ABU Zaria Sociology Department: Faring in past 51 years

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The ABU Zaria Sociology Department last year put together an international conference to celebrate its golden jubilee, with the Vice Chancellor, Professor Ibrahim Garba, declaring the three day event open. The event took place from 2 – 5th July, 2018 with a roll call of old famous academics that brought fame to the Department in particular and Ahmadu Bello University as a whole, especially in the late 1970s and 1980s. Participants paid glowing tributes to Dr Ibrahim Tahir of blessed memory and Dr Patrick Wilmot whose tenures at different times as heads of the Department were quite eventful and remarkable.

The presence of two former heads of the Department, Professor Femi Odekunle and Professor Philip Ahire had added colour to the events; and a great honour to the Department. Professor Odekunle, who is the first professor of criminology in Nigeria, pioneer President of Nigerian Society of Criminologists, and first Director of United Nations African Institute of Criminology, was the strength in fulfillment of the Department’s corporate social responsibility and commitment to national development, especially in criminology and security.

Professor Odekunle, who served as chairman of the occasion, was indeed instrumental to the hugely successful professional Masters in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement (MLCJ) programme of the Department run in collaboration with the Nigerian Army leading to the awards of ordinary and postgraduate diplomas to personnel of the Nigerian Army, Police and other paramilitary agencies.

At present, he is a member of Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC); and the committee’s most of the successes, especially concerning the ‘Whistle Blower’ policy of the present administration in the country could be attributed to him.

Professor Philip Ahire, who attended the event as a special guest having been a one-time head of the Department, is a renowned sociologist, who had impacted positively on policy issues in Nigeria. In fact, he had been the major anchor of Vision 2010 in the Presidency after the government that instituted it left power. Professor Ahire virtually singlehandedly repositioned and refocused the Vision into relevance before pulling himself free a few years ago.

Abu zaria Sociology Department - department of Sociology Ahmadu Bello University Zaria

The conference, entitled ‘Restructuring Nigeria: Whither Sociology? , ‘was a sober
intellectual debate on the ongoing national discourse on restructuring in the conviction that the outcome could “make a positive and enduring impact on policy.” The Department chose the topic on a conviction that it could not be more apt and timely; and at this critical moment of Nigeria’s history with “so many centrifugal
forces” threatening its corporate existence, it stepped in with a rigorous intellectual debate at the end of which many of the
controversies should have been substantially laid to rest.

A total of 113 papers were presented by academics from different universities in Nigeria and beyond; and all the papers were classified under different sub themes which centered on ‘Attitudinal Issues, Religion, Ethnicity and Restructuring’; ‘Farmers-Herders Conflicts and Restructuring’; ‘Social Order and Restructuring’; ‘Gender Issues and Restructuring’; ‘Theories, Methods, Social Problems and Urban Issues’; as well as ‘Mass Media and Restructuring’.

In his address of welcome, the Head of Department, Dr A S Maliki, said from a humble beginning with an enrolment figure of three students and five expatriate staff 50 years ago, the Department presently graduated an average of 150 undergraduate students, 25 MSc students, and 12 PhD students yearly. This was in addition to employing a reasonable number of indigenous academic staff regularly supplemented by foreign scholars through robust sabbatical and exchange programmes, he said.

From inception, Dr Maliki also said, the Department had distinguished itself by a consistent policy of Africanization in teaching and research activities, saying in
line with ABU’s vision and mission, the philosophy of the Department revolved around imparting functional and problem-solving knowledge.

“Its broad objective is to train sociologists with a thorough grasp of the concepts, methods and theories of the discipline as a means of attaining critical understanding of the Nigerian society from the past to the present; and to proffer ideas on how to improve the conditions of the people of Nigeria in particular, and Africa in general,” he said.

From a humble
beginning with an
enrolment figure of
three students and
five expatriate staff
50 years ago the
Department
presently graduated
an average of 150
undergraduate
students, 25 MSc
students, and 12 PhD
students yearly

As the first Department of Sociology in Northern Nigeria, according to him, it had performed its academic and community service roles, particularly in parenting similar departments in newer generation universities outstandingly. “I have no doubts that the heads of several other sociology departments present here today
will, if called upon, give testimonies that ABU has never shirked its parenting responsibilities by responding to the manpower needs of emerging universities in the North, sometimes even at its own detriment.

“For example, out of the over 50 students presently enrolled in its PhD programme, about 90 percent are lecturers in other universities, even as our staff continue to feed such universities as visiting and sabbatical lecturers”, he also said.

The HOD explained that the Department had continued to positively impact on government policy even if occasionally labeled as “radical” and “controversial”, saying the Department “does not court controversy but when controversy comes courting it, it does not quaver”. “Hence when in 1987, a staff of the Department and one of our former HODs, Patrick Wilmot became the first Nigerian academic (perhaps world) to be deported by government for ‘teaching what he was not paid to teach’, the Department stood resolutely by him.

Today we are vindicated as that incident propelled him and our Department to positive international limelight and enhanced our academic stature. “Again, when a decade later in 1997, another one of our former HODs, Professor Femi Odekunle became the first Nigerian professor (perhaps in the world) to be tried for plotting a coup to overthrow a military government, we stood by him and today this ‘first’ in many areas of whom we are so proud, is sitting here as chairman of this occasion (golden jubilee anniversary celebration of the Department)”, he said.

The HOD, who also spoke on the Department’s professional Masters in Criminal Justice and Law Enfor c ement (MLCJ) programme which is barely 14 years in existence, explained that Nigerian government appeared to have given informal recognition to the programme, going by the number of appointments to key offices in the security sector. “Much as the security situation has assumed worrisome dimensions I dare say it could have been worse without these inputs from the Sociology Department. This is just one aspect where we have excelled.

In his brief remarks while declaring the event open, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Ibrahim Garba, congratulated the Department on attaining 50 years as an academic unit of the University and expressed gratitude to all former HODs, staff and students of the Department who had contributed in nurturing it to its present enviable state.

In his own part, Professor Femi Odekunle, who equally spoke at the event, said he felt honoured to serve as chairman of the occasion for the Department’s golden jubilee anniversary, saying such an occasion often called for sober reflections on issues of concern to Nigeria and humanity in general.

There were also goodwill messages from Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, Professor P P Izah, Heads of Department, NASA and NSASA who spoke on the many roles the Department of Sociology played in the socio-economic and political development of the country. A drama on the conference theme was staged by cultural troupe from the Department of Theatre and Performing Arts, Ahmadu Bello University, just as various awards were presented to deserving personalities.

As the first Department
of Sociology in Northern
Nigeria, it has performed
its academic and
community service
roles, particularly in
parenting similar
departments in newer
generation universities
outstandingly


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Chila Andrew Aondofa

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