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Prof Fola Tayo may mean different things to different people but they are unanimous in celebrating him as an intelligent, efficient, conscientious,  economical administrator, cerebral, prolific and critical scholar and mentor. With a stellar career path, he was the Pioneer Head of Department, Pharmacology Department, Ogun State University; Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Governing Council, Caleb University,  Imota, Lagos State; President, West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacy, WAPCP; Dean, Faculty of Pharmacy,  University of Lagos; and Sub-Dean, Faculty of Pharmacy,  University of Ibadan. A Member of the Order of the Niger, MON, Prof Tayo boasts of Fellows of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, FPSN; Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy, FNAPharm; The Academy of Medicine Specialities, FAMedS; and Nigerian Institute of Production Management, FNIPM. With a Lifetime Award Winner for Excellent and Meritorious Services to Healthcare Delivery and Health Systems in Nigeria, he has contributed in no small measure to churning out cerebral individuals who have gone on to excel in their various endeavours across the globe. As he clocks 80 today, it provided an ample opportunity for his family, colleagues and teeming number of past students to celebrate him for shaping their lives. As part of the celebration,  amongst other things, a symposium would be held in his honour while he would launch his biography- HisGlorious Grace : ‘Fola Tayo’s Sojourn in the Academic Landscape. In this interview with Chiemelie Ezeobi, he talks about his career path, the challenges and life after retirement 

What led you to this career path? 

I think it was Divine Providence. I left Nigeria in July 1963 for the UK to study law, but, somehow, I had  a change of direction for reasons best known to God Himself. Why I moved from Law to Pharmacy without a science background in school must have been a miracle of God!!!

How has it been over the years prior your retirement?

Left me be very honest and frank with you, All that has happened to me can never be explained by any man. It is God working and willing in my life. I retired from the University of Lagos about 14 years ago and I have no regrets at all. My personal economics improved and is better than when I was in service. God provides for me all the time. I have no lack. 

The peanut that Nigeria pays to her retired professors and others is better described as a national disgrace in a country where little political rascals who have nothing to offer other than to loot our treasury takes home monthly what a university professor can not earn in a life time speaks volume as to the kind of leadership we have in this very unfortunate country! Where excellence is rewarded with scorn and hard  work is never remunerated. 


Talk of the nation making progress? Hmmm ! It will be a miracle of God not to sow and reap!! Let me stop there, but suffice it to say that the structure we have on ground is a like a house built on sand and not on a solid rock. Matthew 7 : 24 – 27 says, it can not stand and great shall be its fall!. I am not a prophet of doom but I never engage in self-deceit as is presently prevalent in Nigeria. 

Unless we go back to basics, that is, the old days, we are doomed because we have nothing to fall back on. Our young brains are outside the country these days, yet, we don’t care as we continue to loot  the treasury and borrow what several generations can not repay !!!


You were the Pioneer Head of Department, Pharmacology Department and also Professor and Head of Department, Department of Pharmacology, Ogun State University now Olabisi Onabanjo University. How did you set it on the trajectory that is on today? 

I left a juicy position in the USA as an Associate Professor of Pharmacology in the College of Medicine of the University of Vermont, Burlington in 1985 for Ogun State University. It was a great challenge as the system expected those 6 of us Foundation Professors in the new medical school to rinse water from a dry towel!!! We had no money, yet we had to teach and mount practicals.


 I was using my personal resources plus some of the departmental staff (Dr. Lanre Adenekan, Olumide Ogundahunsi, now Professor Ogundahunsi and Dr. Mrs. Funmi Ajayi) to teach and conduct practicals. Ogun, as bad as the conditions were, taught me something very useful. What is it ? all human being with a brain has something to work with. In other words, sit down, use your brain which the capital asset that God has given you. 

So, we sat down and designed practicals that did not require equipment until we could afford one or two equipment. We didn’t have the luxury of a vehicle, it was my personal car that was the departmental car and we had to make several trips to Ago Iwoye from Sagamu. It was an experience and I thank God for putting me through it. I came out very strong and more determined to make a significant contribution, and The Legacy I remember I left at Ogun was hard work, self reliance and ability to rinse water our of a dry towel which is resourcefulness coupled with doggedness. 

