Ahmadu Shehu, PhD.
Like any other place around the world, 2021 has not been easy, and 2022 does not seem to promise anything better. Great people have been lost all over, but Adamawa State has seen its worst for a very long time.
On one of those cold mornings, the world learnt about the transition of one of the bedrocks of the modern Nigerian university system, Dr Mahmud Tukur, the pioneer Vice-Chancellor of what has become Nigeria’s centre of academic excellence, Bayero University, Kano.
Not many weeks passed before death struck again, this time at the heart of the Nigerian civil service veterans, taking away one of the best black-boxes, our father, Baba Ahmed Joda. As if that was not enough loss already, one of the leading public servants, a silent achiever and an erudite scholar, Alh. Abdullahi Danburam Jada left a vast vacuum that cannot be filled in the foreseeable future.
These were first class, first-generation Nigerians who fought for and served this nation in different and various capacities. They built the nation’s civil service, education, military, politics and economy. These were among the people without whom there wouldn’t have been Nigeria. They were the best Adamawa could offer to the world.
But, today, I have not been as sad for a very long time because the reality of losing an icon, a mentor, has come to a step closer. A piece of unbelievable news surfaced on various platforms that one of the best of the bests in brain and character, a glittering light, a joint of unity among many, an icon of devotion and commitment, one of the most selfless souls, whose humility, sacrifice and gentility are immeasurable has gone to rest.
Professor Gidado Tahir? No! I couldn’t believe it, for we have so much in stock waiting to be accomplished, none of which was for him or any single soul. Everything has been for his society, Nigeria, humanity. Although already 74, I couldn’t fathom the reality that Prof. has left without seeing some of these things happen.
However, the will of Allah is sacrosanct. Therefore, I accept it. I have come to terms with the reality that Professor Gidado Tahirhas left for good, but not without leaving us behind with the heavy responsibility of actualizing beautiful plans for our society and humanity.
My relationship with Professor Gidado is a 24-year-old journey full of fascinating stories, exciting experiences and unforgettable lessons. In 1997, my father, Shehu Isa, took me alongside the headmaster of our nomadic primary school, Mamukan, Mal. Ahmed Musa Nyibango, to visit the head of the National Commission for Nomadic Education.
Before the visit, my father had organized a well-attended first graduation ceremony to celebrate the first graduands of the school. Professor Gidado was ably represented but asked that my father visit him for familiarization. I was 12 years old, fresh from primary into junior secondary.
My headmaster introduced me to him as the school prefect and the first in class position during that occasion. Prof. shook my tiny hands and said, “sannu maa Professor”, and while stirring deep into my eyes, he added, “do not leave school because you are the future”.
He then asked my father to “please keep in touch” and not relent in his pursuit for the education of the nomads, who he persuades to settle down with him and enrol their children into school. Indeed, my father kept to these words until the final moment.
The subsequent encounter was when Prof. handed me my Grade II certificate, which I earned from a DFID-sponsored nomadic teacher training program anchored by F.C.E., Yola and NCNE. Once again, Prof. followed this by saying to me, “move on, this is not the bus stop”, and that there is so much ahead to achieve. I heeded this advice and returned to school immediately after completing the two-year mandatory service at my nomadic school of origin.
In 2004, the year I obtained an N.C.E., someone from the college who knew my modest academic activities had the cause to discuss me with him. I didn’t have a phone at the time, but Prof. ensured that his message got to me. It says, “please further your education to the university and let me know if you need my help. You can reach me on….” I immediately walked to my mentor at the college, Dr Salihi Atiku, and asked him to facilitate my results and application to the university.
There was a slight communication gap since I joined the University of Maiduguri until Dr Nafisatu D. Muhammed – who was instrumental to the survival of the entire nomadic education and my personal progress – mentioned me to him, highlighting my modest first-class degree and seeking his intervention in my application for a teaching job.
As the usual father that he was, Prof. immediately asked to see me, spoke to me regularly, mentored, engaged and supported me during my good and bad times. My last moments with him are unforgettable. He invited me to his house in the Villa on a Friday evening, where I met him undergoing physiotherapy with his doctor. I asked to excuse them, but he said to me, “sit here close to me, my son because you [plural] are our pride.”
More like a pre-planned episode, Prof narrated their struggle at and for NCNE, UBEC and how they helped establish the American University of Nigeria. Among many things, I would like to share his last words with all the young people out there: These legacies are for you to sustain and build upon. I gave him my words and left around 05:50 P.M. Allahu akbar!
Thank you for everything, Professor. May Allah grant you Jannah – until we come.
Dr Ahmadu Shehu writes from Kaduna. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org