Prof Ibrahim Ayagi [1940-2020]: Iconic Professor Of Economics

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A renowned professor of economics and distinguished Abusite Professor Ibrahim Ayagi is dead. According to a family source, the economics icon died this afternoon in Kano after an undisclosed illness.

Prof Ibrahim Ayagi was born in 1940. He attended Karaye primary School Kano from 1950 – 51; Dandago primary school Kano, 1952-52; Gwarzo Senior Primary school kano from 1953 -56; Wudil Teachers College Kano, 1958-60; Katsina Teachers college, 1962-63; Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, 1963 -70 and proceeded to University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the USA from 1970 – 74.

Celebrating Prof Ibrahim Ayagi By Bala Muhammad

Professor Ayagi is an iconic Kano-born professor of economics who refused to succumb to IMF Conditionalities back in the mid-1980s and got sacked as Managing Director of the then Continental Merchant Bank by the Babangida Administration.


For those who remember, Professor Ayagi had religiously kept a newspaper column to educate Nigerians on the evils of the Bretton Woods Institutions – World Bank and IMF – and the damage they were doing to developing countries. Alas! Babangida imposed on Nigeria a Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP.

Prof Ibrahim Ayagi was Chairman of the National Economic Intelligence Committee (NEIC) of the Obasanjo Administration who, when appointed, Reuters screamed (on Tuesday 9 November 1999): “IMF CRITIC HEADS TEAM OF ECONOMIC MONITORS!”

Ayagi’s NEIC had worked silently behind the scenes to get Nigeria out of its crippling Foreign Debt when we paid a $12b down-payment and the rest of the $32b loan was canceled. Reuters had added “…Ayagi is well known locally as a critic of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and he opposed attempts by former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida to accept an IMF loan…”

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(And when the time came to get out of that Debt Trap, Ayagi did not disappoint. And when the deal was done, Ayagi and his colleagues stood back and allowed the President and the Finance Minister to take the credit, the glory and, it is alleged, the commission.)

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To many people in Kano, Ayagi is that strong-headed Farfesan Tsumulmula who, when armed robbers invaded his home (a stone-throw from a large Police Division in Kano City), he refused to surrender anything.

As the robbers were literally torturing him to near-death and asking for money and valuables, it was reported that Ayagi repeatedly said “Ba zan ba ku ba! Ba zan ba ku ba!”  (“I will not give you! I will not give you!”) The robbers left him for dead.

The shamed-faced police, near whose station the gruesome drama occurred, later arrested some of the riff-raff attackers, and the case still drags in court. (Professor Ayagi spent several months recuperating, and still walks with a pronounced limp – and a walking stick, though not a Sandar Girma.)

Alhamdu lilLah! In our immediate family, HIGSS has produced two medical doctors, a chemical engineer, a computer scientist and a micro-biologist in the making. The only non-HIGSS daughter, a Linguist with Teaching Arabic as a Second Language, had gone to Kano Foundation Girls’ Secondary School in Bebeji, Kano State, another school established by the same Professor Ayagi before HIGSS.

He had left Kano Foundation – of which he was pioneer Director General – when he had some misunderstanding with some of the Foundation’s trustees.

HIGSS itself is named after another great Kano personality, Ayagi’s good friend, the late Dr. Hassan Ibrahim Gwarzo, the state’s Grand Qadhi who died just around the time the schools were being established. Ayagi (and Professor Muhammad Sani Zahraddeen, former VC BUK and now Chief Imam of Kano, a subject for another day) impacted on my life, and I never hesitate to restate my gratitude.

In Ayagi’s case, what happened was that when my first son sat for HIGSS Entrance Exam and was admitted (incidentally from Dr. Hassan Gwarzo’s Ali bn Abi Talib Primary School of the Islamic Foundation), the school fees knocked me off as a junior lecturer at BUK with a paltry, SAP-sapped salary.

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I had boldly gone to Dr. Ayagi, as he then was, and declared that though I would love my son to attend HIGSS, I was financially handicapped. (I believe I was then the ‘poorest’ parent – others being Emirs, Governors, Ministers, millionaire merchants.) I offered to pay in monthly instalments, not a termly-lump sum. My offer was a misnomer hammer in the schools’ works.

Dr. Ayagi sat me down and asked, “Do you accept it is your responsibility to educate your child?” I was incredulous – look at this greying senior intellectual asking me the obvious! But I replied YES, just to see where it would lead. Ayagi then said, “OK. I will personally loan you the first term fees, and may Allah provide you subsequent terms’ fees.”

We prayed to it, led in du’a by Ayagi’s associate, the late Alhaji Jijitar (may Allah forgive him). The du’a centred on “Allah Ya hore!” (or, may Allah provide). And alhamdu lilLah from that day, Allah has ‘hored!’ But the icing on the cake was that, when I came to repay that first loan, Ayagi said it was a free gift. For a banker and an economist, that was simply astounding!

But long before HIGSS, Ayagi, as Kano State Commissioner of Education in the 1970s, had set up Kano’s celebrated Twin Science Secondary Schools at Dawakin Kudu and Dawakin Tofa. Products of these two schools became the crème de la crème of medicine and science in the whole of the Northern states, many of which soon emulated that wisdom.

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Ayagi’s interest in teaching had started long before – he had been a Grade Two Teacher and a Lecturer, culminating as Visiting Professor at ABU in 1996. (And Nigeria later recognised him and awarded him an OFR.)


Behind every Professor must be a formidable woman. Ayagi’s wife, the highly reserved but revered Senior Sister Yakumbo, came through thick and thin with him. She it is who caters for the schools’ social needs.

But many teachers past and present deserve a thank you from all parents on this morning of Sauka; Yusuf Yunusa Tudun Wada, late Bala Zakariya’u (may Allah rest his soul), Talatu Abba, Bashir Jimoh and others too numerous to mention. They have helped our children; may Allah help them too.

Similar schools as HIGSS – Science and Islamic education integrated curriculum, plus nonpareil discipline – abound in Kano and outside Kano too; New Horizon in Minna, Great Heights Academy in Abuja, Ulul Albab in Katsina. In a few years, HIGSS will celebrate its Silver Jubilee – twenty five years since its founding. We hope to see a directory showing how many professionals have so far been groomed.

Back to that young boy whose first term fees were paid by Ayagi; he had gone on to become a medical doctor too – and at present works for – wait for it – Dr. Hassan Gwarzo’s Al Noury Hospital of the Islamic Foundation. A perfect circle.

So what do I say to Professor Ayagi? My only retaliation would be “Allah Ya hore aljanna!”

This article was written By BALA MUHAMMAD and published by on March 1, 2013. We reproduced it to celebrate our Icon who passed away today. May Allah forgive his shortcomings.

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Chila Andrew Aondofa

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