I promised to share with the reader some of the many responses I received on the above article. Below are samples. See you next week.
I was fortunate to lay my hand on a copy of Weekly Trust dated 20 February, 2010. I read your article about Jelani Aliyu. You really created an indelible imprint in my heart. It is indeed inspirational, most especially for people like me who think we may probably not make it.
It will surely go a long way in reviving our spirit.
Abdullahi Tukur ( email@example.com)
When I read the above article, I felt I should welcome you to the world of harassed northern Muslim women who, for their northernness, are addressed in, to say the least, uncomplimentary terms because the average southern impression is that all we learn in our universities is Islamic sciences and no more. They are visibly shocked when we tell them of our intellectual achievements.
Like you, we are no longer offended. In fact, we get amused when our southern counterparts interrogate us and assess our intellectual claims. Often times we surprise them when they discover we are at par with them or, to be immodest, ahead of them.
My call to all Northerners is to be socially and morally responsible by supporting as many of our willing youth as possible in school and vocational training. That will further improve our lot.
Aisha Mamman ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
A brilliant write-up from a brilliant writer! Indeed, the younger generation needs to be seriously encouraged. That reminds me of John Johnson’s saying that “Men and women are limited not by the place of their birth, not by the color of their skin, but by the size of their hope.”
On behalf of the family, we thank you for echoing our thoughts on Jelani. He has made us proud.
Hadiza Aliyu ( email@example.com)
I am just writing to commend you on the wonderful job you are doing. You are portraying our good image as Nigerians and northerners. We are proud of you. Indeed you have enlightened us with flamboyant and coherent words. We learn so many things from you. May Allah S.W.T shower His mercy and blessings on you.
Please we need further enlightenment on Nigerians in America such as Jelani Aliyu, Kase Lawal, and that Igbo soldier (I can’t really recall his name). Tell us about their lives. We also want you to write on how Americans see our democracy. And please tell us about some prominent personalities in American history like Abraham Lincoln, Sam Houston, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and some of the greatest speeches in America history, like that of Gettysburg Address, Cooper Union Address, and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inaugural Address. This will indeed tell our politicians what politics is all about.
Farooq we love you all. You inspire us. Whenever I read your column I feel as if you are blowing new air inside of me. You are our hero. Keep up your splendid work.
Nura Gwanda ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
Kofar Marusa Katsina, Katsina State, Nigeria.
Thank you, Farooq, for this tribute. I am very glad and happy that this is a story of another Nigerian. I don’t need to say much because of debates which additional comments on him may generate if I refer to him as a Northern Muslim.
Yushau A. Shuaib
Farooq, your comment is unkind and kind of late. Everyone here has known about Jelani and he has been celebrated on radio, TV, newspapers and magazines - and I read of his feat way back in early 2008. There are myopic people everywhere - both in the North and in the South, and someone like you with your talents and broad vision does not want to get into the “trouble” of a controversy over stereotypes that always existed, and will continue to exist in both North and South. And, you know, I think we need our heroes - whether they bear northern, western, or eastern Nigerian names - or whether they are Christian or Muslim. The problem with this sort of argument is that you run the risk of becoming what you condemn in other people - because myopic ones from Igboland or Yoruba will take careful note that you are putting down their “parapo” in order to raise your own! Be careful, my friend!
Ogbuagu Anikwe, ( email@example.com) Abuja
Thanks for your thoughtful and measured comments. However, note that I didn’t single out Emeagwali and Oyibo for censure because of where they come from. (In any case, Oyibo is Igala from Kogi State, which makes him “closer” to me—or, to use your words, my “parapo”— in the identity configurations in Nigeria). No, I singled them out because they are truly impostors. For starters, go to Emeagwali’s Wikipedia page and read about him. Then see what an Igbo person wrote about him after painstaking research in this link .
Bottom line: While Emeagwali is clearly an intelligent guy who won some award, he is NOT what he claims to be. And that has nothing to do with his being Igbo. It has everything to do with his being dishonest. He deceived Bill Clinton into calling him the “Bill Gates of Africa” through deceptive self-promotion on the Internet.
Oyibo’s case is a more straightforward case of unvarnished intellectual fraud. This dude does not even have full-time academic job as I am writing this and has never published his GAGUT scam in any peer-reviewed, scientific journal. No three-time Nobel Prize nominee (which he falsely claims he is) suffers the kind of obscurity he contends with now. I had written about these two guys in 2006, basically making these points.
It’s good to celebrate our heroes irrespective of where they come from. But we should be wary of overstating, or in some cases inventing, people’s achievements just to make ourselves feel good. And we shouldn’t discount other people’s achievements because of time-honored stereotypes that encourage us to ignore them. That’s my whole point. Maybe I didn’t state it as clearly as I should have.