The call came around 6pm; it was from our mutual friend, Ado Musa Abubakar. I was so sure he wanted to brief me on the outcome of a research workshop he attended that Saturday morning. It was Sallah eve and I would have attended the workshop if not for the fact that I was travelling to Kaduna to celebrate the festivity with my family. I had earlier asked Ado to brief me on what may have transpired from the academic exercise and so, when my phone rang and I answered it, there was no doubt in my mind that Ado was only fulfilling the earlier obligation.
His voice was calm as he said: “Hajiya, many things have happened today.” An enthusiastic me, thinking he was referring to the workshop said; “I’m sure.”
But there was a pause on the other end and I later understood, a battle had waged inside Ado on whether or not to break the tragic news he had moments before learnt of. Momentarily, he asked if I knew Bashir Liman, our freelance journalist in Jos, was to travel home that day and I answered in the affirmative. Besides, just moments before Ado’s call, I had received a press statement on the Sallah celebration and had contemplated forwarding it to Bashir to work on. I only changed my mind when I looked at the time and it occurred to me that Bashir would either be on transit or just arriving home.
Just two days before Ado became the bearer of sad news, Bashir and I had discussed his trip to Jama’are in Bauchi State. He had earlier scheduled the trip for Friday but for whatever reason which I never enquired, rescheduled it for Saturday. He had assured me he would return to Jos on Tuesday by Allah’s will so as to follow up on a story for our Benue/Plateau Trust page. Though I knew Bashir had moved his trip by a day, he had shared the details of the rescheduled trip including the timing with Ado, who spent most part of Friday with him. Ado was aware that Bashir was to leave Jos sometimes around noon and he had confided in him that based on his calculation, his arrival time would match Maghrib (sunset prayer) time when it would be time to break the fast.
But as we make our plans, Allah makes His, and indeed, Allah’s plans are the best! Bashir never made it home. He had arrived Bauchi town safely and sometime around 2:40pm, twitted about Manchester City and Liverpool football clubs. But just about 77 kilometres away from Bauchi town, on the road leading to Ningi, two over speeding vehicles; a Mazda and Ford Galaxy space busses rammed into Bashir’s black Pontiac Vibe, killing him. The confirmation of his death first invoked fear, then there was confusion and for days, myself and many others who held Bashir dear wept from the heart break losing him had caused.
It is now two weeks since the demise of our brother, friend and colleague, Bashir Liman. Living in a world without him is depressing as many colleagues and friends have stated. Like many others who were close to him, I still hear his voice in my head, the image of his boyish grin still lingers and I sometimes hope to see that boisterous personality walk through the doors, just to release us from this hallowedness caused by his loss.
Whenever he was in the office, Bashir and I shared a corner of the office with his table beside mine. The memories of the days when he would walk in with nothing but a big smile painted on his face, and an air of importance, is still very fresh. He would then ask Susan Pam, our office assistant, if we missed him and she would accuse him of a disappearing act. Just then, he would tell her to blame it on me who constantly kept him busy. Bashir would then walk to the office accountant, Jennifer Igah, knock on her table and cook up a story of how the management of Media Trust had issued a directive to her to pay him some imaginary allowance. After she would chase him away, he would now fall back on me, briskly, he would walk to my table and exclaim: “sai Hajiya! “kiji dadin ki” (I hail Hajiya, enjoy yourself) and I would ask, “where is the enjoyment, Bashir?” He would then settle down and momentarily, start to pound into his laptop keyboard in a manner I then found annoying. Sometimes, he would pick my small office pillow to support his sitting position and when I would complain to Madam Susan, that Bashir was depriving me of using it, he would say what belongs to me was his to use, after all, I was his sister and his Oga in the office.
Often times, he would work for hours, churning out materials for the Daily Trust Saturday and Aminiya publication. But he also knew when to take a break and would constantly say there was no point working too hard only to ‘crash’ when a little break could recharge him.
In the last few years I’ve worked with Bashir, it’s been dosses after dosses of humour. He was consistent, highly dependable and a confident. He made the work seem less stressful, and was committed to accomplishing each task assigned to him.
Our hearts are still heavy and we have cried our eyes out, but what is done is done. Bashir’s absence now leaves only good memories that induce a smile and a little sadness. He was friendly with everyone; he generously offered his smile even when people were unfair or judgemental towards him. He gave his time, resources and sacrificed his comfort for the convenience of others.
As we mourn Bashir’s exit, we also mourn a life without the joy he brought to us. In your death, Bashir, we found an expression of love from friends and colleagues we never knew existed. It was the way you lived; without bitterness, smiling constantly and going the extra mile for even those who didn’t deserve it.
With your departure, Madam Susan reunited with a long lost brother who she said was a source of inspiration to her life. That brother was your father. Coming face to face with your father, Mal. Musa Liman on the day we visited Jama’are to condole with your family, all it took was one look, and your father recognised Madam Susan. His exclamation of; “Suzie,” was that of a relief and homecoming of a long lost sister. She in turn, with a mixed expression of confusion and sense of realisation muttered; “Malam Musa.” In that moment, I thought, if only you knew of this relationship before your demise, I imagine how you would have told anyone who cared to know that Madam Susan was your relative, you would have boasted about it and even teased her more often.
As mortals, we say your death was sudden, even unexpected, Bashir. But by Allah, the timing was perfect. Inna lillahi wa Inna ilayhi raji’un (We belong to Allah and to Allah we shall return). We are consoled that you did not just die on any day but on the day of Arafat, fasting and had the blessings of thousands of people who attended your funeral prayer on eid day.
Bashir, in your death, I’ve come to the realisation that in this chaotic world of ours, it pays to be cheerful, it pays to radiate love. May Allah forgive your short comings and grant you paradise.