By Abdelghaffar Amoka Abdelmalik

We were walking by the water fountain at the roundabout yesterday, and I looked towards the Main Gate, the Suleiman Hall, and the Senate building. The flow of students in these different directions reminded me of some recent experiences. It reminded me of the emptiness of the campus for 8 months, the cats gathering in front of Amina Hall because there were no students to feed them in the hostels, and the strike suspension and the reaction that trailed the announcement of the ABU revised calendar.

Following the suspension of the unfortunate and avoidable 8 months strike, the Senate of Ahmadu Bello University at its 516th (Emergency) Meeting held on Wednesday, 19th October 2022 deliberated on the continuation of academic activities. After intensive deliberation and looking at the reality at the university, Monday, 24th October 2022 was approved for resumption of academic activities. Lectures for undergraduate and postgraduate students were scheduled to commence on Tuesday, 3rd January 2023.

The scheduled commencement dates for lectures generated serious reactions from students and the general public. ABU was called all sorts of names. Out of anger, everyone was looking for a piece of information to ridicule the university. Meanwhile, a few months before then, there was a ruling from the industrial court against the university to pay about 2.5 billion naira to some members of staff of the university who were disengaged in 1996 that the Daily Trust did not talk about. The grumbling over the revised calendar suddenly made Daily Trust realize that there was a judgment against ABU and that the university is in a financial crisis. Of course, ABU is a big brand and any news about the brand will attract heavy traffic. So, they came up with the big headline on ABU. And as far as Daily Trust was concerned, the scheduled lectures for 3rd January 2023 was because ABU is broke.

Whoever knows ABU very well must be aware that the university is a lover of nature and protects the trees on campus. The university has been into tree planting and is a part of its ecosystem restoration campaigns for decades. One dares not cut down of a tree, or even part of it, on campus without getting prior approval. Some situations could however be beyond control. An example was a windstorm in August 2022 that fell quite a number of trees on campus. Some of those trees destroyed part of the university’s electricity distribution network that put some parts of the campus in darkness for days. The storm-affected trees were cut off and moved out of the campus.

As the Daily Trust reporter was scavenging for news on campus, he met a “supposed” senior staff of the university who told him that ABU is so broke that the management had to start cutting down trees to sell as firewood to fund the university. The strike period was actually a trying time for the university staff for having to live without salaries. I don’t want to believe that the situation had messed up the mind of the supposed senior staff.

University is supposed to be an institution for critical reasoning but we seem to have transformed our intellect to gossip. Universities are known for big minds but it appears that small minds who are experts in spreading beer palour rumors/gossip as authentic information have infiltrated the university. Can a university be funded with the sales of firewood? The most unfortunate of all is that the Daily Trust editor read the firewood remark and approved it for publication. This speaks of the sort of editors we have now which are quite different from the editors of national magazines and newspapers that I grew up to adore.

Now that the university has resumed without access to the 2.5bn naira in its account, Daily Trust should, in their next Media Trust award, consider giving the university management an award for running ABU with the “golden firewood”. FG will also be glad to know that universities can be run by selling firewood.

We are glad that students are back and the university community is doing its best to keep the system alive despite the onslaught on the public universities and the gang up to destroy the system. The N2.5b with CBN is still not accessible by ABU and both the management and staff are doing their best and making sacrifices to keep the university moving. I see the smile on the faces of my colleagues as they perform their responsibilities and I wonder where they get those smiles from. The university council and the management need to commend the university staff.

Just the way some Nigerians love to carry negative news about Nigeria, so some members of the ABU community are obsessed with negative news about the university even if it’s not true. They ain’t patient to confirm it. A case study of the “golden firewood”. We may not like some of the leaders of the university, but we don’t have to destroy the university for our hatred for them. If those before us had destroyed the university on personal interest, we won’t be in the university.

Academics are supposed to set a pace for others to follow but some of us seem to be taking the path of self-centered egoists, who strive to gratify their material, canal desires and pursue personal interests or particular national interests that coincide with theirs. We won’t make progress till we let go of our selfish interests for a common interest. We have been fighting for proper funding of the universities, but there is one thing that the money can’t change. Our attitude. One of the most important changes we need right now is attitudinal change. That is referred to as “Jihad al Nafs” (Struggle against the Self) because such struggle is considered the major struggle (al-jihad al-akbar) in Islam.

Dear colleagues and alumni, Vice Chancellors come and go and the university remains. We must not have to like some of them but we have to work with them for the university and the nation. We are all stakeholders and the university is for us to protect. If we don’t protect it, nobody will. As ABU celebrates its 60th anniversary and prepares for its 42nd convocation ceremony, we must play our role for the university to achieve its vision and mission.

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