By Adewale Kupoluyi
This week, Professor Felix Kolawole Salako officially assumed duty as the sixth substantive Vice-Chancellor at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Ogun State. The Vice-Chancellor Designate is a Professor of Soil Physics in the Department of Soil Science and Land Management, College of Plant Science and Crop Production (COLPLANT) of the University.
FUNAAB has remained a unique and leading institution in a number of ways. First, it is a specialised University. Second, it has over 10,000 hectares of land, for expansion and commercial farming. Third, it is located in Ogun State, an industrial hub of the nation. To maintain these areas of strengths, the university should always put in place, a sound leadership that would propel it into realising its full potentials. This conscious reality has been one of the critical factors in considering the eligibility, suitability and acceptance of the servant-leader that could steer the ship of the university with the motto, “Knowledge for Development”, to its desired position.
Over the years, this passion for excellence has been the watchword of FUNAAB stakeholders. Last year, and early 2017, witnessed protracted crises that almost crippled this dynamic university. However, through divine intervention, bridge-building process took place, which salvaged the university from total collapse in line with the promise of the Governing council, at its first consultative meeting in Abuja, where the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council, Dr. (Barr.) Aboki Zhawa, had expressed the readiness of Council to work tirelessly for the installation of enduring peace.
Hence, Council, at its 94th meeting, approved the recommendation of Senate and appointed Professor Ololade Adeduro Enikuomehin as the Acting Vice-Chancellor, with effect from May 24, 2017. A Professor of Plant Pathology and Mycology as well as Fellow, Nigerian Society for Plant Protection (FNSPP), Enikuomehin is of the Department of Crop Protection; and the same college with the Vice-Chancellor Designate; COLPLANT. Working with the pro-active Governing Council, management was able to fully restore peace and successfully appointed three principal officers in substantive capacities; the Vice-Chancellor, Registrar and Bursar. The University is now running smoothly!
With the state of affairs now, there is the full confidence in the minds of members of the University community that Professor Salako’s vast experience as an academic, administrator and researcher would come to bear in moving FUNAAB to greater heights. Already, the indicators are there that the University is set to record rewarding successes, as enunciated in his well-articulated vision, mission and core values, which say it all and in tandem with his firm belief that “Excellence Cannot Be Compromised”.
The focus of the incoming Professor Salako-led administration is to promote scholarly contributions for positive impact on mankind and the environment, particularly, in the areas of food security and export-driven agriculture for the 29-year-old university, through: creation of an enabling environment for staff productivity and learning, promotion of research-for-development activities in all areas of competence, expansion of the frontiers of knowledge by consolidating existing knowledge in accessible media while promoting innovations, ensuring equity and fair-play in all relationships with stakeholders. For the new administration, these goals are hinged on the Vice-Chancellor Designate’s core values of according due respect for humanity, integrity, justice, fair-play and productivity.
To ensure that FUNAAB meets up with current realities, the just-concluded combined convocation ceremonies of the University, further afforded the Nigerian President and Visitor to the University, President Muhammadu Buhari, to charge newly-graduated students of the university to be job-creators rather than job-seekers. This thinking is not too far from the admonition given by the Chancellor of the University, His Eminence, Dr. Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi-Otu (V), the Obong of Calabar, saying that ‘oil has failed us as a nation’, advising the country to go back to agriculture. Similarly, the nation’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief (Dr.) Audu Ogbeh, in the convocation lecture titled; “Food and the Future”, admitted that ‘specialised universities of agriculture were specifically established as the knowledge centres of this sector, to bring about the desired change.
These positions resonate with the beliefs of the incoming Vice-Chancellor, as earlier espoused by him, during the 48th Inaugural Lecture of FUNAAB, where he linked food security to soil conservation. Professor Salako, a highly community-oriented academic, has, over the years, established very strong links with FUNAAB-adopted villages for teaching, research and extension services.
However, the incoming Vice-Chancellor certainly has some important tasks ahead of him in a competitive environment, where many universities are striving for global relevance. Apart from ensuring that the university maintains excellence in teaching, research and community engagements, FUNAAB should ever remain peaceful. He should also add his voice to the clamour to either exempt universities from the Treasury Single Account (TSA) scheme, or for the Federal Government to modify it, to suit the peculiarities of the university system, particularly, as it relates to exchange of scholars within the nation, without forgetting to champion the need for adequate funding and timely release of funds and ensuring that university management strictly adheres to accountability, probity, productivity and efficiency.
Professor Salako should now walk the talk, as FUNAAB’s profile, which stands at 570 academic and 1,472 non-teaching staff, 29 National Universities Commission-assessed programmes and a student population of 17,312, made up of 15,847 undergraduates as well as 1,471 postgraduate students, is a success story, whose flag should be kept flying. He should not disappoint members of the University community that entrusted him with the exalted position, having promised leadership by example, enthronement of high academic standards and quality assurance.
Furthermore, he should ensure the fruition of the plans to focus on improvement of internet facilities, solid entrepreneurship education, promotion of public-private, infrastructural development and maintenance, improvement of health services, among others. More importantly, the new administration should ensure that it takes the advantage of Ogun State’s comparative advantage of hosting foremost industrial and research organisations on raw material supply, by putting FUNAAB’s over 10,000 hectares expanse of land into crop and livestock production, to feed communities and meet industrial needs. The new administration should ensure productive relationships that would further be strengthened for meaningful youth engagements in boosting farming and reducing unemployment.
Professor Salako, a product of the Apostolic Church Grammar School, Orishigun village (near Ketu), Lagos State, bagged his West African School in Division One in 1977 and attended the Igbobi College, Lagos for his Lower Sixth. At the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, he obtained both B. Agric (Hons) and M.Sc degrees in Soil Science in 1983 and 1986, respectively. He later bagged his PhD Degree in 1997 from the University of Ibadan. The don has served the university on many fronts, which include: Head, Department of Soil Science and Land Management; Director, Agricultural Media Resources and Extension Centre (AMREC); Pioneer Director, Centre for Community-Based Farming Scheme (COBFAS) and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Development), for two terms.
The Vice-Chancellor Designate has to his credit, more than 89 publications in learned journals, book chapters, conference proceedings and technical reports. He is a member of the International Society of Agricultural Meteorology, Soil Science Society of Nigeria and Soil and Water Conservation Society, Iowa, United States of America. An Associate Editor of the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, Iowa, USA. He is currently the Southwestern Nigeria Coordinator (2016-2021), African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI), a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Project of the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Nigeria. No doubt, FUNAAB is in the right hand. There is only one thing that the new helmsman requires from members of the University community: full support and all would be well; as Professor Felix Kolawole Salako, comes on board as the sixth substantive Vice-Chancellor.