We built a strong relationship with our students and till date, we remain friends. Every barrier was broken and we pull their best virtues out of them and helped to develop such. I thank God for those wonderful kids.

In most quarters, you are known as a caring, passionate, creative, and resourceful teacher and mentor. What influenced those choices for you? 


All these attributes you refer to are natural attributes which I must have cultivated from my parents and naturally from God. I enjoy teaching and transmitting knowledge. I believe that teaching, like pastoring, is a calling. A teacher should be a mentor. These days, we have teachers that intimidate students.  This is very unfortunate indeed. 

Such teachers are better confined in a neuropsychiatric hospital, yet the system accommodates this because Nigeria has jettisoned character, equity and justice. Gone are the days of integrity. Even the leadership itself has descended into the pit because the nation does not emphasize character in employment. They are a bunch of idiots, complex ones too! How can a man antagonise his students. 


Doesn’t he know that without the students, he has no job? A bad workman quarrels with his instruments. It is the height of irresponsibility. It is a pity that all sorts of people are now employed as lecturers in our universities. Once you have a PhD, it is assumed that you are a decent human beings! Fallacy, I have come across people decorated PhD, MD, LLM that are not better than a tiger in terms of human relationship.

 I have always advocated that before or while engaged to teach in our institutions, you must be given mandatory training in various aspects of teaching, such as teaching methods, curriculum design, assessment methods, psychology of the learners, etc. 

Lennox Mall

In your days, you  supervised and graduated 74 MPharm & MSc holders; 17 Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) holders;  35 Fellows of the West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacy (WAPCP); and numerous first degree holders at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), University of Lagos, University of Ibadan and Olabisi Onabanjo University. How fulfilled are you? 

When I returned to Nigeria in 1985 (my second return), I realised that  pharmacy teachers don’t grow on trees and the existing ones must grow the younger ones. So, getting to Lagos in 1989, my department and School of Pharmacy were terribly short of staff. My first preoccupation was staff development. I realized that gone were the days of overseas sponsorship, so we had to grow staff from within. It is cheaper to train a PhD locally than to send him/her to the UK or USA. 


So, with some colleagues, we designed our graduate programmes. It called for personal sacrifice because at one time I was teaching and supervising several masters and PhD students. I jettisoned social life but managed to retain my church activities and today, I am very pleased to say that the LORD has been so good to me.

I have graduated 74 MSc, MPharm in physiology, pharmacology, pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmaceutics and clinical pharmacy;  17 Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in pharmacology, biopharmacy and clinical pharmacy and 35 Fellows of the West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists (FPCPharm) in clinical pharmacy, public health pharmacy and community pharmacy over the years. In addition, I have graduated a masters student for the University of Bath, UK from Lagos here. 


Let me quickly add just as King David of Israel said, It is the LORD’s doing and it is marvellous in our eyes (Psa. 118 : 23) and I return the glory to Him Who is, Who was and Who is to Come. (Amen). I feel fulfilled as I look around and I say to myself, it has been worth it. I have no financial reward for my labour for this ungrateful nation, but I am proud to have helped in growing good materials that are useful worldwide as my products are shining in Canada, UAE, UK, USA to the praise and glory of our God. 

In addition to Holding a BPharm and PhD in Pharmacology from the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, you won the prestigious US Public Health Service Forgarty International Fellowship in Vascular Physiology and Pharmacology Research at The Centre for Health Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles (1981 – 1983). How did that happen? 

I think awards and prizes were also divine intervention. I was an indigent student in the UK and no support for those of us hen from some parts of Nigeria especially the South West, but it pleased God to raise up help for us and we can look back and say, Thank You Jesus. I was not the best student around. I was only consistent in my work and a tough fighter for my rights, unbendable by any force of oppression, Yes, we were discriminated against but there was a resolve to make it to the top. 

Thank God we made it with God on our side and hard work plus a focus. A lesson the younger ones of today should learn is to make up their minds that they are going up and not down, look ahead, work hard, very hard too, and pray. There is no royal route to success. You must go through Hard work, Diligence, Focus and Prayer. 


