“The worst tragedy that can happen to a man is not death, but a life whose gifts and talents have been wasted.” – Kelvin E. N.
There are times when we hear something and it is very hard to believe our ears. One of such hard-to-believe news came to us at the Presidential Villa in Abuja penultimate Wednesday. It came like a bolt from the blue in form of an announcement of the death of Tijjani Yusuf.
Until his death, Tijjani Yusuf was the Special Assistant (General Duties) to the Permanent Secretary, State House. He retired from Public Service as a Director/Special Assistant (Special Duties) in the Presidency in 2016 after decades of serving several Nigerian military and civilian leaders.
A very likeable and unassuming gentleman, Tijjani Yusuf was known for his excellent service and administrative skills, which explains why he was given the national honours of Member of the Order of Niger (MON) in 2006 and the Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) in 2012.
For many years, Tijjani Yusuf coordinated the presidential swearing-in and oath-taking ceremonies for chief justices, ministers, permanent secretaries and commission members. He handled meetings of the weekly Federal Executive Council and other sundry issues relating to the President’s office and official residence.
Tijjani Yusuf graduated with a B.SC in International Studies from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and relished his work, especially the private times spent with visiting Heads of Government, like United States President Bill Clinton. According to him, the contacts served as motivation and broadening of horizon, including the local and international trainings, conferences and official visits on the federal government’s delegation.
Today, with Tijjani Yusuf gone, all of us who knew him are united not only in our desire to pay our individual respects to him but, rather, in our need to do so. For such was his extraordinary appeal that many people, including those who only read or heard about him and never actually met him, feel that they too lost someone close to them on that fateful Wednesday.
Indeed, Tijjani Yusuf was the very essence of compassion, of duty, of style, of diligence. And, in the Presidency, he was a symbol of selfless humanity. Thus, we all feel sad that he was taken from us but, at the same time, grateful that he came in the first place. And only now that he’s gone do we truly appreciate what we are now without him.
For all the status, the glamour, the applause, he remained close to everyone and this quality has made us to cherish and admire him. He stood tall enough as a human being of unique qualities so much that to sanctify his memory would be to miss out on the very core of his being, his wonderful sense of humour with a laugh that used to gladden hearts.
Like journalists, Tijjani Yusuf was too inquisitive; eager to know everything about something and something about everything. He was a reservoir of happenings in and around the Presidential Villa, and a journalists’ delight. His scoops were authentic, but unfortunately often not publishable because of their sensitive nature.
I will miss him beyond words. Like countless other compatriots who came in contact with him at one time or the other, one could testify that he was the kind of personality that could rightly be described as “one in a million.” I often stroke the chairman of State House Press Corps (SHPC), Mr Ubale Musa, our mutual friend, and that used to unsettle the late Tijjani Yusuf, and, he would say, laughing that “Kai Abdullahi, abokin ka ne fa.” That really underscored his commitment to friendship.
Aside from being personable and likeable, he had so many endearing qualities and virtues. He was a veritable embodiment of his brothers’ keeper. It is after his demise that I now appreciate why he was always defending the Permanent Secretary of State House, Mr Jalal Arabi. Tijjani Yusuf saw in Jalal Arabi a saint, and you dared not speak evil of him in his presence. Such was his commitment to their friendship. I didn’t know the extent of their bond until I read Jalal’s tribute to his fallen friend. It was a great loss for him and for us.
The days Ubale Musa and I spent with him in his office were full of laughter, education and richly rewarding in every respects. These were days I will always treasure.
Indeed, we are all chewed up with the sadness at the loss of a man who was not even our contemporary. How great our suffering is, born out of his loss, can only be imagined.
But we thank God for the huge mercies He has shown us by bringing us together with him. We all give thanks for the life of a man I am so proud to be able to call exemplary, the unique, the extraordinary and irreplaceable, whose beauty, both internal and external, will never be extinguished from our minds for many years.
As we mourn the passage of this incomparable compatriot, we are comforted by the indisputable fact that Tijjani Yusuf came, saw and conquered by living a life whose gifts, talents and opportunities were judiciously utilised. Rest on, Tijjani Yusuf.
Gulloma is the State House correspondent of Blueprint newspaper.