With a focused beginning and eyes on target, Professor Ibrahim Garba, Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU )records startling achievements in three years of his administration.
BY TOBS AGBAEGBU AND SALMON SALAMI.
His graph of success is already pointing up. In the core areas of students and staff welfare, robust teaching, learning and community service, as well as in infrastructural facelift, testimonies and evidence abound that he has largely done well within the short period he has served as Vice Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University ( ABU) in Zaria, Kaduna state. Ibrahim Garba, erudite Professor of Geology, proud alumnus of ABU, has indeed recorded monumental successes since he assumed office as Vice Chancellor in May 2015.
A gentle man, soft spoken , Garba is unarguably committed to delivering on his mandate, aimed at uplifting Ahmadu Bello University, considered to be the oldest and the most cosmopolitan tertiary institution in Nigeria, both in terms of students and staff profile, to high heights. On assumption of office, he outlined his vision for ABU on a three-point agenda of Reclaiming, Refocusing and Reinvigorating the entire University system to make it ready and in tune with contemporary realities.
He promised, in one of his statements on assumption of office, to reinvigorate the university, pointing out that “It is well known how robust ABU used to be from inception till far into history.” He noted thatABU started on a strong foundation based on courageous visions of its founding fathers more than fifty years ago and that the tempo must be sustained. The VC also made a strong commitment lift ABU higher and to “advance the frontiers of learning and break new grounds through teaching, research and dissemination of knowledge of the highest quality must be fulfilled.”
From his thoughts and policy pronouncements ,it is clear that Professor Garba knew the vision and mission of the ABU which was established in 1962 by the Government of the then Northern Region of Nigeria with a vision to be ‘’ a world class university comparable to any other, engaged in imparting contemporary knowledge, using high quality facilities and multi-disciplinary approaches, to men and women of all races, as well as generating new ideas and intellectual practices relevant to the needs of its immediate community, Nigeria and the world at large’’.
The university is named after Sardauna of Sokoto. Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello, the first primer of Northern Nigeria and has since 1975 assumed a national mandate after it was taken over by the Federal Government of Nigeria , although its ties with the 19 states created out of the former Northern Region has continued to remain very strong..
Indeed, the founding fathers expected the University to aspire to the highest international ideals of scholarship and to provide learning of a standard required and expected of a university of the highest standing while reflecting the needs, the traditions and the social and intellectual heritage of the society in which it is located. As espoused and encapsulated in relevant documents of the university, ABU was set up to with a mission “to advance the frontiers of learning and break new grounds, through teaching, research and the highest quality; to establish and foster national and international integration, development and the promotion of African traditions and cultures; to produce high-level human power and enhance capacity-building through retaining, in order to meet the needs and challenges of the catchment area, Nigeria and the rest of the world’’.
In the 56 years of its existence, the ABU has grown to become one of the largest, influential and diverse universities in Nigeria. Consisting of about ninety eight (98) Academic Departments, Thirteen (13) faculties, and twelve (12) Research Institutes. The departments offer undergraduate and postgraduate courses in such diverse fields as Agriculture, Public and Business Administration, Engineering, Environmental Design, Education, Biological and Physical Sciences, Medical and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
The University has a large medical program with its own ABU Teaching Hospital, one of the largest teaching hospitals in Nigeria and Africa. The university also has a large population and two campuses,inKongo and Samaru,both in Zaria, kaduna State, and located on 7,000 hectares of land.
Proactive and progressive university governance requires a leader with a strong academic background as well as a sound and broad administrative experience of the university system. These imperative credentials are captured in the person of Prof. Garba as he deploys a broad vision of life to drive Nigeria’s largest university. In Prof Garba’s words – “This is the largest university in this country. We have the largest carrying capacity; we have the largest diversity and we are the most-sought after.”
Currently, Ahmadu Bello University has 13 faculties, 12 specialized institutes and centers, a school of postgraduate studies and 98 academic departments. In addition, it has a division of agricultural colleges, a school of basic and remedial studies, a secondary school, and a primary school. This is besides offering extensive and consultancy services which provide a variety of expertise to the university and the wider society.
