The late professor of history from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Dr Bala Usman, was recently remembered in a posthumous award ceremony that had in attendance who’s who from the north. AUWAL AHMAD writes that it was a time to relieve old memories.
A famous quote has it that a generation that ignores history has no past; therefore no future.
Research therefore has shown that every developed society and those aspiring for greatness anywhere in the world must acknowledge the contributions of history which also gives a clear mental and psychological blueprint to those living to always remember that indeed the labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain.
This is one of the potent tools in setting up an unquenchable fire of diligence, dedication, honesty, integrity and hard work in public service as well as other endeavours of life.
Honouring the contributions of past leaders has, in more ways than one, assisted many societies and nations to effectively fight corruption while instilling the culture of ‘good name is better than riches’.
Analysts are of the opinion that it was with this understanding that President Muhammadu Buhari took time to honour MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election. Such effort was well commended across divides and just when one thought that one has seen it all, Kashere, a town in southern Gombe state played host to visitors as the late Dr Bala Usman was honoured by the Federal University of Kashere (FUK) 14 years after his death for his revolutionary contributions to the development of Nigeria.
Precisely on Saturday December 7, 2019, Nigerians from the political cycle, academia, maestros in diverse fields of human endeavours and top government functionaries emptied themselves in Kashere, a town gradually being remodelled for greatness by the presence of the university during the 3rd, 4th and 5th combined convocation ceremonies of the school as well as the conferment of a posthumous honorary doctorate degree of letters on the late Dr Yusuf Bala Usman and late Brigadier Zakariya Maimalari.
Who’s who in attendance
Among the dignitaries were President Muhammadu Buhari, Senate president, Ahmed Lawan, minister of communications and digital economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Governor Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe state, representative of the executive secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Emir of Gombe, Alhaji Abubakar Shehu Abubakar III, Senator Danjuma Goje was conferred with an honorary doctorate degree of science; the managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mrs Hadiza Bala Usman, daughter of Late Dr Yusufu Bala Usman and by that right was favoured to receive the award on her father’s behalf. Mrs Hadiza Bala Usman was accompanied with friends, siblings and other well wishers to the occasion that would remain historic to the family of the late sage in the Nigerian public sector.
The vice chancellor of the university, Professor Alhassan Mohammed Gani in his address, said 50 students out of the 1,726 new graduating students passed out with First Class degrees while 629 bagged Second Class Upper; 873 got Second Class Lower, 164 graduated with Third Class and 10 students got a Pass degree.
Nostalgic memories and emotions took centre stage as the university orator, Professor Noah Echa Attah, reeled out the activities that graced the living moments and achievements of the late maestro. Of particular attention was the daughter of the late hero, Mrs Hadiza Bala Usman, who was filled with nostalgia that were vividly read from her expression while she humbly listened to the citation of her father having lived those moments and in any case, who can understand better the love of a father and daughter, if not both.
While speaking to newsmen, Hadiza’s brother, Hassan Bala Usman, said the family felt honoured and fulfilled, that 14 years after the demise of their father, the world still remembers him.
“We feel honoured that 14 years after his death, a federal university felt that his contribution to the academia is worthy of a posthumous honorary doctorate degree. It is rewarding that this is coming up a little over 14 years after his death, the family felt honoured,” he said.
Hassan Bala disclosed that the family has set up Yusuf Bala Usman Institute in Zaria to record, archive his work and present them to the public. He added that some of his books like ‘Manipulation of Religion in Nigeria’ and ‘Nigeria Against the IMF’ have been re-published with a new forward to be presented to the general public.
“The expensive truth of the whole matter is that until we cultivate the habit of honouring legends like late Dr Yusufu Bala Usman in styles worthy of their contributions to our nationhood and collective glory as a country, we may end up having a country where the labours of its heroes past may just gradually go into extinction.
“FUK has toed the line that is really commendable and must be sustained because we are a people of history and we must live by our culture for the future to know that our solid foundation remains the sacrifices of great Nigerians who have lived a life of discomfort all in their quest to see that Nigeria becomes better going forward and for that late Dr Yusufu Bala Usman and many others should be inked on papers, walls and everywhere for the youths to see the reward of diligence, dedication, integrity, honesty and preference for good name as against money,” he said.
A brief background of Dr Bala Usman shows him as an astute promoter of social justice, anti-corruption crusader and an unrelenting believer in the African dream of a better tomorrow. He was born in 1945 at Musawa, present day Katsina state. His father was the son of the late Emir of Katsina, Muhammadu Dikko and his mother was the daughter of the late Emir of Kano, Abdullahi Bayero. He was by that birth, royalty. Usman was educated at Musawa Junior Primary School, Kankia Senior Primary School and Minna Senior Primary School where he completed his primary education at the age of 12. He proceeded to Government College, Kaduna in 1957 where he completed his secondary education and proceeded to United Kingdom for his Higher School Certificate (HSC).
He graduated from the University of Lancaster with double honours in History and Political Science. In Nigeria, he took up a teaching job at Barewa College, a decision that further cemented his humility and put in proper definition his choice of giving to the society what God has given to him. He also worked in the Department of History, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria from 1970 under the mentorship of the majestic Professor Abdullahi Smith, when the foundation of ABU School of History was solidly laid. When he joined the ABU as permanent staff in 1972, Dr Bala Usman became synonymous with the department until his death in September 2005.