Nuhu Yaqub: Celebrating a rare Nigerian par excellence at 70




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Prof Nuhu O. Yaqub

By Isaac N. Obasi

The news the graceful retirement Prof. Nuhu Omeiza Yaqub (OFR) the services the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto (UDUS) came on 7 March 2021. His retirement was in accordance the 70 years mandatory retirement age enjoyed by the professorial cadre in the Nigerian university system. It is always a thing joy for someone to get to the peak his/her career and also to have the privilege retiring later service in good health of mind and body. No doubt, each one of prays for this blessing in our life and career. It is therefore against this backdrop that one rejoices the family Prof. Nuhu Yaqub, and also feels compelled to write a deserving tribute to mark his 70th birthday and retirement, as one of his professional colleagues who was him earlier in UDUS and much later in the University of Abuja where he served meritoriously as Vice-Chancellor.    

This tribute celebrates a perfect gentleman at 70 imbued with astounding qualities of humility, conviviality, selfless service, unwavering honesty of purpose in service, transformative leadership, astuteness in administration, and above all cosmopolitanism and its twin sister of fairness in dealing with people in multi-cultural organisations and the larger heterogeneous society. These and many more superlative qualities define this rare Nigerian gentleman par excellence.    

Writing a tribute to honour Prof. Yaqub, is a voyage in superlative descriptions, which we can only scratch its surface here. This is a man with admirable qualities in both character and learning in the true sense of the meaning of the phrase that we hear yearly in university convocation ceremonies across the world, but which regrettably has been vanishing among students and lecturers in Nigeria. Yet the worth of a man in any civilized society is neither to be found in the array of highly placed and privileged positions held, nor in the humongous nature of material acquisitions (through such positions), but rather in the possession of positive or healthy values that keep humanity on the path of stable and enviable progress solidly anchored on a foundation of justice and its resultant peace. 

With an excellent BSc honours degree the Bayero University, Kano (BUK), MA from the University of Toronto, Canada, and a D.Phil from the University of Sussex, United Kingdom, Prof. Yaqub spent much of his meritorious career years spanning four decades at UDUS where he served it as a Deputy Vice-Chancellor. However, what distinctively defined him later was his tenure as Vice-Chancellor (VC) in two universities (one federal and the other state). The first was at the University of Abuja (UniAbuja) where he served as VC from 2004 to 2009, while the second was at the Sokoto State University where he served as its pioneer VC from 2013 to 2017. 

Against this background, Prof. Yaqub is without doubt one of the most outstanding university administrators Nigeria has produced in much of its turbulent years. Without doubt again, Prof. Yaqub is truly a transformative university leader who lifted the UniAbuja from its erstwhile Arts/Humanities dominated (82%) disciplines (at the of assumption of office in 2004) to its present status where both the Arts/Humanities disciplines and the Science/Applied Science disciplines, are in a healthy numerical competition. It is very easy to take things for granted. A existed in the history of UniAbuja when there were no School, Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Agriculture, and Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. And again, at the Sokoto State University, his pioneering and transformative infrastructural imprint speaks for itself.   

Since this tribute is more interested in Prof. Yaqub’s of service, than his other areas of distinctive accomplishments, there is no need reinventing the wheel. One would simply adopt existing historical records to serve our purpose. Among most fitting historical records that correctly document Prof. Yaqub’s high ethical quality of service in UniAbuja, was one written by Prof. Abubakar O. Sulaiman (presently Director General of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies) who served UniAbuja then as Acting Director of Sultan Maccido Institute for Peace, Leadership and Development Studies. According to Abubakar:

University of Abuja came into existence in 1988, and was at best a ‘glorified secondary school’ before the advent of Prof Nuhu Yaqub. Little or nothing was dignifying especially in the area of physical structures. of all sorts was rampant; admission racketeering was highly pronounced; primordial sentiments to a large extent dictated admission and staff recruitment process. The university operated a caste and closed system. Academic culture was on a low profile as activities meant to improve scholarship were hardly organised…  

One area of credit that most mischief makers ignore in their assessment of Yaqub’s administration is in the area of quality control, which is crucial to academic development. The administration of Nuhu Yaqub brought transparency and due process in the admission process. For the first , the university adhered strictly to the NUC/ admission criteria. Prof Yaqub ensured that prospective students that performed well in and post- examinations were considered for admission, regardless of their ethnic background. Merit list was published on the university notice board with scores of each candidate by its side. That was the last the university admission process passed through such credible procedures. 

The administration of Nuhu Yaqab also encouraged manpower development by recruiting qualified academic staff into the system, while encouraging seasoned academics on sabbatical and those visiting to join the system…His administration also improved on the staff strength before the end of his tenure, while the appointments of Deputy Vice Chancellors, and Deans were democratized (See The Nigerian Voice via https://www.thenigerianvoice.com/news/47876/uniabuja-history-and-yellow-journalism.html, in an article tilted: ‘UniAbuja: History and Yellow Journalism’). 

It is worthy to note the emphasis (in black colour, 2nd paragraph) which we added in order to show the defining philosophy of his work ethic. It is this same cosmopolitan ethical attribute of Prof. Yaqub that he applied in the recruitment of qualified academic and non-academic staff to make UniAbuja a true centre of unity, unlike what it was before he became its VC. It is in this sense that one can appreciate the part of the title of this article which describes him as a rare Nigeria par excellence

A Kogian, his state, Kogi, must indeed be proud to be honoured by the almighty God with a rare gift of a man with sterling superlative and convivial cum humble qualities. May God continue to be generous to him and his very supportive and equally amiable , Mrs. Oyebola Oyetunji Yaqub (who in her own right is a very committed and self-effacing experienced university administrator) with additional years in good health of mind and body.

Prof. Obasi of the University of Abuja, wrote this piece in his capacity as a long time professional colleague and friend of Professor Nuhu Yaqub with whom co-edited a 1998 book titled: Local Government Policy Making and Execution in Nigeria (Essays in Memory of Dr. Onujabe A. Onido), Ibadan: Sam Bookman Publishers. Obasi can be reached via his Email: nnamdizik@gmail.com.