hall of Idrinana Hotel in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, had most probably
never received the number and quality of guests it hosted on Monday February
15, 2021. It was a colourful array of dignitaries from all facets of life.
contingent was led by the Obaro of Kabba and Chairman of the Okun Traditional
Council, Oba Solomon Dele Owoniyi and the Olu Adde of Ekinrin Adde, Oba Anthony
Bamigbaye Idowu. From the academia were scholars like Professor Suleiman Bala
Mohammed, Vice Chancellor the Nasarawa State University; Professor Yakubu
Ochefu, former Vice Chancellor of Kwararafa University; Professor Gbenga
Ibileye of the Federal University of Lokoja and Professor Eugene Aliegba also
of the Nasarawa State University. Prof Kola Olorunleke of the Michael Ajasin
University; Dr Tivlumun Nyitse of Bingham University, Karu; Dr Toba Olusunle,
Managing Director of the Engineering Materials Development Institute, Dr Bode
Oshadare of the Kogi State University, and many other scholars were in
dignitaries included Maj Gen Julius Olakunle Oshanupin, former Commander,
Brigade of Guards in The Presidency; Barr Tunde Bello, former Solicitor-General
of Kogi State; Dr Carolyn Ezeokeke, a Director in the National Commission for
Museums and Monuments; Hon Positive Ihiabe, a former Member of the House of
Representatives; Dr Femi Ajisafe, a former General Manager at the National
Inland Waterways Authority; Mr Biodun Olorunleke, a former Director with the
National Youth Service Corps, and Mr Sanya Ajakaiye, a former Director in the
National Assembly Service Commission.
The event was a
reception for the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Lokoja,
Professor Olayemi Durotimi Akinwumi, who assumed office earlier that day. He
replaced Professor Angela Freeman Miri who had served out her five year term in
December 2020, the Governing Council of the University under the leadership of
Senator Chris Adighije, had approved the appointment of Professor Akinwumi to
the position. He was adjudged to have been head over shoulders above all the
other 80 contestants for the position, from universities and institutions across
Senator Adighije, the selection process was so rigorous that the 81 applicants,
were initially scaled down to 20. Thereafter, the list was further pruned down
to three names. Two independent external assessors were also invited to ensure
openness, fairness and transparency in the selection process.
committee of friends of Akinwumi, notably: Dr Matthew Keyi (former Chairman of
Ogori-Magongo local government area in Kogi State); Chief Sola Adedoyin, (a
businessman and politician); Femi Ibrahim (a diplomat), Mr Rufus Aiyenigba and
this writer, had constituted a small group to drive the event hosted that
night. Except for Aiyenigba, all other members of the committee were alumni of
the University of Ilorin.
As freshmen in
the University of Ilorin in 1982, the reception we received from the older
students and lecturers was welcoming and accommodating. I had come in at 200
Level, after completing my Cambridge University-moderated higher school
certificate programme at the School of Basic Studies, Kwara State College of
The likes of
Gbenga Ayeni (now a professor of communication at the East Connecticut State
University); Blessing Wikina (who retired as Director of Information in Rivers
State a few years ago); Dapo Adelegan (a successful entrepreneur on the Lagos
business scene) and Bisola Oluwole (a notable woman businesswoman in Lagos)
among others, were also admitted by direct entry into the same programme. We
never knew each other before our meeting at the University of Ilorin, but
together we went through the motions of registration and familiarisation with
our new environment.
As we shuttled
between our various faculty blocks, departments, student union building,
porters’ lodges and cafeteria, we met and made new friends who enthusiastically
wanted to put us through our acculturation processes.
