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Published On: Fri, Jul 10th, 2020

Gashua’s ‘Corona’: Adieu Alkali Bulama

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GUEST Column by Abubakar A. Bukar

On this seemingly unending discourse over the scourge of deadly renal disease ravaging Gashua community, and with lexical dexterity typical of journalists and literary artists, the bibliophilic Isa Sanusi winded up his last week’s piece with ‘Kafkaesque’. I could not help but marvelled at the coincidence – Kafka’s most popular novel, The Trial, was my next read in this session of reading and rereading of literary classics. I could not help being impressed by the ingenuity in selecting Kafkaesque to describe a plague that seems to be like a monster one watches in horror films for its insensitive use of power (including power of connivance with other diseases to kill), for the difficulty in understanding and subduing it, and worse, for its invisibility symptomatically till when it’s far down the drain.
During the recently completed Ramadan, the community was further plunged into hysteric mood occasioned by mysterious deaths of over forty people, mostly old and respectable, within a couple of days – two or three. Many suspected it was the new corona virus on rampage world over rearing its head into the locality. This suspicion might have been fuelled by similar death toll arousing controversy in Kano over as it were in Gashua, the root cause. But what a credible source from the town’s general hospital told me is that many of the victims were people with underlying terminal diseases like diabetes, heart and chronic kidney diseases. Apparently it was a season of anomie where several others were pointing fingers at the hot weather as dehydrating and destroying people’s kidneys more dangerously due to abstinence in the blessed month. With the absence of medically verifiable and reliable data, a whole community was left tiptoeing in the womb of conjectures – from blaming water sources, to weather factor, to lethal preservatives in edibles, and now, corona virus.
Meanwhile I have been thinking: what do I need to do personally beyond lamentation? However, in circumstances such as this, as Malcolm X rightly pointed out in his autobiography, people have to make noise, loud and clear, to attract deserved attention and response especially from a crop of leaders who see and hear but pretend not to. Otherwise we will continue dying while they watch – apology to Chimamanda.
In this grip of uncertainties and sudden departures, a UK-based friend called to announce and commiserate with me that our teacher, mentor and brother, Alkali Bulama, had returned to his Lord and was followed by his eldest son barely 24hrs after. Such a tragedy! The cause of his passage was equally hinged on kidney-corona matrix. A complete gentleman, by God, I have never heard an instance where Mallam quarreled with anyone in my life. Exceedingly generous to a fault, he was the type that readily turns the other cheek – for peace. He not only taught me Islamic Studies in senior secondary school but influenced my career choice indirectly. In a typical mentor-mentee conversation, he once asked me where I was headed after my secondary education. Further studies, I replied; adding that if I am admitted in the nearby College of Education I would be studying Islam (like himself) with English, but whence chanced to go to university straightaway, I would study Law. Fortunately or otherwise, infatuation with Sule’s Undesirable Element in those formative years, nipped the law dream in the bud.
Mallam Alkali it was who first introduced me to Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Uthman. He’d probably sniffed my fascination with the way he spoke whiteman’s language, hence in one of my visits to his house after SSCE, he asked me to follow him to his personal room upstairs. There he played an audiotape of Ibn Uthman at his puniest discussing principles of social interaction in Islam. The lesson Mallam passed on that occasion was: look, here is a better model. It was a lesson in sincerity and humility – typical of true scholarship.
His loss is, at many levels, personal: Mallam was an elder brother to my very close friend, Audu Bulama Bukarti, whose mother was equally my mother’s friend right before we began our sojourn on this earth. Actually the UK-caller aforementioned was Bukarti. He was obviously concerned I didn’t call or email him to that effect; unbeknownst to him I was in my cocoon, oblivious of the outer world, head over heels in academic piece. May their souls find everlasting peace and tranquility with the Creator. Amen.

Bukar is with the department of Mass Communications, ABU Zaria, and can be reached via

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