By Prof. Abdalla Uba Adamu
S01EP03: Betelgeuse Star System Touchdown
On my return in April 2012, I reported to my Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Abubakar Adamu Rasheed. In a moment of radical inspiration, he asked me to submit every publication and activity in communication to the HoD of Mass Communication, the late Dr Balarabe Maikaba, for possible recommendation as a professor of Media and Cultural communication. In the meantime, a position for a professor was created in the Department of Mass Communication to accommodate my presence.
I was surprised at this as I thought once you are a professor, you stay that way without any addition! The then Dean of the Faculty of Social and Management Sciences, Prof. Adamu Idris Tanko, also welcomed the idea. Dr Balarabe Maikaba wrote a supporting letter. I put in the application and submitted all the papers I had in the new area for external assessment.
In January 2013, I received a phone call from my Vice-Chancellor informing me that assessments of my publications sent out months earlier had returned positive. Therefore, I have been appointed Information and Media Studies professor with effect from October 2012. There was only one wonderful caveat: I was to relocate to the Department of Mass Communication from the Department of Science and Technology Education, where I was then the Head of the Department. This relocation was the most significant move in my academic career. The day I received that letter counted as one of the happiest of my entire life.
I suddenly realized that my earlier desire to be in the Faculty of Science was to become a research scientist. Now, 32 years later, I have become a research social scientist while retaining my scientific focus. Allah truly blessed me. The journey to the first professorship took 17 years (1980-1997), while the second took 15 years (1997 to 2012).
I handed over the Department of Science and Technology Education on April 25 2013, symbolic of my birthday. My new Department and the Faculty overwhelmingly welcomed me when I formally reported on April 26 2013. Even more remarkable, the Communication Studies fraternity also welcomed me – apparently, they have been keenly following my what one calls ‘revolutionary forays’ in media studies.
It was thus an honour to be made a member of the Governing Council of the Association of Media and Communication Researchers of Nigeria (AMCRON) and a member of the Association of Communication Scholars & Professionals of Nigeria (ACSPN). It was humbling to be in the company of communication giants such as Idowu Akanbi Sobowale, Ralph Akinfeleye, Lai Oso, Umaru Pate, Nosa Owens-Ibie, Hyginus Ekwuazi, Victor Ayedun-Aluma, Eserinune McCarty Mojaye, Abiodun Adeniyi and many wonderful others. It was always a pleasure to meet at various conferences and workshops and appreciate each other.
I was given a huge sparkling brand-new office with all the frills! I have already been teaching Management Information Systems (MIS) in the Department of Business Administration of the Faculty for almost ten years. Additionally, I had been a ‘part-time’ staff of the Mass Communication Department for seven years, teaching and supervising students. So, I was not new to the faculty. For me, being in the Department of Mass Communication was the absolute way to chill out my career to retirement in 2026, in shaa Allah.
So, am I the only ‘double’ professor in Nigeria? It depends on the context. If you are referring to two professorships in two different disciplines (which is the actual context of a double professor), then yes, according to the NUC’s Directory of Full Professors in the Nigerian University System (2017), I am. However, being a professor at two different universities does not count. The second professorship has to be qualified through an external assessment of scientific works in the discipline, a process my Vice-Chancellor at the time and Chairman of the Appointment and Promotions Committee of the University rigorously followed.
Is this the same as Emeritus Professor (some have referred to me as such)? No. An Emeritus Professor is an honorary title given to a professor to show respect for a distinguished career and who has retired (critical qualifier) from the university successfully and honourably. It is neither a right nor automatic. It is a privilege (just like the professorship itself), given at the discretion of the university to an outstanding professor (mostly the university one is retiring from, although an appointment to such position could also be made to the retiring professor in a different university).
One cannot be appointed an Emeritus until they have retired (whether before or at the age of retirement). It is usually conferred (at a ceremony) to those the university feel that despite retiring, they can still add value to the academic programs of the university, either through teaching, research, supervision or other leadership functions. It often attracts a token stipend (not salary), and the office the professor retired from. It is also for life – meaning he stops being an Emeritus when he shifts to the other side of the universe the James Webb Space Telescope would not be able to locate! Here is a list of Emeritus Professors in Nigeria (updating).
How common is double professorship generally? Rare. A limited discussion was held on Quora, where a few examples from some American universities were cited. For instance, Andrew Gelman is a professor of statistics and political science at Columbia and a professor of statistics at Harvard. He has no political science degree at all. His first degree was in physics, and his graduate work was in statistics. He has received the Outstanding Statistical Application award three times from the American Statistical Association, the award for the best article published in the American Political Science Review, the Mitchell and DeGroot prizes from the International Society of Bayesian Analysis, and the Council of Presidents of Statistical Societies award. Have a look at this blog to know how he came to be occupying those two chairs.
This answers the question of whether I should be a professor in Mass Communication without a degree in Mass Communication. At the professorial level, it is your output that matters. My own site might satisfy one’s curiosity about what the fuss is all about. As my Vice-Chancellor at the time, Prof. Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, pointed out when my case was presented in 2012, if anyone is a professor of History and made enough contributions to the field of Physics, they can also apply and be assessed as a professor of Physics.
Oh, I almost forgot. Two professorships? Yes. Two salaries? Unfortunately, no! You get only one salary.
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.