ABU Convocation Series: Technological Impacts and Opportunities II

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To best describe the uniqueness and standing of Ahmadu Bello University among the Nigerian universities, one couldn’t resist paraphrasing the statement of Sodiq Omolaoye, an ace writer in an online newspaper. He posited “Tragically, some universities around the world may have diverted from their core mandate(s), ABU, however, over the years has been pushing hard to achieve her core objective, which is aptly captured thus, “To advance the frontiers of learning and break new grounds, through teaching, research and the dissemination of knowledge of the highest quality…In Nigeria today, and beyond, ABU has so far become a pacesetter, a trailblazer and frontrunner, which other institutions emulate in knowledge production and advancement. Recently, it was announced that a team of students from ABU won the 2017 Enactus National Championship and was also declared winner of the Lekoil Environmental Sustainability Challenge in the competition”.
He added “the team won the challenge through an innovative project tagged Baggega Hope Rising, which uses the water filtration process for separation of physical and chemical impurities, such as lead and other heavy metals from underground water sources”.
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ABU Convocation Series: Technological Impacts and Opportunities I
To compensate them for their victory, the team represented the country in the Enactus World Cup tournament held at the United Kingdom…” What else to add? This is the true reflection of what ABU stands for in the education sector of Nigeria.
Back to the question presented in the first part of this article, what is the manpower contribution and technological breakthroughs of ABU in about 50 years of her existence?
On the manpower contribution to the nation and internationally, ABU, being the largest university in Nigeria and in Black Africa and the most diverse, has an Alumni strength estimated to be over 800,000. The Alumni cut across the entire nation, strata of the different societies in all the continents of the Earth. This figure may be a conservative estimate when considering about 130 Colleges of Educations affiliated to ABU. All the undergraduate students of the affiliated colleges are tutored using ABU syllabi under strict monitoring and supervision of the university and thus, are awarded ABU degrees after their successful completion.  Therefore, presenting the exact manpower contribution of ABU to the society is beyond the scope of this column. However, significant milestones in this direction have to be mentioned.
ABU is an Alma Mater of many shakers, movers and highly influential members of the Society. Among the top ranking Political elective positions, ABU had one of the Nigerian Presidents in its Alumni. The late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua of blessed memory graduated from the university with BSc Chemistry and MSc Analytical Chemistry. Two former Vice Presidents: Alh Atiku Abubakar and Arc Namadi Sambo graduated with degrees in Law and Architecture, respectively. At the upper chamber of the National Assembly, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, ABU has 34 Senators in the last ten years cutting across the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. This means that ABU is fully represented at the upper chamber of the National Assembly with a sizeable percentage of the Nigerian Senators in her Alumni list. This is in addition to the several members of House of Representatives, States’ Assemblies, States Executive Councils and the Federal Executive Council.
As at today, ABU is an Alma Mater of more than ten serving governors out of the 36 states governors in Nigeria. Their Excellences Abdul Aziz Yari of Zamfara State, Alhaji Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State, Bar. Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi State, Malam Nasiru Ahmad el-Rufa’i of Kaduna State, Mr. Samuel Ortom of Benue State and Hon. Simon Bako Lalong of Plateau State are among the serving governors who graduated from ABU.
The university is also an Alma Mater to many first class traditional rulers: the Shehu of Borno, HRH Abba Kyari Shehu Garbai, Emir of Katsina, HRH Abdulmumin Kabir Usman, Ochi of Idoma, HRH Agada Idu, Lamido of Adamawa, HRH Muhammadu Barkindo Aliyu, Emir of Kano, HRH Muhammadu Sanusi II and Chief of Lunguda, Wilfred K. Kimde are among the over 50 traditional rulers who passed through this excellent citadel of learning in Zaria. Several influential personalities who graduated from ABU could be found in high-ranking positions of Military, Para-military, Civil service, Science and Technology, Business, Agriculture and other sectors of the economy.
Nationally and internationally, the list of most influential personalities in the Alumni record of ABU is endless. If these personalities were to make a “pay-back” to the university, ABU would have been an Eldorado and would have made more positive impacts on all facets of human endeavors. Nevertheless, many milestones have been recorded in the history of ABU.
In ABU, Nigeria has a window of opportunity to advance its developmental effort in all aspects of economic emancipation. This could be done through aggressive support of ABU’s breakthroughs in Agriculture, Pharmaceutical science, and engineering and computer science.
Starting with Agriculture, ABU has made giant strides in the last four decades with tangible and outstanding results. The Agricultural Complex of the university recorded the feats. The complex is composed of two faculties (Veterinary and Agriculture), three National Agricultural Institutes (NARIs) and the Division of Agricultural Colleges. The Complex has about three thousand workforce with several professors of various disciplines of Agriculture, communication and engineering.
Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) is the oldest of the NARIs owned by ABU, established more than 90 years ago pre-dating the establishment of the university. IAR is mandated to genetically improve eleven agricultural commodities for Nigerian farmers.
The Institute is concertedly working to develop new or improve the quality of existing seeds for the eleven strategic crops in Nigerian Ecological zones. The ecological zones in Nigeria are extremely diverse with average annual rainfall of less than 700 mm for some areas and over 4000 mm for others. Despite the challenge posed by this diversity, ABU has been assiduously recording successes in the development of seeds for the nation and the West African sub region. The catalyst of this feat is the caliber of the manpower possessed by the university.
ABU has eminent professors charged with the responsibilities of breeding the seeds to achieve the mandates of IAR as a research institute and for the University as a citadel of learning and community development centre. The efforts of the institute led to the development and release of many improved varieties of crops.
The crops varieties were developed to meet the demands of different categories of producers, ranging from students, to farmers, industrialists and scientists. The mandate crops are Maize, Sorghum, Groundnut, Cowpea, Cotton, Sunflower, Castor, Jatropa and Artimesia.

