Ibrahim A. Maida
On Monday August 17, 2020, what started like a normal day turned out one of the saddest for many of us – family, friends, professional colleagues and associates. I had woken up early feeling refreshed and energetic after the weekend’s rest. I drove 75km to resume work after spending the weekend with my family. Coincidentally, Malam Wada in whose memory I’m writing this piece was part of that unforgettable weekend.
He had visited his beloved hometown Katsina after being away for a long while due to the ravaging COVID-19 and the attendant restrictions that followed, including the lockdowns. I had a busy day at work as is usual with Mondays, as such, I decided to retire early to bed which was a departure from my usual habit of hooking on to social media until late into the night. It was indeed an unusual evening for me as I switched off my data a few minutes after 9pm for I had planned to sleep before 11pm.
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Just as I was about to put off the lights, a call from an unknown number came in. I ignored it, but it became persistent and I still refused to answer because I wanted to avoid anything that will disrupt my plan to sleep early. On a second thought I decided to do a Truecaller search of the number. My elder brother, Kabir Maida’s name appeared. My heart skipped because I knew it was only something very serious that will make him dial my number repeatedly even though I wasn’t responding. I immediately called back and he asked if I had got any information from Abuja, I responded in the negative, he advised that I place a call to Abuja to get the true picture of what was happening that there was something wrong but he did not tell me what it was.
I was confused and scared as my thought went straight to Malam Wada. I had noticed signs of ill health in the cause of our interactions over that fateful weekend. I was the last person to bid him good night on Saturday August 15, 2020. I was with him until around a few minutes to 12am. He went back to Abuja on Sunday August 16 and passed on the following day. I had managed to make the call, but what I got was perhaps the most devastating piece of information I ever got in my life. I had inquired about Alhaji’s health from Farida his eldest daughter, and her response was “sai dai kuyi hakuri, Baba ya rasu”. My immediate reaction was better imagined. That was it, we had lost “Alhaji” to the cold hands of death and life will certainly never be the same again.
He was everything to us, he had been a constant part of our lives for as long as we all could remember. We grew up to know him as the head of the larger Maida family, a responsibility he bore with great commitment until he breathed his last. For me personally, he was my moral compass, he was my confidant and adviser. I used to call him my shock absorber. In my teenage days, I used to be nonchalant and sometimes behaved carelessly, for I had confidence that Alhaji would come to my rescue should I run into any trouble, and he did a number of times. He was a disciplinarian and never condoned improper behaviour, but he was not one to abandon you when you run into trouble. He was a good man in every sense of the word.
Alhaji Wada got his western education by sheer providence. He grew up under the tutelage of our father in a highly disciplined and industrious family setting. Our father; the older Maida, was a business man with interest in carpentry, metal works and real estate. He also worked with the Kaduna native authority’s sports council. He ensured that all his male children at that time took active part in the family business. His first four children, all male then were Bishir, Saleh, Rabe and Wada. They all joined him in the workshop after Islamiyya school.
As narrated by the late Malam Wada in one of our conversations, one day in 1958 while the four of them were hanging around our father who was then supervising the construction of the metal body for a heavy duty truck that he had just purchased, a messenger from the district office came to him with a message that the DO had instructed that he should release at least one of his four children for enrolment into formal school. Wada then, a lanky little boy, was picked by our father who tapped his head and said to the DO’s messenger “go with this one, he cannot handle the physical demands of the work here”. That was the beginning of what turned out to be uncommon greatness.
Alhaji Wada went on to become very successful first as a journalist and a civil servant who reached the pinnacle of his career with his stewardship of the News Agency of Nigeria as the Managing Director for 9 years. He also had a short stint in national politics when he served as the Chief Press Secretary to the then military government led by Gen. Buhari. He also made his mark in the world of business.
After retirement, he went into full time media consultancy with interest mainly in the print media. He was instrumental to the establishment of some of the most successful newspapers we have today in Nigeria. He mentored a number of media practitioners, many of whom are still making great strides in the industry. He became a media giant who commanded enormous respect and influence. His success in the media went beyond the shores of this country, he was an active member of various international media organizations, especially the International Press Institute. He was conferred with honorary membership of many international organizations including the Amnesty International. Wada literally became a global citizen.
He was a philanthropist who loved to do his charitable works anonymously. He was involved with various philanthropic projects, many of which we only came to know about after his passing. He provided financial and material support to the needy especially in the areas of health care, education and resettlement of displaced persons. All these he did quietly with no publicity.
His humility and simplicity were uncommon. He had an infectious smile. Despite his professional, political and financial status, Alhaji interacted with everyone without any air of importance. He was simple and humble to a fault. He mixed freely with everyone irrespective of status. He would attend big events but would choose to sit in a corner where there will be no special recognition. He was a contented and fulfilled man. All he wanted was to live a quiet and simple life amongst his beloved family. He strove to serve humanity and did a lot in this cause without any noise. His ultimate goal in all these was to please his maker without the slightest need for any worldly praises or recognition. He was a man of great influence with powerful friends in the country’s political and business circle. He tried hard to live low key and avoid the limelight associated with persons of his status. But like a golden fish in the river, Alhaji Wada had no hiding place as he became a household name whose contribution to the development of Nigeria was widely acclaimed across the country. He was a highly detribalized Nigerian with a cosmopolitan disposition who never lost touch with his religious and cultural obligations.
Alhaji was a responsible family man and a loyal friend; he bore a lot of burden as a result. What I call the “burden of patience” must have been the weightiest of them all. He was a man of uncommon patience. As it is with all men with good heart, he faced a lot of disappointments and was in many instances shortchanged and outrightly betrayed by those he trusted, but that did not deter him in his commitment to serve family, friends and the larger society. His devotion to his family was total. He loved his children and spared no expense to give them the very best. For the extended family he was our pride, he was always there when we needed him and he gave his all to ensure our wellbeing. He was our rallying point and the force behind the enduring unity of the family. He was a perfect gentleman with a large heart. He was passionate about education and did a lot towards its advancement.
Hardly a day passes by without an encounter with persons who narrate how good a person he was, this is a source of consolation for us.
I am still in a state of disbelief and deep pain and find it hard to accept that Alhaji is gone forever. It’s indeed a loss that I’m yet to overcome. I am however consoled by the fact that he left behind a legacy of service to God and humanity. We pray Allah SWA grants him eternal rest and reunite us in Aljannah Firdaus.
Ibrahim A Maida sent in this tribute from Abuja.