Prof Gwarzo: Inside the ‘Sprawling’ Vision of Founder of Maryam Abacha American University
By Dahiru M. Lawal
“Our people are backwards and the only way we can close this gap and consolidate on our long lost development is by investing in education,” Pressor Adamu Abubakar Gwarzo, Founder, Maryam Abacha American University (MAAUN), lamented in a somewhat welcome remark as he advanced towards us and shook hands with the Chief Executive Officer, Image Merchant Promotions Limited, publishers of PRNigeria and Economic Confidential, Mallam Yushau A. Shuaib.
Our appointment with the 44 year old bilingual and trained french literature professor was slated for 6pm but at some few minutes to six, the ‘Sarkin Yaki Da Jahilci a Africa’ – Commander of the War Against Illiteracy in Africa – as he is fondly called by admirers and well-wishers, was at hand to receive us.
His off the norm welcome wasn’t odd, because as Alhaji Shuaib and the rest of us alighted from our vehicles, taking in every piece of the University’s sprawling aesthetics and intimidating edifice, we understood at once that the man behind this reality must definitely have been pissed by the state of decadence in our educational sector and this has translated into the fact that not only the massive investment he put up in the Kano Campus was sprawling, but his uncommon vision equally was.
“Being somebody who was raised in France and have seen a lot of developments there, I am convinced that the key to our own progress was education, so, around 2008, i had a mission to establish a University in Nigeria but unfortunately at the time the procedure and bottlenecks of Nigerian government was not suitable so i had to go to Niger Republic where i started the first University and had over 2,000 Nigerian students,” Gwarzo explained as he took the team round one of the landmark private university that is arguably unrivaled in Northern Nigeria.
Seated on the heart of Kano City in the Government Reserve Area (GRA) of more than eight acres of land, MAAUN comprises of an imposing worship center on the other side of the divide with the secretariat and headquarters of the Association of Private Universities in Africa besides it, and a posh, lavishly structured and architecturally detailed staff quarters in about four estate units behind this buildings.
“You’ll notice a proximity between the university staff quarters and the main academic campus. This is key to the kind of quality education we want to impact in our students on the one hand and the welfare of our staff on the other hand,” Gwarzo explained.
Going down memory lane, the simple, easy going and very humble and idealistic billionaire whose educational impacts and poverty eradication interventions has been felt across areas he has even yet to set foot, revealed that the headquarters of the Association of Private Universities in Africa was located in Kano because he had to stand up for Africa at a conference in Mexico where all other regions were represented except Africa.
Inside the main campus, the well tarred road network and adequately mapped out pedestrian walkway is as inviting as the lush greenery and luxuriantly pleasant flowering layout. The strategically placed lightings were a thing that made the campus come radiantly alive as soon as the sun sets.
The recreation center consisting of a basketball field under construction, a mini football pitch, spectators seat out and an underground dressing room was a pleasant invitation to hang out.
There was no doubt that the imposing buildings were an edifice in their own class of taste. The Senate buildings, Faculty building, lecture theaters and laboratories all stood out not just because of their beauty and spaciousness, but also because of the choice and quality of paintings.
“This vision right here, is all about the need to eradicate illiteracy, we are not driven by profit because our fees will be less than a million, affordable by average Nigerians and we will also institutionalize scholarships cater for need based admissions, everyone shall be covered, no one will be left behind,” the educational reformist vowed as he continued to take us round a tour of the facility by himself.
He disclosed that Maryam Abacha American University shall be commencing progammes in 15 different fields.
“We have the school of management, and we have school of computing, we have school of law and also allied health sciences like nursing, medical laboratory science and physiotherapy,” he said.
When we got to the faculty of law building Gwarzo explained that it was named after the late legendary hausa songstress of the 80s renowned for her song soriyal and ai kai yara makaranta, in order to honour her posthumously for her immense contribution to education in Northern Nigeria.
“We have to derail from the norm of naming monuments after elites alone ordinary people like who have contributed immensely to social development deserve recognition too, that is why we decided to name the building after Magajiya Danbatta,” he explained.
Magajiya Danbatta’s advocacy song was instrumental to the enrollment of Northern children to both western and islamic schools in the 70s and 80s.
While Gwarzo also talked about his plans for the Franco British International- FBI University Kaduna he also hinted on the establishment of another Canadian University in Abuja. So when Alhaji Shuaib curiously asked why he would not just invest his money in real estate or other profitable venture and cool off, he responded that investment in education is not just a sacrifice but something that must be done otherwise we will continue to remain backward.
“In summary,” he said, “it is just to make sure that our children are educated and have a quality education that they can use for the development of our state and the country in general, that’s the vision”
The University, one of its kind, is no doubt spread across a large expanse of land and its deliberate architecture and tall building spread out magnificently to the awe of first timers and even residents. It not only dotted the heart of Kano City, but contributed to the cityscape aesthetics and remarkable landmarks, a premium addition to a blend of quality education.
With all this, it’s not enough to say the vision behind the university is sprawling, but its founder is an enigmatic goal getter who despite status and class difference, has the interest of the downtrodden at the heart of all his moves.
Dahiru M. Lawal writes from Kano