My dear readers, it is another circle of readers’ comments. However, I am dedicating the entire column to the comments of my readers on the recent tribute I wrote on my mentor, teacher and motivator, Prof Ahmad Mustafa Falaki. The tribute was published on 9th November 2018. The article enjoyed wide readership; several comments, more than 100 individuals’ “shares” on my Facebook and circulated among WhatsApp individuals/groups. This Column can publish only three edited comments from few of the beneficiaries of Falaki’s benevolence, who had the privilege of closely working with him for more than two decades. The comments are edited due to lack of space but they reflect the comments of most people and provide additional information on the life and times of Prof Falaki.
Dear Prof Othman,
Your article on Prof Falaki was an excellent piece written on my teacher and mentor. It clearly brought out the human angle where Falaki played prominent roles in shaping and making several of us and many other people. What you wrote was actually a true testimony of Falaki’s benevolent gesture to people especially farmers and students. Falaki had never shown resistance to supporting people from all walks of life to achieve their desired goals in their chosen careers. He involved himself in people’s affairs with the sole aim of addressing their problems. Example, I was with him at the Senate Building of ABU, Zaria when we met a young man weeping, Falaki asked him why he was weeping, the young man said, he was given admission into the university, he came for registration and the admission letter was confiscated because he didn’t come along with a “letter of indigene”, a certificate that shows one’s state of origin in Nigeria. Falaki checked the academic qualification of the young man and found him qualified, Falaki became furious and took the young man back to the academic secretary and directed that the young man be registered and allowed to bring the “letter of indigene”. That was how the young man was registered. There were many cases on admissions, registrations, employments, in which Falaki intervened to the benefit of people he never knew. From my undergraduate level; Falaki automatically became my role model, he made me to be a competent and resilient researcher in the area of irrigation agronomy.
Prof Falaki was the first national coordinator of SG 2000 from 1998 to 2000. During this period, Falaki touched the lives of millions of farmers from Maiduguri down to Calabar. Initially, SG 2000 activities were limited to the northern parts of Nigeria but he extended them to the south through national trainings in several towns that increased SG 2000 coverage. Although, SG 2000 came to Nigeria in 1993 and in 1998, the program was about to close for certain reasons, it was during a transition program before the closure, that Dr Norman Borlaug approved Falaki’s appointment as the national coordinator, the then country director, Dr J A Valencia, was transferred out of the country to Malawi. So Falaki’s coming on board averted the closure of SG 2000 office in Nigeria. His tenure in SG 2000 provided a solid foundation of SASAKAWA in Nigeria. It was a beehive of activities that covered several states with millions of farmers as beneficiaries. During the period, Dr Norman Borlaug visited Nigeria twice. Dr Borlaug was the president and chairman of the Board of SASAKAWA Africa Association. He was one of the 100th most influential people in the World during his lifetime.
Dr Borlaug was very close to Prof Falaki, he described Falaki as a very prudent and tactical person in his approach of things and a simple-minded personality. Falaki recorded several achievements but the most significant one was the use of the management-training plot (MTP), as an extension tool for demonstration of good agronomic practices on the farmers’ plot. MTP replaced Small Plot Adoptive Research Technique (SPART) as a national extension tool. The adaption of MTP increased farmers’ yield of maize from an average of 1.5 tons per hectare to 4.5 tons per hectare. Falaki brought competent extension staff to SG 2000, built their capacities and enhanced their skills and then pushed them out to carry out specific tasks. Falaki vigorously promoted wheat value chain from small research plot to proximate analysis.
In addition to serving SG 2000, he also served Leventis Foundation as chairman of the technical Board of Foundation’s schools. He served the Foundation with all the resources at his disposal, first as national coordinator of SG 2000, then as assistant director, IAR and then finally as executive director of IAR. He linked the Foundation with high-level personalities in government for support to the activities of the schools. The schools trained young men and women on vocational skills in different agricultural trades and provided them with starter – packs. Many of trainees became employers of labour. One amazing thing about Falaki, each time, a problem arose, Falaki had a magic wand on whom to contact, what to do to address the problem. May Allah grant Falaki Aljannah Fildausi.
Prof, Sani Miko, Country Director, SG 2000, Nigeria
Dear Prof Othman,
With all sense of humility, the tribute to Malam, as I used to call Prof Falaki during his lifetime is a mark of respect, recognition and appreciation. It was certainly a masterpiece written by Prof M K Othman, executive director, National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services, (NAERLS), Ahmadu Bello University (NAERLS), Zaria. Let me state that the duo (Malam and the Prof Othman), for me, were both my mentors and inspirational leaders. They both possess similar principles of humane compassion as well as exhibition of qualities of visionary leadership. Coincidently, I served as the Institute Secretary, Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Ahmadu Bello University, Samaru-Zaria, with Malam as the executive director until he was criminally murdered. Currently, I am serving as the Institute Secretary, NAERLS, with Prof Othman as the executive director. So, I know both men.
Prof Othman’s write-up can only be described as scratch on an unhealed wound from the gruesome murder of Malam in cold blood. Reading through the article made my heart to bleed profusely. However, I found solace and comfort when Prof Othman summed up the accomplishments of Malam as “consummate agricultural extension specialist per excellence and farmers’ general”. Adding to Prof Othman’s description of Malam, I wholeheartedly say “Malam was an embodiment of truth, hard work and perseverance, with limitless passion to assist, fight for a common man and absolute engagement in youth mentorship.”
Prof Othman, one of the celebrated disciples of Malam has, using pen and paper, presented our collective tribute to the ‘Farmers’ General’ and indeed, a Marshal in Aljannatul Fidausi. May Allah (SWT) continue to shower His Rahmah on Malam, amin!
Aliyu Sule, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria
Dear Prof Othman,
I have carefully and thoroughly gone through your article on our elder brother and mentor, ‘Alhaji Falaki’. Prof Falaki was an epitome of humility, discipline and generosity. More often than not, he denied himself for the benefit of others. He sacrificed his time and energy to secure admissions and appointments for people regardless of religion, tribe or other primordial factors. I am a good example of his benevolence. It was doing my national service at Agenebode in the former Bendel State and suddenly, I received a mail through the post office, in which he directed that I should send my application for employment to Ahmadu Bello University through him. I was surprised on how he got my address, as I was not close to him as a student. I was surprised because as a shy student, I couldn’t imagine that Prof Falaki ever noticed my presence in a class of over 100 undergraduates. Moreover, I am from Gongola State and not Kano where Prof Falaki came from. Unknown to me, Falaki was hunting for talents that would replace his generation. A visionary leader knows that he will not be in a place forever, so he scouts for replacements. Out of about six of us in our class that he scouted from different states of the federation, we are today first class Professors. Indeed a good succession to their generation.
I have not seen anywhere in the article where you mentioned his tenure as executive director of IAR, a premier agricultural research institute in Nigeria. As director of IAR, Prof Falaki’s open door policy and experience in international project administration made him to attract numerous third party projects to the institute. Furthermore, he created enabling environment to research that made many researchers to rediscover themselves and put in their best to research and innovation. This significantly improved the research output of the institute. He really set the institute on solid research footing. I am his direct successor, initially, the shoe was too big, but God’s willing, we have adjusted. I am eternally grateful for his impact on me. I have learnt a lot of wisdom from him. May his soul rest in Aljanna Firdaus, Amin.
Prof I U Abubakar, ABU Zaria.