Calling Botanists Herbalists is a Wrong Notion

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Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, Professor of Botany and Vice-Chancellor University of Lagos
Funke Olaode

What motivated you to study?
I had the confidence of an achiever. I was focused even before I finished my youth service that I would do my post-graduate programme in Botany and would move into academics.

What was your childhood aspiration?
My study of Botany was accidental. My preferred course was Pharmacy but destiny brought me to Botany and I made up my mind that I must reach the pinnacle of that profession.

Were you the best graduating student in your set?
Funny enough I was not. I made Second Class Lower (2:2) and my friend that made a First Class was not admitted to do his post-graduate programme but I was admitted. That was when I saw the hand of God in my life.

What do you think of the widely held notion that Botanists are herbalists?
It is a wrong notion because studying Mass Communication, Botany or even Yoruba does not terminate your career. I was not discouraged and I always say first degree is to prepare you for the next level. We have those who studied Medicine and today they are event planners. My wife studied Economic and today she into drinks, bottle top and she was one of the first to go into that area. Studying Botany doesn’t mean you will end up as herbalists. My friend who got a First Class in Botany went into banking as an Accountant. Another one works with the World Bank, another one is working with NNPC as an environmentalist. I met a student of mine a couple of weeks ago working with DStv. The problem many of our people have is that they want to leave their area of specialisation or think that they can learn on another course to thrive. I never did that. I believe I am a botanist. I work with people in the faculty of pharmacy. But I introduce myself as a botanist. As long as you don’t identify who you are, you will lose focus. For instance, I am doing a research work now on allergy. You know at certain time of the year people will start sneezing. I am working in that area with people in Medicine, Geography etc.

As a Pastor in the RCCG, how do you juggle your pastoral work with academic work?
I never think about it, I just flow with it. Anytime, I have the leading to do something I will do it but at the same time it is very tasking; time management is key and a matter of planning yourself, allowing God to lead. At this level, the most important thing is to be a good time manager. My motto in life is Prov. 3:5-6, “Trust the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all the way acknowledge Him and He shall direct your part.”

Looking back, are there things you would have loved to do differently?
I would have loved to have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour earlier. I became born again in 1989. But I have no regrets because as an undergraduate I enjoyed myself though not a rascally person even when I was at CMS Grammar School. I sincerely believe that God has been good to me.

As VC, what is your vision for the university?
My vision is to make the University of Lagos one of the best five universities in Africa and one of the best in the world. Despite all odds, challenges of funding, my vision is to make Unilag research oriented, our students to be relevant locally and excel internationally. I want to make sure that we have impact in this country in the area of research. Our students just came back from an international competition in the United States. Another set just came back from Dubai. Research wise, we want to expose our colleagues to research that are needs driven. We also want our students to develop their entrepreneurial skill so by the time they graduate, they will get their degrees and also meet the requirements to get a certificate in entrepreneurship; so that they can be self-employed. Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has already approved the center which is about to be built. It is called Innovation Hub.