FOR the immediate past vice-chancellor, University of Lagos, Akoka, Prof. Tolu Odugbemi, last Wednesday would remain indelible in his memory. It was the day set aside by the university to honour him for the job he did while in the saddle as the VC.
He was the second VC of the university to be so honoured. This, according to the UNILAG registrar, Mr Oluwarotimi Shodimu, is because of Odugbemiâ€˜s huge contribution to the peace and growth of the institution in spite of his short tenure. Odugbemi was the VC of the institution between April 30, 2007 and Jan. 30, 2010. The first VC to be so honoured, Shodimu said, was Prof. Akinpelu Adesola. Adesola, a professor of surgery, was one of the former VC of the institution established in 1962.
And in a show of appreciation, members of the Senate and principal officers of UNILAG led by the incumbent VC, Prof. Tokunbo Sofoluwe, poured encomium on Odugbemi during an emotional special Senate meeting held in his honour.
Accompanied by his wife, Titi, to the meeting, Odugbemi, who was the main attraction at the event, could not hold back tears as each of the top officers spoke glowingly about his achievements, humorous anecdotes and how his administrative style enhanced the development of the institution.
They applauded Odugbemi for toeing the path of peace and honour when members of the university thought that his nearly controversial exit would result in crisis.
His achievements, according to the academics, include the prompt payment of salaries, transparent administration, accountability, campus beautification projects, infrastructural development, staff welfare and promotion, increased academic and institutional linkages and his surprise sanitation visits to major areas of the campus.
Sofoluwe, who served as the deputy VC, Management Services, under Odugbemi, expressed happiness that his former boss was able to implement his vision as articulated in a book titled, â€The UNILAG of our Dreamsâ€ before retirement cut short his tenure.
He said, â€It is on record that when you attained office, you wrote a book, the The UNILAG of our Dreams. By the time you left office, you had implemented your agenda and successfully drawn a roadmap for the development of the university. It is on record that the university enjoyed greater international visibility, linkages during your time. There was no single studentsâ€˜ unrest, neither internal labour crisis.â€
For the director, Distant Learning Institute of the institution, Prof. Vincent Ovwotu, though Odugbemi could not complete his five-year tenure, he succeeded in putting his name on the minds of the members of the university community through unrivalled welfare schemes for workers.
He said that Odugbemi, who had two years and three months to go in his tenure but had to leave because he clocked the retirement age of 65 years, proved that it is not how long but how well.
â€You have proved that it is not how long you serve but how well. I want to thank you for not letting me down. You have done everything possible to get us moving,â€ he said.
Others applauded Odugbemi for fixing the institutionâ€˜s pay day at the 23rd of every month.
This, the Dean, Student Affairs, Prof. Dele Longe, said was a standard that no vice-chancellor would dare to change if such would not want to draw the ire of workers.
The DVC (Academics and Research), Prof. Modupe Ogunlesi, commended Odugbemi for his strict adherence to the pay day in spite of all odds and thus enhancing the welfare of members of staff.
â€By paying salaries on time, you made us respectable citizens. I remember I used to write cheques to pay premium to my insurance company. When salaries were delayed, the cheques bounced and I would be asked to go and pay cash to the insurance company. I used to be ashamed.â€
Sofoluwe pledged to sustain this culture. To achieve this, he instructed the bursar, Mr. Gilbert Ifarajimi, to ensure that workers salaries are paid on or before the 23rd of every month.
The provost of the College of Medicine of UNILAG, Prof. Wole Atoyebi, told the gathering that the medical school was proud of Odugbemiâ€˜s achievements. He added that the former VC carried the medical school along in his decision making process in spite of the distance.
â€He made the CMUL really an integral part of UNILAG in truth and indeed. Salaries were paid promptly, not one day later than those on the main campus unlike before,â€ he said.
Odugbemi said he was overwhelmed by the encomiums poured on him. He appreciated all those who worked with him to make his marks as the VC of the institution.
â€This is totally an overwhelming day for me. The time you have spent in expressing your love, the money you have spent, I am overwhelmed. I brought my handkerchief to wipe my face three or four times. It has never happened before,â€ he said.
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