Adieu, Prof Bello Agaie

   

This is the second time in less than two years that I’m writing a tribute with a troubled heart. The first was in November 2018 when Professor Ibrahim Adamu Kolo, former vice chancellor of the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University died. On Tuesday, May 12, 2020 while working on a history project, a call came, announcing the demise of Professor Bello Muhammad Agaie. With confusion immediately arresting my thoughts and blood covering my eye balls, I asked for the source of the sad news. The source was credible and I spontaneously repeated the Qur’anic expression, “Inna lillahi Wa Inna Inna Ilayhi Raj’un”, meaning “From Allah we came and unto Him is our return”. I did much to control myself but found my eyes soiled in tears.

Born in 1968 in Agaie, Niger state, to the family of Alhaji Abdulmalik Shaba and Hajiya Aishatu Nkya Muhammad Tsaduya, Professor Bello was a prince of dual royal lineage. While he was paternally a great grandchild of Malam Muhammadu Babba, the celebrated founder of the Fulani dynasty in Agaie Emirate, his mother was a grandchild of the 7th Etsu Agaie; making Bello a great grandchild of Malam Sulaimanu who was Babba’s brother. Prof Bello’s paternal great grandfather, Abdullahi, was the first Etsu Agaie. 

Fondly called Nagya (or Yanagya) at home, Prof Bello Agaie attended Sulaimanu Primary School, Agaie 1973-1979; Government Teachers’ College, Doko 1979-1982; Government Science Teachers College, Bida 1982-1984; and Usmanu Danfodio University (UDUS), Sokoto where he earned all his academic degrees. He graduated with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree in 1992; Master of Veterinary Medicine in 1998; and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Veterinary Pharmacology and Toxicology in 2004. The loss of his father in 1977 while still in primary school and the demise of his mother in 2002 while still pursuing his PhD never hindered Bello’s academic endeavour. Rising through academic ranks, Bello became a professor at 44 years of age in October 2012. In addition to being the first professor from Agaie, he was the first Professor of Veterinary Medicine from the Emirate who held the traditional title of Tswanku Agaie. One Saturday morning in January 2014, Prof Bello called to inform me on phone that a reception was being planned to celebrate his promotion to a professor and that he would like me to be the guest speaker at the occasion. The event, which held on March 29, 2014, at Agaie was too remarkable to be forgotten as most of those who mattered in the veterinary profession in Nigeria were in attendance.  

With dozens of publications in peer-reviewed journals, Professor Bello was external examiner to the veterinary postgraduate programmes at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka; Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; University of Maiduguri; and University of Agriculture, Makurdi. At different times, he served UDUS in different capacities including being the Dean of Student Affairs; Director, University Development Office; Member, University Governing Council; Chairman, University Welfare Committee; Chairman, University Prizes and Scholarship committee; and chairman of 42 other university ad-hoc committees. He belonged to all professional veterinary organisations within and outside Nigeria including being a member of the African Veterinary Association (AVA), Commonwealth Veterinary Association (CVA), and West African Society for Pharmacology (WASP). At the time of his demise, Prof Bello Muhammad Agaie was the National President of the Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA).

About a week before his demise, Prof Bello told me on phone that he lost a close friend, the DVC of the UDUS, adding that he had fever. When I told him I also had fever and was going to take the last dose of anti-malaria drug, he said his was a different fever. That, he hadn’t experienced such a fever in his life. I thus advised him to consult any of his colleagues in the College of Health Sciences and he replied, “Lallai, that’s what I will do”. I never knew that was going to be my last conversation with a humble, hardworking, generous, pious and highly-skilled academic researcher and brother. Every aspect of the character of Bello’s parents who were my teachers in the primary school found expression in him. Amidst these qualities, Bello was a highly principled academic who never compromised standards even if it were to involve his family.

Aside of his virtuous and exemplary qualities which everyone who knew him attested to, I would remember Prof Bello Agaie for his uncommon commitment to the cause of the Babba Center for Historical Documentation and Research (BACHIDAR), an intellectual heritage center established in 2016 with the support of His Royal Highness Etsu Agaie Alhaji Yusuf Nuhu. Indeed, for every endeavour in which I was privileged to be involved with Prof Bello, I have never found him less dedicated. As a member of the Board of Trustees of BACHIDAR, Prof Bello never missed a single meeting even though he traveled across the farthest distance than all other members of the board, coming from Sokoto to attend all meetings. A meeting was once fixed to hold on date that coincided with the World Veterinary Day. As part of activities to mark the day, he was billed to appear on a TV programme in Abuja. Prof Bello arranged to appear on the programme at the Minna station of the NTA to enable him join us at the BACHIDAR meeting in Agaie, which he did.

Tswanku Agaie’s residence in Sokoto was a home to all students of UDUS who came from Agaie. For them, celebrating Sallah in Bello’s house in Sokoto is a privilege they prefer over Sallah in Agaie. When he gave out money to help someone, he never allowed the next person to know. Prof Bello lived a life of genuine sacrifices. Like all acts of altruism, only Allah can reward him. Nagya’s death is a colossal loss not only to his family, UDUS and Agaie Emirate in Niger state but has created a big vacuum in Nigeria’s intellectual veterinary community. While we pray that his knowledge would live after him as Sadaqatu Jariyyah among his students, we ask Allah (SWT) in His infinite mercy to grant him eternal forgiveness and rest, amin. Prof Bello Mohammed Nagya Agaie, Adieu!

Prof Ndagi writes from the University of Abuja, Abuja.