By Aaron Ossai
In the words of the American Peace Corps Association when awarding him their Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award; “No private businessman in Africa has worked harder for democracy or contributed more to the progress of higher education than Atiku Abubakar.”
Atiku Abubakar’s aspirations for the American University of Nigeria reflect his personal life narrative and the experience he had with the American system of instruction as a young man. An orphan at a young age, he left his village to be taught by members of Peace Corps, who had a profound impact on his life. In his words: “they helped to instill in me the virtues of hard work, critical thinking and commitment to excellence. The teachers encouraged us to develop a “can do” spirit and never to despair in order to bring out the best in us to enable us to succeed in life. In my young eyes, those Peace Corps volunteers represented excellence. They instill in me a burning desire to look to a wider horizon to have a global outlook.” He persevered through school to become a progressive political leader and entrepreneur who understands the importance of education to the socio economic and political development of the nation. He has worked hard to improve the Nigerian education system both public and private.
His Excellency left Yola to attend the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where he studied Law. Later, he joined the Nigerian Customs Service where he rose through the ranks to become Deputy Comptroller General. While continuing to oversee his various business interests, he venture into politics in 1987 and in 1999, he was elected Governor of Adamawa state. Before he could assume that office, however, he was asked by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to run for the Vice President of Nigeria. He went on to hold that office with great distinction from 1999 to 2007. As Vice President, His Excellency presided over the National Council on Privatization, overseeing the privatization of hundreds of loss-making and poorly managed public enterprises. With South African Deputy President, Jacob Zuma, he also launched the South Africa – Nigeria Bi-national Commission.
Founder and enormously generous benefactor of the American University of Nigeria, His Excellency began his ventures in supporting Nigerian education with the founding of the ABTI Academy now the AUN Academy: a nursery through secondary school. Building on the success of this venture and consulting with American University in Washington, DC, in 2004, the American University of Nigeria (formerly ABTI American University of Nigeria) was licensed by the Federal Government of Nigeria to operate as private university. At the time there were very few private universities in Nigeria and many doubted it could survive.
Today, 12 years later, American University of Nigeria, AUN is one of the most prestigious universities in Nigeria and Africa attracting students and staff from 37 different countries to Africa’s first “development university”.
The American University of Nigeria, AUN therefore; is a living embodiment of its founder’s ideals, generosity and belief in Nigeria’s future.