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Three Years Without My Dad

By Farooq Kperogi Twitter: @farooqkperogi This was first posted on Facebook and Twitter on December 31, 2019 Exactly three years ago t...

By Farooq Kperogi
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

This was first posted on Facebook and Twitter on December 31, 2019

Exactly three years ago today [December 31, 2019], my father, Adamu Kperogi, breathed his last after more than 90 years on this earth. December 31 has now come to represent the most somber day of the year for me.

He was my most consequential moral and intellectual influence, my most important emotional fortress, and by far the most important reason I am who I am today.

He was an iconoclast, a disrupter of staid, disabling traditions, and a passionate warrior against ignorance and superstitions. Although he lived all his life as an Arabic and Islamic Studies teacher, he fought against entrenched "Muslim" traditions in my community that pretended to derive inspiration from Islam.

For instance, right from the early 1970s, he taught that, contrary to widespread practice, people didn’t have to slaughter a ram to celebrate the naming of their children. He pointed out that the idea that children would use the slaughtered rams to ride to paradise in the hereafter was theological fraud invented by greedy mallams. When I was born, he slaughtered no ram.

In my community, people used to isolate and designate certain parts of the community as “evil land” that people must not cultivate. My father was the first person to disrupt and discredit this tradition. To gasps and intense revulsion, he farmed in all the “evil lands” in the community and lived longer than all the people who said he would die for “violating” the abode of jinns.

He was also a man of irrevocably strong convictions. For example, he was a teetotaler, i.e., never drank any intoxicating beverages for any reason. This was, of course, inspired by his strong Muslim faith, but in bringing us up to also be teetotalers, he used the resources of logic. He taught us that being drunk deprived one of control over one’s consciousness—and one’s environment—and that such a state could birth so many untoward things.

One day, in my early teens, he took so seriously ill that everyone thought he was going to die. A traditional “medicine man” brought an alcohol-based herbal concoction to him. He refused to take it even after his fellow mallams reminded him it was halal to take it in light of his circumstances. It appeared cruel that he preferred death to tasting alcohol.

But, when he recovered, he told us he knew the medicine was just herbal junk that wouldn’t have saved him if he was going to die. He added that he wouldn’t know how to morally justify teaching us not to drink alcohol after seeing him drink it even in sickness.

Because he studied Arabic throughout West Africa, he was cosmopolitan and broadminded in ways that weren't typical for a mallam. To the shock of his colleagues, he allowed me to be friends with--and even have sleepovers in the homes of--Christian Eastern Nigerians in my community, who are the most culturally distant from us. He was confident in his parenting and had no anxieties that anyone would dilute it.

The most abiding lesson I learned from my dad, though, is to stick to the truth and to my moral convictions even if it appears the whole world is against me. That was what he did all his life.

People who think they can blackmail me into silence against unjust and inept autocracies have no idea where my activism springs forth from. Continue to rest in peace, dad!

Related Articles:
Tribute to My Father Who Died on December 31
Memories and Legacies from My Late Father


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