Perhaps not surprisingly, he has manifested compelling vision and moral courage which enabled him withstand all the strains and stresses of university governance. Soon after he assumed office, he made it loud and clear at any given forum that he would consolidate on the gains made by his predecessors. For example, he strived to ensure the university maintains its academic standard by establishing institutional linkages, exchanges, collaborative researches and mutual staff training agreements with some other local and international institutions in line with world best practice.
In the past two years, a good number of specialized institutions have presented themselves for partnership with the university in form of affiliations and collaborations. This is a result of his great concern for attainment of highest academic standards and achievements to be able to have a university true to its ideals and meaning in line with the vision and mission of ABU’s founding fathers.
Some of the institutions include Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology (NITT) which signed a memorandum of understanding with ABU to commence postgraduate diploma and masters in transport and logistics as well as Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) which has now collaborated with the university to introduce insurance courses at its department of business administration.
The university also signed research collaboration agreements with De Montfort University, Leicester; International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property and National Museums and Monuments; and Centre of Excellence in Reproductive Health Innovation (CERHI), Benin City.
Equally, there is on-going discussion with Robert Gordon University (RGU), UK, based on a visit in November, 2016 by the Vice Chancellor and Dean of Engineering, for collaborative development of a program in MSc Oil and Gas Engineering as well as joint delivery for prospective candidates. These far-sighted, strategic initiatives have helped reposition the ABU in critical aspects and earned him a well-deserved recognition and accolades.
Soon after he took over, Garba moved fast to embark on a number programs and projects, aimed at further development of ABU. Appreciating the importance of peace to development in an society, he first initiated measures aimed at consolidating and maintaining the peaceful atmosphere he met at the university. He also paid rapid attention on the need to upgrade academic standards in the university, in line with global best practices.
Specifically, he led the university to get involved in many linkages, partnerships and collaborations on academic activities and accreditation of various academic programmes. Notably, ABU under Professor Garba was involved in a partnership on the environment between the University and the Ministry of Environment over the Great Green Wall, the World Bank Mission Team, to the Centre of Excellence for Neglected Tropical Diseases and Forensic Biotechnology. ABU also was also involved in collaboration with ELSEVIER Research Intelligence on Science Direct research and publication in different areas of specialization. There was also the Presidential seal of patent and Intellectual Property Rights Certification for ABU’s breakthrough in zeolite research findings.
The ABU Zeolite Research Initiative was a research effort by the University’s Chemical Engineering Department, in conjunction with the PTDF to produce zeolite catalyst locally for the refining of crude oil. The project started with the building of zeolite pilot plant and laboratory for this purpose.
Other key achievements recorded in ABU under Professor Garba, as Vice Chancelor, include, the commissioning of the ABU Sugarcane Bio factory and the NITT Memorandum of Understanding with ABU to commence Postgraduate Diploma and Masters in Transport and Logistics. There was also the NDIC collaboration with the University, to introduce Actuarial Science Courses (beginning with Insurance) at the Faculty of Administration.
The University also signed research collaboration agreement with many universities and institutions overseas. Among the foreign universities and institutions are the De Montfort University – Leicester, UK; Florida State University, USA; Adam Smith International, UK; University of Utara, Malaysia; Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAN); BATC Development (BERHAD) – BIONAS Malaysia; and others too numerous to mention.
In his effort to boost infrastructural development and pursuit other lofty agenda, Prof. Garba discovered that the University could no longer sustain the high cost of electricity power supply to the University community.He therefore quickly swung into action by sourcing for an alternative and cheaper means of energy supply. Consequently, the Vice Chancellor and a team of experts from the University visited AGRAR Bioethanol of Hungary for a discussion and possible collaboration to establish a bioethanol and biogas project in ABU as an alternative source of energy.
Agreements reached included that ABU will, in conjunction with AGRAR, establish a biogas plant, using the University’s waste water treatment plant system. The bio-ethanol plant to be built was to be programmed to use industrial maize silage as raw material. The plant will subsequently produce disinfectants and organic manure for local consumption. The laudable effort of the Ibrahim Garba administration culminated into a ground breaking ceremony where a foundation of the 1.2MW Bioethanol/Biogas Power Plant was commissioned in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
In addition, another ground breaking event followed soon after. This was the flag-off of the 10 megawatt solar photovatic power station, which is another gigantic effort by the Vice Chancellor within his two years in office. The solar power station is a collaborative effort between the federal government of Nigeria through TETFund and the Nigerian Energy Partnership. The project, on completion, will meet the University energy needs, reducing over-dependency on utility power supply for the University and the neighbouring communities.
