By Barr. Usman Shamaki
I was seven years old when, thanks to a family tragedy, I acquired a very good understanding of the factual meaning of death as the end of this life. A few years later, I understood it in its conceptual meaning as a transition from this life to the next. Since then, I have lost friends, relatives, colleagues, and on two occasions, I even witnessed the moment the soul leaves the body. Over the years, I have ceased to fear death as much as I used to. It sounds strange, I know.
The inevitability of death makes it futile to fear what is, for all intents and purposes, the only means of exiting this world. What I have come to fear, aside from the condition of my faith when I die, however, is the overwhelming feeling of emptiness, grief, loss, pain and hopelessness that come with losing a loved one, as well as the flood of memories they leave you with as they exit this world, taking their smiles, kind words and gestures along with them.
On January 4, 2018, I was thrown into a state of intense pain and hopelessness when I received shocking news of the death of a very close friend. In all honesty, referring to Abba Isa Abubakar as a friend, would be disrespectful, and a disservice to his memory. He was much more than a friend; he was a brother, and a very loyal and outstanding one at that.
While most people have been shocked by the sudden nature of his death, and have chosen to understandably keep mulling it over and over, I would like to remember him in a much more pleasant light. If not for anything else, perhaps, that way, I can find some semblance of closure amid the chaos raging in my head.
Abba or Abban Mamie, as he was fondly called by most of his cousins, nephews and nieces, was a once in a lifetime kind of gentleman. There weren’t a lot of people like him. One of my most prominent memories of him was his intense composure and decency. As teens and adolescents, while we were susceptible to rebellious tendencies, Abba was the level headed one. He could always be trusted to rein us in when we were at risk of veering off course, which earned him the nickname “Serious Abba” among some of his cousins. Well, to be honest, the nickname was more as a result of the fact that he could be so serious at times as to miss the punch-line of a joke.
One of the qualities Abba possessed, which I have always admired, was his ability to maintain extreme calm, even in situations, which should warrant panic. If meteors were raining down from the sky, and everyone was running helter-skelter, Abba would be the one guy keeping his cool, getting everyone into cars in preparation for evacuation. I recall in November of 2011 when we were in Bauchi for his wedding, the number of guests had exceeded the number of hotel rooms reserved, as there were numerous weddings taking place in Bauchi at the time.
Considering the kind of pressure he was under, it would have been totally acceptable and expected of him to lose his head. I know I would, and, in fact, I did during my wedding when there was a reservation problem. Not Abba. Without breaking a sweat, he calmly made calls, and was able to seamlessly make alternative arrangements. While we were chatting that night, I remarked on how he tended to his guests, and made arrangements for the wedding so deftly without the usual confusion and memory lapses that grooms-to-be are known to be struck by. In his usual characteristic manner, he smiled, and said, “It may not look like it, but I am stressed. Getting confused will only make it worse.”
Abba is one of the friendliest people you could ever meet. Whenever he met people for the first time, he would shake their hands firmly, smile and introduce himself. This particular habit is one, which has rubbed off on a lot us as we have resorted to doing the same.
When it came to being there for his friends, no one was better than Abba at that. Distance was never an obstacle. Despite his very busy work schedule, he was always at his friends’ sides to celebrate weddings and births with them, as well as lend a shoulder of support, and commiserate with them during tragedies.
Whenever Abba was in a city in which his friends and relatives resided, he would make sure he visited every single one of them. Every single one. If due to some constraint, he was unable to visit, he would call, and extend his sincere apologies. Bashir Jibril and Sadiq Gambo, two of his closest friends, can attest to this fact.
Abba had an innate ability for cutting through the most complicated issues, focusing on the important details, and breaking them down into simple bits and pieces of consumable and sensible information. He exhibited this most when rendering advice to friends. He had the amazing ability to sit quietly and listen to all that one had to say. Sometimes, he listened so quietly and intently that you would think he had tuned you out. However, once you were done talking, and he started, it was clear he had listened to all you had to say. No discussion with Abba was complete without him quoting a hadith. No matter what problem you came to him with, he always had a hadith ready to backup any words of advice he may offer.
Abba exhibited wisdom far beyond his years. This was evident in how much his friends relied on him for guidance, despite being a few years younger than they were. There was, no doubt, the wisdom he possessed was why he was able to take on numerous lofty responsibilities at work, and was also able to fully execute them with exemplary and satisfactory results.
In polygamous families, it is not unusual to have limited relationships, and in some cases, divisions amongst siblings. Although Abba was the youngest in the family, he acted as a strong unifying factor. Through his actions and equal treatment of all his siblings, he broke down any and all barriers and fused the family into a single solid indivisible unit.
I can honestly say Abba had never had a fight with anyone. He never started one, neither would he give you a reason to do the same. Not even if you were the aggressor. It was almost as if he was born without the ability to get angry. No matter how much you tried to push his buttons, he would simply stare at you, and smile.
His sense of devotion and service to his mother was highly exemplary. He made sure she never lacked anything. He went above and beyond to make sure his mother was well cared for. I can only hope and pray I am able to emulate his example fully. His wife and kids were the guiding light in all that he did, and his love for them could be felt from the way he spoke about them.
Any adjectives I want to employ in describing Abba seem highly inadequate. All I can say is Abba was an outstanding and upstanding gentleman. Considering the overwhelming influence he had on the lives of his friends and family, I honestly don’t know, if life can be the same for us, and if we can recover from the loss. It is my fervent hope and prayer that we are granted the fortitude and strength to get through this difficult and trying period. I pray Allah grant his soul repose and bless him with Aljannatul Firdaus.
Abba Isa Abubakar is survived by a mother, siblings, relatives, a wife, two kids and numerous friends.