ABU@60: Giant, still briskly walking in the right direction

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Prof. MK Othman

By Prof. MK Othman

On Tuesday, October 4, 2022, my alma mater, my means of livelihood, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, was 60 years. As we fondly call it, the great ABU has transformed from a regional citadel of learning to the most cosmopolitan, diverse, nationalist breeding ground for the intelligentsia. Thanks to its founding fathers who had a clear vision of how knowledge could conquer the world without firing a shot. Their vision made them realise achieving excellence in education requires merit, hard work, and dedication.

There should be no room for nepotism, racism, tribalism, and religious inclination. This vision became the central pillar on which ABU was built. 60 years later, this academic octopus has lived up to its founding fathers’ vision and expectations. ABU is no doubt an icon of nation-building considering its giant contributions since its establishment. The university with two campuses, occupying over 7,000 hectares of land has grown to become the largest in the nation and indeed in the West African sub-region, and the most influential and diverse in the country. The current record indicates that all the 774 local government areas in the country have sons and daughters either as students or staff or both studying and working/living in ABU Zaria in addition to citizens of other countries. This diversity makes ABU unique and most admirable among the tertiary institutions in Nigeria.

I have been an incurable admirer and staunch loyalist to the great ABU right from my secondary school time in the 1980s. My first baptism into the fold of Admirers of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) was in 1981 when I was in form four at the then Government Secondary School, Funtua, Katsina state. The admiration was almost limitless, as we couldn’t compare ABU with any other university. Then, students in forms four and five (final year) in GSS Funtua and its contemporaries, were divided into three categories: those wishing and working hard to gain admission into ABU through its famous gateway, the School of Basic Studies (SBS); those wishing to gain admission through College of Advance Studies (CAS), and those wishing to go to other Institutions of learning such as Colleges of Education, Polytechnics, and Colleges of Agriculture among others.  The first category constituted the top 5% of the class, followed by the second category representing the top 20% while the third category was the others. 

Without being told, every student knew his category. I was in the first category and my dream was to gain admission into SBS. With gratitude to the Almighty, that dream came to pass when in June 1982, my name appeared in Nigerian Standard and New Nigeria Newspapers on the list of successful candidates for provisional admission into SBS.  From then till date, ABU has offered me so much; three out of my four degrees and countless certificates. I got sensitized and received some grounding in the leftist ideology of Drs. Yusuf Bala Usman of blessed memory and Patrick Wilmot. Despite being an engineering student, I was always looking forward to the fire-spitting public lectures of the duo. My student life at ABU was the most exciting experience with unquantifiable richness. My case is a typical example of thousands of cases for Nigerians and non-Nigerians across the globe. This is because ABU has a high level of human capital and was instrumental in the creation and foundation staffing of several second-generation universities. 

Among the alumni of the university are a former president and two vice presidents of Nigeria and current SGF with over 100s of serving and former governors and deputies across the states. ABU has produced several vice chancellors for other universities, high-ranking officials at the three arms of government, captains of industry, and successful entrepreneurs and individuals in all spheres of human endeavors. There are tens of hundreds of medical doctors, engineers, pure and social scientists, and many other professionals, who graduated from ABU, working across the globe. ABU’s Alumni have 100s of thousands of members. ABU’s contribution to the nation’s development is enormous and unparalleled by any other university in Nigeria and West Africa.

ABU has recorded uncountable successes in different areas of human and national development. Time and space may not allow x-ray of all the breakthroughs recorded by this giant university, however, a few major feats achieved in recent years need to be mentioned. Four years ago (2019), three ABU students outperformed other competitors of the Huawei ICT competition to emerge the winners of the African regional competition and then competed against other students from different continents/regions and took the third position at a global level. 

This year, 2022, another set of ABU students are on their way to represent the nation at the regional Huawei ICT competition as they won 6 prizes for Network and Cloud tracks to represent Nigeria in the Regional finals in South Africa next year. This has made ABU sign an MoU with Huawei Technologies to establish Academic Support Center for micro-managing the Huawei Academic Programs in Nigeria. The only one in the country. Another giant feat is the emergence of the ENACTUS ABU Team the overall winner of this year’s ENACTUS Nigeria National Competition Final Round held in Lagos last month.

Thus, the University will represent Nigeria at ENACTUS World Cup in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This year’s representation will be the third consecutive time ENACTUS ABU Team has been representing the country at the world competition with flying colors. In the recent JAMB rating of Nigerian universities, ABU won three important awards: the “Institution with Highest number of International Students in 2020 Admission”, the 2020 Institution of the first choice for candidates to tertiary Institution in Nigeria, and the most National Institution in 2020 admission”. The three awards designate ABU as the most diverse and nationalist learning center. This is because ABU uses merit in both admission and recruitment, if you are the best, you don’t need long-leg to jump yourself into ABU either as a student or worker. Yes, ABU is the most cosmopolitan and diverse in both admissions and staffing. The University also maintains a relatively high level of discipline and academic standards despite its large population.

ABU has maintained superiority from inception, compared with the premier university, the University of Ibadan, in its first ten years, produced 615 graduates while ABU produced 2,333 first degrees, along with several postgraduate degrees by its first decade. ABU’s trend of commitment and dedication continues to date. ABU at 60, giant as it has always been, still briskly walking in the right direction. Bravo ABU! Coincidentally, my age and the age of my secondary school, another Alma Matter, Government Secondary School Funtua, Katsina is the same as that of ABU, “Diamond age”. 

May we have more grace and prosperity to serve humanity, amen.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily