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A quintessential administrator, writer, folklorist, Bukar Usman at 77

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It is extremely difficult for me to embark on this project – writing on the man Dr. Bukar Usman, an enigma and a colossus after many prolific writers have also copiously written about him. It is even more difficult for me a cub writer to attempt to write on this personality who is a writer himself. Indeed, I was simply casting around for what to write on him that has never been written.

The septuagenarian demonstrates an insatiable drive for pedagogy. His hunger for knowledge is unquenchable; it is to him like clean water, the more one drinks of it the thirstier one becomes. He has not had a hiatus since he commenced writing. His passion drives his voraciousness. His ink has continued to flow and his ideas, though simple and limpid, have remained logical and as clear as a bell. His ideas have become like wine that gets better with age.

Dr. Usman is not a flash in the pan. The jenesaisquoi of his writing is what leaves many in perpetual awe and amazement. The energy level and the dedication he puts into his work are inexplicably surprising. Did the civil service rob humanity of one of its finest teachers? What seems like a loss to the ivory tower is the gain of the civil service. The event of recent times has however shown that he has successfully given in equal measure to both his first calling the civil service and his newfound love of erudition.

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Did I complain about the civil service? No, I did not. And I dare not because the civil service provided the platform, the training and the wisdom that Dr. Usman brings into his writings. I think the foundation for the literary journey was well laid from the civil service. The writings of Von Stein in the 1800s corroborate the work of civil servants “….they write, write, and write in silence in their offices behind closed doors…”

At retirement, Dr. Usman said he has left the stage for younger people, even when he retired without reaching the mandatory retirement age of 60. He was certain he was not going to take up a paid employment and he has not. Contentment, you would say. He was emphatic that anything that would take him out of his house by 9 am he was not ready to do. He is assertive and has a strong character. He is very meticulous in making his decisions; that is why he does not renege on them because they are not taken impulsively. A headstrong and courageous man, he is.

Dr. Usman is a true believer in Noblesseoblige- the idea that people of high social class should behave kindly to people of lower social class. He is a kind-hearted man who finds it hard to deny anyone any boon, whether it is for friends or strangers. A man of peace who strives constantly to achieve peace, the reason he found new halcyon in both writing and philanthropy.

Again, Dr. Usman has gumption, a sort of compos mentis. Little wonder that no sooner had he retired than he realized that his pension was grossly inadequate to continue with philanthropy. He established the Dr. Bukar Usman Foundation: a vehicle that has enhanced and improved his reach, touching lives in all facets of human endeavours and redistributing wealth. In this era where the extended family system is being eroded, Dr. Usman daily accepts to be a father to the downtrodden by attending to the army of favour-seekers, who come to him for assistance. Dr. Usman also maintains a perfect relationship with people of his social standing, the crème de la crème of the society. Records are that he maintains a perfect affinity with his school days’ friends till date.

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Dr. Usman has remained in tune with the people, though cosmopolitan and sophisticated in every sense. Both privacy and retirement have not kept him away from the eyes of the media!He has remained the media’s delight, to say the least. I am aware he declines invitations to be interviewed, offers other attention seekers jump at with constant immediacy and alacrity. He has maintained one of the cardinal principles of the civil service- to be seen and not heard; though some sayhe is hardly seen. He is simply an astute former public servant, an administrator per excellence; an author, folklorist and philanthropist; a man of wit and wisdom, very tacit in speech and highly productive in writing. In all this, Dr. Usman has remained largely humble.

What more is to say than to pray that his ink continues to flow as well as the milk of human kindness in his heart. An enigma you are, Sir! You are gentle, humble, knowledgeable, acerbic and devoid of rancor. May God’s unending and abundant blessings, love, peace, guidance, protection and provision be within and around you. May you have many more healthy years and happy returns. Wait a minute! Have I been caught in the same web of lengthy descriptive essays by most writers on this personality? I now understand. The temptation to write on him is simply irresistible. I am sorry I veered off my track. My original intension was to use some adjectives and adverbs that I think, head or tail, would provide a fair description of the personality of Dr. Bukar Usman.

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Permit me therefore, to itemize those adjectives and adverbs to blend and mix with the write up having initially digressed inadvertently. He is a historian, a folklorist, a revivalist, a scholar, a researcher, a conciliator, a lecturer, a discussant, a scribe, a writer, a communicator, a quintessential administrator, a philosopher, a philologist, a philologer, a planner, a formulator, aczar, and a past master. Dr. Usman is also a conformist, a moderator, a discoverer, a facilitator, a manager, a mentor, a donor, a defender, a leader, a chairman, adiplomat, a sympathizer, a tourist, a champion, a synchronizer, a catalyst, a philanthropist, a reviewer, a reformer, a commentator, a theoretician, a consultant, a negotiator, a bridge builder, a man of pedagogy, an economist, an encyclopedia, aperfectionist, a man of contentment, a man of altruism, a man of nature but cosmopolitan in every sense, a friend of the intelligentsia, a friend of the pen profession, a man not given to peevishness, a civil servant, a literary icon, a welfarist, a stabilizer, a disciplinarian, an anthropologist, an ethnologist, an author, an astute administrator, an emeritus permanent secretary, an implementer, an etymologist, an entomologist, a n arbiter, an advocate, an achiever, and an archivist.

Pardon my naivety if I left anything out.
As much as it is difficult writing on you, it is even more difficult repaying you for your kind magnanimity. This subtle effort to describe you is an attempt to preserve for posterity your contributions to leave the world better than you met it. Take this as my modest birthday gift to you at 77, since I cannot requite your generosity to me in particular and to humanity in general. I know you wouldn’t have collected, if we had, because yours is with no strings attached, no quid pro quo. Congratulations Sir.
Odu, a former banker and currently a publicist, wrote from Abuja.

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Bukar Usman
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