By Tunde Akanni, PhD
The news of the victorious emergence of our very own Temidayo Adenike Oladiji, FAS, renowned professor of biochemistry, as the first female, new vice-chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Akure stirred up an uncommon, ecstatic excitement in many of us. As a friend and colleague we now reckon with as a family member, we were more than proud.
But almost immediately, I remembered Ile-Ife. I remembered the ancient community in relation to a similar announcement for the great citadel of learning, OAU Ife, beclouded by strange decibels of confusion. Some folks who claimed to be Ife people wanted an indigene, by all means, to be VC. It didn’t matter to them if their preferred candidate who did not make it this time could emerge next time around. They staged marches in their community going as far as the university campus to flaunt their fetish fangs, but the deed had been done and could not be undone. The university councils decision was final!
Beyond resounding condemnations that the unpopular protesters in Ile-Ife attracted to themselves, the historical reality of FUTA countered the ethnic jingoists. The sitting VC then, Prof Joseph Fuwape, hailed from Ile-Ife, but no one ever bothered about that. FUTA had been on the path of greatness and all everyone wanted was for the leadership to sustain this and possibly boost it.
Unfortunately, the Ife violence merchants seemed to have infected some pseudo-scholars, ironically in FUTA. In the same spirit with the minority Ife locals or so it seemed, Professor Oladiji stood condemned as the winner of the just concluded appointment process. Most distastefully, they found sheer illiterate collaborators in some media with passive or absent-minded editing. Otherwise how do you describe such media lapping up same headline with same story far from aligning with the headline? More disturbing really was the fact that even a particular title that had some of its journalists punished for a similar recklessness in the past got caught up with this! You will wonder for eternity why a news organization supposedly run by trained professionals will deliberately position itself in the path of progress of an ambitious university like FUTA.
Who is not in awe of the excellent job of public image management by our good friend and colleague, Adegbenro Adebanjo? What about the indomitability of FUTA’s academics, by all means, active researchers combined with the alumni who have been relentless in upscaling the profile of their university globally? Expectedly, the informed voice of ASUU FUTA called out to controvert the earlier rancorous intervention smacking of unmistakable ignorance by folks not familiar with university tradition. How capacity deficient? How else could the council have told the story of how Temidayo Oladiji triumphed over her rivals in the contest for the VC’s seat? How much more can we say FUTA needs Oladiji now more than any other time?
From accomplishing groundbreaking researches and winning internationally competitive grants across assorted disciplines of Agricultural Science to trendy engineering feats, FUTA has been recurrent. As a mentor and father to some engineering budding stars including a doctoral student in environmental engineering in England with a Commonwealth Scholarship up his sleeves, I have more than a passing interest in engineering and allied researches in which FUTA has come to distinguish itself. Time, again, has come for the ambitious university to move higher up on the scale of global ranking. And I make this valid claim based on my evaluation of the profile of the energetic, young VC just clocking 54.
Let’s do this again together: Born Adenike Temidayo Folayan, the Biochemistry scholar belongs in the category of first generation of what has come to be known as Better by Far University. It was the same generation that produced the incumbent, high performing Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Lokoja, Kogi State, Prof Olayemi Akinwumi.
Young Adenike bagged a Second Class Upper Honours degree in Biochemistry in 1988. Notwithstanding the hard-hitting economic policy of the Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, Kwara Breweries in Offa could not resist the brilliance exhibited by the young graduate in the course of examining their potential recruits. She was hired immediately. More than 25 years after leaving the brewery for the academia, Prof Oladiji keeps researching about food, gloriously sustaining the good memory of her humble beginning at Offa. Check out the list of research products developed from herbs by the new FUTA boss: AHRI Sweet Basilspices(listing with NAFDAC); Pangas Anti-anaemic supplement (being processed for regulatory approval); Blosorg Supplement (awaiting regulatory approval); Iron-fortified tomato and pepper paste(awaiting regulatory approval)
Since joining her alma mater, the University of Ilorin, as a lecturer, diligent Oladiji, in addition to being faithful to her primary responsibilities of teaching and researching, has served in several other capacities most meritoriously earning her multiple distinctions and research grants. How else could anyone have been sufficiently prepared for VCship? Take a glance at this:
I Dean, Faculty of Life Sciences 2021 Date
ii. Dean, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Kwara State University, Malete (Sabbatical) 2018- 2019
iii. Director, Central Research Laboratories 2016 2018
iv. Director, Centre for Research Development & In-House Training 2013-2016
v. Coordinator, Intellectual Property Technology Transfer Office 2012-2015
vi. Deputy Director, Centre for International Education 2012
vii. Board Chairman, National Water Resources Capacity Building Network, University of Ilorin Centre 2013-2016
viii. Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Unilorin STEP-B 2013- 2015
ix. Acting Head of Biochemistry Department 2008 2010
x. Assistant Hall Mistress (Female Hostel) 2002- 2004
xi. Hall Mistress (Female Hostel) 2014 – 2018
xii. Member, Senate, University of Ilorin 2004-2007; 2011 to Date
xiii. Sub Dean, Faculty of Science.
A Guest Professor at the University of Gambia since 2012, she was at different times a Plenary Lecturer, Uka Tarsadia University in India and a Fellow of the Israeli Agency for International Development Cooperation in addition to being 1989 Federal Government of Nigeria Scholar as well as being a winner of the 1995-97 winner of the University of Ilorin Staff Development Award. It was therefore no wonder she emerged the lead researcher for the over N17 million Naira NNPC Renewable Energy Research Project in 2019. That was even after leading multiple research projects supported by TETFUND.
Though a scientist, Prof Oladiji is as much a public intellectual in a society notorious for partriarchy. In 2019 alone within a very short space of time, she delivered two highly celebrated public lectures. She was the guest speaker at that years valedictory ceremony of the popular Adeola College Offa. Soon afterwards, she did another major address at the Hooding Ceremony of the College of Pure and Applied Sciences of Landmark University, Omun Aran, Kwara State, to mention only two.
Perhaps most interesting about Oladiji is her clean triumph over typical Nigerian pettiness bothering on religion and ethnicity. Farouk, a professor of telecommunications based in Dutse once confessed to me how motherly, Oladiji was, to her wife when she was supervising her for a postgraduate programme. She was a mother to our daughter as well as the mother of the baby, my darling wife.
A most cosmopolitan Prof Oladiji also effortlessly deploys basic Islamic greetings to the admiration of many Muslims on account of her sociability and her vast educational exposure across all the continents. My personal interaction with her frankly betrays a personality without airs in spite of being so heavily credentialed at her age.
It’s FUTA’s turn to benefit from the thoroughness, speed and vigour of the Midas touch of the world class scholar they never had its like before having been brought in from outside FUTA and especially from a university that has remained the envy of others for several years netting awards from local and international quarters. For instance, Unilorin, Oladiji’s cradle and base till date, remains about the most internationalized university in Nigeria.
I can only enjoin FUTA to harvest the best from one of the best of nations best in the university system.
Tunde Akanni, PhD, former Distinguished British Chevening Scholar, Associate Professor and Acting Head of Journalism Dept, LASU doubles as the Director of Digital Media Research Centre, LASU.