Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) is a federal government research university in Zaria, Kaduna State, Nigeria. ABU was founded on 4 October 1962, as the University of Northern Nigeria.
As Nigeria approached independence on October 1, 1960, it had only a single university: the University of Ibadan, established in 1948. The important Ashby Commission report (submitted a month before independence) recommended adding new universities in each of Nigeria’s then-three regions and the capital, Lagos. Even before the report, however, the regional governments had begun planning universities.
In May 1960, the Northern Region had upgraded the School of Arabic Studies in Kano to become the Ahmadu Bello College for Arabic and Islamic Studies. (The college was named after the region’s dominant political leader, Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello.)
At the opening on 4 October 1962, thanks in part to absorbing existing institutions, ABU claimed four faculties comprising 15 departments. Students in all programmes numbered only 426.
The challenges were enormous. Over 60 years of British colonial rule, education in the Northern Region had lagged far behind that of the two southern regions. Few students from the north had qualifications for university entrance, and fewer still northerners had qualifications for teaching appointments. Of the original student body, only 147 were from the north.
ABU’s first vice chancellor (principal administrator and leader) was British, as were most of the professorial appointments. Only two Nigerians — Dr. Iya Abubakar (Mathematics) and Adamu Baikie (Education) — were among the earliest round of faculty appointments. Facilities on the main Samaru campus were inadequate, and the administration and integration of the physically separated pre-existing institutions was difficult.
Nevertheless, under the vice chancellorship of Dr. Norman Alexander, academic and administrative staffing was developed, new departments and programmes were created, major building plans were undertaken, and student enrollments grew rapidly. By the end of Alexander’s tenure (1965–66), almost 1,000 students were enrolled.