As Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, gears up to celebrate its golden jubilee on October 4, 2012, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Abdullahi Mustapha, in this interview with our AHURAKA ISAH, says that the university has substantially achieved its objectives. He also calls on its alumni to continue to support the institution so that it can rank among the best in the world.
Fifty years in the life of an individual is a great milestone worthy of celebration. What are the achievements the university really wants to celebrate? Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) which is adjudged the largest university in Nigeria and second largest in Africa, second only to Cairo University, Egypt, would attain 50 years of age by October 4. It was founded exactly on October 4, 1962, as the University of Northern Nigeria.
ABU operates two main campuses – Samaru and Kongo campus. The Samaru campus houses the administrative offices, sciences, social-sciences, arts and languages, education and research facilities. The Kongo campus hosts the Faculties of Law and Administration.
The Faculty of Administration consists of Accounting, Business Administration, Local Government and Development Studies and Public Administration Departments. Additionally, the university is responsible for a variety of other institutions and programmes at a number of other locations.
The university runs a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate programs. Besides, it also offers Associate Degrees and other vocational and remedial programmes. The university has a large medical programme with its own teaching Hospital, the ABU Teaching Hospital, which is one of the largest hospitals in Nigeria.
At the opening on October 4, 1962, thanks in part to absorbing existing institutions, ABU started with four faculties comprising 15 departments. However, students in all programmes numbered only 426. The challenges faced were enormous.
The university has announced that it would be celebrating its golden jubilee on October 4, barely a month from now. How is your preparations so far for this occasion? We commenced the preparation by setting up committees for various aspects of the occasion and these committees are all working round the clock. The various academic departments are also on ground to showcase their research achievements for the years of their existence.
We are distributing invitation letters to our alumni, general public, leaders within and outside Nigerians, to come and join us in marking our golden jubilee. We have an award committee that has already laid down the criteria for those to merit various awards that we shall dole out during the occasion.
What does your administration actually have in mind to achieve with this celebration? The key point in our celebration is the award of Ahmadu Bello golden trophies to some people who have distinguished themselves with their generous contributions towards the progress and development of this university.
The challenges of transforming universities in this country are a hard task. The bottom-line for the transformation or changing things or university is fund. With the lean resources at our disposal, we have had to prioritise our developmental strategies, because with almost 90 academic departments in the university, there is no way we can develop them at the same pace from such meagre resources.
This reminds one of your much talk of biotechnology and energy research centres. What are the level of progress in these centres and their ultimate uses in the country? ABU is the only university with the energy research centre aimed at researching into nuclear energy for electricity generation. With the commitment of the federal government towards adequate electricity production to cover the country, our energy research centre can readily come to hand.
So far, it is the only university that posses nuclear reactor and with adequate funding and commitment from the government, it is just a question of time to put electricity problem of the country to rest.
What can you say are the high points of the 50th anniversary celebration? One of the high points of the 50th anniversary celebration is the commissioning of the 30-kilometre campus wide fibre optic network with 10Gb Ethernet using high end devices that support Cisco’s Borderless technology.
The optic fibre campus network links the major campuses - Samaru, Kongo and Shika – on an intercampus 10Gb scalable backbone with 65+ locations enabled with a minimum of 2Gb uplink connectivity to faculties, halls of residence, digital centres, classes, libraries, laboratories, lecture halls and offices.
The new infrastructure will allow ABU to deliver Internet and Intranet access to over 40,000 students and staff in all its campuses and provide the ground for the university to facilitate e-Learning, online application processing and support multi-media communication services (video conferencing and VoIP) for staff and students.
This university can boast of the current vice president, eight serving state governors, CBN governors, GMD of the NNPC and so on as its alumni. How does the university intend to convert them into assets for the purpose of its developmental goals? I think, again, this is one of the virtue of Ahmadu Bello University. This is borne out of direct impact of teaching and research which goes with the aims and objectives of establishing the university. The university was set up primarily, among others, to develop man power needs of its immediate environment, that of the nation and the world as a whole.
The late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua studied chemistry here. Former Vice President Abubakar Atiku and the current Vice President Namadi Sambo passed through ABU. We also have eight serving state governors, current CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido, former and present GMD of NNPC, Mr. Austine Oniwon and Patrick Yakubu respectively, as alumni of ABU.
The eight serving state governors are Isa Yagudu (Bauchi), Umaru Tanko Al-makura (Nasarawa), Ibrahim Dankwabo (Gombe), Usman Saidu Nasamu Dangari (Kebbi), Patrick Yakowa (Kaduna), Ibrahim Geidam (Yobe), Ibrahim Shema (Katsina) and Danbaba Suntai (Taraba) as its alumni .
It is not just by accident that this university gave birth to these calibre of people in the society" it was all done to our human capital development teachings and researches. If all the alumni of ABU can indeed turn back to contribute to the development of their alma mata, I assure you that his university would indeed become one of the greatest and richest universities in the world.
What special message do you have for the ABU alumni? I wish the alumni to join us in the celebration because that would afford them the opportunity to observe the level of our infrastructural decay, the depleted or near absence of our research and teaching facilities.
They would be able to sincerely determine the level of assistance we need to replace and rehabilitate the teaching and research materials. We require their research to maintain our position, our teaching and research standard that laid their foundation for their greatness. Certainly, after 50 years, ABU needs adequate funds to replace and rehabilitate her infrastructure, teaching and research facilities.
We also know, all over the world, that great universities are those supported by their alumni. A clear example is Harvard University which is one of the richest universities in the world and receives $50 billion endowment fund mostly from its alumni.
Let me draw the attentions of our alumni that what we require from them is not just cash, but building infrastructure, teaching and research equipment they come to install or construct on their own.
The founder of BlackBerry is from Waterloo University and has donated over $250 million to that university so far. Here in Nigeria, the former group managing director of NNPC, Mr Austin Oniwon in conjunction with committee of friends built ultra modern ICT centre for ABU. I expect the rest of alumni of this university to emulate these ambassadors of their alma mata.
With such support, ABU would be transformed into one of the leading universities in the world. Our target is to compete favourably with Harvard and Oxford universities.