Prof. Julius OkojieIt was a hearty and memorable home-coming for Professor Julius Okojie, the second substantive Vice-Chancellor of FUNAAB and the immediate past Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), as members of the University community, led by the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council, Senator (Sir) Dr. Adeseye Ogunlewe; Council members; Management; Senate and other stakeholders accorded him a befitting reception with series of programmes.

Senator Ogunlewe congratulated Professor Okojie on the successful completion of his tenure as the Executive Secretary of NUC, lauding his managerial acumen, which he said, raised the bar of excellence and quality of university education in the country. According to him, “we are so proud of you. As one of us, you exhibited that experience that you gathered here in the performance of your duties as ES. Fortunately, they dissolved every other one (departments and parastatals) when you left, but they waited for you to leave because they know your performance and attitude to work. You are a pride to this country and to FUNAAB and we want further development as you are back. We need your wealth of experience to make this University number one in ranking. You have been used to ranking as the ES. So, rank us first, now. On behalf of the Council, Deans and Directors, I welcome you back home and by the grace of God, it will be a pleasure for you and as you move on in your career, the Lord will bless you.”

The Alake and Paramount Ruler of Egbaland Earlier, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Olusola Oyewole introduced the former ES to the Governing Council and assured him of the University Management’s commitment to ensuring that he had a pleasant stay in FUNAAB. Responding, Professor Okojie recalled that he left FUNAAB 15 years ago, on August 31, 2001. He disclosed that on entering Abeokuta, he had a very strong emotional feeling of being at home and that made him to immediately place a call to the former Nigerian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, to inform him that “the eagle has landed”. The elated ES, who attributed the success recorded by him in office to God saying, “My prayer was always that; God, as I am looking at the tape that signifies the end of my career, let me breast that tape without any stumbling block”.

Professor Julius OkojieProfessor Okojie appreciated the Governing Council for the warm reception accorded him and appealed to members to continue to do all within their powers to ensure that peace and unity reigned in the University. Speaking on the evolution of universities, the former Vice-Chancellor pointed out it dated back to the 11th to 14th Centuries, when the Pope gave the charter that a university be established, adding that academic gowns came from the robe of the clergy. He, however, noted how the present day universities had modified their mandates to suit present day realities. According to him, there was the need to put a tradition in place, saying when an institution does not have a tradition; it would die, adding that the power of a university was in the strength of its Senate.

The Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council Senator (Sir) Dr. Adeseye OgunleweGiving a vote of thanks on behalf of the Council, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Development), Professor Ololade Enikuomehin, expressed appreciation to Professor Okojie for coming back home because it was very rare to have a former Vice-Chancellor, returning and accepting to be part of the university community. “This puts us in the forefront as a university and that is why it is an excitement to us, especially, bearing in mind the academic culture that the former Vice-Chancellor superintended. We thank you for starting your home-coming from Council”, he added. He observed that although the university was not exactly the same that Professor Okojie left behind, accepting to come back meant that the immediate past ES had accepted to be a ‘father’ to the university, assuring him that FUNAAB would not be far from expectations In his goodwill message, another Council member, Professor Femi Otubanjo, lauded the unparalleled leadership qualities of the former Vice-Chancellor, whom he said, operated an open-door policy by relating freely with both the high and low without any discrimination; an attribute which he said amounted to his success in carrying out the tasks he undertook. According to him, “one of the best things that happened to universities during your tenure was that quality was restored. Our universities were collapsing at one point and I pray that we do not go back that way because the signs we were seeing was that people were just deliberately removing those things that would ensure standards. But today, universities like FUNAAB, University of Lagos and University of Ibadan have gone back to their standard ways and their graduates stand tall because of the regulatory and quality assurance role that NUC provided”.

At the University’s Zoological Park and Garden, its Director, Dr. Moses Oyatogun, took the former Executive Secretary on a tour of facilities and provided information on the activities of the park since its inception. Professor Okojie suggested that corporate organisations should be approached to adopt animals, which would be fully financed and managed by them.

