By Prof. Abdalla Uba Adamu
Pilot: The journey, the chrysalis
Right, it is time to address this issue. I am blessed and honoured to have variously been acknowledged and hailed as a ‘double professor’, ‘dual professor’, the only one from northern Nigeria, etc. How’s that even possible?
The first professorship was in 1997 (Science Education and Comparative Higher Education, to give it its full title), and the second one was in 2012 (Media and Cultural Communication). Two totally different disciplines. I delivered an inaugural lecture for each in 2004 and 2014, respectively. Further, I am both a Member of the Nigerian Academy of Education (MNAE) and a Member of the Nigerian Academy of Letters (MNAL) – a cross-over that is quite rare in Nigeria. A close friend says I am nuts to have two professorships. It’s okay; we used to call him nuts, too, when we were kids. I admit, though, it does take a bit of nuttiness. However, the whole ‘double professor’ thing came about by happenstance, thanks to the innovative, courageous Prof. Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, Vice-Chancellor, Bayero University Kano from 2010 to 2015, now Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission from 2016. Here is the whole backstory to the opera in one season of three episodes!
As a senior high school student, I had a target: to become a professor by 40. Given that I was born in 1956, that gave me up to 1996 to do my gig, exit stage left and hopefully seek new directions. Right from elementary school, I had wanted to work in a university after a visit to the house of then Malam Sani Zahradeen in 1966 on the old campus of Bayero University. Awed by the splendour of the house (and quite frankly, the wonderful breakfast I was offered), I decided right there and then the University will be my abode. I was ten at the time.
After going through the grind of schooling and finishing at Ahmadu Bello University, a degree in Science Education (Biology/Physiology) saw me getting employed as a Graduate Assistant in July 1980 at Bayero University Kano. The clock had started ticking – I had seventeen years to contact. I felt like I was in a cryogenic sleep capsule bound for a planet in the Betelgeuse star system, a mere 500 light-years from Earth. A confession, though. Education was not my preferred choice of Faculty at employment. It was the Faculty of Science. Made attractive by a blind ambition to become a research scientist – not a teacher. Plus, many top-notch teachers from the Department of Biological Sciences, ABU, my alma mater, had migrated to BUK during the period. I wanted to continue being their students because of their brilliance (fondly remembered, included Dr Shotter). But as fate would have it, I was employed in the Department of Education.
I did everything necessary to progress through the system, getting a DPhil at Sussex (courtesy of the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission) and a Fulbright Senior Scholar residency at the University of California, Berkely, US. I also became a Resident Fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center near Lake Como in Italy. Beautiful view, wonderful neighbourhood, made only grisly by the fact that the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini (1925 to 1945) and his wife (or was it mistress?) Claretta Petacci were executed at Dongo, near the Lake, in 1945. A gruesome tourist attraction whose grimness does not take away the timeless beauty of the area.
Finally, after submitting all the necessary papers for assessment, I was conferred first Associate Professor of Science Education and Comparative Higher Education in 1994, and with more publications, full tenured Professor of Science Education in 1997. I was 41. Missed the mark by a year. Due to the weird BUK politics at the time, the professorship was only announced in 2001 but suitably backdated to its proper date, October 1997. I immediately wanted to give my inaugural lecture, but I was asked ‘join the line’ of others who were to present – all six of them. Eventually, I was asked to come and give mine after three years. I did so on April 24, 2004. It was the seventh in the university. I had wanted it on my birthday, but considering that April 25, 2004, was a Sunday, I settled for Saturday.
When I reached the point of being promoted and awaiting results back in 1996, I found myself interrogating the rest of my life. At that time, university lecturers retire at the age of 65. So that meant I had about 25 years to retire in 2021 – a futuristic date then. I had also crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s in Education, at least as far as I could see. I found myself deeply involved in alphabet soup agencies – you know, USAID, DFID, UNICEF, NPEC, UBEC, WB, etc., mostly talking loudly and saying nothing. I simply can’t see myself day in and day out enmeshed in this process of eventually recommending things to the government through reports nobody bothered to read. If I didn’t find something to do, there was every chance of me becoming truly nuts.
Prof. Abdalla Uba Adamu wrote from the Department of Information and Media Studies, Bayero University Kano, Nigeria. He is, among many other things, the former Vice-Chancellor of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.