Ahmadu Bello University (ABU): So Unique, So Great
A. I. Abdullahi
“We shall be a truly Nigerian University and not a mirror image of some alien body”
Sir Ahmadu Bello, at the first Convocation Ceremony of ABU
This is intended to be a response and clarifications for the unsuspecting public to a full page article written by one Daniel Edom entitled ‘Moral decay in ABU: Government insensitivity’ which appeared on page 5 of the New Nigerian Weekly Newspaper of 5th November, 2011. The norms therefore require me to title mine by just attaching the prefix ’Re…’ to his. Doing that will, however, not only lend credence to his article but will also portray me as a poor student of English language. Except I did not attend a good primary school, which, in all humility, I am sure I did (I attended the Demonstration Primary School, KSCOE, Ankpa, Kogi State), nothing in the unknown writer’s faulty article directly or indirectly relates to morality, let alone a government’s role on the issue that could possibly be near to (in)sensitivity. The writer’s use (better misuse?) of religion to achieve a selfish desire once again brings to the discussion table the unfortunate issue of religious bigotry among Nigerians who have the propensity to blame others’ religion for any problem they fail to solve.
I write because of two things. I graduated from ABU, Zaria and I am not only proud I did, I consider it a rare privilege. The second, and most important to me, is that I am a Muslim. I will not deny my religion because I want to be praised by readers as a moderate believer, or court the friendship of those that champion such beliefs. And when it is required, I shall mention Christianity or Christian when I need to. That the writer did by being afraid of specifying Islam or Muslim and thus cowardly mentioned ‘the other religion’ after mentioning Christianity to refer to Islam or its adherents. I will discuss the issues raised by classifying them into general and specific matters: general because the majority of the enlightened public would have been convinced of the true state of things, and specific because it takes comparative analysis to prove that the writer is just out to cause mischief and mislead the unsuspecting public. The general matter is on the already rested issue of appointing a VC for the University in 2009/2010. The latter is on the admission of students into the University’s programmes cum the appointment of members of staff into various cadre of the University, among others.
To be objective as much as possible, permit me to start with the latter and discuss it by using my own faculty in ABU (Pharmaceutical Sciences, and luckily, the writer also used it in his blackmail of the University) as a model of the happening in most of the faculties in ABU. At ABU Pharmacy School, we do have (I am not there now, but I choose to use present tense because one of the revered Professors once told us that there is no ‘he was’ in a lecturer; and I agree with him)a high number of Christian staff. How can someone consider the management to be religiously biased against Christianity when, at my last count, we have a minimum of three pastors (two of whom are Professors) with their churches in which they are the ‘General Overseers’, teaching. I am also aware that the present Vice Chancellor employed new lecturers in the Faculty and not all are Muslims. As for the students, it is a free for all. So, when an NYSC Official in Anambra State once erroneously confronted me alleging that admission in Northern Universities are exclusive rights of Hausas (remember that for the average Igbo man (and woman as well), a Muslim is a Northern Hausa- Onyi Hausa-), I was quick to tell her that for my own set at ABU Pharmacy (the U04PH….) at least, I could mention three of my mates that were from Anambra State, all nonmslims. Could we say same for Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, better known there as UniZik (which, dear reader, is also a Federal University though not of the same class as ABU)? It is on record that the handful of Muslim students in the University (about twenty eight as at last session) does not have a registered society because there is not a single Muslim lecturer in the University (not just Pharmacy) to stand as surety for them. In fact there is no space for prayer for the Muslim students, not even a small demarcated portion of land with stones. It also reminds one of the over two decade struggle to erect a prayer place for the Muslims at the River State University of Science and Technology where the University insists, till date, that a mosque will distort the University’s Master plan. If Edom has ever been to ABU, he would be able to testify that the size of the Central Mosque in ABU is not up to any of the two main churches in the main campus. There is no mosque as gigantic as the Catholic Church in Kongo Campus. I was so proud of my school when I saw a banner in the main Campus of a public lecture by National Association of Abia State Students. Have you ever witnessed Rivers State Day, Cross River State Day (Oh Donald Duke graduated from ABU) or any of the Southern States celebrate? Please go to the first floor of our Senate Building and ask the Dean of Students’ Affairs of the number of registered State Unions in ABU and compare it with any other University of ABU’s standard in Nigeria. I was opportuned to see the 2011/2012 admission list of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka; a first generation University like ABU. I downloaded the three page list for prospective Pharmacy students. The first and last names on the pages are Abel Samuel Oliver (16081360DE) and Michael Godsmight Ifechukwude (15845401AF), Mkpuluma Onyebuchi Martin (16192634IG) and Ozota Remigius Chijioke (16197958CC), and Raphael Jennifer Nwagu (15844095ED) and Williamson Ekemini Sunday (15337208DF) respectively. If you see an Abdul, a Muhammad or a Fatima please do not hesitate to draw my attention to it. As for our Premier University (UI), the likes of Adekeye Abdul-Lateef Adegoke (16240072HB) and Shittu Habeebat Adebola (16278968HE) make the about 20% Muslims for the same session. The University of Lagos has Rufai Roqeebah Adenike (15709994IH) and Abubakar Abba Sulaiman (16284559IC) etc. to make a similar percentage.
