The death of former Vice Chancellor (VC) of Bayero University Kano (BUK), Prof. Ibrahim Khalil Umar, has been described as a vacuum that can’t be refilled within a short period.
The announcement of his death by his son, Farouk Ibrahim Umar, on Monday, had sent many people into mourning, especially the people of Kano State.
In addition to being a former vice chancellor of BUK, the late Prof. Umar had also set a record in being the first Nigerian to teach physics in that university, where he rose to become a professor and the university’s third vice chancellor between 1979 and 1986. He was also the sole administrator of the University of Technology, Minna.
Late Prof. Umar was born in Bichi Local Government Area of Kano State where he started his educational career at Elementary School, Bichi, after which he came to Kano Middle School, now known as Rumfa College, then proceeded to Barewa College in Zaria, Kaduna State.
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After Barewa College, the late Prof.Umar went to Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology which provides advanced education for people who finish secondary school where he obtained the qualification to go the university.
He got admitted into Ahmadu Bello University Zaria where he obtained his first degree. He later joined the services of the Ministry of Education of the then old Northern Nigeria where he taught in secondary school. He was initially posted to a secondary school in Okene, and after his return to Nigeria from the UK, where he attended some courses, he was posted to Advanced Teachers College, Zaria.
While he was in Zaria, the issue of state creation was finalised and people were posted to their states of origin and that was how he was posted to his state of origin, Kano State. He was first posted to Hadejia Secondary School and later transferred to Rumfa College. He later decided to go back for further studies.
He went for his masters’ degree programme in the US and after his return, he went to the UK for his PhD and after his return to Kano, he was posted to College of Advanced Studies. When Abdullahi Bayero College, now Bayero University, was established, he was transferred to the university’s faculty of science where he ended his working career.
However, aside from the university system, the late professor was associated with energy policy in Nigeria and also at international levels. He served as the Director General of the Energy Commission of Nigeria and represented the country at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and later became the chairman of that same agency.
Similarly, the late Professor Ibrahim served as the chairman of the Kano Elders Forum, one of the apex forums in the state in 2014.
In one of his interviews with Daily Trust, the late professor said he didn’t find it difficult while being the first Nigerian to teach physics in the university. According to him, teachers’ main concern then was to see that they had taught the students what they should be taught.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t find it any different from normal work. I had colleagues whom we worked together with and there was no problem at all. I and the white men were concerned about teaching our subjects and we were working as a team. We discussed at the departmental meetings what we should do, how to do it and we shared the ideas. So it didn’t make any difference what nationalities were involved,” he said.
As a young lecturer, late Ibrahim was known for his zeal to lecture as he had made it vividly clear that teaching is synonymous to parenting and when asked what challenges he had faced as a young lecturer in the university, he took people by surprise as he mentioned things that baffled people: “At that time because the university was very young, there was a problem of facilities and because funding was not all that buoyant at that time, it took time to get facilities required but we still had enough to be able to carry out normal teaching and we didn’t have any problem with number of students at that time because they were such that you could handle in the classroom.”
He was known for his quest in attaining sufficiency in indigenous teachers during his reign as a university VC and within a short period, he was able to stage a movement that brought on board more Nigerians as staff of the faculties and departments in the university and that has been regarded as one of his successes as a VC which is still being enjoyed.
Ever since the announcement of his death, condolences have been flowing from all sectors within and outside the state to condole his family and the people of Kano State.
Former Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Mohammed Sabo Nanono, described the late professor as a great, intelligent and quiet man who was a well-balanced man. “It is very difficult to find a man like the late professor these days. I have known him since 1968 when I was a student at Rumfa College. Even though he didn’t teach me there, we gradually built our relationship largely for our concern in Nigeria and in Kano. His views are always respected. Indeed it is a great loss, but death is inevitable. May Allah have mercy on his soul,” Nanono said.
A cousin to the late professor, Professor Ado Mukhtar Bichi, described the late former VC as humble, very caring when it comes to dealing with families and friends as well as being a religious person, adding that the academics will miss him, Kano will miss him as well as the whole country.
“As a former VC, you can see the uncountable number of people present during his funeral rites and most of these people are his students. I can say without any sense of contradiction that he was somebody whom everybody loved and respected as an elder statesman. He was highly trusted as he held no nepotism, no materialism in his life. He had dedicated his life to the services of Islam after his retirement; he had been instrumental to the establishment of some notable Friday mosques in the state,” the cousin said.
Similarly, the current VC of BUK, Professor Sagir Abbas, expressed sadness on the death of the former VC and condoled with the entire university community.
He described the late former VC as someone who had laid a good foundation during his stewardship as the head of the university and was very instrumental to the second phase of university’s development known today as the BUK new site campus
“We lost a father, a great scholar and somebody who had helped in building the Bayero University that we have today.Indeed his contributions to educational development in Nigeria will forever be remembered. May Allah forgive all his shortcomings,” prayed the VC.
Late Prof. Ibrahim Khalil Umar’s funeral prayer was conducted at Kofar Kudu and his body was since buried according to Islamic rites. May his soul rest in peace.
The son of the deceased, Umar Farouk Ibrahim, described the death of his father as an irreparable loss. He said his father believed in giving all his time and efforts towards bringing up his children in the best way religion and society prescribed.
According to him, the late professor never wanted to blow his trumpet as he did what he believed was right, adding that he never compromised the truth with any other thing. He was known for being simple and religious.
“We never lacked and yet we were able to get the best teaching and up-bringing any child would want. He was so reserved and gentle. Ironically it was after his death that we got to know about many good things that he had done to individuals, the community and society. He was a unique father for all of us; he has three of us as his children though we lost our elder brother. I will always appreciate my father for being the best father I had ever known. May his soul rest in Jannatul Firdausi,” Umar said.