I’m writing this letter to you in the midst of sobs, wailings and prayers for calm thoughts so that I articulate my views clearly, legibly and in a manner that would not bore you.
I cannot come to terms with the fact that I would be writing to you and about you in the past tense. I still keep all your letters, I relate to you through them, with your kwana-kwana hand writing.
I do not even know where to start, where to address this letter to, how to address you after thirty (30) years. But two things are certain in sha Allah. One, you are in the highest position of bliss with your Creator and two, all your scions are praying fervently for you daily, for forgiveness from Allah, for continuous divine bliss and for you to be among the best servants of Allah where you now rest. These I am very sure of and our prayers would definitely have been answered because Innal Laha la tuhliful mi’ad, since he promised to accept du’as.
Iya Baba Gungunga (Iya for short), you left this world as Allah destined on Sunday, 2nd July, 1989 while I was far away at the University in Maiduguri as a 20 year undergraduate; blind, blank, bland and looking for direction. That was when I needed you most.
I still remember the last time we met, the last time we spoke on phone and your consistent exhortations. The last time we met, I came for Karamar Salla and was going back to Maiduguri with Alhaji Sallau. You were sitting on the staircase in zaure and you told me to climb two flight of stairs and come close. I did, not knowing that was the last time I would see you as I would still perceive the whiff of your Aramis (I would have clung to you and refuse to let go or at least embraced you for the first and last time in my life). I still remember your last words to me “Don’t ever disappoint me”. I made a commitment to you that I never will. I am not perfect and can never be but in all my actions or dealings with people I never forget my commitment to you and I try as much as is practically and humanly possible to live according to your standards, no matter the temptations or the trappings of “yau” as you would say.
My friends, associates and colleagues refer to me as old fashioned, difficult, conservative or traditional, not ready to take any risk with my reputation. What they do not know is I fear that recourse to modernism and liberalism as they see it may tempt me to deviate from the path that you intuitively placed me on or in any manner (no matter how remote) made me disappoint you or cause anybody to question the level of decency and integrity you infused in me and/or wanted me to have.
A few days to your death, I called you and we spoke for some minutes, we just exchanged the usual complements and you asked me about Shettima Ali Monguno and Sir Kashim Ibrahim (both of blessed memory now), admonishing me to be going to see them anytime I had the opportunity to do so. For some reason, even after we finished talking, none of us was able to drop the phone until you asked “hello” (with that Scottish accent) “ba ka ajiye ba?” (are you still there?). I answered in the affirmative, you laughed lightly (I still remember the sound of your laughter) and you said “Allah Ya Sada mu da alkhairi” (May Allah’s Blessings and Favour be with us wherever we are). I never thought it was our good bye, I would have elongated it, I would have found a reason to say more and learn more from you that day and perhaps sought forgiveness for my childhood truancy and serial mischiefs.
Iya, it has been thirty (30) years without you but to us they are years of tears, joy and pride. At times, we all say how we wish Allah would open a small window for you so that you see how we are and what we have become.
Having lost the best amongst us (Abdulqadir) in 1987, Hussaina was the first to follow you ten (10) years later. Your Muhammadu (Yaya Kanawa to us) followed her four (4) years later and Luba (‘Yar sarki, jikar sarki, ‘yar Waziri ‘yar Mallam Garba) followed Yaya and your Baba (Babayo) was the last we lost just 4 years ago.
Your lifelong companions couldn’t wait to join you any longer. They did so chronologically with Ummai following Ababa after seven years. Aiya and Anti are still trudging through life and aging gracefully in comfort and enormous rufin asiri.
Your brothers have followed you one by one with the exception of Dadi’s children. Alhamdulillahi, they are all alive.
