Sunday Saanu writes about the grass to grace story of Ondo-born University of Ibadan professor.
His is a story of a poor prospect, made great by grace. But for divine intervention, predicated on the uncommon passion and doggedness of his mother, Professor Ibukunoluwa Augustine Ayodele’s life would have probably, perfectly illustrated Thomas Gray’s elegy of “many a flower that is born to blush unseen which ultimately wastes its sweetness on the desert air.”
At best, Ayodele, who is today a pofessor of wildlife and tourism management in the University of Ibadan would have been a ‘Managing Director’ of I.B.K. Cuts and Tailoring Services in a remote village in Ondo state with probably two or three wives, raising plebeian children who may later become dregs of the society, thus, perpetuating a vicious circle of poverty.
He was born into a polygamous family where going to school was on a rotational basis among the children of different wives in the family as a result of paucity of funds. And, when the young Ibukunoluwa finished primary school, itching to go further, his father ruled that it was not his turn to go to school. He was practically doomed to die in the village, being a hewer of woods? But God won! The narrative changed.
Right from the primary school, the young Ibukunoluwa has always been a brilliant mind. He was the best pupil in his class, finishing with Grade A. But despite his intellectual prodigiousness, his father insisted that the best for him was to go and learn tailoring because it was not his turn to go to secondary school. It took the pleading of the late Madam Ibipomola Ayodele to persuade her husband before the academically-thirsty Ibukunoluwa could be sent to Oyemekun Grammar school, Akure. Madam Ibipomola , his mother, had to sell some of her personal property so as to ensure that Ibukun complete his secondary school education.
The rest is history as they say.
Today, the rural boy of yesterday has become a global citizen. He is now a prominent academic whose contributions to the national development are stupendous. Prof. Ayodele has so far successfully supervised 65 Ph.D theses, several dissertations and First Degree projects. Some of his students are today Deputy Vice Chancellor, Deans, Heads of Department, Professors among others.
To all intent and purposes, he is a gregarious fellow. He could be described as a nice person. He is an encourager.
I recall when I was pursing a Direct Entry Admission to UI, his wife, Mrs. Francisca Iyabode Ayodele, solicited his intervention on my behalf as some people were hell- bent to frustrate my ambition. Prof. Ayodele waded in. He made valuable input that eventually culminated in my success. Years later, after my first interview to get job in UI, he gave me sufficient motivation, urging me to keep trudging on. Since then, he has never stopped supporting and encouraging me.
He has never failed to read through any of my pieces in newspapers and on social media. He will later call me and state his observations. In one of our encounters, he said “Saanu, honestly, I always enjoy your write- ups. You are a good writer. You often teach me English as I sometimes consult two to three dictionaries before I could decode your words. Your mastery of the English language is amazing.” I quickly objected, telling him I am still learning the arts.
Commenting on his personality in an informal setting recently, the UI Vice Chancellor, Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka described Prof. Ayodele as a witty man whose wisdom is worthy of emulation.
According to Prof. Olayinka, “I have gained a lot in interacting with Prof. Ayodele. He is very deep and lively.
However, this tribute does not suggest that Prof. Ayodele is perfect. No. He is not perfect. Like all mortals, he has his own foibles. But the good news is that his good side far outweighs whatever that may be perceived as his shortcomings. That is fair enough.
Prof. Ayodele is married to an elegant, gorgeous and graceful Francisca who reportedly came first among the 23 candidates who participated in the recently conducted interview for the Deputy Registrars.