The Sweep with Hassan Alhaji Hassan: Zainab Dauda (1970-2018)


Zainab Dauda, the wife to late Murtala Muhammed of the University of Maiduguri, is dead. She has been ill for some time, but when I visited her at the UMTH back in December, she wasn’t like someone I will never see again.
Last Thursday, an SMS came in silently with the unlikely: she just passed on. Same day but to no one’s knowledge until Friday, a young police officer, Abba kaka, fell to kidnappers bullet in an exchange of fire. News of death is rampant these days.
Zainab attended the Army Children Primary School and the Government Girls College both in Maiduguri. She proceeded to study Mass Communication at the University of Maiduguri and finished well ahead of yours faithfully well ahead of yours faithfully.
Zainab was an embodiment of her late husband. When two souls connect in time with sincere and honest love, they resemble. Meeting her brought back memories of our teacher and colleague, a fine gentle, the quintessential ‘Albert’ as we – Nassir, Hassan and Musa – fondly called him. He was a strong comic relief in times of too much work and a calm company at work.
He was supposed to be the most senior, one of the pioneer lecturers there, a teacher to our teachers but he was just about finishing his PhD then, owing to his long years of leave of absence to service Abuja, this leave of absence that has characterised the service of those of us who took after him.
I became family friends with the Murtalas, courtesy of my younger brother, Hamid Umar Hussain, who became her husband’s errand and of all other staff of the Department of Mass Communication, UNIMAID.  
The tragedy of Zainab’s death is the three sons who had everything in her, but who she has just left to ‘no one’, because, as one of their distant cousin said after the mother’s internment, no one will ever replace her in taking care of the sons. One is a grown up, already in the University. The second is in Secondary and the third in Primary. Three young, promising faces of their father.
Hajiya Hauwa, Malam Murtala’s junior sister who has lived with them for long and had to witness the series of adverse events, is stepping in to play their mother. She has watched Zainab relate with the kids over the years and that qualifies her for the new task. It is a burden of no small measure.  
It is not going to be easy, not the same again. Never. God has placed the relationship between a mother and her child beyond human concepts. Nothing equals it. Nothing explains it. But we know Hajiya Hauwa can try.
I have limited information. But I hear Zainab is survived by three living brothers – two retired Airforce officers based in Lagos and one is a serving police officer in Kwara State. Since the Gwange Bakin Gada house of Malam Dauda deserted to the demise of the parents over time, they have lost touch with Maiduguri and that distanced their relationship with their departing sister.
It is the clear case of the life of indigenes and Yerwa. Those who live in it will never want to leave. And for those that leave, they jump at every opportunity to come home. And those who live outside it will never want to come home no matter the connect. We hope that those of us outside will not stay off for our life.But of course Zainab and her brothers were connected in spirit and they reached out to each other often.
Every death is painful and the story of every dying human is worth telling. No matter the indignity, a soul has its merit of life that got a lesson for some among us and they need to know about it. May Allah forgive me, for this selective tribute over my lifetime, to those we want to talk about and leaving other stories in silence.
But of course, all stories all over cannot be told. Impossible. The selection is both natural and traditional. There is a death all over the world with every touch of the keyboard as I type, making it impossible to know of, to think and to tell them all. God is all knowing, all forgiving.
Zainab’s death is a lesson to us all – men for not taking women empowerment serious and women for taking life too serious in every situation. I can’t feel it. But I do know and must speak it for them. Imagine Zainab as a full-time housewife when Malam was killed. The shock of the horror would have accumulated in her life long before she lived.
Losing a husband is the worst thing for a woman – far worse than losing a father, mother, or brother or friend. It is the last stroke. How she survives it depends on much from many available around. But after she picks up, it is good also if she can take care of herself and the kids. Our society is too silent and pretentious. Many women die as widows indignity, shame, abuse and molestation from the family inlaw.
Let men know that the burdens of the sin of the crimes are not just on the shoulders of the abusers and their cohorts but also on the silent. It is also on the rest of us who accepted these patterns and often keep mute about our experiences in the neighbourhood, all around and in the mass media.
I don’t know much, but I do know that the devastation that shook us on the shot of Malam Murtala actually was Zainab’s last stroke. She long resigned from much in life, in looks, in habits and action. She hated the house he almost completed and refused to actualise it for the family to move because it was the spot where her husband was killed.
That afternoon he drove down to the site to see the progress of work, and to contemplate next stage. Two boys came up to him to demand the key to his car. They tried to drive it but the sand dunes of the 202 Housing area held it on the ground. They tried hard, severally but to no avail.
They gave up and decided to leave when one of them turns back, came back, looked at Malam and shot him in the forehead. I know the gruesome picture that year which went viral on the social media still sticks. The memory lingered ever since.

