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Dan Iyan Zazzau Yusuf Ladan: When a father dies…

Death has a way of taking one on a journey into the past anytime it strikes. That’s exactly what happened to me on Tuesday, November 10, 2020, when Alhaji Yusuf Ladan, Dan Iyan Zazzau, a veteran broadcaster and an accomplished playwright, passed on.

Here was a man we have known for as long as we can remember. Every evening, they would sit with my late father Sheikh Lawal Abubakar in the front of our house having some tea and chatting. Sometimes they would laugh, other times they would just sit there enjoying each other’s company.

Being neighbours, we tried to replicate that camaraderie among us their kids and we would do so many things together, from playing within the premises of the nearby Maiduguri road mosque where our father was the Imam, to going to the same school in our vehicle and coming back in theirs, or sharing our meals in turns.

Indeed, growing up, we had no off-limits as we played wherever our exuberance took us. But by the time the mango season set it, the vast house of Baba Magaji (as we used to call him) was where we spent most of our time. With no fewer than five different varieties to choose from and each with its distinct taste and even smell, we simply enjoyed ourselves.

You may choose to climb or use maqata (a long improvised hook we used in plucking mangoes) but never a stone. And all you needed to do after climbing down from a tree was to share some and pick up the leaves. For despite the number of trees within the compound, the premises were always clean.

Baba Magaji also had subtle ways of communicating and getting us to ‘enter our senses’ without as much as lifting a finger. He never shouted. In fact he spoke in a somewhat fast but very low, yet audible tone. For instance, a simple opening of the window behind his room meant it was time for us to leave the Mai Bakin Aku area, the mango tree that we considered easier to climb.

His compound and the adjoining Sasa, where the late Baba Jaafaru lived together with Baba Sule, were always open to outsiders, especially school pupils who usually stopped to drink water from the tap or wash their feet. The tap in front of Baba Ali’s apartment was always the favourite.

When our father died in 2004, we found solace in Alhaji Yusuf Ladan’s availability, or rather his proximity. The late Dan Iya was always there for us, encouraging us, correcting us and above all identifying with us in celebration or in mourning.

I remember when words reached him that I had turned down a job offer with a bank in Sokoto and he summoned me. “I heard that you got a job offer with a bank in Sokoto but declined it,” he said, wanting to know why. I said it was true but added that I got another with the Daily Trust where I was already a freelancer and, having studied Mass
Communication, I would rather continue as a journalist than switch to being a banker and starting from the scratch.

He agreed with me saying, “This is okay. It is always better for one to do a job that he likes, because when one engages in a venture he is not enthusiastic about, he or the job – or both – will suffer, which is not good. I thought you declined the job offer because it was in Sokoto, I would have reminded you of the fact that your father was not born here, but he came.”

Baba Dan Iya (we gradually dropped Baba Magaji in favour of his traditional title of Dan Iyan Zazzau) also told me how his job took him to Ilorin, Kwara State, a two-day journey at the time, and how that widened his horizon. That encounter really changed my perspective about work and where it can take someone to.

He was a regular reader of Daily Trust and I benefitted immensely from his wise counsel, especially during my days as the editor. He always told me how impressed he was with the concise nature of Daily Trust stories. Sometimes he got really frustrated with the “needless mistakes” in the paper and never failed to mention them. I never tried to explain any error but always assured him of putting in our best to
avoid them.

Alhaji Yusuf Ladan was also a community leader per excellence. When he was the District Head of Kabala he was more than accessible to his people no matter the time of the day. He never insisted on listening to them only when in the office, and we saw how most of the people abused this privilege.

For his immediate community, he was also there participating in community actions. When Malam Amadi Bagega, a labourer he used to engage for some menial jobs, died he participated in all the rites which took place in faraway Rigasa, Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State. Indeed, he walked for about a kilometer from where his vehicle was parked to where Amadi was buried.

Most evenings also, he would sit opposite his house, very close to where we used to converge discussing sometimes mundane issues ranging from football to politics and more. Though some of us would rather disappear, he would insist that we remained where we were and enjoyed our time. He never interrupted us even though he could hear us very clearly.

