A brilliant article, captioned “Unsung heroes of change”, appeared in the last Tuesday edition (September 29, 2015) of “Daily Trust” newspaper (page 48). Written by David A. Onmeje, the article appraised how President Muhammadu Buhari “wants men and women of proven integrity around him. But his greatest difficulty is how to fish out these worthy Nigerians with incontestable integrity from the mesh of an estimated population of about 170 million people.”
As if helping the President out, the writer, an Engineer and member of Nigerians in Diaspora Monitoring Group (MDMG), therefore, recommended five distinguished Nigerians who “have all paid the price of deprivation and made personal sacrifices to climb the ladder of integrity by their modest contribution to nation-building.”
It is gratifying that in spite of everything, Nigerians at home and in the diaspora, know that men of integrity are still the intellectuals, the university people, not celebrities, not businessmen, not even the “career religious leaders”. The identified personalities are Professors Pat Utomi, Geoffrey Obitor Okogbaa, Is-haq Oloyede, Tam David West and Daniel Saror.
For reasons best known to Engr. Onmeje, he provided brief profiles of three names out of the five he mentioned. He devoted a paragraph to Prof. Pat Utomi, three paragraphs to Prof. Okogbaa, and four paragraphs to Prof. Is-haq Oloyede.
The article struck a chord in me partly because it appeared a day after Prof. Oloyede was presented an “Icon of Peace Award” for his vast contributions to peace and development in Africa along with other personalities like the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Prof. Abdulganiyu Ambali, and pioneer Director of the Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ilorin, Prof. Isaac O. Albert, at the “better by far” University.
As a former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Peter Okebukola, remarked during the recent consortium of six African universities international conference at the University of Ilorin, the worth of Prof. Oloyede is not appreciated much in Nigeria. He remains one of the most accomplished Nigerian academics who, by dint of hard work, self-discipline and commitment to excellence, rose to global renown. He becomes 61 this weekend.
Born on October 10, 1954 in Abeokuta, Prof. Is-haq O. Oloyede was born with no spoon at all, not to talk of the silver type, in his mouth. He braced odds all the way doing just what his father wanted till he was admitted for a certificate course at the University of Ibadan. He later became an undergraduate student of the University of Ilorin in 1978 from where he graduated with a First Class Honours in 1981.
The huge success that the University of Ilorin has become is intrinsically linked to Prof. Oloyede, its first alumnus to become a Vice-Chancellor anywhere in the world. He served the University in various capacities as National President of the Alumni Association, Director, Chairman and member of various committees, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor. It was during his tenure as Vice-Chancellor that the University started to be ranked first among Nigerians universities.
Beyond the University of Ilorin, Prof. Oloyede’s roles are enormous. He was a consultant to the National Universities Commission, Chairman of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors (CVC) and Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCNU) and first Nigerian President of the Association of African Universities (AVCNU). He equally sat for years on the Boards of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) and the International Association of Universities (IAU). He serves currently as the interim Secretary General of the Association of West Africa Universities (AWAU).
Apart from being a Co-Secretary of the National Political Reform Conference of 2005 and Member of the National Conference of 2014, Prof. Oloyede is the Executive Secretary and National Coordinator of the Nigeria Inter-religious Council (NIREC) and recently the Secretary General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA).
He is an Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR), Fellow of such distinguished bodies as the Nigerian Academy of Letters, Nigerian Institute of Management, Society for Peace Studies and Practice (SPSP), Islamic Academy of Cambridge, Academy of Religions and Academy for Entrepreneurial Studies, just to mention a few.
As an unsung hero of change, the incorruptible Oloyede resisted at a great personal cost all financial inducements and opted to make Nigerians do the right thing in 2015. As he clocks 61 this week, it is auspicious to reflect that the message of his life is evident in Frank Lloyd Wright’s words, which are relevant to all students and youth in general: “I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.”