UniAbuja: History and Yellow Journalism
Dr Kwashicondo Agber's article captioned University of Abuja: Embarrassing Presence In The Federal Capital Territory in the 7AM News Extra Newspaper of febuary 28- march 7th 2011 was a piece of typical jaundiced journalism.TheA author traced the
developmental failure of the university of Abuja's successive Vice Chancellors, From Prof Isa Mohammed to Prof Adelabu. While diagnosing the sundry problems of the University, he devoted a paragraph or so of his assessment to each successive Vice Chancellor, but two lengthy paragraphs to Prof Nuhu Yaqub, the immediate past Vice Chancellor, and severely blamed his tenure for the inability of the university to make progress. It was obvious from the slant of the article, that the main target of his piece is the immediate past vice chancellor.
For those who were not opportuned to read the publication, the high point of the writer's grouse runs thus; 'Prof Nuhu Omeiza Yaqub came to the University of Abuja from Usmann Dan Fodio University of all places with a mindset; the mindset of the average Nigerian leader that whatever legacy your predecessor left behind is bad. Given this erroneous vision, he…… went on with the systematic destruction of whatever academic structures the university had built up over the years' One is shocked by this kind of warped sentiment, considering the literal and metaphoric implication of 'systematic destruction'. Not only is it libelous but also laughable, especially coming from a teacher of media arts. The writer's claim that Nuhu Yaqub stupendous achievement was the systematic destruction of the university is an absurd logic, standing the truth on its head. However, Dr Agber's sentimental outburst was understandable. The writer is one of the victims of Nuhu Yaqub's reform. He was then the Head of the Department of Theatre Art, but parading a Doctorate Degree in History. The then Vice Chancellor, Prof Nuhu Yaqub, considered that situation as an assault on established academic tradition. As part of quality control measures which the writer sees as 'systematic destruction' of academic structures from the past, Prof Yaqub directed that any staff that does not possess the required qualification in his discipline will not go beyond the rank of senior lecturer. As a result of this, few lecturers like Agber were made to commence relevant doctoral programme in their area of teaching. This professional refocusing which ordinarily should be a source of encouragement to all serious minded scholars, lies at the heart of Agber's rampaging rhetoric and disaffection with the vice chancellor. Development is a qualitative improvement in the lives of the people. It is the qualitative character of such improvement that distinguishes development from growth. If there is anything that distinguishes the immediate past vice chancellor from other administrators before him, it was his development drive, vision and penchant for academic excellence. I remembered suggesting to him some few months to the completion of his tenure to constitute an editorial team to document his stewardship, but his reply was that 'my works will speak for me'. He could not imagined that we have academic who take solace in distorting history and labelling white as black. University of Abuja came into existence in 1988, and was at best a 'glorified secondary school' before the advent of Prof Nuhu Yaqub. Little or nothing was dignifying especially in the area of physical structures. Corruption of all sorts was rampant; admission racketeering was highly pronounced; primordial sentiments to a large extent dictated admission and staff recruitment process. The university operated a caste and closed system. Academic culture was on a low profile as activities meant to improve scholarship were hardly organized.
Bearing this in mind, Prof Nuhu Yaqub came on board with a vision to change the face of the University. He came with the mindset of transforming the University by improving on his predecessor's achievement and initiated new ideas. He set for himself the goal of moving the University to its permanent site within his short stay. This, he achieved before he left. Starting from physical development of the University, Prof Yaqub inherited a mini campus which many regard as a 'glorified primary school', including a mere entrance gate at the permanent site. In line with the directives placed on the University by the NUC that no new structure should spring up in the mini-campus, he embarked on revenue generation drive to address the crisis of infrastructural development. Within a year, he was able to actualize some of this laudable vision of physical development.
In addition to the completion of the two hostels at the permanent site, which he inherited at the foundation level, Prof Yaqub also built the first phase of the Faculty of Arts, constructed 15 kilometer road network within the main campus, facilitated water supply from Usuma dam to the new site and successfully completed the sick bay which was donated by the Kogi State Governor - Alh. Ibrahim Idris. Other projects started and completed or almost completed by this astute university administrator includes; the university printing press, the administrative building, the entrepreneurship building which was donated by the First Bank of Nigeria, 1st phase of the Faculty of Science, the convocation square, the AFRI HUB computer centre, the ETF Indoor theatre, the University library (60% completed); Faculty of Engineering (50% completed); Faculty of Agriculture (almost competed), Centre for Distance Learning building (almost completed), Faculty of Social Science, Faculty of Management and Veterinary building. Yet, to Dr Agber, this is 'systematic destruction'. What really is the meaning of destruction? By January, 2009 the Faculty of Arts complex was completed and movement of staff and students has since been effected. This historic movement to the permanent site, to Agber was hurriedly done. He needs to pay a visit to University of Jos main campus and see what was on ground in their permanent site after 12 years of relocation. Most of the facilities needed at the new site were 70% available, and the movement also decongested the mini-campus and created enough room for office accommodation for staff and lecture halls for students. Again, is this a 'systematic destruction' of the Faculty of Arts as an academic structure? Prof Yaqub administration did not limit the development to the new site, he gave the structure at the mini-campus, staff quarters, students hostels and Distance learning centre a face lift. A number of these projects executed by his administration for the welfare of staff and students include, among others, (i) The purchase and installation of a new 1000 KVA Generator(ii) Construction and furnishing of the law library(iii) VSAT Internet facility (iv) Water supply scheme funded by NDIC (v) Acquisition of water tankers, fire engine and installation of an overhead tank (vi) Renovation of classroom blocks and lecture halls (vii) renovation of the laboratory complex and completion and furnishing of the Kado CDL and CE classroom complex (viii) Renovation of dilapidated staff houses, purchase of an ambulance and secured Radio equipments and broadcast license for the university, which has now been sabotaged. Dr Agber saw all these as 'systematic destruction'!!!! In the area of academic culture and ethics, it is to be noted that prior to Prof Yaqub's administration; the university had only one inaugural lecture series. He quickened the pace of this important academic tradition. Since he left we have not had any again. Conferences and workshops were encouraged. In fact, the management mandated all faculties to hold at least one international conference in a year. It is on record that it was during Prof Yaqub's tenure that serious academic activities really blossomed in the University. Series of conferences took place, and quite a number of academic staff were sponsored for both local and international conferences. In fact capacity building development was given priority during his administration. Yet, a media teacher described this as 'systematic destruction'. Linkage programmes were stimulated through the development office created by the vice chancellor. The University had partnership and linkages with 13 relevant institutions abroad. I doubt if there has been any other linkages or partnership since the last administration. Prof Yaqub had really sanitized the academic landscape in the Federal Capital Territory. Related to this is his crusade against unethical practices. He clamped down on corruption and other vices. As the current Vice chancellor, Prof Adelabu, wrote; 'Professor Nuhu O. Yaqub institutionalized discipline which was truly lacking in the University. Truly, compulsory sales of handouts, and books with other unethical behaviour which were the culture in the university before his assumption of duty as vice chancellor was clamped down. Prof Nuhu Yaqub no doubt had put unending and yet to be answered questions in the mouth(sic)of many people who know the state of affairs in the university of Abuja before he became the Vice Chancellor' (NUC:DOC:2005). His zero tolerance for cultism and examination misconduct, sorting and all forms of academic fraud speaks volume for this sanitization exercise. Dr. Agber, the media lecturer, referred to over bloated staff strength as one of Prof Yaqub's undoing. The administrative of Yaqub felt that a university befitting of the nation's Capital should go beyond running only courses in the Humanities, social science, law and basic sciences. In order to meet the yearning of her immediate environment, and the country in general, there was the need for such programmes as medicine, veterinary medicine, Agriculture and Engineering to be mounted. Prof Yaqub introduced all these professional pogrammes with additional programmes in philosophy, religious studies, and microbiology. Other institutes and centres were also put in place: institutes for gender studies, leadership and peace studies, Asian studies, corruption studies, and legislative studies. It is on record as Agber rightly observed that salaries and other remuneration of staff in those new programme were not captured by allocation from the National University Commission for four good year. However, the Prof Yaqub led administration promptly paid salaries of all these staff from Internally Generated Revenue(IGR) without owing staff salaries and allowances. If he could achieve this feat without any complaint from staff of the university, why must anybody blame the inability of the current administration to promptly pay allowances and salaries of staff on bloated staff strength created by the immediate past administration? If by any default, any of these new programmes suffers accreditation difficulty, it shouldn't be blamed on the initiator. The new administration should make conscious and conscientious efforts to improve on the foundation laid by Prof Nuhu Yaqub. The universities as at the last accreditation report still fall short of its man power/ equipments needs, and this really explains why some programmes, including the old ones, were not accredited.
One area of credit that most mischief maker ignores in their assessment of Yaqub's administration is in the area of quality control, which is crucial to academic development. The administration of Nuhu Yaqub brought transparency and due process in the admission process. For the first time, the university adhered strictly to the NUC/JAMB admission criteria. Prof Yaqub ensured that prospective students that performed well in Jamb and Post-Jamb examinations were considered for admission, regardless of their ethnic background. Merit list was published on the university notice board with scores of each candidates by its side. That was the last time the university admission process passed through such credible procedures. The administration of Nuhu Yaqab also encouraged manpower development by recruiting qualified academic staff into the system, while encouraging seasoned academics on sabbatical and those visiting to join the system. The University of Abuja had nothing less than 100 professors in her pay roll. His administration also improved on the staff strength before the end of his tenure, while the appointments of Deputy Vice Chancellors, and Deans were democratized.
The manpower contents of the University could march any other reputable University in Nigeria. Best graduating students were encouraged to stay behind as graduate assistants. In fact almost all the younger academics in the system today some of whom are undergoing their post graduate programme at home and abroad were brought into the system by Prof Nuhu Yaqub. The current vice chancellor while commenting on Prof Yaqub's astuteness and administrative skills remarked: 'In University of Abuja, unlike what existed in the past he (Nuhu Yaqub) instituted regular weekly management committee meetings, regular monthly senate meetings, regular monthly department/faculty meetings, regular committee meetings with issues properly completed(SIC)recommendationmade and implemented' (NUC DOC;2005) In all spheres of governance, Prof Nuhu Yaqub has made an outstanding record which remains a challenge in Nigeria educational system. He has initiated a discernible system, institutionalized academic culture, opened up the university system and restored the dignity and value of the ivory tower in the University of Abuja. This is the legacy of Prof Nuhu Omeiza Yaqub(OFR), a legacy of hard work, transparency, diligence, and honesty. Therefore for Agber to call Prof Yaqub's contribution 'systematic destruction' is nothing but a disgusting intellectual dishonesty that questions his claim to scholarship DR. ABUBAKAR O. SULAIMAN AG DIRECTOR, SULTAN MACCIDO INSTITUTE FOR PEACE, LEADERSHIP AND DEVELOPMENT STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF ABUJA 08033026530 (