Saturday, November 3, 2012
A Tribute to Dr. Ibrahim Waziri by Dr. F. B. Damagum
A Tribute to Dr. Ibrahim Waziri Dr. Fatima B. Damagum, a female classmate of a slained medical doctor in the Northeastern town of Potiskum, Northern Nigeria, recounts his virtues and laments his departure. It is a heart-touching account among hundreds of others in the ongoing Boko Haram crises that has ravaged that part of Nigeria. I remember a discussion I had with my kid’s nanny once. She was recounting the death of her son and how much of a good son he was, and finally she ended up with “Ai Allah ba ya barin nagari”, literarily meaning Allah (SWT) does not leave the good ones. (In actual sense it means, the good ones always die early). Apparently it is a common Hausa saying but having never heard it before and being a bit hot-headed, I immediately reprimanded her and told her not to utter those words again, preaching to her instead that everyone’s time of death was already written and we should not speak such blasphemy against our creator. As she could not argue with her employer and thinking I was more knowledgeable than her, she let the matter rest. I have since regretted the way I handled the situation. Since graduating from medical school in 2008, our class has experienced its share of death - Ahmad Yaqub and Ibrahim Ajiya Waziri. I am not ashamed (and I’m sure many will agree) to say that the two were the best in our class, not academically - though they were quite brainy - but, more importantly, in terms of character. They were good, morally upright, well read, serious minded, ambitious young men that any mother would be proud to call her sons. Ibrahim was the Amir of REMSA (Remedial Muslim Students Association) and Ahmad was Amir of both POMSSA (Part One Muslim Science Students Association) and NAMHS (National Muslim Health Students Association). Both of them are gone. I know it is customary to sing the praises of people after their death when in real life their faults were all people could see. But wallahi in the case of Ibrahim waziri, it is the golden truth. To put it plainly, he was a rare gem. After my move to Maiduguri after secondary school, I was opportune to be his neighbour on our street behind School of Nursing, Damboa Road; and after we both gained admission to study medicine in the same university we quickly became friends. He was smart, good-hearted and honest. But his best quality was how well he got on with people. He loved his mother dearly and doted on her. He was a bookworm and we used to tease him about being a suffer-head. He didn’t mind, his nose was too buried in his books to care. He would come over to our house and gist with my family members and even after I got married he would still go and keep my mother company. Ibrahim was the brother I never had. In our final year, we were required to pick a group with which we would spend 8 weeks in the village while we carried out final year project. Because the boys were twice our number, each group was to comprise of two girls and four boys, I immediately picked "Ibbi". The reason was simple: I felt safe with him. I can go on and on. Ibrahim was nice, very nice. How many guys do you know who sleep and tend to their mothers while on admission in a hospital? Ibrahim would go to classes during the day and sleep at night by her hospital bed whenever his diabetic mother was admitted. He changed her and tended to her every needs. She once confided in me that with him she didn’t miss not having a daughter. Meanwhile, in our street, he became everyone’s family physician. I have lost track of the number of times my mother would call him to attend to my sisters’ many ailments and he does it without any fuss or excuses. I remember quite vividly once when my mother was acutely ill and he was called at night to come and attend to her. Not only did he go, but he also took her to the hospital where he worked, admitted her, treated her and kept checking on her until she enquired if he was interested in one of my sisters! How many times did he give me a ride to and from school? How many times did my friends and I pile into his then Toyota in the early days of school when we went to the lab for gross anatomy or biochemistry practicals? How many messages have I had him deliver for me while I was staying in the hostel? He even gave me my first driving lesson! He was there at my wedding. He also there when I delivered my first son. Here, I seek the indulgence of my readers to recount his modesty. In his typical shy nature, he refused to enter the labour room, even though he was doing his Obstetrics and Gynaecology (O&G) rotation then as a House-officer. Instead, he preferred to sit at the nurses’ station where he could observe the happenings around me and at the same time respect my privacy as I laboured in pain. In addition to all these, Ibrahim was industrious. He was enterprising enough to rent a shop as a student and start a photocopying business while many of us were still living off our parents and feeling like kids. I received the news of Ibrahim Waziri’s demise on Saturday, the 20th of October 2012, with a shock, as if my whole world was shattered. A couple of months ago I was pleased when he informed me about his new appointment with the Federal Ministry of Health. After the customary orientation procedure in Abuja however, he was posted to Potiskum, Yobe state to work in the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) as he was an indigene of the state. He sent me a text message to that effect. I was appalled at first but immediately called and reassured him that it could be for the best and wished him well. Over the past few months, he would post pictures of the sorry state of some local government hospitals on Facebook and my classmates and I would discuss at length and lament over the decline of healthcare in our rural communities. I remember the way my hand shook when my husband broke the news of his death to me that morning. Ibrahim and his father were murdered and their bodies dumped unceremoniously somewhere on the outskirts of Potiskum. I can figure out death from from natural causes, illness or even an accident but I cannot understand the way my good Ibrahim died. Why? Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un! Unfortunately for me, I was on call that day and had to go to work. I tried to put on a bold face but I could not. I was a bundle of nerves, crying on the phone and messing up prescriptions and diagnosis. For the past couple of months, Maiduguri, Damturu and Potiskum have been under siege and residents have been caught in a crossfire between the alleged “Boko Haram” and the JTF. Therefore, the news of indiscriminate killings have reached us and sensitized us a little. But the truth is unless someone you really know is hurt you are not likely to feel the real weight of the sorrow. According to a report Ibrahim and his father were both kidnapped from their residence at about 1:30am after their house was pillaged and burnt. The two were then taken to a remote destination where they were killed and dumped. Some say they were shot; others claim they were slaughtered. But in the end, all that matters is that Ibrahim died because of his virtue: He refused to allow the gunmen to take his father away and, as a result, he too became a victim. Sometimes when I remember him, I shed silent tears of sorrow, sometimes, my body is seized by racking loud sobs of frustration and anger. Nobody deserves to die this way. I can only imagine what was going through their minds from the time they were seized to the time of they were killed. I cannot imagine the horror they endured. Allah ya isa! In Islam, we are taught to accept whatever happens to us as destiny and Allah’s will. With this understanding comes contentment and peace. What God has willed will always come to pass. Now I can reconcile with what my nanny said. “Allah ba ya barin nagari”. Ibrahim, I will miss you forever. No amount of prose will explain my heart, no poem can render my sorrow. Only a prayer can suffice: May Allah grant you Paradise. Amin.