OBAFEMI AWOLOWO UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF HEALTH SCIENCES.
IFEMED ALUMNI USA
President's address to the 2008 Alumni Reunion in Charlotte, NC.
I have learned from more senior alumni about efforts in the past to rally other alumni but I first became involved in organized alumni matters about 7 years ago when along with 7 other alumni we tried to form an alumni union. We held a cyber forum with many other alumni for several months and considered various projects. I even went to London and held a meeting with a small group of alums resident in the UK in 2003. All the talking came to nothing. Then in 2005 the group of 8 decided to start making contributions ($100 per month) after we realized that if we waited to have everyone on board before starting we would never get started.
I volunteered to be the treasurer. The other alumni were: - Segun Apata (1986) Sanya Rufai and Yanju Olatunji (1987), Andrew Newton, Dapo Fawole, Wale Okunlola and Charles Dike (1988). We contributed a total of $8000.00. Tunde Adetunji added $500. Then in 2006, OAUTHC launched a 250M naira endowment fund as part of its 30-year anniversary program and we decided to send them the $8500. I wired the money to the bank account provided by Prof. Sanya Adejuyigbe, the Chief Medical Director of the hospital but the transfer was unsuccessful and the money was returned a few days later. I made several attempts to obtain the right account info from the CMD but all to no avail. So we kept the $8500 in our account here. In December 2006 we got registered as a tax-exempt organization through the efforts of Amaechi Erondu (1988) who was financially responsible for registering the organization.
There was a short period of inactivity until about April, 2007 when we received information about the appointment of Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede as the provost of the college of Health Sciences, the second alumnus after Prof. Bode Balogun to become the provost of the college. His appointment kind of invigorated the alumni. I was going on a medical mission to Lagos from the 7th to the 21st of July and I was asked by my colleagues here to pay a courtesy call on the new provost. I went and saw him on the 19th of July, 2007.
The bus project
At the request of several alumni I paid a visit to the new provost of the college of Health Sciences and as luck would have it Professor Roger Makanjuola (distinguished honorary alumnus) was being honored by the medical school for his services to the medical school, hospital and university. I was able to attend the reception where Prof Mckay himself gave a talk on his experience as VC. I felt much honored that my presence was twice acknowledged by Prof Mckay during his talk. I was introduced as the “coordinator” of alumni affairs in the US and reminded of our obligation as alumni to the medical school.
Prior to the reception the provost took me round the college and introduced me to the different deans of the schools, and we had a tour of the college facilities. As most of you are already aware the college has many urgent needs and from my interaction with the deans they look up to us as alumni to help with some of the problems. Some of them trained in the US and are aware of the role of alumni associations in the survival of universities in the US.
I had a three hour meeting with the provost the night of Thursday, July 19th 2007 and he lay out some of the problems of the medical school including the result of a visit of the accreditation council. The medical school is overcrowded with an average of 250 students per set, 50 students per cadaver (we were 5-10 per cadaver in my set), 50 students per microscope (most of which are now obsolete and malfunctioning), there is no single projection microscope in the college for teaching. What was most distressing to the provost was the sight of medical students in their hundreds standing on the side of the road begging for rides. You may be aware that one of them got killed during the last Ife-Modakeke riot while he was waiting at Sabo for a lift. His body was never found.
The 2 yellow buses that we rode 20-30 years ago have finally broken down completely (They were costing too much to maintain). Prof Bode Balogun (immediate past provost) was able to squeeze out some money from the college allocation to buy a 14-seater bus and that was the only functioning students’ bus.
I explained to the provost some of the efforts we had made in the past to get our association in the US off the ground. He agreed that we could not solve all their problems and expressed satisfaction about the salaries of doctors in Nigeria now. So the focus can now be on how to help them do their job the best they can.
I suggested to Prof Ogunbodede to choose one project he would want us to attend to first and he requested for a 32-seater bus to alleviate the suffering of the students.
We obtained estimates for a 32-seater bus including Nissan Civilian, Toyota Coaster and Mitsubishi Rosa. We got quotes for about 8M naira from RT Briscoe, SCOA etc. At the time the dollar was exchanging for about 125 naira i.e. 1M naira was about $8000 which meant that we needed about $64,000. So, on my return from Lagos I reported back to the group and the fundraising drive started. Pledges poured in from coast to coast and from colleagues in England. Many of the pledges materialized, some did not. There were a few pleasant surprises but we also had a couple of alumni who were against the idea of buying a bus for the college and made their opinion widely known. At times it was quite frustrating but there was no going back and with the support, encouragement and persistence of the core group of 8 and Dr. Jagun, we finally reached and crossed the finish line about the middle of April, 2008. In all we contributed a total of $65,700.
RT Briscoe gave us a 10% discount and the final invoice was for 7.4M naira. On the 23rd of April 2008, I wired home $64,000. It was exchanged for about 116 naira to the dollar. The bank in Nigeria charged a fee of 1% ($640). We paid for the bus and the college took delivery of it on Wednesday 28th of May, 2008.
We have made history. This is the single biggest donation by any alumni organization of our alma mater. Congratulations to you all history makers!
Great Ife. Forever great.
The Great Ife Alumni Union
We are all members of the Great Ife Alumni Association, which is our parent body.
Membership is not by choice. The choice is between being an active or a passive member or a paying or nonpaying member.
The next project –Lecture theatre
We hope to build a 125 seater alumni lecture hall in phase IV of OAUTHC. The executive committee is working on the details. Please stay tuned.
Adedapo Williams MD MPH MRCPsych.