By Abubakar Imam
llorin Emirate is, indeed, an extremely blessed polity. The multifarious blessings of the Emirate, as a geo-political entity, are not limited to her abundant human resources and fascinating history. The community is also endowed in so many other spheres of human endeavours. Those who are in the know are even of the “scientific conviction” that the mineral resources embedded beneath the soil of the blessed Emirate, which are yet to be either explored or exploited, are mind-boggling and could transform the socio-economic configurations of the nation’s southern-most Emirate beyond immediate human comprehension.
However, inspite of all these, the people of Ilorin Emirate are still not living to the capacity of their potentials as a result of a number of man-made factors. One of these factors is that members of the Ilorin Emirate Community hardly appreciated one another. As a student of Socio-Psychology, I do rumiminate seriously on why that trend has continued for so long. I have tried to situate the situation from various perspectives. Could it be because “Prophets are rarely honoured in their homes” and by their people? Is it because we are afraid of being accused of promoting just the interests of our compatriots? Is it because we are simply unappreciative of the greatness of the truly great amongst us? Or do we just enjoy pretending that none of our leaders should be identified with as soon as they are no longer holding positions where favour can be immediately dispensed, accessed and enjoyed?
My findings revealed that such dispositions are not peculiar to the people of Ilorin but a human phenomenon particularly prevalent among those who believe in getting immediate gains.
Yet we have so many patriots here who deserve to be celebrated for their personal accomplishments and contributions to the development of our community in one way or the other.
Our community,which would soon attain two centuries of transformation into an Emirate, had never lacked benevolent patriots. Every generation of Ilorin Emirate people has always been blessed with superlative individuals who sacrificed their time,career and even life for the comfort and upliftment of their contemporaries and secure pride for generations unborn.Such patriots and heroes appeared in almost all the decades of the 19th century and from the various segments of the territory often referred to as “a sanctuary of amity”.
While the imprint of the previous centuries paraded many of such fascinating individuals who were either scholars,warriors or leaders of note,the contemporary Ilorin has also thrown-up many of such amazing figures in different fields of human endeavours.Among those high-flying personalities,who should be celebrated for the much or the little they could offer towards the development of the Ilorin Emirate community is the immediate past Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin,Prof.Abdulganiyu Ambali.Today, the erudite scholar marks his 62nd birthday this last Friday of the penultimate month of the 2019 Gregorian “kajokasu”.
Since it is a settled fact that it is not within the elements of our culture to pay serious attention by way of grandeur and pompous commemoration of the anniversary of the date we were born,I would not be surprised if this distinguished academic and ingenious administrator throws no party to mark the day.It is not because he is too cool-headed for that or that he simply lacks the wherewithal.He is only responding to our cultural heritage and nuances yet to be completely defeated by the pernicious effect of so-called western civilization.
Nevertheless,some of us would always take it upon ourselves to expose such self disciplined and modest leaders to acclamation and celebration by their compatriots and other people of goodwill.The reason for my perennial and self-imposed enterprise of writing on the heroes of Ilorin Emirate is just to appreciate the huge or the “little” those distinguished individuals have done.It is also meant to encourage others to emulate those who have done well and to tell detractors of Ilorin Emirate that we are earnestly moving beyond the level they wanted us to remain in terms of human resources emancipation.
Prof.Ambali was born on November 29,1957 in Ilorin.He hails from Adeludere family of Oke-Agbede area of Ilorin.He was born to the family of the late Mallam Ambali Gidado and Mrs.Husseina Angulu. The segment of Ilorin from which this great patriot originates has the record of producing many other wonderful patriots like Sheikh Abdullahi Jubril Shaaban(b.1941),the founder and proprietor of the Muyideen Group of Schools and one of the most impactful Proprietors of Arabic and Islamic studies institutions in our climes; Dr.Uthman AbdulRahman Ajidagba, the current Resident Electoral Commissioner in-charge of Nassarawa State and, of course,the Executive Chairman of Ajeromi/Ifelodin Local Council Development Area,Lagos,Alhaji Abdulfatahi Ajidagba, just to mention a few.
