WHAT MAMA TAUGHT US, BY SEN. DAGGASH
A loud silence permeated the stretch of the street adjacent the 241 Brigade Command Army Officers' Mess situated at old GRA, Maiduguri, Borno State. It was obvious the entire neighbourhood was in a mourning mood even as few men that sat under a Neem tree around the area could hardly answer the reporter's greetings.
Just at the middle of the street is a British prototype house, an expansive but very serene compound. Ironically, the otherwise greenish trees in front of the house had on this day shed their beauty despite the torrent of rains few days earlier at the El-Kanemi city. The environment was unusually dull while solemnity pervaded the entire surroundings.
No doubt, a notable personality, women leader and erstwhile Secretary of Health (minister) during the Chief Ernest Shonekan-led Interim National Government, Hajiya Aishatu Laraba, mother of the Minister of Works, Senator Mohammed Sanusi Daggash, has passed away.
'It was a great loss,' declared Governor Ali Modu Sheriff who was one of the early callers. The Federal Government delegation was led by the SGF, Alhaji Ahmed Yayale, while various classes of people stream into the compound to sympathise with the deceased family.
Kano State Governor Ibrahim Shekarau also described Hajiya Laraba as a very wonderful mother: 'Of truth, I did not have personal contact with her in her life-time as a public servant but I visited her on her sick bed on few occasions and the depth of her thought showed that she was a good woman. Mama lived a very fruitful life, affecting the society positively in her public life while equally ensuring proper up-bringing of her siblings.'
Shekarau said the quality of the upbringing was evident on Laraba's children, adding that the late life President of Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN) strived to ensure that her offspring were given quality training and education.
At the Gwange graveyard, the sympathisers that attended the burial were unprecedented. A relative of the deceased maintained the turn out was due to the personality of the deceased, adding that she used her lifetime to serve people and had made friends in different parts of the country: 'Look these people here did not come because of Sanusi (minister) alone or because of the connection of her other two children, Hajiya was a known figure in her life-time. The woman was a natural leader and she lived an exemplary life. She was interested in the well-being of the people and her commitment through volunteering service in the Hajj medical team as a trained nurse. This endeared her to so many people across the country.' the man who refused to disclose his identity added.
The chief mourner, Sanusi Daggash could not hold back tears as his casual mien suddenly gave way to sober reflection while tears forced their way down his cheeks. A special prayer session led by Sheikh Abubakar el-Miskin took place at the family residence. While the burial rites were going on at the Gwange Central Cemetery, an unusual early morning drizzle came but the cemetery area experienced favourable weather throughout the burial. It was indeed a kind way the nature bid the departed soul farewell to the world beyond.
The burial was attended by Sheriff, his deputy, Adamu Dibal, former speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Umar Na'abba, PDP national secretary, former governor of Yobe State and now senator, Bukar Abba Ibrahim as well as other members of the National Assembly, politicians, prominent business men and women.
Sanusi Daggash described his mother as a trustworthy, open-minded and focussed person. He said the woman taught them the value of good interaction with people no matter the class while also maintaining decorum, self-control at all times:
'She was very un-materialistic, an epitome of decorum and moderation in all things. I cannot forget her usual entreaties to us as growing up children never to be materialistic and that is why our ambitions are not over-reached.' He said his public life was influenced by his late mother, noting that he had learnt to be moderate in all his undertakings while also thinking of others. He thanked those who sympathised with the family in their moment of grief and Nigerians for appreciating her service.
Born on June 13, 1934 at Garkida, present Adamawa State, Hajiya Aishatu Laraba, did her secondary education in Sokoto and Kano. She took up teaching appointment and subsequently got married in 1950 to Malam Daggash, a forestry officer with the colonial administration in Maiduguri. They both lived in Katsina, Zaria, Jos and Lagos before returning to Maiduguri.
She travelled to the United Kingdom in 1956 and was trained as a nurse. She returned to Nigeria in 1964 and worked at the Lagos General Hospital and later moved to Kaduna following the outbreak of civil war. She was transferred to School of Nursing, Kaduna, as a lecturer and where she rose to the rank of matron.
Laraba Daggash joined her husband in Lagos after the civil war and was appointed to the board of the Nigerian Youth Service Corps Directorate, the initial directorate charged with the Federal Government policy on the newly created NYSC. Ahmadu Ali and the board members then went round the country and all over the world to educate Nigerians in the Diaspora on the post graduate service scheme and its importance to the socio-economic growth and unity of the country before the scheme finally took off.
She was also a board member of the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Oyo State, and also board member of the Nigeria Council for Arts and Culture. She served as member of the Nigeria National Merit Award Committee, the body charged with the task of recommending qualified recipients to the President. She was the secretary of Health during the Interim National Government of Chief Ernest Shonekan.
She was first conferred with national merit honour of OFR but later changed to CON by President Olusegun Obasanjo. Though Laraba reportedly kept away from active and partisan politics, she was nonetheless the national leader of Jami'yyar Matan Arewa, a non political northern women group for over 20 years, life president of FOMWAN and leader of Borno Women League among other various organisations that she led
She is survived by three children, Hajia Habiba Ahman Wakil, General Manager, (Nigerian content) PTDF, Senator Sanusi Daggash, Minister of Works and Hajiya Khadija Haruna as well as many grand children.