BACK TO SWEDEN IN MEMORY OF PROFESSOR SABO BAKO
(15 MARCH 1959- 1 DECEMBER 2010)
December, 1, 2010, will for long remains one of the most shocking moments in the history of my life. It was the day I received the news of the passing of my mentor, teacher and very close confidant-Professor Sabo Bako. Initially, I could not believe what I was told that Mallam Sabo is dead. When Dr. Agbo Johnson, Prof Sabo’s PhD student called me from far away Jalingo first thing in the morning, to break the news of his passing, I did not believe him. I told Agbo no! I spoke with Prof on phone 15 hours ago. Dr. Agbo further said “I am telling you Prof is dead, so I heard, but I too did not believe it”.
I abruptly dropped the phone after telling Agbo “let me confirm whether what you are saying is true”.
I called Adamu, a relative of Prof Sabo Bako who traumatically said “Nura, wallahi gashi an kira ni da gaggawa nazo Zaria, Dr. Sabo Bako ya rasu. Yanzu zamu binne shi”, meaning: I was urgently called to come to Zaria. Dr. Sabo Bako is dead. I am at Zaria. We are going to bury him now.
Alas, I could not believe Adamu either that the man I had a telephone conversation with at 3pm, was no longer alive.
Hear my conversation with Prof. Sabo at 3pm – a few hours before his death.
Prof. Sabo: Hello! Nura ne? (Is this Nura?)
Yes Sir. Yaya aiki? (How’s work?).
Prof. Sabo: Lafiya, kazo Garin ne? (Fine. Are you in town?).
No Sir. I called you to clarify that Aisha (your daughter) is going to do her Industrial Training (I.T) at Freedom Radio Dutse not Radio Jigawa Sir as you might have mistaken. Because the Managing Director of Radio Jigawa called me and said you told him that she (Aisha) is on her away to meet him for her I.T. issue.
Prof. Sabo: O.k. I thought it was Radio Jigawa that you submitted her request?
No Sir! I told you the MD Radio Jigawa was not around when I submitted her request. He travelled out of the country. That is why I suggested Freedom Radio for her since I am together with the Station Manager, Mallam Adamu Ladan.
Prof. Sabo: It’s alright. Call the MD Radio Jigawa ka gaya masa cewa ba wani abu. Ai duk daya ne. Radio Jigawa and Freedom are all the same…uhm. Tun da dai an karbe ta din ai ba komai. I will also call the MD by myself and explain to him what happened. Kasan na gaya maka shi aboki na ne. You know I told you the MD Radio Jigawa is my friend.
Prof. Sabo: When are you coming to Zaria?
On Sunday Sir in sha Allah. Sir, I hope you did not forget about my issue that I said we are going to text governor Lamido?
Prof. Sabo: Oh! Da Allah kayi hakuri (please bear with me). I have forgotten, but let me text him about it now.
Prof. Sabo: Or should I leave it till you come?
Yes Sir. Zai yi kyau ka bari idan nazo na nuna maka abin sai kasan abin da zaka yi masa text a kai (It is better if I come down and show you the stuff so that you know what to text him).
Prof. Sabo: O.k. sai kazo din. Yaushe kace zaka zo? Ranar Lahadi? (Is alright. When do you say you would be coming? Sunday?
Prof. Sabo: Allah ya kawo ka (May Allah makes it easy. Journey mercies!)
Nagode Sir (Thank you Sir).
That was exactly what transpired between me and Dr. Sabo Bako barely 15 hours before he was recalled by Allah-the Almighty. As at that time, if you ask Mallam Sabo as he’s fondly called by Priscilla, an Internet Café attendant at Burkan, opposite Ahmadu Bello University’s north Gate, he would not have known that he would die on that day. He would definitely not agree that he would go back to his Maker on that day! We used to spend hours surfing the Net, generally looking for research materials and international conferences.
What people do not know up to the moment of writing this second eulogy about Sabo is that he was the very person that first introduced me to Sweden and its beautiful sceneries, culture, people and tradition.
He made me realized the dream of becoming an international early career scholar by narrating his scholarships and engagement with international education community. The very day he told me stories about his visit to Sweden, I fell in love with the country. He told me about the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI) at Uppsala. Prof. Sabo encouraged me to write and submit abstract anytime there’s a call for it by the NAI. I then asked him the rationale behind submitting an abstract. Sabo said, “Once your abstract is accepted for presentation, NAI usually pays for travelling expenses, accommodation and feeding and even stipends. Ditto CODESRIA! He told me virtually everything about his international presentations that he had in Uppsala. Hear him:
“I was there in 2007. I participated in a discussion and debate on “Reconciling winners and losers in post-conflict elections in West Africa” from the political and policy imperative”. “You see, Sweden is such a lovely environment Nura that I would have loved you to visit. I will be happy if you will try and visit Uppsala one day or go there for studies. Just keep checking the NAI website and see if there’s a call for papers or/and abstract. Make sure you submit a winning abstract. Do you hear?”