The Garba administration has also carried out some administrative reforms which affected the size of the faculties. At present, the University has 13 faculties but changes have occurred. The traditional Faculty of Sciences has been split into two namely; Faculty of Life Science and Faculty of Physical Sciences. The administration said the essence was to decongest the over blotted former faculty of sciences.
Far reaching infrastructural development and growth has taken place within the past two years. These achievements in this direction include; the on-going flyover bridge project at the North Gate which is being executed by the former Vice President, AtikuAbubakarand the rehabilitation of the ABU Water Treatment Plant. There is also the proposed Hotel Development Initiative of the Vice Chancellor sponsored by Dangote Group, renovation of students hotel in Kongo Campus and the renovation of ABU Hotel (former Kongo Conference Hotel) to a standard world class hotel.
The ABU Bakery, facelift projects in Kongo and Main Campus, and the rehabilitation and upgrade of offices in the 8th floor of the Senate Building is also a success story. The university also was involved in the purchase of official vehicles for principal officers, rehabilitation of road networks on campus, prompt payment of salaries, amongst others.
Professor Ibrahim Garba must also be commended for the peace and stability on the two campuses. The secret of this success stems from the Vice Chancellor’s high sense of responsibility and accommodating spirit for all shades of interests in the University system. His diplomatic style in dialoguing with the in-house unions is worthy of mention. Staff welfare was not relegated to the background. One major milestone again was the promotion of both teaching and non-teaching staff whose promotion was long overdue.
One major observation made by the VC was that the growth in population of the University has never been marched with the growth of facilities and services/. The University administration is not without challenges of funding and infrastructural development. This is one major challenge for the ever-vibrant and focused Vice Chancellor. Notwithstanding existing challenges, Prof. Garba has continued to dream big for his great alma-mata.
Testimonies abound on the good works of Professor Garba in ABU. There is a consensus in the testimonies by many who work directly with the VC ,that Garba is loved and appreciated by his co-academics and by non-academic staff.
Professor Najume Ibrahim Doguwar-Giginya, a Director in charge of the Division of Agricultural Colleges (DAC) in ABU was among those who spoke wellof Garba. He told Verbatim that Garba has always been an excellent person, right from their school days. He confirmed that ‘since his arrival at the Division of Agricultural Colleges, there has never been a time when DAC’s teaching examination, release of Examination results or programmes were stagnated because of any undesired misunderstanding or lack of dedication or cooperation on the part of the staff’’.
Professor Ibrahim attributed this rare feat to the visionary leadership of Garba, the vice-chancellor. According to him the vice chancellor is passionate about human capital development hence ‘’he has mandated us to ensure that salaries are paid regularly as at when due. And thank God all the colleges namely Samaru College of Agriculture, College of Agriculture and Animal Science, Kaduna and Kabba College of Agriculture have been performing optimally’’. He told Verbatim that the colleges are all ‘headed by Provosts and the staff are highly motivated as a result of the transformational leadership style of our amiable Vice-chancellor. Ibrahim Garba is focused and result-oriented. He has demonstrated by example, that visionary leadership is the key to prosperity and well-being of the people and seamless running of ivory-towers’’.
Mrs Nana HauwaMadugu , Director University Health Services in ABU also spoke in the same vain. She told Verbatim that Prof. Ibrahim Garba, the ebullient Vice-Chancellor is Gender sensitive and has been recognised and acknowledged by many (even internationally) as a leader and an academician par excellence. Her words: ‘’I have been working with him as the only female Director in his cabinet. You would wonder how you can prove yourself, working with a man who has seen it all, a man with wide academic exposure. However, he made working with him very simple, rewarding and worthwhile for me. He is dedicated and has a listening ear. He is very understanding and passionate about the health service delivery in the University’’.
