Obafemi Awolowo University is the tertiary institution that is owned and operated by the Federal Government of Nigeria. It can be found in the ancient city of Ile-Ife, Osun state, Nigeria. The University was founded in 1961 and classes resumed in October 1962 as the University of Ife under the former premier of the defunct Western Region, Samuel Ladoke Akintola. It was on the 12th May, 1987 renamed as the Obafemi Awolowo University, the first premier of the region and the brain behind its founding.
OAU was set up as a way of protest of the Ashby Commission which made recommendation to set up Universities in the eastern and northern regions and Lagos (former capital) without consideration of the western region. University of Ibadan then was not fully equipped as a fully running university so couldn’t meet the needs of the Western Region which already was running a free education for its primary and secondary schools.
The announcement by the Western Region to set up a university was made in 1960 and it was planned to be of the highest standard and open to all students from across the federation. The planning of the university was entrusted to two committees; University Planning Committee and the University Parliamentary Committee. The former were to advise University pending the setting up of a provisional council while the latter would be an advisory to the Minister of Education. The law for the establishment of a Provisional Council was passed in the Western Region legislature on 8th of June, 1961 and the council was inaugurated on the 26th of the same month with Chief Rotimi Williams as chairman.
On the 11th of June, 1970 an edict was passed known as the 1970 Edict which was promulgated by the Western Region government to replace the Provisional Council of 18th June, 1961. This also has undergone an amendment known as the Edict No. 11 of 1975. It was initiated to ensure a takeover of the university by the Federal Military Government of Nigeria.
The site for the university was in Ile-Ife, an ancient town that is located 65 km north of Ibadan, Oyo State.
The university was started with 5 faculties namely; Agriculture, Arts, Economics and Social Studies (now Social Sciences), Law and Sciences. Eight others were added; faculties of education (October 1, 1967), Faculty of Pharmacy (October 1, 1970), Faculty of Administration replacing Institute of Administration (October 1, 1979), Faculty of Environmental Design and Management (April 1982), the Faculty of Health Science which is now college with three faculties ( October 1, 1970).
OAU is known to have started the first Faculty of Pharmacy in West Africa, the first Department of Chemical Engineering and the first Electronics component in addition to Electrical Engineering. The medical school resumed with an integrated curriculum and community orientation, which later adopted by the World Health Organization.
In an unfortunate event on 10th of July 1999, members of the Black Axe Confraternity murdered the Secretary-General of the Students’ Union George Iwilade and several other students’ activists in the University. The Minister of Education Tunde Adeniran acknowledged this and said it would be treated with utmost concern.
Obafemi Awolowo University offers undergraduate and post-graduate courses in various field of specialization including; humanities, the arts, the natural sciences, the social sciences, the medical sciences, engineering and technology. There are 13 faculties with two colleges; Postgraduate College and College of Health Sciences. The university was affiliated with Loma Linda University, California, USA. Since inception a total of 82 departments have emerged from it with many courses offered.
The university has had total of 11 Vice-Chancellors till date. The present Vice-Chancellor is Prof. Anthony Elujoba who is serving in acting capacity. The first Nobel Laureate (in literature) in Africa Prof. Wole Soyinka served as the Professor of Comparative Literature at the University from 1975 to 1999.
The university’s motto is “for learning and culture” but students have parodied it as “for learning and torture” owing to the rigorous academic activities. In the area of research, it was ranked by the Nigerian Universities Commission as the most productive university and by the Shanghai University in Africa’s rating.
The campus is built on about 5,000 acres (20 km2) of a total of 13,000 acres (53 km2) university owned land with nine Halls of Residence.
The university can pride itself for having produced many notable Nigerians like Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, President AFDB, Lai Mohammed, Information and Tourism Minister, Femi Adesina, Jimi Agbaje, Femi Otedola, Dele Momodu and many more.