Heart of Arts

Usmanu Danfodiyo University: A Catalyst for Societal Transformation

Toyin Falola

As an African country, the importance of tertiary education goes beyond cosmetical indulgence in educational accessibility. It has remained and must remain a fundamental phenomenon in the developmental tapestry of the continent. I have often said that to attain global expectations of technological advancements as well as the supposed future projections in continental development, tertiary education is imperative to their actualization. Hence, seeing the development and the contribution of the Usmanu Danfodio University in the developmental unravelling of the continent and Nigeria solidifies my disposition toward the need to sustain Africa’s commitment to tertiary development.

Photo: Entrance Usmanu Danfodiyo University

To reenact the role of tertiary development in the continent and Nigeria, the University has risen beyond the stringent conditions of environmental, economic, and fundamental factors that have weighed on it to be one of the hallmarks of advancements in the country. After its founding in 1975 and its position in northern Nigeria, more than anything, the University had a lot to prove and wore a weight of responsibilities that required fast-tracked efficiency measures. In what started with temporary classrooms, 93 students, 33 academic staff, and three variants of bachelor’s Degrees, it has metamorphosed into a major player in the educational advancement of the country. The university now has ten faculties aside from its postgraduate school, with studies in law, management sciences, education, health science, and others, propelling it to a reputable place in the African educational structure.

With thousands of students who have drunk from its fountain, it has been one of the core drivers of the advancement of Northern Nigeria, ensuring that relevant ‘knowledge seeds’ are growing across different northern sectors and areas. This translates into national relevance and contributions as people within and outside the country seek educational advancement at the university. The gradual efforts of the university have shown its constant consciousness towards its vision, which adds to its disciplined compliance with the mission of providing outstanding academic and research fortress for the nation and the continent by extension. This is the logic behind the relative progressions amongst the human resources products from the institution.

Photo: Abdullahi Fodio Library  Usmanu Danfodiyo University

The research focus of Usmanu Danfodio University is unique because of the dynamics put into consideration to drive the trajectory of research by its people. Research interests have largely been built around communal relevance that respects the cultural specifics of the society, the attributes of the same, and the general interests of the public that continuously draw people to explore the relevance of research conclusions. So, on a larger scale, the ideological peculiarity of the University’s research disposition goes beyond abstract dispositions but is built on social context.

The ideas behind the respective research centres at the university allude to the synchronization of the university’s aim with relevant societal needs and reflections. One of the research centres focuses on Advanced Medical Research Training, which tends to take particular interest in the advancement of medical epistemologies and increasing expertise in the country. This becomes societally relevant as we see the increase in different disease outbreaks across the country. In 2021, it was reported that the country battled 14 out of the top 20 tropical diseases that the WHO announced. Research has shown that the proliferation of Neglected Tropical Diseases like Schistosomiasis, Trachoma, Lymphatic Filariasis, and others have been slipping through the medical atmosphere of Nigerian society. Hence, there was a need for deliberate medical research and inquiries that would close the gap of knowledge deficits that may hinder the Nigerian capacities to battle these illnesses. The University recognized these needs and propelled itself into the core of research to advance knowledge and expertise capable of meeting them.

Photo: Pro-Metric/ICT Center (UDC), Sokoto

The University’s Centre for Advanced Medical Research and Training serves as a viable centre for extensively exploring these unravelling medical dynamics and diseases that could become another set of big medical ponders across the continent. It has been able to focus research, experiments, and positions on the medical evolution of the country and the north, blazing the trail of consolidation of medical knowledge. This further highlights the societal relevance of the university’s endeavours.

A similar endeavour is the research focus of the Centre for Agriculture and Pastoral Research, which represents the most important aspect of northern life and the Nigerian economy. With over 70.8 million hectares of land used for agricultural practices at different levels, 84 per cent of the labour attributable to agricultural practices and responsible for the survival of the country and, by extension, the continent, Nigerian agricultural practice could be seen as the backbone of the nations’ continuity and sustainability. Recent developments have seen various threats to the sustainability of these agricultural practices, following the proliferation of white-collar jobs and globalization that takes people’s attention from the importance of agricultural sustainability. In this light, the university has become one of the vanguards of agricultural sustainability, advancement, and innovations. The practices and research of the university in this regard have shown professional transformation in Nigeria’s agricultural wont.

Aside from the above, other centres like the Centre for Open and Distance Education, Centre for Entrepreneurship Development, Centre for Islamic Studies, School of Basic and Advanced Studies, Centre for Peace Studies, Cibyar Nazarin Hausa, Leadership Accounting Development and Networking (LADAN) and others further show the social relevance of the university. Hence, the university’s penchant for societal interests advances the necessity of simulating societal values and building the town-and-gown relationship that underscores the whole essence of an educational and research institution. The university is unarguably an institution tuned to serve community needs and development, and it has held to that duty passionately.

Photo: Sultan (Dr.) Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar

Aside from the adoption of communal aspirations, the university has distinguished itself in ensuring the promotion of a culture of excellence and quality both in its pedagogical duties and research outputs. This has been included in the conceptual orientation of broth students and staff members. Many of the graduates of the University have become relevant to the process of nation-building and advancement of the continent’s epistemological grounding. Many of its products pride themselves in driving the political trajectories of the country as the leadership instincts instilled by the University in them have been relevant in making them fit for political functions, appointments, and transformation of the nation. The University’s products are also seen in holding the frontiers of the nation’s economy, education, entertainment, and technology. These achievements could only be traced to the values and culture of excellence and quality that the University holds in high esteem. These values and qualities are further reflected in the impacts of the teaching and non-teaching staff, as well as insightful research outputs.

The Usmanu Danfodio University is not just a university but an emblem of the societal desire for transformation and the reflection of its willingness. It can be seen as one of the most relatable institutions that form crucial developmental factors for people. It is then imperative to ensure the sustainability of the institution and make its development a priority because of its direct impact on the people. Like many other universities in the country, the university still needs a lot of work. It needs more facilities, equipment, laboratories, and other relevant materials to propel it properly for its vision and mission. Investment in the same could be seen as a direct reflection on the future of the people, and as such, the university should prioritize institutional considerations.

Photo: Palace Entrance Sultan of  Sokoto

So, I call for the proactive interest of the alumni body, institutions, foundations, governments, and other stakeholders to see the need for supportive efforts towards the further development of the University. This is pertinent because of the direct channelling of the outcome of these investments in the societal development of Nigerian societies and the advancement of the northern economy. Join me in congratulating the management, faculty, and students of Usmanu Danfodio on the progress they have made over the years. Congratulations, Professor Lawal Suleiman Biblis, the Vice-Chancellor for your 2024 Combined Convocation Ceremony. I am happy to be part of the event.




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