Honest, amiable, blunt, father figure, exemplary leader, and amiable were some of the words used to describe Professor Lai Olurode, a Professor of Sociology during the valedictory lecture organized by the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Lagos (UNILAG) to celebrate the renowned academic as he bowed out of active service.
The event which was held on Tuesday, July 25, 2023, at the Faculty of Social Sciences Lecture Theatre was well attended by Prof. Olurode’s peers, colleagues, family, friends, well-wishers, senior academic and administrative members of staff, descendants of Iwo and Ikire, as well as eminent personalities from different walks of life.
The roll call of dignitaries include the University’s former Deputy Vice-Chancellor, (Academics), Professor Olayide Abass; Professor M. Adejugbe, wife of former Executive Governor of Lagos State, Alhaja. Jakande; a former Chief whip at the National Assembly and childhood friend, Hon. Wale Osun; His Royal Highness, the Onikire of Ikire-Ile, Oba Abdul Aziz Olatunbosun; and the national Commissioner for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mr. Sam Olumekun amongst others.
While welcoming the audience, Chairman of the occasion and eleventh (11th) Vice-Chancellor of UNILAG, Professor Rahman A Bello, FAEng noted that the event brings to the limelight the many interesting parts of Professor Olurode which traverse the three elements in academics that is teaching, research and community service.
According to the Professor of Chemical Engineering, “The essence of today’s valedictory lecture is to exhibit the life of Prof. Olurode, what he stood for in his academic sojourn as well as service to humanity. His tenacity, commitment to excellence in knowledge, and uncompromising character has yielded great rewards.
Other dignitaries took turns to shower encomium on the person and character of the Osun-state-born academic.
In her remarks, the Dean of the Faculty of Social Science, Professor Olufunlayo Bammeke eulogized Prof. Olurode for his immense contribution to the success story of the Faculty and Department of Sociology. She described him as one of the catalysts in the Faculty and Department.
On her part, the Head of Department of Sociology, Professor Franca Attoh spoke glowingly of Professor Olurode while she underscored the important role he played in the growth of the department. Her words, “ …We cannot forget you for all the things you have imparted in us. Sir, even in retirement, our doors at the department are still wide open for you.”
Delivering his valedictory lecture titled “Knowledge, Public Interest and Power Structure” Professor Olurode aligned his thought to the maxim which says when knowledge dies, society becomes bankrupt. He argued that for enhanced synergy to occur between academics and those in formal positions of power, public interest is to be better served.
He expressed displeasure at the present state of the nation, noting that there seems to be a near-total disconnect and compartmentalization.“Each scholar must nurse and fulfil a public purpose. The same philosophy should apply to over two million undergraduates and graduate students across Nigeria’s 170 universities.”
The former Head of Department of Sociology further highlighted the role of Sociology and the need for citizens to examine the prospects and challenges of public interest litigation as a catalyst for sustainable development in Nigeria.
According to him, “corruption has permeated virtually every sector of the economy, basic necessities of life which promotes good living standards are lacking while government operates as if they are not accountable to its citizens”.
“The enforcement, protection, development, and enhancement of public interest, previously was the exclusive preserve of government. However, the emergence of public interest litigation has changed this position”.
It is to this end that he posited that private individuals can now file actions towards remedying perceived public wrongs. The former INEC National Commissioner expressed optimism that the development will lead to a reduction of corrupt tendencies, while government and its agencies become responsive and alive to their responsibilities.
Professor Olayiwola Olurode was born on the 2nd of November 1952 at Iwo, in Osun State. After he received his secondary school education at Baptist High School, Iwo between 1968 and 1975, he proceeded to the University of Lagos, Akoka, from where he bagged his Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology as the best student in his class.
He enrolled in the same University for a Master’s degree in the same field emerging as the best graduating Student. In his quest to attain academic heights, he proceeded to the University of Sussex in Great Britain where he got a Doctoral Degree (D.Phil.) in Philosophy in 1984. On completion of his studies, he returned to Nigeria to continue his career as an academic at the University of Lagos.
In 1986, Prof. Olurode once again returned to the lecture halls as a student, this time for a degree in Law at the University of Lagos. He graduated in 1990 with an LL.B. and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1991.
He joined the service of the University of Lagos as a Graduate Assistant in 1980 and moved up to the position of Lecturer II in 1985 and Lecturer I in 1987 respectively. In 1990, Prof Olurode was promoted to the position of Senior Lecturer, and in the year 2000, he was appointed Professor of Sociology specializing in political sociology, gender, and social inequality.
Professor Olurode’s valedictory lecture is the second by the Faculty of Social Sciences after it celebrated another Sociology Professor, Professor Adebayo Ninalowo at the inaugural edition held on April 14, 2022.