Among your friends and life time companions, only Kawu (Alhaji Musa Abubakar), Baba Shekarau (Alhaji Shekarau Omar) and Sheikh Dahiru Usman Bauchi are alive today. These three (3) though old and frail continue being our guiding lights and being fathers to us in ways you can never imagine. In preparation for my first marriage, Sarkin Kasuwa (late Alhaji Adamu Bazamfare) told the prospective bride’s parents who claimed not to have known me, that during your wedding to my mother, he and Dan Ruwata Zubairu were Manyan Abokan Ango (Best men). That was an evidence of how supporting and considerate your friends were to us.
It would interest you to note that President Shagari was the last of your classmates to join you (as late as this year). Ironically, your dearest Sultan Dasuki (whom we knew as Baba Barade) was succeeded by your Sarkin Kudu Maccido (who you told me you met in 1947). While Sultan Maccido joined you in 2006, Sultan Dasuki joined you just a little over a year ago.
Though you would be happy knowing that your closest friends are now with you, let me tell you another strange thing. You cannot believe that, Baba Jalo (Wazirin Gombe), ‘Dankade Kwadom, Mallam Yidi Gombe and Ubandoma Magaji Mu’azu are now lying in Gombe but as a different State. Yes, Gombe is now a State but do not despair, we still maintain our filial relationship, it doesn’t affect our relationships. You would have said it is another “ci gaba” that Gombe is now a State but be rest assured all of us are together, it is just a State in name but in our hearts, there are no boundaries. I remember the nostalgic manner you talked about Gombe when you were sent as a refugee from “Boko” and you were found and returned to the school in Bauchi. I don’t know whether you met Mallam Yidi Gombe where you are but he missed you everyday until the day he left this world, he was always talking about you in the present and couldn’t believe you were no more. However, Mallam Jibir Dukku (who always tell you when you taunt him for riding his bicycle that you would all predecease him) is still alive and comfortable in Dukku.
I went to Yola and greeted Danburan Jada some years back and he was asking me of how you were feeling. I don’t know whether it was senility or he found it difficult to accept you were no more but I could discern the affectionate love and camaraderie in him. He talked about you with respect and reverence.
Apart from your loss (and that of your wives, our mothers) that of our siblings (and believe me, even some of your grandchildren), your siblings and that of your friends and my spouses (you won’t believe I lost two wives within three (3) years), there were no untoward incidents or occurrences that would warrant our shedding tears.
Alhamdulillahi, even death had so far been fair to us considering the space we have witnessed between deaths and these are all part of the blessings flowing from your belief in Allah, unshaken faith and ceaseless prayers.
Let me save the best for last. You will enjoy it more and be excited more if I keep you in suspense.
Let me start with what you would want to hear and make you rest better. In the thirty (30) years since your passing, nobody in Bauchi or anywhere has ever heard your children argued or fought among themselves. We’ve always had our challenges and problems as every big family is bound to have but we are managing our differences in a mature, tolerant and civilised manner internally before they snowball into conflicts. I am sure this would make you delighted beyond measure and relieve you immeasurably.
Furthermore, after me, almost all your children (there is no Hausa word for cousin and you never distinguished between us and your relations’ children) that came behind me are now University graduates in different fields of endeavours and have continued carrying the torch you handed over to those before us. This is in addition to your grand children and great grand children. We are everywhere, with our heads high, upholding the lofty traditions of service and hard work that you bequeathed to us.
Let me also inform you that at the last count, you have 228 grand children and 194 great grand children, in addition to your surviving 34 children. Considering the fact that you were a “singleton” in every sense of the word, this is no mean feat. And they are doing very well, are highly responsible and have continued carrying your name with decency, integrity, mutunci and the highest possible sense of pride.
On the political turf, there are moments of joy that I am sure you would be elated to hear.
Be informed that the son of Hassan Dankwambo (Ibrahim) was the immediate past Governor of Gombe State for 8 years. I am sure you would be relieved that a son of Wanka and Bara was able to make all of us proud becoming an Executive Governor in Gombe that Hussaini Bara simply settled in and you would be glad at the level of interconnection and harmony that enabled this.
