Adewole: Tribute to industry and diligence
His story vividly illustrates the popular saying that the best reward for hard work is an opportunity to do more. He was about concluding his five-year single tenure as the 11th Vice Chancellor of University of Ibadan (UI) in 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari rewarded the spirit of hard work in him with a fresh appointment as Health minister.
However , critics of Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole had thought he would soon collapse on the job for he had never taken time to rest, given the enormity of the job he did in UI. But, instead of manifesting signs of fatigue, the Health minister keeps waxing stronger, traversing the length and breadth of the country in service of humanity. He is 63 years old today, having been born on May 5, 1954.
To be candid, Prof. Adewole can probably be seen as a phenomenon; for the more one tries to unravel him, the more he riddles himself into further unfathomableness. His cerebral endowments startle everyone. From primary through secondary schools, he posted a unique and unassailable impressive record of coming first in his class. At Ilesa Grammar School which he attended between 1966 and 1972, his mates testified that “any time there was a competition involving physics, chemistry, biology, you could be certain that Isaac would carry the day!” He repeated the same academic wizardry at the University of Ibadan when he enrolled as a National Award Scholar in 1973 and obtained his MB.BS degree in 1978, winning the Glaxo Allenbury prize for the best overall performance in Pediatrics. Any wonder he is Health minister today?
Having worked with him for five years as his Media Assistant, this writer is of the view that Prof. Adewole is a man of amazing grace and courtly civility. He is not just a star, but a shining star among the galaxy of stars. “Ifa”, (oracle) as he is being fondly addressed by his close friends, is indeed a beacon and blistering light in usually impossible tunnels. Part of his greatest assets is his belief in himself, and those not so sure-footed confuse such passion of conviction as arrogance. But he never gets discouraged even when his motives are misjudged.
Practically, in all his undertakings, Adewole usually demonstrates outstanding resourcefulness, foresight and dogged determination in his efforts to make marks. Immediately President Buhari appointed him, those who knew what he could do believed that a new day has dawned in Health sector. And, so far, he has not disappointed the nation in his service delivery. He has been fighting the menace of meningitis with zest and aplomb. He has led doctors to carry out fistula surgeries across the country. It is thrilling seeing him on television performing surgery operations despite his status as minister. He is in his element when it comes to health matters.
Indeed, President Buhari made the right choice with his appointment as Health minister. In my recent visit to him in his office in Abuja, Adewole spoke passionately about his desire to ensure that Nigerians get the best health-care delivery. According to him, “the health sector is like the economy and you cannot separate the health sector from the economy. In fact, many countries have improvements in their economy when they recorded improvements in health sector: Malaysia, Thailand among others are ready examples.” As part of his strategic plans therefore, the erudite Health minister promised to revitalise the Primary Health Care policy because that is the base. Prof. Adewole noted that 70 per cent of Nigerians could receive care at Primary Care level.”
Interestingly, one of his strong points is his ability to quickly network with people of like minds. Adewole, in other words, could be described as a creative cultivator of companionship. His network of friends, associates and admirers cut across the strata of Nigerian society and beyond. For instance, one of his friends, retired Prof. Dieter Wenzel from Wroclaw, Poland challenged me to ensure that this tribute is done for the Health minister, saying, “Isaac is a transcendental icon who deserves to be celebrated. If a foreigner could be so passionate about our own IFA, why should we then find it difficult to applaud this rare breed?
Adewole strongly subscribes to the belief of an American author, a political activist, Helen Keller who posits that walking with a friend in the dark is far better than walking alone in the light. Indeed, the Health minister himself has said the greatest healing therapy in life is friendship and love. It is therefore his pastime to find solace in the fortress of friends. Some have described him as a man of the people, approximating a metaphorical puller of the moth to the lamp.
With all the swagger that is all his, Adewole conducts himself with class and confidence. His charisma, as well as his camaraderie is difficult to ignore! He enjoys taking the route less travelled to achieve his aim. He is fearless; he freely shares his confidence with people and keeps his fright to himself. He does his due diligence on any matter. Adewole will neither call a meeting, nor attend any, without first of all, reading through all the relevant documents and available literature. He hardly sleeps. At different occasions, I have sent messages to him in the middle of the night when you probably think he would be sleeping, to your surprise, he would just reply, leaving you wondering if he ever sleeps.
Above all, Adewole is a man of prayer, highly spiritual somewhat. He dissects issues spiritually, just as he constantly admonishes you to go and pray on any nagging matter. There was a time I went to his office and complained against persecution from certain quarters. His response was as shocking as it was consolatory. “Go and relax”, he said to my amazement. His words “you are saying they hate you, what about Jesus Christ, did they not hate Him? What about me, did they not persecute me before I became VC? Did they not write petition against me? How can you be writing such articles and be getting popular and you think they will love you?” Case closed, so I went back to my office.
Strikingly, Prof. Adewole does not reward beneficence with ingratitude. He recognises every good deed and appropriately rewards such. He will call you and thank you profusely and normally conclude his conversation with “cheers”. At public functions, his audiences are never, and will never be bored with his delivery. He usually garnishes issues at stake with humour and rib-cracking jokes. He always has a way of keeping the ball on the bounce!
However, since there is no error-proof man in life, Adewole certainly has his own foibles. Part of his idiosyncrasies to the best of my knowledge, may not probably be intentional, but could definitely be hurting. He often finds it difficult to fulfill some of the promises he makes. Perhaps as a result of pressure. This could probably be forgiven as every man has his limitations. But, beyond this, Adewole is highly gregarious. He is awesome. His present exploits and feats are to the pride of his mentees and devotees among whom I am happy to be numbered.
At 63, he has indeed remained a rare role model. God’s favours upon him are immeasurable. From a little seed, he has become a great oak.
Saanu is with the Directorate of Public Communication, University of Ibadan.