Nothing was indeed put in place either in form of plans or preparations by authorities of Ahmadu Bello University to rejoice with Professor Ibrahim Garba who, on Monday, May 1, 2017 clocked two years in the saddle as Vice Chancellor of the premier institution. Professor Garba, easily a world-class scholar of geology, formally assumed office on May 4, 2015 after his predecessor, Professor Abdullahi Mustapha, handed over to him on April 30, 2015.
Understandably, the Vice Chancellor’s decision not to roll out a drum for celebration might simply be out of humility or probably because the past two years are too short a time to assess an administration statutorily billed to last five years. However, it will be uncharitable for some of us who keenly watch every unfolding development in the university not to bring to the knowledge of the reading public some of the laudable works Professor Garba is doing for this great citadel of learning.
Ahmadu Bello University, which has a good complement of international students and staff, has its own peculiar characteristics. Till date, it is such a huge institution that requires a leader with a strong academic background as well as a sound and broad administrative experience of the university system. Such leader must also show sufficient vision, moral courage and qualities of character that will assist him withstand all the strains and stresses of university governance, as clearly contained in a Government White Paper on Presidential Visitation Panel for the university 2000.
The university is widely regarded as the most cosmopolitan tertiary institution in Nigeria, both in terms of staff and student profiles. It has been established that every local government in Nigeria has students in the institution just as all states of the federation have a representative in the staff profile of the university. And beyond Nigeria, the institution is one of the greatest universities in the sub-Saharan Africa.
At present, the university has 13 faculties, 12 specialized institutes and centers, a school of postgraduate studies and 98 academic departments. In addition, it has a division of agricultural colleges, a school of basic and remedial studies, a secondary school, and a primary school. This is besides offering extensive and consultancy services which provide a variety of expertise to the university and the wider society.
Professor Garba, soon after he took over, made it loud and clear at any given forum that he would consolidate on the gains made by his predecessors. For example, he strived to ensure the university maintains its academic standard by establishing institutional linkages, exchanges, collaborative researches and mutual staff training agreements with some other local and international institutions in line with world best practice.
In the past two years, a good number of specialized institutions have presented themselves for partnership with the university in form of affiliations and collaborations. This is a result of his great concern for attainment of highest academic standards and achievements to be able to have a university true to its ideals and meaning in line with the vision and mission of ABU’s founding fathers.
Some of the institutions include Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology (NITT) which signed a memorandum of understanding with ABU to commence postgraduate diploma and masters in transport and logistics as well as Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) which has now collaborated with the university to introduce insurance courses at its department of business administration.
The university also signed research collaboration agreements with De Montfort University, Leicester; International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property and National Museums and Monuments; and Centre of Excellence in Reproductive Health Innovation (CERHI), Benin City. Equally, there is ongoing discussion with Robert Gordon University (RGU), UK, based on a visit in November, 2016 by the Vice Chancellor and Dean of Engineering, for collaborative development of a program in MSc Oil and Gas Engineering as well as joint delivery for prospective candidates.
When Professor Garba met the cost of electric power supply to the university community to be unsustainable, he undertook to diversify the energy sources to ensure sustainability as well as engendering flexibility in the energy supply to the university. He realized that renewable energy sources offered the best alternative to realize his twin ambition of delivering flexible as well as sustainable electric power supply to the university.
Consequently, a delegation from the university visited Hungary in May, 2016 where it examined the possibilities for adaptation of bio-energy plant based on existing facility in Hungary. Accordingly, it was agreed that ABU will establish a biogas plant to be based on the university’s wastewater treatment plant system, a bio-ethanol plant using industrial maize silage as raw material and a bio-ethanol and disinfectant manufacturing plant which is expected to provide an organic manure of 1133 tons per annum.
Professor Garba must be commended for the stability in running the university, even though there were occasional tough engagements with in-house unions, especially when some of their demands could not be met. The secret behind the sustained stability in the system stemmed from the Vice Chancellor’s high sense of responsibility and tremendous respect for the in-house unions. He would always and patiently have dialogue with the unions in trying to implement the university council’s decisions, an action that sometimes is not in tandem with definition of welfare, rights and privileges.
University governance is not without challenges. The Vice Chancellor, like all his colleagues all over the federation, faces the challenge of inadequate funding to cater for overhead costs and other strategic expenditure. The level of current capital allocation to the university is utterly inadequate to cater for routine needs and services, which would always give any Vice Chancellor some sleepless nights. Yet Garba kicks and dreams tall for ABU!
Umar is Faculty Officer, Faculty of Social Sciences, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria