This piece is a personal tribute to my teacher, mentor and intellectual associate, on his appointment as professor of media and cultural communication at Bayero University, Kano, the first person to achieve that position after acquiring a professorial chair in science education back in 1997. I knew Professor Abdallah Uba Adamu, first on the pages of newspapers through his writings that cut across media, cultural studies, education and identity representation. My first contact with him was between late 1998 and 1999 as a young undergraduate student of Mass Communications at Bayero University, Kano.
The word Internet was quite new in Nigeria then, and I wanted to know about it. Our elder brother, Professor Yusuf Adamu, took me to his office, but the Professor was not in his office. Professor Adamu asked whether I had ever used the Internet. The answer was a capital NO. He quickly, on the computer in Prof Abdalla’s office, opened the Google search engine and asked me what I would like to search. “Anything”, I replied. He then searched the words “Kano Wall”, and out came pages on the history of Ganuwar Kano. We left the office after waiting for a while. That visit opened the way for me to connect with Professor Abdallah. And almost every week I called at his office to greet him. But around the year 2000, we became closer after I requested him to contribute an article for the Kano state student’s journal after I was named editor of the paper.
That very week, I had written a short piece in the Weekly Trust newspaper very critical of a former military governor from Northern Nigeria. Professor Abdallah turned to me and said: “So you are the one who wrote about the former military governor. Be careful, because he is a mafia.” But the smile on his face assured me he wasn’t threatening me. He mas merely testing my resolve the way teachers assess their students. On the article I requested him to write, Prof Abdallah asked me to return the following week to check. By the time I returned the following week, the article, which was on the creation of Hausa fonts, was waiting for me on the desk of his secretary, Malam Kiyawa.
That was the turning point in our relationship. My visits to him became more regular, and he would always invite me over whenever he had any work that required the input of a student.
The same year, I started a programme on Radio Kano II, FM station called Islam in Focus and Muamalat, previously run by Sheikh Muhammad ibn Uthman and Dr Salisu Shehu. I regularly invited lecturers from Bayero University, Kano, and that was how I came in contact with our teachers like Professor Aliyu Dauda, Professor Bashir Galadanchi, Professor Aliyu Baffa Umar, my great friend and senior colleague, Dr Farouk Sarkin Fada and many more. One day I invited Professor Abdalla as a guest to discuss the role of the Internet in Islam, and we recorded it in three series. After the recording, on our way back, after a brief stop for lunch in Mr Biggs, a fast food restaurant in town, he asked about my future plans. I told him everything about myself, my thirst for knowledge and desire to be a university teacher.
From that point, Professor Abdalla made it his project to advise me, provide me with books, and engage my service in the different projects he handled whether at Bayero University, for non-governmental organisations, state institutions etc. When I was writing my undergraduate project on the “Historical Development of the Internet and its Utilization in Africa with Reference to Nigeria”, he provided me with at least 90 percent of the materials for the project. It was through him that I met several individuals at the intellectual, political and even international levels. These include the likes of Dan Masanin Kano, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule, Malam Ibrahim Ado Kurawa, Malam Ibrahim Sheme, Professor Abubakar Rasheed, Professor Hamman Yola, Professor Abdurrashid Garba, Professor Saidu Babura, Professor Gidado Tahir, Professor Ibrahim Suleiman of ABU Zaria, Governor Attahiru Bafarawa, the late Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Muhammadu Maccido, the Emir of Zazzau, the late Talban Bauchi Dr Ibrahim Tahir, Wazirin Katsina Dr Sani Abubakar Lugga, Miss Gillian Belben, Merryl Wyn Davies, the author of Why do people hate America? (Along with Ziauddin Sardar), Professor Ziauddin Sardar, another accomplished author; Professor Graham Furniss, Prince Phillips and Queen Elizabeth, during the Commonwealth summit in Abuja in December 2003.
Sometimes, he gave me assignments that I felt were by far beyond my capacity to handle. When I hesitated, he would say, “you can do it”. I can’t forget when in 2003, as a youth corp member, he asked me to travel alone from Kano, to go convince a governor about a programme on Islam and the media to be held in his State. On another occasion, as a Graduate Assistant, he gave me the near-impossible task of producing a conference paper on the contribution of Nana Asma’u, the daughter of Sheikh Usman Danfodio within three days, an area completely different from Mass Communication. Professor Abdallah was doing this to develop my capacity when I was between the ages of 23 and 25.
Throughout my studies in the United Kingdom, from masters to PhD, he supplied materials, worked to get assistance from the Kano State Scholarship Board for me, or called to advice on what I needed to do to succeed. So when I heard about his appointment as a professor of media and cultural communication by Bayero University, Kano, on January 30, 2013, I was excited. Firstly because I am aware of his contribution in this field. Secondly because media and communication is an area that requires high caliber professors to develop. We also need engaging and patient intellectuals like the professor to nurture younger academics for the development of the field.
But who is Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu? Join me next week for an update insha Allah.