By Adamu Usman Garko
Our esteemed mentor, Mallam Muhsin Ibrahim, nudged us to appreciate people who have impacted our persons and careers through their selfless doings. This noble orientation inspired my decision to beam the fluorescence of my appreciation on Alhaji Kabiru Tsoho, the person who supported me with books, sponsored the publication of my premier collection When Day Breaks, and in other ways that will be laid bare in this piece. As time permits, I will beam this same light on several others who continue to pillar my growth as an individual, but, for now, enjoy this memoir of appreciation for Alhaji Kabiru Tsoho.
Before I delve into Alhaji Kabiru Tsoho’s long list of generous deeds, please permit me to re-emphasise that I am willing to immortalise heroes who have been contributory to our strides as individuals and as a community of young writers with my writings since their kindness is so immense that repayment will be futile. It is, in fact, global truth that impact can not be fully compensated with money, but writings of this nature are efforts to display our continuous gratitude and appreciation for these people.
Cherished readers and friends! Behind the glitters of my successes that many of you take pride in stands a selfless and generous pillar who caught them at infancy and nursed them. Allah in His Sublimity has this divine act of using people driven by pure generosity, sincerity, knowledge and experience as thresholds of the successes of other people. For me, this person is Alhaji Kabiru Tsoho.
In 2017 when I began the intellectual struggle of creative writing for public consumption through my social media platforms, I was very young. I posted a poem on my page, and Alhaji Kabiru Tsoho dropped a comment under the poem to show his heartfelt admiration for the work. He asked if I lived in Gombe, and I replied in the affirmative. This engagement would later birth the offer of his library for my usage; this signifies the beginning of his many contributions to my craft.
Before this blessed encounter with him, my medium of studying was my TECNO Y4. It was herculean to read on the phone due to its small storage capacity and small screen size. So, imagine how difficult it was to read for someone like me who was bred in a community bereft of the love for reading and writing. These days, I awake to the fascinating sights of shelves brimming with books I own and this, to me, signifies exponential growth and exaltation.
In fact, the story of how I picked this bizarre interest in writing despite the general lack of interest in such preoccupation and without a significant predecessor still astounds me. That I awoke to the blur images of me; reading and writing, is something that still leaves me in great awe, thanks to Mr Nongo Asor, my first English Literature teacher, in whose practical class I fell in love with writing.
Sequel to Alhaji Kabiru Tsoho’s offer, I visited him in great anticipation to see his library brimmed with books I had fantasised about. His humility is as broad as the sky, and his comeliness was huge even mountainous does not fit. He was and still is an influential figure in the state. However, his jovial persona during my first visit belied his public status, and he has not ceased being that warm person.
After a brief conversation with him, he walked me into his rich library and directed me to the fiction section that beheld the best of fictional writings. My interest then lay deeply in fiction. We resolved that I would take 5 – 8 books every month, read them, and discuss them with him thereafter. At this juncture, it is important to add that I have not come across a book wiz like him; he remembers all details of any book with astute precision.
The arrangement continued as agreed upon. Then, my transition began from a hungerer for books over-stressed by his phone to an accessory of a library stacked with diverse fictional writings across all genres. Alhaji Kabiru is always procuring new books and constantly consuming more and more. His thirst for knowledge is insatiable, and this never cinched off his virtual and physical engagements.
Apart from the aforementioned, he is one of the very few from whom I got honest feedback. The feedbacks that were ever encouraging and challenged me to do more. Consequentially, Alhaji Kabiru’s house in Gombe became my second home, and a place of consolation and direction where he was/is ever ready to be a guide even on my personal choices and decisions. He doubled as a father figure and literary mentor.
When, in 2018, I received an invitation to, alongside two others from Kaduna and Kano states, represent the North at the Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange, he was the second person I called. Alhaji Kabiru was delighted to learn that I would be meeting the esteemed Nobel Laureate in his hometown in Abeokuta and assured me of his continued support. Funny as it may sound, that journey was my first travel out of Gombe state. Now that I have travelled to many states in the South and North of this country, it is a delight that I never travelled for any other purpose apart from educational and literary matters, and all were strictly by invitation.
Alhaji Kabiru said that I was supposed to have begun writing a book. He was thrilled when I informed him that I had about three unpublished manuscripts already. He quizzed about what delayed their publication, and I stated that it was due to a lack of sponsorship. Alhaji Kabiru offered to sponsor the publication to the last naira. I searched for my poetry collection manuscript, When Day Breaks and sent it to a publishing press. The publishers replied with some options, and I opted to print five hundred copies, totalling a considerable amount of money. Without batting an eyelid, Alhaji Kabiru made full payment, and the publication began.
By Allah, this gesture came unexpectedly as our society is brimmed with people who never help even when they can do that. But here was Alhaji Kabiru Tsoho selflessly offering me a largesse I would hold onto forever.
