On November 30, Prof. Isaac Adewole bowed out as University of Ibadan (UI) Vice Chancellor (VC) after a four-year tenure. The professor of Medicine will hand over to the incoming VC, Prof Idowu Olayinka, a geologist. BISI OLADELE examines how Olayinka beat five others to become the premier university’s 12th Vice Chancellor.
Wednesday, September 9, will remain a memorable day in the life of Vice Chancellor-designate, University of Ibadan (UI), Prof Abel Idowu Olayinka. It was the day he was unveiled as the man to steer the affairs of the premier university for five years beginning from December 1.
Olayinka beat Prof Ayodeji Oluleye and Prof David Olaleye to emerge UI’s 12th Vice Chancellor. The three were recommended after the interview stage. It was learnt that Oluleye and Olaleye tied in the second place behind Olayinka who came first.
The process started six months ago, with the advertisement for the position following the approval of the Governing Council.
A search team was constituted. The committee was responsible for fishing out suitable candidates anywhere in Nigeria who may not have applied. The five-member committee succeeded in fishing out Prof. Muphtha Adekunle Smith from the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) and Prof. Oluwole Olanrewaju Adedeji of the Lagos State University. They joined 11 others who applied for the post.
A Selection Committee headed by the Pro-Chancellor, Dr Umar Musa Mustapha was raised. Its members were Prof J. O Babayemi and Prof K. Adebowale, both of the university senate.
They shortlisted six candidates and three scaled the interview process that produced Olayinka.
Though one of the candidates (name withheld), claimed the process was not that transparent, many of those interviewed by The Nation said it was legal and conformed to laid-down regulations.
Factors that worked in Olayinka’s favour
Aside meeting all the academic and legal requirements for the post, some factors worked in favour of the VC-designate.
Old students/critical caucus factor:
There are some caucuses regarded as critical stakeholders within the university. They are made up of many influential professors, a good number of who are long serving and well-connected teachers, and some old students.
Their members belong to core decision-making bodies such as the governing council, senate and hold key positions including being chairmen of key committees, deans of faculties and other administrative arms of the university.
The caucuses are like political blocs which largely determine who gets what plum appointments in the institution.
Olayinka is said to belong to the caucus that currently holds sway in the system. It is believed that the caucus also favours the outgoing VC.
Some members of the caucus attended the same secondary school or have been colleagues on several assignments and share similar worldview and ideology, helping them to bond easily.
Sources say the caucus backed Olayinka to pave way for continuity of Prof. Adewole’s works.
Adewole is perceived as a high performer who upgraded the functionality of the entire system and sustained a cordial relationship with both students and labour unions during his five-year tenure.
There were claims that the influence of the caucus swayed the results in Olayinka’s favour. Adewole was even said to have attended the interview for Olayinka’s selection, which he is not allowed to as a sitting vice chancellor.
However, Adewole denied all suggestions that the process was fraudulent. He also said he did not attend the interview.
He said: “I am not aware of any fraud. I did not attend any interview. What happened was that there was an advertisement. Council met on Monday to produce a shortlist of candidates who needed to be interviewed and as a member of Council I was there when Council shortlisted. But by law, I was not a member of the joint Senate-Council committee that interviewed the shortlisted candidates. I was not there. Council met on Wednesday morning to ratify the recommendation of the joint Council-Senate committee and I was there again to look at the report.
There was never a fraud, nobody reported fraud and I was not at any meeting of the joint Senate-Council committee. I was not there to interview any candidate.”
Support from the labour unions
The various workers’ unions in the university have the back of the new Vice Chancellor designate, who they described as a people’s person. They hailed his emergence with the expectation that he would be a leader that would seek the well-being of all workers.
Chairman of the institution’s branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Dr Segun Ajiboye, said the process that produced him was thorough and that he is acceptable to them.
“In my considered opinion, the process that led to the emergence of Prof Idowu Olayinka as the next UI VC is credible, fair and thorough. All the laid down processes governing appointment of VC in UI have been judiciously followed. The peace that prevails in the university after the announcement is a good indication of general acceptability of the VC Designate,” he said.
Chairman of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) Chairman, Mr Wale Akinremi, also described Olayinka as “acceptable and respected by all.”
With his performance in previous positions of authority, Akinremi said the workers were hopeful of a cordial relationship with him.
“He has held positions of leadership before this new assignment and we at SSANU level can attest to his ability to warm himself into the hearts of the people,” he said.
