Sunday Saanu (The Nation Newspaper, 24/12/2023)

With the benefits of hindsight, there seems to be a universal meeting of minds that those who appointed Professor Timothy Abiodun Adebayo as the fourth Vice Chancellor of Ajayi Crowther University (ACU), located in the ancient city of Oyo really meant well for the faith-based university. Three years into his five-year tenure, Prof. Adebayo has not only justified the confidence reposed in him by his employers, this forthright and firm Crops and Animal Science specialist has given a good account of himself as an academic leader who possesses sufficient wisdom to manage both staff and students of ACU with tact and diplomacy as well as stick and carrot approach.

In the last three years, ACU has never been in the news for wrong reasons. This is not unconnected with the dynamic leadership styles of the VC, whose temperament and training are in tune with the call of his duties. Prof. Adebayo who celebrates his birthday along with Jesus Christ on every 25th December, has demonstrated the depth of character and confidence as his creativity and boldness have been so unmistakable. He is street-wise as he is very dexterous in navigating administrative boobytraps. He may seem to have a hard exterior, but there lie a heart of gold and a quirky sense of homour with which he defuses tension.

Describe him in whichever way you want in any linguistic twist of your choice, Prof. Adebayo remains cool and calm, focusing and addressing the specificity of his own realities. His face is benign and genial. He handles the students like his own biological children, using his own personal life as an example. This VC speaks student’s language with iconic flare as he easily forgives their foibles. Obviously, his social capacity to relate with both the students and staff in the atmosphere of peace and love is amazing. His phone number is with almost all the students and their parents as he believes that any service without sacrifice is lip service.

Perhaps this liberal approach to leadership accounts for a streak of successes trailing his tenure since he assumed duties on 2 October, 2020. Checking through his records, one can see that Prof. Adebayo, who was the Deputy Vice Chancellor at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology Ogbomoso before his current appointment has not done badly in office. As part of his achievements so far, he has established ACU Bakery in order to stop traders from bringing all manner of bread to the campus. Every morning, members of the university community, including this writer eat freshly baked bread. I don’t miss it every morning. The bread is free of chemicals that are deleterious to health.

Again, Prof. Adebayo and his management team rejuvenated ACU Water Factory by buying a modern machine worth over N10 million. This is to make ACU water production process more hygienic. The machine has capacity to produce 3,000 bottles of water per hour. To ensure the comfort of his team members, this amiable VC constructed two residential buildings for Bursar and Librarian respectively. The duo are now living on campus. Before Prof. Adebayo resumed as VC, the university didn’t have enough lecture rooms. Today, he has built a complex comprising eight lecture classrooms which is named after the immediate past Council Chairman and current Board of Trustees Chairman, Chief Wole Olanipekun. He has also built 21 professorial offices.

Before he took over, ACU satellite campus at Ofa meta was lifeless. But when Prof Adebayo took over, he began to build structures there. Today, Departments of Nursing, Environmental Health, Radiology, Medical Laboratory Science and Agriculture have taken over the hitherto virgin land. To facilitate students movements from the main campus to Ofa meta, his administration ensures that two Coastal buses and four mini buses are available to ferry students to and from the satellite campus. At the main campus, however, there is free internet service for both staff and students.

Still, Prof Adebayo is planning to build another hostel for girls while Trinity Hall project for boys is equally going to start soon. To tackle electricity problems, his administration has bought a big power generator which can supply electricity to several places on campus. This is in addition to the solar projects going on across the campus. Beyond these infrastructural projects, however, his administration has reviewed the workers’ salaries with 30 percent increase. Interestingly, he ensures salaries are paid on 23rd of every month. For the first time in history, ACU, under Prof. Adebayo paid every worker Christmas bonus.

