OLANIYAN Caleb Isaac Olawole












The late Professor Caleb Isaac Olawole Olaniyan was born at Ido-Faboro in 1930. He was the second child of the late Chief R.A.W. Olaniyan of the AGBASO FAMILY of Ojabalu, Aaye Quarter, Efon-Alaaye, Ekiti State and his mother was the late Madam Elizabeth Olatoun who hailed from Iloro quarters of Imesi-Oloja Oke, Ekiti State.

Olawole as he was known, started his primary school education in 1935 at St. Paul’s School (CMS) Idagba, Efon-Alaaye. He later attended the C.M.S. School, Ikere-Ekiti where he sat and passed the common entrance examination to Christ’s School, Ado-Ekiti in 1941. At Christ’s School, he passed his Standard V & VI exams in 1942 and 1943 respectively. Some of his classmates were Professor Sam Aluko and retired Bishop G.I.O Olajide who would become lifelong friends.

In 1943, he sat and passed the competitive entrance examination to Government College, Ibadan (GCI) and gained admission in January, 1944. Later that year, he was awarded a scholarship in recognition of his performance.

Between 1944 and 1949, he demonstrated the leadership qualities that earned him positions as house prefect, Head of House ( Swanston House) and Cricket Captain at Government College Ibadan.

In 1949, he was admitted to the University College, Ibadan (UCI) - now called the University of Ibadan - as one of the forty students admitted nationwide by entrance examination. At the time, the University College, Ibadan was a degree awarding College of the University of London. Once again, his academic abilities earned him a university scholarship after his first year. He continued to participate in sports He was the captain of the University Cricket team which at the time also constituted the national cricket team.

During his days at the University College Ibadan (UCI), he became an active member of the Student Christian Movement (SCM), an organization he would serve and support in various capacities throughout his life. After he left the University, he became an active member of the Senior Friends’ Group of the SCM. It was while studying at the University College that he met his future wife, who was in the first set of female students admitted into the University College.

Caleb Olaniyan graduated with honours in Zoology (London) in 1954 and was awarded a scholarship to start his Ph.D. programme at the UCI before proceeding to Queen Mary College, University of London. He was twenty-seven years old when he successfully defended his Ph.D. thesis in 1957 and was immediately absorbed as a lecturer in the Department of Zoology.

Between 1957 and 1964 Caleb Olaniyan worked as a lecturer and later as a Senior lecturer at the UCI. As a result of his extensive research in Marine Biology, he was offered a position as an Associate Professor at the newly established University of Lagos (UNILAG) in 1964. In 1965, at the age of thirty five, he was appointed a full professor and Head of the Department of Biological Sciences in UNILAG. He went on and served the University meritoriously in various capacities over the next twenty one years until he retired in 1986. Professor Olaniyan supervised and produced many Ph.D students who today are Professors in many Universities all over the world. He was highly respected by colleagues and students alike for his sincerity, fairness, integrity and exemplary leadership qualities.

He served as the Head of the Department of Biological Sciences from 1965 to 1967; 1973 to 1975 and Dean of the Faculty of Science from 1967 to 1969; 1972 to 1973 and 1975 to 1980.

Prof. C.I.O. Olaniyan was a pioneer in environmental studies in Nigeria. His research work focused on environmental monitoring, especially of oil and industrial pollutions. He was also the first scientist to attempt to culture Clarias lazera (African Catfish) in Nigeria. Following on his pioneering research, this fish species is now widely cultured by thousand of fish farmers who depend on it for their livelihood and for the provision of protein for many Nigerians. He also played a significant role in the training of future managers of Nigerian ecological resources.

His pioneering role in the effort to place the management and conservation of Nigeria’s biological resources on a scientific footing really started in the 1960s onwards. He mobilized Nigerian scientists to participate in the first ever global programme to bring science to bear on the management of the world’s biological resources. This was known as the International Biological Programme (IBP), mounted by UNESCO from 1960 to 1970, which sought to establish the natural productivity potential of the world’s biological resources on which socio-economic development ultimately depends.

Professor Olaniyan, then at University of Lagos, served as Chairman of the Nigerian Committee on IBP. In 1971 UNESCO replaced IBP with the multi-disciplinary and more integrated Man and Biosphere programme. Once again Prof. Olaniyan represented Nigeria in these international activities and he became the pioneer chairman of the Nigerian National Committee for UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme from its inception in 1971 till 1978.

Apart from his university roles, Professor Caleb Olaniyan held various leadership positions including:
Secretary of the Science Association of Nigeria,1962 to 1969;
President of the Science Association of Nigeria 1970 – 1972;
Chairman, Nigerian Committee of Man and Biosphere Programme from 1971 – 1982;
Vice-President of the International Coordinating Committee of Man and Biosphere Programme (1971 – 1975) and (1979 – 1982);
Member of the Nigerian Council for Science and Technology (1970-1975);
Member of the National Science and Technology Development Agency (1977 – 1979);
Member of Council of the Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research between 1980 and 1983;
Member of the Governing Council of the University of Ado-Ekiti for many years;
Chairman of the Governing Council of the National Mathematical Centre, Abuja (1991-1994);
Member of the Governing Council, University of Ife (1966-1975) etc.

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