By Bashir Sanda Gusau
This is one tribute too many. My heart bleeds whenever I find myself at a critical moment of writing obituaries for a beloved one. I am constrain to say that mine and yours would be written no matter how long they take. The Arab used to say ‘Man must die even if he is given thousand upon thousand years’. Qur’an crowns it ‘every soul shall test death’.
On Monday 30th March, 2020 I was scrolling my facebook page where I came across a post about the death of a respected pillar, a genius, principled, humble, unsung hero and elder statesman, Alh. Ibrahim Birnin Tsaba.
My ego couldn’t reconcile with the sad story, I continued scrolling hoping that it was one of the mischievous posting of these yahoo-yahoo boys who post whatever they want not minding its devastating consequences.
But when I saw the story being posted by people of proven integrity, it dawned on me that, the worst had happened. Old Sokoto State has lost one of its greatest teachers and administrators per excellence. Birnin Tsaba is humility personified.
Who is Alhaji Ibrahim Birnin Tsaba
Alh. Ibrahim Birnin Tsaba was born in 1941 some 79 years ago at Birnin Tsaba in the present day Zurmi Local Government of Zamfara State. He acquired both Bachelors Degree and Masters in Education in 1975 and 1977 respectively from the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University Zaria.
He taught at many Primary and Secondary Schools which culminated into him becoming a Headmaster at Demonstration School, Maru in 1965.
Birnin Tsaba was also appointed Principal from 1972 to 1976 and served in the following Secondary Schools: Kotorkoshi, Kaura Namoda, Yabo and Ka’oje. He was elected as member of the constituent assembly representing Kaura Namoda Local Government in 1977/78.
When he returned, he was appointed Principal, Government Teachers College Maru, Sokoto Teachers College and College of Arts and Science Sokoto from 1978-1979.
In 1979 when Alh. Shehu Kangiwa was elected as Governor of the old Sokoto State (comprising, Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara) he was appointed as Honorable Commissioner of Education. He did not disappoint Governor Kangiwa who happened to be his former classmate.
He served meritoriously well and his hard line posture of non-corruptibility helped pushed education to a greater height at that point in time. His stewardship saw to the building of many first class secondary schools and tertiary institutions. He was the one who awarded the contract for the building of Government Secondary School Tureta and many more others.
Following the death of Late Kangiwa at a polo event in Kaduna, 17th November, 1981. Dr. Garba Nadama succeeded the exalted position and retained him as Education Commissioner.
Do you remember that superlative song composed by Sani Aliyu Dandawo with good lyrics and melody he titled ‘Gwamnan Jahar Sakkwato Shehu Kangiwa mai niyyar rikon gaskiya’. Somewhere in the song he says, ‘Education Commissioner Birnin Tsaba da Permsec Sani na ji sun ce, in dai Shehu a Gwomna, manya da yara kowa sai ya yi ilmi kamin shekarar nan hudu.’
In 1983 when Dr. Nadama was re-elected as Governor of Sokoto State, he reappointed him as commissioner and assigned finance port polio for him in a case of square peg in a round hole.
The second republic was short lived as military officers under General Muhammad Buhari over threw the government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari: All manner of special military tribunals were set up in all the states of the federation. In some states like Kano Governor Sabo Bakin Zuwo was sentenced to two life span imprisonment of 200m years.
However, in Sokoto State all the gladiators were sent to prison under the guise of investigations, but Alhaji Ibrahim Birnin Tsaba who was detained briefly was cleared by the special investigation panel and freed to take up any appointment or carry out any lawful business. This was because as hard as Buhari’s regime was, it found him to be incorruptible and honest administrator in all ramifications.
Following the creation of Zamfara State in 1996, Birnin Tsaba was appointed pioneer Executive Chairman of Universal Basic Education from 1996-1997, Secretary to Zamfara State Government from January 1998 to May 1999. He was also a Permanent Commissioner Civil Service Commission from 2000-2010.
When Birnin Tsaba was Education Commissioner in 1979, I couldn’t know him because I was a Secondary School form one student at that time. My close shove with him was sometime in January 1998, when my good friend and a talented journalist Ibrahim Muhammad Birnin Magaji (a former commissioner) was press secretary to Farida Jibril Yakubu, wife of the Zamfara State Military Administrator.
I was at that time Government House correspondent of Zamfara Radio, he pointed at him while coming out from the office of Aminu Ahmad Nahuche the then SSG and said ‘Bashir this is your next SSG’, aptly two days later he was appointed and sworn in as the new SSG.
From that time on wards, my path and his continued to cross because we were working in the same environment. He took special interest in me and asked me to be paying him a regular visit at his old secretariat canteen area office.
On one faithful Friday, I visited him and found him to be on a sober mood. I asked him what the problem was; he didn’t want to tell me until I pressed him hard. He told me that he wanted to go to Sokoto for the weekend and visit his family but his car had run out of fuel.
I said why couldn’t he ask the Director of Finance to provide some funds for him. His mood further deteriorated and said, ‘it is illegal to use public funds for private engagements’. I inquired how much would he need to make the trip, ‘N10,000’ only he requested as a loan’.
I told him that I would give him the money if he would accept. As I wanted to go to my house to bring the money, he said we had to go together; we drove in my small Toyota one door Corolla to the house. I entered and returned with the money and handed it over to him.
He was all smiling and said, ‘but this is not your money, ‘I believe you must have gotten it from your wife’. We had a general laughter. The money which he refunded five days later when salaries were paid.
The lesson to be derived here was that a whole mighty SSG had no N10,000 but a poor Zamfara State Pilgrims Welfare Agency Public Relations Officer (which was then my position) on Grade Level 09 had to come to his rescue.
It will surprise you to know that he left only two old vehicles and owned only three bedroom bungalow which was earlier a property of Zamfara Agriculture Development Project. He is survived by three wives and 20 children. A highly religion man. During the last Ramadan tafseer, I always used to meet him everyday at Sahaba Jumu’at Mosque Samaru Gusau.
I wish to appeal to the Governor of the State, Bello Mohammed Matawalle to give him post humors award and immortalize him by naming any educational institution after him.
Congratulations to his family as their patriarch has left an indelible mark in the sands of time. Personally, I envy his curriculum vitae and his Spartan lifestyle, but someone has to whisper to me that there could only be one Birnin Tsaba in the history of Zamfara State. May Allah forgive his shortcoming and grant him Aljanna Firdaus.
Bashir Sanda Gusau