As students of
English, we had to study Linguistics as “first minor”, also known as elective,
elsewhere. You could choose a second minor from a broad array of other subjects,
but I opted for History, having studied it for my higher school certificate.
handshakes, laughs and similar asides before or after our lectures, from
strolling together to our hostels and to the library, we cultivated new
friendships which have withstood the test of time. Tivlumun Nyitse (a former
Permanent Secretary in Benue State); Tunji Bamishigbin (a renowned movie maker
and actor); Mopah Aileku (a civil servant); Jide Owojaiye ( who recently
retired from the teaching service commission in Kogi State);
Akinwumi, among others, were our new friends. They had been in the university a
year earlier as 100 Level students, and so, they were, to borrow the common
lingo, “sons of the soil.”
taking courses in History, we were taught by scholars and intellectuals like
the late Prof Ade Mobain Obayemi (who also once served as Director General of
the National Commission for Museums and Monuments); Dr (now Professor) Hakeem
Olumide Danmole; Dr A.S. Adebola; Dr S.J. Watts, among others. Akinwumi was not
only punctual and regular in class, he had a way of taking down in his
notebooks, any and everything that was said by any lecturer. It was never
surprising therefore, that our classmates who skipped lectures for any reason,
queued in his room in the hostel, to borrow his books to update theirs.
classroom, Akinwumi, Ayeni and I lived in the same hostel. Our rooms, accross
the grassy quadrangle in our “F – Block” accommodation, was a whistling
distance from one another. Together with our other friends, we made cat calls
and threw jokes about all manner of subjects. We mimicked the verbal mannerisms
of our teachers and enjoyed robust cackles from time to time. At leisure, the
quadrangle became a temporary field for “five-a-side” soccer.
Since we both
resided in Ilorin, Akinwumi and I made it a point of duty to utilize our
end-of-session holidays, productively. We got like-minded friends together and
arranged summer lectures for secondary school students. It was not only a way
of making little stipends for ourselves ahead of the new school year, it was
also a way of keeping our minds academically active. I recall Yemi once asked
me: “Your parents are comfortable, you suffer no lack in school, why would you
be interested in this summer school exercise?” He found an answer himself when
he said: “Well, I think it is part of grooming by your parents, which is very
good.” The summer school project also helped parents whose wards participated
in the summer schools, keep them out of harm’s way within the period.
mistaken, Yemi was not a straitjacket bookworm. Higher institutions in our
days, encouraged extracurricular activities. Education then was beyond class
work, in the effort to build the man and his mind. Apart from belonging to
associations immediately related to our courses of study, other clubs and
societies made the whole educational process a holistic grooming exercise.
Students belonged to the “Historical Society”; the “English Readers
Association”; the “Performing Arts Students’ Association”, and so on. At the
same time, the “Rotaract Club”; the “Jaycees”; “Firepoint” (an underground
campus newsletter), and many more, flourished.
and I belonged to the “Palmwine Drinkers Club”, an assemblage of jolly, fun loving
students. Oludare Olajubu, a professor of Yoruba Studies and Linguistics in our
time, was one of the pioneers of the Club in his days as a student, decades
back. In the parlance of the Club, he was an “archival Fellow.” The University
of Ilorin chapter of the club at the time was called “Ilya Du Ilorin.” Members
greeted themselves in a particular way by locking their index fingers together
and rubbing their thumbs against one another. Non-members were saluted with
regular handshakes and called “quantity surveyors” because they were not
entitled to the Palmwine Drinkers special mode of greeting. They evolved their
own conversational lingo, a curious corruption of phrases in English, French
and whatever was the prominent language in the immediate community of club.
Palmwine Drinkers were recognized by their green caps and milk-coloured tops,
which combination was referred to as the “regalia.” They announced their
programmes, known as “gyrations” by initiates, with rhythmic drumming, singing
and dancing on the campus.
ascended the hierarchy of the Club to become the “Feather.” Feather in this
sense, was a pseudonym for Secretary. Writing in primordial times was done by
dipping the tip of a bird’s feather in an ink bottle. It was his responsibility
as the feather therefore, to keep the records of activities of the club and to
serve notices of meetings.
