Oseni’s example

One of the hallmarks of the academia is passion through which one’s calling is pursued with vigour and zeal.  Even outside the university system, without being passionate about whatever one does, one cannot aim to achieve anything laudable. It is the little extra that makes ordinary become extra-ordinary.

That the University of Ilorin is passionate about its vision and mission is a truism attested to by all. This is why the University gates are always open, despite all the challenges, as it is impassioned by the need to deliver on its mandate of teaching, research and community service. Passion makes you do what you ought to do without expecting any gain or praise.

At a time when lethargy seems to have seeped into the body systems of many people, Prof. Zakariyau I. Oseni of the Department of Arabic is a classical example of academic passion that is worthy of emulation. A towering academic figure and community leader, his vast commitments do not interfere with his academic calling.

This observation is hinged on two recent conferences that held simultaneously in which the former Dean of Arts was an active participant. He was a wonderful sight to behold especially as many participants wanted to know the University from which he came.

Specifically, the International Language for Communication Conference on the theme, “Engaging Global Community: Breaking the Barriers to Effective Communication”, held between August 22 and 25 at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Gompak, Malaysia. Prof. Oseni was there as a speaker and his presentation on “Gender Issues in Al-Hilali and Khan’s English Translation of the Qu’ran: An Investigation” was very well received by the appreciative participants who agreed that the translation was not gender-sensitive.

At the same time, the first World Conference on Integration and Islamicisation of Acquired Human Knowledge on the theme, “Constructing the Alternative Paradigm of TAWHID”, was held at the Prince Hotel and Residence, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from August 23 to 25, 2013. The Chief Imam and Waziri of Auchi was also there and his paper, entitled “Deepening Commitment to Tawhid: Supplicating Allah with Surat Yasin in Nigeria as a Case Study”, was considered eye-opening and deep.

It was at the first conference that I had the opportunity of browsing through some of Prof. Oseni’s critical and literary books seven of which he gave me. His Arabic creative works like “The Honourable Dean” (play), “The Upper Class” (play) and “Equatorial Line Stories” (collection of short stories) are as profound as his English works like “Sparks in the Dark” (poems) “The Silver Lining” (poems) and many others.

An interaction with Prof. Oseni revealed that this year alone, he has written at least eight academic papers, or an average of one paper per month. The example of passion comes in here because for a Professor of almost two decades, the materialist philosophy of publication-for-promotion cannot be the case.

Incidentally, this is the same point stressed last Thursday (August 22, 2013) by the Dean of Postgraduate School, Prof. Clement Bewaji, while speaking at the workshop on the Parameters for Assessing Academic Journals organised by the Library and Publications Committee chaired by Prof. Y. A. Quadri. According to him, the reason for writing academic articles (and all articles and writings in general by extension) is not for the purpose of promotion but to make positive impacts on the society.

It is therefore expedient for young and prospective academics to get their bearing right and not consider promotion alone as the goal of their academic endeavours. One has to develop the passion for the job and satisfaction would come from doing one’s best in what one loves doing with promotion just being an icing on the cake.

It is not unlikely for a professor to profess ignorance and it possible for a doctor’s doctorate degree to have been “doctored”. The mettle of a scholar is passion for excellence and impacting on the society while appreciating that the ultimate reward for hard work is not what one gets through it but what one becomes by it.

That Prof. Oseni is passionate about his work to have participated in two conferences simultaneously is an example of what the University of Ilorin symbolises. And, as I argued to a Nigerian lecturer and PhD student in Malaysia last week, who questioned why UNILORIN lecturers should benefit from the gains of the strike they do not participate in, it is the passion for keeping the banner of academics aloft at all times that justifies why the University and its staff deserve first whatever gains that are due to the University system in Nigeria even before others.