"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: 04/26/20

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Oh No! Prof. Maikaba is Dead, Too?

By Farooq A. Kperogi

I just literally woke up to the deeply troubling news of the death of Bayero University Kano’s Professor Balarabe Maikaba, who taught me research methods and statistics in mass communication in the early and mid-1990s.

The frighteningly unfolding tragedy in Kano that has seen scores of people dying “mysteriously” and “suddenly” has now hit me personally.

Professor Maikaba loved the quantitative dimensions of mass communication studies, which I dreaded-- and still do. I chose to study mass communication because I’m a pathetic numerophobe who is flustered by even the littlest arithmetic complexity. I'd assumed that mass communication was all words and no numbers.

So when I realized that we had to take a third-year course called “Statistics in Mass Communication,” I knew I was going to be in some big trouble. Professor Maikaba taught the course. Every single day that I attended class, I always had a nagging headache that mysteriously disappeared after the class was over.

Maikaba’s fondest phrase in the course that I still remember more than 25 years later was “Pearsonian correlation coefficient.” I don’t remember what it means, but he loved to say it. And it aggravated my situational headaches in his class!

I managed to pass the course with the lowest possible passing grade. It was the lowest grade I ever got in my entire post-secondary school career. More than half of the class failed it.

But I suspect that Maikaba was unusually lenient in grading me because he didn’t want the best student in the cohort to fail his course. I was overwrought with emotions when I discovered that I’d passed the course.

I wanted to thank him, but I had a habit of never getting chummy with my teachers. Plus, I really didn’t know what had happened. A few days after our grades were posted, I saw him, looked at him with gratitude, and he looked back with a smile on his face (which was rare), and said, “Farooq, that was a close call! Our best student would have had a carry-over!”

Professor Maikaba’s death is particularly tragic because it came a little over a month after he announced his older brother’s death on Facebook as this screenshot shows-- and on the heels of the death of two other professors—Professor Ibrahim Ayagi and Professor Aliyu Dikko—and many prominent and not so prominent Kano people.

The federal government can’t continue to pretend that something eerily macabre isn’t going on in Kano, Nigeria’s oldest surviving city. We must not let Kano be consumed by whatever is devastating it now. I’m gutted, but may Allah accept Professor Maikaba’s soul in Aljannah Firdaus.

"Cantankerous": The Word that Got the Late Prof. Ayagi a Job

By Farooq A. Kperogi

When I worked in the Presidential Villa between the twilight of former President Olusegun Obasanjo's first term and the incipience of his second term, I was told the story, by a close Obasanjo aide, of how the late Professor Ibrahim Ayagi got appointed as chairman of the National Economic Intelligence Committee (NEIC) in 1999.

It was said that Obasanjo asked his close advisers to suggest suitable names for the position. They reeled out several names and mentioned their strong and weak points.

When they came to Ayagi, they said he was "brilliant but cantankerous." Obasanjo, who had never known or even heard about Ayagi, jumped up from his chair, interrupted the speaker, and asked, "Did you say he is cantankerous?"

The speaker answered in the affirmative and wondered why the president was particularly interested in that word. Then Obasanjo reportedly said, "I like cantankerous people! If he is brilliant and cantankerous, I want him. This meeting is over!"

Since I heard this story in 2002, I have always mentally associated the word "cantankerous" with Professor Ayagi whenever I encounter it. I don't know why.

When I read that Professor Ayagi died yesterday in Kano at the age of 80, I remembered the story again--and of, course, the word "cantankerous." Words do indeed matter.

May Professor Ayagi's soul rest in peace and in aljannah firdaus.