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The loss of a graceful giant

Yesterday, Hajiya Asma’u, owner of Excel in College Kano, reminded me of the death I’m yet to come to terms with when she sent me the following text:

“On behalf of Excel College, I wish to extend my condolences to you on the death of your friend Umar Said Tudunwada. May Allah SWT forgive his sins and grant him Aljannah Firdaus ameen. I remember he was with you at the hotel when you came for a programme.”

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Actually, he was more like an uncle. We all called him Uncle UST.

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The last time I spoke with him was only recently. I remember it was a Friday. “Congratulations on your children’s wedding,” I said and apologized for not being able to travel to Kano. He showed understanding in his usual attention-grabbing voice.

Uncle UST had a talent that I admired, that I try to copy but never got the opportunity of mentioning to him. Usually, when someone inspires me, I tell them; to encourage them to be a light for others.

Long before social media groups became popular, we belonged to some email groups (Ra’ayi, Dandali, Arewa Renainacence, etc.) together with UST – and Yakubu Musa, Dr. Ibrahim Musa, Yakubu Rigasa, Sanyi Sanyi, Asma’u Gwadabe, Binta Spikin, Professor Abba Gumel, Professor Kabiru, Hussain Jibrin, Baban Shareek, John Danfulani, Takashilma Halla, Ibraheem Waziri, Dr. Waziri, Dr. Umma Musa, Dr. Baba Shehu Umar, Dr. Bukar, Engr. Magaji, Hamisu Gumel, Barrister Kasim and Bashir Abubakar; to mention just a few.

The talent UST had that I struggled to copy was how he would actively participate in the discussion of controversial topics without a drop of the controversy on him. While lesser mortals would be completely enveloped in the mud of that controversy – scarcely recognizable, for UST, it was like pouring water on a calabash.

Whenever a new controversy landed, I would say, “let me see how UST will navigate this one.” But he always did so perfectly – in a manner that all parties would see him as their own, trust him and feel safe in his company. To me, that is the definition of Dattijo.

He died on June 30, 2019 at the age of 59 in a car crash on his way back to Kano from a Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) meeting in Abuja.  According to media reports, the accident happened just 30 kilometres away from Kano.

At the time of his death, he was the deputy president Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and general manager of Freedom Radio. He worked with NTA, Concern, VOA, Deutsche-Welle, ARTV, Radio Kano and was a media aide to Dr. Kwankwaso.

Indeed, when he visited me at the hotel with Dr Ibrahim Musa when I traveled to Kano in 2013 (or 2014), he told me how he left Kwankwaso’s government but kept the relationship; that story inspired my own resignation from Niger State government a year later.

I’ve found that the best of us die before the rest of us.

He is survived by 21 children.

May Allah grant Danmasanin Tudunwada Aljannatul Firdaus.

 

Postcript:

After writing this tribute and sharing it on the social media, the universal acknowledgement and agreement with which everyone reacted to the tribute vindicated my submission. I actually thought part of my reading of his character was in my head. But I was wrong.

“Tears welled up in my eyes while reading this,” some readers confessed.

“I read this with tears-filled eyes,” Hussain Jibrin said.

“Innalillahi wa inna Ilaihir rajiuna. Still shedding tears. Allah ya jaddada rahama agareshj yasa yana dausayin aljanna.. Amin,” Nazeer Bello said.

To drive this point home further, I met Professor Mustapha later in Minna who told me he also knew UST and agreed with my description of him: “I read your tribute only yesterday,” Professor said. “I didn’t know you knew him. I know him well myself. He was such an amazing individual,” he concluded.

 

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