Photos: Adamu, The Son Of The Executive Secretary Of Nigerian Universities Commission; Prof. Rasheed, Bags Ph.D in Engineering At A Scotland University

Adamu, the son of the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission; Prof. Rasheed, bags Ph.D in Engineering at the University of Aberdeen
“Deterioration” is a word I shall never forget. Almost forty years ago, I was a Form One (your JSS1) student at the School for Arabic Studies (SAS), Kano. It was the end of the session and prize winners were being compiled for each subject area. One Garba Tafida was First in Mathematics; (Garba, now late, was a cousin of the person being celebrated today; a tribute to Garba was written on this page five years ago as NIGERIA @ 50). One Yahaya Satatima came First in Arabic (and Yahaya is now a successful barrister and academician). But for First in English, there was a tie – Yahaya “Franco” and I.

To break that tie, we had to appear before a ‘tie-breaker panel’ headed by one of our English “teachers”, Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, as he then was. This is the person we are celebrating today – Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, mni, MFR, outgoing Vice Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano (BUK). The tie breaker all those years ago was: “Spell Deterioration!” Perhaps Yahaya couldn’t get it right and I did, so alhamdu lilLah I became “First in English” that year and was given a certificate and the book ENGLISH WITHOUT TEARS. I also became beholden of Rasheed, and “Franco” continued to be my good friend.

Rasheed had just graduated from SAS and his final results had not even been released. But, together with his equally brilliant classmates such as Tijjani Naniya and Haruna Audu Musa (both of them now senior people at the same BUK with Rasheed), had been retained by then Principal Mallam Datti Ahmad (who died a couple of years ago as Imam of Galadanci), as “lesson teachers” (‘yan-rikon-aji) to fill in when the substantive teachers were unavailable. So Rasheed had gone on to study English – what else – and the rest is history. (Incidentally, history was what the other bright fellow Naniya taught us!)

I also recall that one day in 1977 or thereabouts, Rasheed had invited us three – his cousin Garba the “Mathematician”, Aminu “Orlando” (also now late; remember my friend who used to butter both sides of his bread slice and emptied my peak milk in his tea cup as narrated here December 2007? Him) and I – to BUK to watch a play he would feature in, Death and the King’s Horseman. Before the play started, he had given us three dinner tickets (of 75 Kobo each) and we had joined university students (we then in JSS2) for a cafeteria meal!
I cannot now recall whether Rasheed played Death, the King, the Horse or the Man, but all I remember was that his acting was superb. We were so mesmerised while we sat in the audience all those decades ago that Garba blurted out on Rasheed: “I think one day he will become HOD (Head of Department)”. I added: “There is a position higher, I think they call it Dean. He can be.” “Orlando”, he of the buttered bread and much worldly-wiser than the two of us (having sojourned in Ghana and Lagos, two very “abroad” places in those days) suggested: “Abubakar could well be a VC one day. What is VC, Garba and I had wondrously asked.

Allahu Akbar! Orlando’s prediction was prescient! And ours too! Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, as Professor of English became Vice Chancellor of BUK in 2010. And he had been all we had predicted – a HOD, a Dean, a Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC). And five years down the line, this is the final week of Rasheed’s five-year single term VCship. That 2010 was when history beckoned on then BUK VC Prof. Attahiru Jega to take up the job of Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
As VC candidate, Rasheed had pledged to maintain an environment conducive to study; to promote participatory style of leadership by re-activation of the committee system; to develop the institution’s most important asset, its staff; to reorganise and restructure key administrative units; to tackle problems of water and electricity; to ensure security of lives and property of members of the University Community; to strive to strengthen ties with the University Unions; and to work in partnership with others to enhance teaching, provision of facilities, research and consultancy.

And Rasheed was so elected. And it has been an eventful five years. Those who have not visited BUK in five years can hardly recognise the place the infrastructural and academic development are unprecedented. The university witnessed the establishment of various centres such as the International Institute of Islamic Banking and Finance, Centre for African Entrepreneurship, Centre for Dryland Agriculture, Institute of Continuing Education, Centre for Biotechnology Research, Centre for Qur’anic Studies (CQS) and many others. (Even this week the CQS is hosting an International Conference in honour of Kano’s foremost Qur’an Reciter and business tycoon Shaikh Isyaku Rabi’u.)
An interesting irony was the fact that, while state governors would be busy brandishing figures of INCREASED intake of pupils into primary and secondary schools (quantitative rather than qualitative increases), VC Rasheed announced, a few years into his tenure, that he had DECREASED the number of students from 32,000 when he assumed office to a little under 30,000, with the hope of stabilising it at 25,000. This qualitative decrease was so that infrastructure and staffing would be enhanced to be commensurate with student numbers.
But there was a time I was not even on speaking terms with this elder brother of mine – and he had no idea. During the military years, Rasheed had gone into the world of journalism (industry experience encouraged of academics) and had risen from a Sunday Editor to substantive Editor and later Managing Director of the New Nigerian Newspapers. It was the era of “wal-ba-ni-wal-ba-ka” as Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU)’s “No-Pay-No-Work” struggle was appropriated by Abacha’s then Education Minister (another BUK academic) as “No-Work-No-Pay” (hence the term “wal-ba-ni-wal-ba-ka”, an ‘arausa’ Arabic-Hausa hybrid literally meaning “You-Give-Me-I-Give-You.”) We didn’t ‘give’ teaching for six months; they didn’t ‘give’ salary for nine!

So, as a then ASUU diehard (many of our colleagues and I had seen the inside of many a ‘charge-office’), I had refused to send articles to the New Nigerian, my token protest against the military and against my brother Editor/MD. And he hardly noticed! (Ouch!) We heaved a sigh of relief when Rasheed returned to the university in 1999.
When I was growing up, they said Rasheed is from Makarfi. At that time I had no idea that Makarfi is not in Kano State. So if truly Kano once ‘donated’ Paki to Zazzau, the reverse should be done and Makarfi should come the other way. If not, we shall continue to hold on tight to Prof. Rasheed who has personified all what is best of “Kano”.
Personally, I had left the university for pastures greener; first in the UK (where, at the BBC, my salary was TEN times the Abacha “wal-ba-ni-ba-ka” salary I had left) and then to the even ‘greener’ pasture of the Presidential Villa. But as soon as he became VC, Rasheed sent word, rather a directive, to me: “Come back!” And willy, not nilly, I did.
As we bid bye to our VC extraordinaire Prof Rasheed, we also wish his successor, Muhammad Yahuza Bello, Professor of Mathematics, who was overwhelmingly elected by his colleagues at a recent University Congregation and affirmed, confirmed and appointed by the University Council. Prof. Bello himself had been HOD, Dean of Sciences and of the Postgraduate School as well as Director of the Centre for Information Technology (CIT). He later served four terms as Deputy VC under two different VCs, making him the longest serving DVC in the history of the institution.
Bello is carrying over Rasheed’s goodwill; we hope he will spill over in sha Allah!

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