By Abubakar Imam
Comes Thursday,May 20,2021, all roads shall lead to the Main Auditorium of the nation’s most sought after University, the University of Ilorin, as a distinguished son of the institution’s host community, Prof. Baba Abdullahi Alafara, delivers the University’s 198th Inaugural Lecture.
The lecture, which is entitled “Sustainable National Development: Mineral And Material Resources to the Rescue”,i s topical, apt and quite timely, particularly at this time when Nigeria is exploring other means of generating external revenue to boost its all-round development in view of the decline in the importance of crude oil in global economy and politics.
Let me say that, though the name of the Inaugural Lecturer has been ringing bell in my ears for some years due to his exciting academic exploits, it was not until sometimes in 2017 when we eventually met. He and I, along with several other well-wishers, had attended the wedding ceremony of a son of “our mutual elder sister”, Prof. Medinat Folorunsho Salman(b. 1958),who was taking as a wife, a beautiful daughter of a prominent Kano family at the great emporium of Northern Nigeria.
As time progressed, Prof. Alafara took interest in me as a brother and friend following what he called his “consistent following of my interventions in community development activities”.I have since discovered in him a compatriot who should be celebrated for his all-round generosity, fraternity and patriotism.
Though Prof. Alafara looks every inch unassuming and as “someone who can be easily dismissed as a nobody without any consequence”,he is a scholar to watch. This is notwithstanding the fact that he has been “a tiger who does not go about singing his tigerude”. The subject of this piece is intellectually loaded and an epitome of integrity and service. With his impending lecture, humanity and particularly the Nigerian nation, is bound to be enriched by his far reaching scholarly endowments, exciting pedagogical skills, profound research accomplishments and deep interactions with the industry.
One thing I found unforgettable about Prof. Alafara and which I must share with readers, was the dramatic manner he turned one of the rooms of a Guest House of the Police Academy, Wudil, Kano, where we were accommodated during the Kano wedding, to a “Consulting Room of an Alfa Onijalabi”.This onetime “Omo Elekuru re ooo” advertised his “jalabilism” not only through the words of mouth but also via his massively intimidating “tesibiu” placed on a big “kundi’! Unfortunately, he was not patronised!! It was a huge joke from one of the simplest and most humble academics I have ever met. Everyone went into an uncontrollable laughter with his theatrics, which, however, eased the tension occasioned by a whole day journey on a rib-cracking network of roads of the preceding date.
While it is not everyone that would be opportune to attend the lecture, I think it would serve some purpose if we, his compatriots, are exposed to the richly intimidating resume of Prof. Baba Abdullahi Alafara. And hence,this piece.
This distinguished scholar of Industrial Chemistry was born in Ilorin on March 3, 1968. He hails from Oloworu Village, Megida Ward in the Ipaiye District of Moro Local Government Area of Kwara State. Just like most of his compatriots from Asa and Moro Local Government Areas, who have homesteads within the city of Ilorin, which confirms the unbreakable cord between Ilorin and the people of its rural segments, this distinguished son of Ilorin Emirate also has his roots at Alafara Compound, Alore Quarters, Ilorin.
While still pursuing Qur’anic training, young Baba was enrolled as an apprentice printer with his late uncle, Alhaji Hanafi Lowo-Ori (MD, Lowo-Ori Printing Press, Ilorin) and as a pupil of the famous Alore Local School Management Board (Alore LSMB), Oke-Apomu, Ilorin. He was trained at the school between 1976 and 1982 and from where he graduated with the First School Leaving Certificate.
Young Alafara proceeded to Mount Carmel College, Oloje, Ilorin, for his West African School Certificate. He ran the programme between 1982 and 1987.He was also trained as a middle level science teacher at the Kwara State College of Education, Ilorin, from 1988 to 1991 at the end of which he received his Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) in Mathematics and Chemistry.
Determined to reach the top in the realm of learning and teaching, Prof. Alafara proceeded to University of Ilorin from where he acquired all his subsequent academic qualifications. He started with the Bachelor of Science (Education) in Chemistry in 1995. He received his Master’s degree in Chemistry in 2002 and capped it with doctorate degree in the same field after a rigorous academic and professional trainings at the same institution in 2008. This outstanding scholar won TWAS fellowship to pursue his postdoctoral training on metallurgical research at CSIR-IMMT, Bhubaneswar, India, which he did between 2011 and 2012.
Prof. Alafara began his illustrious pedagogical career as a Member of the National Youth Service Corps in Osun State between 1995 and 1996.He was also a senior tutor of Chemistry and Mathematics at Moro Local Government Secondary School, Oloru.
As a brilliant scholar, he was invited to join the academic staff of the Kwara State College of Education (Technical), Lafiagi. He obliged the call and subsequently taught Chemistry at the institution from 2000 to 2002.
In 2002, Prof. Alafara was among the Almajri,(apologies to Prof. L A. Yahaya) who joined the services of University of Ilorin during the phenomenal tenure of Talba of Ilorin, Prof. Shuaibu Oba AbdulRaheem, OFR, NOPM,(b. 1947) as the institution’s Vice-Chancellor. He did as an Assistant Lecturer. As an hardworking teacher and administrator, this great son of Ilorin Emirate impressed his employers so well in the discharge of his services in the realm of teaching, research and community services that he enjoyed seamless promotions through the academic cadre of the University that he was appointed as a Professor of Industrial Chemistry within one and a half decade of his engagement as a staff of the institution. He attained the pinnacle of his academic career on October 1, 2017.
