5th November 2012
A Tribute To The Rarest Gem Of All
On Friday, November 30, 2012, literally hundreds were shocked by the announcement of the death of Hajiya Zulaiha Muhammad Buhari, the first daughter of the former head of state, General Muhammad Buhari (retd). To anyone that knew or heard of her gentle soul, Zulaiha or Magajiya (she was named after her paternal grandmother), as she was fondly called by her loved ones, was the most humble and gentle human being you could ever meet. An endless list of complimentary words cannot define the incredible person that this astoundingly selfless lady was. She was the pride of her family, the most obedient daughter, the most caring mother any child could wish for, a devoted wife, a faithful friend and a priceless asset to her community.
Zulaiha was born on December 5, 1972, to Muhammad Buhari and Safinatu (now late). She attended nursery school in the USA where her family lived at the time. She graduated from primary school at Air Force Military School, Lagos. Zulaiha began her secondary school in Queens College, Lagos, and in 1985 she began her JS2 at Federal Government College, Kaduna, where she graduated in 1990. She was admitted to study economics at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, where she later completed her post-graduate diploma in management. She worked for a while at African Intercontinental Bank (AIB). Zulaiha then proceeded to work with Ministry of Steel and Solid Minerals in Kaduna until her passing on.
The Hajiya Safinatu Buhari Foundation (HSB) was founded by her, in loving memory of her late mother, Hajiya Safinatu Buhari, who died of diabetes in February 2006. The foundation catered for the destitute who were stricken by the disease. She also served as the treasurer of the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM). In addition to these community service obligations, she worked diligently, yet silently, on several other NGOs in her immediate community and beyond. Only those closest to her knew of her battle with sickle cell anemia, a condition that she lived with bravely for she never succumbed to it until it so cruelly snatched her away.
In Nigeria, annually, over 150,000 children are born with the sickle-cell disease. Over 100,000 of these children die annually. An estimated 5,000,000 Nigerians live with sickle-cell anemia. These statistics came from the former director, Institute for Medical Research and Training, College of Medicine, University College Hospital, Ibadan, Professor Adeyinka Falusi. Many Nigerians are unaware that this country has the highest number of sickle cell patients in the world, yet it has the poorest health care and support for the helpless patients.
Sickle-cell disease (SCD) or sickle- cell anaemia or drepanocytosis is an autosomal recessive genetic blood disorder with overdominance, characterised by red blood cells that assume an abnormal, rigid, sickle shape. Sickling decreases the cells’ flexibility and results in a risk of various complications. The sickling occurs because of a mutation in the haemoglobin gene. Life expectancy is automatically shortened. In 1994, in the US, the average life expectancy of persons with this condition was estimated to be 42 years in males and 48 years in females, but today, due to sophisticated drugs and better management of the condition, patients can live up to their 50s and beyond. In Nigeria, the statistics are obviously not as favourable. This disease can cause several complications such as: overwhelming post-(auto) splenectomy infection (OPSI), stroke, silent stroke (a stroke that causes no immediate symptoms but is associated with damage to the brain), opioid tolerance, acute papillary necrosis in the kidney, leg ulcers, consistent eye infections, high mortality risk during pregnancy, gall stones, aseptic bone necrosis, malfunctioning of spleen, bacterial bone infection, increased pressure on the pulmonary artery and high blood pressure.
Sickle-cell disease occurs more commonly in people (or their descendants) from parts of tropical and sub-tropical regions where malaria is or was common. In areas where malaria is common, there is a fitness benefit in carrying only a single sickle-cell gene (sickle cell trait). People with only one of the two alleles of the sickle-cell disease, while not totally resistant, are more tolerant to the infection and will therefore show less severe symptoms when infected. It is crucial to educate and enlighten parents with the AS genotype about the risks involved, as their child may turn out to have the SS genotype. In much the same way that we inherit blood type, hair colour and texture, and other physical traits, the sickle-cell gene is also inherited. If one parent has sickle-cell anaemia (SS) and the other has sickle-cell trait, then there is a 50 per cent chance of a child having sickle-cell disease and a 50 per cent chance of a child having sickle-cell trait. When both parents have sickle-cell trait, a child has a 25 per cent chance of sickle-cell disease.
It is a wonder that a person living with this traumatic disease made such a positive impact on the community as Zulaiha did. She was an epitome of virtue, an unassuming lady who lived her life with the humility and simplicity unheard of for a former first daughter. My sister, Hadiza and I, with tears of sorrow and a heavy heart, recall the memorable undergraduate days spent with Zulaiha at ABU, Zaria. She had a humble nature, a forgiving spirit, and dedication to studies. She was accommodating to friends and loved ones, and her gift of a simplistic character drew her to everyone and endeared her in the eyes of all that were privileged to be part of her life. Her soft-spoken voice and beautiful smile were the perfect antidote for calming fiery tempers in the dorm and class. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, Zulaiha never raised her voice or lifted a finger to hurt anyone or anything around her. “Yaya Babba” (as she was fondly called by her sisters) had the gift of an amazing spirit of living her life in the most exemplary way, and this served as a shining example not only to her peers, but her loved ones at home.
Zulaiha is survived by her husband, Captain Junaid Abdullahi, three wonderful children, Halima Junaid, Muhammad Buhari Junaid, and her precious new born baby girl. Her memory lives on in the hearts of her caring father and mother, beloved sisters and brother, family and many friends. They should take much consolation in the fact that very few people can be described with the wondrous accolades that this dearest soul has been. No father can be prouder of a daughter with such an admirable spirit; no child can be prouder of a mother who strived beyond her illness to ensure they got the best in life; no sister can be prouder of one who showed them the path of dignified humility, and no friend can be prouder of the legacies this amazing soul has left behind; no one can question the will of the Almighty; no one can comprehend the torturous pain her family is going through, for surely the grief of even the silent tears are the most painful. But a woman that lived her life in peace and goodness will surely be rewarded accordingly in the hereafter.
It is said that a diamond is the rarest and most precious gem, but in Zulaiha Muhammed Buhari, the rarest and most precious of all has been lost.
Written by Hadiza Musawa
— Hadiza is my sister and wrote this tribute.