Fred Kamara, Ahmadu Bello University Academic

John Otim


John Otim, author of Dream Campus, and of The Ups and Downs of an African Campus, Editor of Nile Journal




John Fred Apuli Kamara, the long time Ahmadu Bello University lecturer, 1980-2008, died in Kampala on Monday 22 October 2012 in the early hours of the morning.

Kamara as he was known to Faculty and Students alike was born on 12 January 1947 in the Toro region of Western Uganda by the slopes of the legendry Mountains of the Moon. He studied literature, philosophy and political science for the BA degree at Makerere University, graduating in 1974. He received the MA in mass communication from the University of Ghana, Accra, in 1979.

While at Makerere Kamara came under the influence of Professor Ali Mazrui, then a rising academic star of the new postcolonial world. From Makerere Kamara acquired the habit of philosophical thought that was to lead him to constantly question the basis and the validity of everything he encountered. Kamara delighted in the immediacy and the heat of the face to face discourse but was weary of the written word. Once you put down something in black and white, he once said, you cannot pull it back. Such caution or fear led him not to write at all; which was strange for a man who loved books and loved reading and spent his entire life between the four walls of a university. Kamara’s affinity to the spoken word made him a natural in the classroom and a darling of the students.

Kamara arrived at the Ahmadu Bello University in the summer of 1980 to a campus teaming with ideas to teach mass communication, a subject that he, approached typically from a broad perspective. In the Nigerian context he threw in the entire cauldron that was Nigeria, and resolved to produce a volume that would recount the ancient and modern Nigerian story entirely from its mode and manner of communication. On campus people looked forward to Kamara’s magnum opus. Having collected and amassed all the data he needed, Kamara peered into the results of his own findings against the backdrop of a country reeling under military rule and abandoned publication.

For a man who drew the blue print of the curriculum that established the discipline and the department of mass communication at the Ahmadu Bello University, a man who became known on campus as the Father of Mass Communication, this was a terrible act of abdication. Kamara defended himself. I am not prepared to go to jail in Nigeria.

Now with his demise in Kampala at the age of 65, a great mind has gone without leaving in the public domain records of his written ideas. Pending a possible unearthing and publication of his archives, the only public record of Kamara’s writing we know of is an article he wrote at our request about his beloved Institution that we published in the first edition of Nile Journal under the title Memories of a Nigerian Campus

On hearing that his friend had passed on, Okello Oculi who taught with Kamara at the Ahmadu Bello University and now lives and works in the capital city of Abuja, wrote:

“KAMARA is one lecturer who won high affection from his students for what they felt was an exceptional commitment to their intellectual growth. Those of them I have met in Abuja express a passionate gratitude to him. Each time I reported that Kamara had become a successful big time farmer on the slopes of Ruwenzori Mountains their eyes lit up with pleasure and a wish to visit.

"His constant refrain of Me Kamara, I drink my beer O! was his way of showing concern for my security of tenure and physical safety in the face of what he considered unduly imprudent commentaries I wrote in newspapers.”

In the Northern city of Zaria on the sprawling campus of the Ahmadu Bello University, people remember Kamara. The words of Dr Daniel Adawa of Veterinary Medicine express a view shared by many, "This place was better off with Kamara inside it."