Kayode Soremekun: Six Months On The Saddle

Certain factors make the Federal University Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE) unique among its peers created in January 2011. First is the fact that it is the only one among its contemporaries to run on two campuses. Secondly, it is also the only one that runs the Faculty of Engineering and thirdly, it is the only to be headed by three Chief Executives in its barely five years of existence. Its pioneer Vice-Chancellor, Professor Chinedu Ositadinma Nebo was appointed a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria when he had just spent two years into his five year tenure. Then came Professor Isaac Uzoma Asuzu who took over from Febuary 2013. In February 12 2016, the Federal Government announced his disengagement alongside eleven others as Vice-Chancellors of the new federal universities and that brought on board, Professor Olukayode Soremekun, a Professor of Political Science and a veteran journalist, as the Vice-Chancellor of the young Federal University Oye-Ekiti.

A vastly experienced academic and public servant, Professor Soremekun set out for his Ekiti mission armed with several years of experience to deliver quality service to the institution even in the face of the current economic recession in the country. Since his assumption of duty he has maintained his long standing path of vision, integrity, all-inclusiveness, accountability, transparency and prudence in the running of the affairs of the University.

As a very courteous citizen, and with a burning zeal to have a first hand assessment of the task ahead, he embarked on courtesy visits to the Governor of Ekiti State, the two campuses of the University as well as traditional rulers of the host communities of Oye and Ikole.

The Vice-Chancellor’s visit to the Governor was to solicit support for the institution as well as explore possible areas of mutually beneficial relationship between the state and the budding university. He applauded the Governor for the cordial relationship between his government and FUOYE and informed his host that the doors of his administration were widely open to all innitiatives that would move the institution foward so as to realise the objectives for which the institution was established.

At both palaces, Professor Soremekun and his entourage were received by no less personalities than the Oloye of Oye-Ekiti Oba Sir Michael Oluwole Ademolaju, and Elekole of Ikole, Oba Adewunmi Ajibade Fasekun.

Professor Soremekun informed the monarchs that his respect for the traditional institutions as well as the need to foster cordial relationship informed his early call on the palaces. He said he needed the blessings of the traditional rulers to make a success of his assignment in the university and promised to regularly visit and confer with the monarchs when the need arose. He however outlined the main business of the university which is to promote academics and said education is the instrument that brings progress in the community. He also observed that there is much work to be done at the university which invariably requires the support of the Royal Fathers and the entire communities. He urged the monarchs to woo their sons and daughters to come and help build the emerging university assuring his administration will ensure that the host communities will enjoy all benefits that accure to them but also urged them to learn to give back to the institution.

For the Vice-Chancellor, his dream he said was to see FUOYE in a very short while, ranked first among the universities in Nigeria, but this, he observed, requires concerted efforts by all stakeholders as government alone cannot meet all the demands of the young institution which he whimsically described as “half campus, half forest.

On assumption of duty he was greeted by a heap of staff demands, infrastructure deficit and lots more. Addressing a group of cheerful staff who welcomed  him on arrival, he said he was already aware of the high expectations but assured he was going to make use of the available resources and for the benefit of all. “I will be fair to all and need your maximum cooperation to achieve whatever we set to achieve, I thank you all,” Professor Soremekun greeted them.

Like the biblical Nehemiah, Professor Soremekun roll his sleeves and with combined stubborness of the deaf and the insane he mobilised his team into action defying weekends to ensure that things took off the way they should. Ensuring that round pegs were put in round holes he immediately effected the deployment of some directors with a view to achieve quick and higher results. For instance, the deployments of Dr. Abimbola of the Department of Sociology to head the Centre for Entrepreneurship Development and Support Studies (CEDSS), inview of his track record in the field, and Professor Olusegun Oladimeji, immediate past Dean, Faculty of Agriculture as Directior of Academic Planning speaks for itself. Professor Soremekun within a short while as approved the creation of two vital directorates to boost the internal revenue generation of the university – Revenue Yielding Unit, and Centre for Distant Learning – in  addition to the impetus he is putting into the CEDSS, all in a bid to boost the revenue base of the university so as to meet pressing staff demands and help bridge the infrastructure gap that appears widening by the day.

A courageous leader,  with a dogged determination to succeed, Professor Soremekun does not mind whose ox is gored provided his decision is in the interest of FUOYE. Within his short stay also, he has conceptualised and forwarded to the National Universities Commission twenty-three new academic programmes for approval. Again he has kickstarted  the process for the commencement of Faculty of Pharmacy through a recent inauguration of a seven-man committee that would ensure the realization of this feat. Working day and night, under rain and sun at any given opportunity, he canvasses support for the university. For him, it is FUOYE first before family and self. He is often guided by the rare attributes of simplicity, humility and generousity. His sacrifices, his courage, his unflinching determination for better conditions for his people made him what he is in the eyes of the workforce.

Worried by the infrastructure deficit and sorry state of abandoned projects, he hurriedly summoned  a meeting of all contractors handling various projects in the university during which he gave a marching order to the contractors to either return to site or risk forfeiting their contracts. In less than forty eight hours after the meeting, most of the contractors returned to sites with assurance of definite completion dates.

Also, in his continued effort to attract the support of sons and daughters of Ekiti to the institution, he honoured an invitation by Ekiti Parapo, Lagos chapter during the 2016 Ekiti Day where he used the opportunity to seek for the support of participants and others who were not there to come and lend some support to the young institution. He said his administration is disposed to  any ideas that will move the institution forward and therefore calls for any relevant initiative that could be beneficial to FUOYE as well as support through the provision of housing facilities through public private patnership.

