In life, no parent can determine the greatness of children by their feet. As such, the birth of greatness is not restricted to a particular geographical location. Often, most of those who made and are making global, national impact were born in unexpected places.
In a sleepy town of Odo Otin in Inisa Local Government Area of Osun State, a rare gem was born into the world from that relatively unknown rural area. He was born into the family of the Popoolas on September 28, 1960.
He is Professor Labode Popoola, B.sc, M.sc and Ph.D. Economics and Vice-Chancellor of Osun State University. The journey to his academic excellence began at St Patrick’s School, Ibadan, the Oyo State capital city. After his primary education, he proceeded to the Government College, Ibadan, for his secondary school education. Like a gold fish with no hiding place, he exhibited what he was made of, with a Higher School Certificate, and scores of awards.
He gained admission into the University of Ibadan where he studied Forest Economics in 1983. On completion his National Youth Service Corps after graduation from the varsity, he proceeded for a Master’s degree programme in Forest Economics and Management (1987), and by 1990, he earned a PhD from the University of Ibadan.
Education, they say, is the bedrock for national growth and development. In 2006, Igbuzor declared that education is the best legacy any country can give to its citizens. Since the 1914 amalgamation exercise, Nigeria has been witnessing reforms in the educational sector.
The importance the country attaches to education was outlined in the National Policy in Education (FRN 2004). In this policy, the government adopted education as an instrument for effecting national development. As a result, there was an adjustment in the educational philosophy and methodology to march the ideals and challenges of the changing economic and social structure of modern society.
According to the National Policy on Education (1981), the main aim of education in Nigeria is to prepare its citizens for a better life and also inculcate self-reliance in them while preparing for a greater task ahead.
However, in January 1988, Popoola began his career as a graduate assistant in the University of Ibadan. Demonstrable diligence catapulted him to the level of a senior lecturer in the university. By 2002, he was adorned with the toga of a professor. He held other strategic positions including Head, Forest Resource Management Department (2005-2006), and Dean of the Post-graduate School of the university (2006-2010).
He also held the position of Director, Centre for Sustainable Development, University of Ibadan, while also serving as an examiner for over 17 years in many academic institutions including, the Federal College of Forestry in Ibadan, Federal College of Forest Mechanisation, Kaduna.
Professor Popoola was appointed the Vice-Chancellor of Osun State University in 2016. On assumption of duties, he openly declared that he is a team player, promising to pursue the mission and vision of the institution with ‘’professionalism, transparency, and accountability’.
So far, he has kept his words. Insiders say he has been successfully confronting the numerous operational deficiencies which the University faced, while also investing his wealth of experience in research and efficient administration of the academic institution.
His selfless and exemplary leadership with strict adherence to the rules of the institution have helped in moving UniOsun forward. He is boasting of blocking several financial leakages which the university had, and promoting best practices on fees payment and student registration.
Due to the adverse effect of the COVID-19 crisis, he has been calling on tertiary institutions in the country to embrace virtual e-class learning. In an interactive session with the academic staff union of the university, he enjoins them to look out for possible solutions that will enhance the growth of the institution and society around them.
While re-jigging the administrative system of the institution, Professor Popoola is also making impact on its academic standard as its students recently emerged winners in an inter-university debate organised in honour of former President Olusegun Obasanjo on his 80th birthday. ‘’The competition was successful because of the Vice-Chancellor’s insistence for intensive coaching of the participants’’, the media unit of the university said.
For information and communication promotion, the egg head commissioned a teleprompter in the school, a modern information technology device used for speech presentation. Remarkably UniOsun is said to be the first ivory tower to acquire this device in Nigeria.
The university hostels and administration blocks are wearing new look just as health care facilities are being upgraded with vital amenities needed.
This accomplished scholar is a member of top-rated bodies. He is a member of The Joint Council/Senate selection of the University of Ibadan, Chairman, University of Ibadan Council Tree Management Committee (2007-2010), Steering Committee Member, Fellow Forestry Association of Nigeria, Chairman Committee of Deans, Dean’s of Post-graduate School (2008-2010), Member, Hitachi Software Engineering, Association of Research Managers UK, and African Sustainable Development Network
Popoola has over 150 publications to his credit, and supervised several theses and dissertations. He has received series of awards and recognitions from individuals and institutions among them: The best all-round student in academics, sports, and character. St Patrick’s College 1973; Character and service award by the Catholic bishop Ibadan diocese 1978; Executive Member, African Network for Agro-Forestry Education (1999-2000); and National Contact Person, African Research Network (2001-2010)
Professor Labode Popoola who is married with children, is an adaptive person who speaks Yoruba, Hausa, and French.