Sunday, May 22, 2022

Prof. Rasheed at 63: Salute to a scholar and administrator par excellence, by Maikudi Abubakar Zukogi

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October 5th of each year marks the birthday of one of Nigeria’s finest administrators, and if you know his area of prominence is university administration, you would then agree that his ranking cannot be anywhere further from the top.

He is not only a high flying administrator; he is also a thoroughbred scholar and academic, rising to become Professor of Text Linguistics in 2001. He is a versatile teacher who has made great imprint in the lives of many people, many of whom have risen to positions of prominence in the society here in Nigeria and across the world. Most of all, many of his students are now academics in different universities, with some already professors and others on the march to that academic pinnacle. Yet I cannot think of a man so humble and so unassuming. Moreover, you will be in for it if you think university administration is the only turf he is familiar with. He is an academic journalist who has served as double editor and managing director of one of Nigeria’s leading newspaper, the New Nigerian.

The story of Abubakar Adamu Rasheed cannot be told in one short essay; not even his achievements and garlands can be summed up in any single write-up. And if garlands are to be worn around the neck, it will be difficult for him to wear a quarter of those garlands without being pulled to the ground by their sheer weight. In spite of this, however, they keep coming by the day.

Why am I writing this? I am writing this because he has just clocked 63 years in the world. I am writing this because I’m not aware if he celebrated his golden nor diamond jubilee years, key conjectures in the life of any man. Neither am I aware if ever he celebrated any of his birthdays in the real sense of the term. Birthday celebrations are for people who have the luxury of time. Professor Rasheed does not have the luxury of time. He does not have a time of his own, and so for a man like that every hour, minute and second counts. It is possible that family members, friends and his staff may remember the day and mention it to him, or even organize an impromptu surprising moment where a cake is presented and goodwill and prayers are offered. I am sure if any such moment happened, nothing can be briefest. He’s got his hands full almost all the time, dealing with issues immediate and remote, private and official, and all to do with manpower development of educational institutions, especially the universities. He has become a much sought after consultant on matters relating to setting up and management of universities. How did he achieve this feat? It is a combination of personal dedication and commitment, and long tedious years of learning and experience.

Professor Rasheed’s sterling contributions to the development of university education in Nigeria were crowned with a deserved appointment as the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC) in August 2016, a position he still occupies. Between then and now, he has inaugurated strategic reform policies that are aimed at strengthening the commission’s regulatory functions and revitalizing the Nigerian university system to be more relevant for national development and global competitiveness. He has been instrumental to the takeoff of two new federal universities and one state university, with federal having 43 and states 47, bringing the total universities in the country currently to 165. During this period, the commission has constituted the Strategic Advisory Committee (STRADVCOM), a sort of advisory think-tank headed by the former versatile Executive Secretary, Peter Okebukola, under whose guidance has so far produced NUC statistical digest for 2017 and 2018 and for the first time, a compendium of full professors in Nigerian universities, also published in 2018. NUC under Professor Rasheed’s watch has also streamlined and eased the process for accreditation of programmes, so that this is done regularly, a situation that has led to denial and outright cancellation of many programmes that do not meet minimum standard spelt out in the Basic Minimum Accreditation Standard (BMAS) across several universities in the country. It is interesting to note that Professor Rasheed is a chip off the old block. He was a student of Professor Munzali Jibril who earlier served as ES, NUC, from 1994 to 1999, setting a record of two men to serve in that capacity from the same university and department.

Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed began his academic career in 1981 as a Graduate Assistant in the Department of English and European Languages, Bayero University, Kano, rising through the ranks to become a full professor in 2001. He was twice Head of Department, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Director of Bayero Consult, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Administration and Academics. He crowned this brilliant academic and administrative career by becoming the Vice-Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano in 2010, after Professor Attahiru Jega was appointed to head the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). His tenure as Vice-Chancellor is acclaimed as the golden years of the university. He introduced new academic programmes and engaged in massive infrastructural development across the two campuses and the teaching hospital. His tenure gave Bayero University, Kano many firsts in accreditation, in the Needs Assessment and TETFUND fund utilization and in many other areas. The crowning glory of his tenure as Vice-Chancellor is the initiation of the new university senate building which was completed by the Professor Muhammad Yahuza Bello led management and recently commissioned by the Minister of Education. It is not surprising that the new senate building was named after him as a gesture of the university community’s appreciation of his invaluable contribution.

In 1993 when Professor Rasheed left for a one year sabbatical leave with the New Nigerian newspapers, little did he realize that life was taking him to a new trajectory. He started first as Editor, Sunday New Nigerian and moved quickly within a space of three months to become the substantive Editor, Daily New Nigerian. The then regime of General Abacha appointed him as substantive Managing Director and Chief Executive of New Nigerian Newspapers, Kaduna, a position he held until 1999 when he returned to the university. In between this period and 2010 when he became the Vice-Chancellor, he sat on the governing council boards of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, University of Jos and the National Institute for Nigerian Languages (NINLAN) Aba. He served as a member of panel of judges alongside Professor Ayo Banjo, Professor Charles Nnolim and Ayo Bamgbose on the Nigeria Prize for Literature sponsored by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG). He is a member, National Institute (mni), Fellow, Nigerian Academy of Letters (FNAL), National Institute for Public Relations (FNIPR), Institute for Corporate Administration (FICA) and Linguistics Association of Nigeria (FLAN).

Professor Rasheed is a versatile and inspiring teacher. If you are lucky to attend his lectures in Stylistics, Media English, Grammar of Contemporary English and Discourse Analysis, you will attest to his inspiring and highly illustrative classes. In stylistics, especially, you will be introduced to interesting speeches and essays that will at once turn you into a prospective speech writer, at least for students who know how to tap into materials and method. He is a great mentor who never gets tired of pushing his mentees to aim for higher goals, and he does this patiently, cheerfully and generously. Except now that the roads are no longer safe and in bad shape, one of his lifelong hobbies is road travel. In 1997 while still serving as the Managing Director, New Nigerian newspapers, he drove himself to present one of the lead papers during the Conference of the Linguistics Association of Nigeria (CLAN) which took place at the Usuman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto.

Professor Rasheed holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, double Master’s Degree from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and Nottingham University, United Kingdom. He obtained his PhD in Stylistics from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1991.

This is wishing Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed a happy 63rd birthday.

Mr Zukogi teaches at the Department of English, Bayero University, Kano

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