In the ancient city of Katsina, in the famous Yaranci Quarters which was curved out for princes by the Late Emir of Katsina Muhammadu Dikko and named Yaranci (from Yarima, meaning Prince) stands a magnificent building of red burnt bricks erected more than thirty years ago the one story building situated along a major street is the house of Late MD Yusufu which happens to be the first house he personally built for himself.
It was in that house he lived and met with people whenever he was in Katsina. Whenever I look at the structure, I see nothing fascinating, as the design of the building is not in any way attractive nor was it beautified with any building ornaments. The structure was built by some experts who at that time brought the bricks from Plateau state and took time to carefully and professionally build it.
There was a time myself and MD Yusufu were sitting together in the house, and suddenly there was a power outage. Before the Generator was switched on, the place became too hot to bear, I had to enquire from him why they used that type of blocks in building the house.
MD Yusufu is known with one characteristic. Whenever you ask him a question, he will figure out how you asked the question, why you asked the question and the circumstance under which you asked the question before he gives you an answer. He was always patient with our exuberance or the ignorance we display in our questions.
He responded by saying that the burnt red bricks are very important as they offer protection to books and other important documents, preventing them from getting damaged by fungi or dampness. Termites also cannot follow and penetrate through the wall and damage the books and documents. Similarly the bricks are fire proof, fire from outside cannot destroy the contents inside. Even if unfortunately (God forbid) a fire starts in a room, it will only remain there without affecting other parts from the building or harming the documents. It was on that day that I realized the fact that the house was not built for dwelling purpose alone but also for the safe keeping of books and documents for future generation. This he did up to the end of his life.
It is interesting to know that before his death, virtually all available space in the building was filled with books. Even his rooms upstairs were filled with books an experts librarian, Dikko Abubakar Kofar Sauri, who was tasked with categorizing and arranging the books confirmed that there are over seven thousand volumes of rare books that you could hardly get anywhere. There are also thousands of volumes in Arabic that were published many years ago but are now extinct elsewhere or some parts missing or added in new editions, but his collections are original publications that had not been tempered with these are also in thousands.
The Arabic books were catalogued and shelved by an Arab librarian who was brought in for the purpose. Among the books in stock there are some volumes MD Yusufu specifically sent somebody to Syria to purchase. I was in the house when the books were brought in. Allah is the Greatest, Syria is now in war, and who knows whether such books are now destroyed and could not be found up there.
What easily upset MD Yusufu was to borrow his book and damage it or get it lost. A proposal he was always happy with and readily assist was for you to tell him that you want to publish a book or translate any useful book or document, he will fully support you.
I will not forget that one day late Ambassador Lamido Sanusi (father of the Present Emir of Kano) once introduced me to a group of his friends as somebody who devoted most of his time collecting books for MD Yusufu. He jokingly wondered whether MD Yusufu was able to read all his books. They all laughed in appreciation.
MD Yusufu sponsored many research projects and most of those who participated in such projects are still alive and people are benefiting from the research outcomes. It is our hope that one day people like Dr. Alkasum Abba and Professor Abubakar Saddiq of ABU Zaria will do something about the contribution of MD Yusufu in the field of research.
A former President of the Association of Nigerian Authors Mr. Adia Ofeimun asserted that MD Yusufu contributed immensely to the development of literature in Nigeria. He played active role in the establishment of the famous LNG Literary Competition Awards which attracts a prize of a hundred thousand dollars. He also encouraged the establishment of many print and electronic media outfits in this country some of which still exist. He did that not for political reasons, but solely for the enlightenment of the populace.
When we were designing the structure of Katsina Vocational Training Centre which he established, the first thing he wrote with his hand was a library. He also instructed that the training programme must include a library period on daily basis.
Katsina Vocational Training Centre has contributed greatly to changing the perception of life of our youth in Katsina state and neighouring communities. The centre trained our youths and empowered them to be self reliant. The centre has become a centre of excellence which others strive to emulate. This is why a year before MD Yusufu died he wrote a letter to the present Emir of Kano Muhammad Sanusi II, appointing him as the chairman of the centre. The centre continues to be vibrant in inspiring our youths to know their purpose on this earth, and prepare them to contribute positively to the development of the nation.
Before MD Yusufu’s death, he instructed that a Research and Documentation Centre be established where his voluminous collections could be placed for the benefit of the general public.
Mallam MD Yusufu will forever be remembered for his contributions to literature and literary activities as well as passion for youth development. May his soul rest in perfect peace, Ameen.
Danjuma writes from Katsina