Sunday June 16, 2019, is a day dedicated for the celebration of fathers, fatherhood and paternal bond, as well as the influences of fathers in socio-economic development.
I have resolved, after many failed attempts, to write a belated tribute to my late father, Alhaji Abdulhamid Isah. Why now? I had made some advances several times before to pen down some words in honour of this father of all-time. Any time I did attempt the wish was whittled away by my never-dry tears.
Having attended this year’s May Day celebrations and watched as a procession of senior citizens pass by, I summoned the courage to do it; but still emotional tears brimmed my eyes and subdued my heart.
The procession moved as would somnambulists. The senior citizens had worn themselves out in the course of serving this nation. The sign of being a citizen of a nation where little attention is paid to senior citizens was boldly written on their furrowed faces.
The procession reminded me of those sparse gray hairs in my father’s two-inch beard. His reformist skin that weathered difficulty of many sorts. I remembered his enlightened counseling. His “Speak the truth no matter what” and “Knowledge opens doors where none seems to do so” are as ripe as the day he sagaciously uttered them.
Never-the-less, the decision to write this tribute now is partly borne out of my desire to communicate my progressive mindedness to my two kids: Khalid and A’isha, as did our father to us, in one hand.
When the duo came of age, they will learn that I, their father, did not fold my hands to watch things pass by. I had times without number spoken to “the power” and the “plebeian” through my incessant opinion pieces. Despite huge and tall obstacles, the efforts I made was not only to feed, school and shelter them, but also to see that Kano State and Nigeria at large change for the better.
On another, the decision is partly to encourage and celebrate those fathers, who, in spite of all the odds, have vehemently refused to abdicate their fatherly responsibilities. They guard their wards and provide for their material and educational needs according to their ability. By doing so, they contribute their quotas to the onerous task of nation-building. They are, indeed, true nationalists.
The day is for those fathers who do not only pay due attention to where the society is heading to; but also hold unto an invisible rein and put on hedges to guide its movement and disallow unnecessary digressions.
I had one wish that has never come true. My intention when I graduated from the university was to one day, after the NYSC three-week mandatory orientation course, appear before my father fully clad in my NYSC khaki with my peak cap kissing the sky – just for him to see the fruits of his life-long labour. Alas death has done us apart. He is no more.
My father passed away on Monday October 11, 2016. I had a sleepless night the previous day by the side of his sick bed at his service. I was familiar with his laboured breath which was accompanied by wheezes and coughs. He suffered from acute asthma for over forty years. His windpipes were almost blocked.
On Monday I had a siesta to make up for the sleepless night. In the afternoon, I was awakened by an ears-splitting sound of my phone’s ringtone. It was my eldest sister, Nafisat, calling. At the sight of the caller’s name, I started shaking with fright. There came my sister’s feebly womanly voice: “AbdulYassar, Baba has passed away.” The rest is a story.
Two hours later, I found myself in a sepulchral home. There lay the remains of one of the humblest and gentlest soul that ever walked the earth – he was an ex-worker of the defunct Nigeria Airways, a businessman and full-time muezzin.
The body was surrounded by almost all the family members, his relatives and friends. I could not look into my brothers and sisters’ eyes, neither my aging mum’s. My memory was at once flooded with his movements, inviting smiles, whatnot.
My brothers and sisters see my deceased father as a devoted father. Yes, he was. I witnessed how seriously he had taken up his fatherly responsibilities. He fed, clothed, and sheltered us. He paid for our school fees and settled our medical bills to his last hours. His parenting care followed me to my matrimonial home. But I see something much more than this in him.
Couples saw him as a marriage therapist. Yes, he was. I can attest to how couples, who were considering separation, were led to him in droves for conjugal counseling. Many of those marital ties improved. But still I see something much more than this in him.
His four wives saw him as a promising husband. Yes, he was. There was a husband who was survived by four wives and twenty children who had never raised his hand against one of his wives, let alone drank from the odorous cup of divorce. Yet I see something much more than this in him.
I was carried away by the reformist side of my late father that the idea overshadowed everything else. He refused to accept the status quo as “given”. I had seen how he worked through toil, diligence and refusal to settle for mediocrity in his search for a better society which begins by human development starting at the family level.
To him, education is the only strong vehicle through which meaningful social change and socioeconomic development can be achieved. He believed that if education is used as a rallying point, it will unite the people and free them from political oppression and social degradation.
He enrolled my elder brothers, alongside four other neighbours who were later delisted by their parents, in a school when the community where I was born and raised was seemingly hostile to Western education. There was my elder brother, Auwal, graduating from the university when the burdensome search for a graduate was still raging on.
To encourage women education, he gifted out one of his houses as endowment (waqf) purposely to champion women education, with a view to uplifting their dignity.
Dozens of married women attend the school to study and acquire skills. There Islamic and Western educations are placed side by side. He will say: “The former gives one the reason of his existence and teaches him his Lord, while the latter is the proverbial Hausas’ “salt of life”.
The belief is that women should possess equal educational rights as men. And to achieve harmonious marital relationship and moral upbringing, women should be educated.
The probity this social reformer espoused has been made a legacy. All I can say for now is adieu to this father of all-time and a social reformer.
AbdulHamid, a journalist, writes via [email protected]