• Ex-INEC commissioner retires from UNILAG after 40 years
• Urges colleagues to plan five years ahead of retirement
Lai Olurode, a retired Professor of Sociology at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), has opened up on why he gave up Political Science for Sociology when he gained admission into the institution in 1976.
Olurode who retired in 2022 after 40 years of outstanding academic, research and administrative services to the university was among the four retirees celebrated on Friday, July 28 by the UNILAG Muslim Community (UMC) in Akoka, Lagos.
Recall that the Faculty of Social Science of the University had on Tuesday, July 25 honoured the respected Muslim personality, who was its former Dean, with a valedictory lecture.
At the well-attended lecture, also graced by former Vice Chancellor of UNILAG, Prof. Rahmon Bello; Prof. Olurode spoke on “The Knowledge Sector, Public Interest and Power Structure”.
In an exclusive interview with Muslim News shortly after the special Jum’ah organised by the UMC, Prof. Olurode, who hails from Iwo, Osun State in Southwest Nigeria, explained that his first contact with UNILAG was in 1976 as a student offered admission to study Political Science.
He, however, noted that the discipline didn’t go down well with his mother due to the general perception attached to politics in Nigeria, adding he had to switch to Sociology and was retained by the management to teach after the emerging top of his class in 1979.
Born as Dauda Bilawu on November 2nd, 1952 at Iwo, famously known as the city of the scholars, Prof. Olurode received his Secondary School education at Baptist High school, Iwo between 1968 and 1975.
He said, “I came to the University of Lagos as a student in 1976. In 1979, I had my first degree. I was admitted to read Political Science, but due to objection from my mother, I had to change to Sociology.
“She had a narrow understanding of Political Science and maybe it was my fault. She asked me which course I was admitted to and I told her it was Political Science. She then asked what was that in Yoruba. I said ‘oselu’. She said those who kill themselves and do dirty things. That was the general understanding of politics in Nigeria. So, I don’t blame her. Even myself, nobody had clarity as to what you could do with the course. So, there were lots of misgivings about some of the courses.
“The courses that were well known that time included Medicine and Engineering. Even when you read Science, they found it difficult to understand what you wanted to do with it. It’s only now we get to know that first degree is just like a stepping stone,” he said.
Prof. Olurode, who had served variously as Head of Department, Dean of Faculty, among other positions, said he immediately enrolled for his masters degree at the same University.
“I graduated as the best student of my set. And after my NYSC, the university wanted me to come back. So, I would say my coming into academics was not planned. The university was looking for me; somebody came with a letter to my house. The management wanted me to pick up employment. So, I started and enrolled for my masters degree in 1981.
“Also, I happened to be the best-graduating student during my masters degree. One thing led to the other, and I got admission into the University of Sussex in Britain for my Doctoral programme (D.Phil.) in Philosophy in 1984.
“I had two scholarship offers – one from the Oyo State Government and another one from the Commonwealth. I had to abandon those of the Oyo State Government. The other one (Commonwealth) came with bigger benefits. So, I completed the programme late 1984. I returned to Nigeria in 1985 back to the University of Lagos where I started my academic career first as a Graduate Assistant. After my doctoral programme, I was elevated to the Lecturer grade. In 2001 or thereabouts, I became a Full Professor at the university. That’s what Allah had planned for me.”
Late Gani Fawehinmi made me study Law
Prof. Olurode, the former Dean of Faculty of Social Science, UNILAG, noted that he was influenced in life by some prominent Nigerians including former Governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande; former Governor of Osun State, Bisi Akande and the late legal luminary, Gani Fawehinmi, among others.
He stated that Fawehinmi particularly made him pick an interest in Law from 1986 to 1990 at the same University (of Lagos), in addition to fears of losing his job at the University of Lagos because of his courageous stand.
He said, “I was influenced in life by some prominent Nigerians, one of whom was Alhaji Jakande. His wife and children were at my valedictory lecture on Tuesday. Bisi Akande, Gani Fawehinmi happened to be among those that influenced me. These are people I looked up to to see how I could also impact society. These are influential people.
“Through Gani, I became interested in Law. I studied Law here in UNILAG in the evening as a part-time programme between 1986 and 1990, but I had to do Law school full-time.
“Another reason I studied Law was that I was looking for what I could do if I lose my job. I was denied accommodation and a few other things. My salaries were stopped at some point. That was during the tenure of Prof. Jelili Omotola (between 1995-2000) where everyone was expected to toe the line. That was why I embraced Law. So, if I happen to be chased out of the university, I would have something to fall back upon.
“I must say that the Law I read had been put to use. I found it handy. I put up appearances in court. I could recall I took a matter up following the tradition of Gani with the Lagos State Government on a certain policy. Along the line, the government changed the policy and I had to withdraw the case from the court.
“I used to have a very vibrant Law office in Mushin, but after a while, administrative jobs in the university, headship of sociology department, dean of faculty took me. It was hectic for me, so I relocated my office to my house.”
Five years retirement plans ahead
The retired professor advised academics who are nearing retirement age to plan five years ahead of time, stressing that it’s necessary so as not to get frustrated when pension packages do not come on time.
“The pension would not come on time. Up till now, I’ve not collected a dime. By November, it would be one year since I retired. People before me have not been paid anything too. One of my brothers stepped out on his own, voluntary retirement. He just thought that he should do something better with his life. Salary can be enslaving if you have no plan,” he said.
Olurode added that he has had a rewarding retirement experience, committing himself to community service including his school (The Wings School), and radio station, Ayekooto FM in Iwo.
“I’ve had more jobs since retirement. I’ve been very busy with community service and I enjoy it to the utmost. I’ve been very busy with my school, Ayekooto FM and a few other things in the community. It’s been a rewarding experience. If you can put half of the time you use in serving government into personal life, I’m sure the sky would be the limit.”
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