Sunday, 12 August 2007
The World Without Adamu Yusuf
By Ibrahim Sheme
As you read this, the crowd is still thick in Adamu Yusuf’s house. It is the 10th day of mourning over the sudden death of one of the most popular young men in northern Nigeria. Adamu, who is in this photograph with the tycoon Alhaji Ahmadu Chanchangi (one of his confidantes) worked for the BBC Hausa section for two decades in the 80s. He died on Thursday, 1st August, after an attack of asthma. Not since the death of Sheikh Abubakar Mahmud Gumi in 1992 has Kaduna witnessed such an outpouring of grief.
Men, women and children from all walks of life have been trooping to the house on Gwamna Road in order to offer their condolences. You could see on the faces of the high and mighty to the downtrodden talakawa the shadows of loss and grief. Many have shed tears, struggling to accept the finality of Adamu’s departure.
Alhaji Adamu had touched the lives of countless people one way or the other. Aside his reputation as a reporter for the BBC, he was known largely as a philanthropist, helper, adviser and comforter. He was not a big man in the mold of the typical big men in Nigeria, or so many people regarded him, and he was not a small man either. He belonged to two social classes – that of the haves and that of the have-nots, easily worming into either of them as if that was where he belonged perennially, depending on the occasion. He would dine with kings (Generals like Ibrahim Babangida, Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, Hamza Abdullahi; civilians like Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, Habu Fari, Laila Dogonyaro, Ahmadu Chanchangi) and the masses (like me).
Little surprise that his house was a beehive of activities, especially when he was in town. People would troop in irrespective of their social standing, upbringing, religious persuasion or tribe, on foot or in SUVs, in order to have an audience with him. Always accessible (you needn’t an usher or front office clerk to tell him about your arrival), he had an ear for each. If discussing with you required confidentiality, he would take you into the sitting room and give you enough time to pour out your heart.
Important people would go to him in search of advice or contact with other important people, and not-so-important people would visit him in order to ask for one favour or the other (e.g. employment, school admission, dowry, ram for the naming ceremony or food to eat). The oncoming Ramadan would further remind many people about his large-heartedness, for many relied on him for the millet they would use in preparing the gruel to break their fast with. And during Eid el Fitr they would miss his gifts of rams and clothing.
His simplicity and willingness to put a fine finger in every nice pie were astounding, as was his capacity to touch the lives of those that came into contact with him. In the years of our friendship, starting from 1993, I never saw Adamu turning away a visitor or refusing to offer a helping hand to anyone. His shoulder was ever-ready to carry the responsibilities thrust upon him by his Creator, the responsibility of caring for others.
Those who didn’t properly understand him used to wonder why he was doing what he was doing; some were even put off by his gregariousness. Recently he told me that someone had asked him to be hiding away from the riff-raff always coming to “disturb” him. The friend meant well, worried that favour-seekers were denying him a much-needed rest. Alhaji Adamu’s conclusion was that he couldn’t do that because God had given him the task of caring for people. “If I should keep away the way others have done, where would the people go?” he asked. Concurring, I drew his attention to the fact that there were many rich men who would want people to go to them, but they had not got the opportunity; they sat in their houses, lonely and lamenting their failure to open their doors to the needy. He laughed and remarked, “I like that.”
The deceased was a true patriot, always lamenting the backwardness of our people, blaming governments from the local to the federal levels for neglecting the citizenry. He chided those that failed to see the laudable programmes of the Babangida regime and the rich in our society who refused to help the poor in their communities. His view on politics was progressive, people-oriented and anti-capital. Not everyone knew his role in helping draft Obasanjo into the presidential race or the role he played – through intense media campaign and other subtle contacts – in frustrating the attempt by Obasanjo to secure a third term in office.
Adamu’s people-first approach to issues must have been responsible for the sustained attempt to drag him into the gubernatorial race in Kaduna State during the last election. When his posters flooded the town, printed and circulated by “unknown” well-wishers, he asked me, “Do you think these people pulling me into politics are sincere? I don’t want to be involved in the type of politics Nigerians play.”
I reckon that the amazement of those that would rather see him behaving “big and important” must have originated from their perception of what the average rich and influential Nigerian was: pompous, inaccessible, unhelpful and downright supercilious. A Nigerian of Adamu’s stature would rather “eat” alone, spurning anyone who comes for the crumbs. Adamu would not even throw crumbs at people but would always eat with them. We knew the kind of food he ate because his equally kind-hearted wife would always send it to him while he sat on the porch with visitors, and everyone would eat from the bowl with him. On every given evening, he would have cartons of fura supplied and would insist that you take your fill and even carry some away. Indeed, we are going to miss everything about him, including this side of his magnanimity.