The question is where does ACU which doesn’t receive allocations from the federal government or subventions from anywhere get money to be doing all of these? This speaks to prudent management of resources by the leadership. It also illustrates accountability and transparency. In one of our casual conversations, the VC rhetorically asked, “Saanu, do you think if there is corruption here we will get money to be executing all these projects? The system would have collapsed if we engaged in packing the university money as they do in some places!”

Prof. Adebayo, to whom this tribute is dedicated on occasion of his birthday is a quintessential gentleman, very affectionate and generous, friendly and fearless fellow. The way he is handling arduous task of leadership commands people’s respect. People respect him so much not because of the virtues of office, but because of the virtues he brings to the office. He remains dutiful and dedicated. You always feel the ambience associated with his presence. In his characteristic cheerful manner, he daily sows courtesy and regularly reaps friendship, just as he plants kindness all over the place and gathers love wherever he goes.

With him, you are assured of wisecracks, profound thoughts, spiritually ennobling insights, sublime statements and words of wisdom. He walks in wisdom with all and sundry. I can testify to that, having had an insider’s view. He is known for respect for self and others. Indeed, his default behavior is that of mutual respect, tact and calmness, always using the resources of evidence and logic to make his points.

Amazingly, Prof. Adebayo could spot talent from a thousand miles away. For example, he never knew me from Adam. He was just reading my articles in newspapers like every other person when he made up his mind to poach me. He believed I could add values to the university, hence, his invitation to me for a sabbatical when I didn’t even think of it or plan for it. Since I joined him here however, he has been treating me like a king. Along with his ever committed and passionate Deputy, Prof. Benjamin Olumuyiwa Popoola, there is nothing I need that is not speedily provided. The icing on the cake, to my surprise, was when I approached the VC that I had an academic sister in the University of Ibadan who would like to do her sabbatical in ACU. Without hesitation, Prof. Adebayo approved my request and directed me to liaise with Prof. Popoola to perfect the process. I prostrated in appreciation of the honour. My academic sister has got her letter of appointment. She is starting her sabbatical in January. How else does one know a benevolent boss?

Prof. Adebayo has validated my writerly career by offering me an unsolicited sabbatical in ACU. I shall forever be grateful to him and his Deputy who has been dignifying me with generous accolades whenever he has to introduce me. I have never been this honoured. I complained about electricity in my room, the Management moved me to a better place. The Vice Chancellor even approved that I should move to a more spacious place. According to Prof. Popoola, “Baba Saanu, you should know that you are a big man in our university, therefore we must accord you the honour ” I am grateful Sir.

Back to the subject of this piece, Prof. Adebayo is one leader who lives by examples. He studied agriculture and he is teaching agriculture. Yet, he has his own farm where he is practising what he is preaching. He is not just a professor on paper, he has piggery and cows. He plants maize and yams. I was shocked the day I visited the VC’s lodge and saw plenty maize and yams planted around the lodge by the VC. This is different from other farms he has elsewhere. He also has fish ponds. This man is amazing! As an experienced and wise farmer, Prof. Adebayo doesn’t eat the best of his yields, neither does he eat his cash crops or cash cows. He invests and reinvests. That is the same principle with which he is running ACU.

To all intents and purposes, Prof. Adebayo deserves applauses and celebrations for the quality leadership he enacts at ACU where he is superintending with regal ease. He is a leader who deserves emulation for the immoral ideals and noble values he represents. He has done so much for ACU with his boundless energy and passion, thus, turning the university to a place of light, liberty and learning. One must therefore not forget to appreciate those who have been supporting him to move the university forward, including the erudite Registrar, Dr. Jadesola Babatola, the university’s Bursar, Mr. Ayodele Olusanwo, the immediate past University’s Librarian, Dr. Beatrice A. Fabunmi among others.

As Prof. Adebayo becomes a year older and wiser, one can only pray that the blessings of the Lord as well as the blessings of land are all his. Oga mi Sir, a happy birthday and many happy returns.

Saanu (08034073427) who is on sabbatical with Ajayi Crowther University is Media Assistant to the Vice Chancellor.