As a fresher at the University of Abuja back in 1994, the University campus tagged ‘Mini Campus’, really felt like a glorified secondary school – and half the country referred to the University as such. It was a start up campus and it mostly had small structures in similarly small clusters, dotting the Gwagwalada temporary site. The classrooms had a maximum capacity of 50 seats, and the lecture theatres could perhaps contain no more than 200 students at the time. Things have changed astronomically now.
“As a fresher, down to …. 200 students”, was all I could scribble in a period of over two weeks. Writer’s block? No. Covid 19 second wave? Not at all. A few issues with my page which could debilitate one’s zeal or inspiration for writing? Perhaps not. Losing Prof. Isa Mohammed was so sudden and so distressing; and ultimately, writing a tribute to him was going to be no easy task. It was a daunting farewell that was too close to home, not to have deep consequences on one’s psyche. Capturing his persona and his legacies, while mourning his loss, was one job too many and I now reckon why finishing this article took me a little over 2 weeks!
I finally found my motivation in the form of a muse, that came into being, in the form of a friendly visit to an old friend, colleague, brother and boss; Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin PhD, at his residence in Kano. By friend and colleague, I mean we went to school together and our families closely related with themselves. Barely 15 minutes into our lunch and catch-up convo, we forayed into our days in Gwags (University of Abuja), and how disciplined and closely knit, our super secondary school campus was. University of Abuja back then, was a microcosm of what Nigeria ought to be. A vast and rich plain, that unifies over 300 different tongues and tribes; living together as one nation, with one destiny. North, South, East and West, we were all gwagites and great unibujites!
I knew Joshua Gana and Julie Dyer of Ace Cartel. I was friends with Obinna Ihedioha, and Victor Oche Elias – who recently lost his mum (May her soul RIP). Kingsley aka Kings was my classmate in MACOSSA, along with Chinyere, whom I was always in competition with; as we wrestled each other for first position in our computer class. Dasplan was ‘yo’ and always carried a bright smile. Denen Ikya and TJ were always spotted together. Aisha Ashafa was always in the company of Lovina and I was always having one banter or the other with Agi Jerome. Ndaiye was always addressed as Papa and he still maintains that ‘Papa’ sway on Facebook, on The Critical Thinker’s page. Shobowale Rolly Olapeju taught me how to mime Babyface for a show in school and she never relented even though I kept fumbling. Ini Eyang remains ravishing – that I discovered as I ran into Emmanuel Eyang at Cedarcrest Hospital, Apo, sometime in December 2019. Neither religion, nor ethnic sentiments, ever came to any table in gwags. We were all Nigerians and we came from different backgrounds to form a society of scholarship in peace. We duly represented a citadel of learning, in the centre of unity. This still lives with us as we have continued to nurture and sustain the friendship and the camaraderie that was borne amongst us in those schooling days. That was Prof. Isa Mohammed’s legacy. That is what he stood for all his life and labored to breed, wherever he went.
In other spheres, he is known as the VC that was appointed to head another school as VC. That speaks volumes of his intellectual capacity, and managerial prowess. Yusuf Lawal, in the ‘Loss of a rare leader’, on the 28th of December, 2020; said that Isa Mohammed holds a bachelor of Mathematics and Physics, from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, 1966. Master of Science in Mathematics, 1968. Doctor of Philosophy in Mathematics, University of Oregon, 1974. Marquis who’s who listed him as a noteworthy Mathematics educator. Blerf’s who’s who archives recorded that, Prof. was Chairman of the 5th and 6th Governing Board of JAMB, between 1989 to 1993. He superintended over the expansion of JAMB’s mandate to cover Polytechnics and Colleges of Education. He expanded the Board’s office in Kaduna, to accommodate the Test Development and the then Research, Monitoring and Evaluation Department; now Quality Assurance Department. He also built the JAMB Headquarters in Abuja. He had been with JAMB since its inception as a representative of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He was also Chairman of the National Mathematical Centre. He died as the Galadima of Ningi.
My depiction of the nature and substance of our Gwagwalada Mini Campus site then, was more succinctly captured by one of our sisters, Ambassador Amina Smaila; who in a tribute to Prof. Isa Mohd, said, “Prof’s unconventional and compassionate disposition cultivated a personal relationship with majority of us. Often rimes he would show up unannounced in lecture halls and student residences to check on the welfare of his students and swiftly address any issues the students had. He taught us vital lessons in discipline, loyalty and teamwork. Personally, I owe a debt of gratitude to Prof., as his support and guidance were seminal to the progression of my career. He was always ready to listen and encouraged me to be the best version of myself. I can say the same for a lot of the University of Abuja alumni who have excelled in their chosen careers.”
I say it is no wonder therefore, why the gwagites, especially from Isa Mohammed’s time, have remained a closely knit family. Never ethnically bigoted, nor religiously sentimental – but always patriotic and positively zealous. Prof. Isa Mohammed is one of those role models that Nigeria is fast losing, without hastily finding any replacements. The academicians and leaders that the country is churning out presently are mostly ethnically driven, or religiously sentimental. A huge lot are narcissists and fiercely capitalistic in almost all their endeavors. They have taken a lot from Nigeria, and show no signs or intentions of giving back. Infact, they want to do ‘roforofo’ and scatter the nation since they are not in the front line, just by the national cake table. We will miss Prof. But we are certainly bettered by the know, that he shall be in a better haven, where he will reap from the good seeds of sacrifice, humility and national service, which he labored to grow, all of his lifetime. May Allah bless your kindhearted soul Baba.
by Tahir Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi.