It was Mr. Onuoha Ukeh, the managing director and editor-in-chief of The Sun Newspapers, who passed the first major tribute as Dr. Badamasi Burji, senior editor, serial entrepreneur and philanthropist extraordinaire, was being bestowed with an award as the Social Impact Person of the Year by a national newspaper in Abuja, yesterday Thursday. He wrote thus:
“The award for Badamasi Burji is the most fascinating to me. This is a Nigerian from Kano. A Muslim, who does mot know tribe or religion in his dealings with others. He is detrabilised, compassionate, affectionate and open-minded. He is a TRUE NIGERIAN, kind, charming, likeable, benevolent and nationalistic. He is a friend I can confidently call a brother from another mother and tribe.”
Over the past few days, as the day of the award drew nearer, many personalities across the country have written touching tributes to celebrate not just the award but also the life of a man whose life redefines selflessness and humanism. Indeed, on these pages two years ago, we served notice about Burji’s foundation that has enrolled over 6,000 indigent pupils, bringing quality education to their doorsteps, all under his full sponsorship, in a part of Nigeria that is educationally disadvantaged. By this action, Burji probably did not reckon with the fact that he was helping improve the security and well-being of this country in consideration of the fact that, more often than not, ignorance and illiteracy are the main drivers of conflict and violence globally.
From the day 41 years ago that I was privileged to first come in touch with Badamasi Burji, his has been a consistent story of a man always in a hurry to prioritise the needs of others above his.
In these four beautiful decades, countless records, indeed too numerous to mention here, have been broken by him, all for the good of not him or his immediate family, but humanity in general.
It was from Burji I have learnt that there is no limit to the expansion of the frontiers of knowledge, and of kindness, and that the best pleasure is driven in being good to everyone.
In my message felicitating with this man of the people, I took pride in joining the multitude of his disciples and well-wishers in felicitating with him and his noble family, trusting that this major recognition will spur him to continue to be even more dedicated in the service of God and man.
Also writing in like manner, a relation of Burji, Hon. Abubakar Salisu Hamza Kadawa, wrote another tribute that touches the heart. He said: “From you, I learnt hard work, true love, teamwork, honesty of purpose and joy in difficult situations. From childhood, I learnt from you that trials of life should not stop us from trudging on with vigour to defeat all encumbrances and advance the cause of the human race. I learnt from you that, even when the spirit is down, one should sleep soundly to wake up stronger and open up the very bottlenecks trying to limit our progress in the journey of life.
“Growing up, learning how you multitask at a younger age by combining large-scale gardening at the family residence in Burji, engaging in menial jobs in the city to fulfill a life-long dream of building a school for our deprived kinsmen, with solid academic record in the schools you passed through, weekends at agric farm settlement and household chores that you discharged without a frown. Catching up with you was such a Herculean task to we your juniors.
“No wonder that, later in life, laurels keep pouring in on you, in our midlife right from your days in Bayero University to newspaper guru as editor and later managing director and then chairman/chief executive even at international level.
“Even when you fulfilled a childhood dream and single-handedly built a large school educating over 6,000 pupils and students all under your sponsorship, your restless noble spirit keeps spurring you to conquer more by building a befitting study centre of the National Open University of Nigeria in our ancestral hometown. Even housewives are being empowered economically by you, as you want the very best for your people and indeed all of humanity.
“Yet you still have time for mentoring many upcoming youths on how to climb the ladder of success. Little wonder that a part of your long list of achievements is producing an editor that became the second highest ranking in Nigeria. Your media conglomerate has for two decades been serving as a training ground for some of the finest journalists that this country takes pride in.
“On behalf of your numerous mentees and fans worldwide, and even more so those of us that are privileged to be your family members, I say big congratulations as LEADERSHIP adds another golden feather to your platinum cap.”
The great sage, Nelson Mandela, probably had Dr. Badamasi Burji in mind when he made the famous statement that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Today, Burji has sacrificed his comfort and spares no expense to ensure, as mentioned earlier, quality education for his people. But then, his marks go beyond education. His footprints are also in the mass media. He is on record to have produced some of the leading editors that this country takes pride in, today. His biggest achievement lies in the all-important aspect of human capital development.
This column can surely not reproduce the tons of tributes that have continued to pour in, all of them extolling Badamasi Burji’s virtues to high heavens. Suffice it to say, however, we in the Nigerian media are proud to have produced a worthy ambassador in this senior editor and publisher, and wish him the very best as he continues to make life better for the less-privileged.