By Shamsuddeen Usman
One would have thought that, given these unusual times of COVID 19 in Nigeria and the high number of sudden and “mysterious” deaths in Kano, the news of yet another death should not have come as a surprise.
But the news of the sudden death of my primary school classmate, dear friend, colleague and a thoroughbred professional, Engr. Ibrahim Khaleel Inuwa (Khaleel), on Monday 11 May 2020, hit me like a thunderbolt.
It was as shocking as it was sudden. I had exchanged text messages with him only 2 days before. Another colleague had spoken to him the night before and yet another, even that morning. He had even commented on a post in a NIM group that he belonged to at about 11.25 that morning.
According to his son, Umar, they were actually discussing at home when Khaleel slumped slightly. He was however alert enough, soon thereafter, to walk to the car with which they rushed him to see a doctor.
At the doctor’s, Khaleel even engaged in some banter with the doctor on the challenges of the COVID 19 epidemic in Nigeria, before he passed out again suddenly and died. By Umar’s estimation, the gap between the first attack at home and the second one at the doctor’s that killed him was just about 15 minutes!
Khaleel and I were admitted to the then newly opened Gwale Senior Primary School in Kano City, 60 years ago, where we shared the same class for the next 3 years. Our class set actually set a record for all primary schools in Kano when we graduated in 1962, that is probably still unbeaten.
The record is that due to the good teaching we received in a public primary school and the commitment and dedication of our teachers, who set up many weeks of extra evening lessons (for which they weren’t paid any extra), up to 9 of us in our set did so well in the Common Entrance Examination organised by the Northern Regional Government, that we were selected to go to 3 of the best secondary schools in the North, at the time.
Four of us went to Government College Keffi, 4 to Government College Zaria (now Barewa College) and Khaleel to Government College Kaduna. All of us kept in touch, through letter writing (the only option then) and when we were back home on holidays.
We were also contemporaries in Ahmadu Bello University, with Khaleel studying engineering and I economics. Being both in the ABU Samaru Main Campus, we interacted through various associations, fora and, of course, as friends and classmates.
We also interacted and visited each other, as graduate students in the UK, with Khaleel at the Cranfield Institute of Technology and I at the London School of Economics. My first visit to see Khaleel in Cranfield, in fact, was my first experience of very rural England.
Khaleel was very proud of, and passionate about, engineering, right from his student days. He was always very effusive about engineering. I cannot recall which of our friends gave him the nickname of “Injiniya da Rabin Injiniya”, i.e. an engineer and a half-rolled into one, to which he answered very proudly.
No surprise at all, therefore, that he joined and rose to the top of his various professional associations: to become the President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, and of COREN, etc. He also distinguished himself in the practice of engineering in both the public and private sectors and latterly, through the private company that he established.
Khaleel was also a passionate and committed patriot, in devoting his time, energy and resources to various national, state and local causes, organisations and NGOs aimed at enhancing development and improving the welfare of the less privileged in the society. An example are two NGOs of which both Khaleel and I were founders: the Kano Peace and Development Initiative (KAPEDI) and the Kano-Jigawa Professionals Forum (KJPF).
It was Khaleel’s commitment and dedication, as Chairman of the Organising Committee, that ensured the great success recorded at our last two versions of the KJPF Mentoring Programme for Young Professionals, held in Kano.
Khaleel was very loyal to his friends, including those who are less privileged, materially or otherwise. He, however, did not tolerate fools, gossip and idleness.
As a result some people greatly misunderstood him. I have had occasions when someone would say to me about Khaleel, this your friend is so proud and unfriendly. I often reply them that, if you know Khaleel, he is one of the simplest people to know and get along with.
Knowing Khaleel is to know that he is honest and straightforward, two qualities that are neither common nor appreciated in our society. If he perceived you as relating to him on the same platform, then you would find him very amiable and welcoming. If you gave him the slightest doubt, however, Khaleel could shut you out completely.
What I admired most about Khaleel also is that it did not bother him what you thought of him, as long as his conscience was clear.
One regret that I have, is that Khaleel did not live long enough to launch his autobiography, which he had been writing for more than five years now and which is in the final stage of printing.
As I was the one that linked him up with the printers, they called me on the day of his death to confirm if it was true. The publishers also said that, in their decades of publishing, this is the first time that the author of an autobiography has died, before they have had the chance to deliver on his order.
As I assured both the publishers and Khaleel’s son, Umar, we the friends and associates of Khaleel would, in Shaa Allah, soon after the lid is lifted on the COVID 19 epidemic, ensure that Khaleel’s autobiography is appropriately launched and due honour and recognition are given to our classmate, friend and professional colleague.
To his wife, Lami, and his children, our hearts and condolences go out to you, as we share in your loss and grief.
We are consoled, however by two Quranic injunctions:
- Kullu nafsin zaikatil mautu- Every soul shall taste death and
- Inna lillAh wa inna ilaihi rajiun- From God we come and to him shall we return
May Allah bless Khaleel’s soul and grant him Jannatul Firdaus.
Dr Shamsuddeen Usman, former Minister for National Planning writes from Kano.