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Alaramma Malam Akilu: When a loss is too tragic for words

Until recently, the last time I saw my father shedding tears of was 25 years ago, precisely on October 19, 1991. That was the day…

Until recently, the last time I saw my father shedding tears of was 25 years ago, precisely on October 19, 1991. That was the day he lost his brother and confidant, Alhaji Haruna Hamza, who died in a ghastly motor accident, close to Danbatta, on his way to Daura, in Katsina State.
Then, on Tuesday, June 14, my father, once again, cried, following the death of his ally, friend, teacher, brother and confidant, Alaramma Malam Akilu, who died of health complication.
Late Malam Akilu, 92 years or so old, was a famous Islamic cleric of his time. He was the closest person to my father. In fact, they rarely stayed apart until late night hours.
In our village, Maiturmi, in Mai’adua Local Government Area of Katsina State, many believed that late Malam Akilu was actually a member of our family. We all grew knowing them together.
When, unusually, a call came from my father around 5:00pm on the day he died, while we were about commencing our daily editorial meeting in the office, in Abuja, my breath temporarily seized.
I normally speak with my father around 9:00am, every day. When I answered the call, my father lost his voice, he was only sobbing, saying: “Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilaihi Rajiun (From Allah we come and to Him we shall return). I repeated what he said, fully convinced that Malam Akilu, whom I visited in hospital the previous Saturday, has died!
Like my father, Malam Akilu memorised the Holy Qur’an before he reached 20. And before the age of 22, after reciting the holy book times without number, without looking, they could write the whole manuscript of the Holy Qur’an.
Malam Akilu, who is originally from Hamis, a farming community near Bum-Bum, along Nigeria-Niger border in northern part of Katsina State, had travelled far and wide, up to Maiduguri, which is known as ‘Gabas’,  in search of knowledge of the Qur’an.
Malam Akilu distinguished himself as an astute scholar. In fact, in Maiduguri, Kano and Katsina, where Islamic scholars are highly revered, Mallam Akilu was known as “Gangaram Kafi Goni”- which literally means professor emeritus.
My father, who always dove his hat for Malam Akilu, told me that at his prime, late Malam Akilu was fond of taking his allo (slate) to “Wajan Darasu”- an arena where the “who is who” in Islamic knowledge gather with a view to correcting spelling and punctuations mistakes of one another.
“Alaramma Malam Akilu was always rated highly…it was extremely unlikely for any mistake to be detected in his allo, and that’s why he became Gangaram Kafi Gwani,” my father said.
Malam Akilu lived a Spartan life in his house at Yan Masara Kurman Layi, along Dogon Agogo, in the heart of Jos.
The frontage of his house, face-capped with a canopy, serves as the Makarantar Allon Malam Majir (Islamiyya school), where thousands of pupils were taught how to recite the Holy Qur’an.
At least, two out of five people, born around the area in the last 50 years, were directly or indirectly tutored in that traditional
school. And typical of traditional Islamic schools, the tuition is absolutely free.
Most importantly, there is no formal admission processes in the
school. Toddlers are seamlessly absorbed once their elderly ones could be able to take them there.
It’s only on Wednesday that parents give their wards N10 or N20, to take to Malam Majir, the custodian of the school.
Hundreds of people, who learned in the school and later enrolled in western schools or ventured into businesses, have excelled in their various fields of endeavours.
The hustling and bustling of life in Jos did not affect the life style of Malam Akilu.
I remember that it was after many pleadings from my father and other people close to him that Malam Akilu agreed to extend electricity to his house.
To him, electricity and all the luxuries attached to it were
diversionary. Until his death, Malam Akilu refused to have a radio or TV set in his house. He only got to know of the happenings around the world when my father visited him, or one of his children broke news to him.
His major occupation was recitation of the Holy Qur’an.
At a time, my father told me that Malam Akilu, almost 20 years older than him, hardly took ill. “In fact, he was the healthiest of all of us,” my father said.
When he started having health problems about three years ago, it took serious entreaties from my father and others to convince Malam Akilu to agree to go to hospital.
Since then, he normally saw his doctors whenever he took ill, until about three months ago, when his condition deteriorated.
About forty days ago, he became so frail and, sadly, doctors at the Jos University Teaching Hospital, (JUTH), were at that time on strike.
He was taken to a private hospital in Jos and after preliminary
investigations, doctors said his case was beyond them.
He taken home but, luckily, a kind-hearted doctor at JUTH, decided to attend to his case him at home.
Yet, Malam’s health continued to degenerate and when doctors at the JUTH called off their strike, he was taken back to the hospital, only for the doctors to embark on a fresh round of strike three days after. This development aggravated his situation.
But, again, another doctor at the hospital, who took note of his frail condition, asked him to stay in the hospital, when all other patients had been discharged, albeit hurriedly, because of the strike.
However, few days, while on his sick bed, probably realising that his final days were fast approaching,  Malam Akilu told my father that he be taken home. My father did not object to his request and the hospital staff consented.
On Tuesday, June 14, he was taken home and curiously, about an hour later, Malam Akilu, cuddled by his son, Habibu, died. He was buried on Wednesday, June 15, 2016, at the Zaria Road Cemetery, Jos, after a funeral prayer attended by hundreds of people amidst downpour.
Now, we took solace in the fact that that Malam Akilu, who left behind his wife, Mama Baraka, and many children, lived a wonderful life that made positive impact on humanity.
May Allah reward him with Jannat Firdausi.
Idris writes from Kubwa, Abuja

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