With over 150 research papers in international, peer reviewed journals  and 250 conference  and keynote addresses nationally and internationally, what are the lessons you want those in the sector to learn. 

Lessons from research publications  are lacking in this country because there is a gap between gown and town. Our dons are not penetrating the decision makers. The decision makers are probably afraid of the dons. The few dons that are with them have sold their birth rights because of what they would eat. Fools and complex idiots! It is only in Nigeria that you see a professor becoming a technical assistant to an unlettered politician yet he wont tell his boss that his approach to life is wrong!!

In civilised climes, governments make inroads into academia to know what and what can be extracted for national benefits. Even when you serve at their committees here, they have a mind set and departure from it is a crime. All is not lost, I read of mergers yesterday of  some of our plethora of research institutes that do not do research. I think we are about to realise how foolish we have been. I was at one of them a few years ago only to find that at 11am, the officer had not reported for work! 

There should be a better link between academia and government.In most of our universities, researches are published and you become a professor and that is the end. Nobody benefits from the work! What a waste?

This led me to gather some of our colleagues last year to form  an Association for Intellectual Property Protection. We are on and have been registered. We want to turn the table and the response is encouraging. We are already approaching 50 in number.

As a consultant on many pharmaceutical and medical projects for various national and international organisations (WHO, FMOH, NAFDAC, PCN, etc, what actually stood out for you those periods

Many of my clients recognize that I have acquired tremendous experience over the years. I am a consultant with a difference. For example, I will study your organization and identify your gaps and approach you with a solution. It keeps me going and means that I must be think critically always. Mark you, I have found that many people around are mentally lazy. So, you can take over and make your money. That is perfectly legitimate!!

If given another chance, would you still do this over again or would you choose another career path? 

Yes, I will do and even more because there are better facilities now. I will use IT more proficiently and apply artificial intelligence (AI). We have a rich country which greedy and unpatriotic politicians and bankers have sent into bankruptcy. This is the time for people to use their faculty and advance the country. Poverty and scarcity help to sharpen your critical thinking skill and innovation in a country like ours that ordinarily should have no business with poverty. 

If yes to the above question, what areas do you think you would change or tweak in your chosen career trajectory? 

One of our major enemy is our education and educational system. We inherited foreign education which was designed to propagate and advance  British culture. So, you graduate in Nigeria and you don’t fit into our cultural design but you fit readily in the UK….a waste of our resources. Education that is devoid or independent of your culture is an exercise in futility. The Chinese were like us until they left UNO some years back and developed with the culture and education side-by-side coupled with their language.

 Today, America is afraid of them. I cant say much here but I am writing a book titled “Culture, Education and Language: The Tripod of Development”.  I hope I can complete it this year. In it, I analyze the reason why  African countries will remain backward until they can recognize that we need to go back to our own and develop from within first.

Your birthday is today, what are the plans to commemorate it?

My blessed friends (colleagues, past students, etc) have taken over. It’s a big celebration. I am in the UK with my family and we will hold a thanksgiving service and give glory to God.

Can you explain why the theme of planned symposium is Digital Transformation of Education in Nigeria… 

 I was born pre-analogue, studied pre-analogue, worked analogue and now still living digital years. I am intrigued by what can be done and achieved digitally and considering education is changing rapidly, I want Nigerian students to stand at par. You can digitalise education even in Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo. How are the Chinese doing it? I chose the topic for  this and the next generation. At 80, I will be a fool if I say I will be around for several years. I want to leave a sustainable legacy.

You also have a book presentation of His Glorious Grace : ‘Fola Tayo’s Sojourn in the Academic Landscape. Can you talk more about that? 

My book is an autobiography and  an account of my combined journey in academia and spirituality. My main purpose is to let people know that Christianity does not disturb your academic aspiration. It actually  sharpens your intellect, humble you and makes you know your limit and that God is Supreme. I have a very humble and indigent beginning and in my days it was difficult to advance, hence, I have put materials together  to let the younger ones know that the only enemy you have is your self-limitation. 

You can aspire to any height provided you are humble enough to make God the constant in your life equation. I also took the liberty to include the downs in my life so that we shall see that life is not a bed of roses. Thank you.

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