I said, “Yes Sir! “I will be visiting the website to see if I can get one and submit”.
Indeed, I learnt quite a lot from listening to his international endeavours. He made me liked Sweden by encouraging me to discover its sights and delights. Sabo enjoyed telling me about Swedish people hospitality and cuisine with a host of authentic, distinguished and enjoyable treasures. He said, “Nura whenever you go to Sweden, make sure to take part in an exciting activity. Be sure you make a visit to the world of sagas and myths i.e. Uppsala. Truly, the way he took his time telling me about Uppsala, and the passion and love he shared with Swedish people is just like the way Romeo loved old Juliet! In fact, the circumstances surrounding Prof Sabo Bako’s death taught most of us, especially I, ample lessons in life i.e. we are all from Allah and to Him we shall all return, because He is the creator and possessor of all creatures.
However, I found it very difficult to adjust and contain myself for several days after his passing. As my first Book reviewer, Prof. Sabo always advises me to be patient and serious about it. He used to guide me and Dr. Agbo. He always urges us to go on critical thinking (thinking outside the box) anytime we are going to submit any serious academic exercise or work. It is a concept that we so much cherished, because it has to do with devising solutions where there are none. That is why most of our paper abstracts hardly missed selection whenever we present any to conference abstract/panel reviewers.
He fondly used to tell me and his junior colleagues Mallam Tafida and Dr. Sama’ila not to be involved in garrison democracy. The last time I and him featured prominently was during the Zazzau History Conference that took place on 10 June 2010 where we presented our papers with dignity and pageantry. Prof Sabo in his usual academic venture talked exhaustibly on the history and politics of Friday Mosques proliferation in Zaria metropolis. His paper, controversial as it might appear to those who don’t know him (knowledge wise), was full of wisdom and meaning, most especially in terms of salvaging our numerous mosques from neglect and collapse. He did a lot of work on religion and politics in Africa. Notably amongst them was his PhD thesis: “The Maitatsine Revolts: A Socio-Political Explanation of the Islamic Insurrections in Northern Nigeria 1980-85”. This PhD thesis won CODESRIA small grant award, because it was excellently written. He conducted and coordinated research project on “Africa in Crisis” where he contributed a Book chapter on the “State in Crisis in Africa” for the Africa Centre for Social and Political Research Zaria, Nigeria in 1998. He also conducted a research on the Islamic Reform Movement and its transnational Dimension: A study of Yan Izala, Yan shi’a and Yan Islamiyya in Northern Nigeria and presented it to the Institute for Advanced Social Science (Ehess) at Paris. Sabo Bako was the winner of the international sixth annual dissertation workshop sponsored by the Committee of the Comparative Study of Muslim Societies organized by the American Science Research Council, which took place at Digby’s Stuart College, London in July 1991. He made so many presentations at the Muslim Institute, London on Muslim political thought during colonial period in 1989. As a panelist and member, Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) Sabo Bako kept on encouraging me immediately we came back from Dakar in 2006, to pursue research with intellectual vigour and interest.
He was due for professorship since 1 October 2005, but was not given for reasons best known to the Department of Political Science, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Nigeria. After all, he had been a reader (Associate Prof) since October 2001. His postgraduate taught courses were quite revolutionary educationally. He taught contemporary political theory; advanced comparative politics; classical political thoughts; Nigeria and West Africa; and issues in world politics. Prof’s doctorate students that he supervised and graduated are today intellectual giants in the field of political science. Doctors such as Kabiru Mato; Jubril Bala Mohammed; Shehu Isma’il ; Moses Ukpenumewu Tedekhe ; Musa Yusuf; Umar Aminu and Agbo Johnson are all spectacular political scientists that were bred by Sabo Bako of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria. My closeness with Sabo made me feel relaxed anytime I was discussing my ideas with him about Nigeria and its position in the contemporary world. Even though I sometimes differ with him in ideology, but we always come to term after thorough analysis of our ideas. My relationship with him grew so intimately and strong after sharing our thoughts one Friday afternoon on nationhood and nation building and on Africa’s position in contemporary world. Since then, there’s nothing-be it conference, symposium, workshop or call for papers that I would bring to him without bending our heads to it until we submit our ideas with happiness.
[Picture of late Prof. Sabo Bako, Department of Political Science, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria].
