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What building First Class varsity takes – KDU VC, Prof. Olatunbosun

Kola Daisi University, Ibadan, is a serene and beautiful campus located on the immediate outskirts of the Oyo State capital city along the verduous stretch of the Ibadan-Oyo-Ogbomoso Expressway that links the south west to the north and other parts of the country.
The young, but fast-rising ivory tower is its promoter, iconic industrialist, Bashorun Kola Daisi’s dream of grafting Harvard, Yale or some other members of the Ivy League institutions on Nigerian soil to provide access to world class university education.

Neat, sedate and picturesque with huge investments in infrastructure, the campus is a mosaic of architectural masterpieces with municipal and recreational facilities and a plexus of road network all on a compact, well-landscaped built -up half portion of its yet sprawling landmass covering 250 acres in Akinyele Local Government area, a suburb of the state capital.
The institution exudes a sombre nobility, majestic aura and glints with a promise of excellence – qualities which have defined the life and career of its illustrious proprietor.
For the institution and its owner, however, perhaps, the greatest challenge would have been finding a suitable hand and brain to entrust the founder’s vision of using it as a laboratory to clone millions of himself and produce geniuses in various fields, particularly after its pioneer Vice-Chancellor, Prof. K.T. Jaiyeoba, a Professor of Pharmacy and Prof. K.L. Ayorinde, an Agricultural expert who succeeded him, retired in rapid succession after takeoff.

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But the institution which threw its gates open to students in 2017, a year after its establishment, would seem to share with its founder a trait for tenacious streak of success and distinction as it found a fitting replacement for the two academic giants in another astute and younger intellectual and administrator, Prof Adeniyi Olatunbosun.

A professor of law, Olatunbosun came in , just in time to fill the vacuum that would have been created by the duo’s exit and to oversee the hatching of the first set of 52 students graduate in November 4, 2021, and galvanise the institution’s determined march to the heights!

Before his appointment, the legal luminary was Dean of the Law Faculty which he had helped to midwife after moving over on invitation for that purpose from the nation’s premier university, University of Ibadan, where he had hitherto taught and distinguished himself as the Dean, Faculty of Law. As UI Law Faculty’s Dean, Olatubosun instituted academic and administrative reforms and innovations which saw the university consistently produce the highest number of best graduating students at the Nigerian Law School for unbroken period of seven years.

A versatile and internationally sought- after legal expert and academic, Olatunbosun had begun his academic career at the Obafemi Awolowo University from where he took his law degrees including Ph.D, was headhunted and appointed a professor by UI about 2013.

His elevation from the position of an external associate professor (Reader) by UI, known for its conservatism and austere awards of academic honours, even to her own, save strictly on merit, was both a feat and testament to the legal icon’s brilliant scholarship and track record of excellence in higher education management.

As VC, Olatunbosun is giving good account that these qualities which also recommended him for the Deanship of KDU’s Law Faculty and his present position are no fluke!

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Though he admits his two predecessors had done much to put the university on a good footing, particularly in establishing the faculties and getting the academic programmes accredited, Olatunbosun still faces enormous challenge similar to those any pioneer chief executive in a startup is bound to confront. This is understandable given the relatively short span his two predecessors spent in office.

But the young VC has been proving his mettle as he braces up to the task of laying firmer rubrics and steering the young university on the path of sustainable upbuilding.

Since coming on board, the students’ population grew to720 by last year from barely a hundred at inception and is expected to peak at between 3,000 and 5,000 in the next couple of years, the VC says.

The modest leap in enrolment is a spin-off of strategic and vigorous developmental strides by the Olatubosun administration.

The KDU boss says he is consolidating on the foundation laid by upgrading facilities, recruiting not only qualified but high-calibre staff among other strategic measures to ensure the accredited academic programmes do not fall behind the line of National Universities Commission’s (NUC) academic standards, while also getting more programmes approved. Expectedly, the faculty of law which now has Council of Legal Education’s accreditation is one of the medals he proudly flaunts in this connection!

“Ninety per cent of our lecturers have PhD in their various discipline. So, we do not mitigate that… those who do not have are almost at the verge of getting. It is known that if you want to work as a lecturer here you must have a PhD and we endeavor to keep that standard. That gives us a leverage of good academics to train our students. We also have well-stocked laboratories for our science programmes and modern learning aid/facilities in the other departments – Industrial Chemistry, Microbiology, Biology, Biochemistry, Physics and Computer science.

“Also, we have good studios for our mass communication students, four studio in fact, for television, radio. There is also the photography section. Above all, apart from theoretical training, we also offer our students practical training so as to prepare them very well for the various industries”, Prof Olatunbosun enthuses.

The university, he adds, networks with professional organisations such as New Horizon and ICAN, and others with a view to exposing the students in the various disciplines to the latest trends, methods and knowledge in the industry and for professional certification awards.

The VC discloses that KDU has kept running mainly on a regular quarterly grant of N200 million provided by the school proprietor, as, according to him, the school fees paid by the students is inadequate to meet the needs of the university. In addition, Chief Daisi has endowed billion Naira for expansion.

The KDU helmsman notes that these efforts and benefactions have had an impact, especially in the enrolment drive, with students’ population leaping from barely a hundred to 750 last year!

The university plans to introduce new programmes, starting with Nursing, Public Health and Medical Laboratory Science and later Pharmacy and Medicine, Olatunbosun says, adding: “We are working to ensure that we have what is required in terms of material and human resources and we expect approval will be given in a very short time from now. We are building structures to ensure that our areas of expansion also measure up with the structure that is required.”

