Ahmadu Bello University, ABU Zaria, Student Bags First Class In Engineering: Broke 20-Year-Old Jinx
Bayero Mohammed Tukur recently graduated with a first class degree in Engineering from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He also was the best graduating student of the Faculty of Engineering. The elated civil engineer explains how he achieved the feat 20 years after the faculty failed to produce a first class grauduate and also speaks on the practice of engineering in Nigeria among other issues.
Daily Trust: What was your major field of study?
Bayero Mohammed Tukur: I graduated from the Department of Water Resources and Environmental Engineering. You may wish to call me a water engineer, a hydraulic engineer or an environmental engineer. Above all, you may wish to call me a civil engineer, because they are all one and the same thing. But I wish to quickly note that we can be said to have majored in everything in the department. It is the system here where you have to read everything.
DT: How do you feel, graduating with a first class degree?
Tukur: I give thanks and glory to Almighty Allah. We are two first class graduates in the Faculty of Engineering. I emerged first and the other person emerged second. For the past 20 years before us, there hadn’t been any first class graduate. So, when we came for the orientation immediately after our admission, we took it up as a challenge, and we kept on praying to Allah. Today, our fervent prayers came to fruition. Today, by the grace of Almighty Allah, two of us have caused to happen what did not happen in 20 years.
DT: Perchance you proceed for higher degrees or any professional training, what would you like to specialise in?
Tukur: I would like to specialise in environmental engineering as my major field because of the ever-changing climate globally now. I am really interested in this phenomenon, and I would like to make my contributions to humanity in that aspect.
DT: Is it, therefore, right to say that you were driven by challenges bordering on the practice of engineering in the Nigerian society to venture into what you have just graduated in?
Tukur: My father, who died while I was in my 100 level, may his soul rest in peace, was also a civil engineer. I have nine elder brothers. None of them saw engineering as a field they could venture into. They have never seen it as a challenge. I took it up as a challenge. I wanted to take after my father. Secondly, I am not happy with the way Nigerians are treating engineers. When an engineering project is to be contracted out to an engineer, it is seldom contracted to a Nigerian engineer. Project executors prefer engaging, say, Egyptian engineers, and even Nigerien engineers, condemning the huge population of Nigerian engineers to frustrating joblessness. We have over 40, 000 graduate engineers that are not even working, let alone practicing engineering. A key aspect of my reason for taking up the challenge is, I believe, engineering is more delicate than medicine. When an engineer makes a mistake, he kills millions; but when a medical doctor makes a mistake, it is only a soul that is going, and this is a fact everyone knows.
DT: How does an engineer’s mistake kill millions?
Tukur: By discipline, I am a civil engineer, a hydraulic engineer, and an environmental engineer; in my design of a structure, if I make a mistake of 0.1 mm, it makes a big difference. If I make a mistake of 0.01 in design of any structure, the consequences could be monumental. You don’t make mistakes when you are mixing concrete, you don’t make mistakes when you are designing structures etc. Everything must be perfect. There shouldn’t be anything like near perfect in designing structures. Near perfect is not perfect. If a design is a near-perfect design, it is not a perfect design, and grave consequences could happen, sequel to whatever little deficit in the total perfection. That little imperfection could immediately or in the course of the life-span of the structure result in the loss of lives and property. So, our field of practice is even more delicate than that of the doctor.
DT: How would you assess the quality of structures designed by engineers in the Nigerian society?
Tukur: I regret to say such designs have not been in good hands. You see, I have always believed that graduates of engineering have the talent to make a good difference, but the Nigerian society is not giving us the opportunity to explore our talents.
DT: Collapse of buildings is rampant now in Nigeria. What do you observe as responsible for this situation?
Tukur: Buildings collapse when preliminary surveys are not done. There should also be environmental impact assessment, which will show you how far your structure can last, and what are the economic implications it will lead to, good or bad. For example, if you are constructing a dam, you have to consider all aspects in its design, and their possible economic implications, to forestall flood displacing large populations and destroying hundreds of farmlands. Studies are not being done properly. At the beginning, when a building collapses, the engineer is at fault, because his design is faulty. The builder just builds on what the engineer designs. Yet, I cannot say it is wholly the fault of the engineer, because he may do the proper thing in terms of the design, but someone else fails to do so, on his own part. I am saying that generally, it is a collective responsibility. Everyone must do his own part properly for the structure to stand.