By Adegbenro Adebanjo
There are many highpoints and key achievements that will be credited to the tenure of Professor Joseph Adeola Fuwape, the Seventh substantive Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, FUTA. But there will always be the consensus by all and sundry, particularly the chroniclers of higher education history in Nigeria that the establishment of FUTA’s College of Health Sciences and the admission of the pioneer set of Medical students in the 2021/2022 academic session is certainly the flagship accomplishment of his tenure that spanned May 24, 2017 to May 23, 2022.
Before him, the seed of the commencement of Medical programme in FUTA was planted, but it was Fuwape and his team that watered that seed to germination. And the approval from the National Universities Commission, NUC and the inauguration of the Medical programme that will culminate in the award of Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, MB.BS Degree is the icing on the cake for a Vice Chancellor who came on board with a promise to improve the quality of academic programmes through expansion and restructuring of the academic curricula of the country’s leading specialised institution higher learning.
Fuwape not only successfully birthed the medical programme but his tenure also witnessed the consolidation of the position of FUTA as the country’s best University of Technology and one of the leading higher institutions among its peers. The Council for the Registration of Engineering in Nigeria, COREN put things in perspective during its working visit to assess the Engineering programme in FUTA in 2021; “The eight departments in the School of Engineering and Engineering Technology -Mining, Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Industrial and Production. Engineering, Metallurgical and material Engineering and Agric Engineering- are of acceptable standard. The strength of the Engineering, programs includes expansion of the University Library thereby increasing the sitting capacity and Library holding, adequate equipment in the Central Research Laboratory especially with the recent acquisition of high-performance Chromatography equipment. The E-Library is provided with fast and accessible internet facilities, top ranking and highly qualified experienced lecturers in all the Engineering Departments and a very serene and well-trimmed maintained lawn which makes the environment academically inviting.”
Under Fuwape’s watch there was marked improvement in the quality and quantum of academic programmes with the establishment of programmes in mechatronics and chemical engineering, Cyber Security, Human Anatomy among others.
Product development by students and members of FUTA Faculty also featured prominently during the Fuwape era. Solar Power Box, software application which notifies users about availability of public power supply remotely ,self-propelled water hyacinth harvester , contact less payment system , hybrid tomatoes with longer shelf life , human detection robot , smart walking stick , gas leakage detector ,groundnut shelling device with separator are some of the products , with some already patented ,that signposted the period.
To keep pace with advancement in sensor design and technology on weather related issues, Professor Joseph Fuwape commissioned a newly installed 4th Generation ATMOS 41 Automatic Weather Station (AWS) at the WASCAL Centre, FUTA. This is an upgrade of the 1st Generation Trans-African Hydro-Meteorological Observatory (TAHMO) Automatic Weather Station (AWS) which was installed at the WASCAL Meteorological Observatory at the Federal University of Technology, Akure in 2014 as the first TAHMO Station in Nigeria.
The University also fully came into its own as Centre of Excellence in Research, Innovation and Product development. In the 2020 TETFUND National Research Foundation NRF exercise released in 2021 the Obafemi Awolowo University won the highest number of grants followed by the University of Lagos and FUTA which came third leading other specialized universities in the country with 14 grants for researches in critical areas of needs.
Perhaps one of the best exemplifications of FUTA’s ascendancy under Fuwape, as a research intensive University, is the feat achieved by a lecturer, Dr Gideon Idowu who emerged the winner of the 2021 Jennifer Ward Oppenheimer (JWO) Research Grant for Africa. According to the organizers of the yearly grant, Dr Idowu won the award after his entry was adjudged the best from a pool of 292 entries from applicants from 27 African Countries. The grant is under the aegis of the Oppenheimer Generations Research & Conservation. Idowu is working on, “Micro plastics and plastic-derived chemical contaminants in Africa: implication on human health and the loss of aquatic biodiversity.”
Professor Folasade Olajuyigbe of the Department of Biochemistry also won a highly competitive grant from the International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) based in Italy. Through the grant she would spearhead the hosting of an international workshop on Laboratory Techniques in Molecular Biology and Enzyme Engineering for Sustainable Bioenergy.
And it was under Fuwape’s leadership that a professor of Applied Biochemistry Ganiyu Oboh was ranked as Number One in the 2021 ranking of Nigerian scientists by the influential and leading global ranking body, the AD Scientific Index via its 2021 world’s scientists and university rankings. Oboh was trailed by Professor Olatunbi Farombi, University of Ibadan, and Professor Obinna Onwujekwe, University of Nigeria in second and third place respectively. For the Institution ranking, University of Ibadan was ranked Number 1, followed by University of Nigeria, University of Calabar, FUTA and Ahmadu Bello University in 2nd, 3RD, 4th and 5th respectively.
