By Damola Emmanuel
Does a prophet have honour among his own people? Thou seeth a prophet with honour among his own people?
Former classmates of Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka, the immediate past Vice Chancellor of Nigeria’s premier university, the University of Ibadan, said a loud YES to those posers in Ibadan last Saturday, December 19, 2020, with a grand reception/award ceremony held in his honour.
The event, presided over by His Royal Highness, Oba Adedoyin Adelekun, an engineer and National President of Ilesa Grammar School Old Students’ Association, was held at the Pentorise Event Centre, Bodija, Ibadan. Engineer Adeyemi, a nonagenarian, who completed his secondary education at Ilesa Grammar School in 1950, and later became a 1953 Alumnus of the University College, Ibadan, also graced the occasion.
Professor Olayinka, the high performing former VC, attended the prestigious Ilesa Grammar School, Ilesa, Osun State, between 1970 and 1974, and his former classmates celebrated his landmark achievements with profuse praises, prayers, good music and super cuisine.
Olayinka was appointed the 12th Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan in September 2015 to succeed Professor Isaac Folorunso Adewole, Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics, and another alumnus of Ilesa Grammar School, whose tenure ended on November 30, 2015. Prof. Adewole would later become Nigeria’s Minister of Health during President Muhammadu Buhari’s first term, betwe2015 and 2019.
Olayinka, whose tenure as UI’s Vice Chancellor came to a glorious end on November 30, 2020, is the current Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Class of ’74, officially registered as Club ’74 of Ilesa Grammar School Old Students’ Association.
Shola Oshunkeye, former Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of The Sun Publishing Ghana Limited, now CEO of The Crest Publishing and Entertainment Company Limited, publishers of The Crest online newspaper, is the Chairman of the Board.
President of the Club ’74 of Ilesa Grammar School Old Students’ Association, Mr. Funsho Dada, a chartered accountant, opened the deluge of praises on Olayinka as he recalled the glorious years shared with the education icon at Ilesa Grammar School, as well as the Professor’s laudable strides at the University of Ibadan, declaring:
“Professor Olayinka has been an exemplary figure, not only among us but also among his peers in the academia. While he was VC, he did extraordinary things resulting in making the university one of the greatest in Africa today. He was also recognized personally by the Federal Government as the most financially prudent Vice Chancellor in Nigeria. He has done us proud and we are overwhelmed with joy.”
One after the other, Olayinka’s former classmates took turns to pat their man at the back for making them and their alma mater very proud.
Ebenezer Adewumi Adegoke, an Engineer and Chairman of the grand reception/award ceremony, lauded Olayinka’s effort at strengthening the University of Ibadan brand during his tenure, taking the institution to unprecedented heights despite serious financial handicap.
“This prophet,” says Adegoke, “surely has great honour among his people, the academia and world communities where educational development is paramount.”
Chief Mrs. Victoria Funmilayo Awomolo, one of the best science students in the Class of ‘74, and the first female Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, produced by the University of Ibadan, contributed to the plethora of praises for Prof. Olayinka.
She recalled her own journey through Ilesa Grammar School, revealing how her husband, Asiwaju Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, inspired her decision to read law after making her mark with her first love, Chemistry.
She eulogized Olayinka not only for his gargantuan contributions to lifting the University of Ibadan to a higher level than he met it, but also holding the flag of Ilesa Grammar School very high wherever he finds himself.
Awomolo seized the occasion to appeal to governments across the federation, as well as parents, never to treat the issue of the education of the girl child with levity.
Other classmates of the former VC, who added colour to the event included: Mrs. Iyabo Anne Sanyaolu, Mrs. Bisi Kayode, Mr. Olurotimi Oluborode, Prof. Bolaji Agbede, Mr. Deji Omole, Mr. Kolawole Ariyo, Mr. Siyanbola Fapuro, Mr. Kola Komolafe, Mr. Goke Oriowo, Mr. Niran Osobu, Mr. Taiwo Ajumobi, Rev. Mrs. Adenike St John, Mrs. Omowunmi Jalekun, Mrs. Kikelomo Kolawole, Mrs. Funmilola Fafowora-Boboye, Mr. Deji Omole and Pastor Moses Olaleye.
They all lauded Olayinka for making them proud, saying Nigeria and, indeed, the academia needed more people with Olayinka’s attributes of diligence, hard work and humility.
Club ‘74 members in the diaspora also gave the event a huge lift with their enthusiastic virtual participation. They included: Mr. Ropo Fasoyiro, Prof. Agboola Olowe, Mr. Akin Ibidapo-Obe, among others.
The icing on the cake for Olayinka was the presentation of a merit award to him by Club ‘74.
Chairman of the occasion, Oba Adedoyin Adelekun, the Atorise of Odo-Iju, Ijesa, congratulated Club ‘74 for celebrating one of their own so enthusiastically. The Royal Father said with the event, Club ’74 had set a worthy example for other chapters.
Prof. Olabode Lucas, another old student of Ilesa Grammar School who retired from the University of Ibadan, said with his sterling performance in office, Olayinka remained the pride of UI, Ilesa Grammar School, and Ijesaland respectively.
“Prof. Olayinka brought UI to its pre-eminent position as number one university in Nigeria and 12th in Africa according to the internationally renowned agency on the rating of the universities,” Prof. Lucas enthused. “He turned the university to an extensive project site as many infrastructure and buildings were initiated and completed.”
An obviously elated Professor Olayinka, and his personable wife, Dr. Eyiwumi Olayinka, danced their hearts out in appreciation of the honour done him.
In his remarks, Olayinka recalled the journey that started at Ilesa Grammar School some 50 years ago when he was admitted to the school alongside 179 others. Though he was sad that some of his former classmates had passed to glory, and prayed for their continuous blissful rest, he was grateful to God for the honour done him by his old mates.
“The memory of today’s event will linger in our consciousness for a long time,” he said. “I cherish my membership of this Club so much and I could not have asked for more. The good Lord will replenish your pockets.
“I promise that I will continue to be a good ambassador of this noble group. I shall never put you to shame. This is the only way to justify the confidence you have reposed in me.”
Olayinka also thanked all the people who, he said, contributed in no small measure to the strings of successes recorded so far in his academic odyssey. He praised God for the privilege of life and living, and what God enabled him to achieve in life, especially during his tenure as Vice Chancellor of the premier university.
(Pictorial report later).