By Umar Sani Yakubu
My parents or father, to be specific, see someone in me. Who is that person? I was not privileged to meet someone because he was called to glory years before I was born. This is a story I traced for myself, and I will share it with you. But wait, you must not tell anyone because it is my little secret. A secret nobody tells me, and until I discovered it for myself, I doubted if someone was even ready to tell me.
Well, my father might have kept it so dear to himself. Unknown to my father, if there is anyone’s gesture I understand so quickly, it is his. Thus, I know this among other gestures of his, and I will tell you how.
When I was first registered for my elementary school in 2001/2002, my father smartly registered me as ‘Umar Yakubu’, omitting his name ‘Sani’ as my surname. A development I fought even with my then little age. It happened that anytime my class teacher called me Umar Yakubu in the attendance register, I would keep mute. To the best of my belief, I had reasons to do that because I have repeatedly warned that that wasn’t my name. And correct it as Umar Sani.
Consequently, my struggle for self-defence grew to the level that the class teacher and the headteacher couldn’t tolerate any longer. Finally, the school invited my father, and they settled the case. I was eventually renamed “Umar Sani”.
However, growing up around stage 4 (primary 5), I began to think and reason with my dad’s earlier decision. It was clear that his love for the name Yakubu knew no bounds. And unfortunately, till then, I was his only son among my sisters. For that, I decided to put a smile on his face by adding Yakubu to my name, which I did, thereby making it Umar Sani Yakubu. I wrote that on all my notebooks. Although not the way he wanted it, I knew he was happy this time.
Now the secret: that man wanted to name me Yakubu. He has never told anyone, not even my mother, his wife. I think this is a secret only he and I share because I snatched it from his looks and maybe action just like the story above. But why did he name me Umar? I will tell you that too.
The combination above of ‘Umar Yakubu’ is two in one. Combination of a father’s name and his son’s. Umar is the last child of Yakubu. A younger brother who was so dear to my dad. After his death on April 22, 1995, followed by my birth on July 17, 1996, my father felt the joy of his life. It was the day he held on his hands his first child, who seemed to come with the confusion of his life.
This is because he wholeheartedly wanted to bring his father and his brother back to life. But, unfortunately, I am a twin to none. I am just me and one. So he had to choose between the two who to immortalise first. A confusing choice to make, he decided on Umar to console his mother for the immediate loss. Do you now see the reason for his combination of Umar and Yakubu? He wanted me to be two in one.
Enough for that story.
Now the question is: Am I even brave enough to bear the name Yakubu?
According to stories I gathered, Yakubu Danladi, as the name implies, was indeed the return of many bearers of the name before him, the likes of Prophet Yakub (may God be pleased with him) and in our recent past Yakubun Bauchi, Late Emir of Bauchi. He was brave, hardworking and kind-hearted.
However, from a decent background, Yakubu was born a farmer who turned out to be the best in the history of our locality through conversing his local experience with the civilised way he later acquired. Until his death, his love for agriculture and farming spoke for itself on the size of his farmland.
Taking about his service as a civil servant, he had gone around the country even before Bauchi was made a state. He wandered from Kano to Maiguduri to Mubi (where he gave birth to his first child Sani (my father)). He later went for an agricultural-related course in India and then back to Nigeria to Azare in Bauchi State.
He was once transferred to his local government (Dass) as Sole Administrator in 1987, a development that later led to his political participation. He contested and was voted for the office of local government chairman in December 1987 and till August 1989.
Obviously, Mr Chairman is my grandfather I never met. Still, as G.K. Chesterton once mentioned, “People who make history know nothing about history. You can see that in the sort of history they make.” I doubt my father knows many people that have offered me seats and told me about Mr Chairman. They tell me how it was sitting around him, being in his caravan of leadership, and even pointing to me things that make them remember him, which are their children they named after him.
According to them, he was a reformer who came and provided their basic needs at the right time. Mr Chairman constructed the first town bypass road, built feeder roads for villages, built all the village head houses, built numerous village dispensaries, awarded to the youth the first football trophy, “Barde Laya Memorial Cup”. To date, he remains the only local government chairman to have a sitting president, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, to commission his project in Dass.
Sadly, as I write this, it is thirty years since he left the family, the community and the world, which occurred on January 30, 1992, and headed to heaven, in sha Allah.
Tellingly, I never had the privilege to meet him, but I used to have that mist-eye that he would have been a caring grandfather. May his soul continue to rest in peace, Amin Ya Rabbil’alamin.
Finally, father, I am not named after you. In fact, I now have a nephew who is so lucky to be. But, I believe, like you, I am strong. I am my kind of Umar. And be as it is, we feel your company in us. Your spirit is strong, and it follows everywhere we go. Also, I want to tell you that your family, even with eventual here and there, is still strong, and together we will go beyond a reasonable doubt to make sure that your generation lives till the end of time. Thus, the family miss you. So, continue to sleep well, father.
Sani writes from Dass, Bauchi and can be reached via email@example.com.