The Faculty of Arts, as one of the twelve Faculties of Ahmadu Bello University, is reputed to have existed before the formal establishment of the University. As a foundation Faculty that soon metamorphosed into the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, the Faculty was, from its inception, poised to playa leading role in the administrative development and academic accomplishments of the University. The intricate relationship between the Faculty of Arts and Ahmadu Bello University can be better appreciated by going into the history of the University itself. The idea of a University in Northern Nigeria came up following the recommendations of the Ashby Commission on Higher Education in Nigeria appointed by the Federal Government in 1959. By dint of hard work of the personages assigned to the task, the seed sown by the Lord Eric Ashby Commission quickly matured into fruition and the first University in the North was born on 14th October, 1962.
By a unanimous decision of the Northern House of Assembly, it was named after Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, the Premier of Northern Nigeria, in recognition of his invaluable services to the North and the nation. If Zaria became the site of the new University, it was because of the concentration of relevant academic institutions in this ancient city at the birth of the University. Founded in the XVth Century to serve as an agricultural and commercial center, an entrepot for sorghum and maize, Zarias close contact with Islam, however, enabled the city to grow rapidly and become a great center of Islamic scholarship in the manner of its predecessors Gao, Timbuktu and Khartoum and throne-city of His Royal Highness, the Emir of Zazzau. Such was Zarias reputation for learning and research that at the time Ahmadu Bello University came into being, the city alone could boast of harbouring such major institutions as the Nigeria College of Arts, Science and Technology, the Institute for Agricultural Research and the Institute of Administration, all of which came to constitute the nucleus of the new University. Indeed, what is today the Faculty of Arts emerged from the defunct Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, which has existed as far back as 1952.
Upon its integration into Ahmadu Bello University however, the University Administration, conscious of the dearth of the much-needed manpower in the Humanities and the pertinence of such experts to nation building, stepped up the development of the Faculty of Arts. The Faculty of Arts took off with five Departments, namely the Departments of History, Geography, English, Education and Fine Arts. The Faculty soon underwent several metamorphoses in response to the reality of each time before arriving at first a Four- Department-Faculty, namely the Departments of English and Drama, French, History and Nigerian and African Languages. And secondly, in response to the global demand for specialization, and the need to enhance the academic base of the Faculty and the aspirations of the staff, two new Departments were created in June 2006. These are the Department of Archaeology, carved out of the History Department and the Department of Theatre and Performing Arts which was the former Drama Section of the Department of English. Consequent on this development, the Department of English is now known as the Department of English and Literary Studies. After the initial stages, the Faculty of Arts grew largely through the introduction of new disciplines particularly in the Social Sciences. In March, 1966, the University Governing Council gave approval for the establishment of a joint Faculty to be named the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. This paved the way for the introduction of the Departments of Economics and Government in 1966.
The Department of Government later changed its name to the Department of Political Science to reflect its new focus. The Department of Sociology followed in 1967 while French, which had been under the Department of English, became an autonomous Department in the expanding Faculty of Arts in 1968. The Department of Nigerian and African Languages comprising Hausa and Arabic, the last of the Departments to be created, came into existence in 1976. Four years later, in 1980, the Department of Political Science introduced a degree programme in International Studies into the Faculty. The story of the Faculty of Arts was not only that of introduction and incorporation of new Departments as, along the way, it also had to shed its weight so as to sharpen its focus. One of the disengagements at this time was the movement of the Department of Education to the Faculty of Education when this Faculty was founded in the 1968/69 Session. Another remarkable development in the course of the growth of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences was the transfer, following the recommendation of the Faculty Development Committee, of the Department of Fine Arts from F.A.S.S. to the Faculty of Environmental Design in 1977.
