By Hannatu Musa Musawa
My dearest Dad,
As I try to pen down some sort of tribute for you, I can only think of beginning by telling you how much I miss you and just how much I love you.
You have always been the most important part of my entire life, and you will remain in my heart for all of eternity. Now that you are no longer with us, I know that my life just isn’t ever going to be the same without you. You were everything to me and did so much for me. You have been my guardian angel since I was a child and there will never be a day that I will not think about you and pray for you. Upon hearing the news of your passing, my heart shattered into a million pieces. I am in pain. The sort of pain that has taken a grip of me and seems determined to suffocate me.
This is by far the most devastatingly heart-ripping and life-altering incident I’ve ever experienced. And I am aware that the heartbreak of losing you may never leave me. While I hope that time is a great healer, I don’t think I will get over this agony. My greatest fear has always been how I would be able to navigate life without you. But as much as I love you, I know that Allah loves you more. The concept of Tawakkul, the Islamic concept of the reliance on God and trusting in God’s plan will have to be my comfort and healing. I will remain prayerful, faithful, grateful and comforted knowing how much you positively affected my life, our family and the lives of so many others.
Dad, not only were you my father, you were also my greatest role model, my hero, my inspiration, and my rock. Even though every day I communicated to you how grateful and lucky I was to have had you as a father, I feel as if you didn’t know how much I appreciated everything you represented in my life.
As I sit here writing what will be the hardest article I have ever written, I want to tell you Dad, just how much your struggles and hard work have been appreciated by your “little girl.” I would want the world to know how much of a good father you have been and I would want the strong bond between us to serve as an inspiration to all. I’m writing these words with the hope that it would be worthy of you.
Dad, I had come to learn that in the real world, where domination, bigotry, oppression, dishonesty, and corruption intertwine with all aspects of our lives, there are no easy, uncomplicated sources of inspiration. But there are lessons. I have always looked to you for those lessons about how to struggle against immorality and dishonesty, as well as for lessons about the structures of prejudice and chauvinism that I was confronted with in a highly dogmatic and sexist atmosphere. In your example and lessons, I have been able to find both inspiration and warning, inseparably tied.
When I think of your story as you have often told me, at first glance, it looks deceptively like a bootstraps tale of hard-won success and class mobility. But I think your resolve, opportunities and identity were shaped by much more than that. And in your biography that we were writing together, the world will be able to see your story through your eyes. Dad, I promise you that I am now more determined to finish that project and publish your book.
Your story: Oh yes, I remember every bit of your story… You were born in Bichi, Kano state on April 1st 1937. Your mother, Malama Habiba, was a religious young lady from Musawa, Katsina state, who passed away when you were just a baby. Your father, Malam Ahmadu, never remarried after the loss of your mother and you were sent to your mother’s village in Musawa to live with your aunty, Hajiya Alje, a true woman of substance who instilled a sense of independence, confidence and focus on you.
You grew up in a very hard, rural environment, the youngest of three children in a family constantly struggling to make ends meet. You were sent back to Bichi to attend school and along the way inherited a healthy distrust of the autocratic and feudalistic actions of both the Colonial and the Native Northern Governments. You had always told me that, even as far back as then, you felt a driving and throbbing need to stand up for the downtrodden and poor in the society. It was also then you realized that you had what I like to call, ‘the gift of the gab.’
Though you came of age during the transition for independence of Nigeria, you never lost your gut sense of egalitarian ethics. You strongly believed in democratization, women empowerment, and freedom of speech. Decades later as I was becoming politicized, you would confess that, you would forever remain a socialist; convinced that the staggering inequalities of our society were fundamentally wrong and we each had a duty to speak out against it and change it. I suspect that this core ethic contributed to your acceptance of so many things, amongst which, surprisingly, is feminism. All my life, I have watched you try to break down the rigid Arewa gender boundaries for your 8 daughters with mixed success, in your relationship with our mothers and your relationship with our husbands. And in the process, I learned a lot about patriarchy, not the least of which is its frustrating resilience.