Cowpeas from IAR

A research team is assigned for each crop with clear mandate to improve the existing varieties against environmental constraints, prevalent pests and diseases known for the crops. On continuous basis, the research team consisting of Professors, Associate Professors, Senior Lecturers down to postgraduate students work harmoniously together to achieve success.
Maize is one of the IAR mandate crops. It is the most stable food crop widely accepted by the Nigerian society and beyond. This is why over 30 commercially grown varieties were developed and released by IAR in the last ten years. All kinds of maize varieties were developed; prominent among them are drought tolerant and early maturing varieties such as SAMMAZ 13, SAMMAZ 18, SAMMAZ 19, ZAMMAZ 21 and many others.
Some of the good qualities of these early maturing varieties are tolerant to striga and hermonthica infestation; resistant to streak, low soil nitrogen tolerance and ability to mature from 60 days to 95 days depending on the particular variety. The other category of maize varieties developed by IAR was SAMMAZ 14, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24 and 25. These varieties have maturity period ranging from 100 to 120 days. They are high yielding varieties, striga resistance and adaptable to Nigerian Savanna, hermonthica prone zones. Their yields range from 5 to 8 tons per hectare compared with national average of 2 tons per hectare obtained by most maize farmers using traditional local seed varieties
NAPRI is the second NARIs and the only animal production research institute in Nigeria. NAPRI successfully bred an indigenous chicken of layers and meat-type called Shika-Brown.
The chicken is known for its versatility and high adaptability to the Nigerian tropical environment. Shikabrown® is duly patented after passing all kinds of performance measurements with flying colors. The chicken is hardy and resistant to many diseases hence less investment in drug is required and it was tested to give a very good performance in all the ecological zones of the country.
The Shika Brown Layers

One Shikabrown® can lay an average of 278 eggs in 52 weeks of egg laying after 20 weeks of brooding. Egg production can reach 50 % at the age of 24 weeks, which means within four weeks of starting of egg laying, the chickens can feed themselves from the proceeds of eggs selling.
Professor Othman is the Executive Director of National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU Zaria.

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