BURNING POT BY PRINCE CHARLES DICKSON, PH.D.
Albashir, Nigerian and a Good Man
Let me start this tribute in this manner
One day, a schoolteacher wrote on the board the following:
When she was done, she looked back at the students and they were all laughing at her because of the first equation, which was wrong. Then the teacher said the following:
I wrote that first one wrong on purpose, because I wanted you to learn something important. This was for you to know how the world out there will treat you. You can see that I wrote the *RIGHT thing nine times*, but none of you congratulated me for it. But you all laughed and criticized me because of *one wrong thing* I did.
And so Abdulkareem Albashir passed away, a brilliant researcher, passionate teacher, dynamic administrator and, above all, a wonderful person. He was a Journalist's Journalist. Did I hear someone mutter journalist...?
But the truth is that Albashir wasn’t just a pen pusher, but a powerful Journalist, and not because of what position he held but because of whom he was as a person.
Come to think of it, all people in position enjoy a particular kind of power, the power that comes from holding that particular position. People may love you or hate you as a person, but they are forced to respect you as the holder of the position. But some leaders are different because they are able to expand their power beyond their position and thus command respect by the sheer weight of their inner strength. This kind of “personal power” has no contractual term limit and is not bound by an organization. The source of this power is a person’s own integrity and commitment. It is also his passion for the common cause. No organization can give personal power to a leader and no organization can take it away. Leaders cannot seize it and they cannot relinquish it; they have to earn it and have to live with it.
Writing this tribute, up, close and personal I am acutely aware how much Albashir enjoyed that personal power.
I recalled my first meeting with Albashir, I was courting, and wooing his daughter; not just his daughter but his pride Saa Albashir. We would talk about everything under the political sun, and back. I recall particularly chatting about Atiku in the early Obasanjo years, and he would tell me…”Charles I told Atiku that the way he was defending Obasanjo, when the beat changes, I hope he would still be defending him…” Indeed the beat did change and the rest is history.
While flower I took from him, never blossomed as expected, he remained a good man, such was the spirit of the man; Albashir, because Saa is still my Jollof Rice.
And subsequently whether he was in Jos, or I was in Kaduna, and in his bedroom as always, we opened books, charts and tables and looked at various indicators. We talked about the challenges ahead and discussed Nigeria.
Baba (as I would call him) and I debated about his times at the Obasanjo Constitutional Conference, and talked about his era as Vice President of the Guild of Editors, or the Radio Nigeria days.
He would laugh many times lightheartedly and say, “Oh no, Charles, politics, that is not for me. I know what I want to do.” (He made it a point to call me “Charles” because he said coming from my background, he was so proud of me.) Then he would turn to confide in me, how he had turned down several political appointments.
Albashir's illness came fast and took him away quickly. None of us (particularly me) had time to say a proper good-bye and, even though I had come to know of this eventuality few years prior to his final departure, the news of his passing away came as an incomprehensible shock. When I had visited him last, even though he wasn't the old Albashir I knew, he was still telling me about two ongoing projects and what needed to happen for them as next steps.
Albashir loved books; he was a brilliant researcher and a serious Journalist cum inventor. A Muslim who loved Christians, and indeed a Nigerian, during our time together we would listen to his collection of Sunny Ade and Osadebe; such was the man.
I recall vividly the day in his bedroom, he handed his daughter to me in trust, and said to me, "she's stubborn but help her always..."
Whether it was in Daily Trust, Gamji, or Leadership, it was for me really a big deal! And I repeat big deal, having graced the cover of same papers with him. For a great man whom Nigeria was the centerpiece of his life’s work and dream, i am proud to be writing this!
Albashir was, always putting others before his own interests. He was a proud man … proud of his children and grandchildren first of all. We often shared stories about our families and his eyes twinkled every time he mentioned his family.
I recall the many times he would be smoking away, I cannot remember which was his favorite brand, and he would tell how he warned Atiku or his ABU experience, or his logjam with Jang in old Gongola.
All of us have said and are still saying good-bye to Albashir in our own ways and I said mine. The loss still feels no less, but the sharing of the memories with others helps me understand him even better. He was a good man.
He had his many faults, but despite all his faults, it is an irony that until death, the world will never appreciate the good you do *a million times*, but will criticize the *one wrong thing* you do. Albashir did many things right and for all he did right, I celebrate him.
The tragedy of Nigeria today, is the lack of truly good men, the nation is littered with Christians who are Pentecostals, Baptists, Catholics, you name them, and Muslims who are Sunnis, and Shiites, while most keep a small voodoo under their bed, but we have only few real good men, and till Nigeria rises up and look for her good men and sure women, we will remain at the junction of three corners; and till when--Only time will tell