Nobody owns life, but anyone who can pick up a frying pan owns death. ― William S. Burroughs
I have difficulties to pen down this tribute because of the nostalgic moments shared with Danladi Ndayebo. I continue to imagine on what to say and what not to say, but as a true believer in Allah’s will, that we all came from Almighty Allah and unto Him we shall all return sooner or later because we are all on transit to that destination. Certainly, every living soul shall taste death.
That is why I had to muster some courage to write something but a newspaper column is inadequate for me to pay tribute to Danladi Ndayebo but I will attempt to scratch it for the records. This tribute is just to acknowledge that here was a man, who early enough saw, conquered and left lingering memories of his footprints.
I remembered vividly sometimes in November, 2008 as the Secretary to State Government (SSG) when Hajiya Rabi Gambari brought late Ndayebo to my office in Government House and introduced him as the latest poach by the man who has penchant for mentoring and nurturing people to blossom to greater possibilities, the Chief Servant, Dr Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu as the next appointee. After a few minutes of drills and an engaging session, I found in him a pleasant personality, looking innocent and not exhibiting any air that he is from the top echelon of a leading national newspaper. You can not imagine an editor of a national newspaper accepting Senior Special Assistant, though young but pragmatic. Immediately after the interactive session with him, I knew why the Governor had to bring him in. Because, the Media Department was in need of fortification and there are different people appointed into various positions already. So bringing an editor to come and do what when the key positions have been taken? Therefore, my wise counsel was: “Ndayebo, prove yourself and you will get to the top.”
He replied, “Yes sir,” and left my office.
Subsequently, I continued to engage him on specific assignments and his delivery was uncommon. And it was like a talent wasting, so when the Chief Servant in his wisdom decided to make some swift changes, it wasn’t difficult to recommend Ndayebo for the key strategic position of Chief Press Secretaryand he delivered beyond expectations as he became the melting point of our media management. He cultivated the entire correspondents’ chapel, the entire media space of the state and beyond. I know his connections outside the state and national levels were legendary. Danladi was connect Sam Nda Isaiah, Mahmud Jega , Muhammad Garbadeen, Femi Adesina, Mike Awòyinfa, Simon Reef, Segun Adeniyi, Dare Babarinsa, Kabiru Yusuf, Muhammad Haruna, KunleSomorin, Mohammed Idris, Aliyu Akosile and the entire top notch in the media industry in Nigeria and beyond. Ndayebo was home with all his professional colleagues.
I also remembered on many occasions that it doesn’t take him much to deliver on difficult assignments. When I said this is what I want done, he gets it done. I remember on several occasions, after critical events in the state that will be rounded up after 3pm, I would say to him that I want to see it on network news, and behold, he would get it on the network news. And also, if there was a slip of any bad press somewhere, he managed it.
That is why in Islam, it is very simple when your days are up; they are up and there is nothing you can do about it. Late Ndayebo was very close to me for many reasons. He was an excellent person, very dedicated and committed and ready to deliver on any assignment without complaint or excuses. I can’t remember if he has ever come to me on any assignment that the resources were not enough.
And when it came to the issue of scrambling for the soul of Niger State, we were at several interactions and I’m sure he had other engagements with colleagues insisting that the best Niger State could get. His confidence and implicit expiration that I will deliver was not in doubt. So when the desire of my contest came up, Ndayebo opted to resign his appointment to join me fully, though I objected that he should let me face the hazy weather first to avoid too many risks.
Allah (SWT) knows the best. And because of our compelling faithfulness, the decision of Allah in everything is unquestionable and we take solace and an abiding faith in that. No doubt, late Danladi had hoped he had dreams and we shared such dreams and plans, but Allah is the master planner.
Later Ndayebo will be remembered for things he stood for: professionalism, patriotism and commitment. Anytime he was downcast, I always do for him what the Yoruba call ‘Oriki’ and I would sing for him in Nupe ‘Gibigilozhiwunzhaefudzu a tuye’. Even on that fateful day, I had to call him that morning to sing for him and to inform him that there is a serious assignment coming up which I have penciled down his name. The phone dropped. Because I was on transit, I assumed it was from my end, and when I called back again, his younger brother, Usman, answered the call and informed me that he was not fine because he had an accident the previous night, and that they were at the IBB Specialist Hospital.
Less than 40 minutes later, I arrived there and met Ndayebo in pain. I made inquiries about his treatment and I didn’t get a satisfactory response. I had to call the State Governor, the SSG and everybody started rushing there and the rest is now history. It was painful, but our solace is in the will of Almighty Allah who knows why it happened that way.
I sincerely appreciate the Governor of Niger State, His Excellency, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, the SSG and the Commissioner of Health for their quick response in mobilising doctors to attend to him before taking his last breath. I pray that Allah will comfort us all, especially Ndayebo’s parents and his only son, Al-Amin, and the brothers for this irreparable loss.
Ndayebo will remain in our memories for his courageous and engaging moments, exceptional character and commitment to professionalism, friendship and family.
Yahaya is a Professor of Agricultural Extension and Development communication at the University of Ibadan and former Secretary to Niger State Government