Opinion

Calling of the Last Imam – a Tribute to Dr. Ibrahim Tahir

By Abdullahi Yelwa

I learnt of the death of Dr.Tahir in Decem, 2009 from a mutual friend of ours, Mallam Musa Bukar Sani. I was inconsolable. I had, in that my moment of shock and grief thought of his place (though largely unappreciated by his less intellectually endowed contemporaries) in the socio-political life of our nation, his position in his family and the Bauchi axis of the Northern divide, and even of his critical role as bridge builder between the North and South, and the academia and the real world of politics. Then, for me, there was a situation of a personal nature as well. I had at the time returned to active journalism, as publisher of Great Republic Newspaper after my difficult junket into the treacherous waters of Nigerian politics. I had therefore not only lost a friend and senior brother, but also a major source of breaking news as well.

Dr. Tahir had been my editorial magic wand from the early days of the IBB era till his death. When the big stories break, Tahir was the man to see. Even on a bad news day when bad stories refuse to break, Tahir can save the day with his usually controversial comments and views. A reporter’s delight, Tahir needed no questionnaire, prior appointment or talking points from any journalist before granting interviews.

During our last telephone interview we had discussed so many national issues, beside the mega party topic, my initial area of interest. Previously during our happenchance meeting in the country residence of Ciroman Keffi, I had asked after his health. His steadfastness, giant frame and courage couldn’t allow him to admit the seriousness of his ailment.

His unique interview technique is rooted in his rare intellectual prowess and academic grounding in logic and philosophy. In his days in the academia at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Tahir was an intellectual colossus who towered over and above his peers. Though a progressive/modernist, whose intellectual and social roots were deeply grounded in Northern Nigerian and European conservatism, Tahir as a sociologist never denied the role of the society in shaping the psychological character of the individual. He thus was the last line of defense for Islamo-African values, even as he sought to reform them. At a time when every intelligent scholar in the Nigerian ivory tower was afflicted or cowed by the epidemic of socialism, Tahir’s understanding of human sociology became his antidote against its symptoms. He saw through the facade of its infections allure deadly and addictive social opium.

There were no idle intellectual moments in Zaria in his days there. He was at the time one of the few intellectuals who could counter the infectious logic of communism with an equally eloquent and compelling treatise on the values of tradition and culture. He matched Dr. Bala Usman, his ideological foe, logic for logic, statistics for statistics. For the students of the university, such encounters were rare intellectual treats, a gladiator-type bipolar duel fought by their lecturers in the lecture halls of their campuses. That Dr. Bala Usman was often times the sentimental favourite of the students, most of them from poor and under privileged homes and societies, during such encounters, never took away from Tahir his superior intellect and mastery of logic and history.

Tahir’s intellectual superiority was only matched by his boundless philanthropy and humanism.

He was undoubtedly one of the most intelligent and politically endowed in eloquence, aura, persona class, swagger and pedigree of Nigerian politicians of the time. Understandably too, he was an easy target of class conspiracy by his less endowed peers. He was feared as much as he was liked, and it was only when his strategic political expertise was needed that he was allowed to shine. The “conquest” of Anambra and Oyo states by the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), was largely a by-product of his rare political ingenuity. He was thus never allowed to rise to his full political potentials.

Dr. Tahir had his faults – all mortals do have them. But avarice was never one of them. He was raised in a family and society where the

*Abdullahi Yelwa, a journalist and Newspaper publisher writes from Abuja.

Source: Vanguard NGR

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