“I believe that the first test of a great man is his humility. I don’t mean by humility, doubt of his power. But really great men have a curious feeling that the greatness is not of them, but through them. And they see something divine in every other man and are endlessly, foolishly, incredibly merciful.”
The sound of a name. The memory it triggers. The metaphor it becomes. To have been privileged to be the owner of a name, the sound of which, reminds us of the wonder of being, the lens of wisdom, and the aura of humility, is the greatest honour anyone can have in death. There comes that time to every living being, when the pomp and pageantry of glitz, fades into oblivion. That night comes, when the spotlight of attention, dims as the world unknown, flanks open its doors. To be honoured like Alh. Bashir Tofa, with greatness, even in death, as a reward of a life well lived, captures in crystalline detail, the highest expectation of almost all living beings.
Not so much of him was known to me until his death. The first piece I read was that of a fellow writer: Abubakar Sidi Sadiq. It was up-close. Abubakar had a mentor-mentee relationship with the late sage. One could feel how much of a university of life that relationship was to Abubakar. Abukakar couldn’t afford to miss any of the classes. Each class unfurled layers of wisdom mined from the fountain of Jannah. One finds in the Alh. Tofa of Abubakar, a man of dignity and integrity. A man who knew his world. A man who clearly understood his role in this fleeting life. A man who left no stone unturned in leading a life that outlived him.
I would later find another piece by Wale Okediran, who had, some years ago, attended the launch of Alh. Bashir Tofa’s eight books, in Kano. One of the books, entitled: Rayuwa bayan mutuwa (Life after death), got my attention. Baba died empty. He gave us all we needed to get from him, and a foretaste of life after death.
Back to my constituency, Arewa Development Support Initiative (ADSI), which Baba was an active member before his demise, I was pleasantly surprised with his antecedents in the NGO in less than three years. Alh. Bashir Tofa gave immense financial contributions to ADSI, geared towards ensuring that its mandate of offering skill acquisition programs for less-privileged Arewans, sees the light of day.
As a popular presidential candidate in the unforgettable 1993 annulled elections, Alh. Bashir Tofa, an astute politician, successful businessman and author, glides through the memory of our ecology as a colossus of repute. The life he lived puts him in a class all by himself. Our nation’s history is incomplete without him.
His pen was bold, terse and thought-provoking. He commanded a respect that came from the glowing richness of his personality and character. He was a shining example of what he preached and taught. He lived above the temptations of public life. He sought the betterment of Arewa, Nigeria and Africa at large. In the community, where he spent his final days in Kano, his intelligible ability to lead and influence, informed the seamless security the estate enjoyed throughout the time he chaired the security committee of the estate.
He was an elder statesman to the core. He lived in peace with foes and friends alike. He never gave an undue attention to wealth or the creation of wealth. It is to Alh. Bashir Tofa that we owe the eminent rise of some politicians in Kano and beyond. He mentored, coached and established others, empowering and passing on the baton, before he breathed his last.
There lays a man who is great, even in death. His greatness stood the test of time because he knew that the great must embrace humility. The lessons he has left behind for us are many and countless. We can listen to him any day in his books and writings. He loved Africa and fought for the emergence of the better angels in all of us. These legacies should stir our hearts to show compassion. The unnerving simplicity and humility should prod us to embrace one another with mutual respect and honour, always being aware that what we do in ADSI and elsewhere, could be that encouragement someone needs dearly.
Our financial commitment to ADSI must continue. Let’s renew our resolve to build a great Arewa. Alh. Bashir Tofa thought he could, and he did it. You and I can. Make that monthly sacrifice of N2000 or above, as you can afford, and see lives transformed in Arewa. Indeed, the legend has fallen, but he lives on, in his works.