By Ladi Abubakar, Fidelis Ikenga (Nwagbara) and Kabir Gambo for the Class
The 1991 – 1995 Political Science Class in Bayero University, Kano finds it necessary to write a collective tribute to Prof Isa Hashim, one of the many who perished in the recent mass death in Kano. It is not singling him out because he was a professor or the typical attitude of speaking good about the dead. Rather, it is to acknowledge his feat in implanting himself in the consciousness of a very sensitive class as this, something that we are all just coming round to as to provoke this tribute.
The 1991 – 1995 set was an unusually complicated set. Theirs were the years in which BUK’s profile was rising globally, starting with Prof Attahiru Jega’s leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU) and the NANS Secretariat moving to BUK in 1992. That meant that the NANS president and Secretary-General were not just from BUK but were all from the Department of Political Science, along with Jega. Students of Political Science filled the Caucus – the platform of radical activists. The class ahead of this set which had all the tested activists and “trouble makers” such as Naseer Kura, Husseini Abdu, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, Habibu ‘Live’, to name a few, constituted a particular angle in the assemblage of influences at work on this set.
Secondly, by the fourth year in the university, it is easy to speak of a class average in terms of the sort of lecturers students prefer to teach. By then, certain lecturers have established themselves as the good guys. This could come from either their subject matter mastery or the delivery capacity, social mannerisms or appearance at the campus seminars and academic talkshops where radical or activist academics were distinguished from docile or status quo minded or even unclear ones.
All these factor were at work and against Prof Issa Hashim who was allocated ‘Comparative Federalism’ to teach the set. Many of the students hadn’t anything to do with him previously such as having offered a course he taught or so. He was much older than most of the lecturers. He hadn’t shown up in any public lecture or seminar to take a stand in railing against perceived structures of domination, (colonialists, imperialists, dictators and autocrats) that were the targets in such talk shops. In short, not many students knew where he was coming from.
Ordinarily, it was possible to make it difficult for such a lecturer to teach. One frivolous complaint echoed by specially arranged protesters, repeated every lecture can frustrate any lecturer. That was the strategy used in frustrating corpers usually drafted to keep the system going whenever ASUU went on strike. The set ahead of this set made full use of the strategy, not this set but that departing set had left behind cadres who could operationalise it if the need arose.
Instead of anything like that, it was a wait and see attitude in the case of Prof Isa Hashim, partly because he was a mystery. First of all, he was always in flowing Babanriga which was not the typical outfit of the average lecturer because it is not such a convenient dress for the job. Secondly, he had the organised, unbroken habit of preceding his arrival in class with the flask and the tea cup from which he sipped as he taught. He carried it himself or some elder-sensitive students helped bring it. There was a message in all these: perhaps, this is not someone to trifle with. So, the take-off was without outright hostility.
Then the course started. It turned out that he had a critical or even contemptuous attitude to Nigerian federalism. So, he conceived of the class as a correctional platform. In the end, the class became more or less a practicum on federalism, obviously so that his students would never be found violating the federalist norms upon graduating. He renamed the class the Republic of Janguza as a critique of Nigerian federalism. Janguza is on the easterly outskirt of Kano. The point is a Republic where the correct norms of federalism were observed. If any student violated any norms such as talking harshly to someone else from another state in the Republic of Janguza, he would dress him or her down for bringing Nigerian attitudes to federalism to the puritanical experiment in federalism in the Republic of Janguza.
The Republic of Janguza had a number of states and each had a governor. Hajia Ladi Abubakar was the governor of the state of Lambu, for example while Kabir Gambo was the governor of the state of Maina. There was Kabuga State and so on. At all times, the citizens of the Republic of Janguza were expected to manifest proper federal behavioral patterns. As mentioned earlier, un-federal language or body movement or double crossing another state attracted a charge of bringing Nigerian attitude to federalism to the Republic of Janguza. And there will be big laughter which always excited him. Gradually, the class was becoming a huge performance, complete with casts, director and audience, all combining into a refreshing pedagogic atmosphere of its own kind.
Certainly, the late Prof Issa Hashim never cared much about the literature. He took a tour of federal states, (Australia, New Zealand, US, Canada, Nigeria), stopping longer in India to tell the story of how the British appropriated tea from the Indians but abstract intellectualism of federalism was not his forte. He saw the class and his duty as practicum director.
The surprising thing is the spontaneous recall of all the jokes, reprimands and drama that members of the class could still recall when the news of his death circulated on Sunday, May 3rd, 2020. The implication is that he created impact, something we didn’t quite reckon with while he was alive. Once again, Isa Hashim spoke to the idea of the university as an inherently pluralistic space where every approach or technique has something to contribute to the universe that the university is or should be.
It was also sad to discover that he was not an aristocrat but someone who struggled to bring himself up. He never looked like that but that is his story, from losing his mother early, struggling to acquire knowledge through Rapid Results College, London in those days to eventually obtaining a PhD from an American university and topping it with a degree in Law from ABU, Zaria. From his life story, he was also one of the few who appeared to have run all the ranks in his career, similar perhaps to Gambo Jimeta, former IG of Police as about the only other such public servant. So, Prof Hashim was never a child of privilege but a product of an enviable can-do spirit. Perhaps, lecturers should start by telling their students the background they are coming from beyond the abbreviations of names and qualifications.
In other words, this tribute is not an apology to the late Prof Isa Hashim in the typical Nigerian attitude of attaching heroic attributes to departed souls. Rather, it is an acknowledgment of the inherent instability of knowledge. This is thus an acknowledgment of the limitations of the knowledge of him based on perception at the time. And even now, we cannot say we have known him conclusively.
In that sense, this also becomes homage to all the departed in the department – Dr. Haruna Salihi, our dedicated Course Adviser and the most diligent keeper of exam records which he allowed each graduating student to photocopy; Prof Jalingo and now Prof Isa Hashim. Of the three, only Prof Ahmadu Jalingo, never taught our set any course because he went into politics briefly. He would have had no problem if he were teaching the set. A former Political Secretary to Mallam Aminu Kano who went to Oxford and the University of Edinburgh and remained a radical trade unionist could never have had problems with not only our set but just about any set in a place such as BUK which was and is perhaps deeply divided along class lines.
May God grant them eternal rest while ensuring that we hear of no deaths in the Department in the near future. On the long run, we would all be dead, anyway. Long live BUK and other Nigerian universities!