Professor Aminu Mohammed Dorayi is a renowned educationist, an elder statesman, distinguished Abusite and respected professor of Chemistry. He is a former president of the ABU Students Union Government (SUG) for 1966/1967 and the man who set up the Sharada Industrial Estate in Kano and organize the first trade fair in Nigeria.
He is also a Record-breaker who broke a world record by driving his Peugeot 504 from London to Kano, a distance of about 4,000miles, in 24 days.
Birth and growing up
Professor Aminu Mohammed Dorayi was born in Kano on November 16, 1942. His father was an educated and trained medical personnel, who interacted with doctors and nurses of British origin. His father, along with the British Medical personnel, set up the then Kano City Hospital. His father was influenced by his colleagues and he made sure that all his children were educated, which was not the norm.
So, Aminu and his siblings grew up as educated children and subsequently, educated elites. According to him, Movement from primary to secondary school was easier because the students were fewer and the vacancies were available.
Professor Aminu Mohammed Dorayi grew up in Dorayi Quarters kano, which was behind the hospital and initially started as staff quarters for nurses. It was alongside Zango, which was a craftsman and artisans (in metals and woodworks) quarters. Further down was Zage Quarters, which was famous for dye pits. The young Aminu Mohammed grew up going to school and interacting with children from these quarters, which according to him, gave him “dual experience and value”.
He said, growing up for him was a mixture of education in the elitists’ scene as well as mixing with the children of artisans and traders. Like every Muslim parent of that period, his parents ensured that he and his siblings attended Qur’anic school. After the western school in the afternoon they will proceed to the Qur’anic school.
Lessons from the children of artisans
According to Professor Aminu Mohammed Dorayi, the primary lesson from the children of the artisans was the DIY (Do It Yourself); talking about repairs in the house, whether electrical, metallic and so on. The western concept of DIY entails that whatever goes wrong in the house, they try to fix it. The young Aminu Mohammed had a small workshop with tools. He could repair cabinets, metal doors, etc.
Professor Aminu Mohammed Dorayi started his education at Kano City Primary School. He said, At that time, there were only four or five primary schools in Kano city; one at emir’s palace; one at the Alhassan Dantata area; there was one in Shahuci (near the hospital), where I went to; there was one at Gidan Makama and another one in Tudun Wada. There were few people going to school, and so the schools were also few.
Education was structured at that time, you would do primary school in two stages. He did classes one to four in a separate Primary School and classes five to seven in Kano City Primary School
After primary school, considering the fact that he was a prize winner in Mathematics in elementary school, understand the English language and was technically and mathematically inclined, he was selected to go to Government Technical College, (later named Government College) Kaduna. There, the young Aminu Mohammed Dorayi met other children from other parts of Northern Nigeria and white British teachers for the first time. A strange but interesting experience different from his primary school was taught by Nigerians, Kano people.
Aminu was a skillful footballer in primary school, so when he got into secondary school, the space was wide open. He was selected into the school team while in Form Two. He was small but very skillful that by the time he got into Form Four in 1960, he was good enough to be selected to play for Nigeria. He played on the Nigerian Independence Day on October 1, 1960. Nigeria’s secondary school children’s team “The Junior Academic School” versus the Ghanaian team in front of the great Kwame Nkrumah, Tafawa Balewa, Gamal Abdel Nasser. Ghana won 2-1.
He was so skillful with the ball that the games master, who was British, wanted to get him to join Ipswich Town, a football team in England to play professional football. But was discourage by his Chemistry master, also British, who told him, “I will advise you not to go because when you play football, by the time you are 30, your career is over, even if you have no problem. You are a good science student, you can get a degree in Chemistry and you can work till when you are 60.”
After his Cambridge School
Certificate in Kaduna, Aminu Mohammed Dorayi was given a space in the Provincial Secondary School, Kano to study for the advanced level. He studied Physics, Chemistry and Pure Mathematics for two years. That meant that if he succeeded and proceeded to the university, he had the option of reading Physics, Chemistry or Mathematics. In 1965 he was admitted to the Ahmadu Bello University to read Chemistry.
It was a professor of Mathematics and first Head of Department of Mathematics, ABU Zaria Professor D.J. Hofsommer a Dutch who headed the Department from 1962 to 1967 who went scouting for students to come and study the subject. As a prize winner of Mathematics at A’ level, he fitted well to be selected.
