The death of someone known at some close quarters will always shake one’s humanity. This is even more so when one is far away from the place of such death and was learning about it at such an unholy hour of the morning. I was done for the day but didn’t want to go to sleep without checking on Nigeria. That meant taking a quick look at the emails that came in within the last six hours or so that one had been off the internet wrestling with books. And there it was in an email from Lamara Garba Azare, a former Correspondent of the New Nigerian in Jigawa State, to the effect that Mohammed Sani Jibrin had died after a protracted illness at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital in Kano
Sani Jibrin’s protracted illness was not news to me. But his death still came as a surprise although it should have occurred to me because it had been long I hadn’t got a text message from him. Many assumed that he was opposed to me because of the circumstance he was removed as Director of Press, Government House Dutse but he was, indeed, my friend. His text messages were the most re-assuring.
Certainly, as the Director of Press and, therefore, the administrative head of the Press Corp on the convoy, he was naturally bound to seek to assert himself against me, a political appointee whom he did not know from Adams but who, as the Special Adviser on Media Affairs to the governor, had become the professional and political head of the Media Unit. But that was not where the problem came from because, as professional journalists, we could manage that. The problem that saw him out came from somewhere else. When I asked why he was punished, a spook said I should understand that every crisis situation produces a fall guy and the fall guy is not necessary the guy who did the wrong thing.
In all cases, the late Sani was very professional and friendly. One day, he came into the office to put me on notice about a danger I should guard against, thereby saving me from a possible embarrassment of which I would have been innocent but which no one would have believed my innocence or even had the time to listen to my side of the story. God must, indeed, be great. I owe him gratitude for that. As we got to know ourselves more after the take off of the Lamido regime in May 2007, he spoke of his growing up in Jos and of his illness. I was surprised that he was that ill but could cope with the fluidity of Government House.
I thought of suggesting to him to seek redeployment but perished the thought. It could acquire a different meaning. Instead, I suggested to him to see my former boss, Lade Bonuola, in Lagos who, to the extent that no professors of Medicine or Pharmacy have challenged his claims in his weekly column, must be credible. It was a journey well worth it because after that trip, he didn’t have to take his treatment everyday of the week again but thrice a week.
This was before he was relieved of his appointment as Director of Press in the Government House. But after his departure, Mallam Yaya Ahmed, the Government House Chief Photographer kept us in touch. He was the one who took me to visit him eventually in his house.
One morning, Yaya came with the news that Sani was in a very bad shape and something had to be done. The governor was informed at breakfast table whereupon he constituted his personal physician, Dr. Nura Kazaure into a one man taskforce thereto. That was how Sani was taken to Egypt for a serious attention. He returned in considerable relief and everyone felt happy that what could be done in the circumstance had been done. Since all of us are sick in one way or the other, his condition was not considered to be terrible thereafter. It had become a question of management.
So, hearing his death eventually was all the more saddening given his struggles to cope in the last one year. As one of us in the profession of journalism, we feel something snapping in us in losing him. Surely, he has left behind dependants whose care is a social, not exclusively private obligation, especially those who might be too young to find their bearing in a very difficult society like ours. I emphasize this because the survival of dependents of journalists remains a major problem in Nigeria when compared to other climes.
May God’s will be done always. That’s beyond question. However, there is a challenge for those of us who are still living. That is to make our own symbolic contributions to sustaining dependents of the departed. Such moral and material solidarity will mitigate the sense of loss by those he left behind.
May Sani’s death put a stop to further deaths from the Media Unit of Government House, Dutse! For, only about two years ago, Garba Gwaram, the Government House Correspondent of Radio Jigawa died in a car accident. And now, Sani Jibrin is gone. May their souls protect our collective interest yonder while resting in peace!
Onoja wrote from Ibadan
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