That the University of Ilorin is truly better by far and best by standard is a fact that is supported by a plethora of evidence. Over the years, the University has proved its mettle and maintained a sustained lead in the community of Nigerian universities as a foremost citadel of academic excellence, stability and harmony, winning laurels and gaining grounds both nationally and internationally.
The year 2018 is remarkably unforgettable as the University continues to soar, climbing new heights and traversing fresh horizons as it sets new records and makes giant strides. While maintaining its numero uno status as the most admired university in the country, it is also the most international, according to the statistics of the Joint Admissions and Matrimonial Board (JAMB).
The status of the University has remained preeminent and the year 2018 is another success story. Part of this success story is that if this column would give a ‘Man of the Year’ award, as the fad is in some quarters, for instance, it would go to three of our professors. These distinguished academics made the University proud during the year by dint of their hard work, diligence and excellence over the years, for which they were deservedly honoured.
Last Wednesday, December 5, 2018, a foremost Professor of English and Dramatic Literature, Olu Obafemi, was a cynosure of all eyes as he stepped on the podium to receive the highly prestigious Nigerian National Order of Merit Award in Abuja from President Muhammadu Buhari. He is the sole recipient of the award this year and it is a befitting crown to a distinguished career devoted to fine scholarship and human capacity development.
In discharging his vast academic and administrative responsibilities since he joined the University as a pioneer member of staff in 1976 before proceeding to obtain his PhD from the University of Leeds, United Kingdom, Prof. Obafemi has left indelible imprints not only on the sands of time but also in the hearts of the various generations of students that have passed through his tutelage. I had recalled my own encounter with him on this page on April 27, 2015 (www.mahfouzadedimeji.com/2015/05/02/garlands-for-obafemi-at-65/).
The Nigerian National Order of Merit Award is unique and only about 70 Nigerians have been conferred with it since it was instituted some 30 years ago. It is the highest academic award in the country and it is solely “committed to stimulating and rewarding academic and professional excellence for national development.” The award is conferred only on academics and intellectuals who have made outstanding contributions to the academic growth and development of Nigeria and through Prof. Olu Obafemi, the University of Ilorin has joined the league of the few universities that have produced such scholars.
On September 24, 2018, Prof. Wahab Egbewole was sworn in by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) at the Supreme Court, Abuja. The much-awaited elevation came at an auspicious time ultimately as it was a culmination of several years of intense commitment to professional excellence. The SAN rank is awarded to members of the legal profession as a mark of recognition to those who have distinguished themselves as academics and practitioners.
A dynamic character with hands in many pies, I often wonder how this Professor of Jurisprudence manages to combine many things and excel in them at the same time. In academics, legal practice, religious leadership and social vibrancy, he remains a role model and bridge builder even if he is a man of unshakeable principles.
A paragon of humility and integrity, Prof. Egbewole has over the years as an advocate, lecturer and leader influenced many lives positively. What I have always found inspiring in Prof. Egbewole is that anywhere he is, he leaves a mark, whether as Dean of the Faculty of Law or as Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Ilorin, or any other position of responsibility in which he finds himself. Little doubt that it was a celebration galore to acknowledge the milestone achievement in various places in appreciation of a man who has given so much to others through every cause he believes in and every course he charts.
Like Prof. Eegbewole, Prof. Muhammed Akanbi was equally garlanded as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria bringing the name of the University of Ilorin to double glory at the same event. For those who know Prof. Akanbi, the context (background) and content (quality) of his personality have coalesced to create an admirable scholar, a judicious blending of character, commitment and competence.
My deep admiration for Prof. Akanbi started about a decade ago when he surprised me by asking for a quality nominee of mine to occupy a position in the system of Mustapha Akanbi Foundation. That was kindness as I wasn’t short of quality people looking for opportunities, like many others.
He would later accept to give quality training to the students of the Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies when I was in the saddle during one of the capacity building sessions organised and the impact he left in us all was overwhelming. A generous giver, he offered his deeply engaging and passionate training without charging the struggling Centre a kobo.
A man of destiny, attaining the peaks of two highly competitive professions in his 40s, a record that can be made by geniuses only, he is certainly a man of the moment and a man of the future. Perhaps, only the University of Ilorin can incubate such a prodigy.
In awarding this column’s ‘Man of the Year’ award to Prof. Olu Obafemi, NNOM, Prof. Wahab Egbewole, SAN, and Prof. Muhammed Akanbi, SAN, The Alma Mater wishes them all long life, good health and additional blessings so that they will continue to inspire others and add value to humanity for many years to come.
We celebrate you!