Telling the Recent Bayero University, Kano story
Maikudi Abubakar Zukogi
If the story of this vibrant and promising university will necessarily be tied to how it stands in the world university ranking, it is doubtful if it would ever get told. Bayero University, Kano will simply serve as the first course mixed gravel and cement holding the intimidating pillars of world Ivy League universities that annually make the list of Times Higher Education Supplement world university ranking. This emerging and unassuming university isn’t likely to put up any encouraging showing in the African universities ranking either. So if your interest is to look for a university with a promise like the northern star and you are going to have to rely on this somewhat academic rankings, you are more than likely going to miss out on what above every possessor of knowledge, there is one more learned, which is what the motto of Bayero University, Kano is, has to offer. And, the university, in the way in which it is presently constituted, has a lot to offer in terms of variety and quality of certificates at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Indeed, Bayero University, Kano has come of age and we need to tell the story of this rising giant south of the Sahara.
The importance of stories and their telling is self evident. We are who we are as a result of the time tested art of storytelling. Our identity as a nation, as a people and as institution is a product of a story or stories. Although our original identity, in the course of time, may be negotiated by a number of factors, the truth about our becoming cannot be completely obliterated. Therefore, either as a people, or institution, we must learn to tell our own stories to the world. We must take control of the means by which people perceive and represent us. To be able to do this, we must learn to tell and retell our own stories. The universal proverb “until the lion learns to tell his own story, the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunter” accurately describes the reason why telling one’s own story amounts to giving a true picture of who one is, what he does and represents. In other words, stories narrate information about us, either as individuals, as a people, as institution and as a nation. In fact, this proverb of the lion taking control of his own story has since become a widely exploited metaphor for deconstructing colonial discourses and the basis for reinterpreting them. The story thus far is simply saying that we are what we are because of the stories we tell. We are a people and a nation because of the narrations woven around and about us. Consequently, our survival is tied to our ability to tell our own stories over and over again. People, institutions and nations die from the moment they are unable to tell and sustain stories about themselves. It is for this reason that I set out to tell the recent Bayero University, Kano story.
Bayero University, Kano, for those who care to know, was named after the late Emir Abdullahi Bayero, famously referred to as Sarki Alhaji, the tenth Emir of Kano and great grandfather to the current Emir, Muhammad Sanusi II. The university had a glorious outing as a college of the glorious Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, which was the largest university south of the Sahara, until 1977 when it joined Lagos, Benin, Jos, Sokoto and Maiduguri to form the league of the second generation universities created by the Federal Government. The university had the greatest fortune of being cited in Kano, a city which prides itself as the ‘belly of the elephant’ and ‘which has more resources than you may think of giving her.’ The people of Zaria, in particular, would not want to hear any of this boisterousness. Zaria always would argue that not only did it give Kano a university; it also taught her what it feels like to be civilised and the etiquette of functioning as a university town. I will live this age old superiority tussle between these two sister cities to the cultural anthropologists to resolve.
The university, quite unlike its supposedly boisterous host city, is a modest, moderate and unassuming institution. It had no reason not to be so, if only to be faithful to its motto: ‘above every possessor of knowledge, there is one more learned’. This is not only a motto but also the guiding philosophy of the university. It is this that has made the university to always keep its head low even while others are losing theirs, recording remarkable successes in academics, research and administration close to four decades since its creation. Bayero University, Kano started on a strong footing being the only university nursed and weaned by Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. It metamorphosed from being a university college under its then Principal, Dr Mahmud Tukur into a full-fledged university in 1977. At the time of its take off in 1977, the university had almost the same quality of staff that you can find on the main campuses of its mother university. Therefore, it had less start up problems, and so it simply hit the ground running with its array of expatriate and indigenous academic staff whose credentials bear the logo of premier universities across the world. In spite of this, however, the university still kept a modest but progressive pace behind its foster mother and was graduating brilliant and promising graduates who have distinguished themselves in different areas and positions across different strata of the country. Most achievements and successes of the university were recorded under the giant shadow of its seemingly larger-than-life foster mother and not until in the late eighties and early nineties that the university begin to feature prominently on the national limelight. This was attributable to two reasons. First, ABU had by this time ran its initial first full circle and was, by this time, engulfed in crises ranging from leadership to ideological and a potpourri of discontents which agitated in the minds of staff and students, leading to heated tensions and closures until the appointment of General Mamman Kontagora (rtd) as Sole Administrator by the military government of General Sani Abacha. Second, Bayero University began to receive serious media and government attention due to its being host to Presidents of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) in the persons of Professor Attahiru Muhammadu Jega and Comrade Nasiru Kura. Today, the university is proud to have given ASUU two solid Presidents, in the persons of Professor Attahiru Muhammadu Jega and Dr Nasir Isa Fagge. These two activist academics are critical to the struggles and successes of ASUU. While Jega strengthened the union’s ideological basis and tools of struggles, Nasiru consolidated its gains as well expanded its horizon as a solid union for the university academic staff. Thus, these coupled with its improved teaching, infrastructure, and stable calendar gave Bayero University, Kano the enviable advantage to once and for all dislodge ABU as the preferred destination for undergraduate and postgraduate education. What is more, except for ASUU strikes, the university being a frontline ASUU friendly institution, it is rarely affected by disruptions of the academic calendar. The success story narrated so far would not have been possible without the solid foundation laid by successive Vice Chancellors beginning with Professor JOC Ezeilo, Professor IH Umar, Professor Dandatti Abdulkadir and Professor Sani Zahradeen. They have helped individually to reposition the university on a footing that has led to the attainment of many feats today.
