–Professor Abdullahi Mahadi (1945-2022): A Notable Omission

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By Nadir A. Nasidi (PhD)

Vice-chancellor at three different universities at different times; Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (1998-2004), Gombe State University (2004-2014), and Gombe State University of Science and Technology (2017-2022), ProfessorProf Abdullahi Mahadi: The 9th Vice-Chancellor of ABU Zaria Abdullahi Mahadi, born in December 1945 at Warrabe, a small village located in Gwoza of Borno State, Nigeria, was not only an erudite scholar in his discipline of history, but was also an unrivalled administrator whose exemplary leadership and community service would be indelible in the history of education in Nigeria.

As Winston Churchill wrote about his friend, Valentine Flemming, in a tribute, some 105 years ago, Mahadi was also ‘…most earnest and sincere in his desire to make things better for the great body of the people, and had cleared his mind of all particularist tendencies’. This is clearly demonstrated by his academic, administrative, and personal life.

Late Professor Abdullahi Mahadi

Apart from receiving his Islamic education at a young age, from 1962 to 1971, Mahadi attended Government Teachers College, Mubi, and Advanced Teachers College, Zaria where he graduated with Teachers Grade II and NCE certificates respectively. In line with his great love for education and learning, in 1972, he applied for his B.A degree in History at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, graduating in 1975 with Upper Second Class Honours.

Upon the completion of his mandatory one-year national service (NYSC) at Oyo State in 1976, he joined the services of his alma mater as a Graduate Assistant, which enabled him to immediately enroll for his M.A. programme at the Department of History, A.B.U. Due to his exceptional brilliant performance, the M.A. was upgraded to a Ph.D. in 1979, while the degree was awarded in 1982.

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In his long career as a teacher and as a lecturer, which spanned the period 1966 to 2010, Mahadi taught at a primary school and Oranmiyan Grammar School, Oyo. He also lectured at Teachers Training College, Mubi, and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (where he rose through the ranks and was promoted to a professor of History on the 2nd of August, 1991).

Apart from holding numerous administrative duties at the Department of History, A.B.U., from 1977 to 1990, Mahadi also taught a number of courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Some of these courses include; HS 205 (Northern Africa c. 1000-1500 A.D), HS 101(Africa in the 19th and 20th Centuries), HS 501 (Advanced Course in Nigerian History), and HS 502 (Contemporary World History), the last two being taught at the Post-graduate level.

Over the span of eight years, Mahadi supervised many M.A. and Ph.D. students. Among those he supervised most of whom are now professors and seasoned academics are; Mansur Ibrahim Mukhtar, Sule Mohammed, Maisassoua Illa Samaila, Abdullahi Rafi Augi, George Eje Ode, Alkassum Abba, Hauwa Mahdi, Enoch Oyedele, to mention, but a few.

Mahadi also served as an external examiner for a number of M.A. and Ph.D. candidates, especially at Bayero University, Kano, and the then University of Sokoto. Some of these students included; Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’I (Nigeria’s former Minister of Education), Abdullahi Basharu, Abdullahi Albasu, Abdu Mohammed, S.M. Al-Hassan among others.

In a condolence letter written to Mahadi’s family by the Head, Department of History, A.B.U, Professor Abdulkadir Adamu dated 17th December, 2022, he stated that the deceased being a prolific writer has ‘produced a large corpus of historical research’ by presenting over seventy papers at different national and international conferences in Nigeria, Japan, Algeria, Chad, Canada, Italy to mention, but a few.

Mahadi had also published eighty scholarly peer-reviewed papers in both national and international journals. He was equally a member of many national and international professional bodies such as the Historical Society of Nigeria, International Historical Demography, African Studies Association of Nigeria, and the Association of Third World Studies.

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For his academic prowess and astuteness, Mahadi was given many awards and honors. For instance, in 1982/1983 session, he was awarded the African Graduate Fellowship by the American University in Cairo and was also nominated for Marquis and Newswatch Who’s Who in the world and Nigeria respectively.

As he once recounted, Mahadi had held 99 different related academic responsibilities and had served the community in various ways. For example, he was a one-time Head of the Department of History, A.B.U (1988-1990), a Chief Examiner, IJMB (Islamic History), a moderator of N.C.E Examination Paper II (African History), a member of Ad-Hoc Committee for Reviewing African History Syllabus for N.C.E and served as a member Editorial Committee for the Publication of Proceedings of National Seminar on Nigeria’s Political Culture organized by Kaduna State Council for Arts and Culture from 1982 to 1983.

He also served as the Chairman Editorial Committee for the production of History of A.B.U at 25 in 1989, a consultant, at the Nigerian Institute for International Affairs, and the Centre for Distance Learning, University of Abuja in 1990. Mahadi was equally a Reader/Assessor at A.B.U Press from 1989-1990, as well as an Assessor, Staff Recruitment, Nigerian Defense Academy, Kaduna also in 1990.

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He successfully coordinated the Nigeria/UNESCO Project on Historical Documentation in 1991 and wrote three scripts for Radio Broadcast by Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, Lagos. This is coupled with the fact that he was also a Guest Writer with Sunday New Nigerian in the 1990s.

Due to his great love for nature and afforestation, Mahadi could easily pass for an environmentalist, or a conservationist. Pointer to this fact was the presence of the common plutonic environmental stories re-echoed by many people at the Ahmadu Bello University that he could ‘expel’ a student found plucking the blossoming and beautiful flowers he beatified the campus with during his tenure as the Vice-chancellor.

Mahadi voluntarily retired from the services of Ahmadu Bello University on the 31st of December, 2010 after serving the University for 34 years and 4 months. Alas! Mahadi’s outstanding contributions to scholarship and the general public are obscured perhaps by his humility which could be a reason why neither the three universities he served nor Wikipedia thought of immortalizing him by providing his comprehensive biography for him to be held as a role model for many generations to come.

This is indeed a notable omission by all the media reports of his sudden demise. May Allah (SWT) in His infinite mercy forgive Professor Mahadi and may He elevate him to the exalted position.

Nadir A. Nasidi (PhD) writes from the Department of History
Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He can be reached via

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