By Abubakar Imam
Monday (October 23, 2023) would remain a great day in my career and, indeed, in my entire life. It was the day the authorities of the University of Ilorin conferred on me the institution’s prestigious merit award. I was honoured as the best staff of the University’s Directorate of Corporate Affairs for the year at the 14th edition of the University’s Merit Award and luncheon. The event marked the highlight of the 37th and 38th combined convocation ceremonies of the nation’s most sought-after University.
The award was not my first I had received several of these since my primary school days and through my days as an undergraduate.Similarly,I earned an award as a corps member and even in my previous place of employment. Each of the previous awards was premised on different milestones. But the UNILORIN award was a great and unique one as I consider it as the best of those that have come my way in the over five decades of my existence on the surface of the earth.
The reason for this assertion is not far-fetched. This is because to be singled out for an honour among the staff members of a University is a great privilege. I say this as I believed that the beneficiaries of the University’s awards and honours must have been intensively screened, subjected to intensive examinations, critically assessed and found to be worthy of the honour.
An architect’s mistake is often turned into a “new dimension in modern construction”! The mistakes of a doctor are buried!! But those committed by journalists and writers are published for the whole world to criticize!!!
And, therefore, for a journalist to be honoured based on his professional output is a different ball game. He has so many things to “unadvertise” and discredit him. He must have, therefore, crossed so many hurdles to be announced as the winner of an award!
Yes, I was trained as a journalist at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Yes, I graduated from the University with honours 25 years ago. But I never practised journalism until I joined the services of the University of Ilorin seven years ago.
Even when I did, I deliberately hid myself in the Marketing Unit of the University’s Directorate of Corporate Affairs. I was however brought out of my cocoon two years after; and to the limelight of the public affairs Unit of the Directorate. I was appointed as the Deputy Editor of the University’s weekly news publication, UNILORIN BULLETIN. All these were done by the Director of Corporate Affairs, University of Ilorin, Mr Kunle Akogun.
The veteran journalist and astute public relations practitioner did so because, according to him, he felt that I would be much more useful to myself and the University in the active practice of journalism. He was also of the conviction that the position would make me to be visible among the institution’s staff members and its relevant publics. My Oga, a man who doesn’t care about where his subordinates hail from or the religion they practice but who always based his position and assessment on work output, was incontrovertibly right.
A senior colleague often joked that it was Mr Akogun, who discovered the journalistic instinct in yours sincerely as the British explorer, Mungo Park, “discovered” the River Niger. I think he is right.
While the award remains a pleasant surprise to me and my family, I felt more honoured with the calibre of individuals who joined me to receive it from a member of the University’s Governing Council and Director of the University Health Services, Dr Rasheed Odunola.
Unlike other awardees; I was at the event without any member of my biological family. But since “members of my family are beyond the blood line”, some of my siblings from other parents, who were at the event, swiftly and unexpectedly trooped out to the podium immediately it was my turn to be presented with the memorabilia of the award. They were led by three of the Principal Officers of the University. What an honour for the son of a teacher and elubo seller at the ancient Pakata Market, Ilorin!
I was absolutely thrilled that the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Management Services), Prof. Suleiman Funsho Ambali along side his amiable wife, Mrs Zainab O. Ambali; the Registrar, Mr Mansur Adeleke Alfanla; the University Librarian, Dr Kamaldeen Tunde Omopupa; the Dean, Faculty of Law, Prof. Nimah Modupe AbdulRaheem; the Dean, Faculty of Physical Sciences, Prof. Abdullahi Baba Alafara and the Director, Joint University Preliminary Examinations Board (JUPEB), Prof. Ibrahim Kayode Adams came out to join me in receiving the honour. I was also excited that the Director of Corporate Affairs, University of Ilorin, Mr Kunle Akogun; the Coordinator, Physical Planning Unit, University of Ilorin,QS AbdulRahman Toyin Jimoh; and the Station Manager, UNILORIN 89.3 FM, Mr Idris Akintola Ibrahiim (Alooma) as well as several of my distinguished colleagues at the UNILORIN’s Directorate of Corporate Affairs left their respective seats to join me on the podium to receive the merit award.
The comments of each of them and many who could not join us on the podium, since the presentation of the award, were also stimulating, exciting and inspiring. I am particularly enamoured by the words of a Member of the Governing Council of the University, Prof. AbdulRasheed Abiodun Adeoye, who said, “the award was excellently deserving and that every member of the University community knows that you are eminently qualified and actually earned it”.