Armed Robbers killed Murtala after an attempt to snatch his car

We remember him but we will do little of Zainab. That is it. A woman will do everything but to push her husband to public gallery and applause but after him, all the efforts, the result of hard work from human sweat, the mental satisfaction that you are reflected in the husbands shining personality and the aura of being his wife, are all gone. Forget the private touch and connect with the two persons and bedfellows.
I am subdued by Zainab’s death. It brings the memory of her late husband to life. It is hard to live every death. But this one is closer even in a normal human share of tragedy. It has a personal tide. Zainab and Murtala was the first couple in Mass Communication in UNIMAID. The second is Mustapha and Amina. The third is Hassan and Aisha. Three of us demonstrated the hard difficulty and ‘impossibility’ for many of lecturer/student marriage.
We have demystified the social theory that lecturers waylay their female students into relationships that often lead to nowhere – that lecturers often dump them after some time. And many cases proved that. That theory is still valid, tested and trusted over time, in all institution of higher learning, all over the world.
Our cases are facts that every social theory is subject to tests and validation. We showed and gave that one its demerits. Part of our pride as living families and parents is the fact that some men can commit to a truth and live by it. It is critical to family raising but it is often overlooked due to long loss of family values of our forefathers.
And all three cases survived the torments of custody. The first lived to term and now gone. The other two are waging their paths. We do not know when, where and how. But we do know that now or late the last breath will be reached.
I am not aware of any fourth demonstration thereafter against that theory thereafter. I may be wrong. But if there is, this notion of ‘the only three’ will be corrected soonest because of the number of enthusiasts on the issue. It is good that we have more tests all over. The pretentions and apprehensions of our society are misleading our young, wasting opportunities of life and living and creating more social loops in our living.
We are directly responsible for the deterioration in our values and standards by not living up to social tasks. Disciplined men must stand up to the truth and defend the thick line between work and play; official and personal; public and private. And the best way to do that is with the family: put everyone on notice. No one crosses the line.
The other path of common interest is the fact that all three of us are now known for Malam Murtala’s lead of long terms of the leave of absence from the Department. He left and returned after almost a couple of decades. Malam Mustapha is still on his second long leave. And yours faithfully has just passed a decade on same. And the years count. Fast.  
Malam Murtala returned and carried on with the renewed spirit of academics. He came to ginger us to hasten our work. But Allah had a different plan. I left home. He went home. But the spirit connect is on. We do not know where our graves are. But wherever they are, we pray they are the best homes we will ever have. Allah forgive Zainab and Murtala and reward them with the best.
I used to be a diehard conservative, blind and full. But my life and mind changed when the first woman in my house had to face the death of my first child. When I left to the office that Tuesday morning, he was full of life. Hours later, colleagues were in my house. They heard and called. He died. Aged six weeks. August 11 to September 29, an event we remember close to the world’s other tragedy in September – 9/11. It was the same year.
The devastation was mutual and I felt the need to review life. Losing a child in her hand, alone, without even the presence of a cell phone then, was something unimaginable for a woman. And the man needs to read, share and use the lesson for life. An empowered wife will be preoccupied with much and takes responsibility for what she can do because she is able to move, to talk, to walk, to buy, to call and to work.
The man ought to note and work out all that before time. We often go too far in our reliance on Allah’s plans. They are the best but we have to think the basic and the easiest. Women empowerment is misconstrued as women political empowerment. And that is wrong. It is simply the sense and the reason among men, of getting the woman to work or to trade. In her worst of times, she will carry on and forget her miseries at the least.
Whenever the man falls short midway life, she may be broken but will pick up the pieces and begin to walk the path of life. The cut of the economy in the absence of the pheasant husband will not also cut food from the mat of the family. They are always better off when they are economically independent. A mother is the last one to cheat her kids. After your life, she is the last one standing for them.
Zainab has passed among as many we can count. I don’t know how many you can count on your end, but has anyone noticed the rate of rapid, sudden death in our mid? Does it mean anything to anyone of us? Are we thinking at all, about the tragedy of callous conduct of overriding life in the mid of rampant death around us?
Has it internalised in us the lessons we need to think about redirect this life to something different from the race, competition, mad rush and evil plots to the mountains of human ambitions in a society that is limited by inadequacies of everything in everything about everything?
The guardianship of Zainab’s sons bears this accountable responsibility. But their best guardian is Allah. He is the dependant and helper of every orphan. And He is enough for them. May He forgive their souls and bless them with the nearest neighbourhood to His mercy.
Hassan can be reached on
08032829772/08050551220 (text only with full names and address)


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