It would require a whole Festschrift to capture the essence of Professor Bolaji Akinwande Akinyemi, who turns 80, today, Tuesday, January 4, 2022. Academic, author, public policy expert, distinguished Professor, man of letters, senior citizen, Professor Akinyemi is a Nigerian icon, one of the diamonds that continue to shine luminously in the Nigerian landscape and whose engagements with his country and the international community, through his writings, and policy interventions confirm his genius, humanism and excellence. In 1975, he was a 33-year old Political Science lecturer at the University of Ibadan when he was appointed as the Director-General of the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA,) Nigeria’s foreign policy think tank. Akinyemi brought not just youthful energy to the NIIA, he imbued the Institute with his exceptional brain power and intellection and left behind a legacy, upon which his successors, added their own blocks.
His reward was his retention in that position, over a period of eight years, by a total of three administrations: Murtala Muhammad, Olusegun Obasanjo and Shehu Shagari and his subsequent appointment as Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs by General Ibrahim Babangida. Akinyemi was a creative thinker coming up, at every turn with original ideas: the Concert of Medium Powers, the Black Bomb, Nigerian exceptionalism, the power school, and although many of his ideas were rigorously debated, he was never found wanting whenever he was dragged into the arena of intellectual pugilism. I recall his exchanges with the polemicist and poet, the inimitable Odia Ofeimun. Akinyemi argued for the authenticity of African identity and ideas, and the continent as a frontier for development. It was during his time as Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs that the Technical Aid Corps, (the TAC)) was conceived and established.
He has since through all seasons remained active in the public domain, an affirmation of his top credentials as a public intellectual, and as a symbol of how intellectuals can with the power of ideas forge a necessary link between the world of ideas and the world of action, between theory and praxis. In this regard, Akinyemi is a master of the art of tact, balance and ambidextrous navigation, as he cultivates the persona of an insider who is yet an outsider, a key player within the establishment at various times, and yet an activist for public good in defence of the masses. The former DG NIIA, and former Minister, during Nigeria’s turbulent years of transition from military rule to civilian rule, joined Nigeria’s Democratic Coalition and lent his voice openly to the struggle to save Nigeria. He remains fully engaged in public affairs, both locally and internationally, refusing to slow down. His capacity for work-life balance is also impressive.
In those days, he used to show up now and then at the Niteshift Coliseum, a night-club and entertainment centre, a stone-throw away from his Opebi residence, where he mingled with the young, and enjoyed the good life. He later joined us at The Guardian, on special invitation, as a Consultant to The Guardian Editorial Board. It was a pleasure working with him. These days, Professor Akinyemi has also been a major go-to person for us at Arise News TV for commentaries on international affairs. He never disappoints. Close to 50 years in the public arena, Professor Akinyemi has remained prodigious and intellectually formidable. I am tempted to say that they don’t make them like that anymore, but Professor Akinyemi himself would be the first to correct me on that score, because indeed what his generation has done is to inspire, amidst the rot that has enveloped Nigeria, a younger generation in academia and civil society, who continue to raise hopes about Nigeria’s future.
I have no doubts that Professor Bolaji Akinyemi is fully aware that there are implications to his attainment of the age of 80. I look forward to seeing him soon in his signature bow-tie and bespoke suit, to toast to his life and times and distinction. Happy Birthday, sir. Many Happy Returns.
Reuben Abati was former President Goodluck Jonathan Adviser on media and publicity
Nigeria: So rich, yet too poor to fund education
Over the last year, I have had few friends with the opinion that Nigeria is too poor to fund university education. But I am yet to be convinced. No one will see the lifestyle of the political class and believe that Nigeria is poor. You can’t be too poor to fund university but rich enough to be establishing new ones as constituency projects. I strongly believe that at the level we are now, education at all levels should be properly funded. The funding should not be a problem if we properly define our priorities.
You can’t be planning to use 305 billion naira for the election of the leaders for the people you cannot spend 305 billion naira to educate. ASUU was fighting for the release of 210 billion naira for the revitalisation of universities and FG insisted there is no money and that Nigeria is too poor to afford that. Meanwhile, we are rich enough to conduct the election of those leaders with 305 billion naira. Amazing!
The people will be counted in 2022 and about 177.33 billion naira is approved for that. Meanwhile, they can only afford 30 billion naira that was released with so much noise for the revitalisation of all public universities. The primary schools are in a sorry state, thanks to the state governors. Some state governors pay primary school teachers 30% of their salary (pre-minimum wage salary scale). Not enough funds to educate Nigerians but rich enough to count them with 177.33 billion naira.