Mr Saka Ogundele, Chairman, National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), said the rooted for Olayinka because of their love for him.
“We are party to his emergence. He is a man that will deliver and follow the good steps of the outgoing VC,” he said.
World-class recognition and rich administrative experience
Olayinka is known as a world-class scholar and researcher in his area of specialization – Geophysics. Having obtained his M. Sc. and PhD in two different universities in England at different times with post-doctoral studies in Germany under scholarships, Olayinka, is credited to have attracted grants and scholarships to UI, which may have worked in his favour.
He was adjudged to possess the ability to attract more grants if given the chance to emerge as the helmsman.
A senior lecturer in the Department of Geology, Dr Akinade Olatunji, confirmed to The Nation that Olayinka’s tenure as the head of the department, witnessed the inflow of some grants and partnerships which brought immense benefits to both students and workers.
For instance, Olatunji recalled that some important equipment was donated to the department through his fellowship in Germany.
“That was the beginning of building of modern equipment in the department,” he said.
He explained further that during Olayinka’s tenure as the Head of Department (HOD), the department benefitted from the Esso Exploration and Production Nigeria Ltd’s grant which covers sponsorship of field work training for 300-Level students for five years.
He also recalled that during his tenure as HOD, he developed a robust relationship between the department and alumni which eventually led to the establishment of the Petrological Laboratory in the department. According to him, the quality of the laboratory is such that can compete with any other in the world. The don also pointed out that there is hardly any of such laboratories in Nigeria in terms of space and modern equipment.
“Sometimes, grant is about the character of the HOD. The way he also related with industry stakeholders was excellent and his successors have been building on that since then,” Dr Olatunji added.
Apart from serving as HOD, Olayinka has served as Dean of Postgraduate School and Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) of the institution.
His tenure is remembered for his encouragement of scholarship and scholarly publications, mentoring of emerging scholars and capacity building for writing competitive grant proposals. He has an impressive record of fund mobilization and management.
He has received travel grants from and served as consultant to many organisations. Sources said all these were remembered during his screening as working in his favour.
Stakeholders’ expectations of the new VC
Now that Olayinka is in, he has his work cut out for him. The outgoing vice chancellor, Prof Adewole, described the university as “work-in-progress”. He said he has done his part of the job, leaving UI better than he left it; and charged Olayinka to do the same and complete the work he left behind.
He said: “I met UI as work-in-progress; I’m leaving it fulfilled but still as work-in-progress. I came on board at a time when workers were low in spirit – salaries did not come regularly. In the course of our administration, we regularised the payment of all the salaries; we cleared up promotion arrears and we are up-to-date.
So, in terms of welfare which we committed ourselves to, I think we’ve done well and we can beat our chest and thank God for what we’ve been able to do. In terms of infrastructure, we added to what we met on ground and I think that’s the beauty.
We met an excellent road into an uncharted territory and we are putting structures there. We appreciate our predecessors for building that road but we know that if someone could build a road into an uncharted territory, the signal to you is that develop the place and we’ve done that. The new vice chancellor should complete ongoing projects.”
SSANU Chairman, Mr Wale Akinremi, wants the incoming helmsman to take practical steps to confront issues affecting the workers, and regulate the calendar.
“He knows the issues concerning members of staff and since he is one of us, we are hopeful that he shall endeavour to promote equity, justice and fairness. We are also hopeful of a University of Ibadan that will begin to run the proper academic calendar. We want an improvement on the achievements of his predecessor,” he said.
On his part, Chairman of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Allied Institutions (NASU), Mr Segun Arojo, said the union would address issues they want sorted out when the vice chancellor steps into office.
“There are demands but we will want him to settle down first. We pray God to give the new VC understanding,” he said.
President of the Students Union, Odesola Oluwafemi Victor, expects the incoming vice chancellor to listen to his students and address problems with the hostels.
“We expect that Prof. Olayinka to continue the good work of Prof. Adewole. He should have a listening ear and be welcoming to constructive criticism. Most importantly, the students expect that the various issues in halls of residence be fixed, independent unionism be encouraged totally as it is a platform for raising progressive leaders; and most importantly that the welfare of students should be a top priority target of his administration.”
Olayinka has already given a response to that. In his inaugural address, he said he would give priority to students of the university.
“The students are going to be the core of our programmes while we will not neglect the staff. We will fasttrack accelerated development through consolidation,” he said.