Barewa College: the Centenary of Nigeria's Most Influential School

Barewa College: the Centenary of Nigeria’s Most Influential School

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The story behind the success and existence of Barewa College in the last 100 years confirms the popular notion that it takes the combination of an ordinary idea, with astute beliefs to achieve an extraordinary feat.

In the last one hundred years, the school has made immense contributions to human development in Nigeria, with the high-flying vision of transforming and propelling young students to their highest levels of performance and achievement that will always reflect eventually in their status in adulthood.

Barewa College, one of the largest boarding schools in Nigeria, was founded by the British colonial government in 1921. This was during the leadership of Sir. Hugh Clifford, who was the Governor-General at that time. The name of the school has undergone several changes before the name, Barewa College was retained in 1971. It was originally called Kastina Training College, then the name was changed to Kaduna College when the school moved to Kaduna. The school was later moved to Zaria as the name was changed to Zaria Secondary School. Later it was also called Government College, Zaria.

All students admitted into the school were given admission numbers starting from Barewa No 1. Ordinarily, the college would have been like every other secondary school in the North and even the whole of the country, but it stands out. In terms of intellectual affluence and civilisation influence, no secondary school in Nigeria shares anything close to the kindred features resident in Barewa College. The school is one of the oldest institution in the country, and the first post-primary institution of Northern Nigeria under British colonial rule.

Barewa college
Barewa College, Zaria Overview

In the words of Garba Ali, the national publicity secretary of Barewa Old Boys’ Association (BOBA), Barewa College obtained its essence as a centre of impeccable national distinctiveness, where great men are brewed by top-notch, quality teachers who constantly ensure that the bar of hardwork and discipline is raised to the highest level.

Behind the great record that spans a hundred years, it has been different teams of suave, counter-intuitive thinkers and administrators who consistently buried their brains in the clouds, to create the academic world of excellence that is called Barewa College. Ali recalls that there were teachers who spent their precious time to impart discipline and knowledge. According to him, school rules were followed to the letter, without compromise, so that any student who broke any law was punished, irrespective of the status of the parents.

As a beacon for the North, Lawal Ali Garba who had admission number B 2544, averred that Barewa College was created to provide the answer to the growing needs of the Northern region to recruit Northerners into the civil service. He explained that this was the primary reason Barewa College was upgraded to Katsina Higher College in 1929 to provide the manpower for the region. According to him, the name Barewa College evolved over time, and metamorphosed from one phase to another, just like the gangling beautiful movement of the gazelle.

Ever since, the school has continued to remain a beacon of pride for the North and the entire country. It is always the pride of every Barewa student to consistently identify with his school. One sees this in their chattering, especially when it involves students of other schools. Similarly, very few schools, perhaps across Africa, can boast of the number of outstanding technocrats, industrialists, statesmen, and renowned personalities in its alumni platform like Barewa College.

A good number of outstanding and successful Nigerians across various disciplines and industries are former students of Barewa College. Most of them are dominant players on the country’s political landscape. The college has produced five Nigerian Heads of State. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, who was prime minister from Nigeria’s independence to 1966, attended the college. Others include Yakubu Gowon and Murtala Mohammed who were both military heads of state in 1966 and 1975 respectively.

Shehu Shagari who was Nigeria’s president following the return to civilian rule from 1979 to 1983 also attended Barewa College. This is alongside Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who was president from 2007 to 2010.

Barewa College has equally produced some of Nigeria’s finest governors: well over 20 in number. This includes and not limited to present Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai; Dr. Orji Uzor-Kalu, former Governor of Abia State; Sule Lamido, ex-Governor of Jigawa State, Air Commodore Ibrahim Alkali (retd.), former Military Governor of Kwara State, Hassan Kastina, Governor of Northern Nigeria (1966); and Ibrahim Mahmud Alfa, former governor of Kaduna State.

A large number of elites from the Northern region were also former students of the school. They include Ahmadu Bello, premier of Northern Nigeria; Ibrahim Dasuki, and Sa’adu Abubakar who were both one-time Sultans of Sokoto; and Shehu Abubakar, Emir of Gombe.

There are such notable names as Abdulkadir Ahmed and Adamu Ciroma who were both Governors of the CBN, Nigeria’s apex bank; Mohammed Shuwa, former Federal Commissioner of Trade; Magaji Mohammed, former Minister of Interior who was also Minister of Industry; Umaru Mutallab, the banking veteran who was Minister of Economic Development, amongst others.

Other reputable names include Umaru Dikko, former Minister of Transportation, Prof. Jubril Aminu, two-time Minister of Education, and Petroleum and Mineral Resources, and Alhaji Yahaya Madawaki, who was the first Northern Region Minister of Health.

In the area of national security there are the likes of Ibrahim Coomasie, a former Inspector General of Police; Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau, Major General Alwali Kazir, Lt. General Luka Yusuf, Major General Hassan Usman, who were all Chiefs of Army Staff (COAS); and Afakriya Gadzama, onetime Director General of the State Security Service who served under Yar’Adua regime.

Barewa College’s achievement is summarised as the only secondary school in the whole of Nigeria to have produced a Prime Minister, a Premier, five Heads-of-State, twenty State Governors, 2 CBN Governors, amongst many eminent Nigerians including the Sultan of Sokoto. Asides from the confidence this pride instils, the greatness of Barewa College serves as a big source of inspiration for the students, providing the right atmosphere for them to follow and achieve even more.

As the school hits the milestone of 100 years, drums would be rolled for the school’s centenary celebration. The Centenary Lecture would be delivered by an alumni, Nigeria’s former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon.

There would also be a dinner and a public presentation of a book titled “Barewa College: History of a School and The Nation”. The book captures the vision of the founders of the school, the twist and turns in its revolution and the practical dimension of its role and impact on the Nigerian nation. Indeed there is a long list of events spread across the year to celebrate the outstanding achievements and successes of the school as it celebrates the landmark of 100 years.

It is clear that the school’s vision of vertical transformation of minds to their highest level of performance has been achieved largely through the deployment and re-enforcement of the core values of Responsibility, Integrity, Compassion, and Excellence.

Read Also: “Barewa College: History of a School and the Nation” – A Review by Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim

There are two types of institutions: those who dictate the pace of the game and those who simply follow its upheavals. Barewa College clearly is in the league of the former, growing in leaps and bound, championing one of Nigeria’s most institutional stories ever told. This is the reason the college dwarfs every other school in profound dimensions when the conversation shifts to excellence and reputation.

Most probably the founders and administrators of the school followed the counsel of iconoclastic business thinker, Gary Hamel in his book, “Leading The Revolution”, by leading the 100 years evolution through relentless innovation.

Nelson Okoh

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