However, the single major change in the history of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences occurred in 1996 when the then University Administration, under the sole Administrator Major General Mamman Kontagora, divided the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences into two Faculties, namely the Faculty of Arts which remained in the present location and the Faculty of Social Sciences which moved to the former site of the School of General and Remedial Studies (SGRS). Dr. Tanimu Abubakar was the first Dean of the Faculty of Arts. The history of the Faculty of Arts will be incomplete without mentioning some of the University centers and programmes that are either associated with it or directly belong to it. The Northern History Research Scheme (NHRS) is one of them. Established around 1963 by Professor Abdullahi Smith, the main aim of NHRS is to collate documents on the history of Northern Nigeria. The NHRS gave birth to Arewa House. Originally called the Northern History Research Project, Arewa House is based in the official residence of the former Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, at Kaduna. It is charged with the responsibility of collecting and preserving documents relating to Northern History in the 20th Century. Arewa House has been part of Ahmadu Bello University since 1978. We should also mention the Centre for Social and Economic Research from which the present Institute for Development Research (IDR) evolved. The Faculty of Arts continues to grow. In the 1999/2000 academic year, it introduced the Proficiency Certificate in English for Foreigners (PCEF) programme which is, today, the main artery for the admission of foreign students into Ahmadu Bello University. Within its short period of existence, the PCEF programme has trained hundreds of students from Francophone West and Central Africa as well as students from far away Poland and Russia among others. The Faculty is now linked to the Internet and also runs a sprawling IT Academy (FAITAC). The IT Academy is being run in partnership with the firm of Consultants, Agiles Technologies based in Abuja. The Academy is intended for students of Faculty of Arts only. Credit for the Internet Services and the establishment of the Internet Academy goes to the former Dean Dr. Kabiru Chafe, who single-handedly sourced for the funds for this ambitious and unprecedented project. By all standards, the Faculty of Arts can be said to have fulfilled the mission for which it was established. At his installation as the first Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University on 23rd November 1963, the Sardauna, Sir Ahmadu Bello charged the new University to "be both national and international" to "search for and ... spread knowledge ... (and) also serve the needs of the nation in terms of man-power and the preservation and promotion of local culture." The Faculty of Arts has not only drawn its staff from all corners of the world, it is also primus inter pares in terms of manpower development, as it has produced graduates that have played unsurpassable roles nationally and globally. To name but only a few of such members of staff and students, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, now at the United Nations was a member of staff of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. He is credited with initiating the International Studies programme in the Department of Political Sciences in the former FASS.
The late Dr. Y.M. Maiangwa, one time Nigerias High Commissioner to Canada was a former student and member of staff of the Faculty of Arts. Chief Audu Ogbe, former Chairman of the POP, is an alumnus of the Department of French. The immediate past Vice Chancellor of this University, Prof. Abdullahi Mahadi and his Deputy, Dr. George Kwanashie are products and still members of staff of the Faculty of Arts. Also, the current Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration) Prof. Yakubu Nasidi is a former student, Dean of this Faculty and is still on the staff of the Faculty of Arts. Similarly, Dr. Ibrahim Maccido, the current Grand Qadi of Kaduna State has a doctorate degree in the Department of Nigerian and African Languages. The Faculty of Arts continues to train high level manpower well equipped to play prominent roles in a fast globalising world.
To advance the frontiers of learning in the arts and humanities through teaching research and dissemination of knowledge of the highest quality; establish and foster national and international integration, development and promotion of African traditions and cultures and produce high level manpower and enhance capacity building through retraining so as to respond to the challenges of the immediate community, Nigeria and the world at large.
The Faculty of Arts shall be a world class Faculty comparable to any other, engaged in imparting knowledge in the Arts and Humanities using high quality facilities and multi- disciplinary approaches without discrimination to race, gender and creed, as well as generating new ideas and intellectual practices relevant to the needs of its immediate community, Nigeria and the world at large.
The Faculty of Arts, as one of the twelve Faculties of Ahmadu Bello University, is reputed to have existed before the formal establishment of the University. As a foundation Faculty that soon metamorphosed into the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, the Faculty was, from its inception, poised to play a leading role in the administrative development and academic accomplishments of the University.