Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan is gone forever! The first thing I uttered when the shocking news was broken to me on Friday evening was, “Innalillahi wa inna ilaihi rajiun, kulli nafsin za’ikatul maut.’’ From Allah we are and to him we should return; and indeed, every soul must taste death.
I watched helplessly at the outpouring of grief-laden tributes from mourners across all walks of life, detailing their utter disbelief, sorrows and fond memories of the woman who, until her sudden death, was a powerful force of unity, an excellent grassroots mobiliser and a strong reminder of the roles women can play if empowered to participate in governance.
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But for some of us close to her, it is beyond sorrows, disbelief or fond memories. It is more about the foundation of Muri, now orphaned by her sudden death. No doubt, Senator Alhassan, until her very last moment, was the most unifying force for the people of Muri, irrespective of tribe, religion or political affiliations.
Her sudden and excruciating exit shattered the hearts of her family, friends, close associates, Muri Emirate, Taraba State and the country at large. I personally felt lost and devastated. I wonder what would become of the hitherto fragile foundation of Muri, which she was able to support with her hospitable approach to leadership and an all-inclusive style of politics? Who can fill in the huge vacuum her sudden death unearthed?
Senator Alhassan didn’t just wake up one day and claim the revered title of Mama Taraba, she worked for it and deserved it even more. She was unarguably the only woman to have assumed this title, “Mama’’ for a whole state in Nigeria’s political history. Where else do we hear people fondly calling someone Mama Kano, Gombe, Lagos or Enugu? Certainly none!
Our paths first crossed when she was contesting for Taraba North senatorial district on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and I was contesting for Jalingo/Yorro/Zing House of Representatives on the platform of the then Congress for Progressives Change (CPC).
We related well throughout the campaigns despite our political differences, and that also played a key role in our success at the polls. At the National Assembly we worked cordially in the best interest of our constituents. Whatever she did in her life politically or otherwise, she always sought for my advice.
Senator Alhassan was a generous sister who perfectly combined the role of a caring mother to many of us. I remember how she stood firmly for me when my second tenure in the National Assembly was facing serious resistance from some quarters. For my sake, one of the most respected women in Nigeria had to kneel down to beg the perceived forces against me to respect the will of the majority by allowing me take the second tenure ticket for Jalingo/Yorro/Zing federal constituency. This demonstrated clearly the extent a mother can go to have the best for her children.
Initially, Mama insisted that I should take the All Progressives Congress (APC) Taraba North senatorial ticket, but I pleaded with her that my brother, Ahmed Yusuf, was also interested and I won’t contest for the ticket with him. She found the decision unpalatable but had to go my way for the love she had for me. Priceless!
Many of our politicians hopelessly fought her out for selfish gains, but unfortunately, they could not do 10 per cent of what she did to sustain us and the politicians, as well as the party.
It is very sad that we lost a caring mother, supportive sister, awesome niece and everything Muri and Taraba State will always be proud of.
I can vividly remember her last words to me before she left for the Egypt she was not destined to return: “Aminu useni hala Zainabu koda cike a hokkimo kugal ha office De. Speaker kam amma habdu useni a hebanamo permanent job. Mi andi amedai salangoyam. Miyetti. Allah hokku en sa’a.’’
As a concerned Muri daughter, and indeed, someone interested in the progress and development of Taraba State as a whole, Mama always called to find out the level of development regarding the bill for an act to establish a federal university of agriculture in Jalingo and always sought to offer help where I felt I needed it.
In all, Senator Alhassan’s journey to the beyond makes me cry. I am still crying, but I find solace in the words of Gail Caldwell thus: “I know now that we never get over great losses, we absorb them; and they carve us into different, often kinder creatures.’’
Mama Taraba, your journey to the great beyond, though painful, has touched me in such a way that I am now a different and kinder person. This is a promise.
Adieu Mama! We are grateful to Allah (SWT) for the life you lived well. You were a dependable source of encouragement to many. You were my number one trusted confidant, and you were never jealous of any person’s progress, unlike most of our politicians. You will be greatly missed. Allah chenido yafo Adda, Hokkumo Aljannah firdausi, Aameen.
Dr Aminu Ibrahim Malle is the chief of staff to the Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives; National Assembly complex, Abuja