- The Inspiring Story Of Professor IBIYEMI BELLO
She is amiable, elegant, tall and sophisticated. Everytime you see her she beams with smiles. Olatunji Bello is the pretty wife of Lagos State Secretary to the State government, SSG, Tunji Bello.
Despite being an erudite scholar she is dutiful wife and loving mother to her children. She is not very known in the political sector where her husband thrives. But in the academic sector, she is well grounded. She was the Deputy Vice Chancellor at the Lagos State University. She was also acting VC of the same school. She was recently the cynosure of all eyes at the 2017 national women conference organised by Committee of wives of Lagos State officials, COWLSO of which she is one of the members.
She stormed the 3 day event in her lovely but modest attire and complemented her husband who was also at the event. At the opening ceremony, apart from being part of the organising committee, she handled the feedback and communique section and also took part in some other activities for the other 2 days. The beautiful woman who is in her mid 50s celebrated her 50th birthday few years back with a thanksgiving service held at the Redeemed Christian Church of God Testimony Chapel in Lekki Lagos.
Born in Lagos on the 23 of April 1964 into the family of Chief and Mrs Eniola Ibidapo, from Owo in Ondo State, Mrs Olatunji Bello had her primary education at the Anglican Girls Primary School and secondary education at the Lagos Anglican Girls Grammar School both in Surulere and Lagos State College of Science and Technology. She proceeded to the University of Ibadan where she bagged a Bsc in Physiology. She took up a job as a lecturer and rose through the ranks in the College of Medicine of the University of Lagos, Idiaraba. She assumed duty as the first Professor of Physiology in Lagos State University College of Medicine on 2 October, 2007. All these achievements in her career and family front formed part of the celebration.She also used the occasion to give back to her alma mater, Lagos Anglican Girls Grammar School. Many do not know that this amiable woman is equally a pastor in her church and has unflinching love for doing humanitarian works.
Her father is Chief Eniola Ibidapo who died over 65 years ago. He was living in Lagos where he met her mother who is a Lagosian. They had seven children and Prof Ibiyemi is the sixth of the seven. She served in the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, at the Department of Physiology during her NYSC after which she was retained there.
That was how her career in academics started. Their love story dates back to 28 years ago.She met her husband, Tunji Bello, in University of Ibadan sometime in 1982 during her first year in school, when he was campaigning for the post of a Vice President of the student union. He came to her room, although she had heard so much about him, according to one of her interviews to solicit for their support. From there, they went out campaigning for him.Her husband is a Lagosian and his father was the first set of politicians with Awolowo. They became friends, courted for a while and got married in 1989. She was an Editor of Lagos State University society bulletin. She was an Associate Professor in University of Lagos before she was appointed Professor of Physiology in Lagos State University sometime in 2007. In 1987, at the University of Lagos, she was awarded MSc (Physiology). In 1998, she was awarded a PhD in Physiology, also at University of Lagos after attending a 6-month research training in the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in the US in 1994.
She rose through the ranks from Assistant Lecturer to Lecturer II then to Lecturer I to Senior Lecturer then Associate Professor between 2005 and October 1st 2007, all in the College of Medicine of the University of Lagos, Idiaraba. She assumed duty as the First Professor of Physiology in Lagos State University College of Medicine on the 2nd of October, 2007.
In the following year, She was elected the Deputy Vice Chanecllor for a period of years in the first instance. On the 27th of January, she was re-elected, for a second term as Deputy Vice-Chancellor,Professor Yemi Olatunji-Bello was the acting Vice Chancellor of LASU between January 2011 and 31st October, 2011.She has held several professional and administrative positions both at UNILAG and LASU. She was the Chairman, Biomedical Communications Management Committee, 2000-2003 and Member, Medical Education Committee between 2001 and 2005. She was an elected member of the Academic Board of the College of Medicine of the University of Lagos (CMUL) from 1999 to 2004. Member, Medilag Consult of the College of Medicine, Unilag from June, 2001 to September 2007, and Member, University of Lagos Women Society Nursery School Board, December 2000 to March 2005. Until her election as the First female Deputy Vice Chancellor of LASU, she was the First substantive Head of the Department of Physiology, LASUCOM.
Prof. Olatunji-Bello has obtained many academic fellowships and awards, some of them are Travel Award by The Physiological Society to attend the Joint International Meeting of The Physiological Society and Federation of European Physiological Societies, University of Bristol, 20th to 23rd July 2005.She is a member of many professional bodies such as, Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, USA, American Physiological Society,New York Academy of Sciences,The Physiological Society, UK.She was a two term Vice President, Physiological Society of Nigeria, and a former member, Lagos University Medical Society and member, Information Technology in the Advancement of Nutrition in Africa Group (ITANA GROUP).
She was appointed by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, former Governor of Lagos State as a member of Lagos State University (LASU) Governing Council, 2004 to October 2008. She is a member, LASU Appointments and Promotions Committee (Technical and Senior Administrative), 2005 to date, and also a member, Court of Governors, LASUCOM 2005 to date. Professor Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello has graduated at least 12 MSc candidates since 2002, and 2 PhD graduates.This distinguished scientist is known for her very brilliant academic work and she has over 37 publications to her credit; excluding papers she has read at both local and international conferences.Happily married to Tunji Bello, a journalist and lawyer, and a two term Commissioner for the Environment, Lagos State, they are blessed with 3 children.