So, right on the spot, he was given admission to come to ABU to read Mathematics. Even before his final examination. But the structure of degree programs in the ABU at that time was that during your first year, you must do three subjects. He offered Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics.
And during your second year, you would offer two subjects, so he chose to study Physics and Chemistry. And in his third year, he chose a combination of Physics and Chemistry but did his project in Chemistry, which gave him a degree in Chemistry. However, he was strictly a physical-chemist to the point that even his Ph.D. was in Empirical chemistry
He went on to acquire a Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy in Physical and Theoretical Chemistry from the University of Oregon, the USA at the age of 30.
Involvement in Student Politics
Professor Aminu Mohammed Dorayi was an active student politician in his school days. At Provincial Secondary School, Kano, he was the president of the Sixth Form Students Association. When he came to the ABU, he was elected President of the faculty of science students and later into the student’s parliament which paved way for him to become president of the Students Union Government for 1966/1967. Even while he was in the USA doing his master’s and Ph.D. in Chemistry, he was the president of the Nigerian Students’ Association. He was also the president of the African Students’ Association.
After his Ph.D. at the age of 30 in the US, he was offered a job by the University of Oregon and others. He was also offered a job at the Ahmadu Bello University to teach Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics. He declined the offers in the universities in the US and I came back to ABU to work.
When he returned to ABU to teach Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics, the vice-chancellor, professor Ishaya Audu, invited him to join the Faculty of Education and produce science teachers. Ishaya Audu’s dream was that the teachers that would be produced would go to secondary schools to produce more science students for the ABU that will come and study sciences, Medicine, Engineering, Agriculture, etc. An offer that Professor Aminu Mohammed Dorayi gladly accepted.
Aminu went back for further studies in England at the University of Reading, where he obtained an advanced diploma in Science Education. He became certified in the UK, which meant that he could teach anywhere in the world and returned to Nigeria to start his task of producing science teachers
His record-breaking trip
Prof is Adventurous. No wonder his autobiography is titled, The Adventurous Chemist. While in the Uk, inspired by the Marcopolos, the Mungo Parks, and fascinated by the stories of adventures, Professor Aminu Mohammed Dorayi made a record-breaking trip by driving his Peugeot 504 from London to Kano, a distance of about 4,000miles in 24 days.
Talking recently about the trip, he said, “England is an Island. So when you reach Southampton you have to take a boat, you and your car, to Calais, France. I started driving through Paris and so on through Madrid, Gibraltar, and when you reach Gibraltar, you reach the Mediterranean Sea where you also take a ferry to Algeria. From there you enter the road all through, though there is no road, so to speak, across the desert because you are guided by your compass, your map.”
….There was a place I passed in Algeria, and the day I arrived, it was raining heavily. Little children of 13 years and below were running helter-skelter and crying. When I asked the elders why, they said those children had never seen rain before. No rain for 14 years, so they thought the heaven was falling. They had to be counseled by their elders. That’s something I clearly remember.”
Setting up the popular Sharada Industrial Estate in Kano.
Sharada Industrial Estate in Kano set up by Professor Aminu Mohammed Dorayi
There were interesting things from that period. For example, Nigeria had never held a trade fair. When he became a commissioner of trade, with his international exposure, he decided to start a trade fair in Nigeria. He held the first Nigerian trade fair in Kano.
This was before the Federal Government started. He organized the first trade fair in Kano, which was very successful. It was held in 1977 at the Race Course because there was no site. He was called to Lagos to lend a hand to start a trade fair. With his guidance, they did the first Nigerian (Federal Government) trade fair in Lagos.
Professor Aminu Mohammed Dorayi ascribed his good health to his very strong and united family. He has one wife. Among his children is a pharmacist; medical doctor; lawyer working in the Presidency; accountant, who died in a motor accident; chemical engineer; pilot, a computer scientist and Business Manager. They all studied in Nigeria for their first degree and went abroad for higher degrees.
Professor Aminu Mohammed Dorayi’s Lifestyle
Prof is very principle and regards himself as a dictator because he will never let his children do what is wrong. He has never lobbied for admission to the university or anything for his children. He said he would rather pay lesson teachers to train them rather than beg for somebody who did not score well to be taken, it’s not possible.
He still wakes up by 3 am every day, including Saturdays and Sundays. He doesn’t answer calls from 6:30 pm. On his phone, there are only about 40 numbers. He doesn’t store numbers and doesn’t give out his numbers. He only gives out his email and responds to emails and for the last 10 years, he takes only one meal a day.
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