Today marks exactly five and a half years, since the passing of a very special and unique woman, my friend and sister, Hajiya Zulaiha Muhammad Buhari. She passed on Thursday the 29th of November 2012. She was the first daughter of President Muhammad Buhari. To anyone that knew or heard of her gentle soul, Zulaiha or Magajiya (she was named after her paternal grandmother) as her loved ones fondly called her, 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 loving sister, a faithful friend and a priceless asset to her community.

Today as her father, President Muhammadu Buhari, is sworn in for his second term as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it is important for me to write a tribute for Magajiya and remind the world of the astonishing person she was and the legacy she left behind. Some months before her passing, I fell extremely ill to the extent that it was thought that I wasn’t going to survive. When Magajiya heard of the magnitude of my illness, she called me and we had an earnest conversation.

Within that discussion, I said to her, “Magajiya, perhaps Baba will become President one day and I will not be here to witness it.” She replied to me, “Hanney, only Allah knows who will be here and who won’t be. You may be ill now and I may be healthy but who knows whether it is I who will not be here to witness Baba become President.”

Back then, neither of us could have ever imagined how true her words would be. Neither of us could have imagined that I would be alive and witnessing her father being sworn in as President and she wouldn’t be here. As the world witnesses what she so dearly hoped for, without her, I am moved to remember the impact of the time she spent with us, and how her words of wisdom resounds in my heart.As I use pen and paper to speak about our continued devastation at the absence of Magajiya, I will take the opportunity to spread the message she left and the great lessons she taught, just by being herself.

Zulaiha Muhammed Buhari was born on the 5th December 1972 to Muhammad Buhari and Safinatu Buhari, now late. She attended Nursery School in the USA where her family was stationed at the time. She graduated from Primary School in Air Force Military School in Lagos. Zulaiha began her Secondary School in Queens College, Lagos and in 1985 she began her JS2 in Federal Government College, Kaduna where she graduated in 1990. She was admitted as a student of B.Sc. Economics in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where she later completed her Post Graduate Diploma in Management. She worked for a period of time for African Intercontinental Bank (AIB). Zulaiha then proceeded to work with Ministry of Solid Minerals And Steel in Kaduna; where she remained until her passing.

She founded the Hajiya Safinatu Buhari Foundation (HSB) in loving memory of her late Mother, Hajiya Safinatu Buhari, who died of diabetes in January 2006. The Foundation caters for those stricken by diabetes mellitus. She also served as the Treasurer of NIM (Nigerian Institute of Management). In addition to these community service obligations, she worked diligently, yet silently, on several other NGO’s 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.

It is a wonder that a person living with this traumatic disease made such a positive impact on the community as Magajiya did. She was an epitome of an unassuming lady, who lived her life with the humility and simplicity unheard of for a former first daughter. My sister, Hadiza, with tears of sorrow and a heavy heart, recall the memorable undergraduate days spent with Magajiya in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. She had a humble nature, spirit of forgiveness, dedication in studies, accommodation of friends and loved ones, her gift of a simplistic character that 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 was the perfect antidote for calming fiery tempers in the dorm and class. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, Magajiya never raised her voice or lifted a finger to hurt anyone or anything around her.  “Yaya Babba” (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 to, not only her peers but, her loved ones at home.

There is nothing minor about the legacy Magajiya left behind, or the impact she had on others. It is a solid and vivacious legacy. In life she was in a constant state of motion. In death she left us in a constant state of emotions. She left a solid message of helping, listening, solidarity. She was known to never ever be late. She was a whirlwind, never stopping, or slowing down. She was always there for me and for many others. Always. A mother, an aunt, a daughter, a friend, a sister, a mentor and a neighbor. She took her relationship with people and her role very seriously and never wavered, no matter what. 

Her network of community and family was unparalleled. Magajiya left a legacy of unity, faith, love and concern to all who knew her and those who came in contact with her. During the course of her life, Magajiya never ceased to remind us that the greatest poverty of all is to live and to die unloved and unwanted. She demonstrated that love through her commitment to community, family and relationships.

Even all these years on, Magajiya’s absence is extremely sad news: she will continue to be missed with her warmth of spirit, her ability to adapt to relate with everyone. Her distinctive witness of care will be missed. At the same time we give thanks to the Almighty for the wonderful memories Magajiya left us: her commitment to ibadat and Du’a.

Magajiya’s good works will always be remembered but more deeply, we will remember the love that shone from within her heart, love that was fueled by her absolute dedication to her faith. She will long remain an inspiration to those who would serve their communities and those who cherish the value of family, and we are blessed to have shared the gift of her life with us all. She will never be forgotten. Her reward will be great in Heaven. We pray for her and for those who have followed her that the beautiful memories she left us with will serve as a lesson for us and those who may not have had the privilege of knowing her.

Wise, Brave, generous, sweet, adorable, resilient, warm, punctual, kind, caring, loving, courageous, strong, endearing, religious, energetic, thoughtful, enlightened, humorous and hopeful. Magajiya possessed all of these qualities and more. I will forever salute her.

At the time of her passing, Hajiya Zulaiha Buhari was survived by her husband, Captain Junaid Abdullahi, three wonderful children, Halima Junaid (Amira), Muhammad Buhari Junaid and her precious baby girl Zulai (Baby Z). Her memory lives in the hearts of her caring father, mother, beloved sisters and brother, family, many friends and admirers. We continue to take consolation in the fact that very few people can be described with the wondrous revelation and 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 transgressed 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 legacy this amazing soul has left behind.

To all who loved Magajiya; her community, neighbors, admirers, friends and family;

“May the Almighty continue to reward you and help you to apply patient endurance and appreciation. Indeed our spirit, possessions and families are magnificent gifts, which God has loaned us for a period and he takes them away after the termination of that period. Gratitude becomes necessary when He gives, and patience is mandatory when He takes. Magajiya, your neighbor, friend, sister, mother, wife and daughter was from among that great gift which God allowed you to enjoy in a way that was fortunate and gratifying. Although you loved her, her place is with her maker. As she has gone home, it is your duty to show patience in her absence and gratitude for her life. May the Almighty augment your recompense, be kind in your misfortune, forgive the deceased, encourage you with endurance and give you peace.”

…Many years ago when I was very ill, I said to Magajiya, “Perhaps Baba will become President one day and I will not be here to witness it.” She replied to me, “Hanney, only Allah knows who will be here and who won’t be. You may be ill now and I may be healthy but who knows whether it is I who will not be here to witness Baba become President.” The irony of her words rings true to me, especially on this day that she forebode that which she would not witness.

So on this day, as the world celebrates Magajiya’s father being sworn in as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for his second term without her, my prayer is for her.

“I pray that Allah forgives and has mercy on the soul of Hajiya Zulaiha Muhammadu Buhari and makes honorable her reception. May Allah keep her safe and sound, protect the place where she has rested and make her entrance wide; bless her for her good deeds and surround her with a garden filled with beauty. May she receive the gentle blow of a cool breeze, be washed with snowflakes, ice, sleet, water and everything pure and cleansed of sin as a white cloth is purified perfectly. I pray Allah admits Hajiya Zulaiha Muhammadu Buhari to Paradise and may her grave be spacious and filled with light; Amin.”

Ya Allah, my du’a for this fourth week of Ramadan is for Hajiya Zulaiha Muhammad Buhari.

Spoken Word

Written by 

Hannatu Musawa

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