This outstanding Ilorite received his primary education from the oldest western educational institution in the Ilorin West Local Government Area of Kwara State, the Pakata LGEA Primary School,where he obtained his First School Leaving Certificate in 1968.His mates at the School included the late Alhaji Isiaka Azeez,Engr.M.G.Alaaya,a former General Manager of the Kwara State Transport Corporation, and Alhaji Saliu Mahamood of the Ubandawaki chieftaincy family of Pakata.
Prof.Ambali proceeded to the McBride Secondary School(now Government Secondary School)Jalingo,the capital of Taraba State at the end of which he earned his West African School Certificate in flying colours.He,thereafter gained admission into the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University,Zaria,for his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine programme,a course he successfully accomplished in 1981 and where he was taught by many scholars including his distinguished senior compatriot,Prof.Saka Nuru(b.1935),the first Nigerian Professor of Veterinary Medicine.This birthday boy eventually joined his erstwhile teacher as the second Ilorin man to become a Professor of Veterinary Medicine.
As someone who was destined to be great in life as an academic,Prof.Ambali proceeded to the University of Liverpool,United Kingdom, where he obtained his Master of Science and Doctorate degrees in Veterinary Medicine in 1984 and 1989,respectively.
Prof.Ambali commenced his brilliant working career as a Veterinary Surgeon at the Kano State Ministry of Rural and Community Development as a Youth Corps Member between 1981 and 1982.
He,thereafter, joined the services of the University of Maiduguri in 1982.He was employed by that second generation Nigerian university as a Graduate Assistant.His committment to duties as exemplified in the quality time, energy and resources he devoted to his core duties of teaching,research and community services within and outside the University saw him holding offices of high responsibilities at the institution such as been the Head, Department of Veterinary Medicine;Director,Veterinary Teaching Hospital;Dean,Faculty of Veterinary Medicine,and a Member of the Governing Council of the University and the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital,at various times,among other positions of responsibilities he was tested with and admiringly well held.His infectious dedication to his responsibilities coupled with proven integrity and productive professionalism accounted for his steady rise as a University teacher and across the ladder of the academic profession until he attained the pinnacle of his career as a Professor in 1995.
Though, prior to his appointment as the Chief Executive of the University of Ilorin only very few people of Ilorin Emirate,based at home, knew much about him but right from his days as a young anonymous lecturer his impact has always been felt by his compatriots who were either at Unimaid for studies or working in Borno State and the rest of the Northern Eastern axis of Nigeria.There has been his base from 1982 to 2012 during which he assisted so many knowledge-thirsty younger compatriots to secure admission into the University.He was well-known to members of the umbrella socio-cultural organisation of the people of Ilorin, the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union, that he served as a Member and a leader for so many years.His was a regular face in most of the public events organised by the Union at local,zonal and national levels where he often contributed his utmost.It was,therefore, not surprising when the Union threw her weight behind him as the Chief Executive of the most sought after and impactful Federal Government-owned ivory tower located on their land- the Better By Far Varsity!
His journey to the office as the helmsman of the University of Ilorin was not only rigorous but also full of lessons for the younger ones.Just as President Muhammadu Buhari,who had to contest thrice for the highest office in the land, Prof.Ambali also vied for the Vice-Chancellorship of the better by far University on three different occasions before he eventually succeeded.He bidded for the office of VC in 2002.He also attempted it in 2007.On each of those two occasions, his efforts were not fruitful but his third attempt in 2012 received divine blessings and as they say,the rest is history.
While on the stool of the Vice-Chancellor of the nation’s most sought-after University,Prof.Ambali gave a very good account of himself.He succeeded in maintaining the alluring reputation of the University as a centre of academic excellence.He also ensured that the unbroken tranquility of the University was maintained throughout his five years tenure.The impressive physical transformation of the school was maintained throughout his sojourn as his administration pursued and achieved so many landmark physical infrastructures for the institution.
During his tenure and as expected,he faced a lot of challenges and also achieved so much.He was elected as the President of the Association of West African Universities(AWAU).He was also a Board Member of both the Association of African Universities(AAU) and the International Association of Universities(IAU).He was, of course,a front line Member of Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities.In each of those positions, he not only did the University of Ilorin proud but also promoted the intellectual and leadership heritage of Ilorin Emirate to the best of his ability.
