Born on 23rd January, 1957, Professor Eyitope Ogungbenro Ogunbodede, the 63-year old native of Owo, Ondo state also a Professor of Preventive and Community Dentistry, Faculty of Dentistry, College of Health Sciences, OAU, attended Owo high school, Ondo state where he obtained his WASC in 1976. He then proceeded to the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife and obtained a B.Sc in Health sciences in 1981 before completing his Masters in Public health in the University of Lagos in 1989. He joined the services of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife as a medical training fellow in 1987 and rose through the ranks to become a professor on October 1st, 2000. A 12-session Head of Department of Preventive and Community Dentistry; 3-session Dean, Faculty of Dentistry; 2-session Provost, College of Health Sciences and now the current Vice Chancellor of the university.
Elected on 8th May, 2017 and sworn in on 7th June, 2017 at the level of the prestigious Oduduwa Hall, the Owo-born Don succeeded the famous Professor of Pharmacognosy, Anthony Adebolu Elujoba as the 11th Vice Chancellor of the university when his acting tenure expired and today marks his 1110th day in office. In every administration, there are challenges which either lead to achievements or shortcomings and keeping them in check should be part of the priorities of students to prevent things that could further tamper with their general welfarism.
On 8th June, 2017, a day after his inauguration, he matriculated the 2016/2017 new intakes as his first official engagement at the level of the Afrikan Amphitheatre.
July witnessed the prosecution of his predecessor by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over the probe of a certain amount of money that was allegedly mismanaged but the Ogunbodede-led management alongside the university staff unions—SSANU, ASUU, NAAT and NASU— and Students’ Union declared their total support for Professor Elujoba against the stance of the EFCC. Wielding his influence as the VC, a reasonable number of persons trooped out in mass several times to the high court prosecuting Elujoba at Osogbo to defend the former acting VC and in one of the occasions, many supporters overpowered the court security agents and gained access inside the courtroom before he was released and that brought a season of jubilation to nearly the entire university who felt Elujoba was a saint as a result of the payment of workers’ arrears (that Omole left behind) he effected when he was in power.
August witnessed the resistance of the administration to join ASUU in embarking of weeks on warning strike which happened to coincide with the first day of the semester’s lecture free week and the action was welcome by majority of the students who were already tired of the incessant strikes that occurred during the Omole regime.
September witnessed the first protest by students against the administration and the harsh way which the administration reacted to it. Few days to the start of the second semester, there was a 6-day electricity blackout on campus which affected those at the halls of residence and those that resumed around the time. Students took to the university roads to agitate against the treatment which the university failed to release an earlier circular about. On the second day of protest, the university security operatives intercepted and addressed the students at the Chemical Engineering theatre on the cause of the blackout but the students were determined to proceed to finish their peaceful protest in front of the senate building and that, they didn’t allow. The security operatives made ferocious attempts to arrest many of the students in front of the college of health sciences but were unsuccessful as they were able to arrest few which they forcefully took to an unidentified location before they were later reported to be at the Moore police station in Ile Ife before many concerned students and the Students’ Union were able to secure their release and later on the same day, light was restored to campus.
October and November witnessed the struggles and fall of the Students’ Union and how the management reacted to that. Ranging from congresses hullabaloo to clashes between the Director of Socials Lamba and the Vice President Emerald and between the Speaker Tbamz and the President Dr Ibk amongst others. After series of issues between the Union President, Ibukun Oyekan Dr Ibk and majority of the students over the 3million agbari-ojukwu bus scandal and some alleged cult-related attacks, the Students’ Parliamentary organ decided to impeach him but this development was alleged not to favour the management as Dr Ibk was mostly referred to as ‘ the management boy ‘. A day after the impeachment, the management proscribed the Union and till this date, it hasn’t been restored although there were speculations that it would be restored this 2019/2020 academic year.
December also witnessed a strike action but from the camps of the NASU, NAAT and SSANU. The management tried to forcefully resist their attempts towards embarking on strike but the staff unions refused to be swayed and they made sure light and water supply was cut off to the most vital area of the university i.e the halls of residence but the management resorted to using water-tank trucks to supply water to the halls of residence. NASU then proceeded to barring all academic and non academic activities thereby threatening the lives of lecturers in the process and they also resorted to locking down the two university entrances and these actions forced the administration to close down the university on December 6 for three weeks hoping to resolve the issues before the start of the new year.
The issue was partly resolved and upon resumption on the 3rd of January, 2018, normalcy was restored to campus. Lectures proceeded and exams kicked off in the 3rd week of January.
February witnessed NASU’s unrest again as students suffered again due to lack of water and electricity in hostels but unfortunately, it was during the examination period so nearly nothing could be done to solve it as students resorted to fetching water from streams and wells until some days after when things were restored because they decided to be lenient, not because of the administration but due to the rate at which it affected students in the ongoing examinations which ended few days later.
ID cards were not issued during this academic year and all students wrote exams without valid ID cards, some were even adversely affected during application for scholarship schemes due to the administration’s failure to provide ID cards for the students.
