Tribute to Professor Marliyya Sanusi Zayyan

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By Muhammad Shakir Balogun

Before the government took the wrong-headed decision to close the ABU Hospital in Kaduna, ABU had two teaching hospitals – the better-known one was in Tudun Wada, Zaria. Who does that kind of thing – close a large hospital right in the middle of town and convert the premises to a university?

As proclaimed by a plaque, the hospital was commissioned by the inimitable Sardauna of Sokoto in 1965. It was built in the halcyon days when quality mattered, not the era of rapacity in which that substandard thing in Shika was constructed.

Professor Marliyya Sanusi Zayyan
Professor Marliyya Sanusi Zayyan

The visionary premier would surely have turned in his grave when the calamity happened. In those days, the hospital in Kaduna was surrounded by the staff quarters, golf course, school of nursing and midwifery, medical students’ hostel, all enveloped in a salutary sylvan ambience and serene atmosphere which have since been destroyed as the staff quarters were sold out and the ample green spaces carved out. A story for another day.

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More than two decades ago, my group was lucky to do the whole of our Obstetrics and Gynecology posting in Kaduna. Lucky not just because of being away from the dull, near-rural atmosphere in Tudun Wada where we often didn’t have electricity. For, it wasn’t just the environment, but more importantly the people.

Our teachers in Kaduna were generally less grumpy, less stern, more personable, and definitely not less knowledgeable than the ones in Zaria. In fact, some of the most impressively ‘stuffy’ teachers we had were in the Kaduna hospital. And, yes, they had an air of relative prosperity. And they smiled more.

Contrary to what some people thought, the relaxed atmosphere in Kaduna was more conducive to learning. They rekindled our love for the profession. They were sweet people. Dr. Marliyya Sanusi Zayyan was one of them, if not the very epitome.

Professor Marliyya Sanusi Zayyan exuded an infectious passion for the profession. In her inspiring and magnetic presence, one felt like making a pledge of a lifetime commitment to Obstetrics and Gynaecology. In the clinic, by the bedside, and in the lecture room, she demonstrated an in-depth understanding of her subject and extensive familiarity with the literature.

Her lecture on Gestational Trophoblastic Disease was particularly memorable. She spoke of her teachers, like Professor CC Ekwempu, with thankful veneration and showed a lot of respect for her own students and residents.

She loved to impart knowledge. She would invite us to her private practice to gain extra exposure to O&G. She would not allow the lack of ultrasound machines at the government hospital to interfere with her students’ learning – she invited us to her clinic.

She was a community person who went beyond the clinical specialty of O&G to pursue maternal health with an even greater passion. She was an ardent practitioner and advocate for the health of women.

Professor Marliyya Sanusi Zayyan provided regular pro bono services to the less privileged. I didn’t see much of her in the last decade even when we worked in the same hospital in Zaria. The professor later became the Pro-Chancellor of a university in Katsina.

We were all shocked when a colleague posted that she died this morning in Abuja. We didn’t know that she had been battling an ailment for some time. She would be interred today in Kaduna after asr. She was 58.

She will be missed by all. Allah jikanki, malama

Written by Dr Muhammad Shakir Balogun

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