Over the last year, Buhari added some new universities to the Jonathan’s TETFund universities. Some of the universities are the Federal University of Transportation Daura, Federal University of Agriculture, Zuru, Federal University of Health Science, Otukpo, etc. You can’t be too poor to fund the existing universities but rich enough to establish new ones.
When you watch the luxury lifestyle of the political office holders and family, it gets more difficult to convince someone that Nigeria cannot afford quality education for the people. Politics is such a lucrative business in Nigeria that every Nigerian wishes to get in. Every political office holder comes out much richer than he was before getting in, yet Nigeria is poor.
If Nigeria is actually damn broke, nobody will seek political offices. But they make elections a do-or-die affair, invest a lot of money with a hope for a good return on their investment and we are told Nigeria is broke. Nigerians in diaspora, a place where every Nigerian wish to run to, even lobby for political appointments.
Public University education is not a business venture and is not registered as one. It is an institution to train a skilled workforce for the nation and create new ideas and knowledge. But universities have been urged to improve on their IGR. Some people that are as poor as me or even poorer believe that FG cannot afford to fund the universities but universities should generate IGR but not from the students.
Quality Undergraduate programs are not charity training. It’s either the government pays for it as it’s done in Scandinavian countries or the students pay for it through a government-supported loan scheme as it’s done in the UK. Universities are not meant to set up industries to make money to fund their UG programs. If you agree that the government is too poor to fund it, the students will eventually pay (through parents or bank loans) for it and we are getting there very soon.
As the campaign for IGR intensified in public universities established to develop a skilled workforce for the nation, FG continue to introduce more measures to starve public universities of funds. But nobody is talking about IGR from the numerous research agencies and centres established by FG nationwide. Centre for Automotive Design and Development (CADD) produced prototype tricycles in the 90s while it was located in ABU. They have not been able to commercialise any vehicle after then. They have an annual budget. Meanwhile, you can see our roads littered with hundreds of imported tricycles (keke) from India. Imagine if we were serious and purposeful, and those Keke are produced by CADD in Nigeria.
There is the Biotechnology Development Agency with Bioresource Development Centres nationwide. The mandate is to carry out “well-focused” research and development in biotechnology in priority areas of food and agriculture, health, industry, environment, and other strategic sectors for national development. Well, go to the centres to see their “bioresource” activities and their IGR. They receive a budgetary allocation every year.
We have Research Institutes for chemical technology, Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure with subsidiaries, Institute of medical research, etc. Not sure of their outputs and products they have commercialised at these centres since establishment and their IGR. Not sure how much they are funded or they are just like the universities without research funds. But unlike the universities, IGR is not demanded from them. This is possibly because they don’t make a noise like ASUU.
Too poor to fund research but rich enough to establish all sorts of nonfunctional independent research institutions across the country. One begins to wonder the motive behind the establishment of these numerous “unproductive” supposed “research centres/Institutes” with annual budgetary allocations.
Let’s have a look at a research centre in Norway that grows from the university to become one of Europe’s largest independent research organisations.
The Norwegian Institute of Technology (NTH) established SINTEF in 1950. It is a multidisciplinary research outfit with a mission to provide solutions to the industries. NTH later merged into the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and SINTEF became an arm of NTNU. The oil companies and other industries were encouraged by the government to do business with SINTEF.
SINTEF later transformed into an independent research organisation in 2008 with 6 institutes: SINTEF Community, SINTEF Digital, SINTEF Energy Research, SINTEF Industry, SINTEF Manufacturing, and SINTEF Ocean. They shop for competent researchers from around the world to work for them. They have around 2000 employees from 75 countries. Their researches are in Health, Technology and society, Oil and energy, ICT, Materials and chemistry, Construction, and Marine Science.
Despite its independence, SINTEF maintained its close collaboration with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and the University of Oslo without conflict of interests. Some of the SINTEF Institutes are located close to the relevant department in the universities. For example, SINTEF Energy Research is sharing a wall with the Department of Electric Power Engineering of NTNU.
A part of SINTEF’s social mission is the commercialisation of research results. Their research outputs gave birth to about 19 companies in Norway. SINTEF has 2,500 industrial partners, and a turnover of about €353M. Over 90% of its income is through bilateral industrial research contracts and participation in European or national research projects.
That is a brief on a research organisation that is established as a public institution with lessons to learn. They would not have been able to achieve all that if their employment is not on competence but who you know. Most of our research agencies and subsidiaries are established as independent institutions with a weak link with the universities and zero links with the industries.