It was a pity therefore when he started visiting the doctor regularly. In one particular instance, few days to his passage, he spent over 40 days at the hospital. How did a man we knew to be as fit as a fiddle become so frail that he had to be aided in and out of the car? Only age could tell the answer.

Just few years back, he was a regular at the Fives court and so good a player they named him Oscar. Even recently he would walk long distances just to keep fit. But things begun to change with the lockdown imposed by the government to check the spread of coronavirus. That, in a way, affected his mobility as he followed all the protocols put in place by the government and health professionals. He never contracted virus, but death – that inevitable end for every living thing – has many other ways.

Alhaji Yusuf Ladan passed on in the morning at his Maiduguri Road residence on Tuesday, November 10, 2020 and was buried same day in accordance with Islamic rites. His janaza held inside the mosque where he was super regular before he was interred at the Bashama road cemetery.

No doubt his passage has created a void in our lives that can never be filled. It has diminished us, robbed us of a father, an elder and an overall good man you wished will remain with you forever.

Alhaji Yusuf Ladan was born on July 29, 1935 to the family of former Dan Iyan Zazzau Alhaji Muhammadu Ladan, a onetime chairman of New Nigeria Development Company Limited (NNDC) and Clerk to the Northern Assembly and also a broadcaster.

He started his education at a very early age. At about the age of six, he started his Qur’anic (Allo) studies under his first teacher Malam Ahmadu Rufa’i of Unguwar Gangaren Tukurwa in Zaria. He was enrolled at the then Zaria Elementary School, known as Town School, in November, 1943. While there, he continued with his religious studies under Liman Muhammadu, the Imam of their school mosque, studying the Holy Qur’an and other religious books.

Upon graduation in 1947, he enrolled in Zaria Middle School (now Alhuda-Huda College) and left in 1951. After completing his elementary education, he enrolled at the Kaduna Trade Centre in 1951. From there, he went to Middle School in Zaria from 1952 to 1954 where he got his Middle IV course completion certificate. He was also at the Institute of Administration of Ahmadu Bello University in Kongo, Zaria, where he graduated as a trained clerk between 1955 and 1956.

It was in 1956 that he started out as a clerk in the then Northern Nigerian Ministry of Education, from where he joined the Broadcasting Company of Northern Nigeria (BCNN) as a librarian responsible for keeping records of programmes in 1962.

In 1963, he was converted from library to the studios as an announcer and rose through the ranks to become the head of sound in 1976. In-between, he attended a journalism course at the Institute of Mass Communication in India. He has attended numerous courses in broadcasting as well as in drama, including one at the B.B.C Institute in London in 1973. He was redesignated manager programmes 1976, general manager 1979 and assistant director programmes 1985.

He attended the Bridge History Conference in Niger Republic in 1985. He also attended an international conference on translation of selected Hausa words at the Bagauda Hotel in Kano 1985. In 1986, he received at the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria some Chinese nationals who were working with Radio Beijing for training on planning and programme production in Hausa.

He retired from the Broadcasting profession as the General Manager of Kaduna State Media Corporation (formerly Kaduna State Broadcasting Corporation), a position he held from 1988 to 1991. After retirement, he served as the public relations officer of Impresit Bakolori Plc.

In the course of his career, he contributed immensely to the development of Hausa literature and drama, even outside Nigeria. Bilingual Nigerian writer, journalist, filmmaker and publisher Ibrahim Sheme recalled Yusuf Ladan’s numerous interviews with great and legendary Hausa singers including Mamman Shata.

“He wrote in the early 60s the famous song of Azizu Ɗan Makaranta by Hajiya Uwani Zakirai, which was the first Hausa song to have its beat recorded in the studio. After writing the song, Yusuf Ladan invited Uwani Zakirai who was based in Kaduna, and Alhaji Nababa Makadi, also based in Kaduna. The three spent time rehearsing the song before it was finally recorded,” Sheme said.

Yusuf Ladan was equally behind numerous radio and television programmes including Yara Manyan Gobe, Gundumi Fasa Kwanya, Zaman Duniya Iyawa Ne, Noma Yanke Talauci, and Basafce.

Yusuf Ladan is survived by many siblings, three wives, 20 children and many grandchildren. May Almighty Allah forgive him and unite all those he preceded.

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