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‘Immortal Malam’ & the Inevitability of Death: A Tribute to Prof. Ali Muhammad Garba

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By Umar Yandaki

‘Malanta’ was Prof. Ali Garba’s creed. I personally find the term ‘malam’ best suited for his personality because to typical Hausa people, ‘Malanta’ constitute an epistemic term which broadly connotes humility, courageousness, a sense of mentorship, maturity, religiousity, dynamicity, joviality and most importantly, being a teacher. And all these featured prominently in Prof. Ali’s personality.

I had never met Prof. in person. But the way he engaged us through this platform ( Facebook) with so many educating, humorously serious and path-breaking discourses testifies the above assertion. His active engagement with the social media despite being of the ‘analog age’, and considering the general conservative stance of most of his fellows is enough to prove Prof’s dynamicity. He was a blessing to all of us.

From another angle, if there’s any aspect of nature that perpetually defy human manipulation, it is death. Throughout history, human mortality remains unaltered. Death refused to be defeated by any human intellect or sciences. If there’s anything that’s a little bit altered about death, it’s how and where it happens.

In recent history, about a half or more deaths happens in hospitals, clinics, etc. This usually come after a crescendo of treatments. And patients’ families are likely to undergo post-traumatic stress disorders and prolonged grief after going through a lot of vicissitudes at a hospital, sometimes to the point of arguing or even fighting with doctors, nurses, lab attendants, etc. All these painted hospitals as though they are ‘death panels’.

This considerably informs the reason why, at least in Nigeria, many patients prefer to be treated at home. Also, many of us that are in good health hope to live as long as possible; and that when the time comes, we will die at home. Not just at home, but free from pain and surrounded by our loved ones.

Paradoxically, to many of us, it equally sounds unwise to die at home when most medical care givers are at the hospital. The fear for hospitals, therefore, remains a lesser evil when the alternative is obviously death. These were, perhaps, some of the reasons why, as intelligible from his last post, Prof avoided going to the hospital, which he later did. Alas, the cold hands of death took him there.

But wait! As it’s thinking that it has robbed us of his gentle soul, I’m tearfully smiling at the face of death to boldly let it know that it only forced us to bury the body of our loved one. Let death know that Prof’s ‘Malanta’ have reduced its somewhat devastating effects on its victim and his loved ones to nearly nothing.

A known mutumen kirki, we all are optimistic that Prof left us for the good – to enjoy even better the bounties of Allah’s mercy. An excellent academic and a mentor to all, Prof’s soul is immortal because his scholarship and ideals lives through us. Prof had in his little way altered the history of death.

Let’s all emulate Prof’s life style. Let’s all strive to become ‘Malams’. As the hows and wheres of death has been altered by science, let’s come together, the Prof’s way, and change the history of death’s effects on us and our loved ones. Allah ya gafarta wa Malam, Amin.

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