When in March 2013, former Minister of Defence and former Chief of Army Staff, retired Lt General TY Danjuma, made a pledge of N2.2 billion to the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, he was celebrated both within and outside the institution.
The donation, adjudged the highest individual contribution to the institution since its establishment, was meant to foot the bill of five of the six projects earmarked in the ABU’s Phase II. Danjuma promised N350 million to the building of the science complex administrative block, N1.3 billion for lecture hall, N260 million for the complex’s library, another N260 million for auditorium and N75 million for landscaping.
Former Military President Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB), who was chairman of the occasion when Danjuma made the pledge, described the retired general as ‘another Sardauna of our time’. The Sardauna of Sokoto Sir Ahmadu Bello founded the university despite all odds and it became the first for Northern Nigeria.
IBB said the fact that the name of Sir Ahmadu Bello remains permanently etched in the memories of the people of the northern states of Nigeria is a testimony to what a single individual can achieve in changing the fortune of any community.
“50 years after the demise of Sir Ahmadu Bello, Gen. Danjuma has virtually picked the gauntlet from where the Sardauna has left it,” IBB said at the time.
Like IBB, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, who was then the chancellor of the university, commended General Danjuma and congratulated him on his uncommon philanthropy, while the then Emir of Zazzau Dr Shehu Idris, three months later, conferred the first title of Jarmai on the former defence minister.
However, almost eight years down the line, the retired Army General is yet to redeem his pledge.
Investigation by Dateline Nigeria revealed that soon after the pledge, General Danjuma set up a committee to handle the project for him.
The committee had as members Abba Kyari (the late Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari), Malam Mamman Daura, Malam Adamu Adamu (present Minister of Education), Mr. Obadiah Ando, and Engr Usman Abubakar (Chairman of the Nigerian Railways Corporation).
On its part, the university management, under then Vice Chancellor Professor Abdullahi Mustapha soon completed its obligations to pave way for the smooth take up. These include soil test, bill of quantity and other requirements that the institution was expected to discharge.
The interest that the Danjuma pledge generated, both within and outside the university, made some members of the university congress to raise the issue at one of their meetings. Professor Mustapha, as the then VC, was forced to clear the air in 2014.
“The university is not in possession of the N2.2bn donated by General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma for the construction of the institution’s second phase. But whenever the money is made available, it would be put into proper use.
“We are only waiting for the committee that was set up by the donor to conclude their arrangement, and we hope that work would soon commence,” Prof Mustapha had said, but work did not commence up to the time he served out his term.
On May 1, 2015, Professor Ibrahim Garba took office at the VC of ABU, with the hope that TY Danjuma, the philanthropist, would fulfil his pledge. In an interview with the Daily Trust newspaper, Professor Garba said since General Danjuma made the pledge on his own volition, they were optimistic that he will redeem it.
He added “however, we have made several attempts for him to grant us audience, but all were in vain. The arrangement was that he was not to give anybody money but would appoint his contractor to handle the project. Ours in the university is to provide the land, which is there in our Phase II and other requirements. We have fulfilled our part of the bargain.
“We have learnt that at a point, he even appointed the contractor but we don’t know what happened afterward. I think after the 2015 election, he was not responding. We don’t know what the problem is.”
Dateline Nigeria learnt that the situation remained the same under the present Vice Chancellor Prof Kabir Bala who formally assumed office in April this year.
However, investigation by Dateline Nigeria revealed that the former Governing Council of ABU contributed to the stalemate of the project.
An impeccable source told our correspondent that the council had attempted to alter the initial arrangement that General Danjuma made to execute the work himself.
“Since he wouldn’t have the time to do that, he appointed the trustees. He gave his trustees his terms of reference. Along the line, however, the former governing council had already sought the cooperation of the alumni of the university, especially those from the department of architecture.
“This team drew the design and other architectural work free of charge. They did that as part of their contribution for ABU at 50 Anniversary. Therefore, they presented their work to General Danjuma’s trustees.
“We learnt that this team wanted to handle the project since they were the people that drew the design. General Danjuma and his trustees were not ready to release money to anyone for fear of the unknown. This did not go down well with this team and they became lackluster and that annoyed Danjuma,” the source said.
The source added, “This Nigerian factor that set in discouraged Danjuma. However, for me, it is not proper for Danjuma to renege on his pledge. Since this management is ready to comply with his terms. I think for his integrity and honour, the right thing is for him to fulfil his pledge.
“We have also learnt that some primordial considerations on the part of the General have also set in, hence his lack of interest in the project. Whatever it is, the man can only retain his status of a gentleman by fulfilling the pledge he publicly made.”
When contacted, the former governing council chairman of ABU, Arch Muhammad Dewu, said there was never a time that they asked General Danjuma to release money to them.
He said being an architect for over 40 years, he was the one that came up with the idea of designing the ABU Phase II in order to leave it as a legacy just like the way Sardauna of Sokoto left the university as one of his legacies.
Dewu said, “We initiated the launching of an appeal fund for the Phase II of ABU, because the Phase I is choked up. We made the former Head of State, General Babangida to be the chairman. TY Danjuma was made the chief launcher. We gave them honorary degrees, Babangida, TY and Abibatu Mogaji, the mother of Tinubu. It was at the launching that TY pledged to build Faculty of Science.
“The governing council under my leadership wrote letter of appreciation. We later met him at his Abuja residence and specifically told him that we don’t want money to be given to anyone, but we requested that our consultants would supervise the project since we designed it. Many members of the council were there, including the then VC. We also told him that the consultancy fee would be paid by the university.”
After one year and there was no action, Arc Dewu went to meet former President Babangida. The former Head of State advised him to meet Danjuma again. At that meeting, Dewu drew Danjuma’s attention to the implication of reneging on the pledge.
After all the proposals on how to handle the project transparently, Danjuma and his trustees did not act, according to Dewu, who has since been replaced by Malam Adamu Fika (Wazirin Fika) as the governing council chairman.
Findings show that General Danjuma haf reportedly set aside about $14.2 million for the ABU project at the time. While the intricacies were going on, investigation revealed, the price of US dollar shot up and that also contributed to the stalemate.
Now the Faculty of Science, which Danjuma pledged to build, has been divided into two by the ABU management, i.e. Faculty of Life Science and Faculty of Science. Other donors have also commenced development of projects at the Phase II project site which Danjuma’s donation was supposed to kick-start.
For example, Alhaji Aliko Dangote has built and donated 10 blocks of students’ hostel: each block has 36 rooms with a combined capacity to accommodate 2,160 beds. These have since been commissioned and students have moved in. The Federal Government, through the Ecological Fund office, has also constructed a standard five kilometer road with concrete drainage.
One of General Danjuma’s appointed trustees, Engr. Usman Abubakar (now late), had before his death in 2018, said they were given two assignments by the Danjuma as contained in their appointment letters.
“One was to help him select contractor, and two was to ensure that quality work was done. On contractor, we selected one. We therefore sent memo to him seeking for his approval for us to sign the contract and for him to release the funds. Since then, we haven’t heard from him.
“It was his responsibility to give us approval to sign the contract or he signs it himself. We can’t continue with our second assignment since the contract was not signed. This is the position as far as I know,” he had said.
Dateline Nigeria attempted to speak with officials of the TY Danjuma Foundation, the body through which the retired general carry out his philanthropic activities, but a lady who answered the phone referred our reporter to the South Atlantic Petroleum (SAPETRO) office in Lagos. Emails sent to the company have neither been acknowledged nor replied.