Photo credit: UI Directorate of Public Communication
The path to academic stardom is not easy. In a bid to solve man’s unending travails, researchers across several disciplines generate useful information through problem identification, introspection and experimentation. Karl Landsteiner’s discovery of the presence of agglutinins in blood in 1901 paved way for the identification of Rhesus factor in 1937; thus, enabling physicians till date to transfuse blood without endangering patients’ life.
Africa, especially its most populous nation – Nigeria, has continuously boasted of researchers who have sealed the name of the continent and the nation in the stands of global academic excellence. In a time many Nigerian scholars are seeking greener pastures for research and academic activities, some are dedicated to oversee the constraints and do what other researchers are doing in other climes, or even better.
Professor Adekunle Akeem Bakare, the current Head of Department of Zoology, University of Ibadan, in the 485th Inaugural Lecture of the University held on 20th February 2020 emerged the First Professor of Genetic Toxicology in Nigeria. The University don is currently rated as the most cited scholar from the nation’s Premier University on Google Scholar with 15,000+ citations from 100+ publications
Prof. Bakare was born on Thursday, 19th June, 1969 to the family of Pa Rasaki Adebayo Bakare and Mama Racheal Adebola Bakare in Aliwo, Agodi Ibadan. In his primary and secondary education that spanned the citadels of Ibadan, he had the best WAEC result in the 1985/86 set at Ibadan Grammar School. He later proceeded to University of Ibadan where he obtained the academic degrees; Bachelor of Science (1990), Master of Science (1994) and Doctor of Philosophy (2002), all in Zoology. He was the best graduating students at both B.Sc. and M.Sc. levels.
In a bid to exemplify the culture of diligence, focus, determination, brilliance and excellence ideal of a researcher, The Transverse’s Sheriff Badmus had an interview with Prof. Bakare. Enjoy the excerpts:
The Transverse: Having skimmed through your Inaugural Lecture (both texts and video), one would certainly agree that you’re a gift to the body of science and humanity; in the light of this can we meet you, sir?
Prof. Bakare: Thank you. I am Prof. Adekunle Bakare, an indigene of Ibadan, Oyo State and Current Head of Department of Zoology, University of Ibadan
The Transverse: What inspired you to becoming an academic?
Prof. Bakare: Hmmmmm, two things actually inspired me to becoming a University academic. I used to attend inaugural lectures as a student in UI. The sight of grey hairs of Professors during procession attracted me a lot. Secondly, my BSc, MSc and PhD supervisor Dr. Mosuro was a very big inspiration for me. He started teaching my class as a very young Lecturer. His brilliance was something else. So somewhere along the line I told myself that I would love to be like him. And here I am today.
The Transverse: It has been on records and in the air that you’re currently the most cited scholar in University of Ibadan according to Google Scholar Citation. What is your reaction to this, sir?
Prof. Bakare: Honestly, I was surprised because I was not thinking of such. Not that I couldn’t get there o, but was not thinking about such or planning towards it. All I have known and been doing all my life is to be focus and work hard. I think that is the result we have now. It’s a colleague who actually called my attention to it about five days to my inaugural lecture. And then I checked and saw it. I said Waoooo, God is great. To be sincere, I am happy and fulfilled, and can continue to tell the younger generation that hard work pays.
The Transverse: Sir, you’ve mentioned hardwork, what does your typical schedule looks like and what proportion of your time do you spend on research?
Prof. Bakare: A very big question. I think my schedule varies over the years with other administrative duties. When I was younger, I spent more time doing research and writing in Nigeria and abroad. I was busy training the future generations. Now with more administrative work, I do a lot of guidance of my students assisted by my PhD students and some that are PhD holders already. We operate as a family. My days in the office start from 8am till 7-8pm in the day. And I meet my students in the lab in the evening. And this does not stop me from working at home in the night after closing.
The Transverse: In layman terms, what would you say is your milestone so far in the field of genetic toxicology?
Prof. Bakare: Well, I believe we have started something good in Nigeria. Though we still have a lot to do but the funding and facilities are not there. Nigerian is very rich with materials to do world class studies. I mean in terms of contaminants and pollutants in the environment.
The Transverse: Sir, looking at your exposure, achievements and international engagements, how do you still cope with the limitations faced by the average Nigerian Researcher; this ranges from poor funding, poor power supply…to every other constraints that are not obtainable in developed climes?
Prof. Bakare: Hmmmmm. First I am one of those who believe we can do it, and as such should stay back in Nigeria. Because this is where the original studies are. Secondly, each time I go abroad for studies, I use to plan for the next 5-10 years post that trip, in terms of literature acquisition and proposal of work to do. Also, as I learn the advance work abroad, I was always learning some basic techniques that I could do in Nigeria too.
We spend our salary to do research. I’ve been lucky with some sponsorship for my studies. As per power failure, it’s frustrating. It limits what we do. Somehow we found ways round it with generator and at times design work that is not light dependent.
The Transverse: Sir, as the First Professor of Genetic Toxicology in Nigeria, what would be your advice to emerging researchers in the field?
Prof. Bakare: Anytime I’m asked this question, the answer is the same to junior colleagues in all faculties, not necessarily in the field. Emerging researchers need to be focused and hard working. Integrity matters on this job. Don’t cut corners. They need to be calm so as to learn the rudimentary of the profession. The love for money should not be the main focus, otherwise one may miss the way. These are ways to excel as an academic.
The Transverse: In conclusion, how do you achieve a balance between work and family, you seem to have a very tight schedule?
Prof. Bakare: Hmmmmm. Yes, my schedule is tight but I have enough time for my family. It is possible to balance but you need to plan. No room for frivolities. In my case, my wife is also in the University so she knows what it takes. Then my children grew up understanding their parents. We all have the understanding at home and with God’s assistance, able to maintain balance. Generally, transparency in the home matters, Give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and so on.
The Transverse: Looking back, who would you want to tell a ”thank you”?
Prof. Bakare: First God almighty for making all possible. My parents, my wife and children, my colleagues and my wonderful and industrious students.
The Transverse: Thank you for your time, sir.
Prof. Bakare: You are welcome.