UniAbuja VC Na’Allah: A Sage on the Stage
By Hakeem Alohunmata
Welcoming you to his office is a tall roll up banner presented to him by the Alumni of his Alma-Mata, the better by far University, University of Ilorin on assumption of office as the Vice-Chancellor of University of Abuja. The banner carries an inscription: “A goldfish has no hiding place…”.
This inscription aptly describes the personality of the man of the moment, a high-profile scholar, a firm administrator with stern magisterial frankness and a leading figure in the administration of tertiary education in Nigeria, Prof., AbdulRasheed Na’Allah. Today, Prof. AbdulRasheed Na’Allah marks his birthday anniversary as he clocks 58.
Celebrating this exceptionally iconic scholar, a prolific writer and an outstanding personality with impressive humility is not a gesture taken too far for those who have worked very closely with him. As an amazing scholar with track record of academic achievements trailing behind him, his immense contributions to the literary barony have further widened the horizon of creativity and intellectualism in the literary realm and created a profound fecundity to the African Oral tradition around the world.
As an administrator per excellence, Prof. Na’Allah has brought his wealth of experience and exposure to bear in the administration of tertiary education in Nigeria. As the longest serving Vice-Chancellor in Nigeria, his determination to redefine Nigerian higher education system remains undaunted. As a Nigerian in diaspora, Prof. Na’Allah was fully aware of the various challenges bedeviling tertiary education system in Nigeria.
His burning desire, therefore, to rewrite the story and change the narratives of the university system in Nigeria took him out of his comfort zone in the United State of America where he had served as departmental chair at the prestigious University of Western Illinois to accept the offer made to him by the Kwara State Government in 2009 to become the pioneer Vice-Chancellor of the state University- a position he held for ten years.
Even before his assumption of duty, this highly talented polyglot had known, very clearly, the kind of University he was coming to build- a University that will be second best to no other University in Nigeria.
Upon assumption of office the need to bridge the gap between the town and the gown became his focus. He was the first Vice-Chancellor to start a true community base University as the slogan of the University was and still is: “the University for Community Development”.
Every programme in the University was tailored towards community development and established a center for Community Development that constantly interacts with the host community to know how the University can assist them in terms of training, research, and community development services.
Having realized the urgent need to save the nation from the plague of unemployment being faced by its teaming youths, Prof. Na’Allah led a serious campaign on the need to train students to begin to create wealth through a robust entrepreneurship programme. The determination to produce graduates who upon graduation will not only be self-employed but also employers of labour, made him start, right from inception, a well-designed entrepreneurship programmes which has today become a benchmark against which the success of entrepreneurship programmes in other Universities is measured.
His innovative ideas led to the introduction of some academic programmes that can solve nation’s problem. He is the first Vice-chancellor in Nigeria to introduce Aeronautic and Astronautic Engineering as an Undergraduate programme in Nigeria; the first Vice-Chancellor to introduce Railway Engineering also at an undergraduate programme in Nigeria; the first Vice-Chancellor to introduce student employment scheme where students are employed by the university and earned wages for their services; the first Vice-Chancellor to introduce an all-inclusive student mentorship programme where students are requested to pick a role model in their various disciplines and are therefore physically attached to those role models for mentorship; the Vice-Vice-Chancellor to have run a University for 5years without subvention from Government.
The first Vice-Chancellor in this; and the first Vice-Chancellor in that. A feat that earned him the Sgtv Best Vice-Chancellor of the year award.
However, this year’s birthday celebration calls for a sober reflection as it is the first birthday to be celebrated without his two spiritual pillars. The first being his beloved mother, Late Alhaja Bilikisu Esu Oke Na’allah Golu who died on Sunday 7th June 2020. On a special day like this, Prof, Na’Allah would wake up to a call from his late mother to receive prayers and blessings that would last him till the year next but today there is no one to make such a call.
The second is his father-in -law, a thorough bred first class disciplinarian, a scholar and an Islamic cleric, Late Alhaji Olayiwola Kamaldeen, former Khalifatu Adabiyeen, who took his last breath on the 11th June 2020. The loss of these two spiritual gallant soldiers really shook Prof. Na’Allah to his last standing. This year’s celebration therefore is dedicated to the memories of these two wonderful personalities that had constantly water the seed of Prof. Na’Allah that today becomes a tree that grows the most beautiful flowers. We pray that their souls be reposed in Aljanatul Firdous. Amin.
Hakeem Alohunmata writes from Ilorin