When the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, came to the University of Ilorin on Thursday, May 15, 2014 for the inauguration of our oil palm plantation project, she was wowed by the University and she expressed it in clear terms.
Addressing the University community, she said, “You have lifted my spirit and you have given me hope. I am impressed with the school. You have earned a reputation for peace, calm, beauty and serious learning. I salute you for your serious-mindedness and I say you are an example for other universities to emulate”.
While expressing those beautiful words, Dr Okonjo-Iweala was only re-echoing similar views canvassed by the Nigerian leaders for some years now. For instance, while delivering the 24th convocation ceremony address on Thursday, October 24, 2008, the late Nigerian President, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, made a passionate call for all Nigerian tertiary institutions to emulate our University.
The former President, represented by the then Minister of State for Education, Dr Jerry Agada, recalled the “positive transformations” that the University had spear-headed in all areas of development. He then urged “other Tertiary Institutions to emulate these giant strides made by the University (of Ilorin)”.
Also, President Goodluck Jonathan expressed the same opinion while delivering his address at the 29th convocation ceremony on Wednesday, October 13, 2013 when he commended the “right track” which had brought the University to “the position of distinction”.
Represented by the Supervising Minister for Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike, the President urged the entire University “to keep the flag flying and not to let the rising profile of the University grow dim but to continue to build on those core values which have distinguished this university”.
Without laying claim to perfection, there are many areas in which the University of Ilorin provides the “right track” and “core values”, thereby setting the pace for other institutions to emulate. There are indeed many areas in which the Nigerian society can borrow a leaf from the University.
A case in point is the emergence of the new Deputy Vice-Chancellors, Prof. Gabriel Olatunji and Prof. (Mrs) Nike Y. S. Ijaiya, as witnessed at the 240th Special Meeting of the Senate last Tuesday (July 1, 2014). How everything went that day was impressive.
The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Abdul Ganiyu Ambali, in line with the provisions of the University Act, had nominated
both Prof. Adeolu T. Ande and Prof. (Mrs.) Taibat M. Odunola along with the new Deputy Vice-Chancellors for election.
However, while appreciating their nominations for the exalted positions, both Prof. Ande and Prof. (Mrs) Odunola, one after the other, decided to “step down” for the other candidates. That was how the two new Deputy Vice-Chancellors were elected unopposed to the admiration of everyone.
It would be recalled that this example, which is worthy of emulation, by all here and beyond, was first laid in recent times by the immediate past Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Prof. Adebayo Lawal, at the 221st Meeting of the Senate on August 9, 2011.
I remember that at the meeting that day, the then Chairman and former Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Is-haq O. Oloyede, had proposed both the current Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Management Services), Prof. Yisa M. Fakunle, and Prof. Lawal for the consideration of the Senate. The vacant office was the position of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research, Technology and Innovation).
Rather than contest, Prof. Lawal said he would concede the position to Prof. Fakunle who he said was his “grand teacher” as he taught his (Prof. Lawal's) teacher. That was how the Senate erupted in applause and the new Deputy Vice-Chancellor (RTI) emerged then with everyone being the winner.
So, when a few months after, Prof. Lawal's nomination was brought up again and he was to contest with the current Dean of Physical Sciences, Prof. Babatunde L. Adeleke, the latter also did not contest with him and he was elected unopposed.
This politics of consensus is also visible at the Faculty of Arts where for some years now, elections have always been a fait accompli. Through an internal arrangement of consultation, negotiation and consensus building, at least two Deans have been elected unopposed. The impact on the Faculty is tremendous. A lot of energy, resources and time that would have been expended on campaigns, with the bad blood and bickering that go with them, have been saved for good.
Nigeria is largely enmeshed in the politics of bitterness, with the attitude of Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State being a remarkable exemption. However, the University of Ilorin has developed the politics of peace in such a way that everyone with the right attitude is a winner and this right track is commendable.