Apart from teaching several courses in the classroom and laboratory, Prof. Alafara has also held key administrative appointments at the Departmental, Faculty and University levels in his almost two decades of his eventful services to the better by far University. He was a Level Adviser. He also served as Examination Officer as well as COBES and SIWES Coordinators. He was also the Deputy Director of the Central Research Laboratories (CRL), University of Ilorin, between 2014 and 2017.
Prof. Alafara also served as the Head,Department of Industrial Chemistry, University of Ilorin. He held the office between 2017 and 2020. While heading the Department, he led it to emerge as the most published Unit of the University as rated by the SciVal for five consecutive years in 2020.He is,at present, the National Vice President of Materials Science and Technology Society of Nigeria.
Prof. Alafara has served as an External Examiner and Assessor to various reputable institutions. Among those institutions are the University of Pretoria, South Africa; Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; the University of Benin; University of Port Harcourt; Convenant University, Otta; and the Federal Polytechnic, Offa. He has also been serving as a Resources Accreditor to the National Universities Commission since 2018.
This great patriot is also a well-published scholar. He has, either jointly or singlehandedly, authored more than 120 publications published in reputable local, national and international journals. He has also attended more than 50 scholarly conferences within and outside Nigeria. He also functionally partook in about 50 training programmes. All those extra academic engagements conspired to broaden his intellectual wherewithal, administrative prowess and professional horizons.
As a distinguished teacher, three (3) PhD theses have been completed under his watchful eyes as the Supervisor. He has also supervised to completion about 37 different Master’s dissertations while close to two hundred and fifty(250) undergraduate research projects were also supervised by him in the last two decades of his engaging services to the University of Ilorin.
Being a respected scholar, this illustrious academic is a Fellow, Materials Science and Technology Society of Nigeria (MSN)and the Chemical Society of Nigeria (CSN). He is also a Professional Member and Secretary, Hydrometallurgy & Electrometallurgy Unit of the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society, U. S. A.; Member, African Materials and Research Society (A-MRS) and the Science Association of Nigeria (SAN) as well as the American Biographical Institute, among others.
Prof. Alafara is also a well garlanded scholar. He was the Best Graduating Student in Chemistry at the Mount Carmel College, Ilorin, in 1987. His PhD thesis was also evaluated as the best in the Department of Chemistry as well as at the Faculty of Physical Sciences of the University of Ilorin during 2008/2009 academic session. He is also a recipient of an award for being the first PhD holder in Chemistry from the entire Moro Local Government Area of Kwara State. He also won the MTN Season of Surprise Prize as Best Lecturer in the University of Ilorin category in 2015.
Prof. Alafara, who served as the Secretary, Ilorin Emirate Staff Association, University of Ilorin, between 2013 and 2015, is also the current Chief Scribe of the Ilorin Emirate Professors’ Association (IEPA) under the Chairmanship of Prof. Sulyman Alege Kuranga (b. 1957),the newly appointed Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council, Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka. He was also the Coordinator of the Faculty of Physical Sciences Unit of the Kwara State Professors Forum. He also served as the Chairman of the Electoral Committee of the Ilorin Anchor Men and Women,a promising sociocultural outfit of selected Ilorin Emirate’s elite.
This distinguished scientist is one of those who believed that science without religion is lame. Hence, he is a quite religious person who is not only a committed Member of the University of Ilorin Muslim community but also the pioneer Secretary and Member of the Board of Trustees of the Bahjatul Islamic Society of Nigeria (BISON). Prof. Alafara enjoys reciting Al- Qur’an and he is the Chairman of the Quranic Recitation Committee of the University of Ilorin Muslim community and also a Member of the Toriqqah Tijjaniyat Brotherhood, among others.
Prof. Alafara, from the little I know, has a special place in the history of Ilorin Emirate. He is the first doctorate degree holder in the field of Chemistry from Moro Local Government Area and one of the not too many members of the academia from the southernmost Emirate whose careers transcended the nation’s educational system.
The Inaugural Lecture of Prof. Alafara promises to be another fantastic roll call of eminent personalities from all walks of life and a great day for his ancestral community and for the University of Ilorin. I say this because I would not be surprised if the event is graced by His Excellency , the Executive Governor of Kwara State, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq; and His Royal Highness, the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji(Dr) Ibrahim Sul-Gambari, CFR; and the National President of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union (IEDPU), Alhaji Aliyu Otta Uthman, fsi. No one should also be surprised if the celebrated pathfinder, Prof. Shuaibu Oba AbdulRaheem,OFR, NOPM, and the unassuming Prof. Abdulganiyu Ambali,OON(b. 1957) the immediate past Vice-Chancellor of the University, among several others,are on seat to listen to the professional stewardship and intellectual pontifications of one of their boys.
May I, therefore ,on behalf of the Inaugural Lecturer enjoin all Ilorin patriots and their friends to attend the Lecture. Prof. Alafara deserves to be supported with physical attendance and prayers for the event to turn out as another great day for Ilorin Emirate as that of Prof. AbdulRazaq AbdulMajeed Alaro( b. 1968) and Prof. Nimah Modupe Abdulraheem(b. 1971)who were the penultimate and the last Inaugural Lecturers, respectively, of the nation’s most subscribed institution of higher learning.
Imam is National Publicity Secretary, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union.