All said and done, I must thank the penultimate Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. AbdulGaniyu Ambali, OON; who offered me an appointment into the services of the University as a Senior Information Officer in 2016. The unassuming Professor of Veterinary Medicine was encouraged by the publication of a book titled “Our Illustrious Icons: A Biography of Selected Prominent People of Pakata Area, Ilorin,1831-2015”, which I helped the “Pakata Patriots”, Ilorin, to author in March, 2016. He was the Chairman at the public presentation of the book and felt that I would and should be very useful to the University. He, therefore, offered me the job. I am sure that Prof. Ambali would be very happy that the boy he brought into the services of the University as an anonymous Information Officer is now an award-winning Assistant Director at the same citadel of learning.
I also thank the Talba of Ilorin, who is also a former Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. Shuaibu Oba AbdulRaheem, OFR, who on learning of my appointment expressed profound confidence in my ability to make my mark at the University. Prior to that encouraging comment, I never knew that an iconic statesman and celebrated academic of such calibre was monitoring my activities. The statement he was reported to have made encouraged me, among other factors, to always give the job and every other thing I do my very best.
I also thank the current Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. Wahab Olasupo Egbewole, SAN, whose administration celebrated my humble contributions with the merit award. Ever since the award-winning Professor of Jurisprudence and International Law first met me at a parley shortly after his appointment as the Chief Executive of the University, the ever-smiling Senior Advocate of Nigeria has taken profound interest in me. He affectionately calls me “our National Secretary” most of the time we met thereafter. And I have promised not to disappoint him and others who take extraordinary interest in my career.
I would be ungrateful if I don’t mention my Chairman, the DVC(MS), Prof. Ambali. He is my role model and Chairman of the Ilorin Emirate Staff Association (IESA), University of Ilorin, while I am the Association’s Chief Scribe. He calls me “Super Sec” since I emerged as the Chief Scribe of the IESA and he as the Chairman. Before then, he had been a great admirer of mine and thereafter became someone who always challenged me to do better. His often repeated expression of “we are proud of you” has been a career stimulant. Prof. Ambali remains the humblest academic I have ever met. He relates to me as if we operate at the same level!
Let me also thank my Director and Editor, Mr Kunle Akogun, an embodiment of professionalism, epitome of patriotism and paragon of hard work. He is an ideal boss, who is more than an Oga to me. He is the architect of this honour and my professional pathfinder. Without his guidance and recommendation as enabled by Allah, I wouldn’t be here celebrating the privilege granted to me by the University.
The National President of the umbrella sociocultural organisation of the good people of Ilorin Emirate, the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union (IEDPU), Alhaji Aliyu Otta Uthman, fsi, deserves to be appreciated too. The Union he presides over offers me an incredible opportunity and a unique platform to serve my ancestral community in the manner I had always preferred as it afforded me the concomitant visibility among the contemporary and future stakeholders of Ilorin Emirate. The opportunity the Union gave me made me a sought-after person and afforded me the privilege of shaking hands with many of my illustrious senior compatriots, who ordinarily I would find it difficult to catch a glance at. Many of them often get confused with the variance between my physical characteristics and wherewithal. They see a lot of contradictions between my physical personality and intellectual output. To them, what they read from me was far more charming than how I look. They expected to see an older and flamboyant personality whose sense of dressing and carriage would be more than ordinary each time I was introduced to them.
The current IEDPU President, like many of his predecessors and members of the Union is a man who always encourages me to be the best I can. His prediction on me has been manifesting strongly. He was the one who, on the first day of our meeting on December 26, 2019 and despite operating from opposing tendencies, clinically predicted that I would achieve some of those things that I have accomplished.
Lastly, I thank my late father, Mallam Jimoh Imam Pakata, an extraordinary teacher and my mentor extraordinare; for instilling in me right from my childhood, thirst for knowledge, crave for discipline, desire for community service and pursuit of integrity as well as dignity of labour. My mother, Alhaja Awawu Jimoh Imam Pakata, is also appreciated for her prayers and maternal support since the beginning of my life in her blessed womb and till date. I also thank my wife and children as well as my siblings for not constituting any form of hindrance to me in the discharge of my several responsibilities.
All my critics also deserve my sincere gratitude. They are those who constantly and vigorously remind me of my weaknesses! Yes, they point out my mistakes in order for me to be a better person!! They are those who are responsible for my meticulous dispositions!!! I appreciate them as I love all those who love and appreciate my efforts unconditionally.
This UNILORIN merit award is profoundly appreciated. Though, long before it came, I had elected to always be exemplary in the discharge of every responsibility I am saddled with, the award would definitely spur me to work harder to attain greater excellence.
Nevertheless, I must say that I honestly enjoy doing what I was employed to do and I promise, Insha Allahu, to continue to do my very best at all times and on everything that would make the University greater and our society much better.
Imam is Deputy Editor, UNILORIN BULLETIN, Secretary-General, Ilorin Emirate Staff Association, University of Ilorin and National Secretary, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union