A Provost’s First Day In Office —tayo mabeweje

Opinion

Monday, 8th of August was a date and day the staffers, students and visitors on ground at the Michael Otedola College of Primary Education situated at Noforija in Epe division of Lagos State will never forget in a hurry. It was the day a new Provost took over from the erstwhile Acting Provost (now the deputy Provost) Dr. (Mrs.) Oshodi.

There is nothing spectacular in an academic institution’s head assuming office, one may say, but this piece will let you into the uniqueness of this extra-ordinary ‘take-over’ and the ‘riot act’ of this human dynamo. It only compares to the coming of a hurricane.

For introduction, the new Provost is a cerebral who, without being immodest, seems to be endowed with the pragmatic and blunt leadership qualities of the late (Dr.) Tai Solarin and the understandable impatience to get things working before you could say “Jack’ reminiscent of the late General Murtala Muhammed who popularised the ‘with immediate effect’ catchphrase.

I was not privileged to witness his arrival on the campus and how he was ushered into his office and so could only imagine the ‘drama’ that ensued, I was however lucky to be around when he kick started his tour of formations within the campus after a brief meeting with principal officers. Without mincing words, the tour was an action packed scenario; educative, non-nonsense, pragmatic, creative, visionary and, in a lighter mood, highly entertaining.

After inspecting the Deputy Provost’s Office, he moved to the office of the Registrar. Charging into the office, he queried; “Who occupies this office?” The secretary replied; “Sir, this is the office of the Registrar.” The new Provost, having surveyed the whole office in nanoseconds said; “Yes, the chair is fine, the table is neat, yes, but I expect to see a personal computer and a printer here. There are some things you should be able to do by yourself but anyway, we will keep on improving, let’s go.” I thought in my mind, this is a Provost who has taste and is ICT compliant.

Outside of the Administrative Block, he pointed at a spot. “And what’s in there?” he asked. The institution’s engineer told him that the structure houses a 25 kva generator that needed to be serviced. Without wasting time, he directed the engineer to write a memo and make sure the generator works soonest. Now, it seems some of the staffers were discussing in undertones; “What manner of a Provost is this?”

Getting into another office, he could not hide his feelings at some items of furniture which were in a state of disrepair. “Don’t you have carpentry or joinery here? Do you call these tables? I don’t want this kind of things in my vicinity. This is an eyesore. You have to discard all these or move them into a store for God’s sake. Don’t give us a bad name. Lagos State is not as poor as you are projecting it,” he quipped. Double-pacing, he left for another office and was amazed to find piles of files stacked on the ‘executive chairs’ meant for visitors. “it you have visitors where will they sit? He barked and no answer came.

After inspecting the College’s library, he promised to establish both analogue and digital e-library that would link the College with world Visual and digital libraries.

At the Computer Centre, he surveyed the whole area containing about sixty computers and promised to facilitate free access to educational materials that students could use in learning as well as lecturers in conducting researches. He also revealed that in his action plan, there would be MOCPED Textbook Series which would be both in soft and hard copies for students to read and soft copy for downloading. He concluded that when this is done, it would shore up the image of the institution internationally.

After leaving the Computer centre, the entourage ran into the College ambulance. The Provost stopped abruptly and asked the driver, “is that the school’s ambulance and how many do you have?” When he was told the school has only one, he said: “Even, the one you have looks sick. If this is to take somebody who needs urgent medical attention to the hospital you can only wonder what would happen on the way. We shall find solution to it.” He moved and everybody followed.

Now, the medical centre. After exchanging pleasantries with the matron-in-charge, he asked what was wrong with a student patient who did not wait before announcing that he was being treated for typhoid. “How do you know you are suffering from typhoid? If you know, then your problem is half-solved and you only need medication. Anyway, that’s by the way, matron let’s inspect your rooms.” He gave the hospital management a pass mark for the overall neatness of the environment but not until after inspecting the toilet. “Do you know why I did that?” he asked everybody. And everybody has come to understand his style. Silence! “I did that so that you don’t visit the clinic’s toilet and pick a disease. It is very logical.” And logical it is. If a hospital’s toilet is not spick-and-span, where else? “And where is the office of the doctor?” “But we don’t have a doctor yet”, the matron replied. “Why, there should be one, even if it is a corps member doctor. There should be a medical doctor and not a medical director. The Deputy Provost, please note this.”

The team headed for the sports complex which is under construction. He mandated the works department to give him a daily update of the progress made as he declared that he hopes the College holds its convocation ceremonies at the complex. “And please, there should be a motorable access road and enough parking space. When I say convocation you can imagine the kind of people we are expecting.

