Wednesday, June 12, 2019 5:41 pm
The 1st Female to obtain PhD in Computer Science in Nigeria, Professor ADENIKE OSOFISAN spoke with GBENRO ADESINA about what it took her to achieve the feat.
Q: How did you get to know that you have been selected to be inducted into the Nigerian Women Hall of Fame?
A: I got a phone call from the National Centre for Women Development, NCWD. They told me that they wanted to send a letter to me and asked where they should send it to. I asked them what the letter was all about. I was told and I told them where they should send it to. That was how I got to know.
Q: How did you feel at that moment?
A: I don’t know. Well, I was happy. You know that kind of feeling, a couple of mixed feelings. I was very happy and joyful. At the same time, I just wished my dad was still alive to witness it. That was why it was a kind of mixed emotion.
Q: Why not Mummy?
A: My mummy too but my dad was an unusual father. My father gave all his children equal opportunity in every sphere of life. He doesn’t believe that one child is superior to another. I knew he had very high hopes with regards to my person.
Q: You are the first woman to openly admit to me that a father could mean so much to his children. It has always been mummy, mummy and mummy and fathers hardly have a place with their children…
A: You see, my father was an unusual person. He loved education to the core. While we were in school, my father will be the one to come for the PTA meetings. He will be the one to come to all the functions we do in the school. Most fathers don’t but my father did. During holidays, he would be the one that would put us through so many activities. He made us to be fully aware of our environment. He gave us holistic education. I will give you one example. When the military took over, our house was like a public house. So, we had all the posters of the military officers, the head of state, the governors and everything. One day, my father called all of us, asking us questions with respect to those posters. Who is the military governor of Western State? The head of state? And he would ask you to spell the names of those individuals because he expected us that we must pay attention to everything that goes on around us. I remember one of my older ones, spelling lieutenant as ‘leftanat’. My father would wake up in the middle of the night, he would read Shakespeare and in the morning he would call all of us and start asking us questions. He would give us books to read and ask us questions. I am sorry to say, most fathers don’t have time for such things. Even though my father was a politician and a businessman, he still created time for his children. He was a member of the House of Representatives, the first House of Reps. in Nigeria. He would take us along on campaign train so that we will be in the car with him, so that he can discuss with us. He was a kind of man that will say, “My children are very important to me”. My father gave birth to 26 children. Some of them have passed on. But those who are alive, ask anyone of them, they will choose my father over their mothers. It is so strange but that was the kind of man he was because he gave us his time. Like I said, he was a businessman. He got us involved in his business so that we would be with him in the shop. He was always around his children. So, you can’t find a father who is always around his children and the children will not mention him first.
Q: What was he selling?
A: He was a G. B. Ollivant man. He was a general manager of GBO. By age six, I was using what they called the reckoner then. I know how to sell materials. I know the prices of all the commodities. When he became a customary court president, he took us to customary court that I even started recording cases in the customary court. If you are around somebody and the person shows you love and he gives you money, so, why on earth wouldn’t you mention him first? Even our friends, he paid attention to all of them.
Q: That means you are from a polygamous home. What was the experience like?
A: Yes, I am from a polygamous home. We do things in groups, age group not according to mother. You move with your age group. It is like whoever your mother is irrelevant.
Q: Coming from a polygamous home means that you have been taught not to be jealous when you see ladies flocking around your husband?
A: We discovered something when my father died. We do make jokes with my father a lot. There was a time we were making joke of him with one of my half-sisters. If you see the way all the five wives came to defend their husband. We were amazed and concluded that so there is also love in polygamy.
Q: You evaded my question?
A: Have you seen any woman who wants another woman around her husband?
Q: But you can manage it?
A: Yes, I can manage it but that doesn’t mean that I like it. Yes, I can cope very well, but they will not find it easy.
Q: Why do you think you were selected for the Hall of Fame?
A: Well with all modesty, I have been first in four national things. I was the first woman to have PhD in Computer Science in Nigeria, the first female to become a professor in Computer Science not in Nigeria but in Africa, I was the first female to be the president and chairman of Computer Professional Registration Council of Nigeria, CPRCN. I was also the first female to become the provost of the college of fellow of the Nigeria Computer Society. Having won four first internationally, I think maybe that is why they decided to do that. And when I was CPRCN president, which is the act of parliament, decree 49 of 1993, I became involved with the federal government. It is like a parastatal of federal government. We go to National Assembly to defend budget, to do all kind of things. We were part of the Ministry of Education. I also got involved with a lot of IT educational things. To the glory of God, during my period, when I took over as the president, the council had only one office in Lagos but under my presidency for four years, I transformed that place into nine zonal offices across the nation. I was always moving around Nigeria.
