By Malam Hamisu Hadejia
I arrived Guildford, home to the prestigious University of Surrey, on the evening of Wednesday 23rd September, 2014 for my M.Sc. in Economics. I was ushered to my house at No. 22 Hamilton Drive, Hazel Farm Campus of the University of Surrey. I spent that night fatigued and famished because I couldn’t even locate where I could get a Halal meal and help myself after hours of exhaustive flight from Abuja to London Heathrow. On Thursday, I managed to get something to pacify body and soul to remain together but there was a bigger problem: I was feeling lonely; I was acclimatizing slowly. But I soldiered on and kept my chin up, dragging myself by my own bootstraps. On Friday morning, I enquired for and was directed to the hall where Muslim students at the University of Surrey perform the Friday prayers.
Of course the primary motive for the efforts I put in at locating the place for Friday congregational prayers was to fulfill one of my obligatory duties as a Muslim. But, to be honest, I also had an ulterior, secondary motive: It was to make friends—Nigeriana or Muslimina—who’d guide me through my physical, cultural and academic acclimatization processes. And a very good, very important friend indeed I made that Friday!
After the prayer was over and worshipers were exchanging greetings and handshakes, I ran into a lanky, chocolate-complexioned, soft-spoken, very shy dude standing by the exit door. We exchanged your-face-looks-familiar-to-me kind of glances before he stretched his hand towards me with “Salamu Alaykum”. I grabbed the hand and replied “Wa alaykumussalam”. He said “I am Yusuf” and I also returned “I am Hamisu”. He then asked if I had been a student or was just joining the University as a fresher. And I told him that I had just arrived for my Msc. And with a note of readiness to render help in his voice, Yusuf asked if I had shopped for winter wears and other stuff which I told him I didn’t and we exchanged phone numbers agreeing to meet again the following day.
Early Saturday morning while I was still asleep, my phone rang and you can guess who the caller was. “Hello, Hamis[u]”, “Hello, Yusuf”- we greeted and he asked how my night was; if there was any problem etc in a very caring tone akin to that of a kind High School senior student and a junior one entrusted under his care. Yusuf then directed me to meet him at House No. 4 Sandfield Court where he and Zahra stayed for their undergrad studies at Surrey. We then went straight to Primark Store, a stone’s throw away from Yusuf’s house, where he guided me into buying winter wears, kitchen utensils and other stuff. Yusuf carried most of my items himself leaving me with a few things to carry and he accompanied me to my house! We chatted for a while in my room and he left me slobbering over how kind he was to me. “Wannan duk yadda aka yi dan bubban gida ne!” [meaning; “this guy must have come from a responsible family”], —I soliloquized after I saw him off.
But don’t forget, throughout those encounters, I never knew Yusuf was the son of a VIP back home. He didn’t tell me. I didn’t sense it. His material or living conditions didn’t bear any evidence for anything like that. We just moved along as compatriots; sharing a country, colour, culture and above all Islam. Occasionally, either in my house or his, we would be discussing about politics back home and, as a Buhari die hard, I would always point out to Yusuf the necessity of a Buhari presidency to put Nigeria back on track and he just listened and nodded along shying away from a direct reference/discussion of the politician in the center of our tête-à-tête. But I didn’t suspect anything. I didn’t have reasons to.
The day “the pulako cover” was blown off Yusuf was on a Friday when Muslim faithful were asked by the Imam to sign a petition for the establishment of an Islamic Center/Mosque in Guildford. I was immediately following Yusuf on the queue and out of the corner of my eyes I peeped through and sighted him write “Yusuf Buhari”. This was the lead that bolstered up two other ones I had previously gathered: One, being the campus talk I once overheard of but trivialized about a Buhari’s son and daughter being Surrey students. And the second was when Yusuf sometime told me that he is from Daura but based in Kaduna. Connecting those three (3) dots together unmasked Yusuf for me! And struggling to come to terms with how a young man of his age and time would conceal and refuse to flaunt his prominent family identity not only gave me a hard lesson in Fulfulde Pulako but also encouraged me to ask Yusuf for confirmation of my conclusion on his identity. And he only smiled and added “Mallam Hamisu kenan[Oh! See you Hamisu]!” This confirmed my conclusion and added to my respect for the People’s General for bringing up such a cool, calm and cultured son!
A chip off the old block, Yusuf is a very humble guy. He is unassuming, unpretentious and un-ostentatious. He is reserved but easygoing and a man of few words; a taciturn, if you like. He is, I think, an introvert in the sense that he doesn’t involve himself in other people’s businesses. Yusuf doesn’t smoke. He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t go out with girls. He is just a son any father would love to have in his family! In Guildford, Yusuf lived a very modest, decent, and prudent life as evidenced by the fact that he and Zahra used to cook their food themselves—something Nigerian elite’s children never do in UK! May God ease and speed up your recovery, Mallam Yusuf!
Hamisu Hadejia, Federal University Lokoja, Kogi State. (firstname.lastname@example.org)