As Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria,
gears up to celebrate its golden jubilee on
October 4, 2012, the Vice-Chancellor,
Professor Abdullahi Mustapha, in this
interview with our AHURAKA ISAH, says that
the university has substantially achieved its
objectives. He also calls on its alumni to
continue to support the institution so that it
can rank among the best in the world.
Fifty years in the life of an individual is a
great milestone worthy of celebration. What
are the achievements the university really
wants to celebrate?
Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) which is
adjudged the largest university in Nigeria
and second largest in Africa, second only to
Cairo University, Egypt, would attain 50
years of age by October 4. It was founded
exactly on October 4, 1962, as the
University of Northern Nigeria.
ABU operates two main campuses – Samaru
and Kongo campus. The Samaru campus
houses the administrative offices, sciences,
social-sciences, arts and languages,
education and research facilities. The Kongo
campus hosts the Faculties of Law and
The Faculty of Administration consists of
Accounting, Business Administration, Local
Government and Development Studies and
Public Administration Departments.
Additionally, the university is responsible
for a variety of other institutions and
programmes at a number of other locations.
The university runs a wide variety of
undergraduate and graduate programs.
Besides, it also offers Associate Degrees and
other vocational and remedial programmes.
The university has a large medical
programme with its own teaching Hospital,
the ABU Teaching Hospital, which is one of
the largest hospitals in Nigeria.
At the opening on October 4, 1962, thanks
in part to absorbing existing institutions,
ABU started with four faculties comprising
15 departments. However, students in all
programmes numbered only 426. The
challenges faced were enormous.
Over 60 years of British colonial rule,
education in the Northern Region had
lagged far behind that of the two southern
regions. Few students from the North had
qualifications for university entrance, and
fewer still northerners had qualifications for
teaching appointments. Of the original
student body, only 147 were from the
Opposed initially by some, the school
proved a great success and enrolments
expanded even more rapidly. By its tenth
year, ABU’s total enrolments, including non-
and pre-degree programmes, were put at
over 7,000 out of which more than half
were in degree programmes. In its first 10
years, the University of Ibadan produced
615 graduates. At ABU the corresponding
figure after 10 years was 2,333 first
degrees, along with several advanced
Yet ABU continues to occupy a particularly
important place among Nigerian
universities. As it approaches its half-
century anniversary, ABU can claim to be
the largest and the most extensive of all
universities in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Currently, the university covers a land area
of 7,000 hectares and encompasses 12
academic faculties, a postgraduate school
and 82 academic departments. It has five
institutes, six specialised centers, a Division
of Agricultural Colleges, demonstration
secondary and primary schools, as well as
extension and consultancy services which
provide a variety of services to the wider
The total student enrolment in the
university’s degree and sub-degree
programs is about 35,000, drawn from all
the 774 local government areas (LGAs),
every state of the Nigerian federation, from
Africa and from the rest of world. There are
about 1,400 academic and research staff
and 5,000 support staff serving the
The university has also nurtured two new
university institutions, Bayero University,
Kano (BUK) and the Abubakar Tafawa
Balewa University of Technology, Bauchi
(ATBU). Some 27 tertiary institutions made
up of colleges of education, polytechnics
and schools of basic or preliminary studies
are affiliated to it.
If you look at the history, without fear of
contradiction, this is the only university in
Nigeria that has at least a student each from
all the 774 LGAs that make up the country. It
is not just the student populations that cut
across the country. In terms of staff
contents, we have virtually all the states
represented on both academic and non-
academic staff cadres of the university,
aside foreign researchers and lecturers in
our midst.
The reasons for this broad spectrum of
staffing and students intake from all parts
of the country, Africa and overseas is to
maintain our academic standard as well as
to sustain our national and national focus
and policy upon which the university was
With our mix in terms of students and staff
requirement, definitely, ABU is indisputably
a national university that is hard to
compare with other universities in the
country. This is the credo upon which the
university is founded and has been
maintained up till date.
The university has announced that it would
be celebrating its golden jubilee on October
4, barely a month from now. How is your
preparations so far for this occasion?
We commenced the preparation by setting
up committees for various aspects of the
occasion and these committees are all
working round the clock. The various
academic departments are also on ground
to showcase their research achievements
for the years of their existence.
