Honour to whom it is due

Despite the torrents of depressing news Nigeria generates on a daily basis, it is gratifying that at least there are some developments, which unfortunately attract less public attention just because of their positivity, that give one reasons to cheer. Such developments mainly concern Nigerians doing wonderful things in their own corners and through whose sense of duty, commitment to excellence and sheer purposefulness many are inspired.

One of such happened two weeks ago, precisely June 2nd 2013, when the city of Ilorin stood still in honour of a man who has contributed immensely to humanity through the seriousness with which he has taken his assignments over the years, a man of erudition, excellence and incurable passion for Nigeria and humanity.

When Frank Lloyd Wright said, “I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen”, there are people who would have actually internalized his submission. One of them is Prof. Is-haq Olanrewaju Oloyede, the Secretary General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and immediate past Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, who was acknowledged at the forum under reference.

At that reception in Ilorin, various speakers stressed the humility, simplicity, hard work, trust worthiness, discipline, selfless service and sheer managerial savvy of Prof. Oloyede. Among the guests were the Governor of Kwara State, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, represented by Alhaji Saka Onimago; te Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Prof. AbdulGaniyu Ambali; the Vice-Chancellor of Kwara State University, Prof. AbdulRasheed Na’Allah and the Kwara State governorship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the 2011 elections, Mr. Dele Belgore, SAN, among others.

The pioneer Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, Hon Justice Mustapha Akanbi (Rtd.) described Prof. Oloyede as a colossus who re-engineered the face of university education in Nigeria. He noted that the University system is fortunate with such a  personality, whose exceptional performance has positively rubbed off on the African university establishment.

His assessment was corroborated by other speakers like the Chairman of the Federal Character Commission, Prof. Shuaib Oba AbdulRaheem and the legal luminary, Mallam Yusuf Ali, SAN, who showered encomiums on the Professor of Islamic Jurisprudence for living a life worthy of emulation and for recording outstanding feats that have added further grist to the mill of the University of Ilorin’s reputation among its contemporaries.

The significance of the honour conferred on Prof. Oloyede hinges on its merit, against the background of the commercialization of honours and titles in Nigeria. It is rare that a community would unanimously rise to confer that level of recognition as witnessed that Sunday at the Banquet Hall on a person who is not a political office holder. The occasion was a rebuttal of the saying that a Prophet is not honoured at home since Ilorin has effectively become home to Oloyede who has spent almost four decades of his life in the community.

As Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin between 2007 and 2012, Prof. Oloyede took his assignment with uncommon passion such that it is not an overstatement that he lived and breathed the University during the period. Building on the solid foundation of excellence laid by his illustrious predecessors, Oloyede made the self-acclaimed “better by far” University a rallying point for other Nigerian universities and a model that policy makers would use to set agenda for others.

The commitment demonstrated at the University of Ilorin would be appreciated at many other universities across the continent when Prof. Oloyede emerged the President of the Association of African Universities (AAU) in 2009. Nigerian universities would also experience the astute leadership of the man when he subsequently assumed the Chairmanship of the Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCNU) and Committee of Vice-Chancellors (CVC).

Not only did Nigeria register her full presence on the African higher education terrain through the dynamism of Prof. Oloyede, both the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) and International Association of Universities (IAU), the boards of which Prof. Oloyede served on, could not also ignore the versatility of Nigeria through the quality representation he provided on those platforms and the immense benefits that accrued to our universities in terms of expertise and international image. Finding another Nigerian, living or late, with vast contributions to higher education development at such national and international leadership platforms as Oloyede, is extremely rare.

One’s attempt to deconstruct the Oloyede phenomenon has yielded a recipe for the polity, especially the rank of those saddled with leadership. This recipe borders on the epigrammatic principles of “hard work does not kill”, “punctuality is the soul of business”, “life is short”, “self-discipline is the ultimate”, “honesty is the best legacy”, “every opportunity is a responsibility” and “money is not everything”, which coalesce to define Prof. Oloyede’s career.  Each of these principles can form a separate thesis and all of them can engender national renaissance if well digested by everyone.

Rather than work hard on the assignment at hand, many of our leaders prefer to “enjoy” the office and focus on the future. We also waste time and give vent to the “Nigerian time” mentality, a national embarrassment of not honouring time and scheduled appointments. A realization that life is short would also make one try to make one’s mark within the short period one has because like a wind, every opportunity howls away, including life itself.

The other area where Prof. Oloyede is very strong is self-discipline, a quality that is fast fading from our morally bankrupt society. Not only would he proclaim he has never received a bribe in his life, he is also known as a man who is not given to the banana peel of carnal desires. And for him, what is considered an opportunity is a mere platform for unleashing service and responsibility to effectuate change and progress.

Meanwhile, as the love of money is the root of all evils, we can imagine how great Nigeria would be if our leaders do not worship money as their god. That Nigeria is suffocating under the tight grip of corruption is mainly due to the craze for money and its meretricious attractions like private jets and fancy houses at home and abroad. If we love money less and love one another more, we will succeed in redeeming our nation from the yoke of materialism. For being uncompromising in the pursuit of excellence and defense of the truth, nevertheless, such a person would naturally magnetize detractors once in a while but ultimately, truth is supreme.

Therefore, it is auspicious that as we celebrate the departed heroes like Chief M. K. O. Abiola, whose mandate was stolen twenty years ago, leading to a chain of cataclysms that continues to torment our national conscience, we should not lose sight of celebrating and acknowledging the living so that our impressionist youth would know that our country is not bereft of true role models.