Struggle and hard work framed your young adulthood. Attending Kano Secondary School was never really a priority for a young man of your humble background, but with the encouragement of your aunty forever playing on your psyche, you were determined to pull yourself and your family out of the dearth in which you had seen your family toil in and you were determined to put yourself in a position where you could speak up for the millions whom you felt did not have a voice. You knew that education as the only way you could achieve that. So you put yourself through school and fought to remain and excel there and you skimmed through while also working.
Around about the same time, Mallam Aminu Kano, the son of a noble Islamic scholar had begun a movement of young radicals eager to fight for change known as the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU). It was an incontestably natural progression for you to join NEPU. So you became Youth Chairman of NEPU in Bichi and together with the likes of Alh Ali Abdallah, Alh. Sobo Bakin Zuwo, Alh. Abubakar Rimi, Alh. Balarabe Musa, Alh. Sule Lamido, Alh Adamu Garkuwa, Alh Wada Abubakar, Alh Sadi Gabari, Alh Abba Musa Rimi and many others, you challenged the ruling elite in the north.
You went to the University of Ife, Ibadan to study Public Administration, after which you got a job with the BBC African Service. You stayed at the BBC for 5 years before proceeding to Cambridge University to study Chinese. You then joined the Foreign Service.
Dad, our story is as vast as it is fascinating. Through the course of your life, you sold kola nut (goro), went into trading, became a civil servant, went into broadcasting, did stand-up comedy, immersed yourself in academics, went into the foreign service, opened a hospital, spoke Chinese, became a radical, was a teacher, became a businessman, rose as a politician, emerged as a farmer, morphed into an incredible orator and was able to achieve so much. You truly were one of the greatest orators and word smiths of your time.
Dad, apart from when you speak about your late aunty, Hajiya Alje, and your late friend Alhaji Lawal Baloni, the only time I have seen you speak in an emotional manner with tears welling up in your eyes is when you speak about Malam Aminu Kano. You adored and looked up to Malam Aminu Kano and you were one of the closest people to the late hero. When Malam formed the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), you were elected as the treasurer at the national convention and later contested for the governorship of Kaduna State in 1983 under the party.
Summing up your life, Dad, those who knew you will always reiterate and come back to one thought. Never will you meet a man who more faithfully lived his values. Your kind was rare. You were a teacher of all things. Your method was simple. You taught by example. Your character is the foundation of the conscience of many of those who encountered you, who worked with you and who were part of your life. Your teachings are endless. You were strong in body, in spirit, and in commitment. You fulfilled every obligation you ever undertook. Your word was your bond, and everyone knew it. You were loyal. You are a loss that nothing can replace. Your faithfulness to the people you interacted with during your lifetime could be seen in the way you steadfastly maintained ties with anyone you ever knew. You had a quiet dignity, respecting yourself the way you respected others. Although you are no more, today, however, we have the privilege of celebrating someone who epitomizes leadership; someone whose life reflects a heart of service and commitment to faith, family, friends, and certainly those who strive to follow your example.
Dad, I will never miss an opportunity to speak of what a great father you were and how you never missed an opportunity to speak about how your greatest pride and joy were your children, all twelve of us. You were always supportive to every one of us in our personal, professional, and educational lives. And you always made yourself available to watch television, eat, play games, listen, pray and have regular family picnics with your children. You struggled to make sure you gave us the very best education. And in the late seventies that effort led us to the UK where you enrolled us in the very best schools in England. I will forever be grateful to you, Dad, for that priceless foundation.
Only those who truly knew you realise that you had the greatest sense of humour. And I can categorically say that I have never met anyone, not even my sisters Rabi and Hadi (who are absolutely hilarious) as funny, sarcastic and with a penchant to wittily-exaggerate the funny side of life like you Dad. Many of my most inspirational moments with you wereduring our daily experiences when you used humour to try to make a point.
