November 30, 2021, marked one year since the death of our father, Alhaji Garba Mohammed Amali (Mai Gemu). It was on that fateful Monday around 8am while I was on a national assignment that my brother, Hassan, called and informed me that our dad was not feeling well and that they were making arrangements to get him transferred from a private clinic in Kano to the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH).
While anxiously waiting for the transfer to link them up with colleagues in AKTH, I reluctantly proceeded to the field for my assignment. Later, I called my mum and brother but they did not pick their calls. I then felt something was wrong. Moreover, while eating lunch, the food became tasteless and unpleasant. I was just not myself. That was most likely the exact time he passed on, because around 3pm I received a call from my brother that dad was no more! “Inna lillahi wa inna Ilaihi raji’un!” That was my reaction. I fell on my knees as my legs could not hold my weight. I had never received such shocking news.
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Thanks to my friend, Pharmacist Yusuf Hassan Wada, who helped me with a driver who drove me back to Kano. Indeed, that was the longest trip of my life. Dad had already been buried according to Islamic rites before my arrival, so I was taken to his grave the following morning. I prayed for him at his graveside, sobbing along with my elder brothers who also drove through the night on Monday from Abuja and Kaduna.
It is indeed painful losing our loved ones, but we must accept it in good faith because it is the will of our maker, Allah (SWA), as He promised, “Every soul shall have a taste of death.” (Al-Imran, 3:185). The pain will subside with time but resurface from time to time.
Yes, it was a shocking news because when I said goodbye to dad on Saturday night on, November 28, 2020, he was hale and hearty; not knowing that was the last goodbye. On the morning of the same Saturday, he had waved to me and my friends on our way to Jigawa for a wedding. When I returned from Jigawa, I spent precious time with him and my mum in his sitting room. I told them I would be travelling to Katsina State on Sunday, November 29, for a national assignment. My mum complained about my safety because of the security situation in Katsina. I remember how dad convinced my mum that the areas I was visiting were safe.
He even cracked jokes with my mum; telling her she did not know Katsina as much as he did, and we all laughed. While leaving for my house, I said goodbye to them, and he said, “Allah ya kiyaye hanya” (God grant you a safe journey), and that was all, o dad! I never knew that would be our last conversation and your last prayer for me! May Jannatul Firdaus be your abode.
During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, while I was in Milan, Italy, the epicentre of the pandemic at the time, dad was worried and he used to call me every morning to ask about the situation. So caring was he that for the entire period I spent during my PhD study, he made sure he called me every Saturday; aside from my calls to him. Upon my return to Nigeria, he was so happy, most especially when I told him I had completed my PhD programme. Though it was only two months between my return and your death, I cherish those moments.
I am glad I made you proud dad; he never mentioned it to me, but many of my friends and his friends used to tell me that, “Your dad is very proud of you.”
It may interest many to know how you like maintaining friendship, and how you admonished us and even people around you to nurture friendship as testified by many. Some of my friends will call me when I was in Milan and inform me that my dad gave them my phone number. More so, he often told them when they could easily get me on phone.
May Allah (SWT) reward you abundantly for the way you raised us and for all the moral support to become what we are today. I still remember how you used to pursue us to go to makarantar Muhammadiyya (Islamic school) as you used to call it in the evenings. I also remember while growing as a child how you used to take me with you for Magrib, Isha, and Fajr prayers because you were at home those times.
My dad was a family man. As for his family, we could easily predict when he was financially buoyant because he liked spending on his family. As our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is reported to have said, “The best of you are the best to their families.” (Sunan al-Tirmidhi).
Alhamdulillah! My dad used to practice this injunction by providing the best he could to us his family. Anytime he returned from a trip, it was celebration moment for us, because not only would he bring varieties of edible items, but clothes and many more. Out of his magnanimity, whatever he brought home was not only for us alone, as he would also divide it into portions and give us to share among our neighbours.
I remember your special weekend meals which I used to buy most of the ingredients as a child (he liked vegetables). I am also nostalgic about how I used to make your bread and butter every night after dinner which you used to take with tea. That has also become my habit as of now, and every time my daughter, Fatima, asks me why I take tea every night, I just smile and tell her, “The genesis is historic, my Zahra!
I also remember how as a child he used to take me with him during holidays to Plateau State to spend quality time with my grandmother. It is indeed a remarkable achievement raising 13 children (seven males and six females) and all but one are married with children and grandchildren.
We are grateful for the way you raised us, dad, thank you for the moral upbringing, kindness and generosity you instilled in us. It was such a great moment of joy and reminiscing when Allah (SWA) blessed my family recently with a baby boy and I named him Abubakar after you. The boy and the name brought so much happiness to the entire family, and we decided to be calling him Baba Sadeeq. May Allah (SWA) bless my Baba Sadeeq and make it easy for him to imbibe the good name and attributes of his grandfather, Ameen.
A lot more of his philanthropic acts became known to us only after his death. The entire neighbourhood mourned him because of the role he played in ensuring the safety and peace of the area. It was such a fantastic relief to be informed that, “This is the constant place where your dad used to pray Juma’at prayer,” according to a neighbour.
Moreover, about four months ago, a childhood friend of mine named his son Abubakar after my dad and told me he basically did so because my dad used to call him even from afar whenever he (my dad) saw him just to exchange greetings.
Several of such testimonies have given us nothing but increased hope that Insha Allah, you are in a better place. May Allah (SWA) in His infinite mercy forgive your shortcomings and grant you Jannatil Firdaus, Ameen.
Khalid Garba Mohammed, PhD, writes from Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria