In a space of barely two weeks, Kano lost some of its most illustrious sons and daughters. There was a needless argument between the state government and the people of the state, with the former strangely downplaying the casualty figure, and the latter stating it as it is, since many of them are directly bearing the brunt, and others are also living witnesses to the strange deaths that grave diggers in Kano have said number up to several hundreds.
Nobody could say with any authority what killed these great people, as the only centre set up to test individuals for the COVID-19 had closed shop in Kano until it reopened about 11 days ago. But what is significant here is that people have died, and those they left behind are mourning their departed loved ones.
Among the hundreds who died was senior editor Malam Musa Ahmad Tijjani, a big brother of mine who also had the longest stint as editor of the Kano-based Triumph newspapers. He was also an influential member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, especially the Kano-Jigawa Caucus. So attractive were the journalistic qualities of the late Tijjani that when I became editor of the daily title of Leadership newspaper in 2011, I made sure I dragged him to Abuja to join me in the same company, where he served as editor of the Sunday title. Three years ago, Musa returned to the Triumph as editor of the daily title, a position he held until his death 13 days ago, on a day death took away foremost economist Professor Ibrahim Ayagi and at least 20 other prominent Nigerians.
A day after that harvest of deaths, Kano yet again woke up to the sad death of Hajia Karimatu Abubakar, mother of Yusuf Bichi, the Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS). Her death raised the tension enveloping Kano, owing to the growing number of what has since been termed “strange deaths.”
I am one of those who are impressed with the way Mr. Yusuf Bichi has been administering the DSS since his appointment to that post by President Muhammadu Buhari on September 14, 2018. The DSS, under the capable leadership of Mr. Bichi, has been living up to its constitutional mandate of protecting and defending the Federal Republic of Nigeria against domestic threats, and upholding as well as enforcing the criminal laws of the country. The service has for almost two years now been providing credible leadership and criminal justice services to both the federal and state law enforcement organs, even when it has never staked any claim to perfection. Hajia Karimatu is reported to have had a heavy positive influence in the life of her son, and in that wise her demise could be seen as a national loss.
The sad story did not end there: a day after the DSS DG lost his mother, another illustrious Nigerian, Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu, Vice Chancellor of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), lost his father, Dr. Muhammadu Uba Adamu. The deceased, like his son, was an academic of no mean repute, and he is one of the few persons that could be credited with the exponential growth of Kano, which he served as a mayor in the 1970s. Professor Abdalla, the eldest child of the deceased, is a big brother to many editors in Nigeria, as he has been a double professor of mass communications and of education. He is friends with The Who is Who in the Nigerian and global media. Professor Abdalla is to all those that know him closely, also a man of unimpeachable integrity.
We then lost Professor Maikaba, also of the Mass Communications Department of Bayero University, and my good friend and colleague, Jaafar Jaafar, publisher of Daily Nigerian newspaper lost his beloved mother. Also another great colleague, AbdulAziz AbdulAziz of Premium Times lost his father within the same period.
Then just three days ago, the nation woke up to the shocking news of the death of Hajia Hauwa Yusuf Buratai, mother of the diligent Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Yusuf Buratai. She died in Maiduguri after a brief illness. This death is profound because it happened at a time her beloved son had deprived himself of every comfort of his family to be at the battlefront, personally leading the nation’s war against Boko Haram terrorists. It happened at a time the Nigerian Army is inflicting such heavy damage on the terrorists, so much that, according to some NGOs operating in the North-East, the few terrorist-commanders that are still alive, including their evil leader, Shekau, have since been begging for mercy, asking for dialogue to end the war they have been waging against the Nigerian state for over 10 years.
Not all of these people died of COVID-19, though. May the souls of these great servants of God, as well as hundreds of others that died during this epidemic, rest in peace.