Q: Let us come home a bit. With your profile in computer science, you work in a university that can’t boast of effective internet accessibility. One can describe internet accessibility in UI as very poor.
A: I want you to go and read my inaugural lecture so as to avoid repeating myself. One thing I will tell you is that when I became the chairman of information technology management, that was when we did a lot of things to change issue practically. I can also tell you within that period, when it comes to WEBOMETRIC, during that period, UI went from number 11 to number 1 in Nigeria because of all the radical things we put in place. I am no longer in charge.
Q: How do you feel being honoured with people like late Kudirat Abiola and late Dr. Stella Adadevoh?
A: To tell you the truth, I was very happy that Adadevoh is being honoured. You know why? I have always complained that Nigeria has not been fair to that lady. For me, that lady sacrificed her life for us. If she had allowed that man to go to Port Harcourt, probably I will not be alive today. For me, it was a big sacrifice. I still look forward for a day that one national hospital will be named after Adadevoh because she did so much for us. As for Kudirat too, the heroine of democracy, I felt so highly elated that I am being honoured along with those two heroines. I feel proud about it.
Q: Why do we have lots of unsung heroes and heroines?
A: I will say one thing too. I will like to thank my president, the president of CPRCN. He played a role in my nomination. If your people whom you serve do not appreciate you, who else will? I also want to thank the king of my town, Deji of Akure land. They spoke out for me. So, if people don’t speak out for you, you are not there. If you don’t sing your own praise, who will? In Africa, it is not usual for us to sing our own praises, but people around you, should be able to assist in singing your praises. My king, and my president, did. It is very unusual for an African to put himself or herself forward to say here I am, I am so so and so. You need somebody to push you. If nobody pushes, I don’t know.
Q: Do you subscribe to the notion that women are not well represented in Nigerian government at all level?
A: Yes, I do and I also will like the government to put people in position of authority because of who they are not because you just want to put somebody there. I don’t like the idea that a woman must be there and then you go and pick somebody and put the person. People should be recognized base on their ability not because of any other things.
Q: When do you think UI will produce the first female Vice Chancellor?
A: To tell you the truth, it can be any moment from now. I never thought in my entire life that an African-American will become president of America. And it happened. If a black man can become a president in America in this century, maybe it is a matter of years, it will happen. Maybe it will happen in the next dispensation. It will happen.
Q: Why haven’t you given it a shot?
A: Well, I was in the polytechnic system for a long time. I did give becoming a Rector a shot but somehow, some people (her husband) did not like that idea and that was why I found myself in the university system. By the time I came into the university system, I was number one IT person. Like you said, I am very bold, courageous, actually I was put up to become DVC (Administration) during Professor Isaac Adewole’s tenure but I lost. The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, people don’t like me.
A: There are certain things I love ASUU for and there are certain things I don’t like ASUU for. Once they do what I don’t like, I speak out. I am not somebody that will tell you, you are 100 percent. You can’t be right in all cases. So when I feel ASUU is not right, I tell them and ASUU doesn’t like that.
Q: If you have the opportunity to see Mr President now, what will you tell him?
A: I am going to start from the girl child because we need to pay attention to the girl child. He should work towards ensuring that all Nigeria female children are giving equal opportunity as a male child. Give them boldness that they can do what their male counterpart can do. And nobody should put anybody down in anyway. That is one of the things I love my father for. I will tell you three of my father daughters’ are professors. To his credit, he has professors of Medicine, Biochemistry and Computer Science. The best result in UI this year came from computer science. Ofure Mary Ebhomielen finished with a perfect CGPA of 7.0 out of a maximum of 7.0, which means she scored A in all her courses. I am sure if you look into her history, she is probably from a family who treated her just like a child. When we do that, we will have many females excelling. I once had a colleague who told me that he has somebody like me at home. I was the boss. And I had to tell him that that somebody is your wife and I am not your wife. That is very rude. Some men still believe that. Some still believe that the place of the wives is still in the kitchen and that women don’t have brain to do anything substantial. And I know one day, a female will become Nigerian president. It is going to happen. It may not be during my life time but I know it will happen. The one for UI, I pray it will happen when I am still alive.
