By Segun Adeleye/Abeokuta
It was a posy of event- music, poetry, cultural dance steps and plenty of reminiscences. In one breath, it was a carnival of sort judging from the colours and dress sense of those that came. On the other hand, it could also be taken as an inaugural lecture.
Whatever maybe the perspective of the observer, the event that took place on Saturday, February 16th at University of Lagos Guest House, was extra ordinary going by number and caliber of those that attended.
The presence of the royal stool in Yewaland, symbolized by the Regent of Ilaro, High Chief Abiodun Oyekan, who stood in for the Olu of Ilaro and Paramount ruler of Yewaland, Oba Kehinde Gbadewole Olugbenle as well as an Ex-Exxon-Mobil Top-shot and Regent of Oke-Odan, High Chief Wasiu Kola Lawal, conferred the status of a royal gathering on the occasion.
But perhaps the happiest person at the event was Professor Ayodele Ogunye, a Chemical Engineer and teacher of the incumbent Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Professor Rahamon Adisa Bello.
He expressed his happiness at the gathering which paraded former President of the Institute of Chartered Accountant of Nigeria (ICAN) and Senator of the Federal Republic, Felix Kolawole Bajomo and a former gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples’ Party of Nigeria (PPN) in Ogun State at the 2011 general elections, Prince Gboyega Nasir Isiaka.
The galaxy of stars at the reception did not escape the notice of the celebrant; Prof Bello, who couldn’t hide his excitement at the honour done him by his friends, colleagues and former students.
The reception was put together by the Lagos branch of Yewa Union, (YUL), a socio-cultural and economic movement of the people of Ogun State extraction which he chaired before his became the number one man at the Lagoon-front citadel of learning.
Professor of History, Anthony Asiwaju, the Asiwaju of Yewland and Unilag retiree, chaired the occasion.
Chairman of YUL, retired Major Adetokunbo Akinlade, in his remarks harped on peace and unity amongst members of the union in order to stimulate all-round-development. He revealed that efforts were on to complete the establishments of the union in the United Kingdom, Abeokuta as well as outreaches in Port Harcourt and Abuja.
According to him, all these will only be possible if members sacrifice personal goals for the collective gains.
But bringing history to play, Professor Asiwaju said this was the second time the University of Lagos would be appointing an indigene of Yewaland in Ogun state, as Vice-Chancellor. The first was a Professor of surgery and Fellow of the Nigeria Academy of Science, Emeritus Professor, Akinpelu Oludele Adesola.
Akinlade assured that Bello would sustain the highest standard which his Isaga-Yewaland forerunner brought to bear on the seat
His words: “I have no doubt in my mind that Bello is self-effacing, extremely humble absolutely unassuming, level-headed and very outstandingly brilliant scholar will replicate and surpass the finest administrative skill which Professor Adesola surgically brought to bear on the university.”
Professor Asiwaju recalled how he got to Unilag in 1969, some six years after its establishment and how he got to know Bello much later as someone who does not lobby for anything.
The actual icing on the cake came from Professor Ogunye, the teacher of the VC, as a foundation student of Chemical Engineering, Obafemi Awolowo University, (OAU) Ile-Ife in 1970.
Proposing a toast to the VC, Professor Ogunye said Bello struck him with unequal intelligence and humility when he taught a class of 19 students who were pioneers of the department in Ife. According to him, “Rahamon was the Chairman of the set of 18 students admitted (one later joined from elsewhere); he had been a first class student since the day he entered the university and I had to encourage him to do his post-graduate at the Canadian University of Waterloo, where I happen to be the first Nigerian to earn a Ph. D.”
He went on, “This is around 2 p.m., he has phoned me three times today; any day he does not phone me at all is a bad day for me,” Ogunye stated. He further told the audience that the VC was among the eight that applied for the job, and was “not given any chance because he knew nobody except God.
He had never been a Dean, but was an HoD so he went into the race as an underdog, but he clinched it and when the news got to me in Ijebu, where I had gone on the invitation of the Awujale, I filled the booth of my car with all manner of wine. I cannot have done less because that is the greatest and happiest day of my life. Also as someone who chaired their wedding in 1976, I could not afford to do less for Rahamon who emerged first after the result was announced with 82 percent to beat the closest person, who scored 75 percent.”
Ogunye, whose toast became the high point of the event, opened up on what he called the “Waterloo Mafia” which he said he was talking about for the first time in his life, apparently because of his unlimited joy at the attainment of his student.
“I am the leader of the Waterloo mafia which has 10 of us in this university; nine of us are full Professors, three have emerged as VCs and two as DVCs; that is the group of people I lead in Unilag,” Ogunye gleefully obliged the audience.
Reminiscing on the celebrant, at the meeting where students of the Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED) cultural trouped performed and spiced by the intermittent injection of Yewaland generic genre of music by the Bolojo Maestro, Jossy Friday, Professor G. G. Oke and Bursar, Mr. Odekunle described the VC as a God-believing and listening man who sees to the welfare of others all the time.
In his toast to the Yewa Union, former ICAN President and Senator, Kola Bajomo, charged Yewa in diaspora to continue to forge a common front through the establishment of chapters of the union in major cities and outside the shores of the nation.
He veered into politics when he said the Ogun West people may have no option but to go it alone if justice is not done the region by conceding the governorship slot to it by the other senatorial districts. It would be recalled that the region is yet to produce a governor for the state in its 37 year history.
“What our people fail to realize is that you cannot get peace without justice and fair play. All other senatorial districts in Ogun State should know that Ogun West has the human resources in abundance, has the landmass and natural resources to secede if the reign of marginalization of the area is not checked by the warlords,” Bajomo cautioned.
In his response, the Vice-Chancellor showed excitement at the turn out while he appealed to the Yewa people to stand up and be counted, saying, “we have more than one million Yewa people in Lagos, majority of them close to the top in various organizations while others are at the top.”
He described the painting presented him by the YUL, which has a long, winding image of Yewa river as most worthy. He said it will constantly remind him that he needs to do more for humanity through his place of birth.