HauwaMadugu revealed that the VC is versatile in knowledge about many things.’’ Even as a geologist, he knows quite a lot about medicine, so it is very easy for him to flow. He really has a large heart and he is ever willing to support us at the Health Services’’, pointing out that the Vice chancellor is an exceptionally good person. ‘’Even amidst males, his transformational leadership style is very commendable. He has so many good attributes. I have no reason for not doing what I am supposed to do because our vice- Chancellor has what we Hausa’s call Amana (he is a man of his words)’’,she said.
Engr. Mohammed A. Sambo, Director, Physical Planning and Municipal Services (PP&MS) was full of praises for the ABU Vice Chancellor too. He spoke in an interview session with Verbatim, on the achievements of Prof. Ibrahim Garba, especially as it relates to the Physical Planning And Municipal Services.
Among other achievements, He explained that the PP&MS has successfully completed the renovation of female students Hostel; that is Queen Amina Hall, which is the largest female hostel in Ahmadu Bello University. He explained that the renovation was done under the NEEDS Assessment intervention fund and was completed in 2017. The entire project was said to have cost over N300 million naira for the entire renovation.
Still under the NEEDS Assessment Intervention project, there were ten new projects that were awarded to different contractors in 2017. These projects include Expansion of Department of electrical engineering construction of computer and communication engineering department (2) construction of twin lecture halls, (3) Extension to the department of Geology (4) extension to the faculty of Arts(5) construction equipping and furnishing of studio for the department of mass communication (6) construction of two male students hostel (7) construction of two storey female students hostel (8) construction and furnishing of university central museum for department of Archaeology (9) construction and furnishing of faculties of Physical science and life sciences (10) construction of 1.95Kilimeter road. All the above projects are at different stages of completion.
Other projects awarded include construction of extension of bio-chemistry department, construction of ABU Business School, construction of Ring and Box culverts to create access to ABU phase 2. Also the remodelling and furnishing of chemical engineering department is on-going. Under the able leadership of Prof. Ibrahim Garba, the Vice – chancellor, the PP & MS has done the supply and installation of 240 unit of solar powered energy street light. Also, they undertook the (under capital project) renovation of hostel 2 and 3 in kongo campus in 2016.
In 2017, under the able leadership of the vice-chancellor, he explained that they embarked on the construction of brand new student hostel at ABU phase 2. Under Tetfund project, PP&MS has done the following: construction of block of classrooms and offices for glass technology department. Procurement, furnishing and external work for Glass Technology department, construction of Entrepreneurship Centre construction of Geo spatial centre for the department of Urban and Regional Planning; procurement of Equipment for the department of Water Resources and Environment Engineering and many more other project too numerous to mention.
There are also inherited projects which the VC has completed. Such NEEDS assessment projects include the rehabilitation of Kashim Ibrahim Library; construction of medical laboratories at ABUTH, Zaria Also the rehabilitation of lecture theatre for Faculty of Social Sciences. It also includes the construction of Laboratory for physical and health education departments, Rehabilitation of President J.F Kennedy library at Kongo campus. Rehabilitation of department of department of Local Government and Development Studies Lecture Theatre at Kongo campus; upgrading of centre for Islamic Legal Studies and the Rehabilitation of Faculty of Law Library at Kongo Campus.
In his conclusion, Engr. Mohammed A. Sambo, Director, Physical Planning and Municipal Services (PP&MS) said this. ‘Prof Ibrahim Garba has done a lot for ABU and we pray that Almighty Allah will continue to protect and guide him. He is an asset to us and we are proud of him and his achievements’’.
Prof. Ibrahim Jaro Musa, Director, CDRMDS/ABU testified that the Vice Chancellor has been a success story, from his earlier days in service as Head of Department of geology in ABU,adding that Garba’s era then was glorious. He said: ‘’ Professor Garba earlier set a good example as the Head of Department of Geology. Now, as the Vice Chancellor, he has continued to rebrand ABU. He has also energised both the academic and non-academic staff . He is so admired that students felicitously call him Daddy .We are all proud of him’’.
Ibrahim also added that the Vice Chancellor has been so successful with the short period he has been in the saddle that ‘’he has now raised the bar in such a manner that we all feel challenged that nothing but the best is good enough for ABU’’. He told Verbatim that the VC is now clearly on the way to putting ABU on the world map. ‘’Surely, ABU has joined the Ivory League’’, he said.