Why are ours different? Why are these Agencies and their subsidiaries established? What interests are they serving? With the annual budgetary allocations over these years, what is the technological and economic contribution of these numerous research centres? What is their IGR? How much are they generating from their research to support their activities?
We travel to all these countries where things are working. We saw, returned and instead of making efforts to replicate the system we have seen out there, we choose to focus on making money out of our system and leave it poor. Just imagine if we had managed our Research Agencies/Institutes the way Norwegians are running SINTEF. Imagine if our universities and other institutions are handled the way the Norwegian government is handling theirs.
It appears most of our institutions were not established to succeed but to serve some interests. You can’t be too rich to establish institutions without a set key performance indicator to measure productivity and output. Few guys will possibly make some money out of it and it ends there. Meanwhile, they are too poor to fund public universities and tirelessly working towards adding the universities to the list of our institutions that must not work. Unfortunately, Nigeria cannot work without making these institutions to work. So, who will make these systems work, and who will save the rich but poor Nigeria?
We need to properly define our priorities. We can’t keep doing politics with critical sectors like education and health sectors and expect a different result. You can’t litter the country with research agencies that are not productive and expect development. They should be streamlined and there should be a mandatory link between such centres and the nearby universities.
You can’t keep establishing more tertiary institutions when the existing ones are not properly funded. It makes no sense to be rich enough to establish more public institutions but claim to be so poor to inject the necessary funds to sustain them and make them purposeful. Focus on the existing ones and make them world-class and you will see the flow of revenue from forex to sustain it.
We need re-orientation. We (the leaders and the followers) need attitudinal change towards public institutions. We need to kill the evil of greed and self-centredness that is destroying the country and dragging Nigeria backward.
Meanwhile, on a lighter note, instead of spending N305 billion on elections in 2023 that may most likely be rigged, I think we should consider begging President Buhari, as a man of “integrity”, to appoint his successor, the NASS members, the governors, etc., and save the 305 billion naira for education.
Amoka is a Lecturer in the Department Of Physics Ahmadu Bello University Zaria Road
Sheikh Ahmad Muhammad Ibrahim Bamba: A tribute
By Professor Salisu Shehu
My first sight of Dr. Ahmad Bamba was 37 years ago in 1984 in the Ummah Mosque at the Old
Campus, Bayero University Kano where I just got registered as a pre-degree student.
Although the Central Mosque in Bayero University Kano would always be the first sight of any visitor or newly arriving student to the university, having been strategically located near the Main Gate, the Ummah Mosque may be the first place of worship for the new resident (on campus) student because of its location between the two major and oldest faculties of the university – the Faculty of Arts and Islamic Studies (FAIS) and the Faculty of Education. Because of its lively nature and vibrancy – series of nasihas, ta’alims, Qur’anic study circles and Tajweed, Arabic classes and even sometimes, very hot intra-faith dialogues and debates – Ummah Mosque, therefore, would always easily capture every newly arriving young Muslim student.
It was quite rare to see non-students’ faces at the Ummah Mosque except during Zuhr and Asr prayers when some visitors and lecturers might be around to join the congregation. There was however, a non- student face that was very familiar in the mosque most especially, during Zuhr prayer and seldom during Maghrib; that was Dr. Ahmad Muhammad Ibrahim Bamba’s. He would certainly be the first lecturer students that used to regularly attend congregational prayer in Ummah Mosque would be familiar with because of his regular presence.
My first countenance of Dr. Ahmad in mosque reminded me of my first IRK teacher at Teachers College – Sheikh Yahya Abdul’Azeez – a fully bearded Pakistani Sheikh. On my first sight of Sheikh Dr. Ahmad in Ummah Mosque the memories of Sheikh Abdul’Azeez suddenly came back to my mind. More strikingly however, the sights of the two gentlemen present to the heart a mien of piety that sometimes made you think of the countenances of the Sahaba, or so we used to think as young people that still had some elements of naivety in our thoughts.
Our admiration of Sheikh Dr. Ahmad was ceaseless whenever he came and prayed with us in Ummah Mosque and left. But our interaction with him was no more than the salaam and typically, he would wave at you and make his way out or extend his hand for a shake when you happen to be close enough to him. The first time I had a conversation with him or heard him speak to me was when I was appointed as an imam in the mosque.
