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Prof Ishaya Audu was the first indigenous VC of Ahmadu Bello University

Prof Ishaya Audu was the first indigenous VC of Ahmadu Bello University. He also served the nation as Minister of Health and the country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. 

The Secretary General of the United Nations was coming to visit Nigeria. Nigeria’s UN representative had to be home to welcome him. And so, Prof. Audu bade goodbye to his family for the brief, official journey back from New York to Nigeria.

Security Forces were waiting for him on arrival at the airport. They drove him straight to Kirikiri maximum security prison. He was there for the next twenty months!

But why?

There had been a coup d’état while his plane was in the air! General Muhammadu Buhari had seized power and had given the order for Prof. Audu’s arrest. The ousted government had appointed him as Nigeria’s Permanent Representative at the UN and he was actually serving in that capacity. That, in the General’s opinion, was a very serious crime; and his was the only opinion that mattered. The fact that nobody could lay any charge of any sort against Prof. Audu was irrelevant.

His wife was frantic in far away America; but what could she or anyone else do in the circumstance? …

With her husband in prison all her friends disappeared. As Mother Teresa said, “the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty,” and it was exactly what Mrs Audu experienced at this time.

To add insult to injury Mrs. Audu was declared wanted by the Nigeria Police in connection with a $7 million scandal involving the importation of rice. She knew she was innocent but she could not go back to Nigeria to contest the case in court because there was no one to look after her younger children, as her husband was in detention. The poor woman had no idea what to do, and she took to drink, sipping brandy all day and every day.

Meanwhile, the innocent man of God did not waste his time in prison. He occupied himself with studying the Bible, praying and preaching, and he taught Hausa to fellow prisoners. His one concern was for his wife and family, but the gracious Lord was at work in Victoria. He sent an angel her way in the person of her husband’s niece, who came to see her all the way from godless, Communist Russia, and led her to give her life to Christ!

It was not a fluke. She gave up drink altogether, studied the Bible avidly, watched Christian programmes on TV constantly, joined a Pentecostal church, and enrolled at the Hampstead Bible School where she was taught what it really means to pray, and how to pray in all earnestness. One by one the children started to come to know the Lord and experience His love and grace in different ways, although it was a little confusing when one of the daughters who already spoke five foreign languages began to speak in tongues!

On his release from prison, it was a brand new Victoria that was waiting for Prof. Audu at home. Together they began a new and exciting period of their life. Our God is a Rewarder of faith, prayers and patience! ... Then, together, they started the “Charity and Faith Mission.” Part of the charity was opening a private hospital with a Bank loan. They called it Savannah Polyclinic, at Hayin Dogo, Samaru, not far from the university he used to head. Those who could afford to pay were charged fairly, and the income paid off the Bank loan and helped sustain the family. Those who could not afford to pay were asked to pay what they could, and a Fulani herdsman would sometimes pay for a hernia surgery with a sheep or a goat. Journalist Taiwo Obe noted [in Táíwò Obe in: Newsdiaryonline, 18/03/2012]: “It was a place where the poor and downtrodden flocked for medical services, which were largely free.

I know from personal experience. My son was one of his patients, and although I was not among “the poor and downtrodden,” Dr. Audu refused to be paid for the service.

There was also the missionary outreach to the villages. It produced an unexpected development, according to one researcher:

"The work of the ministry was focused on the many villages around Zaria. They were reaching out to the Fulani people, who were usually bypassed by Christian outreach efforts. Prof. Audu also became concerned about the fate of the children in the villages where they were ministering: they were not going to school at all. So that they would also have an opportunity for education, he started a school. The children who went to the school needed to live in town, so the Audus took them into their home, providing housing, clothing, food, medical care, and all their other needs. The girls lived in the family house with the Audus while the boys stayed in another building.” (Cephas T. A. Tushima: Integrity Matters, op. cit., p.57.)

Let us pause there for a minute. We are talking of the home of Prof. and Mrs. Ishaya Audu here. Consider the level of refinement in this home. Think of the standard of the children of the home who have been exposed to the world’s topmost international diplomatic missions in New York. Then think of these Fulani girls that are now brought into the home to join them. These are not sophisticated “Town Fulani” maidens from Sokoto. These ones are literally from the bush. Mrs. Audu had gone evangelising in their villages, and so she knew exactly what obtained in their homes scented with fresh cow dung. For the boys to be housed in the Boys’ Quarters is one thing. But, “the girls lived in the family home”! ...

The time came when the old saint himself required medical treatment. Aged 78, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer which was considered operable, but not in Nigeria. It would cost $150,000 in the USA, but he did not have that figure to his name in naira, let alone in US dollars....

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Ahmadu Bello University Ishaya Audu Muhammadu Buhari New York Nigeria


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