He did impressively well in using the privilege of his office to upgrade the human resources development of the University’s host community through appointments of qualified and competent indigenes of Ilorin Emirate into the services of the University as either academic or non-teaching staff members without disregarding the high-level impartiality demanded of the occupant of that high office.
Apart from his services as a teacher and administrator, Prof.Ambali was also the founding Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Ilorin and served the nation in many other worthwhile capacities.He was the Chief Returning Officer of the Gubernatorial elections in Niger and Ekiti States in 2015 and 2017,respectively.The statesmanship,credibility and professionalism he deployed in the conduct of the two elections were advertised and affirmed by the acceptance of their outcomes by all the stakeholders.He had,in fact, just completed another round of assignment as the Chairman of the Visitation Panel to the Kwara State University,Malete.
Without a modicum of adulation,one can say that Prof.Ambali pleasantly surprised and surpassed many of his compatriots in simplicity, humility and responsiveness.He is always ready to listen to people,their socio-economic levels notwithstanding.In fact, he does that with his characteristic disarming smiles.This writer was a living witness to many times when some youths of Pakata area would wailed the convoy of Prof.Ambali down whenever he was passing through their “territorial jurisdiction” to his Federal Low-Cost Housing Estate,Oloje,Residence,not to demand “owo omo onile” but to ask for the erudite administrator’s favour.Instead of asking his security operatives to clear the way for him,he would alight from his vehicle to address and assure them of his readiness to do whatever they wanted, provided such requests were within his purview. Through such gestures, many citizens were employed.Many were also given admission into the University to pursue career in different fields of study.I know of another person who he never knew from Adam but is now a senior employee of the University of Ilorin.He only and always disturbed the amiable Professor with repeated text messages until he was invited,only to be given a job.
Prof.Ambali has won many awards including the Officer of the Order of the Niger(OON).As at the time he was conferred with the award, he was the first serving Vice-Chancellor of any Nigerian university who will be so honoured by the Federal Government of Nigeria.He is also a recipient of several honours and awards including those bestowed on him by the various segments of the IEDPU in recognition of his exemplary patriotism.He is due to be conferred with another one from the “Pakata Patriots,Ilorin later in December this year for his numerous contributions.
This great scholar,who parades several other honours,awards and recognitions conferred on him by numerous professional bodies is not without some weaknesses.His quiet gentility and humility,to many people,are not signs of strength but symbols of weakness.To such people,a leader must be assertive and aggressive at all times.He is also labeled with the toga of being “too apolitical”.His critics believed that he would have achieved more if he had been a “bit political” without being a card-carrying member of any political party.Despite all these critical criticism,the University of Ilorin became and remained the most sought-after University in Nigeria during his tenure and even till now more than two years after he left office.
But all said and done,Prof.Ambali is an accomplished man by every parameter.His achievements,here and there,had secured for him a unique place in the chequred history of Ilorin Emirate.He is the third son of the Ilorin Emirate to serve as the Vice-Chancellor of a University,next to the Talba of Ilorin, Prof.Shuaib Oba AbdulRaheem,OFR,(b. 1947),who presided-over the affairs of the University of Ilorin from 1997 to 2002,and Prof.AbdulRasheed Na’Allah(b.1962),who first served as the pioneer Head at KWASU between 2009 and 2019 before his current sojourn at the University of Abuja.He is also the second indigene of Ilorin Emirate to serve as the Chief Executive of the University of Ilorin after the former and being the fifth indigene of Ilorin Emirate to be appointed as a Professor.
Prof.Ambali is married and blessed with children who are distinguishing themselves in their various endeavours.He enjoys watching football and movies on wild life; and listening to music as his hobbies.
While I urge the younger generations of our people to emulate the tireless industry,perseverance,sense of service and humility and such other worthy attributes of this easy-going scholar,it is my prayers that may Allah prolong the life of this expectional public servant and benefactor of many and grant him sound health and wisdom to serve Ilorin Emirate and humanity the more.
Imam is the National Publicity Secretary of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union.