15 Dec 2020

Inspiration, accolades as Salami gets Most Distinguished Indigene of Ibadan award

It was a moment of grand honour for the Vice Chancellor of the First Technical University, Ibadan, Professor Ayobami Salami, on Saturday, November 28, 2020. That day, he alongside two other prominent sons of Ibadan, Oyo State capital, received the Most Distinguished Ibadan Indigene award, amid cultural performances inspirational declarations and hope of renewal for the ancient and record-breaking city.

The other two awardees are equally leading lights in their fields and beyond – Group Managing Director of First Bank Plc, Dr Sola Adeduntan; and Chief Operating Officer, NNPC, Engn. Yemi Adetunji. It was, however, also a day for the investiture of the state Governor, Engnr Seyi Makinde, as the first Ibadan Indigene to be Admitted into the Ibadan Roll of Honor Platinum Grade, having donated up to N101m personal fund within seven years for the development of the town.

The event, where the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji, was the father of the day, was the thrust of the grand finale of a week-long programme organised by the influential Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII). While it was the climax of various other cultural, educational and renaissance-oriented programmes, it also marked the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Third Ibadan, with the two earlier led by legends that include Lagelu having been defunct due to incessant warfare and other developmental challenges. The celebration of Salami, a thoroughbred scholar, administrator and prolific writer, as well as Adeduntan and Adetunji, is thus like an acknowledgement of the kind of heroes that the new Ibadan needs. The President General, CCII, Chief Yemi Soladoye, noted this in his speech at the event held at Liberty (now Obafemi Awolowo) Stadium, saying their choice was based on landmarks achievements.

In his acceptance speech, the First Technical University Vice Chancellor thanked the leadership of the CCII for considering him worthy of the honour. According to him, it is a pleasant surprise, based on the fact that he never saw it coming.

Salami, who was accompanied by his wife, Prof. Abiodun Salami, management, staff and some Tech-U students; as well as associates/well wishers from various institutions such as the Cedar Generation Gospel Outreach and the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, said, “I thank God, He who lifts people up as He chooses. As a scholar, God has given me a lot of honour, but the one I’m receiving today is exceptional.”

“I did not know it was coming. I didn’t lobby for it. I learnt that there are about 255 socio-cultural associations or groups in Ibadan, with the CCII as the central body. I must confess that I am not a member of any of them. So, if it was a matter of lobbying, I wouldn’t have got this award at all. If it is about money, I don’t have money. I only have books. I am, therefore, honoured and very grateful as I am considered worthy of it.”

“I congratulate the Olubadan on the success that Ibadan has continued to record. Ours is a land of history. We have the history of the first stadium, first television station and the first high-rise building. Now in Oba Adetunji’s time, we have added another first. That is the First Technical University, where we are developing brains and training hands, giving our youths sound academic, entrepreneurial and vocational education.”

Meanwhile, the 2020 edition of the CCII week had earlier featured the presentation of a book, Ibadan History and Civilisation; unveiling of ‘Portraits of Ibadan Late Heroes’, foundation laying of the Oba Saliu Adetunji Guest House, Foundation Laying of the Ibadan Hall of Fame and the Foundation Laying of the Ibadan Monuments and Archive Centre.

There were sessions/lectures on various issues that could lead to the continued development of the popular and populous city, which is saluted as ‘Ibadan omo ajorosun’; that is, Ibadan the offspring of founders who subsisted on oro fruits. The fruits, snails and pap were the only food available to the legends who had to fight bitter wars to be able to secure their abode and fame.

Like the proverbial white pap that evolves from the black pot, Professor Ayobami Salami hails from a humble background. Today, however, he is one of the leading lights that not only Ibadan – his darling hometown – and entire Oyo State are proud of, but also an iconic brand of national and global proportion.

After consolidating the promises of childhood and surmounting the challenges of the epoch, he set his feet on the noble path of scholarship, where he has raised thousands of successful students and impacted the world through functional research, revolutionary policy formulation and development as well as visionary leadership. He is currently consolidating these at the First Technical University, Ibadan, where he is leading a team raising new future leaders with entrepreneurial, vocational and creative edge.

An old student of St. Paul Anglican Primary School, Latunde Village in Oluyole Local Government Area of Oyo State; and Lagelu Grammar School, Ibadan, Professor Salami was appointed the Pioneer Vice-chancellor of Nigeria’s premier Technical University, First Technical University, Ibadan in May 2017. He became a Professor of Environmental Science, at the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Studies, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife in 2003. He was the Pioneer Head of Environmental Science, University of the Gambia, The Gambia (2000-2001); the Director, Institute of Ecology and Environmental Studies, OAU (2006-2010); Senior Research Advisor, Health, Safety and Environment, Corporate Environment Department, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Port Harcourt (2010-2011); and Deputy Vice- Chancellor (Academic), OAU (2011-2016).

