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History, the historian and intellectual honesty: A tribute to Prof Haruna Wakili

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Prof Haruna Wakili

Kabiru Haruna Isa, PhD

“Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it”~Haruki Murakami

It was in January, 2020 when ASUU-Chairman, Bayero University, Kano (BUK) branch informed me of the ailing condition of Professor Haruna Wakili.

As a good tradition of the branch, whenever any of its members is sick, members of the executive council (EXCO) will pay them a visit to show empathy.

I was part of the ASUU team that visited Wakili just before he embarked on his medical trip to India.

While in India, I, and of course my colleagues, would occasionally send him goodwill messages which, to our delight, he replied giving us hope that he was responding to treatment.

BUK DVC dies at 60

I was away in Katsina last week Monday when I received a call from my HOD, Prof Dalha Waziri, informing me of the return of Wakili to Nigeria.

He also told me that there was a plan to visit him on Wednesday, at the National Hospital, Abuja.

I could not resist such an opportunity, stressed as I was.

We therefore left Kano on Wednesday 17 June and arrived Abuja on the same day, braving the dilapidated condition of the Kano-Abuja road and the general insecurity now associated with travel within Nigeria.

When we entered his hospital room, my hope to see him in an improved condition dissipated immediately.

I saw him covered on the sickbed that was to be his deathbed and he couldn’t know we were there as he had gone far in the journey that turned out to be his last.

Three days later, it was on a ‘dark and unforgettable Saturday’, the 20th of June, I received a traumatizing call from his niece confirming my worst fear that he had died.

It wasn’t unexpected, though.

An inspiring teacher

Prof Wakili was my teacher and a colleague at the Department of History, BUK.

My first contact with him was when I was admitted through direct entry into BUK to study BA History.

He was the then Acting Director, before he was subsequently confirmed as the substantive Director, of the Centre for Democratic Research and Training, Mambayya House (later rechristened the Mambayya House, Center for Democratic Studies).

The undergraduate students in our Department, especially those who were in level III, were narrating different stories about his personality, the courses he taught and his teaching methods.

I registered with his course, HIS3308 Comparative Historical Methodology, which was a core course that all students majoring in History must take.

He introduced us to advanced historical methodology and the new trends of inter-disciplinarity, multi-disciplinarity and cross-disciplinarity.

More importantly, he made us to appreciate, grasp, love and value scholarly pursuits, the practice of history and the historical enterprise.

He made sure that his students worked assiduously and diligently to understand their subject matter and the role and relevance of history to individual, family unit, society, state formation, nation building and human development.

He used history class to instill self-respect and self-pride in his students and always encouraged them to never settle for less or accept the position of inferiority in the face of parasitic commercialization and commodification of university education.

I remember his intellectual and historical pontification whenever he was on the podium.

He always tried to justify that history was the queen of all disciplines on the account of its centrality to all fields of study.

No discipline can do without history; and any society that ignores history does so at its own peril; it is the be-all and end-all of human existence, functional operation of university education and knowledge production.

On intellectual honesty

In addition to the above, and at a closer level, Professor Wakili was my BA dissertation advisor when I was in level IV.

I vividly remember my first meeting with him.

He appeared serious, as was characteristic of him, and briefed me about his personal principles and work/research ethics.

One of the important issues raised that I will never forget was the need for any student of history, aspiring to become a historian, to suppress primordial sentiment and at the same time to always imbibe/symbolize intellectual honesty.

There was arguably, nothing within the four walls of university that gave him pleasure like intellectual discourse, scholarly disputation, research, identification and nurturing of talents.

He had the patience of sparing his precious time to respond to vexed questions of his supervisees.

In one of my subsequent encounters with him as my supervisor I asked him to shed light on what he meant by intellectual honesty. He responded in a most exquisite and philosophical way.

He explained that it was all about being truthful and sincere about the past, reporting what actually happened and acknowledging your sources as accurately as possible.

He was fond of quoting Samuel Eliot Morrison thus: “no person without an inherent loyalty to truth, a high degree of intellectual honesty, and a sense of balance, can be a great or even a good historian”.