You would also be glad to know that Bala Diginity (as we know him), Abdulqadir and Sadiq’s friend, one of the sons of your teacher, Sarkin Duguri Muhammadu, is now the Executive Governor of Bauchi State. He is now known as Bala Abdulqadir Muhammad, conferred with the title of Kauran Bauchi (a pioneer).
And now to the big one Iya. Muhammadu Buhari has for the second time been elected as the President of Nigeria. Yes, the same Buhari that was your Military Governor in the North Eastern State and the Military Head of State in 1984, who made you a member of the Board of Directors of Nigerian Ports Authority (I will tell you another story later). I remembered escorting you to Jos either in 1982 or 1983 where you went to see a Police Officer, Yusuf Dari, who told you that Buhari was his next door neighbour. The tall lanky man walked casually in a white jallabiyya, you discussed issues superficially and laughed heartedly. It was the first time I saw what you later told me was Gada (a small deer) in his house, which also had a dog (I would not forget our fascination with dogs as children and your persistent objection to keeping one). Though not as young as my young mind pictured him, he is aging gracefully and trying to bring sanity to a country and system that is so bastardised and rubbished that you may pray to go back to where you are sleeping when you now see it (comparatively).
Babar Mutanen Wanka (Hajara) is the only active politician amongst us. This would be a matter of joy and pride to you not because one of yours is a politician like you were (just as most of us work hard and retire as you did) but because there is no better testimony to your belief in educating and empowering the girl child than that. You would be marvelled if you see how big and all grown Ainau’s children are (yes, Aina, your last born). She is a happily married Kaduna based business woman. Yes, Alhamdulillahi, I repeat after you. We are all grown-ups and family people now.
One of your daughters, Justice Fati Abubakar (your Umaru Audi, Wazirin Minna’s daughter, that Anti’s childhood friend) also became the wife of a Head of State.
Now, to the best.
Iya, you were Ma’aji, Magajin Gari and Wazirin Bauchi at different times in your lifetime. It is with a sense of unquantifiable and unbounded joy, honour and pride that I wish to inform you that there are now three (3) Hakimai among your children which were conferred as a result of patience, tolerance, hard work, obeisance to constituted traditional authority, dogged pursuit of the truth and our close relationship with Gidan Yakubun Bauchi as you always instructed.
You may wish to recall that just a week before your death, you directed that whatever happened, none of us should indicate an interest in Sarauta but that we should submit ourselves to Ajiyan Bauchi, Adamu Tafawa Balewa (of blessed memory) and Sarkin Wanka (Bappa Sarki) for guidance. None of us did and we have now seen the wisdom, the foresight and the virtue of this exhortation.
Sarkin Bauchi Sulaimanu (now also deceased and succeeded by his son Rilwanu, you can see a dynasty emerging from what you started with others by ensuring the emergence of Mallam Adamu Jumba as Emir) did not confer the Waziri directly on us but gave it to another of your illustrious children, Muhammadu Bello Kirfi (the eldest amongst us), being the son of Alhaji Yaku Kirfi. As if that wasn’t enough, in spite of our gratitude to the Emir and his Council that Waziri hasn’t left your family, we were again told to look for another traditional title to be conferred on one of your direct descendants. Your Baba (Babayo) was conferred with Sarkin Dawaki Mai Tuta immediately after your demise (yes, you never heard of it in Bauchi because your son pioneered it). As if that wasn’t enough, Alhaji Ado was later conferred with your own Magajin Gari, becoming the first time the title was inherited in the history of Bauchi Emirate (having rotated between not less than 9 families). In 2010, Yusuf (Yusuwu as you called him) was conferred with Chigarin Bauchi (you also never heard this in Bauchi because another son of yours is a pioneer holder). We wept with joy at this unprecedented glory, our joy knew no bounds as we now had 3 traditional title holders (all your direct descendants).
– Wanka wrote in from Abuja
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