We are distributing invitation letters to our
alumni, general public, leaders within and
outside Nigerians, to come and join us in
marking our golden jubilee. We have an
award committee that has already laid
down the criteria for those to merit various
awards that we shall dole out during the
What does your administration actually
have in mind to achieve with this
The key point in our celebration is the
award of Ahmadu Bello golden trophies to
some people who have distinguished
themselves with their generous
contributions towards the progress and
development of this university.
The challenges of transforming universities
in this country are a hard task. The bottom-
line for the transformation or changing
things or university is fund. With the lean
resources at our disposal, we have had to
prioritise our developmental strategies,
because with almost 90 academic
departments in the university, there is no
way we can develop them at the same pace
from such meagre resources.
For instance, when we talk of research, our
major focus was to become a centre of our
national economy. This is the very reason
for our grandeur efforts in agricultural
researches. Perhaps, that was what has
accounted for so much achievement in the
areas of improved seeds and agricultural
mechanisation that have direct impact on
our economy.
But we have also done well in engineering
and herbal medical researches; yet we want
to refocus ourselves in those areas as well
as break new grounds.
This reminds one of your much talk of
biotechnology and energy research centres.
What are the level of progress in these
centres and their ultimate uses in the
ABU is the only university with the energy
research centre aimed at researching into
nuclear energy for electricity generation.
With the commitment of the federal
government towards adequate electricity
production to cover the country, our
energy research centre can readily come to
So far, it is the only university that posses
nuclear reactor and with adequate funding
and commitment from the government, it is
just a question of time to put electricity
problem of the country to rest.
What can you say are the high points of the
50th anniversary celebration?
One of the high points of the 50th
anniversary celebration is the
commissioning of the 30-kilometre campus
wide fibre optic network with 10Gb
Ethernet using high end devices that
support Cisco’s Borderless technology.
The optic fibre campus network links the
major campuses – Samaru, Kongo and Shika
– on an intercampus 10Gb scalable
backbone with 65+ locations enabled with a
minimum of 2Gbuplink connectivity to
faculties, halls of residence, digital centres,
classes, libraries, laboratories, lecture halls
and offices.
The new infrastructure will allow ABU to
deliver Internet and Intranet access to over
40,000 students and staff in all its campuses
and provide the ground for the university
to facilitate e-Learning, online application
processing and support multi-media
communication services (video
conferencing and VoIP) for staff and
The new infrastructure coupled with a
robust data centre will address key issues
like, reliability, redundancy, increased
bandwidth and network convergence at
consistent speeds.
Internet access currently resides on an
STM-1 (GLO-1) link at a 155Mbps
The robust Optic Fibre Project was financed
by McArthur Foundation with a counterpart
funding by the University.
To complement the ICT-driven vision of the
university, the TETfund had provided funds
for the upgrade of the optical based
Intranet for e-Learning and multimedia
applications. Some selected lecture theatres
and classrooms are now provided with
Smart Boards for computer-based teaching
This university can boast of the current vice
president, eight serving state governors,
CBN governors, GMD of the NNPC and so on
as its alumni. How does the university
intend to convert them into assets for the
purpose of its developmental goals?
I think, again, this is one of the virtue of
Ahmadu Bello University. This is borne out
of direct impact of teaching and research
which goes with the aims and objectives of
establishing the university. The university
was set up primarily, among others, to
develop man power needs of its immediate
environment, that of the nation and the
world as a whole.
The late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua
studied chemistry here. Former Vice
President Abubakar Atiku and the current
Vice President Namadi Sambo passed
through ABU. We also have eight serving
state governors, current CBN governor,
Sanusi Lamido, former and present GMD of
NNPC, Mr. Austine Oniwon and Patrick
Yakubu respectively, as alumni of ABU.
The eight serving state governors are Isa
Yagudu (Bauchi), Umaru Tanko Al-makura
(Nasarawa), Ibrahim Dankwabo (Gombe),
Usman Saidu Nasamu Dangari (Kebbi),
Patrick Yakowa (Kaduna), Ibrahim Geidam
(Yobe), Ibrahim Shema (Katsina) and
Danbaba Suntai (Taraba) as its alumni .
The ex-governors include Donald Duke
(Cross River), Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Yobe),
Kabiru Gaya (Kano), Ahmed Makarfi
(Kaduna), Adamu Muazu (Bauchi) and
Ibrahim Shekarau (Kano) aside several
military administrators that passed out from
It is not just by accident that this university
gave birth to these calibre of people in the
society; it was all done to our human capital
development teachings and researches. If all
the alumni of ABU can indeed turn back to
contribute to the development of their alma
mata, I assure you that his university would
indeed become one of the greatest and
richest universities in the world.
