The late Maryam Babangida died in the city of Los Angeles in California on the 27th, December 2009 (exactly 10 years ago) but her death was felt far and wide, particularly in her home country of Nigeria and not just among family and friends, but among a certain group of young bright-eyed individuals: her students.
Mrs. Maryam Babangida established a school in the 1990s, called ‘El-Amin International School’, not long after her husband, Ibrahim Babangida had stepped down from the Presidency of Nigeria. The school started off as a Nursery and Primary school and soon extended into a Secondary school as well. Initially meant to be an only girls secondary school, it was eventually made a co-ed institution to serve the needs of parents looking to send their wards to schools within the region. El-Amin was among the few rising schools in the Northern region of Nigeria taking over from the prestigious government secondary schools of old and keeping up with worldwide educational standard.
Today, the school is still standing with a branch in the nation’s capital Abuja and while the school’s day to day activities are presently being handled by her son, Mohammed in Minna and her sister Hajiya Jummai Sambo in Abuja, the school alumni association also serves to keep the legacy of Mrs. Babangida alive. Nineteen years after the first graduating set from the secondary school in Minna, the alumni association has maintained a community of its students from all over the world. The alumni association today boasts of young men and women who are successful in their various fields, continuing the good work and upholding the legacy of Mrs. Babangida, by impacting the society for the better. Among the alumni network, are a varied group of people in all fields of excellence who are forever indebted to her work in improving their lives and future. It was indeed Mrs. Babangida’s vision to build young men and women of excellence, which the alumni network is an attestation of and I am sure she would be proud of the everlasting legacy she has left behind.
A member of that alumni association, Dr Amina Buba recalls the memory of Mrs. Babangida:
“I was in SS3 and it was my final birthday in secondary school, so I successfully managed to break the school rules and have some cooked food delivered to me in school knowing full well that those were prohibited items. The school guards of course seized the items and to deal with me, sent the items with my name to Madam’s house. Hours later, she sent her driver back with all my food and some extra food, with a message that simply said ‘Happy Birthday’. As a young teenager, that act of kindness left me awestruck”.
Inna-Fatimeh Ali an alumna and lawyer by profession adds:
“‘Madam’, ‘Mrs Maryam’, ‘Aunty Maryam’ as we called her was truly a star. And in all honesty, I struggle to find words, befitting of this amazing person. I remember vividly the moment that I was told she had passed on, I literally froze for the longest moment because in my young mind she was immortal. ‘People like that just don’t die’, I thought to myself. It is so hard to believe that it has been 10 years already”.
Mrs. Maryam Babangida was an epitome of greatness, an icon of beauty, fashion and style. I personally always admired her passion, hard work and dedication for excellence. It was very clear that despite all her glory, she was very humble. Most people were surprised by how involved and passionate she was with the daily running of El-Amin. She personally looked into the welfare of her students and was a motherly figure to us all. She had a great deal of love in her heart and that love showed in her behaviour. She would constantly open the doors of her home to her students and fed us to stupor. And when we erred, she was ‘mother like’ in disciplining us because she truly understood that we were all under her care and she was a surrogate mother. When we were being naughty, she would often say, ‘pikin wey say him Mama no go sleep, him too no go sleep’. She would actually give you a knock on the head and then hug you really tight afterwards. That was Madam.
Mrs. Maryam Babangida was a pearl and a diamond, a great leader and an inspirational woman. Outside of her work in education, and as First Lady, she was well known for her Better Life Programme and women empowerment initiatives. Mrs. Babangida used her office to bring attention to the issue of rural development which saw her launch the Better Life for Rural Women project established in 1986 and still active today. The project focused on reducing maternal and child mortality by increasing basic healthcare towards women and children, providing income generating opportunities in agriculture, integrating rural women into national development plans and educational training for women. She contributed immensely through the better life initiative to the upliftment of Nigerian women and children.
For the El-Amin Alumni Association and students, Mrs. Maryam Babangida will always be a guiding light in our lives. Her legacy lives on forever through us and the lives of countless others she positively touched through her kindness and generosity.
Dear Mama, from all your students the world over, I would like to say, “We love you so much and still miss that you are not here to see the greatness that you have built. We pray that Allah has granted you the highest rank in Jannah and that you are smiling down at us, looking at how your name continues to live on”. We also pray that Allah grants her family the fortitude and patience to continue to bear such a great loss.
Rest in peace ‘Mrs Maryam’!
Ahmed Rufai Liman (firstname.lastname@example.org) Telephone: 08038839789, Secretary General, El-Amin Alumni Association (For: El-Amin Alumni Association)