Before the fifth Vice Chancellor of Ondo State owned Adekunle Ajasin University was announced in January 2015, not many had anticipated that the ball would be passed to Professor Igbekele Ajibefun, the former Rector of the Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, not even Ajibefun himself. At best, about the time, the professor had considered the possibility of tenure enlongation.
For those who know, the famed professor of Agricultural Economics was, at the period, on top of plans to resume work at the Federal University of Technology, from where he had since been away on leave of abscence. But fate found him worthy, again, for another job, greater and loftier, perhaps more on the strenght of his credentials, experience and testimonials around the polytechnic he governed and transformed to a global entity.
Professor Igbekele Ajibefun arrived AAUA, amidst cheering, enthusiastic crowd. Staff and students recieved the lanky professor cheerfully. That was at the point when his immediate predecessor, Professor Olufemi Mimiko, has just left with record of great successes. What was not in doubt however, at his arrival was the fact that the new Vice Chancellor, Ajibefun, meant business.
He came with consequential credentials as the builder of mordern Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, the hitherto obscure institution that he emplaced on the global plane. And he was sure to write a new story for the University and repeat the success story to the benefit of all. He swore to make the University happy. He meant those words.
The tenure of Professor Ajibefun, who is now rounding up, is in many ways dissimilar to his immediate predecessor’s. Monies were unusually pomped into the University during Professor Mimiko’s regime but it is not so with Ajibefun.
Mimiko has the back of the governor and visitor to the university and enjoyed the bonding and consanguinity, an advantage that Professor Ajibefun does not have.
The government of Ondo State, under governor Mimiko – Professor Mimiko’s elder brother and patriarch of the Mimiko family, was very generous to the university. But things changed after the Ajibefun assumed duty.
Things changed so sharply that the university could have gone on its knees were it not for the shrewdness and frugality of its new handler.
For instance, the monthly subvention that used to arrive as and when due became something to hustle for, and something to be augmented, but as a typical problem solver, the professor turned the institution around even in the face of daunting challenges.
Looking back, the genius has succeeded in taking the University to new heights and extending its frontiers in splendid ways. His was a case of a thoroughbred economist whose works lend loud credence to his brilliance and capabilities.
He has done so well and he is now rounding up, yet the facts are laid bare for all of us to see. His performances betray his constraints and give him out as an accomplished scholar and administrator.
His tenure has worked profoundly on linking up the University with leading universities around the world and improving on its facilities for training, to the effect that a Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, was signed between AAUA and DANTATA Solar Ltd. with technical assistance provided by a German company; MoU with University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada on Student and staff exchange, and collaborative research/Curriculum Development; MoU with Troy University, Troy, Alabama USA Teaching and research personnel Exchange, student exchange and academic programme development and collaboration.
The facts say his tenure also facilitated MoU with Alabama State University, Montgomery, Alabama, USA, on exchange of faculty members for research, lectures and discussion, exchange of students for study and research, and exchange of academic materials and other information, including Joint collaborative grant proposals.
Also, MoU with College of Agriculture, Auburn University, USA, on exchange of faculty members and technical staff, exchange of students, and conduct joint research activities, participation in seminars and academic meetings , and joint participation in international training course.
Ajibefun administration has sustained the work-study scheme programme established by the previous administration, an initiative that allows indigent and interested students to work for two hours daily and earn stipends to take care of their financial needs. Four hundred students have benefited from this programme in the last three years.
With the increase in school fees, the present Governing Council approved financial support to assist the students cope with payment of the new fees. These include introduction of loan scheme, scholarship scheme as well as expansion of the existing Work-Study Scheme, in addition to other forms of support. Also, a new office, Students’ Support Centre was created under the Vice Chancellor’s office.
To this end, a committee was also set up to work out modalities and criteria for the implementation of all forms of financial support to the students.
Under the leadership of Professor Igbekele Ajibefun, the University’s dream of birthing own Community Radio was achieved. Today, Radio AAUA 90.3 FM, which was commissioned in December 2017, has since added to the list of the University’s infrastructural development and has been enhancing the programmes of the University as well as the socioeconomic life of the host communities.
The University is presently working on establishing 4 Megawatt solar power project on Campus, which, upon completion, will bring enduring cure to the challenges associated with the supply of electricity in the University and safe the University’s purse from the humongous amount of money which is spent on diesel, purchase and maintenance of generating sets.
In spite of economic stress, the University has been able to make commendable progress by partnering with Government Agencies such as the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFUND, and the Federal Government Needs Assessment and the Alumni Association to deliver significant projects, which include the construction of gigantic projects, namely, Laboratory Block, Faculties of Arts and Education Buildings.
Others include the construction of the Faculty of Agriculture Building, 500-Capacity Lecture Theatre, construction of 300-Capacity Lecture Theatre and construction of Student Hostels.
Within a short period, AAUA’s Centre for Bio-Computing and Drug Development (CBDD), one of the newly established centres for innovative research in the University, took off in 2015 with the purpose of addressing medical and health challenges in Nigeria and other parts Africa, through drug development and using the instruments of computation and molecular biology techniques.
This Centre has succeeded in establishing partnership with the University of Nagasaki in Japan, National Biotechnology Agency (NABDA), Nigeria, National Agency for Food and Drugs Control, (NAFDAC) and the Korean Research Institute of Bioscience & Biotechnology (KRIBB).
A number of things, I believe, worked for Professor Ajibefun. Part of these was his relisient nature and his positive mental attitude. His frugality and and sense of discipline. Professor Ajibefun paid salaries regularly, including important allowances. Yes, his vast aptitude in driving internally generated revenue too helped him quite obviously. He networked and same eased his works. But he also enjoyed unusual grace. He could have slided, both for human and political factors but grace helped.
He would be the first Vice Chancellor of Adekunle Ajasin University to complete a (tough) tenure under two successive governors, and under three different personalities as Pro-Chancellors and Chairmen of the University Governing body. He managed and enjoyed clement relationship with the trade unions while he got the latter to support his vision to take the University to higher heights as he promised to do when he resumed.
Before the next Vice Chancellor comes, the charge must subsist. The vision must be preserved, above all ulterior intents.
Individual biases must fly below the altitude already mapped out by this administration.The universe in the university that Professor Ajibefun has painstakingly preserved must not die.
Professor Ajibefun has succeeded evidently. The graphic culmination of his laborious efforts must be the estimation of Adekunle Ajasin University as Nigeria’s best State University in the new (2019) global webometrics ranking. How profound!