During a visit to the Directorate of University Farm (DUFARMS) Food Expo, where various farm and industrial products produced by the University were displayed, the Director, Mr. Michael Jaiyeola, briefed the former Vice-Chancellor on the activities of the Directorate while Professor Okojie recalled his contributions to the development of the then FUNAAB Foods, observing that with the dwindling prices of crude oil, Universities of Agriculture had become very relevant in addressing the food insecurity challenge facing the nation. He expressed delight at the fact that FUNAAB had not derailed from its mandates in contributing towards eradicating hunger, while charging them to sustain the tradition of showcasing their first-fruits.

At a Special Senate Meeting held in his honour, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Oyewole had described the former Vice-Chancellor as a humble man, generous to a fault, held no grudges against anyone and a true ambassador of the University. He disclosed that the achievements recorded by him remained indelible in the history of FUNAAB, as its second substantive Vice-Chancellor, who facilitated the movement of the University to its main campus from Isale-Igbein.

The Vice-Chancellor further stated that Professor Okojie’s name is etched in gold as he was the first Inaugural Lecturer of the University; a pioneer Vice-Chancellor, who had also served meritoriously at the Bells University; and two-term Executive Secretary of NUC, who came back to the University. The Senate then approved that a foundation be established in honour of Professor Okojie, with Professor Bola Okuneye as Chairman; while Professors Kola Adebayo, Samuel Oluwalana, Grace Sokoya and Dupe Akintobi, are members.

At the occasion, members of Senate took time to shower encomiums on Professor Okojie, describing him as a strong believer in the unity of the family; a mentor; generous giver; and peace-broker; whose tenure as Vice-Chancellor, recorded peaceful reign and was instrumental to the overall success of the University. Other sterling qualities attributed to the former Vice-Chancellor was his forthrightness, courage, integrity, humility, progressiveness, staff and students’ welfarism, passion, kindness, forgiving nature, boldness and openness.

Responding, Professor Okojie appreciated all for their kind comments, stating that he would continue to be himself by remaining simple. Sharing the secrets of his success, he said it revolved around having the fear of God, having love for one’s neighbour and doing good deeds at all times, saying “when I do good, I do not remember; when you offend me, I do not remember and I do not remember when I offend you, too.” He charged members of the University community to embrace peace, do good at all times and learn to give, because givers never lack. He assured members of Senate that he would not meddle in their internal affairs, but charged them to concentrate on building a community rather than structures. “If you build structures and you don’t build a community, it will not survive. I have spiritual courage and will always say it as it is. We must have courage to speak. The University system is our own and I am proud of this system. So, let us make it comfortable to thrive and grow”, adding that the University was indeed lucky and blessed, saying “with the number of Professors in FUNAAB, you have it all. All you need is the grace of God”. He called on the academic staff to review their plans, so they can impact positively on the society, saying every leadership and system had its own problems.
At the reception held by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), FUNAAB Branch, Professor Okojie thanked the Union for receiving him back into its fold, assuring members that he would participate actively in the affairs of the Union, pointing out that unionism should be for the advancement of its members, Management and the Government, stressing that the Union had a role to play in the development of the country.

According to him, unions have very crucial roles to play in every community and should be able to justify their actions, adding that unionism was not a call to be deviant from government and management but should rather work together, rub minds and share idea that would bring about development. The local Chairman of ASUU, Dr. Adebayo Oni and other members enumerated the outstanding qualities and achievements of Professor Okojie, which included taking FUNAAB to the enviable position as the Best University in Nigeria and creating a beautiful environment through the planting of palm-trees, spearheading the planting of 250-hectare of cashew plantation, maintenance of high academic standards and the initiation of the first Open Thesis Defence in the University.

