THE FIRST AND THE BEST

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The University of Ibadan celebrates 70 years of remarkable services, writes Sunday Saanu 

From Faculty to Faculty, drums will rumble and grumble as the campus of the University of Ibadan (UI), will be kept agog with all manner of festivities in celebration of the Nigeria’s premier university. The University of Ibadan turns 70 years this November.  In marking the milestone however, the management of the university headed by Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka has declared a year-long ceremony, beginning from October this year to November 2019 in order to fully commemorate a university that has remarkably imparted the world.

Established in 1948, UI which is admirably tagged “the First and Best”, could be described as a relatively young university when compared with some prestigious universities across the globe.  For instance, a 70-year old UI can’t be compared with the University of Cambridge in England which is 809 years old this year. Neither can UI at 70 match the record of Harvard University which marked its 382 years this year. Oxford University is 922 years this year while Yale University which was founded in 1701 is 317 years old. There are many others which are well above a thousand years!  This is, perhaps, where those who are quick to condemn Nigerian universities because of poor world ranking need to be a bit cautious before throwing away the baby with the bath water.  Obviously, there is still a long distance to destination!

However, despite its young age, UI has by far, established itself as a world-class institution, becoming a prestigious national patrimony with an enviable reputation and record of sound scholarship obtainable and comparable in any part of the world.  The achievements of this university in the last 70 years, to use that particularly all-in-the-air American expression, are “awesome”.  If indeed you know a tree by its fruits, Ibadan has undoubtedly defined itself by the high quality of its products, parading many brilliant and bold graduates who have since been shaping the world.  Indeed, UI’s products are its pride.

Universities all over the world function on the tripod of teaching, research and service to the community.  Ibadan has distinguished itself in all these key areas to the amazement of the pundits.  The exponential effect of its contributions to Nigeria, Africa and the world is quite unimaginable.  There is no continent that the UI’s products are not making waves.  It needs no emphasis that Ibadan produced the first generation of writers, scholars, diplomats, technocrats and artists among others. Those who attended UI are the pride of the country. They include but certainly not limited to Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, J. P. Clark, Christopher Okigbo, Mabel Segun, Ben Obumselu, Micheal Echeruo, Biodun Jeyifo, Francis J. Ellah, Oladipo Akinkugbe, Femi Osofisan, Niyi Osundare, Odia Ofeimun, Bode Sowande, Franscesca Perreira, Dan Izevbaye, and Abiola Iyere . Also in the long list are Kenneth Dike, Adiele Afigbo, Kayode Osuntokun, Olumuyiwa Awe, J. F. Ade Ajayi, Bola Ige, Olumbe Bassir, Goke Olubunmi, Dapo Adelugba, Tekena Tamuno, Obaro Ikime, Gamaliel Onosode, Billy Dudley, Ojetunji Aboyade, Felix Ohiwerei, Akin Mabogunje, Adamu Ciroma, Jubril Aminu, Ola Oni, Bade Onimode, Omafume Onoge and so on

Travelling through the past, one is compelled to pay homage to those who had passed through Ibadan, thus, creating the enduring, rigorous intellectual template with which the institution has been reinventing itself.  Records show that scholars of different stripes from different parts of the world have passed through Ibadan, leaving behind remarkable creative, artistic and scientific legacies.  We have them to thank for blazing a worthy trail.  UI is what it is today because some people sacrificed their yesterday for the betterment of our today.  We are indeed beholden to our forebears.

Can this university celebrate its platinum jubilee without remembering the past vice-chancellors who staked their lives for the survival of the system?  Many of them were insulted, embarrassed, threatened and assaulted in the course of building Ibadan. Yet, they put in their best to ensure that UI remains the flagship of higher education in Nigeria.  Prof. Kenneth Mellanby began this journey.  He was the first principal between 1947 and 1953, followed by J. T. Saunders (1953 – 1956), John Parry (1956 – 1960), Prof. Kenneth Onwuka Dike (1960 – 1967), Prof. Thomas Adeoye Lambo (1967 – 1971) and Prof. H. Oritsejolomi Thomas (1972 – 1975).

They also included Prof. Tekena N. Tamuno (1975 – 1979), Prof. Samson O. Olayide (1979 – 1983), Prof. Ayo Banjo (1983 – 1991), Prof. Alien B. Oyediran (1991 – 1995), Prof. Oladosu Ojengbele (1995 – 1996), Prof. Omoniyi Adewoye (1996 – 2000), Prof. O. O. Olorunsogo (acting, 2000), Prof. Ayodele Falase (2000 – 2005), Prof. Olufemi Bamiro (2005 – 2010), Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole (2010 – 2015) and the incumbent, Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka whose five-year single tenure is expected to lapse in 2020. All these people and their team players gave UI their best of service. Perhaps it is against this background that a “Night of Honour” (where those who have contributed to the development of the university will be appreciated) is included in the schedule of activities marking the 70th anniversary. 

In the same vein, it is not out of place to thank Olubadan in Council and the entire Ibadan people for their generosity with their land.  Ibadan is a city of open arms.  The friendliness of the natives draws all like a mystic magnet.  Ibadan people gave the university much latitude to thrive as there has never been a record of hostility between the university community and the native of Ibadan.  Kudos to our brothers and sisters of Clearly, this 70th anniversary commands singing, drumming, dancing, champagne popping, jollification and merry making.  It deserves a year-long commemoration that has been declared.  This institution, where academic prowess is combined with intellectual sagacity deserves to be celebrated by all Nigerian for its impressive achievements and contributions to the country.  It was the former President Goodluck Jonathan who noted with delight, some years back that every Nigerian bears the influence of UI. According to him, “if you did not attend UI, somebody from your family must have finished from UI. If that is not the case, but you went to school in Nigeria, you must have been taught by someone who graduated from UI or who was taught by someone who finished from UI. Therefore, you bear the influence of UI”. This could not have been an empty assertion. More so when UI produces 45 per cent of all vice chancellors of other universities in the country. At a recent press conference, the UI Vice Chancellor, Prof. Olayinka disclosed that UI has since inception produced 232,225 graduates in various disciplines.  Today, Ibadan is the producer of the highest number of Ph.D degree holders in Africa with over 400 professors on its staff list.  It is the intellectual capital of Nigeria; a scholastic beehive where cerebral honey is being

Interestingly, in spite of buffeting of time, UI is still as strong as it was in the beginning. It is sustaining the legacies and raising the bar of scholarship. Without exaggeration, this university is a shining star among the galaxy of stars with continued conversation on intellectualism. As postulated by an Indian boxer, Vijender Singh, “achievements are precious and timeless, just like the precious metal platinum.  And what better way to celebrate milestones than with precious platinum”.  This platinum jubilee ought to be celebrated with wine and sweet words. That is exactly what will be happening on campus in the next one year. This is because from inception till now, it has been one leap of progress unto another.  UI has been soaring higher and higher with the strength of its own wings, encouraging the growth and maturation of other universities.

Saanu is Media Assistant to Vice Chancellor