He did not stop there, as his desire to tackle the infrastructure deficit remains unflinching, Professor Soremekun has reached out to corporate entities in this regards – arrangements have reached advanced stage for public private patnership (PPP) with Vitafoam Nigeria Ltd for construction of students hostels at terms favourable to both FUOYE and the company. That is not to mention lots of other efforts that are still in the offing.

During his recent visit to the Chancellor of the University, the Attah of Igala, Oba Michael  Ameh Oboni, Professor Soremekun solicited the support of the monarch towards the development of the university; “Your Majesty, I count on your wealth of experience and connections to reach out to the well-meaning citizens of our nation and even beyond to support our quest for a world class university” he said.

The Vice-Chancellor has described Ekiti as a gold mine which has not been explored especially for agricultural services. Apart from the desire to diversify the revenue sources of the university through agricultural merchanization, he has plans to bridge the yawning food shortage gap in the country as a whole. To him FUOYE can feed the whole country if its agricultural potentials are fully tapped.

“When I came on board, I looked round and found out that we are sitting on a gold mine. This town has good soil and very fertile land that we can deploy to merchanized farming to provide employment for professionals from this institution and to ensure that we attain food security.”

He added that President Buhari is looking for allernative ways to provide employment for jobless graduates and other productive Nigerians, and universities as engine rooms of the economy must key into the agenda.

To further demonstrate his committment in the proposed agricultural revolution he has desired to step beyond the shores of Nigeria and Africa. In a few days from now the Vice-Chancellor will be visting the campus of Alabama Agricultural and Mechanization (A and M) University where he will among other things sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), on behalf of the university (FUOYE).

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) provides for features like; staff and students exchanges as well as research collaboration. Indeed, as a young university in the areas of Agriculture and Engineering FUOYE stands to gain alot from a much older university, which has extensive experience in these disciplines.

Professor Soremekun has left no one in doubt that he is a man of ideas who is also open to other peoples’ ideas. The academic luminary by his action, proved also beyond doubt to be a God-feareing, listening, visionary and warm personality whose wealth of experience, dint of hardwork, intellectual ability, humility, simplicity and love of peace stand him out as a great leader, an epitome of success, working quitely behind the scenes every weekday (and even weekends) and armed with many bubbling ideas and passion for positive change, achieving what many felt was highly impossible. The industrial harmony witnessed in a short but eventful stay is a case in point. Humble and friendly, no matter the age or class of the people he is dealing with, he does not hesitate to greet you first even if he was meeting you for the first time, he is a man of character who would say yes when he means it.

Six months on the saddle, Professor Soremekun has ensured industrial harmony through constant dialogue with the various unions in the institution. He has left the doors of his administration open to all the unions to reach him whenever there is need. He has secured accreditation for all the programmes in the Faculty of Agriculture and is leaving no stone unturned to secure same for the Faculty of Engineering (both at the Ikole campus).

To that effect, he has persuaded Ikole community to support the institution with ten classroom blocks, being one of the prerequisite for the much needed accreditation of the programmes in the Faculty of Engineering.

The Vice-Chancellor has equally commenced the construction of a five-hundred-seating-capacity lecture theatre at the main campus. This is in a bid to meet up his targeted increase in the admission quota of FUOYE especially with the approval by National Universities Commission of new faculties of education and management sciences.

A professor of Political Science, ‘Kayode Soremekun has spent his working life as a teacher and a journalist and at  both fields he reached enviable heights. He is a receiver of distinctions and many other awards which include; Consultant, Heinrich Boll Foundation, East and South Africa (2006); Rockfeller Residency Fellowship at Bollagio, Italy, 2006; Senior Fulbright Research Fellowship 2001 and Consultant and Resource Person to the Swedishbased International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA). Others include, Consultant and Resource Person to the Commonwealth on media and the Ombudsman, Institution Director and member Governing Board Research Project on governance and democracy in Nigeria, and Ford Foundation travelling Fellowship.

Professor Soremekun is also a receipient of Ford Foundation Foreign Policy Fellow, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland USA 1991, Salzberg Fellowship 1998 as well as scholarship student from the prestigeous Kings College Lagos 1967-1971 among many others.

Wherever Professor Olukayode Soremekun has been to, he leaves behind indelible footprints as a quintessential education manager and sustainable development exponent. But for a man that is constantly in competition with himself – with God as his umpire, Professor Soremekun has so far lived up to his acclaimed academic and administrative statesmanship. He has demonstrated the will to do even more as he has since assumption commenced the process of repositioning the young institution for greatness, with lofty programmes to better the lots of both staff and students already on course.

Soremekun’s unassuming simplicity, quiet dignity and unobtrusive assertion make him a man after many hearts. On his stepping into the campus, he chooses to leave the luxury of his car and walked to his office on the cheerful escort of members of staff who offered a rosy welcome. That decision to alight from his car sent the signal that this would be a people’s Vice-Chancellor committed to the welfare both staff and students.

Professor Soremekun has not disappointed. He has at every opportunity spoken on staff welfare and the need for the host communities to assist. He has demonstrated his desire to surely effect a positive change. Here is a Vice-Chancellor who would thank you even when you are carrying out your statutory responsibility.

His speeches elicit standing ovations and prolonged applause whether within the university or outside.

All the workaholic needs is support of all stakeholders – staff, students, host communities – and a special financial consideration from the Federal Government in view of the institution’s dual campus perculiarity.

So far so good! Its a new dawn for the young FUOYE. Stakeholders are hereby called on to write their names in the history that Professor Soremekun is making. FUOYE has been repositioned for greatness by Professor Kayode Soremekun, don’t miss out.