A passion for administration

Professor Wakili was adamant and uncompromising when it came to academic standard and excellence.

He always gave the best and expected nothing less in return.

He persistently emphasized that his students had to conduct original research and at the same time drew their attention to the gravity of the crime of plagiarism.

He was generous with his collections and lent his rare books to his students.

He engaged his students and prodded them to think rationally and critically.

He had passion for administration and recorded huge success as a Director of Mambayya House.

This success catapulted him to the position of the commissioner for education in home state, Jigawa State, where he midwifed the establishment of the state owned Sule Lamido University, Kafin Hausa.

After serving as a commissioner, he was subsequently appointed as the Deputy Vice Chancellor (administration) in BUK, the position he held up to the time of his death on 20th June, 2020, at the age of sixty.

I will conclude with the words of American philosopher and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, “it is not the length of life, but the depth of life”.

The impact he made on the university system, education sector in Jigawa state and young academics in Nigeria will ever serve as memorials and ‘depth of his life’.

May Allah have mercy on his soul.

Kabiru Haruna Isa, PhD teaches at the Department of History, Bayero University Kano.

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Unusual signs may emerge on Laylatul Qadr – Alakarmawi

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Sheikh Muhammad Nazifi Alkarmawi

Nasiru Yusuf

A renowned Islamic scholar in Kano Sheikh Muhammad Nazifi Alkarmawi said it is sometimes possible to witness unusual signs on Laylatul Qadr.

Kano Focus reports that Sheikh Alkarmawi revealed this while delivering his Friday sermon.

He said Laylatul Qadr is one of the most sacred nights in Islam found in the last ten days of Ramadan.

According to him it is sometimes possible to witness unusual signs on the night.

Some of the signs highlighted by the Imam is the night is serene, quiet and shining where the temperature is neither hot nor cold and the moon shines clearly.

Sheikh Alkarmawi said Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him used to double effort in the last ten days of Ramadan aimed at witnessing the night.

He described as a weak a narration wich declared twenty seventh night of Ramadan as Laylatul Qadr, and urged adherents to seek the night in the last ten days of the holy month.

On the recommended acts in the night, Sheikh Muhammad Nazifi Alkarmawi cited a hadith narrated by Nana Aisha which prophet taught Muslims to recite ‘Allahumma innaka afuwun, tuhibbul afwa, fa’afu anna.

He also admonished faithful on supplication, forgiveness, upholding good deeds and assisting the needy.

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Opinion

Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu at 65

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Professor Abdalla Adamu

By Ibrahim Sheme

On this day, April 25, the immediate past Vice-Chancellor of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu, clocked 65 years.

He was the VC of NOUN from 2016 to February 11, 2021. When his tenure ended, he returned to his former duty post at Bayero University, Kano, but then took sabbatical work as Visitor at Kaduna State University (KASU), Kaduna, on March 1, this year.

Born in Kano City on April 25, 1956, Adamu is unarguably one of the leading academic lights in Nigeria. He obtained a professorship each in Science Education and in Media and Cultural Communication, both from Bayero University, in 1997 and 2012 respectively. Indeed, he is one of very few academics in the country to have attained the feat of a double professorship.

Adamu is an international scholar, having taught media and science education courses in many Nigerian universities and around the world, including serving as a European Union Visiting Professor at University of Warsaw, Poland, in 2012, visiting professor, Rutgers University, New Jersey, and visiting professor, University of Florida in 2010. He was also Fulbright African Senior Research Scholar in 1991.

One other remarkable achievement he recorded was the development of ‘hooked’ Hausa language character font sets (ɓ Ɓ ɗ Ɗ ƙ Ƙ), which were not present at the advent of the Internet. The emergence of these fonts, which he created as part of his various extracurricular activities, has helped many authors, publishers, scholars, students and ordinary users in conveying the Hausa language in a way that it should be written.