He would travel long distances to attend wedding and or naming ceremonies, as well as commisserate with families and individuals over loss of dear ones, accidents or other forms of trouble. Caring for others, he would phone people to find out about their situation, especially those about whom he had a rumour or those that seemed to have ignored him for a long while. I happened to fall in the latter category, for I used to disappear from his view for months on end, only to reappear one day. Any time I saw Adamu phoning me after I had committed that offence against the tenets of zumunci, I would feel so guilty that I would hesitate before answering, while struggling to invent an excuse. He never took offence against his friends even if they were reported to have criticised him behind his back. No wonder he made up quickly with anyone that had broken up with him, to the extent that you would wonder whether he really knew the meaning of ego.
Adamu was a one-man Red Cross and Red Crescent combined, always in the service of the sick and the afflicted. He would sit up wondering what he could do to ameliorate the suffering of others. Years back when he realised the huge swarm of unemployed youths in Kaduna State, he established a vocational centre where youths would learn one trade or the other. And it worked. Originally a Nupe, he had grown up in Tudun Wada, Kaduna, one of the poor areas in the metropolis where violence had become a scourge perpetrated by idle youths determined to survive at all costs, so he knew the pangs and consequences of poverty and want. That’s why, when providence smiled on him, he refused to turn his back on poverty or the downtrodden.
The wealth that came through his hands passed in huge quantities to the people he met. He fed, clothed and sheltered the poor. He paid the fares for multitudes to perform the Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia every year. He bought vehicles – cars, motor cycles and bicycles – for countless others. Through him, many university and secondary school leavers found jobs, and the uneducated he gave money to start small businesses. He would preach continuously against indolence or dishonest acts. And for countless others who came into conflict with one another, he served as mediator, going to every extent to achieve peace and harmony.
He mediated untiringly between spouses, tribes, adherents of religions, business colleagues, etc. Last year he performed such a role for me when a business we started with some fellows foundered into rough straits. The mediation worked, against all odds. But the first time I ignored his advice – his fervent desire that I should not to go into business with another person – I sorely missed the chance of enjoying the fruits of his good counsel. Later, he told me, “You can’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Adamu, like many young men, lived many dreams. He was specifically interested in the promotion of journalism – his profession. He wanted journalists to become truly professional, eschewing the bad habits that invariably bring them to grief. On this, I recommend anyone to read the two-page interview he granted the Sunday New Nigerian’s Shittu Obassa, published in the paper’s issue of August 5, 2007. It was a collector’s item on the personality of Adamu Yusuf.
I don’t know why Nagarta Radio was set up in Kaduna by Gen. Aliyu Gusau beyond the rumoured ambition by the former National Security Adviser to run for president in the 2007 election, but I knew that Adamu played a pivotal role in its take-off. As a confidant of the owner, he was responsible for recruiting the very capable pioneer staff and shaping the editorial policy that contributed to the station’s instant success. Recently, I learnt, through him, that he was working hard to help Nagarta start a television station of the same name; always eager to help me forge ahead in my profession, and knowing about the collapse of a business venture I helped start, he wondered if I would like to work there. I told him no, the print media was my everlasting preference, for obvious reasons.
When Adamu left the BBC last year, the biggest dream he nursed up till his final days was setting up a radio station of his own. He asked me to suggest a name for it, saying he wasn’t comfortable with the names other people gave him. I took days to study the names of various FM radio stations across Africa and gave him a memo containing various names for him to pick. I learnt he had even acquired some of the equipment needed for the take-off of the station. Even though some would think he would not need it now, I believe that his people – the northerners – would. If so, Adamu would definitely need to see it established even in his absence.
From the foregoing, one could see why Alhaji Adamu was such a well-liked person and why his funeral was attended by thousands and thousands more trooped to his house. Indeed, the world of all that related with Adamu will never be the same again; it’s going to be a lot more unkind and harsh.
I will conclude with a call on the Kaduna State Government to implement programmes that would uplift the life of the young men and women in the state. That way the deceased’s beliefs – empowering the life of the youths – would not be in vain. And in order to help keep his memory alive, the government should rename Gwamna Road to Adamu Yusuf Road and upgrade his vocational centre to a model school for crafts, among other projects that could be initiated for the improvement of the life of young Nigerians, who will become the elders of tomorrow.
May Allah forgive Adamu Yusuf, reward him with paradise and give his family and friends the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss, amen.