Abdallah Uba Adamu: The Vision, the Muse, and the Transformation of 
NOUN

Prof. Hakeem Ibikunle Tijani

Professor Hakeem Ibikunle Tijani. FSPSP; MNAL; FRHist. UK, Director, Centre of Excellence in Migration and Global Studies, National Open University of Nigeria

Being a "Valedictory" (Felicitation) Lecture, February 8th 2021

"From NOUN to Verb - NOUN Reloaded. The word VERB stands for Vibrant, Energetic, Rearmed, Ballistic - to indicate the aggressive path NOUN intends to follow in order to go beyond the next level." Abdallah U. Adamu, March 2016

"NOUN is delivering on its mandate by taking education to the doorstep of Nigerians."

President Muhammadu Buhari, Visitor to NOUN and President of the Federal Republic of
Nigeria, January 2021

Introduction

This lecture is about the contributions and the pursuit of a transformation agenda at
the National Open University of Nigeria by the Vice Chancellor, Professor Abdallah Uba Adamu between 2016 and 2021. This is an unusual valedictory because I am reluctant to bid him goodbye, just like I will find it difficult to send forth any leader or colleague that has contributed to the growth of learning. I do not subscribe to the definition of valedictory that implies, "you are done ... hasta la vista. "The end of a termed tenure appointment should not mean bye bye. Valedictory speech or lecture is produced often to mark the end of an event, termed tenure or a graduation where the best student overall speaks on behalf of others and reminiscence on their immediate past. That is why I am comfortable referring to this event as a felicitation of a successful stewardship by Abdallah. I must admit that in such a short lecture like this, I cannot cover all aspects of the Muse's contributions to NOUN during the short five years termed tenure appointment.

Transformation and Rebranding of NOUN

It should be noted that since his appointment in February 2016 as the Vice-Chancellor of NOUN, Professor Abdallah set the tone when he announced at' the 15th Matriculation address in March 2016 that, his administration would vigorously pursue quality assurance using the National Universities Commission's Benchmark for Academic Standards (BMAS).This marked the beginning of quality, innovation, learning, and research in an institution that had solely focused on teaching, facilitation and supervision to deliver contents to students. The main goal was to elevate Open Distance Learning from bottom level to the topmost top. Along with his lieutenants such as Sir Felix Edoka, Dr. Adam Saleh, Dr. Ernest Odeigha and other members of the "Dream Team" a new dawn in ODL delivery was birthed.

The success of the new dawn was not without the trust and support of the Council led by Distinguished Professor Peter Okebukola.

Perhaps, of significance is the reflection and implementation of the policy of equity,
accessibility, and learning anywhere without hindrance posed by location. The idea of
equity in educational opportunities was profound in granting more access to those individuals who ordinarily never thought of having a better life through earning a degree or acquiring skills in the renowned entrepreneurship training led by Professor Juliet Inegbedion. The introduction of free education to inmates, support for those in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, and indigent students are also worthy of note.

It was not all rosy as should be expected. There were challenges ranging from human, law, institutional and funding to mention a few. Gaining the respect and acceptance among the comity of Universities in Nigeria was a major challenge. But today, the attitude of Nigerian academics towards NOUN has changed remarkably. This is reflected in (in the recent continual clamor to be part of the NOUN family). In fact, that many of them now desire to join NOUN, or creating directorate of distance learning. In fact, when I had the choice of three offers in 2017, I chose NOUN and I have never regretted my decision. I call on Covenant University and others to pursue the right part of successful and sustainable 0DL by reaching out to NOUN.

In addition, the COVID-19 Pandemic and the transformation at NOUN before the pandemic have validated the preeminent position now enjoyed by NOUN. NOUN is now a reference point for hybrid model of delivery, assessment and students' success. Empowering the faculties, departments, moderation of Thesis, and creating an independent Directorate of Examination and Assessment are amongst worthy transformation initiatives carried out by Professor Abdallah. This was despite the challenges of funding, meeting students' demands, and unsettling questions of staff/faculty unionism.

The Muse and the Pedagogy of Learning

I encountered the Muse at a close range in 2019 during the second international conference (truly international both in attendance and scholarship) of the social science. The President of Morgan State University, Dr. David Wilson was the Keynote Speaker, and Professor Elias Bogoro was the Chairman. But, the star of the moment was Professor Abdallah who decolonized the pedagogy of teaching, and clearly separated the idea of education from learning. He educated us, and we learned the specific and dynamic nature of pedagogy of teaching across disciplines and levels in the Nigerian context. The view that teaching is about learning was succincdy presented by Professor Adamu Uba Abdallah to the audience. This has guided most of us in the review of course materials, evaluation and moderation of questions. It has also set in motion the principle of students' learning and success as uncompromising aspects of who we are at NOUN. His contribution in transforming this aspect of the role of staff and faculty in a tertiary institution, particularly in an open distance learning environment, is further validated with his collaboration with the Pro-chancellor and Chairman of Council in rebranding (rejigging) how we teach (facilitate), moderate, supervise, and general reorientation of staff and faculty members.