Prof Sabo’s next intellectual journey, which he seriously had in mind before his passing, was the West African Research Association’s (WARA’s) international conference that took place in June 2011 at Niger Republic where he asked me to develop a panel paper in his office. I developed it and gave him to study. He agreed to speak on “Leadership and Governance in Muslim Northern Nigeria”. I chose to talk on “Traditional Hausa Architecture, City Walls and Gates in Royal Palaces of Northern Nigeria”. He asked me to phone Prof Abdallah Uba Adamu of Bayero University, Kano(BUK) and inform him about the conference to see if he’s interested. I called and informed Prof Abdallah who happily agreed to join the panel. Both of them called few days after the submission to WARA to confirm whether our panel paper was sent or not. I told them that it was already acknowledged and accepted for presentation by the organizers!
Indeed, most of Prof. Sabo Bako’s colleagues in the political science department are still not aware of many of his intellectual engagements. My closeness to him made me understand that he’s a reservoir of knowledge that had written amply about religion and politics in contemporary Africa. Prof Dunmoye (Sabo Bako’s PhD supervisor) groomed him so well. Therefore, it became very easy for Dr. Sabo to face intellectual giants such as Dr. Bala Usman and his disciples. There was a time I curiously asked him what happened in their yesteryears of intellectual exchange i.e. between the rightists and leftists ideological movement in ABU. He laughably said ai wannan maganar tawuce…uhmm. But I still insisted to hear from him. He then told me about his Court experience with Dr. Bala Usman, Abdullahi Mahadi and co. He said well, “they filed a case against me in Court over clash of ideology(s). They claimed damages of almost N2million Naira. That time I was in South Africa when Dr. Bala Usman’s disciples came to my house and claimed what the Court ruled in their favour”. The rest is history.
Two years after his demise, precisely in the year 2012, I began searching for more international conferences and calls for paper abstracts as he advised me to do. Luckily, I got one from the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI) webpage! There was a call for abstracts on “Warlords: Agents of change or Instigators of Insecurity?”. Immediately I saw it, I started reading on the topic. I eventually came up with an abstract titled, “Warlord politics, socio-economic crises and garrison democracy in Africa: A case study of Nigeria, Liberia and DRC”. I sent it to NAI for assessment. To my great surprise, it was accepted for oral presentation. I was so happy that I would follow the footsteps of my intellectual ‘teacher-friend’. I was deeply elated, because my dream of visiting Sweden for the first time was then realized. I could only be disturbed when I made it to Sweden on 17 May 2012 without Dr. Sabo Bako. However, to me it was a mission well fulfilled and accomplished. At least I have taken over from where he stopped with personal temerity.
First picture: Front row in the middle: Myself and Ingrid Anderson of NAI. Others are Daniel Poon, Bola Atiwade, Profs. Anders Themner, Mats Utas and the Nordic Africa Institute research colleagues at Uppsala after a workshop session on 17 May 2012.
Why I always shed tears whenever I remember the time we had in his office strategizing about creating a virile educational and cultural relationship with Sweden and Senegal, I became intellectually defeated in spirit.
Now that I am going back to Sweden for the second time to make two presentations at the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI), Stockholm on Africa’s regional climate, I think I am quite pleased for continuing with the Sweden-Nigeria educational exchange and relationship. Indeed, five years after Prof. Bako’s death, I feel mostly fulfilled, because I have carried on from where he stopped. I hope to visit the Swedish Institute at Stockholm and discuss with that public agency how to immortalize Prof. Sabo Bako’s scholarly writings. I will be most grateful if I can establish this relationship and bilateral cooperation between serious Nigerian University international scholars such as Sabo and the Swedish Institute.
To me, this is a task that must be done if I want to one day reflect back and say yes, I have actualized my dream of immortalizing Prof. Sabo Bako. Why I even became so worried about Dr. Sabo Bako’s intellectual struggle, is because of his PhD thesis that is left unpublished, which could have given more insights into the recent proliferations of Boko Haram crises in Northern Nigeria. That thesis, which I lost its original copy together with my first car to thieves at a fuel filling Station in Zaria was given to me by his wife. After my condolence visit to the family, his wife brought it and handed it over to me. She said, “Mallam Nura hold this. It will be more beneficial to you, because I know you did most of your research activities together”.
In fact, the more reason why I should visit the Swedish Institute on Dr. Bako’s works is because of the importance of reviving his legacy that his children and the academic world will live to see and benefit. His eldest daughter, Aisha Sabo Bako could have benefitted more from her Dad’s intellectual prowess. But sadly, Aisha too passed away two weeks ago, precisely April 2016 in Zaria, Nigeria. The news of her passing reached me with lots of remorse. Her death left me with no choice than to write this second tribute in memory. Even though Aisha’s death was a sudden one, but her Dad died of acute urinary tract infection with hypovolemic shock. May God forgive Aisha and give her family the fortitude to bear her loss and that of Prof. Sabo Bako.
We love you, but Allah loves you more than us.
Jibo Nura (QS),
Wrote in from Jigawa.