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Dissecting Prof Adebowale, New University Of Ibadan VC

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The succession crisis rocking the Nigerian premier university- University of Ibadan (UI), eventually came to an amicable crescendo with the appointment of Prof. Kayode Oyebode Adebowale on the 14th of October, 2021 as the 13th Vice Chancellor of the institution. The post of the VC of the University became vacant on December 1, 2020 following the tenure expiration of the 12th VC, Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka. But as a result of a concatenation of circumstances, the process of appointing a successor could not be completed, thus, creating a 13-month succession crisis.

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It is a far more than a coincidence that an alumnus of the University, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun was later appointed as Chairman of Council by the federal government, following the tenure expiration of Nde Joshua Waklek led governing council. Chief Oyegun consequently inherited the crisis of appointing a new VC. The crisis had become so fierce, and like an unattended sore, it metastasized into a festering wound, with the cloud becoming vitriolic and acrimonious. Nobody seemed to have a hang on the riddle until Chief Oyegun came with his Solomonic wisdom. The former All Progressives Congress (APC) Chairman creatively stanched the instability in the system by re-caliberating the appointment process, ultimately leading to the emergence of Prof. Adebowale.

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Interestingly, since the appointment was announced, however, there has been a refreshing sigh of relief on Ibadan campus. Peace has returned. Leading gladiators in the troubled contest, including the amiable Prof. Adeyinka Aderinto; among others, have congratulated the new VC and promised to work together with him for the growth of the system. That is good. That is political maturity. From pugnacity to pacifism, Chief Oyegun deserves national commendation for the way he handled the process as well as his transparent leadership. He has done his alma mater proud. He has been able to make the lion to lie down with the lamb, thus facilitating peace on the campus. We are happy that the siege of stagnation is over!

Universities, across the globe thrive in the age-long tradition of untrammelled generation (and contestation) of ideas, free flow of thoughts, cradle and crucible for the vigorous commerce of human mind and its restless traffic of imagination and intelligence. In other words, controversy is part of attributes of ivory tower. To me, appointing a VC for a University of Ibadan status, where we have over 400 professors in different disciplines could not have been a walk in the park. Meanwhile, with the appointment done, it is time to move forward as we have stayed on the same spot far too long. Let us forgive one another as forgiveness is the asepsis of the soul. This is indeed the time for reconciliation, rebuilding, rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Now, let us peep into the profile of our new VC! Who is Prof. Adebowale? How much of him do we know? Can he handle this job? Exaggeration unintended, Prof. Adebowale is not only qualified to drive this system, he has been tried and tested and certified to be eminently suitable to lift UI far higher than he met it. His huge intellectual savvy, uncompromising sense of justice, uncommon courage and steely grit in defence of extant rules governing the University are part of his credentials that UI stands to benefit immensely from.

Born and bred in the fine mix of Christianity and Yoruba mores, Prof. Adebowale remains a perfect gentleman with all the trappings and sensibilities of a cosmopolitan scholar. Having interacted with him for more than five years, this writer can authoritatively describe the new UI boss as a vivacious, warm and highly infectious humourist. He is nicknamed “Baba mi o!”, on account of his popular and signature response to greetings from friends. You will feel at home with him, with his peculiar laughter rhythm.

Prof, Adebowale is intellectually dialogical, very conversational and discussive with his open personable mien. He is not a malice bearer. His is a story of decency and dignity. He analysises issues with both scientific and sociological spirits. He has a good grasps of some social anthropology which enables him to flow with all and sundry.

Years back, I was with him in his chemistry laboratory where he shared some of his past experiences with me about journalism. I never knew he was in Radio Nigeria before returning to the University for academic career. Our interaction clearly indicated that Prof. Adebowale could easily be described as a perfect-picture of geniality and civility. He has the finesse to defuse tense situations.

More importantly, judging by his performance as a two-term Deputy Vice Chancellor, (Administration) one can confidently say Prof. Adebowale knows how to navigate the usually complex terrain of organizational governance to get the desired results. He was in charge of projects and he carried out the duties with all his talents, treasure and time. He has the tremendous gift of shinning a radiant light unto unrecognized paths and projects. The incandescent spirit of his intellectual creativity certainly added depth and breadth to uncharted territories and terrains while discharging his duties.

However, it is public knowledge that he could be pervicacious, albeit on principle. This incoming VC is not swayed by extraneous emotionalism and parochial cant. For example, some people in the system may probably not like him because he kicked against sharp practice of by-passing electricity metres in staff quarters. Others may have also had an axe to grind with him because of his role in banning Okada on campus, following reports of insecurity, Prof. Adebowale remains a rare embodiment of courage, charisma and credibility. He is solution-driven in all circumstances. Ironically, I overheard someone at the bus stop saying the reason God would not allow him to become VC was because he stopped the theft of electricity. The person must have recounted by now as God is not man!

Again in one of our numerous official trips, this humility personified Professor of Chemistry was a wonder to watch. With him, you are assured of wise-cracks, profound thoughts, spiritually ennobling insights, sublime statements and words of wisdom. Meeting him, you will be struck by the force of a gentle soul with a mental magnitude that bellies gentility.

Academically, he is said to have had the highest number of citations in physical science. As a researcher on SCOPUS, he has been cited 3,227 times in 2,494 articles with an h-index of 36. On Google scholar, he has been cited 6,922 times in 3,812 articles with an i10 index of 80 and an H-index of 43. No wonder he is described as the VC with CV! While perusing his 36-page CV, one was shocked to discover that this man has attracted several grants worth millions of US Dollars to UI. Indeed, his rich resume stood him in vintage stead for a meteoric rise to the zenith of professional stardom. Surely, he has the academic know-how, the intellectual heftiness , the street wisdom, the personality and the courage to do the job as he has over the years stayed steadfast to his scholarly adventure. In the academic circle, Prof. Adebowale has recognition, respect and relevance. Obviously, he is capable of getting the job done because he has the right blend of experience and expertise.

Always brimming with smiles, his equanimity of spirit impresses me to no end. Despite, the emotional travails trailing his appointment, he remained stoic, yet, gracious in goodness and generous in giving with gleeful disposition. Indeed, he is a man of amazing self-restraint. Surely, destiny fulfilment comes at a cost as he travelled a hard road to reign.

Prof. Adebowale was born on 11 January, 1962 in Ibadan, Oyo state. A proud alumnus of the UI, he completed his B.Sc in Chemistry in 1984; M.Sc in Industrial Chemistry in 1986 and Ph.D in 1991. The new Vice-Chancellor began his academic career at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) in October, 1991, as a Lecturer Grade II. He returned to UI in 1999 as a Senior Lecturer and rose through the ranks to become a Professor in October 2006. He had post-doctoral experience in Germany and Italy. His cognate administrative experience includes: Dean, Faculty of Science, 2009-2011; Director Special Duties Office of the Vice-Chancellor, 2015-2017 and two-term Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration), 2018 till he was appointed.

He is a Fellow of the following learned societies: Science Association of Nigeria; Chemical Society of Nigeria; Polymer Institute of Nigeria; and the Nigerian Academy of Science. Outside the shores of the country, he is a Fellow Royal Society of Chemistry (UK); African Academy of Science (Kenya), and Alexander von Humboldt (Germany). He attended the Senior Executive Course (SEC) 39, 2017 of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos, leading to the award of mni. He is happily married with three children.

As he takes over on 1 November, 2021 as 13th VC, one can only pray for him to have a successful and peaceful tenure. UI is a brand which has a high premium even in global context. Its integrity must not be compromised through pettiness and petulance.

Saanu (08034073427) is with the University of Ibadan.

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