By Aliyu Smith Almusawi
Sometimes people never recognize the impact of an activist until his soul ceases to exist. It was in the late evening of Friday 1st October, 2016 that my friend and mentor alike, Musa Bayi Muhammad informed me that Bukhari Muhammad Bello Jega celebrated his birthday on 29th September, 2016.
I had to bury my face in embarrassment for I felt ashamed to have forgotten his birthday. I took the portrait of Bukhari Muhammad Bello Jega off the wall of my room six months after the Zaria Massacre for I could not withstand the seemingly never-ending trauma that haunted me whenever I took a cursory glance at his charming face.
The loss of a feisty and intrepid activist, like Jega, who joined the Islamic Movement in Nigeria with the sole aim of helping Zakzaky defeat oppression, is actually a painful loss but looking at the heroic life he lived and the tragic end his life ended, Bukhari, could best be remembered as a hero who lived like Ali (AS) and died a martyr like Hussayn (AS) who lost his entire family members and sacrificed his life with a view to reawakening our sleeping spirits. The martyrs of the Zaria massacre always seem to remind us that we must not, for fear of death, persecution, or threat, be cowed and gagged even it could cost our lives.
Bukhari Jega was without any iota of doubt one of the youngest intellectuals in the Islamic Movemnet in Nigeria, his incessant write-ups against the persecutions of marginalised voices likes Shias had given him the status of a cause célèbre. His penchant for reading and writing was what made him stand out among others. He once confided in me that he was born to learn and commit to fighting injustice and as is always the case throughout history, a hero could die but his spirit lives on for eternity, and Bukhari Muhammad Jega’s impacts could not be forgotten in a hurry. He pursued knowledge by spending his hard-earned money on books. He read voraciously and wrote extensively, and his literary contributions had helped bring the messages of Zakzaky into global prominence. His allegiance to Zakzaky was unquestionable and most of all, he never felt scared to speak out against the inane and rudderless leadership of Goodluck Jonathan, the leadership of which advocated corruption and total disregard for human lives. It was Jonathan who conspired and surreptitiously ordered the massacre of 33 members of the Islamic Movement in broad daylight and his complicity in the rise of Boko Haram was what spurred Bukhari Bello Jega into launching a literary war against him until he saw Jonathan go. He campaigned tirelessly for the success of the tyrant Buhari to the extent that he travelled to far-away places mobilizing supports for Buhari, unfortunately and unknowingly, the person whom he campaigned for was a furtive enemy who was ready to reward him with family cleansing in return.
When we met for the last time after the successful completion of Arba’een Symbolic Trek, he was holding on to his vivacious little daughter, Batoola, on his right arm. He shook my hand twice and his cryptic eyes signaled his premonition that we would never see each other again. It was during the siege of Hussainiyya, when hundreds of our brothers and dozens of infants who were placed in a secluded foyer of the sanctuary were massacred that Bukhari’s memory keeps haunting me. He was holding his dead daughter crying when I called him and the creaking sounds of machine guns could be heard through the phone, and he was, in a blubbering voice, able to tell me that soldiers had just shelled sisters’ side and he was afraid his wife was martyred and instead of asking for prayers from us, I was astonished to hear him saying “forgive us, forgive us and forgive…” I was listening to a silence as the phone was cut and switched off. What happened afterwards was a mystery but one thing was certain as he was martyred alongside his wife, daughter, and two sisters-in-law as well as hundreds of other brothers and sisters. Bukhari was really a hero, a hero who refused to give in and rather chose to sacrifice his dear life like Imam Hussaayn on the altar of uplifting the image of Islam and we promise, we will never betray you or stray from the path of which you died for. Adie Bukhari Muhammad Bello Jega, till we meet again, in the fountain of Al-khauthar when the Leader of Martyrs would bear witness to your sacrifice.