This university has 27 affiliated institutions,
divisions of college of agriculture, five
institutions and six specialised centres. Can
we really consider them as assets or
liabilities and, if they are stressing your
purse, is the university contemplating
shedding weight?
You see, there is no way we can decide
which institutions can be affiliated to us. It
is all due to how these institutions assess
your capacity and value as a worthy citadel
of learning. Besides, they dont’ really come
to us for the need of funds, and as a matter
of fact they are autonomous in terms of
financial commitment.
Moreso, we are also concerned with the
need of our immediate community with
respect to human capital and research
development. These centres equally
contribute immensely to the volume of
teachings and researches that form the
constitution of this university. They are part
and parcel of university obligations and, in
any case, there is no way we can tell even
any affiliated institutions to go away. Of
course, where would they go to?
This university is one the Nigerian
universities that have suffered most from
closures in the past. Is it right to say that
your insider knowledge has helped greatly
in bringing about the current academic
stability in the institution?
I was a student of this university from
1969 and graduated in 1973 from the
Department of Pharmacy. I did not just pass
through the university, but the university
also passed through me. During our student
life, I was also involved in student union
As an academic staff member of this
university, I was also involved in union
activities; in short, I was among the longest
serving heads of department, because I
spent 19 years on the seat. I was a dean of
faculty, dean of student affairs during
General Mamman Kontagora era. As a
deputy vice-chancellor, I was in charge of
You can see that I was really involved in all
spheres of university administration and
affairs. I have got enough experience to
understand the need of the students and
the university workers.
AS a deputy vice-chancellor in charge of
administration all union matters were under
me. I am so much close to the students and
staff of the university, so I know their
needs and aspirations as well as the tricks
and the politics. We can sit down even the
trees and discuss their areas of grievances
and resolve them amicably.
And I think that being a vice-chancellor, I
would not distance myself from the needs
of the unions. If you see the unions fighting
a vice-chancellor, it is because the vice-
chancellor is not being open, not
transparent, or not prepared to sit down
and discuss the issues with them. All that is
required is to sit down with them, show
them the books containing figures from
government treasury, what they were
meant for and how they were spent.
I show the unions what was meant for
them; if they want more, let them tell me
where to get it. Since all of us are
stakeholders, they can understand because
they are human too, and if I take decision, it
is simply in the interest of the people and
not for myself. I think that is what has
brought this level of understanding within
the university community and the academic
or industrial peace being witnessed.
What areas of the university law are the
Council and Senate of the university set to
The university law has to be reviewed
because the visitation panel has directed all
along that we should review our laws in
order to improve on our university
Also, with the university autonomy bill
which has been passed into law by the
National Assembly, we need to review our
laws to conform with the dictates of the Bill
as well.
There are laws such as Public Procurement
Act has to be incorporated in university
laws in order to adjust to the nation’s law
on the award of contracts because it is with
public fund such contracts are financed.
Besides, we have to conform to the
standard/best practices world wide in
universities. You would recall that the laws
we are set to review came to be as far back
as in 1965 or so. I was not the one that
started the review but my coming is to
make sure it is done, and within the next
three years, it will be done.
What special message do you have for the
ABU alumni?
I wish the alumni to join us in the
celebration because that would afford them
the opportunity to observe the level of our
infrastructural decay, the depleted or near
absence of our research and teaching
They would be able to sincerely determine
the level of assistance we need to replace
and rehabilitate the teaching and research
materials. We require their research to
maintain our position, our teaching and
research standard that laid their foundation
for their greatness. Certainly, after 50 years,
ABU needs adequate funds to replace and
rehabilitate her infrastructure, teaching and
research facilities.
We also know, all over the world, that great
universities are those supported by their
alumni. A clear example is Harvard
University which is one of the richest
universities in the world and receives $50
billion endowment fund mostly from its
Let me draw the attentions of our alumni
that what we require from them is not just
cash, but building infrastructure, teaching
and research equipment they come to install
or construct on their own.
The founder of BlackBerry is from Waterloo
University and has donated over $250
million to that university so far. Here in
Nigeria, the former group managing
director of NNPC, Mr Austin Oniwon in
conjunction with committee of friends built
ultra modern ICT centre for ABU. I expect
the rest of alumni of this university to
emulate these ambassadors of their alma
With such support, ABU would be
transformed into one of the leading
universities in the world. Our target is to
compete favourably with Harvard and
Oxford universities.