When the book was eventually published, and the five hundred copies were sent to me, Alhaji Kabiru Tsoho was the first person I called while carting the books home. I said I would take the books to him first so he would be the first to see them. But to my utter surprise, he asked me not to bother that this was his way of supporting Gombe and challenged me to keep making the state proud.
The book copies were delivered in 2018, but they remained in my drawer due to insufficient funds to organise the launch. I embarked on massive promotion of the book through several fora as buildup towards a launch I had no idea how to execute. Almost a year after, Alhaji Kabiru Tsoho quizzed me on why the book had not been released to the public despite the wildfire spread of its title. I informed him of my predicament. He immediately asked for a range of the cost which I provided, and he promised full financing of the book launch.
Alhaji Kabiru has a heart filled with honesty, generosity, unrestrained warmth, and passion for exemplifying good for the sake of Allah without expecting anything in return. When the date for the launch was fixed, and everything had been readied for the book presentation/launch, I requested him to chair the occasion. To my surprise, he declined and asked to grace the event as a spectator rather than as a special guest. See humility? But I insisted because I couldn’t think of any other person. Upon my insistence, he accepted.
However, the day scheduled for the presentation coincided with his official duty in Kano. Despite that, he still came to honour me at the book presentation with a rich speech chronicling his encounter with me. Immediately after his speech, he apologised that he would be leaving for the said appointment.
It is an understatement that the publication of my book inspired many young people in many states to take their pens and begin to write. Here, in Gombe especially, the release of When Day Breaks led to the discovery and rise of many young talents. I wouldn’t be off track to say this book brought me out of obscurity to the little limelight I enjoy now. Not only has it allowed me some level of financial independence and granted me the luxury of owning books of all genres, but it has also won several awards and taken me to places I had never imagined.
The same book brought me access to Professor Saleh Abdu, an internationally renowned scholar who had nurtured many Professors, including the popular critic, Professor Farooq Kperogi. Out of his sheer passion to encourage me, Professor Saleh Abdu wrote the forward to the book and doubled as the book reviewer during the Book Presentation. But he didn’t stop at that. He recommended the book to his university students, which spiked demand for the poetry collection written by a high school student. In addition, the same book was enlisted by the Daily Trust newspaper in 2018 among the 15 best books in Nigeria.
All of these happened because Alhaji Kabiru Tsoho breathed reality into my dreams and gifted me the keys to open doors in a society replete with apathy for talent promotion. These strides were possible because of Alhaji’s benevolent decision to gift me support and acceptance in a community characterised by a longstanding culture of celebrating mediocrity.
Alhaji Kabiru Tsoho isn’t only dedicated to supporting people like myself; he doubles as a trailblazing administrator and ardent public servant who worked with the previous Governor in the area of finance and has since been re-elected to serve the present administration in a superior capacity in the same department due to his level of transparency and expertise.
His choice as an administrator is not political. It results from his ingenuity, doggedness, and selfless service to humanity, which has drawn people from every class and background to him despite his apathy for attention. With many success stories at his disposal, he could use the media for self-promotion. Still, he has chosen otherwise because he values hard work, supports creativity, and anticipates his reward from Allah.
His is a life devoid of pretension. Like many he has helped, my success story will never be complete without special tribute paid to him. He wasn’t just a mentor but a beacon of light, a pillar and a parasol that shields. He is a father and a confidant who is deeply vested in change and development.
If I had written a compendium of eulogy to show gratitude, they would not suffice. He was there when there was no one. He was present when the journey was rough and the path uncharted. He spurred me on with love and acceptance. He encouraged and moulded me with his warm hands. In an attempt to pay it forward, I have assumed the role of a pillar in my little ways to numerous other young minds.
I remember Alhaji Kabiru Tsoho whenever young minds under my tutelage show their appreciation whenever I gift them books or access to opportunities to launch their careers (two of them are about to get their dream manuscripts published). So what I am doing now is nothing compared to the kindness I have received and am still receiving from Alhaji Kabiru Tsoho.
I will continue working tirelessly to impact young minds without any expectation of reward. In fact, it is indeed a source of delight to be a beacon of light to others like someone very dear has been to you. This is how to keep the world circling in a continuum of compassion.
For his deep devotion to helping people and his selflessness and understanding during the course of growth, and for his service to Gombe at large, I say thank you.
These words are not enough to thank him for his voluminous acts of kindness. I pray that Allah keeps elevating me on this path so I can reflect Alhaji Kabiru’s goodness for global appreciation. May Allah also grant Jannah to his parents, bless his family, forgive and grant him the highest place in Jannah.
May Allah further bestow him the economic wherewithal, mental stamina, spiritual aptitude and physical strength needed to continue the excellent work.
Adamu Usman Garko writes from Gombe State. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.