Abdulkareem: Celebrating an enigma at 66 (Birthday tribute to my boss)

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For Prof. Sulyman Age Abdulkareem, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, birthday is just like any other day on the calendar. No big deal. No celebration. No merriment. Just a solemn occasion. A time to glorify Almighty Allah for the gift of life. And an opportunity to count Allah’s blessings, even if only through private thanksgiving prayers and supplications. That’s the way of humble but appreciative achievers!

But for some of us, admirers of this erudite scholar, cerebral researcher, consummate administrator, conscientious leader, and unassuming team leader, his 66th birthday, which falls due on Tuesday, January 21, 2020, deserves more than just a passing interest, as it provides an opportunity to celebrate his achievements, blow his trumpet and recount his numerous exploits, especially since he became the helmsman of the better-by-far University some 27 months ago.

Born on January 21, 1954 at Oro town, Irepodun Local Government area of Kwara State, young Sulyman attended the Government Secondary School, Ilorin, for both his School Certificate and Higher School Certificate (HSC) from 1968 to 1974. He later got the Federal Government Scholarship for his university education at the University of Detroit, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A. between 1975 and 1980. At the end of the course, he came out in flying colours and was awarded the MChE, BChE (Chemical Engineering) specializing in Heterogeneous Catalysis/Reaction Engineering.

From 1985 to 1988, this high-flying intellectual was awarded the United States of America National Science Foundation Fellowship for his Ph.D programme in Chemical Engineering at the University of Louisville, USA. He also completed his Ph.D in flying colours and obtained the Engineer-In-Training Certificate of the State of Minnesota, USA in 1991. He became a registered Engineer of the Nigerian Society of Engineers in 2002 and a COREN Registered Engineer in 2004.

Prof. Abdulkareem was a Lecturer, engaged by the Detroit Board of Education Detroit, Michigan, USA from August 1984 to August 1985; a Graduate Teaching Assistant at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, from September 1985 to August 1988; and a Research Engineer/Assistant Professor (R&D) at the King Fahd University of Petroleum Minerals, Research Institute, Saudi Arabia, between 1992 and1994. He joined the services of the University of Ilorin as a Senior Lecturer in 1996 and rose to become a Professor in September 2005, the same year he discovered and fabricated a substance that could be used to rescue the environment of the oil producing areas from the menace of oil spillage and save their waters from perennial pollution.

A consummate researcher and thorough-bred academic, Prof. Abdulkareem has a lot of inventions and has many Patents to his credit. These include:
Kareem, S.A., Unilor Oil Sorbing Wafers, Federal Republic of Nigeria, RP 16005 (2005);
Kareem, S.A. Unilor Lubricating Grease, Federal Republic of Nigeria, RP16006 (2005)
Kareem, S.A., Unilor Candle, Federal Republic of Nigeria RP16007 (2005)
Abdulkareem, S.A. and Amoloye, T.O. (2013). Catalytic Conversion of Low Density Polyethylene (Discarded Pure Water Sachet) to Solid, Liquid and Gaseous Hydrocarbon Fuels, NG/P/2010/332
Between June 2010 and June 2015, Prof. Abdulkareem was Vice-Chancellor of Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin. At the end of his tenure, he returned to the University of Ilorin to take on more academic and administrative responsibilities, culminating in his selection, after a very rigorous interview in September 2017, as the 10th Vice-Chancellor of the University.
In the past 27 months, Prof. Abdulkareem has made the policies of honesty, frankness, fairness and firmness his four cardinal principles. And they have been very helpful in defining the direction of his administration.

The birthday boy has been exemplary, honest, disciplined, transformational, prudent and God fearing in the execution of every policy, such that he has often sacrificed self-interest for the collective interest in forging new frontiers for our University. Very courageous, patently candid, unapologetically blunt and purposively sincere, the Professor of Chemical Engineering would say the truth to whomever, notwithstanding the circumstance or the latent or manifest consequence, so far as it is for the general good.

Despite the avalanche of detractions here and there, the Vice-Chancellor has refused to be deterred in his effort to enthrone decency, justice, fairness and probity in the management of human, material and financial resources. And so, with single-minded commitment to his vision, made manifest by the faithful implementation of the University’s core mandates of teaching, research and community service,
Prof. Abdulkareem has made several landmark achievements since he mounted the saddle.

As a worthy tribute to this erudite scholar, some of the feats recorded in the last 27 months are worthy of mentioning here:
*Initiation and execution of the new Faculty of Environmental Sciences Building complex;
*Resettling of the Fulani herdsmen formerly living on the University land in a new settlement outside the University campus;
*Moving the University up the ladder of Webometric and 4ICU rankings — from 9th position previously in the Webometric Ranking to 7th, and from 8th position in the 4ICU ranking to 6th;
Greater feats in research innovations, with eight more patents added to the previous 15;
*Development of a two-way Trans-Illuminator Viewing Documentation System by the University’s Institute of Molecular Science and Biotechnology;
Contribution of 19 novel biofloculating bacterial strains to the world genomic bank;
*Signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Nigerian Army on the invention and development of Polymer composite for strategic and protective defence;
*Liberalisation of access to TETFund and NEEDS II awards in the University;
Signing of a *Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Central Bank of Nigeria on the exploration or maximization of the University’s land resources for agricultural entrepreneurships;
*Making a large portion of the University’s land available to interested staff and students of the institution for commercial farming;
*Discovery of a large deposit of tin ore on the University land;
*Sustenance of the University’s leading streak as the most preferred institution by admission seekers in the country for the fifth consecutive year;
*The elevation of two of the University’s Law Professors, Wahab Egbewole and Muhammed Mustapha Akanbi, to the zenith of the legal profession in the country with the conferment of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) title on them;
*The promotion of about 1,019 members of staff in one fell swoop,
*The conferment of the National Order of Merit Award on one of the University’s Professors, Olu Obafemi;
*Signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with OER Farms Ltd for the use of 10,000 hectares of the University’s land for mechanized farming;
*Achievement of several value-adding research breakthroughs by the University’s lectures and even students;
*The emergence of 34 year-old Unilorin Law graduate as the youngest ever Senior Advocate of Nigeria;
*The emergence of a Unilorin student as the best Speaker in Africa during a continental debating contest among students of tertiary education institutions in Africa;
*Emergence of a Unilorin Accounting student as the overall best student in the September 2019 Diet of the ICAN/ATSWA examination;
*The final resolution of the two decades old crisis between the University’s Chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Union’s national body.
The list is inexhaustible, as the consummate administrator continues to make his impacts positively felt by all and sundry in the University community and the nation at large.
Happy birthday, boss!

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