In 1985, we
both graduated and proceeded for the mandatory one year National Youth Service
Corps, NYSC. And as though by mutual consent, we found ourselves back in the
University of Ilorin for our masters degree programmes, in 1987. He continued
with his ambition to become one of Nigeria’s preeminent historians, while I
also returned to my old department, English. Again, we lived in the same
hostel, this time the “PG Hall” (PG for post graduate), also in the mini-campus
of the institution. Those were days of struggle when we would make “eba” and
appropriate “geisha” (canned fish in tomato sauce), as soup for our meal. We
would sometimes visit my girlfriend at the time, who is my wife today, Funimi,
and ask for food. Yemi’s girlfriend at the time, Toyin, who is also his wife,
would sometimes bring us something to eat.
completion of our masters programme, I returned to my job as teacher in a
secondary school in Iddo Oro, about 50 kilometres from Ilorin. Yemi stayed back
to continue with his doctorate. In 1990, I got a job in the Daily Times, Lagos,
so I had to relocate. Nevertheless, we kept in very close touch, especially
since my family lived in Ilorin.
to make waves as a budding scholar in the academia. As I moved from Lagos to
Lokoja and back to Lagos on several professional duties, we never lost touch.
Even as I found myself in Abuja and he went abroad, we remained in close contact.
invitation, my wife and I were his guests in Berlin in 2004. At that time, he
was at the Ethonogie Freie Universitat in Germany. With his Nigerian friend and
compatriot, Victor Ngwu, they made our stay very memorable.
Akinwumi has served his apprenticeship very well and honed his skills for his
new assignment. Under the leadership of renowned academic and university
administrator, Prof Adamu Baikie as Vice Chancellor of the Nasarawa State
University, he returned to Nigeria early 2005 and became the first substantive
Head of the Department of History, from 2005 to 2007. He also served as the
Deputy Dean, Faculty of Arts from 2005 to 2006 and substantive Dean of the same
faculty from 2006 to 2010. In 2009, he emerged Chairman of the Committee of
Deans and Directors of the institution, and Senate representative in the
Governing Council. In 2017, he was appointed Director, Institute of Governance
and Development Studies, and he became the Dean of School of Postgraduate
Studies. His last assignment before his recent appointment, was Deputy Vice
Chancellor, Academics at the Nasarawa State University.
From his early
days in Nasarawa State University, he began a robust students’ exchange
programme between the university and German institutions. My family and I were
privileged on one occasion to play host in our Abuja abode to Akinwumi and his
visitors from Germany. He also has never spared any opportunity to encourage
his friends and associates in foreign institutions who desired to have their
sabbatical in Nigeria, to make Nasarawa State University their first stop.
every position he found himself, Akinwumi leveraged external support for the
Nasarawa State University Keffi, in several ways. Some structures and monuments
in the institution today, came to fruition, courtesy of his extensive contacts
and relationships with people. He equally facilitated book gifts for the
university library, from several foreign sources.
He has won
several international and national academic laurels, notably: the Professor Ali
Mazrui academic award for Academic Excellence in Kenya; the Stellenbosch
Institute of Advanced Study Award in South Africa; the prestigious Alexander
von Humboldt Award in Germany and the Universitat Zurich Nord-Sud-Kooperation
Award in Switzerland. He has also received the European Research Award in
University College, London and the German Deutscher Akademischer
Austauschdiendt, DAAD Award, among others.
National President, Historical Society of Nigeria and has since been honoured
with the Fellowship of the society. He is also a Member of the Nigeria Academy
of Letters, NALs.
scholar and quester for knowledge, he has over 70 publications in national and
international journals, books and monographs, and attended conferences,
workshops and seminars in over 30 countries across the world.
He will be
expected to bring his broad-based experience, contacts and affiliations across
the world, to bear on his assignment as chief executive of the ten year old
20, 1964, he is happily married to Mrs Toyin Akinwumi, a civil servant and the
union is blessed with beautiful children.
holds a doctorate degree in media arts from the University of Abuja.
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