Professor N.M.Danjuma , Dean, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences described Garba as an embodiment of goodness. ‘‘A very simple, humble and prodigiously intelligent man, Professor Garba is a Professor’s Professor and a consummate university administrator par excellence. He is highly intelligent. He makes discussion very simple and interesting for all the staff to be relaxed as he is a very personable leader. He has no air of arrogance around him and he is very accessible. He is also very transparent and he is giving priority to important things within the university setting’’,he stated in an interview with Verbatim in Zaria.
He also paid glowing tribute to the VC on the able way he handles matters relating to academics in ABU. He explained that one of his greatest attributes is the ability to think out of the box and his ability to attract funding to the university. Essentially, we are being sensitised to use our brains and to think creatively in such a manner that we attract funds to the university. Honestly, a university has no reason to be poor or to go abegging. They have all it takes to be self-sustaining and to generate funds’’, he said .
Giving details of the assertion he made, Danjuma said; ‘’It may interest you to know that donors find it very pleasant to come to ABU. For your information, Dangote, the richest man in Africa, was here and he gave the pre- convocation lecture which was as intellectually stimulating as it was inspiring’’
Danjuma also confirmed that the VC is doing much to return the university to the olden days when, for example, an Ambassador of Northern Ireland was around when the Faculty of Social Sciences organised lecture. ‘’It was inspiring and intellectually refreshing. Also the Chinese Ambassador came calling. In fact 46 of our students were given about N100,000. It was a motivation. Please do not look at the money but the motive. It was an encouragement for the students to take academics seriously. It was the sort of elixir needed to take us to the next level. Even other students want to emulate those who got the largess. The Vice Chancellor is in control and does not joke with academics, He cherishes knowledge and the impartation of it’’, he said.
Professor Y.Y Bambale , Dean of Students Affairs who has been a staff of ABU since 1988 and also worked with many Vice- chancellors in the past told verbatim that he saw much of difference with Garba.’’ Our Vice-Chancellor, Prof Ibrahim Garba, is an extra-ordinary human being. From afar, one would think he is a very difficult human being. But he is not. He is the simplest human being. Even though he has not read law, he is fair in his dealings. He applies the principle of natural justice. He gives everyone, a fair hearing. If you are able to convince him he will agree with you’’,he said.
Citing instances with the humane nature the VC treats issues about students, affairs. Bambale stated that he has never regretted working with him.’’Our Vice Chancellor does not joke with students affairs. He attends to them swiftly. If we say he is students friendly, honestly we are begging the fact. I am a Lawyer but I do not have the adjective to describe the Vice- Chancellor. This is my 30th year in ABU as a staff. I Joined in 1988 and I have never been to any other place. I have worked with many Vice-Chancellors, but he is the best. This very one is very wonderful. If I bring anything to him concerning students, he will approve’’,Bambale said.
The story of the Ahmadu Bello University ,a university of first choice for many admission seekers is no doubt interesting. This is much so,not just only because of its architectural designs, which is a master price, but because of the quality of teaching in the institution and, the urge to produce graduates who are problem solvers. This is what the university has been doing since its inception. However, the present Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ibrahim Garba clearly has raised the bar within the short period he has been in office. A very creative and highly intellectually rejuvenating personality.Garba has clearly taken the University to the next level.
Garba does enjoy praises for the good things he is doing in the university. His response to A Verbatim magazine question, during an interview in his office last week said much about the humility. The conversation went thus:
Verbatim: What do you say say to many people who are saying positive things about you and your achievements so far?.
Professor Ibrahim Garba: ‘’Can I be greater or larger that the university that make me and also my employer? Certainly not. The fact that it falls on my shoulders to carry the responsibility and make some impact, I thank Almighty Allah. ’’.One cannot claim to know it all or be perfect. But whatever one does, whether it is appreciated or not, as long as it projects the university in good light and upholds its traditions and the dreams of the founding fathers, one would feel fulfilled after leaving office. At least you have left the university better than you met it. If only I can be remembered in this light, then I am fulfilled’’.