Dad, you were the greatest philanthropist and you never publicized the deeds you did for people. Over the decades, I saw you educate countless of youths to further themselves in school, build houses for people, sponsor the sick for medical treatment at home and abroad, build mosques, build schools, feed families and employ hundreds of people in your ‘beloved’ Manema farm. Dad, you were the first to put the name of Musawa, Katsina on the map and sponsored several successful people from that town to better opportunities.
Dad, the love you draped in this world will grow and live on, and that is the greatest measure of any human being. You had a heart of gold, and it is incredibly empowering and inspirational to see just how infinite your reach has been.
Sometime a very long time ago, I learnt that the truest way to gauge the character of any person is through how much love they can give; how selflessly they share whatever they can to help others; how consistently they lift those around them with a kind word, through humour, a compliment, or with humility. By this very benchmark, Dad, you were immeasurable.
Can I speak about the flipside to my perception of your perfection Dad? Because you always taught me to be honest and objective. At the other end of your spectrum was your tenaciousness, temperament, and an over heightened state of self-esteem. You saw it as pride. In fact, some of the more poignant lessons I took from you has to do with the imperfections you had. Mostly, they centred on your worst demons, inextricably linked to the workings of our social order and the lack of acknowledgement for your struggles and your potential; the struggles and potential that Mallam Aminu Kano, more than anyone else, recognised in you.
I’ve always acknowledged your defects and successes but most of all, the inspirational role you played in my life, the life of our family and the lives of so many others. Simply put, I would not be the person that I am today without you Dad. You helped equip me with some essential reflective tools for challenging systems of oppression. You embodied a, not entirely, different way for me to look at myself as an independent Hausa/Fulani woman. And you taught me basic things, to confront my own struggles, to always stand up for what I think is right, to always be kind and never cruel, to never forget how to cry and to never put myself in a position where anyone would undermine my integrity or my virtue as a decent woman from a decent home. These are lessons I religiously carry with me every day of my life.
In everything I do Dad, I have felt your hand on my shoulder, especially when things got tough to deal with. I have heard your words of encouragement, I have heard your advice, and I even heard your reprimand. I promise to abide by everything you taught me as if you were right there watching and guiding me. And while I know that I have my memories of you, I also know that your spirit will live on in my heart. They often say that “Love leaves a memory no one can steal, but death leaves a memory no one can heal.” It is a loving memory for me when I think about your life and all you did for me and my siblings. The good memories will remain with us forever, knowing the ability imparted by you into our lives.
I adore you Dad very much, even as a child when you used to make us watch snooker and horse riding, and the most sincere way I know of expressing my love is never to compromise the ethics you strived so hard to instil in me, to learn from the mistakes you confided in me and to never ignore the privilege you have given me. To forget any of this would be the greatest disrespect to you. In this sense, I will continue to carry you with me and use you as a yard stick for honour and integrity.
Dad, your life, your influence, your legacy, your struggles, your energy will always be inextricably linked to mine and I now take comfort in that. I take comfort in knowing that you are no longer in painand that the twelve year of suffering with your health that we watched you go through is no longer something you have to endure.
I feel so blessed to have you as my father and I’m thankful for the wonderful life you have given me.The legacy you left is what makes me what I am today and keeps me progressing in life. I’ll do my best to carry on in your footsteps dear Dad.
Baba, everything I have written in this tribute mirrors the hearts and minds of each one of my eleven siblings and our mothers. I know that I speak for them as much as I speak for myself.
Dad, you are in my heart, and I will always love and miss you. You brought so much joy to our family, more than you’ll ever know. I salute you; I honor you for an infinite number of reasons, I celebrate you, and I thank you for so much more than I can express with these words. My gratitude to you is endless…
Thank you for keeping me safe and giving me a never-ending sense of physical safety and emotional security!
