Prof. Gwarzo: An Encounter with Nigeria’s Education Philanthropist, by Gidado Shuaib

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” – Desmond Tutu

My spirit abruptly shot up after receiving a call from Adnan Mukhtar, the Executive Assistant of Professor Adamu Abubakar Gwarzo, requesting myself and some other media practitioners to visit Kano, specifically Maryam Abacha American University of Nigeria (MAAUN). The University was founded and funded by Professor Gwarzo.

Apparently, this feeling was inspired by the amazing stories I have read about Mr. Gwarzo’s philanthropy and unflinching commitments towards boosting education and development in Northern Nigeria. The invitation, I felt, would give me an opportunity for on the spot assessment of the structures at the university and probably a face to face encounter with the philanthropist.

Licensed to operate in Kano, the Maryam Abacha American University of Nigeria has since reached over 80 per cent completion in terms of infrastructure and manpower. Located in Hotoro GRA in Nasarawa Local Government Area of Kano, the institution has brought the entire area to life. I learnt that the presence of the university has raised the value of the area. For instance, a property initially valued at N70 million is now valued at N150 million and even more. Despite this, people are busy investing in the construction of private student hostels, business centres, and restaurants, in anticipation for the eventual take-off of this magnificent project which promises to turn around the fortunes of tertiary education not only in Northern Nigeria but in the country and beyond.

On arrival at MAAUN, we were greeted by not just the great edifice the institution has, but what these structures stand for – excellence and humanity.

We were so wowed at the sight of the university facilities which can arguably rival many higher institutions in Nigeria. I, there and then, became convinced that with these modern structures, graduates of the University will make a lot of difference in the real world in terms of standards, employability and relevance.

Indeed, Professor Gwarzo is a veritable case study of humility. Despite his elitist personality, he was personally on the ground to warmly receive us.

His action gave me flashbacks of stories I read about his magnanimity and love for people. Interestingly, despite his towering achievements, the Professor of French Linguistics is still in his early forties.

All the while we were with Professor Gwarzo touring round the institution; he never spoke about himself – as often the case with some self-effacing individuals – but was busy talking about his quest towards leaving behind a footprint of impacts in the lives of people.

To him, building more tertiary institutions in Northern Nigeria will help reduce crime rate and unemployment. He also disclosed that he was building another institution called the Franco-British University in Kaduna.

He said his vision was to have every northerner easily attend tertiary institutions by 2040. This vision awe-struck me to the point I started wondering whether this person isn’t a prophet, quizzing myself that how could an individual be so concerned with the welfare of others?

A private university is often an investment and the investor naturally looks forward to return on investment, but the reverse is virtually the case in the MAAUN. One begins to doubt if indeed profit-making is Professor Gwarzo’s intention for establishing the university because hundreds of students are offered scholarships to study any course of their choice in the university. Overtime, Prof. Gwarzo has prided himself of offering 100 percent scholarships to over 500 students studying Nursing, Medical Laboratory Science and Mass Communications in the Niger Republic campus of the sister institution.

Many universities in Nigeria have also benefited from his philanthropic gestures. For instance, he donated 30-seater luxury buses to select institutions of learning in Kano, Kaduna and Katsina states. Little wonder the Federal University, Dutsinma, in Katsina State named their clinic after him. To him, supporting other universities, both private and public, does not reduce the edge of MAAUN. His ultimate goal is to help Nigeria grow.

In further advancing the cause of egalitarian society, Prof. Gwarzo has a foundation in his name where he sends less-privileged children to school, provides school buses and many philanthropic gestures to students which I have come to know he does not like talking about. I also heard from a good authority that he also built a community secondary school in the area where the MAAUN is situated as part of his corporate social responsibility.

In conclusion, my visit to the Maryam Abacha American University of Nigeria will continue to be one to remember and I cannot wait to see the plans of Professor Gwarzo come to fruition. Even though he does not like his trumpet blown, I believe history will forever be kind to him.

Gidado Shuaib, a media practitioner, can be reached on giddyshuaib@gmail.com

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