From Timothy Olanrewaju, Maiduguri
It was a day of history last weekend, when youths in Borno State honoured some sons and daughters of the state for their extra-ordinary contributions to the development of the state. The honour was put together by Arewa Youth Consultative Council (AYCC) and conferred on both surviving and departed heroes at the El-Kanemi Hall, University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID).
Over a dozen great men and women or their appointed family members went away with awards and honours before the glare of dignitaries. The choice of the El-Kanemi Hall and UNIMAID for the hosting of the event was no less strategic.
The hall, on its own was an historical monument. It was built by the defunct Northern Region Government as Northern Nigeria College of Arts and Science. It was upgraded to a university in 1975 and has played a significant role in the nurturing and mentoring of many heroes of the state.
Coordinator, AYCC, Umar Ahmed, said the award was in appreciation of the contributions of the individuals to peace building and development of the northern Nigeria. Chairman at the occasion and Secretary, Borno Elders’ Forum (BEF), Dr Bulama Mali Gubio, said:
“I see genuine efforts in pursuit of unity in Northern Nigeria and Borno State in particular. I think this award which the youth council is launching this year will serve as means of historical revival.” He argued that most youths in the country lacked a sense of history: “The event would serve as a constant reminder to what happened in the past.”
He recalled that most of the heroes were persons who made personal sacrifice to enrich the society: “They never considered their personal or material interests. Many of them don’t even have befitting houses unlike many of the younger generation today, who are looking for positions of authorities to build mansions and own exotic cars within few months. The real heroes in Northern Nigeria are the rural women who toil day and night amid hardship to raise their children and care for their families.”
The guest speaker, Mohammed Alkali, who is Administrative Secretary, Kanem-Borno Foundation, in his paper titled: “Life, Legacies of Borno Heroes and Lessons to Learn”, said: “Contemporary reality has demonstrated that true heroes are people who rose up to challenges at different stages of life.”
He recalled how a young man, Muhammad al-Amin El-Kanemi saved the Kanuri from the invasion of Fulani jihadists, led by Uthman Dan Fodio. The young man later became the first Shehu of Borno and was later addressed as Shehu Mohammad Alminu ibn Elkanemi (1776-1837).
He said Neem trees, common in Borno State today and used to provide shade during hot season, was brought by the late Mohammed Lawan, an agriculturalist. He narrated the contributions of gallant officers and military leaders from the state, including Brigadier Zakariya Maimalari: “The army barracks in Maiduguri Maimalari Cantonment was named after the officer. Also Col Kuru Mohammed Bama often described as the most intelligent of all officers in this cadre Commandant of the 1st Battalion. Gen Abba Kyari, Military Governor of the then North Central State, civil war veteran, General Muhammed Shuwa and Alhaji Kam Salem, second Nigerian Inspector General of Police (1966-1975).”
In politics, late Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim, a businessman, politician and former Minister of Economic Development, led the roll call of heroes according to the speaker. Waziri known for politics without bitterness led the Great Nigerian Peoples Party (GNPP), in the Second Republic. The party produced governor of the old Borno State in 1979, Mohammed Goni.
Among the political icons honoured was Sir Kashim Ibrahim, the first Governor of Northern Nigeria. Others included Bukar Manda, a Second Republic presidential candidate, renowned Islamic scholars Usman Jidda, Sheik Abba Aji and Sheik Sheriff Ibrahim Saleh. First Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum and educationist, Dr Shettima Ali Monguno, billionaire Mai Daribe and Ali Kotoko.
Some of the surviving heroes included Alhaji Mohammed Ndimi, renowned Professor of Community Health, Umaru Shehu and Kyari Dikwa, a former permanent secretary in the state and founder of an Islamic centre, a school and a university in Maiduguri.
As families of the departed heroes walked up graciously to the podium to collect their plaque, some youths in the audience admitted that they were inspired by the humble background of the awardees.
“It means we really don’t need to be the sons or daughters of any big man to get to the pinnacle of our career in life and make impact in our society,” Ahmad told Daily Sun.