The success of training staff and faculty by the Distinguished Professor Emeritus Peter Akinsola Okebukola using Moodle, has been said to be the result of the unflinching cooperation of the Muse, who evidently was present, and actively participated in the rigorous hands-on training. What an outstanding modeling of leadership to all! The success is not without the "Backend Team." Empowering two members of the "Dream Team," Professor Alhassan and Dr. Adesina has helped to transform the use of ICT at NOUN. The establishment of the vibrant Learning Management System, seems to have fulfilled the vision of "new innovations, which includes exploring new ways of distributing our course materials; creating a better contact point between the students and the administration; introducing more student-based input at the study centres; decentralizing examination processing to reduce incidences of missing results, among others."

Whether you like him or not; or you appreciate his leadership style from far or near,
Professor Abdallah has completed a tenure marked with peace and joyful service. Peace and stability are central to implementing ideas, convincing the Council, carrying along the principal officers, and winning the hearts and minds of most of the staff and students. He has his foibles as should be expected of any human being.
However, the records, eye witnesses and oral history of the last five years stewardship
as the Vice Chancellor of the National Open University of Nigeria could be adjudged successful. His intellectual distinction is rather uncommon with vast knowledge of issues across disciplines. This has contributed to the establishment and flowering of African Centre of Excellence in Technology, Entrepreneurship and skills development, the Centre of Excellence in Migration and Global Studies, five signature disciplines to serve as the core areas of specialisation at NOUN, and several networking nationally and globally for physical and intellectual transformation.

The core of an institution's research and development is an office so dedicated. The charge for a university research policy and the free hand to blossom is another remarkable feat. Interestingly, the Chairman of the sub-committee for the task is the in-coming Vice-Chancellor, Professor Femi Peters, who perfectly understand "the weak links" and how to fix it. Today, Professor Mafiana, like his predecessor, Professor Ofulue, representing the Muse, should be proud of presenting the outcome of Femi Peters' led sub-committee on University Research Policy, thus fulfilling an aspect of the paradigm shift in Abdallah's quest for a succinct research guidelines for the teaching staff.

Conclusion

I cannot end this lecture about Professor Abdullah's tenure as the Vice Chancellor of NOUN without mentioning his role as one of the harbingers of TetFund paradigm shift and the impact of a major aspect of the rebranding of human capacity development in Nigeria. The Agreement between TetFund and Morgan State University in May 2020 and the funding of CEMGS at NOUN by TetFund earlier in late February were not coincidental. They are divine and an evidence of the Muse' back end networking targeted at rebranding research and development at NOUN.

Permit me to shed light on TetFund-Morgan Agreement and how it has laid the foundation for human capacity development in critical areas of training at NOUN.

Today, the pioneer TetFund-Morgan scholars have completed the first semester as doctoral students. Three post-doctoral faculty members will be off for collaboration with colleagues at Morgan in summer. And lastly, the second wave of doctoral students too will be off to Morgan in Fall 2021 studying various disciplines at the Treasure of Maryland and number one Historically Black College in the United States of America.

It is worthy of note at this juncture that the ability to secure the change of the institution's enabling Act of 1983, remarkable TetFund Interventions in physical structures, attraction of citizens' donation of facilities, particularly in the northern part of the country, are part of the remarkable success that I should mention here. In all, the promise made by Professor in Abdallah in March 2016 seems to have been fulfilled. Indeed, his vision of enhanced teaching and learning under his watch has transformed the institution to meet global standard.

Ladies and gentlemen, join me to wish the Muse another era of joyful service, mentoring, and collaboration with the incoming leader and Vice Chancellor, Professor Femi Peters. As the incoming Vice Chancellor, Professor Femi Peters said in one of the many felicitations in honour of Professor Abdallah, "you are really not exiting; you will always be part of us."You can now understand my contextualization of the term valedictory at the beginning of the lecture.

The Pro-chancellor and Chairman of Council, the Vice Chancellor and the incoming Vice Chancellor, principal officers, colleagues, students, ladies and gentlemen, and gentlemen of the press, I thank all of you for listening. To the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic), Professor Uduma Oji Uduma and his Committee, I thank you for this rare opportunity to deliver the felicitation lecture in honor of the Muse, double Professor Abdallah Uba Adamu. We never say good bye to a friend, a mentor, a leader. Rather, we felicitate with him or her for an impactful termed tenure. It is in this context that we felicitate with Professor Abdallah Uba Adamu for a successful stewardship as the Vice Chancellor of National Open University of Nigeria. The Pro-chancellor, Professor Emeritus Okebukola rightly surmised that the last five years will "go down as the best in the annals of the University."

Above all, we say to God alone be all the glory!

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