By Prof Hassan A. Saliu
There is something about destiny for those who believe in it. It drives and sets limits on how far one can go in life. Sometimes we dream and plan big and do whatever we can do to attain our objectives in life. The albatross may be the ‘gatekeeper’- destiny that can erect effective barriers on the way and thereby creating a wide gap between dreams and the accomplishments on ground. Certain things at whatever level may just happen and keep taking place that can create a mismatch between our efforts and the realities on ground; obstacles can keep multiplying without us ever being in a position to do anything about them.
Mallam Salisu Abdullahi Yusuf retired from the services of Bayero University in June this year (2023) after spending forty-two years in service and rendering meritorious service to the University as a lecturer.
He started-off his career as a promising young man with a tall dream of becoming an intellectual giant but his destiny had set a limit for him. My path crossed his in my second year in what people now generally call 300 level. He was then assigned to teach African politics or something like that. As a student who had earlier been introduced to International Relations by his senior colleague, then Dr. Bawa Gusau, I was, no doubt, much more interested in the course because of my expectation that paying attention to it would make me to realise my dream of becoming an IR person, a dream I have since realised. He would come to the class with his trademark small black bag which he would carry by himself and placed on the table like one other lecturer known with that tradition in the department.
The only difference was that Mallam Yusuf is not a leftist scholar as the other person was and still is. He was perhaps the only lecturer that I knew as a student who was writing with his left hand in the department. His mode of teaching was to read from his prepared notes and he would occasionally pause to explain some issues or respond to questions coming from the students. He was very punctual and easy going. Mallam Yusuf was one of those who kept a low profile and rose above any pettiness as far as I know in the department. This showed in the open welcome he gave to those his former students who have risen to become Professors in the department. One could hardly see him around the department doing nothing and at the centre of any open controversies. At the end of the course he taught my class, I did very well in it because of my dream of becoming an IR person in my later years.
An event took place many years later when I went back to the department as a PhD student, the second person to do so in the history of the department. There were some issues that cropped up after I had successfully defended my thesis that bordered on some delay that I was experiencing afterwards. He felt concerned at the little delay just as one of my other lecturers was. On one of the occasions when he showed concern over my PhD, he had said something to the effect that if Prof. Julius Okolo, an experienced external examiner both here in Nigeria and abroad, had said that my thesis was excellent and rewarded me accordingly, there was no need for any delay for me on the programme. That was his consistent position until everything was sorted out and I was eventually released. Indeed, I showed appreciation to him and his other senior colleague who had equally shown his concern on my progress as a postgraduate student.
The surprising thing about it to me was that Mallam Yusuf himself did not obtain a PhD as yet but he was so much concerned about my case. I would in response thank him and assure him that all was well and that I was prepared to wait until all the protocols were observed. The issue was that I did not want to be the person who would create tensions in the department over a PhD that I had successfully defended and had been graded in the distinction class. It is instructive to note that the delay that people were worried about referred to the period between my defence and the usual period of vetting of the thesis and processing of the result.
For instance, it took me another one year between when I submitted my PhD work and when the degree was eventually awarded. I was thus fond of telling the people around me that time that my mother did not send me to Kano to be an instigator of crisis; my mission there was to acquire a PhD. Truth be told, quite a number of other lecturers in the department equally felt a bit worried about the delay but were not ready to be loud about it. The impression should not be formed about me having an extended stay on the PhD programme. The reverse was the case. In point of fact, I turned in my thesis less than three years on the programme. It is possible that the record I set in that regard has not been broken in the department. The story and controversies that surrounded the award of the first PhD in the department were of concern to me and had served as pointers. I, therefore, did not want to be the second controversial PhD to be awarded in the department.
About the conduct and performance of his duties as a teacher, I am not qualified to pass any judgement on that but I bear witness to the fact that he was punctual in class and dedicated to his teaching responsibilities.
Beyond doubt, however, Mallam Yusuf was humble, easy going, kept to his lane and was not complex to relate with when in service.
As Mallam Yusuf ,a man who writes with his left hand and a gentle teacher retires, I pray to Almighty Allah to smoothen his future endeavours, grant him good health and long life and raise one of his offsprings to continue with the academic struggles from where he had officially stopped and attain the lofty heights which his/her father could not attain(Amin).
Enjoy a blissful retirement life. You are appreciated.
*This story will be reposted as soon as Dr Salisu’s picture is obtained