By Henry Akubuiro

Publishing, whether it is newspapers, magazines or books, is often seen as a commercial venture worldwide. Royalties and proceeds from sales and traffic of readership in hardcopy or online are used to defray the costs of production and serve as compensations for the scribbler, who must remain afloat in business or fall by the wayside.

For some authors, this is not a big deal: erudition must be transferred to the end user, whether it’s paid for or not. Sounds like the vow of a Good Samaritan? Prolific author, Dr. Bukar Usman, is in league with the few authors who prefer a thank-you from a reader than money in return for a copy of his book.


With Over 30 books published so far, Dr. Bukar Usman has given out most of them free through the Bukar Usman Foundation founded by him. Recipients include private individuals and public establishments who can afford to pay for the books at bookshops. Education institutions, which have annual book budgets, have also received thousands of books from the Bukar Usman Foundation for free.

Dr. Usman isn’t among the richest Nigerians. He retired as a senior civil servant, who never controlled the coffers of any state government or country. Through his legitimate earnings, he has continued to give back to society twenty-three years after his retirement.


Usman’s books are often produced with the highest quality, with bonded, cream paper. While some are published as hardcovers, others come in paperbacks. The pagination ranges from 100 to well over a thousand pages.

A History of Biu, published in 2015, is a 693-page book that comes with a hardcover. People, Animals and Objects: 1000 Folk Stories of Nigeria, published in 2018, is a 939-page book with a hardcover. My Public Service Journey: Issues in Public Service Administration in Nigeria, published in 2019, is a 456-page book. A Foundation of Hope…, published in 2020, is a 1089-page book.

His most recent offerings, My Literary Works: Reviews and Reports (2022) and Conversations with Bukar Usman (2022) are equally voluminous works. While the former is a 1127-page tome, the latter is a 928-page whopper with hardcover.


Each of these books costs millions of naira to produce. Placed in a bookshop, the costs would likely range from N5,000 to N30,000 per copy. But most of these books are given out for free. As each publication is leaving his hands, Dr. Usman is putting finishing touches to another work, like a restless author he is.

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Why does he de-emphasise on selling books when ex-presidents and governors, who are stupendously rich, sell their own books? Dr. Usman provides the answer in one of his latest books, Conversations with Bukar Usman.

In the interview, “I Write to Educate, not to Make Money”, with Magaji Mohammed Dambatta of Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, Kaduna, Dr. Usman justified why he placed less emphasis on sales:

“Cairo University once said to me, ‘Bukar, the moment you publish a book, your rights end.’ This is what I want, you need not my consent to work on the books. I did not produce them to make money; if it is money I want, I know where and how to invest. I wrote the books to educate the public” (p.388).


A History of Biu, which took the author more than eight years to produce, ranks as one of the most definitive history books done in Nigeria by a Nigerian operating outside the comfort zone of the Ivory Tower, yet Dr. Usman has made it available to many readers, scholars, researchers and institutions free of charge.

One major area Dr. Usman has published extensively is in folklore. Even before he became the president of Nigerian Folklore Society, he had already dug into the past to fish out tales from Biu, the land of his birth, and published them in English. He has also published many books of folktales in Hausa language, which isn’t his mother tongue.

In 2021, he sponsored the publication of folktales in Igbo language, Nchikota Aluko Ndi-gbo, collected  by the late George Chijioke  Amadi. Before then, he had sponsored the publication of a collection of folktales in Yoruba language, Ogorun-un Itan Lati Ile by Ben Tomoloju.

The 240-page Nchikota Akuko Ndi-Igbo contains 317 tales drawn from different parts of Igboland. These stories are predominantly those told by parents and elders by moonlight in the days of yore to younger ones.


In an August, 2012 interview with Muhammad Salisu of Radio France International, conducted in Lagos, on how he wrote the initial folktale series,  and published in Conversations with Bukar Usman, Dr. Usman reminded listeners that some of the books written by Dr. Abubakar Imam on Hausa folktales, which they were taught in primary school, were hard to find again, while books written by William Shakespeare centuries ago were still accessible.

Again, “Most of the old people that narrated such folktales are very few, and I thought if the stories were not compiled in a matter of a few years, they would disappear completely. And so, I compiled them and wrote books one to fourteen.” The beat, for Dr. Usman, goes on.