Q: As a career woman, do you have time for the home? Do you have time to adequately take care of Professor Osofisan?
A: Where am I today now? I am in the house. I will tell you one thing. I was brought up multi-tasking. That is exactly what I still do. I also read a course that teaches a lot about multi-tasking. You can be doing so many things together, simultaneously. Now I am at home. I could have gone to office to do my work but I am now at home doing the work, managing two things at the same time.
Q: What is your advice to career women?
A; Well, there is no time a woman will not put the home first before the career. I mentioned earlier that I wanted to be a rector. That would have been outside Ibadan but my husband didn’t like it and I gave it up. But today, I have no regret. If I had gone to be a rector, every other thing may not have followed. In the polytechnic system, there is nothing called professorship. When I listened to him and I moved to UI and that gave me an opportunity to become a professor. So, when people ask me, “how did you become the first female professor of Computer Science in Nigeria? I do tell them to go and ask Professor Osofisan because he was the one that insisted that I should leave the polytechnic system to come to the university system. I then enlisted the services of another friend of his, Professor Akinbo Adesomoju. When people ask me, I say that the professorship belongs to the two of them. If not for the two of them, I wouldn’t have come to UI. And if I didn’t join the university system, there is no way I would have become a professor.
Q: What lesson has life taught you?
A: The lesson is that as you are planning your life, you must also think about how it will affect other people. It is very important. A tree cannot make a forest. You should not think about yourself and yourself alone. You need to think about the totality of who you are, the action you take, the number of people it is going to affect, whether positively or negatively and you sit down and come to conclusion. In life, in Mathematics, there is something called maximisation and there is something you called satisfying solution. In life, you look for a satisfying solution not a maximising solution. Because if you look for a miximising solution, yea, you may get there but you will find yourself alone. That is not nice. That is why you find a lot of people, they reach the top, and they commit suicide. Life solution is satisfying solution not miximising solution. That lesson is a lesson I learnt. And eventually that satisfying solution you choose may eventually become maximising solution. But when you start with miximising solution, that I have to maximise everything for myself, it is not going to work.
Q: What mistake have you ever made in life?
A: Several. Several. I will not mention them. Several.
Q: Is marrying Prof. Osofisan among the several?
A: No, initially I thought it was one of the several mistakes but now…. When I first got married, like you see the kind of background I explained to you. I always have people around me, my siblings and my parents. Suddenly I find myself alone. I will follow him to the rehearsal because I grew up among people so being alone is not something that I am used to. So, when suddenly I started finding myself alone, I will ask myself, who asked me to leave my father’s house? It is now history.
Q: What is Prof’s strength to you?
A: My husband is also an unusual husband. Very few husbands will encourage their wives to be at par with them. He did. Many men can’t take it. That is why I keep telling people that when I look back, I tell myself I am a very fortunate person from my family background and from the husband I married. My father wanted the best for me; my husband wants the best for me. What else do I want?
Q: What about his negative side?
A: Ha! When he is doing his work, he doesn’t want anybody to come and disturb him. Even if the roof is falling down, go and fix it yourself. I think it is the characteristic of all artists. I can understand too because in computer science, we go through the process of creation. When you are trying to do something, you are looking for a solution and you are about to get that solution and somebody comes to disrupt you, everything is lost. You don’t want that to happen to you. They want to finish whatever it is that they want to do. That is why I keep saying that artists are very, very difficult to marry unless you really understand. But it took me a while to understand.
Q: Is your husband difficult at home?
A: My husband? He is not difficult. He is very easy going. If you ask people they will tell you that I am the difficult Osofisan.
Q: I’m seeing you smiling and laughing for the very first time. We have met on few occasions and you always keep a straight face.
A: Really. You are not the first to tell me this. You are about the second person that will tell me this. One of my priests, he came to see me in the office. Later on, he came to see me and said, “Mummy, I will never come to see you in the office again”. I asked why and he replied that “in the office you are different, at home you are different”.
Q: Who are those that you have mentored in the academic?
A: My first PhD student, Bamidele Oluade has become a professor. Though Longe was not my student, I was the one that mentored him and he is also a professor. I believe in a couple of months, two or three of my PhD students will become professors.
Q: Has Prof ever used you as a character or things that have happened between you in his book?
A: Many. There are some characters that you read in his books that are me. I can’t deal with liars and lazy people. If you are hardworking and truthful, we are friends. Even if you have done the worst thing on earth, you come to me and tell me, I will help you out.