The KDU’s Chief Executive says encouraging staff, especially young academics to develop a stable career through capacity-building and various incentives is the priority of his administration. He explains: “…Part of what we need to grow is to let our lecturers understand that there is no shortcut to success. Because of the increase in the number of universities here and there, there is pressure coming up for young scholars not to actually take their time to have a career line.

Many of them are frequently either being poached or lured into coming to other places. But it’s important for everybody to have a career projection, so we offer them opportunities at training and retraining from time to time. We organise conferences, seminars, workshops and other programmes to keep them abreast of their areas of expertise so that can also compete and give our students the best and impact them positively. So, we have it in place that in the next five years our enrolment should be in the neighborhood of about 3,000 to 5,000.

Like foremost legal luminary and Founder/Chancellor of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, Aare Afe Babalola; Prof Olatubosun does not disguise his bias to make the faculty in charge of training students in his profession the pearl of the university.

“We want the law programme to be the best in the country. We are striving to do that because I remember when I was at the University of Ibadan, we had the best result in that field. So, we are working towards that and… in terms of other programs like Computer Science, Mass communication.

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He vows to replicate and possibly beat U.I’s record in producing not only the highest number of first class law graduates but also the Best graduating student in the Bar examination at the Law school yearly.

He is, however, modest as he provides insight into how the UI feat was achieved: “We were able to achieve that as a body, that is the staff and students of University of Ibadan because of so many factors; one, the entry point for admission was very, very high. It was simply based on merit and so very competitive. So, almost all the students are potential top candidates at the end of the day, all things being equal. Also, our lecturers are also very dedicated they gave their best from time to time and we also challenge them to do more.

“I remember we often challenged our students at that time, I told them that there’s nothing that’s not achievable if they were committed. We encouraged them, we motivated them and we gave them every opportunity to excel. We also allowed them to bring out their ideas because in universities of the past, some lecturers ‘killed’ the vision of students, when they would tell them, “sorry, this particular grade is reserved, you can’t get it”.

No student can achieve the peak that way. We also challenged them with the kind of continuous assessment exercises we had. U.I is fond of giving continuous assessment periodically to the students to keep them on their toes right from the beginning of the academic session. Some of our lecturers and professors in the universities at times, even people in the faculty at that time, will even grade you based on class attendance. For instance, if you attend the first lecture, you get five marks… a lot of things that we put in place to make them realize that their primary function for being there was their studies, and that every other thing was secondary.

“So, consistently for about seven years we recorded the best result in the Law School. For seven years, we maintained 99.1 percent, in terms of overall performance apart from those who scored First class. We had fourteen, twelve, and eight. There was never a year we never made first class at the Law School consecutively and consistently in the last seven years when I was there. And in terms of overall performance we always had 99.1 percent irrespective of the number of students presented.

“Here in KolaDaisi University, we are making everything humanly possible also to achieve same and even greater feat.

“As Vice Chancellor, I am also involved in teaching the students and we have experienced professors in place… all our lecturers have PhD and we are also engaging our students whose number we have deliberately kept at a modest 50, to enable us have one-on-one contact with them. We give them practical teaching, and expose them to an induction and internship programme with reputable law chambers in Ibadan and Lagos, as well as the high courts for them to have practical experience of what obtains in the courtroom.

“The law programme is clinical as well as theoretical. Clinical in the sense that we make sure we give them problem-related questions that could challenge them. You know clients only come to seek your services by merely telling stories, narrating the facts. It is the lawyer who will deduce from the facts what kind of legal action such a person is entitled to that can go to court. It’s is not a matter of just cramming notes and giving it back. We give them practical questions, issues that will be beneficial to them, that will task them and make them to be able to adapt in line with the trends in this era, which stresses adaptation of knowledge.

“We are in the ICT age, our students of nowadays have ICT brain, they are digital in terms of their minds, the level of comprehension is very high but there is a need for them to adapt the theoretical framework into the practical picture.

“Towards that end, if we have three student-lawyers, we asked them to address an issue, and just like already practising ones will likely do, they will look at the same issue from different perspectives. There might be tendency of similarity in terms of thoughts, logic, reasoning and argument, but the approach depends on individual endowment, on their level of comprehension, it also depend of their personal prowess as regards the interpreting of the questions given to them.”

The university, he adds, plans to do some conversion programmes – in accounting, mass communication, economics and the likes for those who are working in the industries with HND and other certificates, as well as introduce postgraduate degree courses for those who might be interested among them.

In spite of its proprietors generosity and support, Olatunbosun discloses that the university management’s strategic dream is to build a strong, self- reliant campus that will be known for sustainable exploits in scholarship, research, vibrant and mutually beneficial town and gown relationships in the immediate and long run.

“We have an agenda to translate the founder’s vision into reality. The first is to build up a very robust structure for the university and part of what we need to grow is to let our lecturers understand that there is no shortcut to success… we are training them. We are encouraging them to ensure that they keep up to date in knowledge and skills. And we also offer opportunities for them to be retrained from time to time to keep them abreast of their areas of expertise so they can also compete, give their best and impact our students.
Aside this, the Vice Chancellor reveals a package of local and international support and business partnerships to keep the campus on an even economic keel as well as boost research activities. Part of this is leveraging on the huge agrarian resource and livestock markets within its vicinity in Akinyele area to produce technologies and techniques that can help farmers improve their methods and yields.