Ambali: UNILORIN’s New DVC @ 55
By Abubakar Imam
He calls me “My Super Sec”. I hail him as “My Chairman”. This has been the level of conviviality between the new Deputy Vice Chancellor (Management Services), University of Ilorin, Prof. Suleiman Funsho Ambali, who marks his 55th birthday today, Saturday, January 7,2023, and I, since patriotism brought us together on Saturday, August 21,2021. That was the day the current Executive Committee of the Ilorin Emirate Staff Association,University of Ilorin, which Prof. Ambali chairs, was inaugurated.
It is not that I had never known him before that date. I had. However,I never had the privilege of working with him until then. I had known him right from my undergraduate days at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in the 1990s. He was a young, active, patriotic and forward looking lecturer while I was a student of the institution. He did not really know me but I knew him courtesy of one of his immediate seniors at the Government Secondary School, Afon, Mallam Suleiman Seriki. Mallam Seriki, a friend to one of my brothers, was my close associate as both of us were undergraduates at ABU,Zaria. Each time we went for Jumaat service at the Ansarudeen Mosque, Samaru, Zaria, under the Imamship of the highly eloquent Omoda-Ilorin-born Shaykh AbdulRahman Baba, we would always have a stopover at his office to check on him.
Though I monitored his career progression as I did with those of his contemporaries from Ilorin Emirate at “the premier University of Northern Nigeria”, such as that of the immediate past University Librarian, University of Ilorin, Prof. Abdulwahab Olanrewaju Issa, who, apart from mentoring me, also taught me at the University; Prof. Abdulfatai Hanafi,a former Head,Department of Mechanical Engineering, ABU, Zaria; and Mr Taiye Na’Allah,whose father, Alikali Suyuti Na’Allah of Okelele area, was a close friend of my late dad, also taught me “Introduction to Computer Science”. In the case of Prof. Ambali, however, I was not that privileged to interact with him.
The imperative imposed by this moment in history, however, demands of me to write on this distinguished birthday boy, even when I had wanted to stop this genre of writing because of the unbridled copyright violations of my efforts. There are unacceptable but understandable misinformation about Prof. Ambali that have to be cleared and of equal importance is that there is a positively impactful life that must be acknowledged, celebrated and recommended. Prof. Ambali is a dear and beloved patriot who has attained a remarkable age and outstanding status in his pedagogical career.
An elder, who is also a very educated and retired top civil servant, called me on phone to know whether it was the penultimate Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, the easygoing Prof. Abdulganiyu Ambali, OON, who was appointed as the Deputy Vice Chancellor. He wanted to know what reason on earth would propel the erstwhile teacher and researcher at the University of Maiduguri to do as Frederick De-Clerk did in South Africa when in 1994, he accepted to serve as a Deputy to President Nelson Mandela after being the President of the outgone apartheid regime!
I had to explain to the man that though the new DVC shares some things in common with the former Vice Chancellor (such as surname, place of origin, profession, humility and patriotism) he was absolutely different from the Ambali he knew. He then said “mandala”(as Ilorin elders would say when they are satisfied with your explanation or conversely, they found you deserving of one corporal punishment or the other).
There and then, I concluded to do this piece to properly introduce Prof. Ambali to the larger Ilorin Emirate compatriots. It is hoped that this would also be found useful by other interested readers.
