By Professor MK Othman
In the evening of Wednesday 18th April, 2018, I was going through the documents circulated at the emergency University Senate meeting of that date when I saw a kind of “news flash” from my phone, “Inna lilLahi wa inna ilaihir raji’un, Prof. I wish to condole you on the death of Dr. Zakari” – sender “Ibrahim Zakariyau”.
I was really shocked beyond imagination. It was that same day during the Senate meeting that the amiable Vice Chancellor of our great university, ABU Zaria, Prof. Ibrahim Garba announced the promotion of Dr. Yusuf Ibrahim Zakari to the coveted and pinnacle position of “Professor of Nuclear Physics” with effect from 2014.
This was the announcement Dr. Yusuf was anxiously waiting for the last two years. It came less than five hours to his death. It came when he was in comma in Katsina Medical Center. Such as life, death is the necessary end and it comes at appointed time. We have no option but accept the reality of life. I quickly reflected the time and life of Prof. Yusuf Ibrahim Zakari who did not enjoy the privilege of being addressed Professor until he was unconscious on his deathbed. He lived an exemplary life of discipline and hard work. He was trustable and incorruptible in his academic and social life.
I can vividly recall a drama that was played in Prof. Yusuf’s office some years back. “Good morning Dr Zakari, I am Prof. XYZ”, he said after the pleasantries, “I came to see you in connection to the carry over of your course “Phy 131” by my son, I want you to assist him to pass the course”. “Your son must put in an extra effort to study and pass it” Dr Zakari retorted to the visitor, “well, but ….” a usual trend normally exhibited by ‘lobbyists’ to make disciplined lecturers bend the ‘rules of the game’ to allow weak students pass without putting in an extra effort.
In the over two decades that Dr Zakari taught Phy 131, he had received uncountable overtures from such ‘lobbyists’, to which he resisted strongly. “Prof XYZ, can you excuse me as you can see I am busy?” Dr. Zakari politely requested the visitor to leave but the visitor pushed harder, “but you see…” the visitor insisted, “kindly walk out of my office”, Dr Zakari sternly directed the visitor without mincing of words. Evidently, the visitor’s request furiously irritated Prof. Zakari. He was annoyed on how parents could go to such extra length to secure high grades for their children through ‘lobbying’ and other means but hard work.
These days, parents could go to ‘miracle centers’ for their wards to secure nine credits from NECO and GCE; and miraculously get admission into universities with results they could not defend. The result of these miraculous antecedents is massive failures of students in their first year in the university, which becomes a major headache to the tutors of such students. Yusuf’s incorruptible nature makes him unapproachable for the so-called assistance to “pass the impassable”.
Generally, physics is a course which is virtually compulsory to all science-based students at hundred level of university system and the class is always in the range of 400 to 600 students. The psychological fear that “physics is hard” among the students and the over-crowded nature of the class with weak and decaying infrastructure makes physics lecture an arduous task. This was the trade of Prof. Yusuf, which he assiduously accomplished till his death. What are the accomplishments of Prof. Yusuf in the academic arena?
At one time or the other, Prof Yusuf virtually taught most of the courses being offered by the Department of Physics, ABU Zaria. On the average he taught four courses per semester from 1999 when he actively started teaching till this first semester of 2017/18 session. In each semester, he marked more than five hundred examination scripts in addition to students’ practical reports.
From 2008 to 2015, Prof Yusuf successfully graduated eleven MSc Students where he served as a major supervisor. Among these students are Muhammad Sadiq Abubakar (Msc/Scien/1733/07-08), Ismaila Aminu (MSc/Scien/10647/07-08) and Onuh Echeche (MSc/Sci/4518/2011-2012).
