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Olayinka and the restoration of peace at UI

By  Sunday Saanu

University of Ibadan (UI) Vice Chancellor, Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka, who turns 59 today, having been born on February 16, 1958 at Odo-ljesa, State of Osun State, is an absolutely down-to-earth, truthful and serious minded academic and administrator. Many are of the opinion that the VC, who is the 12th UI VC, does not know how to call a spade by any other name, other than a spade. Those who really know him have submitted that he can’t be a good politician because he will say it as it is. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons he had it rough with various unions on campus when he took over the mantle of leadership on December 1, 2015.       As if the current economic recession was awaiting his appointment, no sooner had he taken the job than the  national economy nosedived. Personnel subvention from Abuja substantially plummeted, with attendant reduction in salaries of workers. Staff members who had hitherto enjoyed luxuriant feasts under Prof. Isaac Adewole’s administration would not immediately understand that the fasting period had dawned in Nigeria as a result of corruption, greed and the crash in prices of crude oil. The union leaders, in their characteristic bravado to protect their posts, soon challenged the laconic VC to a frightening duel over shortage in salaries and non-payment of some allowances. They failed to appreciate that this was a national problem.  Consequently, the belligerent union leaders heaped on the beleaguered Prof. Olayinka, insults dripping with disdain, lies, and malice.  The VC was carricatured  and painted in colours that   bore no resemblance to the very wholesome man that  he is. Yet, he took all the undeserved vilifications  and vituperations  in his stride with malice towards none. Prof. Olayinka’s-catch phrase has always been “I applied for the job, nobody forced me into it, therefore I have to take the rough with the smooth.” When reminded that some people had made him the butt of cruel and rude jokes as a result of his inability to pay full salary, the humorous Olayinka retorted, “there is no problem, my next chieftaincy title should be “Ebudola”, roughly translated,  “insult has become wealth”    One of the pillars of his strength since he became the UI VC has been his  culture of transparency. Prof. Olayinka places every card on the table. He hides nothing from all and sundry. Whenever allocations or any money comes into the system, he will promptly call a meeting of major stakeholders, including the union leaders and student representatives. He will seek their opinion. The consensus at the meeting forms the plank of his decisions as he leads with his head held high. Again, he will write the university community and place the information in the public domain, using social media to reach all.     As calm as a millpond, it needs to be emphasised that Prof. Olayinka enjoys and radiates peace of mind. Irrespective of any circumstance, he largely remains  unruffled. Nothing intimidates him. Rather, he will resume early and close very late. He is so committed to the job. He likes reading assessors’ reports. He is always excited about it. This is because he does not joke with the career progression of his staff. Therefore, he will painstakingly read external and internal assessors’ reports to know the strengths and weaknesses of those seeking promotion.        To this end, 89 academics have so far been promoted to the Readership and Professorial cadres while non-teaching staff members have equally been promoted as due. It is to his credit that no file suffers unnecessary delay in his office. Prof. Olayinka is so meticulous that he does not sign any file or paper on the spur of the moment. He will think about it thoroughly before appending his signature        Having worked closely with him for more than a year now, I am in a better stead to describe Prof. Olayinka as a modest man. Everything about him speaks about his moderation.  From his dressing style to his personal house in a surburb of Ibadan, one can clearly see a man of few needs, who must have been so disgusted by the humongous  amount of money recovered by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in personal houses of some individuals across the country. As opposed  to those buying multi-million Naira  houses all over the place, Prof. Olayinka simply built a moderate duplex on a plot of land, with only two cars,  (one for his elegant wife, Dr. Eyiwumi  Olayinka and the other for the simple VC). He believes  every exhibitionism of opulence is mere vanity.    Again, the UI VC never bothers about the trappings of power . He is not given to  tooting his own trumpet. Yet, his temper constitutes the template for enviable conduct as he is always on his best behaviour  in all situations . However, looking at his face may not provide adequate  clues to the interpretation of his personality as his non- smiling visage could be  misleading! But those who are very close to him will not hesitate to call him a nice person loved by over 80 percent of the university community. He may somewhat appear an introvert, but his human relations skill is superb. He remains one of the few VCs in Nigeria who will not forget to felicitate with you on your birthday. He is available on social media and he uses the platform to get information and pass information across. Olayinka has a robust sense of humour. He cracks jokes a lot. However, when it comes to  disciplinary  matters, he does not take nonsense. He is  firm and decisive regarding rules and regulations. Recently, a Professor who was the Head of a Department (HOD), paid dearly for sloppiness: he was unceremoniously removed as HOD following his inability to follow rules and regulations. As a disciplinary measure, the erring academic was asked to refund three-years salaries collected by a lady who absconded from the university in connivance with the HOD! Prof. Olayinka, as the Chairman of the disciplinary committee, had to wield the big stick. He is as firm as that.      Although real achievements are not restricted to building gigantic structures, the VC says he will complete all on-going projects before embarking on new ones. Evidence shows that he is doing just that. Despite recession, he is prudently managing the resources in the university to achieve optimal performance and satisfaction. As he marks his birthday today, one can only pray that he lives much longer. Saanu writes from University of Ibadan      Prof. Olayinka attended St. Bartholomew’s Primary School, Odo-Ijesa, from 1964 to 1969 and he was appointed the Senior Prefect in his final year. He started honing his leadership skills from that tender age and these have stood him in good stead in later years. He was admitted into the famous Ilesa Grammar School in January 1970 and obtained 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 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) utilised this scholarship at the University of Birmingham for his Ph.D. research in Applied Geophysics, which he completed in April, 1988.

This is wishing the Vice Chancellor a happy birthday and many happy returns of day.

Saanu writes from University of Ibadan via [email protected]

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