BY ABDULHAMID AL-GAZALI, FEBRUARY 05, 2024 | 04:43 PM
In 2005 or so, Late Bukar Abba Ibrahim invited my boss, Prof. Nur Alkali, of blessed memory, to chair the technical committee for the establishment of a state university in Yobe. The two first met at Maiduguri Government College, Borno’s elite school then. Bukar was his junior, and was, according to my boss, his school mentee. When he came face to face with the fleeting nature of power, and was at the edge of the road in his two-term (or perhaps three) stint as governor of Yobe, he wanted to give his people a parting gift. He thus dumped down the burden on my boss, who was also originally born in Geidam Local Government Area of the state and perhaps one of the few, if any, with the kind of experience needed to pull that off!
The idea of the university would come naturally from growth demands, which is also a civilizational dictate. In Khaldunian philosophy, societies are treated as organic beings, thus go through the stages of growth—from being nothing, to emerging and peaking; then from peak, take the path of decline and ultimately collapse. A man’s only duty is worship; but worship is entirely about improving oneself and helping others—a society—to do the same! In social sciences, we call this civilization building, which, known or not, is the only purpose of every creation.
Whatever the world thinks of our politicians’ flaws—which are often more stressed on than their numerous goods; a crude case of a sick mindset—Late Bukar had given his two-pence to the growth of human civilization, particularly in his two home states of Borno and Yobe. It is like that, you can only give as much as just a two-pence; which is relatively what everyone, even the best of us, gives.
I participated indirectly in conceptualizing the idea of the university, which started operations in 2007 / 2008 as Bukar Abba Ibrahim University, BAIU, but later, for mainly political reasons, became Yobe State University. I was my boss’ personal assistant, who did most of the his secretariat work at home. I remember there were Garba Muhammad (?), who was his secretary and Prof. Matawalli Geidam, who served as the technical committee’s secretary. The two of them always traveled to and fro between Damaturu and Maiduguri, bearing letters, proceedings of meetings and memos, to make sure Bukar had been helped to achieve his dream of giving Yobe a parting gift.
I remember one of the major issues that played out at the time. The committee felt it was not getting the kind of support it needed from the governor; because a governor in Nigeria always had so many things to deal with. My boss understood the situation. He had run UNIMAID, far longer than anyone had. He was a product of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, the highest policy and strategy institute in the country, if not far beyond. Of course, he went on to become the first civilian director general of the institute. At the same time, he anchored Gen. Sani Abatcha’s strategy and policy direction as the chairman of the then almighty Presidential Advisory Committee. Nur Alkali was therefore not new to dealing with power brokers or finding strategic solutions to problems and was ordinarily never one to get distracted from achieving whatever he sets out to achieve.
He knew, beyond Bukar’s desire for a legacy, that getting a university was far better than having nothing at all. He therefore made up his mind to make sure there was going to be something out there, as a starting point, even if it was not the best in shape. He made sure the committee had the basic infrastructure in place; and while this was going on, he was leveraging on his network and name in the academia, as well as government to get the university licensed to operate even with just a handful of academic programs.
He gave his reasons for doing that in the university’s first matriculation, where he said the ‘journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step’. I remember it because I typed the first draft of the speech as he dictated it. He said since the university was already in place, he looks forward to the time when its own products and pioneer staff would transform it into a world class citadel of learning. Those who lack the ability to foresee the future—and worse, compounded that medical condition with a self imposed tunnel vision—went to market to say that Bukar only built a ‘gloried secondary school’ for a university.
They mounted political pressure on his successor, Muhammad Ali, also deceased, to suspend the university’s first academic program, which was already in its second session or so. It was followed by changing its name to Yobe State University; but which did only little, if anything, from taking away the credit of putting it up from Bukar.
Both shutting it down (temporarily) and changing its name could only happen where the institution is already in place and functioning; for you could not have changed a name that did not already exist. As such, the logic of taking the first step was very clear except for political simpletons who lived for oneself where others lived for others and the collective good of the society. If the step was not taken, for something as mere as just ‘form perfection’, the world would have today left us to regret. With virtual and online universities now become widespread, it would have been a big mistake to have delayed the commencement of the university because the structures then did not look like an Ivy League university. It is in fact, only those who did not know much about universities, who who would think it was all but a mere structure. The technical committee even at the time had developed a comprehensive 25 year master plan for the university’s full development, with clear timelines of both physical and academic progression.
Today Yobe is proud of having its own homegrown experts in some of the most advanced fields of study, thanks to the decision to take the first step. Beyond just undergraduate programs, it has in less than two decades, developed a robust postgraduate program, using its own homemade resources for supervision and evaluation. Bukar goes back to his maker fulfilled as one who had given his modest two pence to the development of his people.
There were others whose only problem was his, what they like to call, overstay in the state’s politics. That is a complete claptrap because he did not do anything wrong. He won all the elections he had contested; and as long as he wins the majority votes, by whichever means, and did not stay beyond his office’s term limits, the accusations of overstay in politics is nonsense. It is all but the typical innuendos of people from at stands, who are naturally afraid to jump into the fray to test their capacity.
In the end, Bukar is Bukar, because Yobe politics made him Bukar; and he will always be remembered because he was Bukar. There is never going to be any other Bukar. Yes, he tried to please all the various interests and groups in his state—an absolute impossibility—which many times stretched him extremely too thin; but which despite its shortcomings, made him indisputable father of Yobe politics.
He was never one to take to political correctness, he was as frank as the sunlight. Even when newsmen give him numerous opportunities to deny things said about his personal life, knowing that he was only accountable to God—a forgiving One—for his personal choices, he would always take the opportunity to confirm it! That was what made him Bukar, and we will miss him for his humor, humility and frankness.
May Allah admit him into Jannatul Firdauz.
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