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A terrible shock

By Donu Kogbara
NASIR and Hadiza El-Rufai have just lost Yasmin, their eldest child. She passed away in the UK at the tender age of 25 last weekend; and I’d like to briefly reminisce about the cute kid she once was and the lovely lady she became.

I have known Nasir and Hadiza since they were an ordinary professional couple. And I thoroughly enjoyed their company from Day One because they both had progressive, detribalised, cosmopolitan mindsets…and were both mega-smart, refreshingly unpretensious and fantastically entertaining.

A bereaved El-Rufai

Even when Nasir became a famous Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises and a powerful FCT Minister – and even when Hadiza became the second most important woman in Abuja after the President’s wife – they continued to be very accessible, very down-to-earth and very interested in sharing amusing or serious conversations with pals from all four corners of Nigeria and all walks of life. There were no airs and graces. Their home was a popular magnet for people who were seeking stimulation, relaxation and advice.

I once impulsively went to their official FCT residence with Ahmed, a young man who had some good ideas I wanted Nasir to hear. But Nasir was about to rush out to a meeting when we got there, so I apologised for coming at the wrong time and said we would return when he was less busy. Nasir smilingly said:

“Why don’t you bring Ahmed into my bedroom, so we can talk about his ideas while I’m packing my briefcase with the documents I will need for my meeting?”

Such informality, warmth and open-mindedness is extremely rare in the realm occupied by Naija VIPs; and Ahmed was so overwhelmed by Nasir’s willingness to relate to him like an equal that he could barely speak! And, till today, he admiringly tells people about the day a Minister invited him into his bedroom!

Yasmin possessed all of her parents’ most impressive character traits. As a little girl, she was polite, affectionate, modest and intellectually curious. Then, as she made the transition into adulthood, she acquired the ability to combine the better modern attitudes with a respect for the better traditional values.

Hadiza, who is struggling to make sense of this unexpected bombshell, describes Yasmin as “an ideal daughter who could never do enough for her mother.”

Nasir also has wonderful memories of Yasmin but sadly and philosophically told me that if it is God’s will that his beloved daughter should go now, so be it.

Yasmin El-Rufai was a delightful daughter, a devoted sister to her junior brothers and a great favourite with her peers and family friends like myself.

Her tragically premature death has been a massive shock for everyone who loved her. May her gentle soul rest in perfect peace. May The Almighty help Nasir and Hadiza cope with this terrible pain that will never totally fade.

By the way, curses galore to the evil, pathetic ghouls who have gleefully used Yasmin’s demise as an excuse for scoring cheap political points against Nasir…a straight-talking public figure who has attracted hostility as well as support.

Since nobody is perfect, I sometimes disagree with Nasir and cannot defend everything he has said or done. But I know that his heart is in the right place and that all he ever wanted was for Nigeria to become a world-class nation.

One particular website – I won’t dignify it by naming it – contains several nasty comments along the lines of “It serves El-Rufai Right That His Daughter Died.”

May God take vengeance on such individuals who think that it’s OK to insult a bereaved father!

Farewell to my ex-leader

MY late father, Ignatius Suage Kogbara, was the Biafran Representative (Ambassador) to London during the Civil War. Some members of Ojukwu’s family lived with us during this difficult period and we shared many hopes and fears.

I will never forget my Dad calling me and my siblings together in l970, to tell us, in a very deflated, wobbly and weary tone of voice, that we had lost the war. And I clearly recall us all weeping when this news was conveyed to us.

I grew up being assured that Nigeria was a nice idea that didn’t quite work. And I have gradually concluded that this dismissive definition was too pessimistic.

But we must not forget that a bloody pogrom in the North triggered off the epic conflict that dragged Nigeria into turmoil for for years; and I will always regard Ojukwu as a hero who courageously responded to the chronic anxieties that most Igbos and some Niger Deltans were going through at the time.

Ojukwu’s recent departure from this mortal sphere is, for me and so many other former Biafrans, about a wistful remembrance of times past and the end of an era. Some South-South minority folks like my father vigorously supported the Biafran cause. Others were totally opposed to it. Some had mixed feelings.

According to Dr. Bennett Birabi, formerly Senate Minority Leader: “My view about Ojukwu is that he was the one man in Nigeria who knew who he was and what it meant to be a sovereign citizen. Nobody can ever take that from him…

“…But the Biafran Experiment failed because he took for granted the feelings of Niger Delta minorities and did not consult them sufficiently before declaring the state of Biafra. If he had secured the confidence of minorities, he would have succeeded. But the fact that he did not do so was the genesis of the mistrust and suspicion that resulted in the collapse of his Biafran Dream…”




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