In addition, he graduated six MSc students where he served as a minor supervisor. Within the same period, he was supervising twelve MSc Students’ projects with some of them completing in the last two years. He also supervised six PhD candidates to completion from 2008 to 2015. Among them are Umar Aminu Yakubu (PhD/Scien/06855/08-09.) who worked on “Estimation of Quality Assurance for X-ray and the effect of temperature, pressure and humidity in air on photon fluence and air KERMA values at low photon energies with Equipment in Katsina State Hospitals” and Viva Ibrahim Yakubu (Ph.D/Sci/51951/05-06) who worked on “Design of additional safety Control Rod for NIRR-1 HEU and LEU Cores using Monte Carlo Transport Code”.
In addition to this feat recorded at ABU Zaria, his employer and Alma Mater, Prof. Yusuf was known for his immeasurable contribution to the running of academic programs of other universities either as a visiting scholar, external examiner, and resource person for program accreditation or postdoctoral scholar.
His undergraduate students’ supervisions were uncountable. On academic publications, Prof Yusuf had 35 peer-reviewed academic articles published in reputable national and international journals. He participated in more than 30 national and international conferences on Nuclear Physics held in different continents.
There were also eight scholarly awards to the credit of Prof. Yusuf of blessed memory. The awards included Carnegie Postdoctoral fellowship award from University of Witwatersrand Johannesburg, SouthAfrica in 2006 and ICTP Full award to attend Nanoscience College at ITHEMBA LAB Cape Town, South Africa in 2007. At the time of his death, Prof. Yusuf was holding the position of Head of Physics Department, ABU Zaria.
There is no doubt Prof. Yusuf was an accomplished academic, a professor of undisputable high standing and a great asset to the academia.
On the social front, Prof Yusuf was equally an achiever of titanic standing. Some years back, he studied the exponential growth of youth population in our native town of Bindawa, Katsina State. The town is a true reflection of Nigerian population growth; considerable numbers of unemployed graduates, secondary school leavers, orphans and widows. He alongside five of us initiated the establishment of Bindawa Socio-Economic Foundation as a special intervention. The Foundation is a registered Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). It provides respite to the needy, the weak, widows and orphans at the moment of their needs. Additionally, the NGO provides educational support to secondary school students, youth empowerment, Ramadan and Agricultural Projects.
In the last five years, the Foundation has touched the lives of approximately a thousand of less privileged members of the society. Prof. Yusuf was always in the forefront for financial and moral support to the implementation of Foundation Projects. Interestingly, he paid all his financial obligations to the Foundation account including the 2018 Ramadan Project three months ago. The Ramadan Project involves the purchase and distribution of foodstuff and clothing materials to about 200 carefully selected needy people, mostly orphans, elderly and widows.
The Ramadan project provides respite to the beneficiaries during the holy month of Ramadan as well as assists them to celebrate the end of Ramadan period. Prof Yusuf derived joy and contentment in helping and mentoring people.
Thus, somehow, he was dividing his salary into three on monthly basis; the first part was being shared among his innumerable nieces, nephews, daughters and sons as support to their education and upkeep. The second part was for his lifelong project of an over 10 bedroom house, Islamiya and Mosque while the third was to carry him and the family to next round of salary payment.
Thanks to the Almighty God, his lifelong project was fully achieved and several people are enjoying the dividends of Prof Yusuf’s investment. I once asked him “why did you build this house with numerous bedrooms?” His answer “I want to provide accommodation to as many students (from Bindawa) as possible who could not afford the accommodation”. Consequently, his house becomes the “first bus-stop” to both new and old students.
Prof. Ibrahim Garba, Vice chancellor of ABU Zaria aptly described the life of Prof. Yusuf when he paid a condolence visit to the family. He told the Prof’s widow, “from all the testimonies, Prof Yusuf lived an excellent life of hard work dedication and commitment, a life of great accomplishments and thus, deserved our prayers for his soul to rest in perfect peace”.
May the Almighty Allah grant Yusuf a special place in Aljannatu Firdaus. Amen.
Tribute to Professor Yusuf Ibrahim Zakari: Adiu Bindawa’s discipline and hard-work Ambassador
By Professor MK Othman