Other members of the University community, Unions and Students also had the opportunity to felicitate with Professor Okojie, at a reception held at the Ceremonial Building, as they recalled accounts of the former Vice-Chancellor’s generosity, zero tolerance for slandering or defamation of character, his passion for students and other acts of welfarism as the case may be. In his response, the former Vice-Chancellor solicited for the cooperation of all to do everything to protect the integrity of the University stressing that “only the best is good for FUNAAB”. He assured members of the community that he would continue to do all within his capacity to ensure that the University system grew.

Reporting at his new office at the International Scholars’ and Resource Centre (IS&RC), Professor Okojie was formally welcomed by his former student, now the Dean of his College, College of Environmental Resources Management (COLERM), Professor Clement Adeofun; the Deputy Dean, Dr. Abdul Shotuyo; the Head of Department, Forestry and Wildlife Management, Professor Femi Adekunle; and other Heads of Departments in the College. The former Vice-Chancellor appreciated Professor Oyewole for providing him with a befitting office and advised that the same well-furnished offices be provided for other Professors in the University. He, thereafter, presented himself to his Head of Department, Professor Adekunle, for duty.

As part of his integration back into the system and the University community, Professor Okojie, who holds a chieftaincy title, Aare Agbe of Egbaland, paid a courtesy call on the Alake and Paramount Ruler of Egbaland, His Royal Majesty, Oba (Dr.) Adedotun Gbadebo, to pay homage, appreciate him for his prayers and solicit for more prayers for him and the University. Recounting his arrival into Abeokuta over 26 years ago, as a young Professor, he said his association with the State had made him give Abeokuta the name, “land where miracles happens”. According to him, “there is hardly any prominent personality that has not passed through this town and anyone who does, the fortune of the town follows him”.

Relaying an account of his stewardship, Professor Okojie pointed out that during his tenure as ES, he accredited over 50 private universities out of the present 61 in existence in the country. He added that he was the longest serving ES, having served four Nigerian presidents and many ministers, a task he was able to accomplish, as a result of the grooming he received from FUNAAB. Speaking on his return, Professor Okojie said, just like an eagle, he had rejuvenated his strength and was ready to add his wealth of experience and knowledge to that, which exists in the University.

Commending the work done by all the Vice-Chancellors of FUNAAB, he said “FUNAAB has come of age”, adding that just like a prophet, the Pioneer Vice-Chancellor (Prof. Nurudeen Adedipe) and himself had foreseen the greatness of the University and captioned their publications, “That UNAAB Must Excel” and “UNAAB at 10, A Success Story”, to reflect this. Professor Okojie, who also informed the Alake that he had recommended that the first-fruits
of the University be presented to him every year for his blessings, so that the land may prosper, adding that “the University has a role and must ensure that communities develop. If communities are not getting any feedback from the University, then it means something is wrong. They should be part of the solution of the problem of the community”. He apologised for not always being present at occasions that required his physical presence as the Aare Agbe of Egbaland and promised to be in attendance forthwith.

In his response, the Alake appreciated the University Management and Professor Okojie for the visit, stating that his greatest gift was his simplicity and truthfulness, attributing them to his success. He recalled that during his tenure as Vice-Chancellor, Professor Okojie had promised not to leave any project abandoned and he achieved it. Praying for him, Oba Gbadebo said he would not regret his decision to come back to FUNAAB, saying that his children would always be a source of pride to him. He also prayed that his future successes would exceed that of his past and that the return of the former Vice-Chancellor would transform the University into a specialised one that would have a Faculty of Law for industries to behold; a Faculty of Medicine, where a Federal Medical Centre would be; and a Faulty of Education, where a Federal College of Education would be a degree-awarding Faculty. His Royal Majesty also prayed that the current Vice-Chancellor would leave a legacy of success behind, noting that FUNAAB would continue to be a leader in the annals of universities in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, guests on the former Executive Secretary’s entourage included his wife, Mrs. Oluremi Okojie; NUC’s Director, Quality Assurance, Dr. Biodun Saliu; Director, Open and Distance Education, Dr. Olamide Adesina; Deputy Director, Information and Public Relations, Mrs. Adebukola Olatunji; and Principal Protocol Officer, Mr. Akinlabi Akinola.