With the vestiges of adolescent exuberance and obsession for fashionable and smart appearance, my wardrobe had more of the fashionable shirts and trousers of the time (TOBI shirts/jeans and HARA trousers) than kaftans. Invariably, therefore, the imam in me would most of the time lead prayers in the said kinds of fashionable shirts and trousers in Ummah Mosque. I led the Maghrib prayer one day. After the prayer, Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Bamba called me, held my hand and led the way outside the mosque. In his typical gentle manner and way he said, “Liman, yaya kokari”. I replied, “Alhamdulillah”, with a mixture of exciting and nervous mien. He then said to me, “Toh liman ga karatu mai kyau, amma kuma kullum ana mana Sallah kai babu hula?” With a sigh of relief, I said , “Na Gode Mallam, insha Allah, za a gyara.”. It was both an awesome and joyful moment
for me. But what was most instructive was the fact that that simple and gentle counsel not only made me appreciate that I was no longer just an ordinary student on campus but I was treading the path of spiritual leaders, it also changed my life in terms of personal disposition and appearance on campus and beyond.
A second experience with Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Bamba made me a witness to his magnanimity. It was in the case of attending his Hadith class for students offering Islamic Studies as Special Honours. I was not one, so I could not register for that course. I offered Islamic Studies as a subsidiary course but I was interested in attending his special or rather advanced Hadith class. All my friends and classmates were encouraging me to just enter the class and that they were sure Malam would not send me out. On the second or third lecture day, I joined some of these mates. I sat in the class with some bit of nervousness. Sheikh entered the class, conducted his lesson and alhamdulillah, he did not send me out. He definitely saw me, and he definitely knew that I was not duly registered for that course because it was a small class of less than 15 students. By virtue of my imamship in Ummah Mosque, I was already a familiar face to him. With a deep sense of appreciation, I must say that, that opportunity was my first experience with not only some of the basic and essential rudiments of Ilm al-Hadith but was also the greatest inspiration for deeper and more advanced study of the field.
After graduation in 1988, I got intellectually and personally reconnected with him when I returned to Bayero University Kano in 1991 to pursue my Master’s degree. That was the year Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Bamba started his very awesome, weekly/weekend Hadith Ta’alim sessions, beginning with Sahih al-Bukhari in the BUK Central Mosque, a teaching-cum- admonishment exercise that he continued to conduct uninterruptedly with a great sense of passion, vigour, consistency and rare faith and commitment for 30 years.
In the Hadith Ta’alim sessions, we did not only learn the texts of the Hadiths and elements of Mastalahul Hadith but we also learnt to be much more committed to Sunnah in terms of faith and practice. Quite instructively also, we learnt lots and lots and lots of the Aqwal (wise or sayings) of the salafs, many aspects of Usul al-Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence), Qaw’id al- Fiqh (Jurisprudential principles and maxims) and many Islamic religious and Jahiliyyah poetries (Qasa’id and Shu’ara’ al-Jahiliyyah).
Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Bamba did not only contribute to the knowledge of Hadith through the Ta’alim sessions, he also contributed to it through authorship. Within the first three years after the commencement of the Sahih al Bukhari lessons, one of his very scholarly Hadith works was released was his Takhreej and Tahqeeq work on Imam al- Bukhari’s “Juz al-Qira’ah Khalf al-Imam.
For Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Bamba, it was a life well spent. Thirty solid years of uninterrupted teaching of the Hadiths of the Prophet (s.a.w) was not just a monumental intellectual and scholarly contribution but evidence of true love of and for our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w).
The death of our most honourable Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Muhammad Ibrahim Bamba is certainly a tragic loss to the world of knowledge and Da’awah.
Prof Shehu is the Vice Chancellor, Al- Istiqama University, Sumaila, Kano State
Bashir Tofa: The Saint Goes Home
By Dr. Aliyu Usman Tilde
While I was still in the fold of my blanket this morning, I was unprepared for the sad story of the departure of one of the finest souls that lived among Nigerians. HRH, Muhammadu Sanusi II broke to a group I belong the news that Alhaji Bashir Tofa died last night. I abandoned the idea of leaving the bed and prepared to embrace the approaching sadness that will possess my soul, turn my heart heavy and throw it into the abyss of the extraordinary sadness which typifies the loss of a dear one.
The Reception in Heaven
The angels must have been busy all day preparing a grand reception for the homecoming of this saint. The heavens, adorned with stars that lit every corner and layer of their galaxies, were in perfect state of readiness when his soul left our filthy planet—where it was imprisoned for nearly seventy years—to the station of majesty, in the company of angels who carried it to the presence of the Most High. The tables, the rivers, the fountains, the fruits and the hur, must be rushing to attend to a soul which served so many poor here on earth for decades and cared so much for us and our future. “The reward goodness is goodness.”
