Professor Emeritus Iya Abubakar at 84 – by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

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On December 14, 1934, Iya Abubakar was born and went on to become the first northerner to bag a Ph.D. and became a professor of mathematics at the age of 28. The two-term senator from Adamawa State turns 84 yesterday and here is a look back at his career in brief.

In 2007, during the PDP primary elections in Adamawa North Senatorial District, one candidate stood out for doing nothing. Professor Iya Abubakar, who had occupied the seat since the return of democracy in 1999 and had enjoyed two terms and prominent committee positions as a senator had decided not to contest.

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L-R Pro-Chancellor and Chairman ABU Governing Council Mallam Adamu Fika GFR, Professor Emeritus Iya Abubakar, The Vice Chancellor Ibrahim Garba and The Obi Of Onitsha and Chancellor of ABU Zaria,  His Royal Majesty Igwe (Dr.) Nnaemaka Alfred Achebe CFR, mni. 
#ABUAlumniDinner
L-R Pro-Chancellor and Chairman ABU Governing Council Mallam Adamu Fika GFR, Professor Emeritus Iya Abubakar, The Vice Chancellor Ibrahim Garba and The Obi Of Onitsha and Chancellor of ABU Zaria, His Royal Majesty Igwe (Dr.) Nnaemaka Alfred Achebe CFR, mni. at ABUAlumniDinner 2019

It was a curious decision at the time and not many people understood the professor’s choice. When confronted by a journalist who asked why, Professor Abubakar said, “Because there are many other deserving people for the seat.”

The curious part of this short response was that Iya Abubakar was perhaps one of the most deserving candidates and possibly one of the most distinguished intellectuals to have taken a seat in the red chamber.

This was a man who at 28 was a professor of mathematics, had been the first person from northern Nigerian to bag a Ph.D. in any field, and he got his from the University of Cambridge. He had graduated from the University of Ibadan (then University College, Ibadan) with a First Class in Mathematics and at 38 was appointed Vice-Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. This was in 1975. Between 1965 and ’66, before he was made a professor at ABU, he was a visiting professor at the University of Michigan in the US. And while he was a vice-chancellor he was a visiting professor at the City University of New York.

Iya Abubakar was precocious, a brilliant mind whose academic contributions to the body of knowledge suffered when he was invited into the precarious business of governance. First as a director of the CBN between 1972 and 1978, then as Minister of Defence 1979 and 1981, and with the return to democracy in 1979, as a Federal Minister of Internal Affairs in Shehu Shagari’s cabinet, until 1982.

He would resurface later in the 1990s as Director of the National Math Centre and between 1993 and 2005, as pro chancellor and chair of council of his alma mater, the University of Ibadan. In 1999 he was voted a senator of the federal republic, completing his transformation from an academic to a politician.

One interesting thing was that between 2003 and 2007, Iya Abubakar was one of a trio of exciting senators from Adamawa State with Professor Jibril Aminu and Dr. Jonathan Zwingina, the state, to use the oft-repeated expression, put its best foot forward, something that clearly excited the mathematician at the time.

Prof Iya Abubakar receiving an award

Four years later, he would grant that interview in which he suggested he was quitting the red chamber for a more deserving candidate. When pushed further on his own impressive record of accomplishments, and the fact that his two terms as senator that put him in a great position for more, Iya Abubakar said, “It is enough for me.”

Curiously, this was coming in the year President Obasanjo’s third term agenda suffered defeat in the National Assembly, in an era where the senate now serves as a retirement home for some public officials.

Iya Abubakar took his track record and what the Hausa man will call mutunci and retired away from public glare where he has remained since.

Intellectuals like him are rare; politicians like him even rarer. Which is why on this day of his 84th Birthday, Prof. Iya Abubakar’s name and achievement and integrity should be lauded and held as an example for both intellectuals and politicians.

Written by Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, source: dailytrust.com.ng


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Chila Andrew Aondofa

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Chila Andrew Aondofa has 729 posts and counting. See all posts by Chila Andrew Aondofa

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