My first sight of Professor Umaru Shehu, as I remember vividly, was way back in my junior secondary school years in Maiduguri when he was interviewed by the local television station.
He presented himself as the well learned person that he is. In the interview, he was introduced as a professor emeritus; the first time I would come across the word emeritus. Later, as I came of age and joined the University of Maiduguri as a student; the same institution from where Shehu holds the emeritus title, every time the list of university professors was presented, Shehu was at the apex.
Being a non-medical student, throughout my stay at the University, I was not by anyway associated (at least in academic terms) to the professor until sometime ago when I had the opportunity to accompany a friend who was scheduled to meet with him in his office. Professor Shehu invited my friend to the office; and he asked me to go along with him to meet the renowned academic, to which I gladly obliged. Once we were in the office, we met Shehu inundated in office work that it would be inconsiderate to interrupt him for too long.
Professor Shehu’s office was mind-boggling! Clean to spick-and-span, the walls of the office depicted a scholar of great accomplishment. Plaques of distinctive inscriptions and commemorations were in plain sight. On the wall I could also notice a monochrome portrait of Shehu within a group of doctors at the University of Liverpool sometime in the 1950s. After some discussions, Shehu told us how glad and grateful he was in having us. We undertook to come around again someday.
Professor Umaru Shehu was born on December 8, 1930 in Maiduguri, Nigeria. He attended Elementary School, Maiduguri 1935-1940; Middle School, Maiduguri 1941-1943; Kaduna College, Kaduna 1944-1947; University College Ibadan 1948-1953; and was at the University of Liverpool between 1953-1956, and 1966-1967.
Professor Shehu holds MBBS (London), IRCF (London), MRCS (England), DPH (Liverpool), FMCPH, MFCM, FFCM (UK), FFCM (Nigeria), FAS, FWACP, DFMC (Nigeria). Shehu started working as a Pre-registration House Surgeon, Southport Infirmary, United Kingdom in 1957. He returned to the Government of Northern Nigeria as Pre-registration House Physician that same year and was promoted Medical Officer 1957-1963; Senior Medical Officer 1963-1965; Principal Medical Officer 1965-1966; Assistant Chief Medical Officer 1966-1967; Chief Medical Officer (Preventive Services Division) 1967-1968. Shehu was then redeployed to the North-Eastern State as Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Chief Medical Officer, an offer he declined to move to Ahmadu Bello University as Reader and Acting Head of Department of Community Medicine 1968-1970; Deputy Dean, Faculty of Medicine 1968-1970; Acting Director, Institute of Health 1969-1970; Professor of Community Medicine 1970; Head of Department of Community Medicine 1970-1978; Director, Institute of Health 1970-1977; Deputy Vice Chancellor 1975-1976; Pro Vice Chancellor (Academic) 1977-1978. Shehu held visiting professorships in various universities, including the School of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA 1976-1977. He was appointed Vice Chancellor, University of Nigeria, Nsukka 1978-1980.
He also worked with the World Health Organization as Short Term Consultant (Working Group on Health Services and Manpower Development Mechanism) in Geneva, September 1970; Appointed Temporary Adviser, October 1970; Short Term Consultant, 1971-1973; Consultant (Technical Discussions), 24th WHO Regional Committee for Africa 1974; National WHO Program Coordinator/Representative in Nigeria 1980-1985; Director, WHO Sub-Regional Health Development Office 111, 1985-1989; WHO Representative to Ethiopia, 1990. At the University of Maiduguri, Shehu was appointed Honorary Consultant Physician since 1991 to date and became Professor Emeritus in 2000.
He was also the Provost of the College of Medical Sciences 1991-1993; and Sole Administrator of the University of Maiduguri 1993-1994. At the University College Hospital Ibadan, he was the Chairman, Board of Management 1991-1994. At Bayero University, Kano, he was Pro-Chancellor and Chairman Governing Council 1993-1996, and Pro-Chancellor and Chairman Governing Council of the University of Lagos 1996-1999.
He has held memberships and offices in several committees, councils, panels and commissions at both national and international levels. He was President of Medical Schools in Africa 1973-1975; and External Examiner in Public Health at the University of Ghana Medical School. He was Chairman Board of Governors of the STOPAIDS organization; Chairman Governing Board of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA); Patron Guild of Medical Directors; Patron Nationwide Network for Health; Patron Nigerian Medical Forum of Great Britain and Ireland; Patron Nigerian Institute of Stress; Trustee National Foundation on VVF; Member Board of Trustees, Nigerian Tuberculosis and Leprosy Association; Member Editorial Board, West African Medical Journal; Consulting Editor, the Nigerian Medical Practitioner; Editorial Adviser, the Nigerian Postgraduate Medical Journal; Joint Editor-in-Chief, British Medical Journal (West Africa) Edition. Apart from holding active memberships of professional bodies as the Nigerian Medical Association, The Society of Health (Nigeria), Science Association of Nigeria, Association of Community Physicians of Nigeria, and the Nigerian Academy of Science, Shehu is also a Foundation Fellow of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria; Foundation Fellow of the West African College of Physicians; Foundation Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Science; and Foundation Fellow of the Faculty of Community Medicine (Nigeria).
Professor Umaru Shehu is mentioned in Who is Who in the world; Men of Achievement; Dictionary of International Biography; Africa Year Book 1977-Who is Who in Africa; Who is Who in Nigeria; and A Dictionary of African Biography.
He holds Honorary Doctor of Science Degrees of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. In 1979, the Government of Nigeria awarded him the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), and in 2000 he was awarded the Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR). In Shehu is a life well lived, in service to humanity through a continuous commitment to public health in Nigeria. His integrity and service are worthy of admiration and emulation.