I woke up in the morning of 1st May,2020 with all gratitude to the cosmic masters for the gifts of light, love and life. I then proceeded to convey my good wishes for a joyful new month to friends and relations on my phone contact list. One of them was Dr. A.O.Adetoro, my former boss at the Federal college of Agriculture, Akure, Ondo state. In our very brief conversation and exchange of greetings, he sounded very strong and prayed for me profusely, a response that stemmed from the fact that, since he retired in 2002, I had always been in touch with him unceasingly. Alas! Four days after this episodic contact, the news of his transition to eternal glory broke. A German-trained soil scientist, Dr.Adetoro lived and impacted for 80 years. Since then tributes had been pouring in for a man who was a modest hill in our little academic community. At times, I wonder if we are not living in a world of confusion or contradiction. For example, it is said that we should not speak ill of the dead. Therefore, tributes to the dead must be in praise and superlatives. Yet, it is argued that, earthly testimony to the character of the dead is a sufficient key for unlocking the door of eternity for him (ijeri aye ni ijeri alukiamon-orun).But if we are admonished not to be critical of the dead; if we are charged not to speak of the failings of the dead; if all should speak only about the good deeds of the dead, then the above Yoruba axiom will not be correct. The axiom will equally be fallacious if a good person is roundly misjudged by the people he came in contact with while on this plane. It is in mediating this possibility of wrong judgement that the creator of the universe has warned man in all religions, to be cautious in judging the living and the dead. If we do not want to run into error; if we do not want to be hypocritical about the deeds of the dead, is it not therefore, better to honour him with silence? Or can we not just stop at uttering Rest in Peace or may God forgive him his sins? But this is not in the nature of man: the dead had been kind to him, he must say it upon his passage. The dead had hurt him, he can hardly forget. In resolving this interrogation, I want to submit that, in either eulogising or condemning the dead, we must never lie. It is only on this condition that, heaven can uphold our testimony. For heaven to uphold my testimony on my very colourful boss, I first recognise the fact that, like all mortals, he had his frailties which I presupposed should not vitiate his contributions to humanity and the FECA academic community he served to the best of his ability. This is how not to be hypocritical, a description that is apt for a few of the tributes that had been quietly paid to him.
Hypocritical because, when he was about to retire in 2002, the then Management under his leadership had contentious issues with a trade group within the college community, and as the leader of Management, he was held responsible. The situation then was complicated by a communication gap between him and my office about his retirement. The ensued differences on campus became tensed and intense and we could not hold a college-wide send- off ceremony, for a sociable academic, who of course, did his best and whom many have today described as an excellent being. In the spirit of reconciliation however, the then Management Team under his successor in 2003, eked out personal resources to organise a send-off ceremony in a hotel outside the college campus still for the fear of negative reactions. During that simple and restricted ceremony, we acknowledged his outstanding contributions to the college and prayed for him. In my remarks on that occasion as one of the closest persons to him administratively, I pointedly said that, Dr. Adetoro was so kind-hearted a man, who was always willing to go overboard to get things done for people in spite of the risky administrative implications of doing so. These remarks he acknowledged in his response. But he wondered aloud why his magnanimity could still be rewarded with last minute hostility instead of ovation by the community he believed he served very well. It is that phenomenal event that will form the springboard of the rest of my tribute to this fearless academic leader and honorary Chief of Ifetedo.
Dr. Adetoro and I worked together at a time when the college was undergoing de-satelliteization from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. He seized the moment of the unlocked bottlenecks to quickly unleash some welfare stimulus on the administratively beleaguered members of staff of the college, who had suffered stagnation and neglect under the hitherto prevailing administrative morphology and ecology. For example, a good number of staff that had stagnated then were promoted. To achieve this, we in concert with the then Management, did two creative things: one, for the academic staff who had few publications, we resolved to count Masters degree thesis as part of their publications and rated them like Polytechnic staff they were, a marked shift from university publication assessment criteria. This we were able to achieve partly because of the ideas I brought from my polytechnic administration experience, gained at The Polytechnic Ibadan, where I had had the opportunity to first serve as Administrative Officer, Junior Staff Establishment and also as the Head of Academic Staff Establishment; and also because of our tempered application of the National Board for Technical Education scheme of service without compromising standards. In another motivational palliative, he agreed to a leeway I suggested to him for the promotion of some staff on clerical officer cadre, which was the organization of an in-house certificate and diploma courses in General Administration, coordinated by me, in the face of our agricultural background and the NBTE scheme of service. A daring move indeed! Yet, we got away with it majorly because of his confidence and the tolerable environment then as we used the certificates and diplomas to promote a number of staff and converted some to the Executive officer cadre. Furthermore, Dr.Adetoro’s capacity building programme for staff was not only genuinely aimed at empowering the beneficiaries to be more effective and efficient on their duties, but was also college wide and carried reasonable pecuniary benefits. In a plan that involved my office and the approval of the then Management Team, he ensured that all academic staff attended seminars and conferences required for their promotions, and so also the non-academic staff including junior staff. This motivational gesture not only enhanced both academic and life exposures of all of us, but also created for us, forums for professional networking. All these and many more, have made his time as the Provost of the college to be difficult to forget in a hurry.
At personal level, I will always remember him for his accessibility and emotional intelligence. He held me in high esteem and trusted my integrity. To me he would say:” I don’t need to check anything you bring for me to sign.” In about 1998 when he was sick, he would send me to Abuja to handle some official assignments for him and while doing so, he would intone:” you are the only officer who would not add a third message if I asked you to deliver only two.” He gave and created opportunities for me without the intention of weakening my struggle to be a disciplined staff without claiming to be a saint. A tall and lovable personality he was; very dainty and attractive to Eves- he courted them and they courted him. He loved his family and cared and planned for them. His wife loved him with all intensity. In the presence of crowd, she would plant deep kiss on his lips, sending signal to those around to love their spouses. My sociable boss, in pondering on the character of the tributes that had attended your birth in to another form- Heraclitus’ description of death- I came across this beautiful quotation of Mother Theresa, which will give you eternal bliss and grant you greater illumination about the sincerity and hypocrisy of man should you sense it unearthly:
People are often unreasonable, and self-centred. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you did today, may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good any way.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
In the end, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway
Dr. Ademola Adebisi .
Is the Registrar Federal College of Agriculture Akure