By Emeka Obasi
Blame politics for bringing out the Third Eleven of Nigerians who at best should be confined to their miserable homes instead deciding our well being. It is worse for the North. It baffles me that brains like Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu are hardly recognized for their worth. He is one of the many from the upper divide of the country who should be calling the shots.
Adamu is a peculiar man. He is the first Nigerian to possess double professorship in two totally different disciplines. In 1997, he became a professor of Science Education. Two years later, climbed to the same height in Media and Cultural Communication. I am not talking of a quota system or catchment area scholar. This is a sound mind who understands Nigeria.
Adamu loves the country. During National Youth Service, he was sent to Umu-Okrika in the Ahiazu-Mbaise area of Imo State. It was a revealing exposure that has continued to make him believe that home could be anywhere. In 2019, the professor visited that community, decades after he departed for higher responsibilities. Umu-Okrika stole his heart although he is also a title holder in Enugu State.
Prof. Adamu is the Vice Chancellor, National Open University of Nigeria [NOUN]. Born on April 25, 1956, he hails from Daneji in Kano. There are so many sharp minds in Kano who think Nigeria more than Islam and politics. That is the state of Malam Aminu Kano. That is the home of Abubakar Rimi. That town also produced the late Emir, Ado Bayero.
Adamu is bright and brave. From the Ahmadu Bello University [ABU] Zaria he left for the University of London and ended up with a doctorate from the University of Sussex in 1988. A Fulbright Scholar, University of California Berkeley, this man has gone round the world teaching in reputable universities. The European Union spotted and sent him to the University of Warsaw as Visiting Professor.
Adamu reminds me of another Kano scholar who set record not only as the first Nigerian to be appointed Vice Chancellor of a foreign university, but the first to become Vice Chancellor in three different institutions.
Professor Adamu Baikie never lived in Benin City until he was appointed Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin by Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo. As he left in 1985 to be replaced by Prof. Grace Alele -Williams, the University of Lesotho offered him the same position. The Nigerian spent eight years in Maseru before heading back home. In 2001, Baikie was given the same job at the Nasarawa State University.
It is remarkable that I am talking about two Adamus here, Abdalla and Baikie. The latter I met at the University of Benin. I found it funny that although, Prof.Allele-Williams was not in Benin when I graduated in 1985, she signed my certificate. I would have loved to see Biakie’s signature there because he was such a gentleman. He is one of the few Christians from Kano although originally from Gabas in the North-East axis.
I stumbled on the NOUN boss recently. He was guest on a Nigeria Television Authority programme anchored by Lolade Adeniji-Adele. I must confess that I hardly watch NTA these days. Some months back, I changed my mind because of the Ali Baba programme. On July 12, instead of Ali Baba I saw Lolade. Well I relaxed because I remembered when she was new on the bit and was monitoring traffic for late Yinka Craig and his crew that included Mariam Anazodo.
First Lolade engaged Chief Samuel Adedoyin whose story as a 14- year- old stowaway that ended up in Takoradi Ghana caught my attention. Then came Dele Momodu. His story is not new to me anymore but I still had to listen to how Leiwis Obi gave him a job and Mike Awoyinfa drove him to his next job. I did not expect much from one babaringa wearing man.
My God! How wrong I was. It turned out to be Prof. Adamu. In teaching, there is what they call ‘Entry Behaviour’. The NOUN Vice Chancellor bought me over when he described himself as ‘a five feet plus tall man with big belle’.
Some of the Northerners I see in government make me feel like not sparing the rod. The one who brought his four wives is supposed to be one of those leading the House of Representatives. And the so called honourable was announcing to Jupiter that beside legislative duties, he could also score goals in Jumpology. That is far from what the North can offer.
I have mingled with people of Fulani Background. I have interacted with the Kanuri. The first time I heard of ‘Kilishi’ was in 1990. And it was delivered to me right in my Bauchi hotel by Tijani Umar. He was of the Public Relations Department of the National Sports Commission , sharing office with Uche Onwumeh and Yetunde Afolabi [later Mrs Ogbemudia]. I also got to know Salisu Abubakar as scribe of the Squash Racket Association.
Umar returned to Sports to Head the Nigeria Basketball Federation. Under him, D’Tigers and D’Tigress excelled. He is presently a Federal Permanent Secretary. Salisu played good football in Gombe and is one of the big men managing our soccer. These are not quota system men . They are very sound and worthy Nigerians whose background does not come into play. Unfortunately, the annoying ones are those who make all the noise and get attention.
Back to my friend Adamu. The man finished me when he delved into music. I had to look around to be sure that it was not a dream. He mentioned Black Sabath, he reeled out names: Led Zeppelin, James Brown, Osibisa, Nico Mbarga. Then I listened as he rapped. “I am the only Vice Chancellor of a Nigerian University that can rap”, he told Lolade.
I love music and I grew up listening to Rock. Beatles. Deep Purple. Pink Floyd. ACDC. Bad Company. Kiss. Rolling Stones. Grand Funk Railroad. Eagles. Byrds. Gun N’Roses. Queen. Jimi Hendrix. Peter Frampton and more. How could a malam know all these names? And he was not reading from any script. Led Zepp in particular, I could not believe that this Kano man could name that group. I still have one of their works, ‘In Through the Outdoor’ which was bought by my elder brother.
And as he mentioned al these bands, flashes of their connection with Nigeria came on. Not many compatriots know that of the Beetles quartet: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Star, two talked about our country. Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, were so disturbed by Biafra that he returned his British Award to the Queen. McCartney recorded ‘Band on the Run’ at EMI studios Lagos in 1973. And Ginger Baker smoked ‘igbo’ at Fela’s Africa Shrine.
Osibisa took Ghana to the world after Ramblers did the same through music. Originally made up of Teddy Osei, Kiki Gyan, Sol Amarfio and Frank Tontoh, Nigeria’s Mike Odumosu joined them in London. The new generation would not know that Odumosu was the little ‘O’ of the pop group BLO that also had Berkeley Jones Ike and Laolu Akins. Berkely just passed on. When Odumosu left BLO, he was replaced by Otu Udoffia. I think Biddy O’ Wright was there briefly.
Prince Nico Mbarga was a Cameroonian but he became famous living in Onitsha. It was in the years when Onitsha traders made musicians rich. Ghana’s Okukuseku lived there too. Mbarga released the masterpiece, ‘Sweet Mother’ in Ado City. Unfortunately, he was knocked down by Okada [Motorbike] around Ikom, I guess.
You can imagine where Prof.Adamu took me with these memories. As he talked about Rock music, I remembered my late cousin, Chiedu, who was known by even his parents as Sarge P. That name he took from The Beatles’ May 26, 1967 release, ‘Sergeant Pepper and the Lonely Hearts Club Band’. McCartney came to Lagos with the Wings. At that time, there was a Nigerian group known as Wings, originally led by Jonathan ‘Spud Nathan’ Udensi.