Heart of Arts

Professor Oyebamiji Babalola, VC, Bowen University: Grace, Glory and Gold

Toyin Falola


Samson, the sun-child, is a biblical character with rich moral, spiritual and ideological meanings. Around Samson, the champion, is an interesting story of honour and grace. Whether in everyday conversation or important heart-to-heart engagements, anyone who mentions Samson among Christians understands the name’s biblical and moral significance. A warrior who served for twenty years without defeat. The great judge.

To that category of Christian users, two things are common: first, their association of strength and quality mental energy to the character, and second, the allusion to its resilience despite the dangerous or unpredictable natural circumstances that sometimes threaten to bring mortal danger to him. In essence, when referring to the name Samson, we are often not concerned about anything other than his discipline and dedication to his goals. Despite all circumstances, Samson always produced results up till the end of his life when, through death, he recorded his greatest success.

We know that challenges, temptations, trials and tribulations visit everything and everyone, but Samson had a way of defying the pressure to triumph. That, therefore, attests to the understanding that Samson throve not only because he was a special human, per se, but somehow, he survived because, through the Lord he served, he came to the awareness that toughness was an indispensable ingredient to survive in the dangerous jungle that circumstances placed us in.

Professor Babalola, the new Vice Chancellor who resumed at Bowen University last August, is our Samson. As such, Samson, as far as Christian spirituality is concerned, cannot be seen as unproductive, and you, dear Professor Babalola, it is not in the stars of people like you to die unfulfilled. You are a glory. The Samson at Bowen will work hard and produce great results.

But that is not everything it is to learn about the Christian and Samson story. Christians are a people with deep-thinking capabilities. They understand that Samson might have experienced a setback because he reposed his confidence in an intimately close individual, but that revealed his strength and not necessarily his weakness. This perspective is informed by the awareness that only strong people confide in others, for it takes courage to let others into one’s inner realities. Professor Babalola, like Samson, is trustworthy and understands life’s challenges. He has been tested, and he passed.

Knowing that Samson survives trepidations and accomplishes a lot, they allude to him as resilient and enduring. This is indicated in the attention on Samson in the Bible as an important character. Of course, it is not that Christians are unaware that Samson was betrayed, which, by implication, his mission was cut short. But added in that implication also is a testable and tenable assumption that Samson, as well, was a straightforward and reliable human for a very long time, for that is the inevitable condition of courageous beings, the reality of which determined his resilience. For our Professor, Oyebamiji Babalola, his success and progress are a profound result of his prodigious and influential career built upon years of toil, dedication, determination and dexterity.

Professor Babalola is the Samson of Chemistry whose dedication and curiosity have inspired his accomplishments in that field with various results for his creative input and innovative responses. As an expert in the field, it is not hyperbole to conclude that he has motivated many research engagements with impressive discoveries at the end, all of which motivate the fledgling researchers in that field and also a reliable source of solutions to a myriad of problems confronting humanity. It was one of the occasions of his collaboration with similar eggheads in the discipline that produced the work “Activated Carbon from Naucleadiderrichi Agricultural Waste―A Promising Absorbent for Ibuprofen, Methylene Blue and CO2” that we understand how agricultural disposable waste can produce carbon which can be harnessed to prevent various forms of pains that humans encounter. How would someone like me have ever imagined that there could be some connections between what farmers do in their farms through their disposed waste and the human inner conditions? Of course, without persistent and determined scholars like him, the possibility of knowing that solutions abound everywhere if we look very carefully and creatively. Such intellectual engagement and eventual findings would not have happened without the dedication of the mental, financial and even social resources to the course. These are the instances of the rain beating an igúnugún for a very long time. But then, he remains unscathed, unruffled and uncompromising. Babalola is like Samson.

The thrust of his scholarship is illustrated by the consistency he has demonstrated in his research involvement and the results generated from them. From the beginning of his career, he has remained active and produced impressive academic findings that hold people spellbound. Not only is he respected among his peers, but he has also won the hearts of many who find inspiring his intellectual disposition. All his academic engagements have been built on finding scientific solutions to many challenges we face as a human family.

