Interview with Professor Joseph Jimoh Owonubi
CAB: Can we meet you sir?
Prof Owonubi: I am Professor Joseph Jimoh Owonubi, Agricultural climatologist, Researcher and Academic administrator born on the 5th day of July, 1947 in Egdeda- Kabba, Kabba/Bunu Local government area of Kogi state.
CAB: Sir, can you give a brief history of your journey through the academia?
Prof Owonubi: I attended St Andrew’s Anglican Primary School, Egbeda-Kabba from 1954-61, Government College, Zaria from 1962-68, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria 1969-72; as the Best graduating student in soil science and agricultural engineering , Ahmadu Bello University, 1972, Kansas State University, Kansas, USA 1972-74, Kansas State University, Kansas, 1977-80. I started my academic career as Lecturer-Research Professor, Institute for Agricultural research, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria 1972-89. Assistant Dean, Faculty of Agriculture, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria 1982-84. Leader, Irrigation Research Programme, Institute for Agricultural Research, Zaria 1987-90. Head, Department of soil science, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria 1989-95. Deputy-Director, Institute for Agricultural Research, Samaru-Zaria, 1997-98.
CAB: What are the other experiences you have apart from those you already mentioned sir?
Prof Owonubi: I was a Consultant to the International Service for National Agricultural Research [ISNAR], The Hague, 1998-2003 and the Nigerian National Agricultural Research Projects [NARP] 1993-98; this job secured a counterpart funding grant for the refurbishment of all research institutes in the country to the tune of $110 million although all I received from government was a letter of appreciation but as providence will have it when government needed to resuscitate the comatose Forestry Research Institute in Ibadan, someone remembered the success we recorded then and I was engaged as the Executive Director of the Institute and we be there for eight years serving two tenures of four years each.
CAB: What was the situation you met on ground at the institute?
Prof Owonubi: The situation I met on ground was sordid because infrastructures were dilapidated, staff was despondent with so much leakages and wastage not only in the Headquarters of the Institute but also in the schools and agencies it supervised.
CAB: How were you able to turn the fortunes of the institute around to the path of sustainable growth?
Prof Owonubi: On assumption, I held a meeting with the staff where I gave them the task to do a presentation on how each individual hope to return the institute to the path of greatness and did my own presentation first. Before my resumption, the industrial development unit [IDU] was moribund and I invited a Prince of Ife who studied in England to Head the Unit after agreeing to his demands on remuneration that was almost twice mine but with a caveat that the unit will be self-sustaining. This unit after a short while became the flag ship of the institute by churning out innovating wood products from its stable.
CAB: What are the publications you authored sir?
Prof Owonubi: Co-author, crop science and production in warm climates, 1998 Macmillan
Farmer participation in Irrigation development and management, Institute of Agricultural Research/ Ford Foundation 1990
Farmer managed irrigation system. Ford Foundation/ Institute of Agricultural Research 1993 in addition are more than 100 publications in local and international journals.
CAB: What have you been doing since retirement?
Prof Owonubi: Established AquaScience Based Resources [ABR] Farm as
1. An experimental mixed farm project combining wasteland recovery, horticultural crops, fishery, poultry, sheep and goats rearing
2. Training point for IT students from tertiary institutions; UI, FUTA, LAUTECH, FCF etc. began 2010 till date
3. Community farming extension services
4. Non-political community peace project, Iletitun-Alafara Communities of Ido local government area, Oyo state and Okuns of Kogi state.
CAB: In what ways have you impacted on the lives of people especially, Okun sons and daughters in your years as an academic administrator?
Prof Owonubi: God has used me to facilitate admission for many and they are doing well in their various fields of human endeavors. As the Executive Director of Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria, God used me to make two Okun sons, Provosts of two of the colleges under the Institute.
CAB: At what point did you get involved in groups in formed for the advancement of the collective interest of Okunland?
Prof Owonubi: Since my years as an undergraduate, I engaged in student activism at the level of Kabba Students’ Union and later was Secretary of Oyi Indigenes then in Zaria. This particular period availed me the opportunity to visit several communities across Okunland. Presently, I am the Vice-President of Okun Development Association and have been for over six years.
CAB: It is strange that you have been involved this long in Okun affairs and some people still regard you as Okun in Diaspora though you are resident in Nigeria and will want others to believe same?
Prof Owonubi: I am basically a team player first and prefer collective success to personal glory and won’t be surprised if some people have that kind of perception; in fact if people are straining to hear my name at this level, it is not abnormal. I am a planner, teacher and researcher and in other areas a consultant and administrator Though the past six years have been largely uneventful with regards to ODA playing its role as the voice, vision and conscience of Okun people, but with the patriotic resurgence of various groups committed to the upliftment of Okunland the years ahead can only be better especially with the successful convocation of the maiden Okun summit.
CAB: What measures do you think can be put in place to turn around the fortunes of Okun Development Association for good to enable it function maximally for the benefit of Okun people?
Prof Owonubi: Okun Development Association [ODA] needs overhauling administratively and financially; structures need to be put in place to make a people-oriented organization away from its present elitist disposition; down to the community level. Its activities should adopt the bottom-top model to enable the participation of Okun sons and daughters. It is only when we have a good structure in place that any hope of moving forward on the road to greatness is feasible. The local government system as presently run is faced with a lot of challenges particularly the paucity of funds and programs should be fashioned in a manner that the local councils and even the state government will key into it for the benefit of our people.
CAB: What is your take on the present socio-economic situation in Okunland?
Prof Owonubi: When a people are unable to feed or favourably compete for employment, they are already enslaved. Our foundation has been degraded by poverty and this must not be allowed to persist. Let us collectively push/assist those wearing our presently feeble political muscles to work on this for posterity. We must identify and work on areas of strength especially those that unite us for the benefit of all.
CAB: What is the AquaScience Based Resources [ABR] Farm about?
Prof Owonubi: It is an experimental mixed farm project combining wasteland recovery, horticultural crops, fishery, poultry, sheep and goats rearing that is also a training point for IT students from tertiary institutions in the country apart from the community extension service it provides.
CAB: What do you do at your leisure time sir?
Prof Owonubi: My hobbies are football, table tennis and gardening.
CAB: What is the outlook in the home front sir?
Prof Owonubi: I am happily married to Florence Onome Onafurume and we are blessed with six children; five boys and one beautiful daughter.
CAB: What do you have to say on a final note for now sir?
Prof Owonubi: Okunland is abundantly blessed in human and natural resources and all we need to achieve greatness is to harness these potentials in a committed selfless manner to the glory of God and benefit of Okuns in the present and the future.