During his era , FUTA students won first position in the 2019 National Statistics Competition for University students, First position ,Nigerian Universities Cyber Security Competition, First Position in 2018 Microsoft Imagine Digital Competition for Nigerian Universities, 10 out of 20 MasterCard’s International Scholarship for students tenable at the University of British Columbia in 2018, Gold medal at the 2018 Creative Architects Competition , First Position at 2019 Block Chain Hackathon ,Competition at Nile University ,Abuja ,First Position at 2021 Committee of Deans of Engineering Technology of Nigeria Competition and several other distinctions.
The Fuwape epoch also witnessed the expansion the University’s internationalisation and globalisation drive and better deployment of ICT in learning and research. For instance a state-of-the-art Cyber Security Laboratory was commissioned on the 26th November 2021. The laboratory is equipped with 30 desktops computers, smart televisions, 3 switches, projector, 1server and server rack, which has a fibre optic backbone connection. The laboratory is also equipped with top of the range facilities to collect cyber threats and attack data. The state-of-the-art facilities in the lab also include computers with windows and Linux operating systems installed with contemporary cyber security training software. It also has fully installed Visual Studio Code, Oracle Virtual Box, MATLAB, Metasploiltable, DVWA, Kali Linux, Linux Mint, Packet Tacer running on the personal computers.
The Akure Tech Hub, a tripartite collaboration between the Ondo state government, the Federal University of Technology Akure, (FUTA) and TechUp, a non-government organization (NGO) also formally took off in FUTA in 2018. The hub was setup to create an avenue for the promotion of technological innovation and for the exchange of ideas for business start-up and expansion for youths.
The collaboration between FUTA and leading Universities and institutions across the globe was strengthened and taken to a new height. The Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, FAMU Tallahassee Florida, USA continues to receive students from FUTA for a split side programme. Under the FUTA and FAMU 4+1+1 programme selected FUTA students would complete their undergraduate programme in FAMU to earn FUTA first degree certificate and would also be eligible to proceed for their Master’s degree and earn FAMU post graduate certificate. The University has ongoing collaborations with Universities in Brazil, France, Spain, Scotland and United Kingdom. On February 12, 2020 10 FUTA Students who benefited from the Federal University of Technology, Akure / University of Jaen, Spain 2019/2020 Eramus Cooperation Project returned after an internship stint in Europe.
And the West African Science Service Centre on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use, WASCAL, Doctoral Research Programme on West African Climate System DRP- WACS located in FUTA continues to welcome students drawn from several countries in West Africa as part of its contribution to mitigating the effects of Climate change in the sub-region. The WASCAL programme is sponsored by the German Ministry of Education and Research.
And another major milestone of the Fuwape era was the appointment of FUTA’s pioneer professors Emeriti. During the 32nd Convocation Ceremony on Saturday, November 27th 2021, which also coincided with the grand finale of the 40th Anniversary of FUTA, Emeritus Professor Olugboyega Ademosun, Emeritus Professor Ekundayo Adeyemi and Emeritus Professor Samuel Falaki were formally honoured with the prestigious title, a worthy recognition of their prodigious contributions to academic development.
Apart from leap in academic development, the entire landscape of the University has also changed for the better with development of critical infrastructure and rebuilding and refurbishment of old ones in the five years that Fuwape held sway.
Through Fuwape’s seven point agenda for development, which were painstakingly pursued with verifiable results to show, FUTA has been repositioned and given further fillip to better deliver on its core mandates of teaching, research and community service. It has also become a global player and a citadel of technological and academic excellence.
Every journey has a beginning and a terminal point. And so for Fuwape, Professor of Wood Technology and an excellent administrator of men and resources, it’s a fitting end to five years of remarkable contributions to the development of the country’s leading University of Technology in all facets. He built on the legacies of his predecessors and broke new grounds. He repositioned FUTA and took it from the 7th to the 2nd position on the Ranking of Public Universities issued by the National Universities Commission.
Fuwape’s era will certainly be chronicled by via history as a glorious one. He improved legacies and broke new grounds. He leaves the position with his honours intact and many acts of distinctions.
Adebanjo is Acting Director, Corporate Communications and Protocol, FUTA