Isyaku Dikko and Yakubu Aliyu might not have met but they share a same trajectory. Both were academics, then moved into journalism before moving into technocracy. Each has sent a response to the Ibrahim Muazzam piece carried in Intervention two days ago. While Dikko brings in other members of the BUK such as Dr Shehu Yahya and Ahmadu Usman Jalingo – the intellectual godfather and Philosopher of the radical tradition in the North, Yakubu Aliyu sees a model of Plato’s The Philosopher King in Ibrahim Muazzam.
While the Kano based Centre for Information Technology and Development, (CITAD) is institutionalising the Ibrahim Muazzam scholarship somehow, there is nowhere as such for younger students to read what that generation of scholars with and about knowledge between the mid 1970s and the mid 1980s as might be exemplified in say Shehu Yahaya’s 1991 paper, “State Intervention Versus the Market”, just to cite one. Read on!
Muazzam Had a Twin Brother
By Isyaku Dikko
This piece is a response to the intervention of Adagbo Onoja in the Intervention platform, titled ”Unpacking the Philosopher in Ibrahim Muazzam”, which was well received by BUK graduates, who sent it to me, unknown to them that I receive the “unpirated edition” from the online platform.
The intervention made my day and rather than just say so, I decided to add value by writing on the man we considered the twin brother of Muazzam in BUK because of their closeness. That is as my tribute to Malam Muazzam because Adagbo has said what needs to be said about him. The only thing I will add is that, although I am intellectually indebted to him as one of my best teachers, Malam Muazzam should have read Electrical – Electronics Engineering, a field that would have benefitted immensely from his sharp brain and high capacity for creativity. Well, to God be the glory. Their loss is our gain in Political Science.
Few months ago, I travelled by train from Abuja to Kaduna. As I was sitting down in what they call Business coach, I saw Dr. Shehu Yahaya walking out of the coach. I met him standing between two coaches enjoying the lush green environment admired by many travellers from Abuja to Kaduna . He was alone. Immediately he saw me, his mood changed. He became suspicious.
“Malam Shehu barka da yamma” was all that I said to change him. He smiled, replied me and kept quiet, listening with rapt attention. Shehu is legendary listener. Unbelievable! All ears from the Chairman of the giant Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) and former Director of Africa Development Bank (AfDB)? The same BUK Shehu. Simple and smiling!
” I want to thank you for the series of public lectures you and Malam Muazzam organized for us at Room F104 SMS which contributed in sharpening our intellect and world view. You built our confidence, we are grateful and proud of you.” I said to him.
Of course, the best he could have done was to remember my face because he taught Economics and I did not offer any course in the department. Also, I have not seen him since my graduation in BUK in 1985. But I am glad I met him in the train. He updated my word view. It was essential Shehu. The Sharp Shehu! When we reached Kaduna, he looked at me and repeated the name I told him: Dikko, ko? Shehu is very caring. Should I say, a true socialist!
The encounter reminds me of my encounter with another BUK intellectual giant, Professor Jalingo. I told him that Malam Adamu Ciroma had been a mystery to me. He read History but did well as Editor of New Nigerian, Governor of Central Bank, Minister of Finance and later Agriculture. “Wherever you put the man he will just perform”, I concluded.
Professor Jalingo smiled, the question appeared very simple to him. “History is part of what is called liberal or general degree and the essence of such degrees is not to train you on anything in particular but to sharpen your brain to be in a position to ask critical questions about life in general and provide satisfactory answers. You are not trained on anything specific such as to be a Lawyer, Accountant etc. No”, he replied.
I want to believe that young men of today are missing the essentials of life by not relating with their teachers as friends, brothers and philosophers.
On a lighter note, my encounter with Malam Shehu in the train also reminds me of Kenny Rogers who met an old man in a train and when he gave the man what he requested, he went ahead to tell him the secrets of survival. We all must still remember the song line: “Every gambler knows the secret of survival. Knowing what to keep and knowing what to throw away”. In the case of Malam Shehu, he only asked for my attention. I gave it to him and he told me the secrets of survival. As undergraduates , they encouraged us not only to feel free to disagree with them but also to critique their positions in seminars and class rooms. I recall Malam Muazzam making joke of a student who disagreed with him in the class . “Wane mai bakin shan miyar kuka ne?” , he asked and we all burst out laughing. He didn’t care to mark the student or victimise him .Thank you Malam Shehu. Thank you Malam Muazzam!
Unpacking the Muazzam Persona: My Personal Take
By Yakubu Aliyu
Ibrahim Muazzam approximates the classical Platonian conception of The Philosopher King. He is, of course, more than that. He is, indeed, a scholars’ scholar, a teachers’ teacher, a philosopher of philosophers and an intellectual par excellence.
He embodies knowledge, just as he is an embodiment of learning; he imparts knowledge in all its dimensions from the standpoint of both a teacher and a learner. He is a great teacher in the classroom and an extraordinary teacher outside of the classroom. Hence, like the philosophers of old, just one contact can unpack and shed light on the most complex of ideas, propositions, theory and theorems, axioms, maxims, and so on. His forte, unlike many of his contemporaries, is simplifying complexity without losing one bit of the essence of such complexity that is the hall mark of philosophical inquiry.
A political scientist by convention, but Muazzam is a scholar without boundary. He not only has an unfathomable depth in classical, neoclassical and Marxian economics and political economy, sociology, history, geography, literature, law, Islamic jurisprudence, he has more than average understanding of the disciplines outside of humanities and the social sciences.
A classical scholar in the mould of Ibn Khaldun, Marx, and the French philosophers at the École Normale Supérieure, he encapsulates their diverse ontological and epistemological systems into a synthesis that undergird the uniqueness of his methodological approaches in answering some intellectually pressing questions. Hence, there is no subject under the sun that can escape Muazzam’s keen insights, perspectives, even critical considerations. He is a moving encyclopaedia, a living library, a human repository and container of global and national references.
Yet, never haughty nor arrogant, always cheerful, humble and welcoming, Muazzam simply inspires to get the best out of people. He is the kind of scholar you would wish to be around with always, to drink from the fountain of his knowledge and insights.
I just pray that he remains intellectually perspicacious, even with the passage of time, so that he will continue with his project of enlightened scholarship that is people’s centred and geared towards the upliftment of humanity within and outside the four walls of the university.