Bogoro: Pillar of the people

Whenever the life and times of the people of Bogoro comes up for historical review, there is every indication that Professor Suleiman Elias Bogoro will stand out. The latest such indication comes from the people themselves as they rose in unison to honour their illustrious son with a significant traditional title, Jenndem Za’ar, that translates to Pillar of the Sayawa (Za’ar) people OF Bauchi State. Apart from the self-explanatory meaning of the title, the emergence of a thoroughbred academician and professor, typically relishing blissful scholarly isolation from the mundane world in lofty towers of ivory, as the hero of the multitude of common folk way down below in his hometown, is a welcome departure from the norm.The humble but high-achieving professor has thus demonstrated a remarkable ability to make a mark in the competitive circle of cogitative captains of academia while entrenching his feet firmly on the no less contentious ground of grassroots greatness! It’s not a case of self-glorification that has overtaken many academicians’ and public officers’ endeavours such that acquisition of titles, both academic and traditional, has become a rat-race. Professor Bogoro is no ordinary academician. He has attained international stature by dint of studious quest for excellence in his field of interest. From a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture in 1981 to a Master’s degree in Animal Science from Ahmadu Bello University, BU, Zaria in 1988, he earned a Ph.D in Animal Science in 1997, with research and bench-work shared between the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, ATBU, Bauchi, the Rowett Research Institute, Aberdeen, Scotland and the Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge, UK. He was elevated to the rank of Professor of Animal Science (specializing in Biochemistry and Ruminant Nutrition) in 2003.  

Notwithstanding these impressive academic accomplishments, Professor Bogoro’s enviable international professional acclaim took root and blossomed in his exceptional exertions in impactful research work devoted to adding value and overcoming development challenges in various fields. This is best captured in his deserving inclusion among accomplished members of the Council for UNIBADAN’s pioneer National Think Tank for Translating Research to Innovations, Strategies and Evidence for Policies in Nigeria, comprising leading academics and national professional officers in technical, business and administrative sectors selected from universities, research institutions, national agencies and the media. Professor Bogoro is an outstanding researcher who has produced several publications in local and international, earning him recognition and consultancy on and management of international, national and regional projects supported by the World Bank, UNDP, USAID, DFID among several other world class agencies. Prof. Bogoro has taught, supervised and mentored several postgraduate students at M.Sc. and PhD levels and 14 of them are now Professors.

This distinctive track record powered Professor Bogoro’s epoch-making appointment as Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund(TETFUND) where he again set a marvelous precedence as a principled administrator whose sterling legacy alone fought uncompromisingly against entrenched excesses during his first tenure from April 2014 to February 2016 when the system couldn’t cope with his scrupulous stance. He got a rare, if not unmatched, vindication three years later by a news-breaking re-appointment in January 2019 that was greeted with tumultuous applause in a hero’s welcome spontaneously staged by TETFUND staff!

It was an overwhelming event that not even the stoic Professor could withstand, as he addressed excited staff saying: “I struggled with tears on Monday when I resumed and I am so proud of you all and may God bless you. I will never forget your style of welcoming me because it has vindicated me. I give God the glory for my unprecedented re-instatement in a way that never happened before. I do not know how to thank the president for giving me a medal that no Nigerian has attained before and I pledge to do everything to manage the Fund’s affairs very well. Other organizations will learn how to run and manage human beings with respect.”

Then he reverted to his unfinished mission of making TETFUND  a dynamic facilitator of the  imperative for translating research to innovations, strategies and evidence for policy and national development which he activated by the establishment of a pioneer Department of Research and Development (R&D). Since then it has been giant strides in giving research priority hinged on Bogoro’s frank observation that “the reason why research has not taken its rightful place and is not contributing to the economy is because there is inadequate commitment of funds. That is why at TETFUND, we decided that one of the main recommendations is the emergence of a National Research and Development Foundation for Nigeria.”

TETFUND has been steadily increasing its funding volume for research from N3b to N7.5b and hopefully, to N8.5b, which is the largest research grant in Nigeria. Bogoro observed that most of the challenges confronting the nation today were due to the inability to inject science and technology for value addition, and remarked that Nigerian tertiary institutions only conduct research for awarding degrees, adding  “if outcome of those researches are not problem-solving, we have failed our generation.” Qualified institutions would draw a maximum of N50 million grant from the N7.5b National Research Fund (NRF) while it plans to fund establishment of more molecular laboratories and research on gene sequencing and phytogenic medicine in addition to vaccine research and production.

The Professor’s exemplary attachment to his roots has also been evident all his life as he deployed his personal qualities of humility and broadminded embrace of people from all walks of life to earn respect, recognition and admiration in Bogoro. As far back as 2016 when he was bereaved with the demise of his younger brother, Engineer Yusuf Bogoro, the people of Bogoro, irrespective of age, tribe or faith, demonstrated uncommon solidarity and rapport with the professor whom they regard as a son, a father and a worthy ambassador. The solemn funeral witnessed a memorable convergence of Muslims, Christians and diverse ethnic groups genuinely empathizing with the illustrious family of Baba Elisha Bogoro and Mama Salamatu at a time Professor Bogoro was no longer executive secretary of TETFUND. He used the occasion to urge religious and community leaders in the country to continue to foster unity, peace and mutual co-existence among the compatriots through preaching and enlightenment.

Earlier this year, the Sayawa Muslim Community in Bauchi state hailed Professor Suleiman Bogoro for donating foodstuffs to them for the Ramadan fast. Leader of the Sayawa Muslims under the aegis of ‘Zaar Muslims Community’, Danjuma Sheikh Bala Bar noted that Bogoro has been making such donations to the community in Bogoro local government yearly, adding that the gesture has brought succor to the less privileged people. “We are very proud of the TETFund Executive Secretary, for not only making the state proud through his significant projects but for his unbiased relationship with Nigerians, irrespective of ethnic and religious inclinations. We urge other politicians and public officers to emulate him”, he said.

This narrative provides a factual panoramic testimony to Professor Bogoro’s unique attainment of outstanding international academic, professional and administrative stature combined with sustenance of down-to-earth humane respect, recognition and admiration among his people. The people of Sayawa (Za’ar) have remarkably reciprocated with the traditional equivalent of professorship by conferring him with Jenndem Za’ar, Pillar of the People. Together they give modern meaning and relevance to their ancient motto of Sohrgha Nanbong Yi Tuhd Lihbah? (Can a stick of broom sweep a place?) in the symbolic unity of the diverse people of Bogoro and its bright prospects for peace, progress and prosperity, a welcome gesture in these troubling times.

Akowe writes from Ilorin