In a recent interview with Saturday SUN she revealed more about her pedigree. “My father is Chief Eniola Obidakpo who died over 65 years ago. He was living in Lagos where he met my mother who is a Lagosian. They had seven children and I am the sixth of the seven. I was born on April 23, 1964 here in Lagos and I schooled in Lagos. I attended Anglican Girls’ Primary School and Girls Grammar School in Surulere. After that, I went to Methodist Girls High School, Yaba for my A levels. In 1992, I went to University of Ibadan for my BSC in Physiology and graduated in 1995. I served in the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, at the Department of Physiology during my NYSC after which I was retained there.
That was how my career in academics started. I met my husband, Tunji Bello, in University of Ibadan sometime 1992 in my year one when he was campaigning for the post of a Vice President of the student union. He came to my room, although, I had heard so much about him, to solicit for our support. From there we went out campaigning for him. He is a Lagosian and his father was the first set of politicians with Awolowo. In fact, Awolowo used to have their caucus meeting in their house at Lagos Island. We got married in 1989. Since then, it has been a wonderful union.
What was your growing up like for her?
“I didn’t have so much exposure really. I was born in Lagos Island but grew up in Surulere. It was very quiet and beautiful. We didn’t have much challenge. We had friends from neighbours and so on. Growing up was just like a normal thing compared to what we have now. Then you have so much of peer pressure and social vices in the society that you are scared. You don’t want your children to associate with neighbour’s children. But then every parent on the street was our parent. They were watchful. There wasn’t much that we could do. You couldn’t hide from them because they were ready to report you to your parents if you misbehave. But not these days that people mind their business.
What were her challenges before she got to this level in life?
It was not a bed of roses. To get to this height is through hard work. You have to really need to publish in academia and this entails doing a lot of research. Not only that, during your research you have to be supported and supervised as a young lecturer. I also had my mentors, Prof Shoga Sofala of the Department of Physiology, College of Medicine and former acting Vice Chancellor of Olabisi Olabanjo University. He was the Deputy Vice Chancellor of University of Lagos when Prof. Obidapo was the Vice Chancellor. Then I also had Prof. Tolu Odupemi as my role model.
He was a friend of Prof. Sofola. He is not in my department but that was how I got to know him. He became the Provost of the College of Medicine and we could look up to him for mentoring. When you have mentors and role models who could teach you on how to become a leader, it would be the beginning of great things.
Then Prof. Odegbemi made an impact in my life because if I was beginning to lose focus, he would bring me back on track. That was how I was made to do more work. Anytime he sees me, he would ask me about my papers and manuscript. He would ask me so many questions and he mandated that I should give him an updated version of my CV every quarter. That means if I am going to submit anything to him, there must be something new on it.
That really encouraged me to work very hard. I also had somebody that gave me an opportunity to lead and to do other things like being an Editor of Lagos State University society bulletin. All those exposed me to leadership qualities and I was quite young then. We also had problem of equipment as some of our colleagues, in their own area of research were not able to do much because theirs depended mostly on equipment. I was into endoprenology and reproduction.
We could write some little papers without so much sophisticated equipment. But by and large, one was very young and we had a lot of people before me. So, there was this thing about queue. You needed to really wait for your turn. I thought that it wasn’t right in academia. If the person before you does not move, you couldn’t move. That was one of the things I felt was a challenge to me. But then, that is the society in which we are. It was the culture in the university so one had to follow in line. It discouraged so many people from doing much because if the people before you were not moving, you too would not.
And that was a problem most of us faced. Eventually, we overcame it and here we are. I was an Associate Professor in University of Lagos before I was appointed Professor of Physiology in Lagos State University sometime in 2007. It was a choice between staying in the University of Lagos to get my Professorship or going to Lagos State University.
But at the same time, I had been a member of the Council of the Lagos State University. My husband was in government of Lagos State and there was this pressure that they wanted us to come over to Lagos State University to put in our efforts. They wanted Lagosians to move over. The pressure was much and I had to come over and since then, I have not regretted it one bit. I came in 2007 and as a young Professor. But then, it is your contribution at Senate, Faculty and other meetings that is very important. Everybody wanted to know who I was.
When the post of the Deputy Vice Chancellor was vacant, I was honoured by the Vice Chancellor to be nominated along with another person.
So, we had to go through the election and once I want something, I would go all out to get it because one has to be a visionary leader. You must have a goal and when God is already helping you, you must help yourself. That was how I set up to campaign, going from one office to the other, to all my colleagues and all the campuses. I also went to campuses outside Lagos and I think that was how I won the hearts of those outside the campus. They have never had people come there to solicit for their votes. They felt that if I could come to their campus, especially far away Ekpe, then I meant business. So, I got their support and my colleagues in the Senate elected me into the office.
How did your husband propose to you?
Was there any proposal? We courted for years. I met him in 1982 and we got married in 1989. We were already friends. It was like a natural thing. It is not like this Cinderella thing where a man would ask you if you would marry him.
What attracted him to you?
I had heard so much about him. I had a friend who had been telling me about him. She even told me that she would want me to meet him because she had already told him something about me too. So, when he came in with his friends, I saw that he is a handsome, tall and fair-skinned man. So, it clicked immediately.