To a considerable extent, these academic products have been nothing short of excellent and exceptional, for they have inspired solutions to issues which have become problematic for us all. Consider, for example, that on one occasion of his chapter contribution to a book in 2020, he gave us great ideas about how to deal with otherwise intractable problems that we face together. Titled “Disruptions and eruptions: Assessing the impact of COVID-19 on higher education in Nigeria,” through this educative elucidation, we come to the awareness that there are ways by which we can confront the realities of life which COVID-19 has brought us. Giving us his invaluable contribution shows the propensity of the applicability of his ideas because with what he raised there, nations and organizations can extract ideas on the best ways to face problems.

The selflessness of Professor Babalola can be spotted in how he responds to issues that have great potential to change people’s lives and the community generally. On countless occasions, this sound mind has honoured numerous invitations to share his knowledge and ideas on a national and international stage where ideas are desperately needed to advance people’s socioeconomic, medical, moral and even professional paths. Just in 2023, Professor Babalola was invited as a Guest Speaker in Kenya at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, where he engaged the topic “Leveraging High er Education, Research and Innovation for Sustainable Development.” While this case was not the first of his many engagements, it was absolutely a place where his respect in the academic community increased substantially. For one, the ability to bring together the potentiality in harnessing the power of education and achieving the objective of the United Nations on Sustainable Development agenda appeases not only the fears of naysayers but also rekindle people’s interest in research undertaking. Generally, we are aware that the prospect of moving collectively relies on how interested we are in undertaking research engagements. But then, not everyone understands the strategies we can use to set research development in motion. Listening to him on occasions such as the one provided in Kenya recently gives an impressive overview.

As if all these are not enough, I am sometimes astounded about how he can understand the nitty-gritty of the administrative labyrinths. One would be surprised that irrespective of his dedication to research in chemistry, an engagement which is capable of taking away one’s attention from other equally important aspects of existence; this scholar understands what it takes to become successful in leadership. When you are accorded the opportunity to share your idea on a topic, you could marshal good points on the best way by which some activities should be done, with so much confidence that one would think you have some magic wand that you can wage and make everything go back to the appropriate conditions. But not many good talkers are usually good executors when given the opportunity. But, amazingly, Babalola performs great in the two aspects. When he spoke at UNIOSUN in 2021 on the topic, “Running an Efficient Postgraduate College: A Critical Look at the Administrative Structure and Operations Guiding the College,” I was enthused by the perspective he was coming from and the alternative propositions he made. Anyone who has undertaken such responsibilities before would understand the critical importance of strategic actions and decision-making, as these are crucial to their eventual results.

But the most interesting thing is that I am usually not a man who gets conned by what a man says. After all, experience has taught us enough why there is a wide difference between what a man says and what they do when faced with reality. Therefore, I have kept tabs on his administrative acumen as he demonstrates flexibility and creativity in handling situations without compromising standards. As the pioneer Provost of the Post-Graduate College at the University of Ibadan, no one would deny that this great man brought outstanding contributions to the administration by introducing friendly ideas to transform the system. His stellar success at that level is the reason for attracting as many opportunities as possible associated with him today.

As the newly appointed Vice Chancellor at Bowen University, the confidence reposed in him by the Council that makes the recommendation and appointment is influenced by their examination of his growth trajectory and how promising he is in facilitating new development in their great campus.

Professor Jonathan Babalola, on your assumption of office as the new Vice Chancellor, I wish you a successful tenure to meet the best needs of the students and staff. I know that you will attain the trust of the stakeholders. I am certain that you will demonstrate the indispensability of academics in moving society forward. I am positive of your dignity. Samson can be betrayed, but Samson does not betray others: your opportunity to serve will produce evidence of clinical success. Professor Babalola, service to Bowen is a covenant. Like Samson, as long as you obey the Lord, you will succeed. As a VC, you are strong before men but weak before God. God will keep His promise to Babalola and Bowen. Babalola, you will never break your vow. The chemistry is already at work:

Jonathan is re-baptized as The Samson of Bowen!


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