He was the Project Manager, the World Bank-sponsored Centre of Excellence (CoEx) in Software Engineering: Science & Technology Education at Post-Basic Levels (STEPB) Project OAU, from 2011-2013 and the Centre Leader, World Bank-sponsored African Centre of Excellence on ICT-Driven Knowledge Park from 2014 to 2016. He has coordinated many multi-disciplinary projects for several national, regional and international organisations. He was the Programme Coordinator (West and Central Africa), for the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)-sponsored International Training Programme on Education for Sustainable Development in Higher Education, in 2008; and Consultant to UNEP for the Terminal Evaluation of Project GEF/GFL-2328-2770-4889 on Integrated Ecosystem Management in the Trans-Boundary Areas Between Nigeria and Niger in 2010. He was the Nigerian Principal Investigator for the IDRC Multi-country Research Project (N°:105714– 001) on The Practice of Ethics in Health and Environmental Research in Africa from 2010-2013. He also coordinated the Nigerian capacity building component of the EU-sponsored project on Monitoring of Environment for Security in Africa (MESA) from 2014-2017.

Professor Salami has obtained numerous grants from several organisations such as the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), Abuja; Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA); Ecological Fund Office, Office of Secretary to the Government of the Federation, The Presidency, Abuja; the National Centre for Remote Sensing, Jos; International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), The Netherlands; International Secretariat of System Analysis for Research and Training-International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), Washington D.C.; UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission; United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Trieste, Italy; Ramboll Natura AB, Sweden; Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and International Steering Committee for Global Mapping (ISCGM), Japan among others.

He has also had teaching and research experience at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and at the Natural Resources Department, International Institute for Geo-information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), Enschede, The Netherlands. Professor salami has been an Eisenhower Fellow since 2009.

It is this robust profile that gives stakeholders the conviction that Professor Ayobami Salami will lead the First Technical University to the top. The institution is, indeed, unique not only because it is a pioneer in its area of specialisation, but also because of its corrective orientation. The Tech-U is bold, resolute but pragmatic in terms of the core vision of bridging the skill gaps that exist in the country’s educational system.

The Vice Chancellor recently put this in perspective thus: “Far from being another factory of job-seekers, we are a nurturing ground for entrepreneurs, those who really make the difference in the life of a nation. Our ultimate dream is to become a world-class institution as soon as possible. The hallmarks of a world-class university include a pious commitment to its vision and mission, compelling scholarship on the part of its staff, high-quality research, inspiring deployment and engagement of technology as well as the production of future leaders in all sectors.

“The Tech-U is one which will be propelled into a top-flight institution by the virtue of the innovative ideas. We have set our feet on this great path, but we must not falter. For instance, at present, we teach with the best technology; we must therefore continue to develop high-quality materials. And, as technology continues to evolve, we must strive to keep abreast of it.

“As a university where graduates are strategically prepared for the transition from education to the world of work, the Tech-U will breed future investors and successful businessmen and women. We will help in reducing unemployment and engendering self actualisation by producing premium quality graduates who will fit into the industry if they choose to take up jobs or be at the forefront as well-rounded entrepreneurs. The dream is that of a university that we can rely on, to produce self-reliant graduates who will be job creators.

“Our dream citadel is the one whose graduates will be great thinkers, researchers and innovators. Nigeria boasts many universities and has produced graduates in their millions but where are our innovations and inventions? This is another major gap that our students should be groomed to bridge.”
And, within the short time it came on stream, the First Technical University, Ibadan, has already been counting its blessings. These include:

Prompt production of two prototype ventilators for COVID-19 treatment
Prompt production of usable face masks
Running an unbroken and an uninterrupted academic session in a year that COVID-19 and strike disrupted programmes in many other universities
Building state-of-the-arts Engineering Workshop and Laboratory as well as hostels and lecture theatres through IGR
Registration of the First Tech’s first patent within two years of operation
Signing of collaborative agreements with the Texas Technical University, US and Girne American University, Cyprus
Hosting of the Hult Prize Pitch in Nigeria
Producing a finalist in the International Breweries Kickstart Business Plan Competition, for which 17,000 people applied.
Tech-U students produce the paint for use in the university and also take up the University’s painting jobs
All Tech-U students are proficient in one technical skill/vocation or the other
Some Tech-U students have their registered startups already
Producing the 2019 winner of the Miss Intellect Universe
Establishment of the First Technical University Advanced Academy, the university’s primary and secondary schools, with the goal of building innovators from the elementary level.