GUEST Column by Dr. Bisi Olawunmi
Anything with a beginning, must have an end. For Prof. Samuel Ekundayo Alao, that truism manifested on Wednesday, July 22, 2020 when he bowed off the stage as Vice-Chancellor of Adeleke University, Ede. Osun state after a four year tenure – a journey he started in 2016. He achieved remarkable milestones, including securing approval for 40 postgraduate programmes, producing two sets of MSC graduates, with the first set PhD students graduating next semester. The appreciative assemblage at the July 22 exit ceremony gave him encomiums. Like all his transitions, this was also smooth as he handed over to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Solomon Adebola, who was part of the team he brought from Babcock University in 2016.
Generally known as Prof. Dayo Alao, this Professor of Mass Communication has the uniqueness of being a journalist who reached the peak in media hierarchy as acting chairman/CEO of the iconic Daily Times newspaper and also reached the peak in academia as a Vice-Chancellor. He is part of trail blazing journalists/media practitioners turned academics who are making waves in the Ivory Towers – Prof. Femi Onabajo, former Vice-Chancellor, Lead City University, Ibadan, a former NTA broadcaster, Prof. Adigun Agbaje, former Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Ibadan, who cut his journalistic teeth at the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and Prof. Innocent Okoye, HOD, Mass Communication Department, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, a former newspaper editor. Prof. Alao was among the foundation members of an organization serving as a bridge between media academics and media practitioners – The Association of Communication Scholars and Practitioners of Nigeria ( ACSPN) which has Prof. Lai Oso, another former journalist of the News Agency of Nigeria, as president.
Prof. Alao started out as a reporter with the Daily Times in the mid 1970s at a time when the Doyen of Journalism in Nigeria, Alhaji Babatunde Jose, was experimenting with recruiting university graduates into journalism, a field that had been dominated by those with secondary school education or less. Among the graduate pioneers were Prince Tony Momoh, who later became Minister of Information, Idowu Sobowale, later Prof. Sobowale, Dr. Doyin Aboaba, Dr Hezy Idowu and Mr. Gbolabo Ogunsanwo, the celebrated master of stylistic writing. Prof. Alao who joined Daily Times with a Bachelors degree in religious studies from the relatively unknown Adventist College of West Africa in Ilishan-Remo, Ogun state, was apparently intimidated by this array of swaggering stars and felt he also deserves to swagger. So, off he went to the United States . He studied with a vengeance earning a Bachelors degree in Mass Communication, two masters degrees – in Mass Communication and Political Science and two PhD degrees also in Mass Communication and Political Science. With such formidable academic armament, it was no surprise that on his rejoining the Daily Times , he had a meteoric rise, culminating in his chairmanship of the organization, in acting capacity.
Prof. Alao hails from Oke-Oyi in Ilorin East LGA of Kwara state and Kwara people are perceived more as traders, but this is one of those Kwarans who don’t follow the trodden path. He had mapped out a post-media career in academia, hence while in the Daily Times he had been part-time Lecturer at the Department of Mass Communication, University of Lagos and the Times Journalism Institute, in Iganmu, Lagos. So, when in the early 2000s he joined Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo, it was a smooth transition and a home coming of sort. It was the old Adventist College, his alma mater, that has transformed to Babcock University. His meteoric rise had continued at Babcock University, earning him Professorship, Deanship and Deputy Vice-Chancellorship in rapid succession.
Prof. Alao and I have connections – we both started our journalism careers in the Daily Times in the mid 70s and my daughter and his son were both pioneer students of Mass Communication at Babcock University, where he was HOD. A go-getter, he persuaded me for us to jointly author a book on News Reporting, always pointing out that my experience as a Foreign Correspondent in the United States, based in Washington D.C, for four years will greatly enrich such book. That book got published in 2014 while he was Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Babcock University and I was at Bowen University, Iwo. Osun State. I had literally gone to sleep about academics until I joined Bowen University in 2008 and a Masters degree became inadequate. So, that same 2008, I enrolled for the PhD Programme at Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State. We finished the course work there, had our results, then crisis erupted and all the professors left and we could not continue. Prof. Alao came to the rescue by facilitating our transfer to Babcock University to be part of its pioneer PhD class. And to top it all, he became my Project Supervisor !! That was in 2010, graduating in 2012.
At Adeleke University, Prof. Alao was like a father-figure to staff and students and was able to maintain a crisis-free tenure. He is humility personified. He taught courses in Mass Communication Department, in spite of his heavy workload as VC, and will always submit his results on time. I joined Adeleke University in October 2016.
There are unique circumstances to Prof. Alao’s position at Adeleke University, one of which is the lesson to treat the young with kind sensitivity because you don’t know how far they will go in life. Prof. Dayo, right from his early days, was an epitome of humility and a teacher who treated his students well, was remembered and appreciated. Adeleke University was founded by one of his former students at the Seventh Day Adventist Grammar School, Ede, Dr. Adedeji Adeleke. In recognition of the sterling qualities of his former teacher, Dr. Adeleke had appointed him as chairman of the planning committee for the university. He had worked with others to secure the licence and had been part of the Governing Council until four years ago when the proprietor invited him to help take the institution to higher level. When he came in, there were 14 undergraduate programmes which he increased to 41. There was no postgraduate programme. At his exit, there were 40. Some describe universities owned by sole proprietors as ‘’private-private’’, meaning that such proprietors lord it over the university management, requiring a special accommodative temperament by Vice-Chancellors to manage the relationship. Thank God, Prof. Alao is not one to lose his cool, whatever the challenges, and the proprietor of Adeleke University, Dr. Deji Adeleke, is also reputed as respectful, hence the amity that prevailed in four years of Prof. Alao’s tenure such that at his exit, he can proudly proclaim : Mission accomplished.
Dr. Bisi Olawunmi, former Washington Correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) is Acting HOD, Department of Mass Communication, Adeleke University, Ede. Email: [email protected] Phone ( SMS ONLY) 0803 364 7571.