Heart of Arts

Professor Adelaja Odukoya At 60: A Reflection on Academic Excellence and Social Advocacy

Toyin Falola

The strides of heroes are like working wonders. They transcend the mere successes of an average mind, and the expectations of their wins have been propelled so high that they must manage some high level of efficiency and landmarks to be celebrated. That is why the elders will always say that climbing to the apex is not the problem, but sustaining the standards reached at that summit is the greatest task and battle for a successful man. So gradually, their efforts may be watered down with no celebratory postures directed at them in many instances. Professor Odukoya is an example of one of those few beings that have gun gi re koja ewe, one who has climbed the tree to the tip of its topmost leaf, and his achievements going forward are weighed on a more demanding scale. He has honestly never dropped the ball but has continued to add more medals year in and year out. So, for this birthday, I am compelled to appreciate those successes despite them seeming to be normal because of the level he has attained.

Without an attempt at patronizing the ojogbon, I must confess that his past years in the academy are equivalent to some people’s entire careers, and his social contributions are even at par with some well-wishing social stakeholders. Having reached that level of social relevance through his convictions and convocations, I believe the nation has normalized his achievements, and like the sun is normally expected to shine, his temporal contributions are not given adequate attention.

One would probably adequately appreciate Prof. Odukoya for his protection of the standard of the education system in Nigeria and his advocacy of access to education for every Nigerian. Over the years, he has been a frontrunner in the fight for the reinvigoration of the Nigerian University system. With eloquence, knowledge depth, and dedication, he has shaken the foundations of those who have stood against the development of the University system without fear. I could remember his resolutions against the Buhari administration for the constant disregard of the intellectual front of the nation and how he eloquently and gallantly called out the President and other members of his administration who threw away their uncoerced agreements without thinking twice. He would call out the high and mighty, no matter the status, if they posed to be the primary blockage to the success of the university system.

I have not been able to demystify how the 2022 long-stretched strike did not affect the aura and eloquence of Prof Odukoya, seeing that many University lecturers had been left in despair without salaries or engagements for almost a year. However, this was only fuel to the advocacy of Odukoya, and it was at this point that he knew that the battle had just begun. Five months into the strike, he was still heard stating thus:

“Sadly, Mr. President, enough will not be enough until you do the needful and act presidentially by signing the renegotiated agreement before your excellence authorize the end ruinous, evil and exploitative Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) and the adoption of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS),”

Well, many have criticized the fights of ASUU as being focused on the needs of its members; while I cannot make a case for the Union, I am sure I can make one for Prof Odukoya and, by extension, tap into the philosophy behind the activities of the Union. I am quite sure and even persuaded by the motivations of Prof Odukoya because his commitments transcend the needs of the members of the union and act like a vanguard for the generality of the Nigerian population. He has not reserved his opinion when issues concerning the people and the suffering individuals are raised. He is often one of the first to antagonize governmental policies that are capable of not just destroying the education system but also barring Nigerian citizens from having access to education or enjoying a good standard of education. Many of his agitations have always been directed at making a case for the students who sometimes might not know how to coordinate their needs and priorities. As an elder in activism, he would always preempt the long-term effect of governmental policies on the students and Nigerians in general. He is truly a patriot and not just an activist.

What is popular about Prof. is his activism and social engagements for the continuous development of the nation. But his deliberateness in research blazes the trails of fundamental muses behind knowledge production. Without mincing words, those who have had the opportunity to read his papers and positions on issues would be forced to appreciate his brilliance and the relevance of his research to Nigerian society. He is one of those that one would see as a hero of Nigerian democracy through his pen. From his writings, one would see his subscription to the idea that a leader is paramount to every nation’s developmental projection and possibility. His political understanding allows him to speak to certain sensitive issues that are relevant in the current democracy and the further survival of the Nigerian nation.

One of such brilliant takes on the democratic arrangement of the country is his piece “Restructuring in Nigeria: A Discourse on the Minorities and the Quest for Justice,” where he decides to take a step outside the popular noises on restructuring, the diverse debates and conceptions that follow it in Nigeria. He opines that while the debates and processes of restructuring could be advancing, it could be at the expense of the minority and those denied basic resources, as such, become a process of enthroning the dominant class over the faint voices of the oppressed. As expected, he proposed the need for the embrace of socialism in the political arrangement of the nation; sine qua non, the poor would be left disdained no matter the arrangement.

Odukoya’s radicalism does not stop at situational and physical activism, as seen in his handling of issues that concern the education system, but is obvious from the ideologies that radiate his writings. Professor Odukoya does not just pick his pens to write for writing’s sake or the mere fulfilment of his academic duties but addresses compelling social issues that speak to phenomena of concern. Contributions like “Restructuring in Nigeria: A Discourse on the Minorities and the Quest for Justice,” Federalism, Elections and Challenges of Democratic Governance in Nigeria: Essays in Honour of Professor Liasu Adele Jinadu, Political Economy of Nigeria’s Elections: 2023 General Election in Focus, andDemocracy and Demilitarization in Africa: Towards a Reconceptualization,” among others are evidence of his commitment to the reengineering of the Nigerian Federal System and Democracy.

Celebrating the new age of Ojogbon is not just to remind us that he is ageing gradually but must quicken us towards appreciating his honest contributions and his remarkable personality. The kinds of Odukoya are rare, and when we see one of them, it is no exaggeration to set out encomiums that capture such commitments. The song for the day, May 9th, with bata and sekere, should be rendered as follows:


Odukoya—the god that rejects suffering.

Adelaja—the king of peace, Awo Dele Ashiru

Odutola—the god that matches prosperity, Awo Tunde Babawale

Odukoya—the god that fights for justice, Awo Ademola Azeez

Adelaja—the king who mediates, Awo Isaac Albert

Odutola is a god who is on par with wealth. Awo Falola

As it sweets us…

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