Season of Omar Rahaman @70

Omar RahamanRahamanRahamanRahaman

Professor Rahaman was born on 6th May, 1946 in Ondo. He had his primary school education between 1952 and 1957 at Agbeni Methodist School, Ibadan, St. Andrews School, Okepojo, Lagos and St David’s School, Lafiaji, Lagos. He attended Kings College, Lagos between 1958 and 1964 where he was the best 5th form pupil in 1962, best Chemistry Student in the Higher School Certificate (HSC) class of 1963-64 and principle passes in Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry in the HSC examination. His major ambition then was to become a Chemist.

In 1965, the young Rahaman won an ASPAU scholarship to study Chemical Engineering in New Jersey, USA. One of the people who proved very influential to his life, late Sir Samuel Manuwa 1st Commissioner in the Federal Public Service Commission told him that if he went to America and returned without a Masters degree he would not employ him. This was because American degrees were considered inferior to the British ones in those days. An American degree did not appeal to the young Rahaman and he decided to turn down the scholarship and the opportunity to go to America.
Based on his performance in the HSC examination, Sir Samuel asked the undersecretary at the Commission, Mr. Akande, to find suitable employment for Rahaman. Mr. Akande found a job for him as Temporary Assistant Technical Officer in the Plant Quarantine Service Division of the Federal Department of Agricultural Research Moor plantation, Ibadan. He was posted to Lagos. The job had very little to do with the subjects Rahaman had studied in the Higher School Certificate class and he sent him to the late Mr. E.A. Ifaturoti, who was then the Chief Inspector of Mines Division of the Federal Ministry of Mines and Power.

Mr. Ifaturoti who was born in Epe on learning that Rahaman is from Epe took a liking to him. Mr. Ifaturoti was planning to establish an Exploration unit within the Mines Division and suggested that the young Rahaman should go and see Mr. Carter, the then Director of the Geological Survey of Nigeria to request him to support his training as a Mining Geologist in Britain. The Director’s response was that the training required someone who has both brain and brawn as the discipline was very tough.

The young Rahaman decided to take up the challenge. He would go to study Mining Geology – in Britain. By that time University placements were closed for the year in Britain. Rahaman was earning good money in his employment and decided that he would carry on working as there was, according to his immediate bosses, a good chance for his elevation to the position of Technical Officer. He would wait for one year for a chance to go to British university to study Mining Geology.

In the meantime most of his colleagues were proceeding to universities and his mother insisted that he could not stay at home that year but had to go to the University. Fortunately, he had earlier applied to the University of Ibadan (U.I) and had been offered admission to study Chemistry. He registered for Chemistry, Physics and Geology in his first year in U.I. If only for the 1965/66 session while waiting for admission to study Mining Geology in Britain. He was thus able to satisfy his mother’s wish.

In Ibadan, he met Professor Kevin Burke, the Head of Department of Geology, and told him of his plan to spend only one year in Ibadan and thereafter proceed to Britain to study Mining Geology. Professor Burke, however suggested to Rahaman that he should complete the B.Sc degree program in Geology at University of Ibadan and then proceed to Britain to study Mining Geology in Britain at the postgraduate level.

In his first year in U.I, Rahaman found academic work relatively easy to cope with and he thoroughly enjoyed the social life. He won a University scholarship at the end of the year. All these factors combined to make him decide to complete the B.Sc. degree in U.I. He graduated with a B.Sc (Hons) 2nd Class Upper Division degree in June 1968 and was the best student in his graduating class.

Rahaman’s first contacts with field work were in 1967 when his class was taken on a geological excursion to Ghana by Prof. Burke and which was followed by fieldwork in the Iseyin area for four weeks after the sessional examinations.
During the mapping exercise at Iseyin he had to learn most of the techniques on his own from reading textbooks on fieldwork and structural geology like the famous one written by Lahee and Sherbon Hills respectively.
At the conclusion of the mapping period he made several trips back to Iseyin on his own to gather more data to improve his report. Professor Burke and others noticed his keen interest in field geology and gave him some encouragement.
The resulting field report was considered very good and for many years it was a reference material in the Department of Geology at UI. It was at this time that he first realized that you could not determine metamorphic grade of a rock without first determining the type of metamorphism involved and all this he did on his own from reading textbooks.
He was offered immediate employment in the Geological Survey Division of the Federal Ministry of Mines and Power on a temporary basis in June 1968 pending interview for permanent placement while his colleagues who desired employment with Federal Cicil Service had to wait a little longer for interviews for placement.

At the Survey, Rahaman’s ambition was to work with expatriate geologists like Mr. Hockey and Dr. Truswell who had mapped a sheet each and like them map his own sheet, publish the map and accompanying bulletin of the sheet. However, 1968 was not a good year for the Survey. The civil war was raging and most of the experienced expatriate geologists had left or were about to leave the country as a result. It did not take long for Rahaman to conclude that given the state of the Geological Survey, his dreams could not be achieved there. He realised after a period of about nine months that he knew less geology than he did before joining the Survey. He decided to leave and return to the university to utilise the postgraduate scholarship the University had awarded him on completion of his
undergraduate studies. The scholarship was a small fraction of his pay at the Survey. His only real gain at the survey was acquisition of techniques in photogeological interpretation gained from Dr. Ricci, an Italian then at the Survey.
This is when Professor M. O. Oyawoye became prominent in his life. He was then the Head of the Department at U.I.

Rahaman suggested that he wanted to specialize in one of the following areas of geology:

  1. Relationships between the different lithologies in the Precambrian basement complex of Nigeria
  2. The granite- charnockite association; and
  3. The structure and petrogenesis of the younger granites of north-central
    Nigeria.

Professor Oyawoye encouraged him to work on the relationships in the Precambrian of Nigeria. He decided to work in the Iseyin area where he had previously done fieldwork at the undergraduate level.
He acquired a 50 cc motor cycle, assembled other field gear and with his textbooks went off to Iseyin to begin fieldwork in 1969, teaching himself in the process. He obtained a one year sponsorship to go to the Research Institute of African Geology, University of Leeds, UK to do geochemistry work on samples he collected from Iseyin area and to get more exposure outside. At Leeds, he met many geologists working in different parts of Africa and developed a keen interest to work on the geology of Uganda after completing his postgraduate work. Political problems did not make him realize this goal.
In 1971 he took up appointment as an Assistant lecturer in the Department of Geology at UI and with the departure of most expatriate staff he was involved in the teaching of many courses. In spite of the heavy workload he still had time to go back for more field checks. In 1972, he devoted a few months to write up his thesis and with the assistance of his secretary, Miss Laide Olurin (now Olori Akintomide) who diligently typed it several times. He was able to send the draft thesis in July 1972 to several people notably Prof. P.G Harris and Dr. N.K. Grant for their comments. He was eventually awarded the Ph.D degree in Geology in March, 1973.

Some of Professor Rahaman’s early achievements were

  1. To persuade the Department to recruit and train young geologists such as Dr. Agagu, Dr. Ofrey and Professor Malomo and Professor Odeyemi among others to replace the expatriate staff who were leaving; and
  2. to insist that female students do the same fieldwork with their male counterparts. Hitherto, the female students did their fieldwork in and around Ibadan while their male counterparts went outside Ibadan for the fieldwork. He also devoted a lot of time to fieldwork supervision.

Up to that time, Professor Rahaman had not yet decided to become a full-time academic and applied and was offered appointments with Nigerian Steel Development Authority (NSDA) and Nigeria Mining Corporation (NMC). However, he did not take up any of these appointments and decided to join the then University of Ife and become a full-time academic in December 1974 where he rose through the ranks and became a professor of Geology in 1985.
Professor Rahaman decided to focus his attention each year on one of the major rock units of the Nigerian Basement Complex and make annual presentations at NMGS conferences. He also devoted a lot of time to fieldwork in the Sedimentary Basins of Nigeria with a view to elucidating their structural and tectonic evolution.

He obtained a one year Fellowship to the Scottish Universities Research and Reactor Centre to try to solve problems related to the evolution of the Nigerian Basement Complex.
I first heard of Prof. Rahaman during the lectures of Prof. P.G. Cooray on the Geology of Nigeria in my final year undergraduate class in 72/73 session at the then University of Ife. During those lectures, the Professor would often mention Rahaman’s view on the topic of the lecture. I got to know him better and more closely when he joined the staff of Ife and took over the supervision of my Ph.D work. He earned recognition and respect early from his seniors in the profession and it is on that his classification of the rocks of the Basement Complex of Nigeria was adapted by Prof. Whiteman on the chapter of the Precambrian Basement Complex Geology of Nigeria in his book on the Petroleum Geology of Nigeria. Prof. Rahaman is the leading and most quoted author on the Geology of
Nigeria.
Prof. Rahaman has been a source of inspiration to many geoscientists across Nigeria. In the 70’s though to the 90’s he taught Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology, Structural Geology, Geochronology, Photogeological interpretation
and Geology of Nigeria in the Universities of Benin, Calabar, the then Ondo State University Ado Ekiti, Ibadan and of course obafemi Awolowo University. He set up collaborative research projects with colleagues in France, Togo, Ghana and Benin Republic to study the Panafrican Orogenic front.
Professor Rahaman has served the geosciences community in different administrative and professional capacities culminating in his election as the president of the Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society (NMGS) from 2001-
2003. In recognition of his services, he has been honoured, amongst others, with the following awards;

  1. FELLOWSHIP OF NMGS 1992
  2. RT HON DR NNAMDI AZIKWE AWARD FOR CONSISTENT AND EXCELLENT CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF MINING AND GEOSCIENCES IN AFRICA, 2004
  3. NMGS/OYAWOYE/AMNI GOLD MEDAL FOR EXCELLENT AND CONSISTENT CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE FIELD OF HAND ROCK GEOLOGY IN NIGERIA, 2006
  4. NAPE/CGG VERITAS DISTINGUISHED EDUCATION AND MENTORSHIP AWARD FOR INTENSE SUPPORT AND CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE STUDY OF GEOSCIENCES AND THE NIGERIA OIL INDUSTRY, 2007
  5. NMGS/SPDC PLAQUE. THE HIGHEST AWARD OF NMGS FOR PERSISTENT AND CONSISTENT CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF MINING AND GEOSCIENCES IN AFRICA, 2013

For many years, Rahaman has worked very hard to improve the quality of Nigerian geoscience graduates by essentially improving the teaching and learning environment in the Nigerian Universities. He seriously frowned at
attempts made by SPDC for example to retrain Nigerian Graduates the Shell Intensive Training Programme (SITP) in Warri so that they could become employable.
Professor Rahaman’s main ambition is to produce good quality geoscience graduates that can be employed anywhere in the world. For nine years he was the coordinator of the aptitude examination used by the Petroleum Technology
Development Fund (PTDF) to select beneficiaries of the Funds Overseas Scholarship Scheme for the skills acquisition at the Master’s level in selected Universities in Britain. This programme has achieved a large measure of success.
More recently, he succeeded in establishing five 12-month Professional Masters Programmes with support from the industry and government agencies at Obafemi Awolowo University. The pioneering students concluded their program on schedule in March 2013 and the second batch of students are now in the second semester of their studies.

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