Many people whom the outgoing Vice Chancellor of the First Technical University, Ibadan, Professor Ayobami Salami, has positively affected their lives have told his story with style. Such are mostly those he worked with at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and Tech-U where he is the pioneer VC. Among them were Professors Olajide Oke, Henry Odeyinka and Surajudeen Ajadi, all who highlighted his enviable character and professional strengths.
They did this on Wednesday April 20, when his ‘Committee of Friends’ held a party in his honour at Tech-U, where some officials of the Isiaka Ajimobi government that established the institution were also present. Among them were the former Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Olalekan Ali; and a former Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Hon. Bimbo Kolade.
With them around, the story of how Tech-U started was bound to be told. The programme was a strategic one to celebrate his acclaimed achievements at Tech-U. Apart from having graduated the first set to time, the university currently ranks number seven among the state universities in Nigeria – just within its first five years.
In her opening address, the chairperson of the occasion, Professor of Veterinary Public Health and Preventive Medicine at the University of Ibadan, Olanike Adeyemo, said it was great that Salami started well and completed the assignment well.
She said, “Professor Salami, you should be very proud of yourself. It is not about starting, it is about finishing excellently well. You are leaving big shoes, but we believe your legacy will endure.”
Alhaji Ali expressed fulfilment at the solid foundation Salami has given the university in terms of sound academic heritage and infrastructural expansion.
According to him, he wished Ajimobi were alive to see how beautifully the dream has unfolded.
He said, “We needed a VC who would be able to transform the idea of a university of learning and practice into reality. At the same time, we needed a VC who would be a janitor, a cleaner, coordinator, manager and an intellectual. Many people applied but we literally had to beg him to take up the job. Today, all we had seen in him have come to life.”
As far as Kolade is concerned, that the institution has survived and developed rapidly is amazing because even he and some people in the Ajimobi government doubted if it would make it due to the prevailing economic situation when it came on stream.
It was also a day for reminiscences especially by those who were with Salami when he went through the battle to become the vice chancellor at the OAU.
He was duly appointed and got his letter before the process was cancelled in a way that they believe was unjust.
Among those who reflected on the battle then were Professor Surajudeen Ajadi, pioneer Dean of Students Affairs at Tech-U; and his successor, Dr Caleb Aborisade.
Ajadi recalled how dogged Salami was during the battle, to the extent that he re-contested after his victory was cancelled.
Despite his hard-fighting spirit, Ajadi said, “Professor Salami knows what it takes to be humane. He is of exemplary character.”
On his part, Professor Odeyinka said, Salami was a man of multiple anointing. He noted, “He has emphasised grace. He is a man who carries a lot of anointing – pastoral, intellectual leadership anointing and more.”
Also present were Professor E. Ajayi Olajubu, who described Salami as a man with many disciples.
“I used to be angry with what they did to us at Ife. But when I got here, I ceased to be angry. I am only sad for Great Ife.”
While Professor Remi Ogunfowokan highlighted the celebrator’s virtues to include being prudent, calm and calculated, hardworking, of high integrity and considerate to all, a lecturer at Tech-U, Dr J.E.T.Akinsola, shared an experience that confirmed to him that Professor Salami also works with the judgment and spirit of a father.
Responding to the encomium galore, the outgoing VC thanked all the parties involved, including the late Ajimobi, Alhaji Ali and the management and staff of Tech-U for allowing and supporting him to prove his mettle.
He, however, gave all the glory to God, saying all was by God’s grace.
He said, “I feel highly honoured. At a point I feel like shedding tears, and wonder whether I actually deserve this.
“Everything depends on grace and I give all glory to God. All He has spoken has come to pass. My adventure at this university is never by ambition, but by vision and mission. God told me I was going to be a VC. I thought it was at OAU where I had laboured all along. Eventually the vision has come to pass because God can never be a liar. Some of the people God used are here.
“Chief Wole Olanipekun was ready to pursue the case for me. But I told myself, if I say I want to add value and some people say no, then I can as well move on with my life. Also, I didn’t want to hold down the destiny of OAU, knowing I would get an injunction, and the university had to go on with the burden of an acting VC. For how long would that be? I felt that, whatever happened, God allowed it. And it is now I realise the significance of unanswered prayer, based on what God has established here at Tech-U.”
Salami noted that Alhaji Ali always guided him on how to relate with politicians, despite the fact that Ajimobi had given him the free hand to operate.
“Alhaji Ali was my constant source of inspiration within the government. He helped me without strings attached.”
The outgoing VC expressed the belief that Tech-U would continue to grow, adding that his successor was also a man of immense learning, passion, experience and trustworthy character.
Also in attendance at the event were outgoing VC’s wife, Professor Abiodun Salami; incoming Vice Chancellor, Professor Adesola Ajayi, and his wife, Ibiyemi Ajayi; Tech-U Registrar, Olayinka Balogun, and the Bursar, Pastor Kehinde Olatokun.
A former Vice Chancellor of the Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomoso, Professor Adeniyi Gbadegesin; Professor Layo Ajayi, veteran librarian, Bukky Asubiojo, former Bursar at OAU, J. A. Akeredolu; Modupe Ajayi and OAU’s Academic Staff Union Chairman, Dr Adeola Egbedokun, with some of his colleagues.
President of the Lagelu Grammar School Old Students Association – Salami’s alma mater – Dr, Kayode Afolabi, who described Salami as a man of impeccable character, also attended, alongside other members, while from Tech-U were also Professor Olusegun Awotoye, Professor Steven Oke, Professor Adebayo Mosobalaje, Professor Olatunji Okesola, O. M. Ariyibi, Barrister Yomi Opakunle, Adekunle Adebisi, Esther Aina and many others. Dr Doyin Adebayo and Soji Gbelekale Ajankoro Alagbede Oro inspiringly anchored the programme.