Mrs. Olufolake Oladunni Oyeyemi is Registrar at the University of Ilorin in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. She is the first woman to serve is such a position at this institution., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
‘Women Make Better Administrators’
SATURDAY, 27 APRIL 2013 00:00 BY FATIMA ABUBAKRE
SATURDAY MAGAZINE - LIFE & STYLE
AN encounter with the outgoing Registrar of the University of Ilorin, Mrs. Olufolake Oladunni Oyeyemi leaves no one in doubt about the passion she has for her job. She has made her name as the longest serving Registrar of the university, having worked with three successive Vice Chancellors and served a two-term tenure of 10 years from April 2003 to April 2013.
Oyeyemi, who rejects the notion that a woman cannot rise to the highest point of her career without compromising her integrity, observed that female registrars now constitute about two-thirds in Nigerian universities.
“People should start realising that there are women out there who can blaze the trail, who, through genuine efforts, can on their own achieve success and surpass their male counterparts in the same position. In addition, it has been proven that women by their nature make better administrators. They are more passionate, more patient and they are endowed with persuasive skills,” she averred.
She has no apology for those who are of the opinion that women in positions of authority like her could be overtly emotional. “If I am not emotional, then I am not a woman. Women are unique creatures of God, designed for some special purposes. We express ourselves passionately to achieve results. When you exhibit passion, you cannot but achieve the desired results. Yes, some men would say, ‘o, she’s too emotional.’ But we achieve results. I am proud to be emotional and I will continue to be passionate if that is what I need to pass my message across in this male-dominated environment.”
Asked to comment on the challenges that came with her office, she first adjusted herself on her seat, then looked this reporter in the face: “If I tell you I didn’t have challenges, I will be deceiving you. Every circumstance of life has challenges but what I have discovered is that the more challenges you have, the stronger and resilient you become. If you don’t have challenges to tackle, then you are not actually fit for that position.”
Earlier in life as a young graduate, she had wanted to work with the Foreign Service, which informed her decision to study French at the University of Ibadan. But that was not to be.
Oyeyemi, who has brought panache to the office of Registrar, says of her working relationship with the past helmsmen of the institution: “It will be very unfair for me to compare the three of them because they all worked under different environments and circumstances. Each had his own different followership and of course, they are of different personalities. For me to have been able to adapt to each style, I think it is a unique opportunity that I really enjoyed. I enjoyed working with each of them as I was able to adapt to their varying administrative styles. It has also enriched my own experience as an administrator.”
Mrs. Oyeyemi who began her career at the University of Ilorin in 1979 said that she considers herself a lucky person having had the opportunity of serving three Vice Chancellors.
She ascribed her work ethics to the way she was brought up. “I was brought up under a very strict disciplinarian atmosphere. So, I was already used to working extra hours. The training I had prepared me for the challenges I later faced in life, fortunately. Moreover, my marriage has not stood in my way.”
“But one thing that I know I missed a lot was sleep. I didn’t have enough sleep throughout my 10-year service because you go to bed late and wake up early. So, I am hoping to have a lot of that as soon as I leave this office,” she says with a smile.
On critical decisions made as the institution’s longest serving Registrar, she identifies the issue of punctuality to work, decent dressing among staff and students, as some important milestones achieved during her tenure.
“In the past, we used to go around chasing late comers, but now people come in at 7.30 am in their vehicles and they keep working sometimes till 6pm without any coercion. It is gladdening to note that the culture of hard work and sacrifice has sunk in and I think it is a beautiful thing seeing that it is now well entrenched in the system. I want to urge the staff to please continue the practice. I am leaving the system a fulfilled Registrar. I believe that I have fought the fight by the grace of God and I have won the race.”
With a single term of five years tenure now approved for Registrars and Principal Officers of Federal Universities in Nigeria by the National Assembly, Oyeyemi will be the last Chief Administrative Officer to have served a two-term tenure of 10 years in the system. She is however of the opinion that the system needs continuity to grow, adding that the policy tenure was ill-conceived and ill-advised. “The issue was not brought to our attention but was maliciously smuggled through the back door. If it were publicised, we would have gone there to supply the needed information to guide the legislators. Unfortunately, we only heard about it at CORNU and before you knew it, it had been passed.
“By the law establishing a typical Nigerian university, the Registrar is the keeper of all records and regulations, tradition, culture and precedents. That job demands not only experience, but a thorough historical understanding of the system. He/she is the continuity officer who is equipped to guide and advise a new Vice Chancellor to ensure a smooth transition. This is why the tenure was held till retirement in the past. Later, it was reduced to two terms of five years each.
Recently, for no justifiable reason, it was reduced to only one term of five years. There is no doubt that a Registrar’s performance improves with time. It is understandable for Vice Chancellors to spend five years, since they are essentially academics who will go back to the classroom to do what they are trained to do. But Registrars are there to sustain stability.
“When this policy came, it also said Registrars would serve one term of five years, while the retirement age of non-academic staff has been increased to 65 years. The policy makers failed to realise that it is possible to be a Registrar at the age of 45 or even 50. At that age, you are agile, strong and energetic. After spending five years, you will be deployed to other activities in the university. You cannot retire until you are 65. What I am saying is that we should revert to the two-term tenure of five years each, making a total of 10 years for Registrars,” she said.
Continuing, Oyeyemi added: “I am not compelled to retire until I am 65 years old. So as it is, I remain a staff of the University of Ilorin and I may choose not to retire until I am 65 years. I may choose to retire now but I am not compelled to. I may go before then, that is left for me to decide.
“The implication is that the system is now being forced to keep several ex-registrars in the system who are deployed to other assignments. We now pay their salaries. It sounds stupid as all the experiences that I have gathered over the years will now be there wasting away”.
While she reveals that she has enjoyed a robust working relationship with the generality of members of staff, she speaks on the issues of staff welfare. “I believe that all staff are important. I love my staff and care very much for their welfare. In the areas of welfare, I have tried my best and they know; I don’t have to give details.
“Nevertheless, you can’t but have a few who don’t like your style as some often say she is ‘Iron lady’ because they can’t get her to do things their own way. You can’t satisfy everybody within the limits of the law of the university. Sometimes, I want to really do something but because of regulations, I can’t. Therefore, if I come back 10 times as Registrar, under the same circumstances, I will do the same things that I have done now based on extant regulations. By and large, I have loved working for this system.”
Her advice to young women is this: “Aspire to the peak of your career, perform to the best of your ability, be honest, be simple because when you try to live above your means, then you get into trouble. I am leaving this office with a peaceful mind because I have not had any dirty dealings with anybody. I do my work, I don’t even know contractors here. I just sign their papers when they complete all the procedures. So, nobody is going to say, there was a deal with that woman”.