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Tribute to late Professor Ibrahim Umar

Barely a year after the sorrowful demise of Alhaji Bashir Othman Tofa (January 2022), penultimate Monday’s death of Professor Ibrahim Umar marked and added another turning point in the tragic losses of great Nigerians.

A renowned physicist, a former vice- chancellor of the Bayero University, Kano, a distinguished and revered elder statesman, the deceased erudite scientist lived a dignified life and scored a remarkable goal in exemplary living and for which it will be difficult to attack and sack by prosperity. Stepping into his big shoes and filling the wide vacuum will therefore be immensely challenging and very cumbersome.

Having carved out a niche for himself as a fountain of knowledge, which had as its basic element service to uplift humanity, he was also a devoted Muslim whose unflinching belief for human enhancement was not just a lifeless entity but a living force that liberated many from socioeconomic maladies. Citing a good example here was the stupendous role he performed as the chairman of an Islamic foundation forum which functioned to address the twin evils of  poverty and illiteracy among the deprived and the oppressed. I was luckily one of the beneficiaries of his bankrolling when I was undergoing a terrible encounter battling for a Masters program at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Hence, I feel his passing away as a personal loss.

Professor Umar was indeed an unsong hero who preferred to remain unknown despite his outstanding academic charisma and prowess. He chose to be reserved and unceremoniously built a new system of hope for the hopeless as well as institutions. On many occasions, he would not hesitate to offer funds to meet the financial demands of the Bayero University Kano central mosque and other religious activities. He was a true servant of Allah who  mainly aligned with the spiritual world and relegated the taste for materialism to  the farthest background.He was a moral and generous elite who lived for others and transformed many lives.

Unlike  many Professors who display a high degree of scholarly pomposity, Professor Umar was an extraordinary Professor in every meaning of the term. Until his death, he never bothered to showcase human superiority complex or capacity, for he knew its damning implications on his towering personality and his Islamic faith. He was very simple, spoke adaquately less but thought increasingly more to sustain the marvel of an academic icon. His absolute composure in relation to his academic discipline and interaction with the mainstream society for which his intellectual attributes were dedicated are always worthy of remembering and celebrating. In other words, there was an awesome chemistry between his practical life and the society’s evolution, albeit he attempted to suppress its soaring aura, probably for the fear of being labeled as an eye service provider.

Just as controlled modesty and humility were not dead on the screen of his psyche, so also was Umar’s academic flamboyance was not allowed to rear its ugly head to derail his proper perception of knowledge having a universal  and spiritual meaning and its whopping impacts on human development and sustainability. Influenced by this heroic philosophy, he left no one doubtful that education is really for prolific living at both the private and public levels.

 In protruding solitude, he projected events, deciphered  and fixed them accordingly and consistently to produce the desired outcome. His entire living was a deep expression of tolerance and human stability with a sustainable focus. He was able to mix knowledge construction with dispensation to enact direct bearings on his intellectual acument. His professorship had therefore concluded a complete circle revolving around different spheres of life.

Professor Ibrahim Umar’s striving for knowledge development started at the Bichi elementary school before proceeding to the Kano Middle School and later the prestigious Barewa College in Zaria. His first degree in physics and mathematics was obtained at the famous Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He studied Msc in physics from the Northern IIIinois University, USA and a PhD in physics at the University of East Anglia, the United Kingdom.

In 1976, he became the first Nigerian academic to teach physics at the Bayero University, Kano. In 1978, he served on the National Constitutional Assembly which produced the drafted constitution of the Second Republic and was the third Vice- chancellor of the Bayero University Kano from 1979 to 1986. Before the expiration of his tenure, he relentlessly fought against moral decadence exhibited by many students on the campus.

At one time, Professor Umar ably represented Nigeria at the Executive Assembly of the World Energy Council. He was a member of the Nigerian delegation to the International Atomic Energy Agency( IAEA) General Conference from 1989 and was appointed Director General of the Energy Commission of Nigeria in 1989. In 2004, he was the Director of the Centre for Energy Research and Training, where the first Nigerian research nuclear reactor is located. He was also with the international advisory committee for the international workshop on Renewable Energy for Sustainable Development in Africa, held at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

As we soberly mourn his departure to the great beyond, I fervently pray to Allah to bestow His infinite mercy on his soul. Rest in peace Professor!

Abdullahi writes from Ringim Jigawa state via [email protected]

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