ADIEU “SUPER HOD”! A TRIBUTE TO LATE PROFESSOR BALARABE MAIKABA
I must admit that I’m not good at writing tributes but as late Prof Maikaba’s student, supervisee, colleague and one of his closest friends and confidants of late, I feel personally indebted to write one this time around. The dilemma, however, is where to start from given the avalanche of information that readers will be interested to know about him. Thankfully many of his former and current students have written excellently paying glowing tributes to their teacher and mentor, reminiscing about great moments shared together in the Department of Mass Communication, Bayero University, Kano, where the late scholar spent his life teaching and shaping lives. They wrote about the Prof Maikaba they know, the academic giant he was, the research guru he personified as well as his relationship with students. However, there is lot more that needs to be said about Prof Maikaba especially with regards to his leadership, his inclination towards doing the right thing, his love for academic excellence as well as his relationship with colleagues with whom he worked or was still working until his painful exit on 26th April, 2020.
Late Prof Maikaba started lecturing as a graduate assistant and rose through the ranks to become a Professor, thus reaching the peak of an academic career that spanned nearly thirty years. He was opportuned to serve as the HOD Mass Communication for five consecutive years (two terms plus an acting period). As the leader, he was able to steer the Department to greatness through dedication and hardwork. He proved to be a good leader both academically and administratively. He led with passion and commitment, taking charge personally when necessary and delegating responsibility at the appropriate time. His approach to problem solving was remarkable – always deploying tact, wisdom, foresight, consultation and a deep sense of responsibility. Allah the almighty blessed his headship making it arguably the most successful as well as the most eventful in history particularly as it affects staff strength and development. More than a dozen academic staff (including 7 at a go in 2012) were added to the Departmental workforce making Mass Communication, BUK reportedly the largest department in the country in terms of manpower. So strong was the department that even when the new Department of Information and Media Studies was curved out and some important staff had to be transferred there, the mainstream Mass Communication was able to continue operating unperturbed.
I once wrote about how I always wanted to be a lecturer (though I considered it a tall dream knowing the job situation in the country) and how Prof Maikaba made it all too easy for me. In 2012 (immediately after acquiring my Master degree) the then HOD saw in me what it takes to be a lecturer, considered me worthy of working in the Department and facilitated my appointment without being prompted by anyone. Merit must always take precedence, for him.
Similarly, there was never a time when staff acquired higher degrees as they did under Prof Maikaba’s headship. Not less than 10 staff (including 7 in one fell swoop) acquired their PhDs in 2014 in addition to dozens of Masters’ degrees completed around that time. This earned him the nickname “Super HOD” or “the Bulldozer of a HOD”, apologies Prof Abdalla Uba Adamu. This feat though would not have been achieved without the push and support of such senior colleagues in the Department as Prof Malam, Prof Abdalla, Prof Pate, etc. They must share in the credit.
Whoever worked with Prof Maikaba will know one thing about his insistence and inclination for what is right. He wanted every single mark and every grade to be truly earned. He was averse to favouritism or ‘alfarma’ in whatever form or shape. He didn’t care if a particular student was Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba or Ibibio. And it didn’t matter to him if such a student came from Fagge of from Port-Harcourt. All he cared for was the student’s “capacity” and his/her ability to answer his questions. He didn’t subscribe to the idea of “helping” students with free marks in order to graduate. He believed that the system was accommodating enough to provide for two years of spill over to enable students make amends and that, before any talk about “help”, such opportunity must be fully utilized. For Prof Maikaba, the position of a lecturer is a trust and everyone of us will be held accountable. A popular phrase of his which also underscores his penchant for due process is “things must take their natural course”, implying that what is right must be done under all circumstances devoid of unnecessary influence and interference.
Prof Maikaba’s attitude towards quality project was uncompromising. His supervisees always found it a little more difficult to survive. They always had to work a bit harder to meet the standard set for them. This is more so with postgraduate students on whom he always had higher expectation. A Chapter could be written as many as five times until he was satisfied it approximated the quality expected of it. Prof Maikaba has always warned against “cheapening” higher degrees because the name of the University was at stake. Also, doing so could sink the name of the Department and its lecturers into gradual disrepute. For him, a higher degree is not a life necessity and anyone who came for it must sweat to earn it. Masters’ degree is not a “charity” he would say, and that only academic excellence, as against compassion, should determine who gets it.
One night he called me on phone and after exchanging the traditional pleasantries he said that he called purposely to appreciate my effort and that of other colleagues in adding value to our postgraduate defense sessions. He told me that our contributions always made him proud as well as made him feel vindicated. He urged us to always prioritize strengthening and improving the quality of work done by our postgraduate students. At the end, he asked me to extend the same message to other colleagues he mentioned, something I did immediately after my conversation with him.
Since I became MSc Coordinator, there wasn’t a time we met without Prof Maikaba offering one suggestion or another to me on how to strengthen the programme. Sometimes he would call to offer his advice concerning how certain issues should be handled. Honestly, I found all his advice useful, invaluably helpful as well as a great source of guidance.
Prof Maikaba earned the respect of all his colleagues. He related very well with each and everyone of them. During meetings, his contributions were always invaluable. His critical mind led him to see things differently from other colleagues thereby making his views subject to debate which he often won. In situations where he couldn’t defend his position, he would laugh his way out and accept the majority decision. He never harboured any ill feeling against his colleagues. If he had any grouse against you, he would say it right in your face or to people he was very sure would convey same to you. He believed in disagreeing to agree. He was so outspoken and had always spoken his mind not minding whose ox was gored. He believed in reconciliation and compromise often making serious concessions in order to ensure that personal misunderstandings did not last long. His sense of humour always helped to ease tension during stormy sessions. This has often provided postgraduate students with some relief and helped them to stabilize or regain their composure. He helped the Department and the University in various capacities where his assistance was sought. He delivered on every responsibility assigned to him to the satisfaction of whoever gave him the assignment.
Prof Maikaba’s loss is huge one. He will be seriously missed by his students (former and current), his colleagues, the University Community, the communication family in Nigeria and world over, professional associations such as ACCE and ACSPN, media organizations in Kano who benefitted immensely from his resourcefulness, his visiting universities especially ABU Zaria and KASU as well as family, relations and many others too numerous to mention who are beneficiaries of his benevolence and philanthropy.
Allah ya jikansa da rahama, ya kyautata bayansa