To some of the itemized ‘immoral’ acts in ABU, these are my respective responses.
a. ASUU Fractionalization
Before the so-called fractionalization, it may interest the readers to know that the then ASUU ABU was suspended by the National Executive Council of ASUU whose head then was a Christian. It is unfortunate that Edom did not bother to find out the cause of the suspension but has the courage, ironically, to query the intervention that led to lifting of the suspension. The local chapter then whose leadership abandoned its defined responsibilities for a fight for tenure elongation was headed by Mr. Muazu Maiwada, a Christian lecturer whose sack from the University for undermining the Governing Council was also termed immoral by Edom.
b. Illegal Senate, Congregation and Council under Bunu Sherrif
The writer’s position on the above seems to be the mother of all his lies about ABU. For the records, the Senate of the University is composed of statutory members like Professors, Deans, HODs, Directors and elected members (the congregation). One of the reasons why the whole selection process of a VC for the University under Adamu Ciroma was illegal was the illegal composition of Senate, in that a third of its membership (the congregation) was absent. The Senate as improperly composed itself agreed with this position and a Federal High Court concurred, thus the belated resignation of Malam Ciroma after the judgment. As for the person that appointed Amb. Bunu Sherrif when the President was in Saudi Arabia, I call on Edom to find out the person that signed the 2010 budget of the Federal Government and thereafter question the salaries and other expenditures derived from same.
c. Land allocation to Catholic Community in Kongo
The readers are called upon to ask the occupants of Hostel III in Kongo Campus how their peaceful rest after a tedious academic work is being denied them whenever there is a programme (with state of the art musical instruments) in the Catholic Church directly facing them. In fact, I have always berated the Management of the University for taking no action about that. But not satisfied with this flagrant abuse of students’ rights, the same Catholic community was illegally allocated a plot of land by the Director of the Institute of Administration (who had no such authority) in which they intended, it was alleged, to establish an independent school of theology. Haba! When did correcting a wrong become wrong itself when done according to the dictates of the Law? The readers may also note that Department of Business Administration recently ordered for demolition of a church that was erected on its land by another denomination in what was considered an open disregard to Authority by the Church.
d. Promotion of Staff and Nomination for Conferences
This needs no much discussion because Edom brought no example of religious bias, although I vividly recall that in some issues of the University’s Bulletin, promotion of Staff is published and yours sincerely sees the names of Muslims and Christians.
It is on record that until Bunu Sherrif was appointed to head the Council, there was no election to the congregation of for many years. But when he came, it was contested, won and lost as the case may be. I am at a loss as to what Edom meant by inability to convene a meeting of Congregation when the present administration had to use its first year to stabilize the University after the unfortunate harm that was done it by detractors like Edom. Anyway, the (Pre)convocation ceremonies were just held last week and I am aware of a notice of Congregation meeting slated for 6th December, 2011.
As for the general matter on the appointment of a VC, I have just a little comment. The process that was alleged to have produced Professor Andrew Nok, a Christian (a winner that was declared before the conclusion of the process by onlookers and not the body empowered by law to do so) was fraudulent. The Senate that was represented in the Selection Committee (and Council itself) was illegal, as earlier explained. The Search Committee did a shoddy job of the good intent of the lawmakers and it was easy to punch hole in their work: there was no acceptance or rejection letter from any of the persons they claimed to have contacted. But did I hear right that Nok (and I consider him in high esteem, hereby congratulating him on the recent National Merit Award conferred on him) later applied to govern the University of Jos in the same capacity and did not make the first five? And where was this Edom when the issue was boiling and people like Muhammad Haruna had to use their columns to proffer solutions. Sanusi Abubakar also had to ask for more involvement by the ABU FASS in national and international issues, reminiscent of the past.
Anyway the entire write-up reminds me of a line in a poem I was taught in JSS II:
“When a dog bites a man, it is no news. But when a man bites a dog, it is news”
I ask: why should it be?
On a final note, it is my candid submission that there is a level of immorality in ABU. Nude dressing is almost the dress code today and I call on the management to take action immediately.
Abdullahi writes from Zaria