Prof Iya Abubakar is an elder statesman and Nigerian Mathematical Genius who was the third Vice-Chancellor of the great Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, multiple times minister, former director of the Central Bank of Nigeria and a former Senator for Adamawa North from May 1999 to May 2007
Abubakar, An ethnic fulani by tribe, had first class in mathematics at London University (University College Ibadan) in the ’50s, and completed a doctorate at Cambridge university, England in the 60s.
Professor Iya Abubakar was one of the only two Nigerians appointed into faculty positions at the inception of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. The other was professor Adamu Baikie (Education). He was the only Nigerian appointed as a Professor in the department of Mathematics, ABU, Zaria, at the age of 28 in 1963.
A first-class graduate of Mathematics at the University of Ibadan, he is the first Northerner to earn a PhD in any field when he earned it at the University of Cambridge, UK.
Professor Iya Abubakar became Head of Department, Mathematics and Computer Science, ABU, Zaria, at age 32 (a record in the Nigerian University system), Second indigenous Vice Chancellor of ABU, Zaria, at age 40 and retired from academics at age 44. His academic productivity suffered a lot when he became Vice Chancellor of the university and eventually a Minister of Finance.
Birth and academic career of Prof Iya Abubakar
Prof Iya Abubakar was born on 14 December 1934. He was educated at Barewa College, University College Ibadan (later to become the University of Ibadan) and earned a Ph.D at the University of Cambridge.
He worked as a visiting professor at the University of Michigan in 1965-66, before being appointed as Professor of Mathematics at Ahmadu Bello University at the age of 28, in 1967. He held this position until 1975, as well as a visiting professorship at the City University of New York from 1971-72. In 1975, he was appointed the Vice-Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, a position he held until 1978. Abubakar was a director of the Central Bank of Nigeria from 1972 to 1975.
Later career of Prof. Iya Abubakar
After the regime of Lt-Gen. Olusẹgun Obasanjo handed power back to an elected government in 1979, Abubakar was appointed the Federal Minister of Defence, holding this office until 1982. From 1993 to 2005, he was the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council of the University of Ibadan .
In the late 1990s, he served as director of the National Mathematical Centre at Abuja and chaired both the National Manpower Commission of Nigeria and the non-governmental Africa International Foundation for Science and Technology.
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Abubakar Iya was elected Senator for the Adamawa North constituency of Adamawa State , Nigeria at the start of the Nigerian Fourth Republic, running on the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) platform. He took office on 29 May 1999. He was reelected in April 2003. After taking his seat in the Senate in June 1999, he was appointed to committees on Public Accounts, Banking & Currency (chairman), Commerce and Finance & Approprition.
Prof Iya Abubakar has also chaired the Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriation and the Senate Committee on Science and Technology. While in the Senate, he was very prominent among his colleagues.
The great professor has since retired from active participation in public office and is now living a quiet private life. But at a function to commemorate ABU’s alumni annual public lecture in Abuja recently, this erudite scholar made another impressionable appearance when he spoke about the state of education in Nigeria. According to him, for higher education to take its place, the Act establishing the National Universities Commission (NUC) should be amended.
He said: “The only way to sustain educational standard is to ensure that the extant provision of the education Act only empowers NUC and its sister agencies to close down illegal institutions without provision of sanction for their operations.“
Speaking about ABU, he said: “If we resolve to recreate ABU and take it back to international standard, we must imbibe the international culture of having a vibrant alumni association.”
Professor Iya Abubakar is no doubt one of the finest brains to have come out of the North whose legacies in the academia are worth celebrating even as he appears to have bid farewell to active public service.