Prof. Ambali, who was recently elected as one of the Deputy Vice Chancellors of the nation’s most sought after University, was born on January 7,1968 in Ilorin. He hails from the famous Magaji Atunluse family whose ancestral home is located in the Oke Aluko area of Ilorin. He is a distinguished descendant of the famous warrior, Agbogunleri Pantete. History has it that Agbogunleri Pantete was among the warlords who defended the territorial integrity of Ilorin Emirate against external aggressions and internal wrangling in the early days of the southernmost Emirate. Prof. Ambali’s late dad, Alhaji Ambali Hidhir Atunluse, was the 10th Magaji Atunluse of Ilorin while his mother is Hajia Asmau Ambali(nee Salawu) who hails from the neighbouring Onifari Compound, Oke Aluko,Ilorin. The Atunluse Compound was formerly known as Atulupu Compound before its changes to the present nomenclature by the charismatic 9th Emir of Ilorin, the late Alhaji (Dr) Sulu Gambari, CFR, in 1968. This birthday boy’s family house is located directly opposite the home of a former National President of Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union and onetime Honourable Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources in the government of Kwara State, Alhaji Yunusa Ilyasu Suleiman Gada. One other prominent personality who hailed from the same axis is Alhaji A.K. Sule Gada, an elder brother of Alhaji Yunusa Gada and a Parliamentary Secretary during the first republic. The late Parliamentary Secretary was the father of an outstanding Assistant Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Immigration Service, Hajiya Sadat Hassan. One other senior gentleman from the same area as the birthday boy and a very close friend of my late dad is the 91 year old and energetic Alhaji Ibrahim Adi Gada. Alhaja Maymunat Oloriegbe,the wife of the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Senator Dr Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe, also hails from this same blessed segment of Ilorin.
My working with the birthday boy in the leadership of Ilorin Emirate Staff Association (IESA),University of Ilorin, in the last one and half years made me to know him more. He is an epitome of patriotism. He is industrious. He is generous and selfless. He is also faithful, loyal, humble and service-oriented. He is equally the type that is ready to go to any length to assist others.
Prof. Ambali is a forward-looking personality and a Muslim per excellence. I must say that his love for Ilorin Emirate and its people is not only unquestionable but also gargantuan. Yet, he respects and would not hurt the feelings of others no matter their backgrounds and peculiarities. He is also a man who cares for corporate interest much more than he does for personal desires. Most of those who worked with him on several committees and as Head of Department as well as the Dean, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine recommended him as a good, worthy and considerate leader and fantastic manager of human and material resources.
Knowing that he was qualified, and satisfied with what he represented, I was among those who encouraged this birthday boy to apply for the position of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin when vacancy for the position was declared. I was also happy when I got to know that other equally qualified, competent and patriotic indigenes of Ilorin Emirate from within and outside the institution also applied for the position.
Just like others who were concerned, I monitored the selection process with the conviction that one of the candidates from the University’s host community would emerge at the end of the day. But Allah had a different plan as Prof. Wahab Olasupo Egbewole, SAN,was appointed as the 11th Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin.
The announcement of the respected Senior Advocate of Nigeria as the Vice Chancellor-designate was “unexpected” to the greatest majority of indigenes of Ilorin Emirate. Nevertheless, I quickly adjusted myself to the reality. I had to swiftly do a report on the development for publication on UNILORIN BULLETIN, the University’s weekly newsletter as I had been previously briefed to do on whoever emerged by my industrious,time-conscious and meticulous editor who doubles as the Director, Corporate Affairs, University of Ilorin, Mr Kunle Akogun.
The next morning as I unlocked my phone it was the statement issued by the highly distinguished Wakilin Likitoci of Ilorin, Prof. Ibraheem Adeola Katibi, in his capacity as the Chairman of the University of Ilorin Muslim Community, congratulating the then Vice Chancellor-designate, that I saw and read. I was surprised and happy in equal measure that the foremost Professor of Cardiology did what was right despite being a top candidate for the same position that had gone to another colleague of his.
I quickly placed a call to Prof. Ambali to “sympathise” with him for not making it as envisaged. I, thereafter, asked him on what would be the position of the Ilorin Emirate Staff Association, University of Ilorin on the unanticipated development. Prof. Ambali explained that the right thing to do was to congratulate the winner, saying that it is only Allah who enthrones. He equally added that he had since personally congratulated Prof. Egbewole few minutes after his announcement as the Vice Chancellor.