Saints are Different
Here on earth, the sadness of his loss overtakes us as we commit his body to the earth. We will grieve over his loss and reminisce on his abundant virtues. He was a life well lived; its replacement difficult to find as few saints live on earth. I have met only few like him among our elders who not only took our decay seriously but worked tirelessly to treat it all their life. His dedication to the larger Nigeria and his immediate society is manifest even at first meeting and its depth increased with every contact. He was the kind of elders one would wish to meet every day, tapping from their experience, sharing their spirit and drinking from their fountain of knowledge.
That was the takeaway of my first meeting with him at his house at Gandu in Kano in 2016. He admired my rantings in the newspapers sixteen years earlier; then my adventure into poetry persuaded him to reach out to me. He injected, like no other, in me the impetus to compose more since I “shocked” him with Ta’aziyyar Abubakar Ladan Zaria and he added more doses with each composition. He was the oxygen that fed the flame of my verse until the very last one I sent him – Dare Sahibina and Lambar Yabo. The poems that many others greeted with envy, he invigorated with fruitful praises. Such are saints. They act differently.
Malam Bashir did not sit to lament. He did everything his body and soul could permit. He formed and joined unions and organizations for the advancement of his society including politics which he played without the greed of the hungry or the flamboyance of the elite but with the purpose of the reformer. While politicians abhor reforms that check their delinquency, our saint inspired it with his soul that was pure and focussed on heavenly values. Where others wanted you to leave, he encouraged you to stay. Saints are different.
One can easily say that the fate of this country would have been different had he won the June 12 election in 1993. May be the election would not have been cancelled and we would not have walked the disastrous path of the regimes that superintended the unabated failure of the Nigerian State in the following three decades. But it is just unfortunate that the default setting of this world is for we fools to be the majority and when we are in power or called upon to elect a leader, our logarithm prefers our kind over the saint whom we often despise, fear or envy. The result of that permutation is the failed Nigerian state of today.
Nigerians will be counting the virtues of that Saint today. The earliest I read was the one that accompanied the news from Muhammadu Sanusi II. He said: “He was the last man standing for sanity and the protection of Kano and its heritage.”
My indefatigable sister, Hauwa Umar Aliyu Birniwa, said, with a broken heart:
“Personally, I testified that Alh Bashir Tofa is a good, kind and one of the MOST generous person I’ve met in my life. One needs to have a glimpse of his private life then will know who and how generous Alh Bashir Tofa was. He always had a store in his residence that is stocked with atampa (ankara) and materials (Yadi) that is being sown and distributed to orphans and the needy. The tailors are like permanent staff as that was what they do all year round…. I have personally collected more than a thousand sets of those clothes and distributed them to the needy. He has been sponsoring health outreach activities. I can testify that during one of such services he gave me slots for people in my rural communities in Birniwa LGA, Jigawa State. He was also an Intellectual. I have most of his written work on different thematic issues. I think I have more than 15 copies of his books that he wrote on different things from science, social sciences to fiction.”
While other will remember him for different things, as a conclusion, I reproduce here a synopsis for a poem he wanted me to compose which portrays his passion for peace and progress of his society. It came after listening to the last two compositions I sent him, which I mentioned above:
“Brilliant. How I wish you would compose a 3-minute poem which will draw the attention of Boko Haram, bandits and leaders on the following:
“1. The danger of terrorism, killings and kidnapping of people and looting their wealth. They should understand that there is judgement tomorrow.
“2. Leaders should desist from playing with the trust of power which God has put in their hands. They should know that there is judgement both in this world and in the hereafter.
“3. That God may come to our rescue, other people should be seeking the forgiveness of God change their bad habits. People should organize themselves and help one another in guarding their borders and know that government cannot do everything. Etc.”
It is a shame that I could not compose anything since that chat and he did not live to see me fulfil his wish.
In a state of sadness but with lots of gratitude to God for a life well spent, we pray that may the soul of our saint rest in perfect peace, in the Heaven high above. My sincere condolences to his wonderful family and the great people of Kano. Kanawa, ku dau hakuri.
إِنَّ ٱلۡمُتَّقِینَ فِی جَنَّـٰٰتࣲ ونهر. فِی مَقۡعَدِ صِدۡقٍ عِندَ مَلِیكࣲ مُّقۡتَدِرِۭ
“The pious will dwell among gardens and rivers, firmly established in the favour of a Mighty King.”
Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
3 January, 2022
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