The same February witnessed the tussles between some lecturers that led to factions being created in ASUU chapter of the university. On February 12, one of the OAU faction pulled out of ASUU national.
March to April experienced the birth of CONUA to rise against ASUU in the university and it was obvious to all that the management was more of supporting the newly formed CONUA than the existing ASUU. The alleged reasons behind the birth of CONUA was simply a disagreement on the part of majority of the members with the then Caleb Aborisade-led exco over the payment of a huge certain amount of money to the ASUU national without their consent. After the establishment of CONUA, it was deduced that nearly 80% of the university academic staff pitched their tents with CONUA and that led to the end of ASUU majority in OAU. Gradually, some other universities started creating branches of CONUA on their campuses in support of the initiative.
Also in March to April, some accommodation policies which brought a good development to the welfare of students but had certain side effects were released and students were quick to react to some of them but the management’s approach towards this was kind of cruel. Series of attacks were launched against students still in halls of residence as at the time of eviction even though most of them were in due to their ongoing SIWES/SWEP programs. Most of the students’ properties left in the halls at the end of the previous session were damaged and some were scattered around where they could find them. The peak of it was when five students were unjustly arrested at the basement of Moremi Hall for defending female occupants against the harsh treatments from the Hall wardens but were alleged of harassing staffs of the Hall and security unit. They were whisked away and later prosecuted by the university and sentenced to Kosere prison for several months despite the protests against their unjust detention but at the end of it all, the #OAU5 came out victoriously. Renovation of some parts of some halls of residence were also made in preparation for the new session.
May to June witnessed the matriculation of 8158 students, which was far way higher compared to the previous two sessions admitted students of 7500 each. For an institution that lacked the space and facilities to contain a huge number of students, admitting over 8000 students was kind of ridiculous on the part of the management. It also experienced changes in living in and visiting halls of residence; Occupants per room in some halls were reduced to four, entry to the hall was either by hall ID card or visiting hours which spans from 4pm to 10pm amongst other policies. It also experienced massive effects of what the accommodation polices caused i.e heavy transportation crisis. The university was plunged into a transportation crisis due to the high population of student living off campus. The safest time to leave campus during that period was 2-3pm or anytime before rain falls as any hour after that would lead to getting stranded on campus grounds due to lack of buses. Even the Action Committee, the only committee left of the Students’ Union had to put marcopolo buses out to reduce the gravity of the situation but it only curbed it a little for weeks before students finally adapted.
June also witnessed the swift reaction of the administration towards the supposed cult attack that was a threat to the safety and security of students. It was commendable only on campus grounds as those off campus were left to their fate during the period.
August witnessed the loss of accreditation of courses like Law, Botany, Family Nutrition and Consumer Sciences and Dentistry by the Nigeria Universities Commission.
September to December witnessed the resistance to join ASUU indefinite strike that kicked off in November and went on for months but the administration was not even concerned with whatever ASUU national was doing since CONUA already formed the majority on campus. It also witnessed very high cases of insecurity off campus as a result of the side effects of the accommodation policy which the university administration pretended not to notice. There was a tremendous rise in crime rate with dare devil robbers operating and terrorizing students on a daily basis; robbing them of valuables, injuring some and even got to the extent of killing one late in December.
There weren’t much occurences this year, only the repetition of some of what occurred in the previous year. The academic calendar was cruising on at top speed, a new session started early April, matriculation for a still large number of 6650 students held and there were no disruptions till August when the staff unions—NASU, SSANU, NAAT— threatened strike actions for nearly 7 weeks while negotiating with the management but which later didn’t come to pass. The administration later announced that the ban on Students’ Union activities will be lifted the following session. The NUC also screened the university academics sector late in December and its update was released in March 2020.
A new session kicked off in February, and the calendar began cruising on at top speed before the coronavirus pandemic pressed a halt button to it which led to the closure of all academic institutions nationwide. The administration declared the process to refund of acceptance fees paid by this 2019/2020 new intakes in respect of the order given by the Federal Government but it has been cut short by the coronavirus pandemic situation. Also the reaccreditation of Law, Botany, Family Nutrition and Consumer Sciences and Dentistry has been announced which brought joy to the university, affected departments who missed having freshmen for two sessions and aspirants who had lost hope in choosing the affected courses in OAU.
The Ogunbodede-led administration has undoubtedly brought some achievements to OAU, popular among students for the stability of the academic calendar unlike previous administrations but at the same time, there are still issues that the management needs to work on.
His administration can be highly commended for bringing in stability in the academic calendar, resolving some internal issues of the university, the decongestation of halls of residence and reaccreditation of some previously lost courses.
However, his administration still needs to work on a lot of things which needs adjustments. Things such as reducing the high rate at which aspirants are being admitted for the already insufficient amenities to be contained; avoid in the future, flaws that led to the disaccreditation of some major courses; the welfare, safety and security of students living off campus; restoration of the Students’ Union; the transportation crisis, especially for those living at the ROAD 7 area of the university as just few shuttles operate for a large population of students; and if possible, the construction of more hostels to accommodate more students, in the process saving them from daily risks and exploitation of house agents and landlords off campus amongst many other issues.