Thursday, 7 February 2013

(45): Dual professorship, borderless scholarship

This piece is a personal tribute to my teacher, mentor and intellectual associate, on his appointment as a professor of media and cultural communication at Bayero University, Kano, the first person to achieve that position after acquiring a professorial chair in science education back in 1997.
I knew Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu, first on the pages of newspapers through his writings that cut across media, cultural studies, education and identity representation. My first contact with him was between late 1998 and 1999 as a young undergraduate student of Mass Communications at Bayero University, Kano.
The word internet was quite new in Nigeria then, and I wanted to know about it, our elder brother Professor Yusuf Adamu took me to his office, but the Prof was not around, Professor Yusuf Adamu asked whether I have ever used the internet, the answer was a capital NO, he quickly on the computer in Prof Abdalla’s office and opened the Google search engine, what would you like to search? Asked Alhajin Koko, the name we call Professor Yusuf Adamu at home. Anything, I replied, he searched the words “Kano Wall”, and there came pages on the history of Ganuwar Kano. We left the office after waiting for a while, but then for me, knowing his office was the first step in establishing contact with Professor Abdallah. Almost every week I will branch at his office and greet him, until sometime around 2000 when I was appointed the editor of Kano State Student’s Journal. I went to Professor Abdalla to request for contribution into the Journal.
That very week I wrote a short piece in the Weekly Trust newspaper very critical of a former military governor from Northern Nigeria. Professor Abdallah turned to me and said, “so you were the one who wrote about the former military governor, be careful, he is a mafia”, but the smile on his face told me that he wasn’t threatening me, but it is the way teachers test the resolve of their students. “come back next week for the article”, on arrival the following week, the article, on Professor Abdalla’s contribution to the creation of Hausa fonts was there on the desk of his secretary Malam Kiyawa. That was the turning point, my visits became regular, and he would always call me in case he has any work that requires the input of a student.
In the same year, I started a programme in radio Kano II, FM station called Islam in Focus and Muamalat, previously run by Sheikh Muhammad ibn Uthman and Dr Salisu Shehu. I regularly invited lecturers from Bayero University, Kano, and that was how I came in contact with our teachers like Professor Aliyu Dauda, Professor Bashir Galadanchi, Professor Aliyu Baffa Umar, my great friend and senior colleague Dr Farouk Sarkin Fada and many more. One day I invited Professor Abdalla as a guest to discuss the role of the internet in Islam, and we recorded it in three series. After the recording on our way back, after a brief stop for lunch in Mr Biggs, while driving around Gidan Murtala round-about, he asked me a question, what is your plan, what would you like to be? I told him everything about myself, my thirst for knowledge and desire to be a university teacher.
From that point, Professor Abdalla made it a project to advise me, provide me with books, and engage my service in the different projects that he handles whether at Bayero University, for non-governmental organisations, state institutions etc. When I was writing my undergraduate project on the “historical development of the internet and its utilization in Africa with reference to Nigeria” he provided me with at least 90 percent of the materials for the project.
It was through him that I met several individuals at the intellectual, political and even international level. These include the likes of Dan Masanin Kano, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule, Malam Ibrahim Ado Kurawa, Malam Ibrahim Sheme, Professor Abubakar Rasheed, Professor Hamman Yola, Professor Abdurrashid Garba, Professor Saidu Babura, Professor Gidado Tahir, Professor Ibrahim Suleiman of ABU Zaria, Governor Attahiru Bafarawa, the late Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Muhammadu Maccido, the Emir of Zazzau, the late Talban Bauchi Dr Ibrahim Tahir, Wazirin Katsina Dr Sani Abubakar Lugga, Miss Gillian Belben, Merryl Wyn Davies, the author of Why do people hate America? (Along with Ziauddin Sardar), Professor Ziauddin Sardar, another accomplished author; Professor Graham Furniss, Prince Phillips and Queen Elizabeth during the Commonwealth summit in Abuja in December 2003 etc.
Sometimes he gave me assignments that I felt, were by far beyond my capacity to handle, when I hesitated, he would say “you can do it”. I can’t forget when in 2003, as a Youth Corp member, he asked me to travel alone from Kano, to go and convince a governor about a programme on Islam and the media to be held in his State. On another occasion, as a Graduate Assistant, he gave me the near impossible task of producing a conference paper on the contribution of Nana Asma’u, the daughter of Sheikh Usman Danfodio within three days, an area completely different from Mass Communication. Professor Abdallah was doing this to develop my capacity when I was between the ages of 23 and 25.
Throughout my studies in the United Kingdom, from masters to PhD, he supplied materials, worked to get assistance from the Kano State Scholarship Board for me, or called to advice on what I need to do to succeed. So when I heard about his appointment as a professor of media and cultural communication by Bayero University, Kano, on 30th January, 2013, it was a welcome development, first because I am aware of his contribution in this field, secondly, it is an area that require high caliber professors to develop, and nurture younger academics for the development of the field. But who is Professor Abdallah Uba Adamu? Join me next week for an update insha Allah.
22nd Rabi al Awwal, 1434
2nd February 2013

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