FOR four hours last week, Michael Oladimeji Faborode, a professor of Agricultural Engineering and Vice-Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, was the cynosure of all eyes at a reception organised by engineers, under their professional group, the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Ikeja branch.
At the Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Lagos venue of the event organised to celebrate their colleague for his new appointment and having climbed to the zenith of his career were Mr Olu Awoyinfa, Secretary-General FAOE, initiator of the branch, Mr Femi Okumade, Managing Director/CEO Xerox HS Nigeria Limited, Mr Abiodun Awe, Chairman, Ikeja branch, Group Captain Obakpola, Mrs Idiat Amusu and Mrs Kayode Adekoya.
Welcoming the guests, Awe said Faborode was a long-standing friend of the branch, whose contributions led to the establishment of the branch and its sustenance to the present heights.
Describing Faborode “as the man of the moment”, Awe noted that the reception was in recognition of his contributions to the establishment of the branch and various honours he brought into the body and its members.
He listed some of such honours as including the use of his influence to call the branch founding chairman, Dr Ralph Alabi, Chairman, Guinness Plc to the Hall of Fame of the Obafemi Awolowo University last year and his appointment as a member of Board of Faculty of Engineering of the university for over 30 years.
“In fact, many honours have come to Ikeja branch from the Obafemi Awolowo University through Faborode. It is in recognition of all these that we found in him a man worthy of honour”, Awe said.
Faborodeâ€™s influence and admiration cut across the Nigerian Society of Engineers and beyond the shores of Nigeria, he stressed and prayed God for his exceptional performance as the Vice-Chancellor.
Lamenting the governmentâ€™s attitude towards the development of engineering profession in the country, Awe expressed dismay over the new railway contract with the Chinese, even when, he said, the Indians failed us on railway development.
“The government is doing all these to the detriment of indigenous engineers, whom the government in its various policies has failed to support”, he noted.
But Awe, who expressed optimism about the prospect of the indigenous engineers and their critical roles in nation building, challenged Faborode and the government to reposition the profession towards meeting its mandate. Beyond dining and wining, the event provided a platform for the engineers to raise some salient issues which include the review of studentsâ€™ industrial attachment and to encourage companies to train students.
The engineers also asked the government to tackle graduate unemployment, frowning at the rate which over 2,000 Nigerian graduates, mostly engineers visit foreign embassies daily for visas.
On the Railway contract, Awe said: “It is sad that after the Indians failed us on the Railways, we are bringing in the Chinese, who are backed by their government. What are our engineers going to do. When is our government going to back us. Whither is the future of engineering in this country?
Besides, he condemned the poor remuneration of engineers compared to other professionals, saying many experienced engineers are going about the streets without jobs.
As a way out, the branch asked the government to make available research results for improved national development, noting that “in countries that value engineering, government and individuals sponsor their engineers to foreign countries to work and acquire more experience.”
Reading Faborodeâ€™s citation, Mr A. Olorunfemi, Chairman, Organising Committee, described him as an accomplished scholar, engineer and administrator, whose wealth of experience would go a long way to sustain the development of the university.
He said Faborode, 50, a native of Supare-Akoko in Ondo State, joined Obafemi Awolowo University on November 24, 1986 as Lecturer I and was appointed the Vice-Chancellor in June.
Faborode assumed office as the substantive Vice-Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State, on June 24, succeeding Professor Roger Makanjuola whose tenure ended two months ago after calling the shots for five years.
Faborode has held various positions in and outside the university.
Praising the body for the honour bestowed on him, Faborode, who was accompanied to the dinner by his wife and a daughter, pledged his support to the development of the branch and the engineering profession.
He spoke of his vision for the Obafemi Awolowo University. Faborode said his main priority is to take the ivory tower beyond its current level and ensure that it becomes a truly global university that is well known all over the world and much respected.
To him, OAU has a good reputation and is a renowned university in Nigeria.
Said Faborode: “My vision is to take it beyond this level and ensure that it becomes a truly global university that is well known all over the world for the products of its research and quality of graduates.
“This is the main goal and we are determined to use modern technology, ICT to propagate the institution.
“We are being guided by this and we want to brand ourselves as Nigeriaâ€™s greatest university and we really want to achieve this goal,” he said.
Faborode also spoke of the current world universities rating â€“ the WEBO Matrix Rating â€“ released last July in which OAU was the 53rd in Africa and first in Nigeria.
“Incidentally, this has confirmed the determination of OAU to be the leading university in Nigeria, but we are not yet satisfied with the position, we want to improve on it. I am sure by next ranking between December and January next year, OAU would have been above this level.”
On the de-accredited Faculty of Law by the National Universities Commission (NUC), he said it was unexpected and a shock to the authorities.
Explaining that the university has come to terms with the NUC action, Faborode said his administration was determined to correct such shortcomings.
According to him, the university has put in place adequate facilities that will ensure the accreditation of Law programmes next month when the NUC revisits the institution.
His words: “The Law Faculty by next month would have come back fully on board. We are doing everything within our powers to ensure this. We are getting assistance from philanthropists and people of goodwill who are friends of OAU such as Justice Fati Abubakar, wife of the former Head of State, who is helping us to develop the Law Library. Some alumni who were jolted by the NUC action are rallying round the university to put things right.”
On the university’s carrying capacity, Faborode noted that the university was adhering strictly to it despite the teeming applicants seeking admission into the university.
According to him, the university could only absorb 10 per cent of the admission seekers.
“We tried to expand intakes to a large extent, but now we are stabilising with more emphasis on the quality of those we admit into the system”, Faborode said.
The branch pioneer and founding chairman, Dr Ralph Alabi and Chairman of the occasion who was represented by Mr Olu Awoyinfa, Secretary-General, FAOE, extolled the virtues of Faborode, describing him as an asset to the engineering profession and Ikeja branch of NSE, in particular.
Wishing Faborode God;s guidance in his new position, he prayed that the Almighty would give him the wisdom and strength to lead the university aright.
Stressing that quality delivery and professionalism are some virtues of engineering profession, Awoyinfa recalled that Professor O. Oladapo, the pioneer Vice-Chancellor of University of Ado-Ekiti; Professor Fola Laisisi, Vice-Chancellor, Crescent University, Abeokuta, Ogun State and Professor Oyewusi Ibidapo-Obe of the University of Lagos were some members of the society who had been appointed Vice-Chancellors of some Nigerian universities with enviable tracks of record.