By Stanley Nkwocha
These aren’t the best of times for me. Life really dealt me a devastating blow when I lost my mother and as I write this I am on my way to Owerri, Imo State, to lay her gentle soul to rest. However, all thanks to Vice President Kashim Shettima whose words of encouragement and support went a great deal in calming me.
Just as I was coming to terms with my loss, the unbelievable happened. The shocking news of the passing of my brother and friend, Isa Gusau, sent me back into an overdrive of agony and pain. The moments between that fateful day when I received news of his demise and subsequent calls confirming it were emotionally petrifying. Everything that transpired in that space of time seemed like an illusion to me.
I and SA, as I fondly called him, have been friends for almost 15 years. The relationship was not just that of friends. We were each other’s ‘Man Friday’. Our kids related well too, as we always paid each other visits whenever he was in Abuja. He loved to come over for a table tennis game, which we were fond of playing at a time.
Coincidentally, it was the Vice President who formally introduced us while he was a cabinet member back then in Borno State. As a correspondent with LEADERSHIP Newspaper, I remember vividly my conversation with now VP Kashim Shettima on one occasion. “Stanley, how are you?” The Vice President, then a commissioner, had asked. “Absolutely fine Sir. And you?” I replied. “I am fine. Are you friends with Isa Gusau of Daily Trust? He is a nice gentleman. You guys need to be friends. He will call you later,” VP Shettima added, with an air of spontaneous curiosity. And that connection became an eternal bond and friendship.
It was not about the professional relationship that we shared. It was about the most reliable confidante we both became to each other, the unalloyed brotherliness and care. Isa Gusau was one of the very few persons in this life I could open up to, and express my pains and worries.
He too never concealed any issue from me. We advised each other passionately. In fact, he made my relationship with the Vice President so seamless, while ‘Oga’, as we fondly called him, was Governor. He would always speak kindly of me, and with time we both earned the trust of the VP. Indeed, Gusau was remarkable.
I learnt a lot from SA. To date, I am yet to meet someone who could match his articulation of strategies. As a master strategist, whether in a private or official capacity, Gusau was unbeatable. He was that genius I always wanted to listen to and learn from. I can never repay him for the things he taught me. His fountain of knowledge was as deep as the Nile River.
I have been praying that his demise is all a delusion. But, alas, it is no longer a cruel hoax; SA is gone. My blood from another mother is gone. I had to force myself to write this, as each time I tried to scribble something, words kept failing me, saddled with my present ordeal. Eventually, however, I have come to terms with reality. I have run out of denial, and there’s no shying away from the bitter truth at this point.
How does one express the amazing essence and spirit of Isa Gusau, his selfless generosity, uncompromising belief in all that is good, and unwavering commitment to family and friends? Words, even the very best of terms, cannot pay tribute or truly capture the sense of loss that I feel. As much as I try, the loss is there – palpable and real within me. But his exemplary life, love, as well as belief and faith in seeing the best in everything was irrepressible.
As I honour him by profoundly feeling and expressing my deepest feelings, I also remember Gusau as an amazing person who has played a unique and special role in not only my career but virtually all aspects of my life. Just as my boss, His Excellency, Vice President Shettima, pointed out in his article in which he journals his personal experience with the late Gusau, who also served him meritoriously as Media Adviser, his passing is not merely a loss for the Shettima and Zulum administrations he served with such distinction, but a profound eclipse for the wider journalistic landscape and the very fabric of public discourse in Nigeria.
Isa Gusau’s legacy transcends the confines of a mere job title. He was not just a Special Adviser; he was a symphonic blend of an astute journalist, strategic thinker and eloquent communicator. His words, crafted with precision and imbued with a keen understanding of the human condition, served as a bridge between the complexities of governance and the aspirations of the people. He was, in essence, a translator of hope, weaving narratives that both informed and inspired.
Gusau’s impact transcended the borders of any state. He was a national treasure, a voice of reason and clarity in a media landscape often beset by noise and confusion. His journalistic acumen, honed through years of experience, allowed him to navigate the complexities of Nigerian politics with unerring accuracy and consummate exactitude, providing insights that were quite impactful.
He was, above all, a gentleman par excellence. His grace, his wit, and his unwavering commitment to ethical conduct were hallmarks of his character. He treated everyone with respect, regardless of their status, and always sought to find a common ground even in the midst of the most heated debates.
The void left by Gusau’s passing is immense. He was my biggest inspiration and supporter. I knew I could always count on him. Even on his sick bed in faraway London sometime back, he made himself handy to scrutinize my work and draw my attention whenever he felt I got it wrong. This is very far from how I thought our story would end. I mean, there are still so many blank pages we were meant to fill up together.
And to the very best friend, brother, colleague and most reliable confidante that we’ve lost, what I can do is remember all the time we spent together, the good we did and the media stunts we pulled. This is a better way to deal with the ache of losing you, my brother. You cared without restraint; you smiled with inner warmth; you loved without measure. How can I not celebrate you? Nothing in this world can take away the legacy of the extraordinary life you lived. You remain a shining light in our hearts.
Painful as it is, I celebrate your life. Thank you for years of amazing brotherhood. The friendship, the fellowships, the jokes, the teases, the encouragement, the sleepovers, the trips, the talks about national discourse, and the list goes on; all of those are eternally etched in my heart.
To his wives and kids – Maryam, Abdulrahman and Fadilla I join in your pain as I feel it as well. May God grant you the fortitude to bear this too deep a loss.
So long, my brother from another mother. May the Almighty Allah grant you Aljannah Firdaus. Keep resting in the Lord’s bosom until we meet to part no more!
– Nkwocha is Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Communications (Office of The Vice President).