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Prof Dahiru Yahaya (1947-2021)

By Mahdi Garba
It’s a week on since we lost a prolific writer, university teacher, author, professor and activist who refused to keep in the face of the prevailing injustice in Nigeria. Prof Dahiru Yahaya is a colossus who left at a time we are all in dire need of his fatherly counsel.

The number of tributes I read following the announcement of his transition from this world to the other realm could make any person cry. He was someone who had impacted on all the people he had made. One of his neighbours said the late historian was the only man he knows who lived in the midst of the poor despite his colossal knowledge as well as international exposure.
He didn’t live an opulent lifestyle despite having the wherewithal to do so. Everything about him was a simple one.
Some of his students from the Bayero University Kano and Ahmadu Bello University said besides imparting knowledge on them, he also made sure no one fails his course. In Prof’s courses, it is not just about passing but scaling impeccable grades. This was about his generosity and benevolence. On Prof Dahiru Yahaya’s contribution to his field of study, precisely intellectual and diplomatic history, his works are there to bear witness of the length he went in opening discourses that are regarded as too sacred to discuss.
To him all men are equal. Hence, he treated all humans equally. Some years ago, during Nigeria’s centenary celebration, I can say was my first contact with him in a WhatsApp group where I was ignorantly challenging former President Jonathan’s decision remove the Ajami script on 100 note and replacing it with an octagon that was regarded by many pro-Palestinian Muslims as imported from the Israeli flag.
At the peak of the debate, Prof Dahiru Yahaya intervened with a resounding rendition. According to him, inserting an eight-shaped symbol on the note is not necessary that the government was doing the bidding of Israel. In his contribution, we could all see his academic prowess, which is unrivalled. He cited examples from different Islamic structures that have a similar shape including the Shrine of the 8th Shia infallible Imam, Aliyu Bn Musa Ar-Ridha.
Days after the conversation, he called me on phone. “Dahiru Yahaya ne, farfesa,” he introduced himself in Hausa. He told me he saved my phone number and from time to time we would be discussing on issues, he concluded. I was surprised because to me I don’t know what this man of letters would benefit from me.
About six years after, I understand that my number was still in his contact list because immediately after his family announced his death through his WhatsApp status, I was among the first to view it I think, because, I know he had never updated his status nor view any of mine, just like most elderly people that use the platform.
I was shocked by his humbleness the more after his death, with the revelations that kept propping up from his disciples.
Sometimes I wonder how and where he accrued his mountainous knowledge on religion, history, sociology, philosophy and politics. Prof’s intellectual prowess is top-notch which is the verisimilitude of outstanding contemporary geniuses like Ali Mazrui.
In both speech and writing, the late Dahiru Yahaya’s choice of words is legendary. He speaks English and his mother tongue, Hausa with equal fluency.
In a Facebook post in 2019, a Nigerian journalist, Aliyu Dahiru Aliyu, described the polyglot thus; “He is a genius that speaks English, Arabic, French, German, Turkish, Spanish and many Nigerian local languages.”
He went on to that say to him, Islam is his source of inspiration as he was not influenced by any of the western scholars. There is no doubt with this assertion looking at how the septuagenarian dedicated his life to the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, efforts of ending the continued persecution of its members and the illegal detention of Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife, Malama Zeenah.
Even weeks to his death, he graced many programmes organized by the Movement as a guest speaker. On that cause, he had visited Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and the nukes and crannies of Nigeria despite his age, prevailing insecurity and pockets of threats from those in authorities.
May Allah grant him Aljanna Firdaus and give his family, neighbours and disciples the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss. Ajib Ya Mujib!