64 Garlands For One Of The Remarkable Builders Of UI, Prof Abel Idowu Olayinka, FAS, FNMGS

At the critical phase in the life of nations, institutions, and even groups. there is often a man of the hour. It is arguably, however, whether the hour produces the man or is it the man who creates the socio-economic and political forces that propel him into greatness and celebrity.

In exceptional cases, you can have the outstanding man who is glaringly a product and at the same time a creator of the forces that determine the desired change and direction of development. It must be noted that the introduction of positive changes means going up the hill. This champion may meet challenges in any form in his journey.

Such an apostle of change with missionary zeal must be a man of courage, commitment, broad-mindedness, far-sightedness, innovation, cool nerves, temper, understanding, tolerance, and patience. He should be a man who is prepared to make sacrifices and whose critical assessment of situations will lead him to re-adjust and accommodate without losing his focus and assessment. Indeed, he must be a man to successfully take control and swim against the tide.

Today, I pay special tribute to the man who is both the creation of the moment and a creator of the forces for the sustainable growth of the University of Ibadan, Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka, FAS, FNMGS, the 12th substantive Vice-Chancellor, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria.

Born on 16 February 1958, Professor Olayinka, an A-rated geologist, is the first person to be appointed from the Faculty of Science as the VC since the University was established in 1948.

After graduating from Ilesa Grammar School, Professor Olayinka, proceeded to the premier University of Ibadan, where he studied Geology between 1977 and 1981, obtaining a B.Sc with Second Class Honours (Upper Division). He was a resident of Sultan Bello Hall where “nobility is our pride.”

Thereafter, he proceeded to the United Kingdom in September 1983 for his postgraduate studies at the Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine, where he obtained an M.Sc. (Geophysics) from the University of London and a Diploma of Membership of Imperial College, in July 1984.

He attended the University of Birmingham between 1985 to 1987 for his doctoral research, with sponsorship from the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals of United Kingdom Universities (now Universities UK).

His first post-doctoral journey was at the Institute for Geophysics and Meteorology, Technical University Braunschweig (1996) and the second was at the Department of Applied Geophysics, Technical University Berlin (1997-1999) as an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow.
Prof. Olayinka joined the services of the University of Ibadan in 1988. He rose through the ranks and was elevated to the grade of Professor on October 1, 1999, at the age of 41.

The immediate past VC belongs to many professional and academic bodies, notably Nigerian Academy of Science,
Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE) and the West African Research and Innovation Management Association (WARIMA), which he once served as its President.

He served the University in various capacities, including Head, Department of Geology, and Dean of the Postgraduate School. In July 2007, he was elected into the University’s Governing Council and his predecessor in office and mentor, Professor Isaac Folorunso Adewole, FAS, later nominated him as a candidate for the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) in December 2010. Five years later, the Governing Council of the University appointed him as the VC for a single term of five years.

In this regard, he understands the administration of a complex institution with people of different backgrounds, religions, and cultures like the University of Ibadan.
He is no doubt an outstanding scholar, resourceful administrator, and adept manager of human and material resources who contributed and still contributing to the development of the University, one of the foremost Universities in the world.

Prof. Olayinka’s career reveals one interesting phenomenon which cannot be ignored. It is the visible hand of providence in his education and training as if God arranged a programme to prepare him for the role he was to play in the affairs of the University of Ibadan, nay Nigeria.
In keeping a date with history, so pervasive were the achievements of Prof. Olayinka during his tenure as the UI’s VC with his bold accelerated development programme for the University.

Some of his achievements include, among others: (1) Expansion of the curriculum including the establishment of three new faculties; (2) Establishment of 14 new departments, and the introduction of fresh academic program including a B.Sc in Architecture, B.Sc in Environmental Health Sciences, M Sc. in Biomedical Engineering, M. Sc in Accounting, M.Sc in Banking and Finance and M.Sc in Marketing and Consumer Studies, despite dwindling financial resources; (3) Inauguration of the Aliko Dangote Complex at the UI School of Business (UISB); (4) Extension to the Bode Amao Creche and Nursery School Building; (5) Creation of a new position of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research, Innovation, and Strategic Partnerships) with Prof. Olanike K. Adeyemo (FAS, FAAS) being the first person to occupy this role. The position was approved by the Senate and Governing Council of the University in February 2017 and it became operational the following month. This position has since been recommended for all Federal Universities by the National Universities Commission (NUC); (6) Transformation of the Postgraduate School into a Postgraduate College headed by a Provost and two Deputy Provosts with Prof. Jonathan Babalola as the pioneer Provost; (7) Establishment of a Directorate of Affiliated Institutions; (8) Development of a Code of Ethics in Teaching and Service; (9) Delivery of Regular Capacity Building Workshops, including Monitoring and Evaluation for new Deans and Heads of Departments; (10) Convening of three Annual Research and Development Fairs
tagged UI-TOWN Connect; (10) Promotion of all categories of staff as and when due; (11) Creation of a Career Guidance and Counseling Centre for Students; (12) Regular Career Sensitisation Workshops and Master Class to improve the employability of UI graduates.

Professor Olayinka is a man of minimum words but maximum impacts. Among other qualities, he is institutional memory. One is marvelled at his deftness in recounting University’s historical events and dramatis personae with precision.

Another aspect of his life that impresses one is that he believes that ” it is better to leave, If you must, doing what you believe in, rather than to succumb with an aching heart and still leave.” All this is saying is that Professor Olayinka is a courageous experimentalist, undaunted by challenges, a creative thinker, firm in his convictions, and immovable once he is convinced about the righteousness of his cause. .Though, this, at times, may suffer a backlash! A classic example is when Professor Olayinka, after consultations, initiated a new numbering system for Inaugural Lectures, for ease of chronology and recall. Some members of the University community interrogated it and found certain errors in the wonderful enterprise. Mention must be made of Professor ‘Biyi Afonja, a world-class statistician and mentor of many generations of statisticians in the field of practice and studies who visited me in my former office in the Directorate of Public Communication, Alumni Centre, on 27 November, 2021 to complain about the misclassification in the numbering system for Inaugural Lectures. My gentle intervention on the matter was soothing to Pa Professor Afonja, and happily autographed two of his books to me. Later, I met Professor Olayinka in the Trenchard Hall of the University on the issue. Calmly, he said: “I understand, Baba Afonja is so passionate about his University as a proud alumnus. He wants an accurate record. Mr. Oladejo, we have to start from somewhere. We will make our corrections. Please assure him.”

According to Joe Parno, “success without honour is a seasoned dish, it will satisfy your hunger but it will not taste good.” This appears to be the thought of the Olubadan of Ibadanland and the Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII), the umbrella organization of all Ibadan indigenes all over the world, when it conferred the prestigious award of “The Most Outstanding Friend of Ibadanland (MOFI)” on Professor Olayinka “for outstanding performance in office as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan in March 2021.” “Seest thou a man diligent in his business, he shall sit before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.”- Prov. 22:29.

One is amazed at how Professor Olayinka can amass all these achievements in 64 years, and still counting!

Prof. Olayinka is found in the true resolve of the combination of strength and wisdom. It is a rare mixture! He has taken brilliance to a whole new level in our University. When you combine diligence with innovation, you arrive at someplace special. Sir, enjoy every bit of your success, you deserve it!

The joy and happiness of your special day are a continuation of God’s blessings in your life. May the glory of God continue to shine on you and your family as you celebrate your 64th birthday, and march on!


Olatunji Oladejo
Director, Ibadan University Press (Publishing House)
First Director of Public Communication, University of Ibadan (2012-2022)

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