This birthday boy consequently directed me to draft a statement on his behalf as the Chairman of the IESA to that effect. I carried out the directive almost immediately. He went through it. He effected some corrections and commanded me to get it circulated as the position of the umbrella body of indigenes of Ilorin Emirate in the employ of the Better by far University.
To him, we, the people of Ilorin Emirate, cannot act ignorantly or faithlessly. The conviction of Prof. Ambali is that once the Governing Council of a University takes a decision on a matter like that, nothing can and would change it. To him,that is the essence of University autonomy, which ASUU fought for and was granted. He recalled how some other communities around the country advertised their ignorance and displayed xenophobic dispositions via demonstrations against similar appointments into headships of federal institutions located in their domains, which eventually amounted to nothing but ridicule.
The position of the IESA was eventually followed by that of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union,the umbrella sociocultural organisation of the people of the University’s host community, with a telepathic concurrent opinion, which was issued a few hours thereafter. The rest, as they say, is history.
Thereafter, this birthday boy was always concerned on how the new administration at the University would succeed. He did quite a lot towards that direction, which space and time would not permit me to recount here, just to ensure that things work out well and Ilorin Emirate was not at a losing end.
It was when I paid him a congratulatory visit in his new office a week after his assumption of duties along with some other members of the IESA that I realised that Prof. Ambali is occupying the same office previously held in quick succession by two of his Ilorin Emirate compatriots. Prof. Adedayo Yusuf Abdulkareem,a distinguished scholar of Educational Management, and Prof. Bolaji Fatai Sule,a renowned scholar of Civil Engineering, did so during the tenures of Prof. Abdulganiyu Ambali and Prof. Sulyman Age Abdulkareem, respectively.
What, however, stands Prof. Ambali out among his last two predecessors is that he is much younger and still has many years ahead of him in the services of the University of Ilorin. This would certainly be of value to his ancestral community, the University and the humanity at large in the years ahead.
How did he become what he is today? Was he just appointed or elected from no where and without passing through the ladder? Did he prepare for it? These and other questions would be answered in the rest of this piece.
Towards his attainment of the age of six in 1973, Prof. Ambali was enrolled at United Primary School,Ilorin. He was a pupil of the school for three years. The establishment of Model Primary School,Taiwo Road,Ilorin,in 1976 informed his transfer to the new school from where he eventually earned his First School Leaving Certificate in 1979. He had earlier completed his Qur’anic education in 1976 when he was 8 years old at Ile Kewu Alfa Atanda situated at Atunluse Compound.
Prof. Ambali subsequently proceeded to Government Secondary School, Afon,where he was trained between 1979 and 1984. In preparation for higher educational studies,Prof. Ambali attended the Kwara State Polytechnic, Ilorin, from 1985 to 1987 at the end of which he earned his IJMB Advanced Qualification in Mathematics, Chemistry and Biology.
In 1987,this erudite scholar was admitted into the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He earned the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine(DVM) in 1992. He bagged his Master of Science degree in Veterinary Toxicology from the same University in 2004 and capped his fascinating academic credentials with a doctorate degree in the same discipline from the same institution in 2009.
Having deliberately elected to engage himself in the production of more veterinary doctors,he joined the services of his alma mata a few years after his graduation. The new Deputy Vice Chancellor started his teaching career at the Ahmadu Bello University following his appointment as an Assistant Lecturer in 1996. In 2004, he was promoted to the rank of Lecturer II.
Prof. Ambali transferred his services to the University of Ilorin in 2011 as a Senior Lecturer. Following the satisfactory discharge of his duties in the realms of teaching, research and community service, this foremost scholar was appointed as a Professor of Environmental Toxicology on October 12, 2012. He was the first indigene of Ilorin Emirate appointed as a Professor in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Ilorin.