Thank you for marching to school with me when you learnt that someone was bullying me and ensuring that I was protected!
Thank you for encouraging me to play football on the girl’s football team and coming to watch the games while cheering me on!
Thank you for displaying to me the power of humor, how to read a room and the art of diplomacy through your actions!
Thanks for showing me what kindness, integrity, honor, patriotism, and loyalty looks like!
Thank you for teaching me the importance of family!
Thank you for being protective of me throughout my life!
Thank you for always encouraging me to be the very best version of myself!
Thank you for never lying to me!
Thank you for going with me to Law school on my first day and severally getting out of the car in the, then, wilderness of Bwari to ensure you brought food for me!
Thank you for loving and accepting me and always making me feel like I am good enough. Even when I fell, you were always there to make sure I got back on my feet!
Thank you for reprimanding me when I did wrong and always using it as a teachable moment!
Thank you for keeping our family as one united unit and ensuring that my siblings and I always maintained peace and tranquility!
Thank you for encouraging me to read law, cheering me on to write and become an author and being the first to read my weekly articles!
Thank you for engaging in so many businesses to provide our family with a comfortable lifestyle!
Thank you for teaching me about equality and the importance of accepting those who may not be like me or as privileged as me!
Thank you for imparting the importance of education on me!
Thank you for teaching me about politics and training me on public speech!
Thank you for giving me so much confidence to rise to the challenge of any venture I embark on!
Thank you for teaching me the importance of humility, philanthropy, and the remarkable power of emotional and financial generosity!
Thank you for making fulfilled with my heritage of being a Nigerian!
Thank you for showing me what it means to be a good man, an extraordinary citizen, and an outstanding father!
Thank you for loving me so much!
Thank you for being you!
Thank you for making me proud to be the daughter of Alhaji Musa Musawa!
Dad you will long remain an inspiration to those who will serve their community, their country, and we are blessed to have shared the gift of your life with us all. I am so proud of you. You made Katsina proud, you made Arewa proud, and you will always make Nigeria even prouder.
You will not soon be forgotten. Your reward will be great in Heaven. We pray for you and for those who knew you.
My final words for you Dad is a prayer… To all who loved you; your staff, assistants, neighbors, colleagues, admirers, community, friends and family: especially Hajiya Amme, Hajiya Ladi, Hajiya Asiya, Hauwa (Beby), Mohammed (Kabiru,) Hadiza (Hadi), Ahmed (Babangida), Binta, Rabi, Sa’adatu (Ummita), Halima, Aminu, Zainab, Mohammed and all your grandchildren…
“May the Almighty reward you and help you to apply patient endurance and appreciation. Indeed our spirit, possessions and families are magnificent gifts, which God has loaned us for a period and he takes them away after the termination of that period. Gratitude becomes necessary when He gives, and patience is mandatory when He takes.
Alhaji Musa Musawa, your boss, neighbour, friend, colleague, brother, father, husband and son was from among that great gift which God allowed you to enjoy in a way that was fortunate and gratifying. Although you loved him, his place is with his maker now. As he has gone home, it is your duty to show patience in his death and gratitude for his life.
May the Almighty augment your recompense, be kind in your misfortune, forgive the deceased, encourage you with endurance and give you peace. I pray you have the fortitude to bear his loss.”
As we witness another twilight and the death of another national treasure, I pray that God forgives and has mercy on the soul of Alhaji Musa Musawa and makes honorable his reception. May Allah keep him safe and sound, protect the place where he has rested and make his entrance wide; bless him for his good deeds and surround him with a garden filled with beauty. May he receive the gentle blow of a cool breeze, be washed with snowflakes, ice, sleet, water and everything pure and cleansed of sin as a white cloth is purified perfectly. I pray Allah admits him to Paradise and may his grave be spacious and filled with light: Amen.
I love you with all my heart to the moon and back Dad.
Hanney (Hannatun Baba)