"The responsibility of ABU has been changing. From producing trained manpower for government, universities are now required to produce learned and skilful people for the open market and self-employment"
(Professor Abdullahi Mustapha, current Vice-Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University-ABU at the Golden Jubilee convocation ceremony of the institution held on 24thNovember, 2012 in Zaria)
The above quotation basically highlighted the relative shift in academic orientation that one of Africa's most famous, successful and largest universities-Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria is undergoing in the last few years, and which is aimed at keeping the academic programmes and graduates dynamic and in tune with all development trends in today's fast-changing world while not completely deviating from its original mission.
At inception in 1962, ABU was essentially meant to serve as a feeder institution to the Northern Nigeria region's civil service by running degree, diploma and certificate courses germane to the needs of the North as envisaged by the founding fathers of the university, particularly the premier of the region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto and as academically designed/implemented by the pioneering management under the guidance of the first vice-chancellor, Dr Norman S. Alexander. It was a time when highly educated and well-trained personnel of Northern Nigeria's extraction were in short supply and desperately needed to fill public offices that were suddenly rendered vacant or in need of qualified personnel following the "exodus" of mainly British expatriate officers that trailed the attainment of independence in 1960; a challenge that ABU handled exceptionally well by providing the much-required skilled manpower to the region's civil service through its early sets of products/graduates.
Aside the civil service, ABU also contributed excellently to the rapid educational development and expansion of the North through the secondment of its relevant academic staff to set up or oversee the take-off and subsequent operation of several tertiary institutions in the region most of which have since been upgraded to full-fledged universities such as Bayero University, Kano (BUK), University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID), Abubakar Tatari Ali University (ATBU), Bauchi, etc.
The ABU intellectual machinery also saw to the production of scholars, politicians, administrators, diplomats and professionals of international repute who made their mark in the footprints of history such as the legendary historian, the late Dr Yusuf Bala Usman, great sociologist/orator, the late Dr Ibrahim Tahir (Talban Bauchi), the first university graduate to become president in Nigeria, the late Alh. Umaru Musa Yar'adua, GCFR (Tafidan Katsina), the current vice-president, Arch. Mohammed Namadi Sambo (GCON), former vice-president, Alh. Atiku Abubakar, GCON (Turakin Adamawa), the current governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Alh. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, CON (Dan Majen Kano), present Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega (CON), former Chief Justices of the federation, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi and Dahiru Mustapher, former Seretary-General of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Alh. Rilwanu Lukman, the first female president of ABU Students' Union Government (SUG) and a fiery political activist, Hajiya Naja'atu Bala Muhammad, etc.
Based on the immeasurable contribution of ABU in the appreciable development of the North especially in the first two and half decades of independence, it is tempting to ask thus; what went wrong that the region is still lagging behind when compared to the other two regions? What is responsible for the seeming inability of the reported 800,000 graduates of the university to date (excluding the latest set of graduates though) to turn around the fortune of the North for the better despite the availability of huge agricultural, natural and human resources? Or does the achievement of a university depends only on the regular production of supposedly high quality graduates who earned first or second class-upper honours even if these "special" graduates failed to, individually or collectively, liberate their respective communities in particular and the region/country in general from the pangs of poverty, diseases, illiteracy, crime and backwardness? All over the world, achievements or successes of a university are measured by the effectiveness of its community service and how this service has succeeded in transforming the larger society/region/country for the better. This explains the basis on which universities in the developed countries are usually graded higher than those in the developing/underdeveloped countries because it is believed that they (universities) have a very important role to play in the development or otherwise of their respective countries.
When put succinctly, a university must share in the credit or blame for the prosperity or retrogression of its region/country owing to the ability or inability of its graduates to facilitate the comprehensive advancement of their alma-mater's host region/country as relatively posited by Prof. Shehu Galadanshi in a pre-Golden Jubilee convocation lecture thus; "...the failure of our system is to a large extent, the failure of human personnel managing and running this system. And yes, to a greater part, this is a factor of the type of education and training that they got from their alma-mater". And it is on this parameter; that ABU's host region/country (North/Nigeria) is presently not doing well, that I found it fair enough to round up this brief evaluation of the university's performance scorecard in the past 50 years by awarding it a score of 45%. At least, it is a pass mark!
Zongre, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Yerima Bappa Sanda Road, Turaki 'A' Ward, Jalingo,