Meanwhile, the plot of the recent Bayero University, Kano story is encapsulated in the bumper harvest recorded recently by the university. This recent harvest may not be unconnected with the opening up of the university’s space and the incomparable progress and expansion with regards to new programmes, facilities and staff development carried out by the quartet of late Professor Musa Abdullahi, Professors Attahiru Jega, Abubakar Rasheed and Muhammad Yahuza Bello, the incumbent Vice Chancellor over a period spanning seventeen years beginning from 1999. Without doubt, these years were the golden years of the university, the years which saw the university recording great successes in research and quality assurance leading to a significant rating in the regular National University Commission (NUC) accreditation exercises. It was the late Professor Musa Abdullahi of blessed memory who kick-started the process of repositioning the university on the path of growth and regeneration. He established the Faculty of Agriculture, reorganised the Faculty of Medicine and strengthened both pre-clinical and clinical programmes, and embarked on aggressive academic staff development. After him came Professor Attahiru Muhammadu Jega, whose entrance was hinged on a pedestal of high expectations. He did his best to meet some of those expectations in an environment of close scrutiny from his academic constituency. He gave the university the best accreditation result that saw it being ranked first in the country. Professor Jega couldn’t conclude his tenure as Vice Chancellor as he was literally poached to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) several months to the end of his tenure. He distinguished himself by conducting one of the best elections in our recent history that ushered in the current APC government of President Muhammadu Buhari. His departure as Vice Chancellor paved the way for Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, who concluded the remaining months and was overwhelmingly elected as the new Vice Chancellor. Professor Rasheed was the most outstanding of the quartet. He came well prepared for the job with a carefully articulated manifesto. It was a sheer coincidence that he served as the Vice Chancellor of the university at a time Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, the doyen of the Kwankwasiyya movement was Governor of Kano. And so while Kwankwaso was working across the state, Professor Rasheed was also working across the university. And it seemed like they were locked in some pre-planned competition to outdo each other in infrastructural development. While bridges and roads were springing up in the state, hostels, laboratories, theatres and new faculties were equally springing up across the university. The competition between these two to leave behind a legacy of achievements was so palpable that the only one feature that separated them was that while works at the state bore the Kwankwasiyya imprint, works at the university didn’t. For the university, unlike the state, the Rasheediyya imprint, if one would be excused the use of the term, was ingrained not on projects but in the mind. Thus, during the five years that he served as the Vice Chancellor, he gave the university a new face and along with it an irrepressible image of a true ivory tower that can withstand competition from within and without. During this period, the university added Faculties of Allied Medical Sciences, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Computer Science and Information Technology, Communication and Media Studies and a massive infrastructural development that included roads, street lighting and landscaping, theatres, staff offices and research centres. These signature achievements have earned Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed the unofficial title of the builder of modern Bayero University, Kano. Consequently, his achievements served as reference point to other universities, and by acts of commission, he was touted as someone capable of giving the Nigerian universities a new vision and a cutting edge direction that will enable them to compete globally. And so, as I write this, Professor Rasheed now oversee the Nigerian universities as the new Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC). By sheer coincidence, he is the second member of the university to occupy the prestigious position, and both of them from the English Department. The first person was Professor Munzali Jibril, former Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Islamic Studies and the Postgraduate School who served as the Executive Secretary from 1996 to 2001. Professor Rasheed’s departure saw the emergence of the incumbent Vice Chancellor, Professor Muhammadu Yahuza Bello, a tested university administrator. He came into office with a mountain of experience, having served twice as Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academics and Director of the Centre for Information Technology and Project Monitoring Unit of the university. By all standards, he is well suited for the job but the greatest challenge for him remains to consolidate on the towering achievements of the past for which luckily he was a part of.
It is heart warming therefore to tell that the university’s years of service and contribution to the growth and manpower development of the country was recently acknowledged in manifold. And as they of the farmer, after careful planting and patient nurturing of crops always comes the harvest time. And it was indeed a bumper harvest for the university and a fitting reward for effective leadership, meticulous planning and consultation. The university currently boasts of key appointments in the Federal government with education ministry taking the large chunk. The first of course is Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, whose landmark achievements in Bayero university and contribution to university education generally earned him the position of the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission. He is followed by Dr Abdullahi Baffa, the incomparable, restless academic and ASUU strategist who was handed the exalted post as the Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND). After these two, the university currently also boasts of five active Vice Chancellors, two federal and three states. Professor Fatima Batulu Mukhtar, VC, Federal University, Dutse; Professor Abdallah Uba Adamu, VC, National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN); Professor Mustapha Ahmad Isah, Northwest University, Kano; Professor Shehu Mohammed, VC, Kano University of Science and Technology (KUST), and Professor Muhammad Sani Abdulkadir, VC, Kogi State University, Anyigba. Other key agencies for which the university’s ambassadors held forte include the National Teachers Institute (NTI), Kaduna headed by Pofessor Garba Dahuwa Azare, a seasoned university administrator; National Commission for Mass Literacy Education headed by Professor Abba Haladu, and the National Communications Commission headed by Professor Umar Garba Danbatta.
This is no mean achievement for Bayero University, Kano. It is a forceful indication that the university has indeed come of age. It is a thing of pride for the university to be so recognised and its ambassadors to be called upon to serve the government in different capacities in one particular time. Not only the founding fathers but every alumnus will be proud to be associated with the recent successes recorded by the university. This is the recent Bayero University, Kano story.
Mahmud Zukogi, is an academic member of the Faculty of Arts and Islamic Studies of the university.