student population. Many of our alumni are also hearkening to the university’s clarion calls to come and develop their alma-mater and they are doing well in this regard.

Relationship with students

Students-management relationship 20 years ago has changed and so VCs must change with times for them to be able to get the best from their students. We are literarily in a global world seamless world where technology and not ideology rules the world. It is in the interest of any VC who wants to do well in office to know the whims and caprices of his students; be friendly with them, yet be firm.

Challenges facing OAU

There are many, but I am glad to tell you that we are gradually surmounting them through prayers and commitment of the Senate members who are desirous of making the university a reference point in both academics and researches.

My vision for OAU

I envision an OAU standing in the forefront of social, scientific, cultural and technological renaissance in Nigeria and Africa. These ideals and beliefs have been the fulcrum of my contributions and interventions in the development of the university since 1986. We are yet to get there, there is a lot we can do, but we are trying our best.

Few months ago, we won a World Bank project, the Craft Computing and Tele-printing project, a 3D new generation in ICT, whereby a student will be performing experiments here in Nigeria and supervisors will be giving instructions in Harvard or anywhere in the world in the real on-time without any lacuna!

This is how far we have gone and I am very happy with this feat, that out of eight universities that bid, OAU was chosen. Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) efforts We are doing our best in this area, particularly with our investment company which is manned by an experienced person.

Partnering the alumni

When government was giving enough fund, many universities did not bother about their alumni, but now that the “father’’ appears to have too many children, “he’’ has to look outside, not to commit adultery, but to be involved in other businesses which will bring money to take care of her many children. That’s exactly what we are doing in our university now, because the Federal Government is now a polygamous father with many children to cater for.

Many of our alumni are assisting their alma mater. Why I stopped teaching as VC I was teaching soon after my appointment but recently I had to stop because the demands of the office were making it difficult for me to teach.

But I still examine my students; I just finished examining a PhD and some Master’s degree students. Very few VC still find time to do this. What the office has taken away from me

The work in the VC’s office in Ife is such time consuming that if care is not taken, an occupant of such a seat may lose his family life, his life, his faith or his friends because you get to office around 8.00 a.m, the earliest time I would leave is 10 p.m. Even after leaving office, there are pockets of people who want to see you at home after which you manage to eat and take the shower.

It is interesting, but challenging appointment, but with God on my side, I am doing my best.

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