Two years ago, on a day like this, I penned a birthday tribute to Professor Adamu to help celebrate his 63rd anniversary. In that write-up I did not dwell on his unfolding accomplishments at NOUN in the area of infrastructural development of the university because others had done so already. Instead, I emphasised on the then VC’s human relation, which I have always found unique. And I wrote: “On that score Prof. Abdalla has remained the same person I have known for about two decades – easy-going, humorous and understanding towards all. I think this essence is a great contributory factor to the achievements he is making as a leader and chief executive.

“His approachability is rare. I know chief executives who are ‘feared’ – and consequently loathed – by those working under them because of their stiffness and unbendability. Some, you strictly need an appointment to see them, and their secretaries become lords because they emulate the ‘man inside’.  Not Baba Prof (as we used to call him). He runs an open door policy, with a  secretary (Esther) just as approachable and nice as he is.

“Once you get into his office, you immediately feel at home. He has a joke for everyone. You will never find him mirthless or sad as if the whole world rests on his shoulders. If it is lunch-time, he offers you his food.

“That sense of humanity, for me, are as important as the infrastructure he is putting on ground at NOUN. That sensibility, plus the infrastructure and the policy transformation, will no doubt count as his best legacies when his tenure ends in February, 2021.”

I daresay many at NOUN would remember him for such virtue. Happily, his successor as VC, Professor Olufemi A. Peters, is another approachable chief executive who doesn’t put on airs. Even though the two men do not necessarily share the same character traits, one can say there are several points of convergence that one can easily point at – but that is a story for another day.

Meanwhile, I’d like to use this opportunity to wish Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu happy birthday and many happy returns.

Sheme is the Director, media and publicity at National Open University of Nigeria, Abuja

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Opinion

Remembering Ja’afar Mahmud Adam

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Na-Allah Mohammed Zagga

Sheikh Ja’afar foresaw the imminent monster called Boko Haram, but was brutally silenced by the assassins bullets!

Today marks the 14th Anniversary of the assassination  Sheikh Ja’afar Mahmud Adam, who was fatally shot by yet to be identified gunmen on April 13, 2007. His death was like a defoliation of the tallest tree in the forest of knowledge. He was one of the greatest preachers that ever lived; he was a scholar par excellence. In fact, he defies all the superlatives that you can ever find in  the dictionary.

Sheikh Ja’afar Mahmud Adam was not only famous for his erudition, but also for his amazing ability to foresee an imminent danger(what today becomes known as Boko Haram). He posed the most potent intellectual challenge to the outlandish and poisonous extremist ideas of Muhammad Yusuf, the notorious Boko Haram founder. He advised Yusuf, his former student, to renounce those dangerous ideas and apologize to his blind followers for misleading them.

Caught between ego and doing the right thing, Muhammad Yusuf rejected the advice because he didn’t want to lose face by admitting to his brainwashed followers that he was wrong. The rest is history. We are today paying heavily for his stubborn resistance to reason. His poisonous ideas have so deeply settled in the hearts and minds of his credulous Boko Haram  followers that they thought God is on their side and that  any Muslim  who opposes their violent extremism is automatically an infidel or an enemy.

Sheikh Ja’afar Mahmud Adam was thus vindicated; the grave danger he foresaw is now consuming us, destroying lives, schools and disrupting our social and economic life. Since 2009, more than 15,000 lives were destroyed by the Boko Haram terrorism. Because extremism paralyses a man’s capacity to think and reason, the terrorists are not even perturbed by the consequences of their atrocities, let alone give a moment’s thought to compassion and humanity.

I won’t challenge anyone who thinks Boko Haram had a hand in Adam’s death because putting two and two together, it is impossible not to reach that conclusion. Because of their extreme brutality, taking out a scholar who represented the greatest intellectual challenge to their poisonous ideas is not beyond them.

May the soul Adam continue to rest in peace! May Allah  forgive his shortcomings and eternally  reward his great deeds! Amin!

NOTE: I originally wrote this tribute to Sheikh Jafar Adam on April 13, 2018. As we mark the 14th Anniversary of his dastardly assassination today, I find it worthy to reproduce the tribute. He was an extraordinary scholar that deserves such honour.

Na-Allah Mohammed Zagga is a media consultant at Atiku media organization

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