He had taught no fewer than 31 courses both at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and the University of Ilorin. He has equally supervised several undergraduate long essays. No fewer than 15 Master’s degrees dissertations and 10 doctorate degrees theses were also completed under the watchful eyes of this wonderful patriot.
A globally-rated top scholar with an H-Index of 25 and reviewer of many local and international journals, Prof. Ambali is on the Editorial Board of several journals including American Journal of Medicine and Medical Sciences, and Pharmacologia. He was formerly the Editor-in-Chief of Ilorin Journal of Veterinary Sciences (now Savannah Veterinary Journal).He has equally addressed many intellectual fora, which made him a scholarly scholar.
In addition to teaching and research, Prof. Ambali has also held several positions in the services of the University. He initially acted before eventually serving as the Head, Department of Veterinary Pharmacology, University of Ilorin in 2020. He was the Sub-Dean, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine between 2011 and 2012. He served as the Ag. Dean of the Faculty from 2012 to 2013. He was the Dean of the same Faculty between 2013 and 2017.
Prof. Ambali has been a Member of the University Senate. He was a Member of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital Management Board. He was similarly on the Board of the UNILORIN Institute of Medical Research and Training.
This exemplary administrator was the Chairman, UNILORIN Zoo Management Board from 2015 to 2018. He served as the Chairman, Subcommittee on Review of Promotion Guidelines for Academic Staff in 2019. He was also the Chairman, Library and Publications Committee from 2018 to 2020, at the University of Ilorin.
Prof. Ambali, on many occasions, was a Member of the accreditation teams constituted by the National Universities Commission (NUC) to various universities and that of his profession’s regulatory body, the Veterinary Council of Nigeria. He was also an External Assessor and External Examiner to various universities across the country.
This seasoned academic admirably delivered the 192nd inaugural lecture of the University of Ilorin, which was entitled “Preventing Pesticides From Poisoning Away Our Health And Future: The Oxidative Approach” on February 6,2017. Apart from being the first from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University, the inaugural lecture was also one of the most attended in the recent annals of the University.
Aside from publishing no fewer than 120 articles, which he either singlehandedly or jointly authored in several reputable local, national and international intellectual outlets, Prof. Ambali has equally attended no fewer than 40 conferences and workshops. He has also completed 13 commissioned projects in his almost three decades of a rewarding and eventful career.
Prof. Ambali is a Member of many professional bodies such as the Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association, the Neuroscience Society of Nigeria and the Nigerian Society of Animal Production. Other bodies to which he belongs are the Society of Neuroscientists of Africa, the African Society of Toxicological Sciences, the West African Society of Toxicologists and the International Brain Research Organisation. He is a Fellow of Scholars Academic and Scientific Society, and Society of Educational Administrators of Nigeria.
Despite his tight schedules, Prof. Ambali is also a member of several sociocultural organisations including the Ilorin Emirate Staff Association, University of Ilorin, which he currently serves as the Chairman.
Prof.Ambali is happily married to a librarian, Hajia Zainab Olanihun Ambali,whose grandfather,Mallam Salau Fulani, was a contemporary of Sir Ahmadu Bello,the Sardaurna of Sokoto and Premier of the defunct Northern Region at the famous Katsina Training College(now Barewa College, Zaria) in the 1920s.Mallam Fulani,a distinguished member of the Balogun Fulani dynasty of Ilorin, was,according to L. A.K. Jimoh, one of the earliest teachers and a member of “the first set of Ilorin indigenes to go to the United Kingdom for further training in education” Mallam Fulani was after his retirement from teaching appointed as the District Head of Afon. The DVC’s marriage is blessed with children, one of whom is also a veterinary doctor.
May I,therefore, join his relations, friends, colleagues, compatriots and students in wishing this illustrious son of Ilorin and a truly academic giant a rewarding birthday as I wish him not just a very successful tenure of office but also all he would need to continue to excel.
Imam is Chief Scribe, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union and Ilorin Emirate Staff Association, University of Ilorin.