OPINION Obituary: Hajiya Bilkisu, mni (1952-2015)
She was a compassionate newspaper editor, columnist and principled journalist, a devoted Non-Governmental activist and an Islamic promoter to the last moments of her life. She died in the service of the Almighty having gone on the Hajj at the invitation on the National Hajj Commission to enlighten the Muslim women pilgrims.
We first met some time in 1979 a few months after resuming at the Kano State Ministry of Information and Culture after completing my National Service as an Information Officer. When I reported at the Ministry, she had gone for her first maternity leave. At the time, she was married to Alhaji Sanusi Ciroma Yusuf of the Kano State Ministry of Justice. Not long after, he rose to become the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice of Kano state that we worked together as the commissioner of Information at the time. . He Kept on riding the stairs of success until he became the Chief Judge of Kano State before becoming the Madaki of Kano Emirate and one of the four king makers of Emir of Kano.
When she resumed from her maternity leave, destiny arranged for us to share the same office until 1981 when I left for the United States to pursue a post graduate program. Automatically, she became the elder sister that I never had. With time, Hajiya, as we fondly and respectfully addressed and called her, preceded to Madison, the United States for her post graduate program in Political Science. On her return from the USA we all moved to the newly established Triumph Newspapers Publishing Company in Kano, Hajiya was my Editor at the Sunday Triumph Newspapers while I became her Reporter and eventually, her Assistant Editor. Right from day one, she drilled us at the job and taught us how to operate according to deadlines. She was a tough officer never a shamed to dress you down in the name of the job. She was also always willing to show her appreciation for a job well done. With time, she was to become part of my family knowing my wives and children who were all born between the when we were at Triumph and even when she moved to Kaduna and me to Lagos. Her life in Kaduna was a further development of her career as a journalist. She became the Editor of the New Nigerian Newspapers, the first woman to occupy that seat. It was there she came face to face with Nigeria’s politics and the Northern Nigeria’s misfortunes. At the end of the shameless intrigues, New Nigerian was folded up and still massacred by the northern governors. Hajiya Bilkisu teamed up with Mohammed Haruna, Mohammed Bomoi, Kabiru Yusuf, Adamu Adamu and other colleagues and founded a news magazine, a News Sentinel. They worked hard to sustain the magazine but somehow could not. With the collapse of the magazine, she became more engaged in Islamic activism, especially the Federation of Muslim Women of Nigeria (FOMWON), and other non-governmental pursuits attending seminars and conferences. She was writing a weekly column in the Daily Trust Newspaper on all the conferences and meetings she participated sharing knowledge with humanity. She was also an active member of Arewa Media Forum, an organisation meant to promote journalism in the North. As fate had it, I spoke with Hajiya last about two weeks to her death. She phoned on receiving my text message that my daughter, Saadatu, whom she liked very much since she was a baby, was starting her law degree with Baze University in Abuja. She phoned immediately in admiration and to congratulate me. We spoke at length about other issues not knowing it was going to be our last talk.
I saw her the last time a few months ago in Kano when she visited me at home to inquire about my health condition. She drove to my house and as usual asked about everybody. We talked at length about situation of mother Nigeria and prayed for the hapennings and non-happenings. Weeven discussed about a committee formed for the revival of Triumph Newspapers. It was therefore a big shock to hear about her sudden death in faraway Saudi Arabia in such gruesome stampede in which thousands died and hundreds are still missing and several more injured. My condolences to the families of all those who lost loved ones in this unfortunate tragedy. I wept uncontrollably for hours on learning about her demise. I went on memory lane to remember decades of mutual and professional relationship. She joined our other colleagues in the Kano State Information Ministry who died since like Mohammed Sule, Mustapha Makama, Mohammed Booth, Mustapha Dambatta and Comrade Ibrahim Suleiman. May their souls rest in perfect peace.
We will conclude this dialogue by praying to Almighty God to bless her soul and make paradise her final abode. We also pray for her children and the husband she left behind for God’s blessings and guidance. I also condole all her professional colleagues and pray God to give us the fortitude to bear her loss. It was a very painful death for all of us that had the fortune of meeting and working with her. I also pay my condoles to Honourable Justice Idris Kutugi and his wife Hajiya Laraba for losing a dedicated niece. How do we keep her memory alive? May her soul rest in perfect peace, amen
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