At one of the lecture theatres, he observed that the College is not that poor in terms of infrastructure but lack maintenance culture. He gave orders that the damaged chairs at the lecture theatre should be repaired and with immediate effect!

Getting to the most imposing building on the campus which houses the school of Social Studies, some of the few students there peeped out of the windows to catch a glimpse of the new helmsman. The new Provost made for the office of the Dean. Having been told that the Dean was not around, he did not show any form of displeasure but politely told the dean’s secretary, “I have decided to come to visit the dean on my first day in school when he is supposed to be around and he wasn’t. He should come to see him and he should see me today. The secretary put a call through immediately. The new provost left but not after charging at some female students who sat on the reading bench: “Hey ladies, you are not supposed to sit on the table. It is meant for reading.” And they quickly complied.

At another Dean’s office, he noticed a dry aquarium that is only good for the museum. “Why keep an aquarium without water or fishes!” The Dean replied that electricity supply was one major problem in the institution and so he could not activate the aquarium. This reply brought out one major revelation that with the action plan of the new Provost, the institution is poised for a drastic positive change where things would work and the institution would soon become a force to reckon with among higher institutions in the country. He revealed that plans are in top gear to generate electricity through solar power in the institution in a matter of months. When this is done, there would be uninterrupted power supply on the campus. Everybody cannot but clap.

“Now, I think I have had enough. Everybody, you can take your leave now. We have a meeting in five minutes’ time please, get yourself prepared. Engineer, please make sure there is light in my office before I get there.” He then made for his office, a distance of about hundred metres away. On the way, an academic staff greeted the new Provost. “And who are you?” “I am one of your staff in Social Studies department.” “Oh, that is nice, I am Olu Akeusola of the Provost Department.” Everybody burst into a wild laughter.

At the entrance of the Administrative Block on his way to his office, a flex banner welcoming him to the campus spelt his surname as AKEUSHOLA. He paused and, turning to the Deputy Provost, he said, “I am not AKEUSHOLA. My AKEUSOLA is without an H. one of my brothers writes his as AKEWUSHOLA, one writes his as AKEUSHOLA, but mine is AKEUSOLA without an H.” The import of his explanation is that he wants everybody to know he can be finicky about how his name is spelt. His asked his personal secretary to take a special note of this. He then ascended to his office for another round of meeting.

The ‘brief’ tour was only a tip of the iceberg. The new Provost’s action plan included improvement in staff and students’ welfare, transportation, accommodation, security among many others. He is also bent on embarking on ventures that will generate internal revenue for the College especially in the areas of agriculture, hospitality as well as manufacture and sale of essential commodities.

What I can deduce here is that this is a Provost who wants to transform an institution if given the wherewithal. He already has the drive and only needed to be encouraged. Lagos State can only remain a centre of excellence when the infrastructure there are excellent.

Professor Olurotimi Sikiru AKEUSOLA is the fourth Provost of Michael Otedola College of Primary Education (established 1994). An internationally acknowledged linguist, Akeusola was, until his appointment, an Associate Professor of French and Comparative Grammar and the Dean, School of Arts and Social Sciences at the National Open University of Nigeria, Lagos.

Born at Epe, Lagos State, Professor Akeusola attended the then Lagos State College of Education, (now Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education) Otto/Ijanikin between 1983 and 1986 and the University of Lagos between 1987 and 1990 for his first degree. He also obtained both his Masters and doctorate degrees at the same university.

He was the University of Lagos Best scholar of the year 1988/89 session, the Dean Faculty of Arts Award holder for the Best performance in French – 1989/90 session, Vice Chancellor’s Award for the Best Performance at the Degree Level – 1989/90 session and the Best Masters Graduating Student, M.A. French and Comparative Grammar, University of Lagos in 1995 and as a result of which he was exempted from M.Phil and allowed to proceed directly to Ph.D.

As a Comparative Grammarian of note, he excels in translation, lecturing and linguistic criticism of theories and syntactic structures. These qualities stood him out for an award by the International Biographical Centre Cambridge, IBC, England as one of the World’s 2000 outstanding scholars of the 21st Century in 2001.

Akeusola has published many text books and articles in Learned Journals, three completed research, seven presented seminar papers and has edited several academic publications/textbooks.

He is a member of over six professional bodies and has served as councillor member in many institutions.

•Mabeweje is the Media Consultant to the Provost.

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