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Celebrating the Giant: Birthday Wishes To Engr. YZ at 63, By Murtala Uba Mohammed

Many who have not met him or seen his picture will think that Malam Yunusa Zakari Yau alias Malam YZ is an iroko. This is considering how his name and that of the organization he started, the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), resonate in all nooks and crannies of the country. However, this humble and highly meticulous computer and IT guru belongs to the class of El-Rufai’s and Osinbajo’s. The major distinction between YZ and the other two is his defining attribute, which is in contradistinction with that of a typical Nigerian politician. Telling lies, breaking promises, and deceit are synonymous with politics in Nigeria; all these have no place in the life-dictionary of Malam YZ.

Although I have heard about him since my days as an undergraduate in the mid-2000s, but my physical/close interaction with him is not more than half a decade old. It was a distinguished poet and editor, Malam Isma’il Bala, who first introduced me to him formally . I can recall that when we visited him in his office, he listened to us attentively, as he always does, and his laconic reply was thus: “I read his poems on ANA and APNET.” YZ belongs to many WhatApp groups, especially those that promote literature, scholarly discourse, environmental activitism and advocacy; I belong to some, like Kano Environmental Concern. He rarely talks unless when it is necessary. He is very selective on when, what and where to comment. I observe that he usually comments only on issues which he has ample knowledge or experience to share.

In spite of his deep interest in social reforms and activism, YZ is a very lively person. He always finds time to respond to messages sent via electronic media. No doubt, his organization, CITAD, remains one of the most respected and impactful civil society across the Niger and even beyond. Unlike many other civil society organizations, CITAD’s interests include, among others, ICT empowerment through which thousands of youth, (both male and female) were trained and exposed to the world of ICT. CITAD also publishes many books on social issues, fight against corruption, extremism and insurgency, administrative transparency, literature and political enlightenment. This is not in any way accidental considering his background. YZ spent the early part of his career as a lecturer in Bayero University where he graduated with Bachelor of Electrical Engineering and joined the service of the institution in 1984. He left the University in the mid-1990s. As a young academics, he was one of the most vibrant unionists and activists who jealously promoted and protected academic freedom and the university system on the platform of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

A verse in the holy Qura’an says, “And the good land, its vegetation emerges by permission of its Lord, but that which is bad, nothing emerges except sparsely with difficulty” (Al-Aaraf: 58). Raising a disciplined family is one of the indicators of a responsible head of a household. Engr. YZ had a very blessed family. His eldest daughter, Madam Zahra, who is a colleague in the Faculty of Earth and Environmental Sciences, proves to be a good ambassador of such a family. His other daughter Zainab recently graduated as one of the best MBBS students in Bayero University.

In spite of my reluctance to celebrate people’s birthdays, I feel obliged to celebrate a gentleman, Mr. YZ, whose age coincides with that of our dear country. I feel it is worthwhile to give honour to whom it is due, I personally witnessed a myriad of his philanthropic gestures, which helped in either changing or improving the life and living condition of the downtrodden, the poor, the needy and the people with special needs. I will mention just a couple here. Last year (2022), ANA celebrated Kano Literary Week. As a member of LOC, I advised the ANA Chair (Kano-Branch) in the last hour to request book donation from him. He graciously accepted my advice, and ANA Secretary sent a letter to him. Upon the arrival of the letter, Malam YZ gifted a bunch of books, which we used as prize for secondary school students who participated in the inter-school quiz.

Malam YZ is a lover and promoter of literature, popular culture, arts and creative works. His love for literature prodded him, and of course his organization, to sponsor the publications of many literary works, among which are: The Song of Almajiri, edited by Saka Aliyu and Ismail Bala; Corona Blues, edited by Khalid Imam and Isma’il Bala; and Kwaraption, edited by Khalid Imam and Ola Ifatimehin. In recognition of his selfless promotion of arts and culture, I approached him to publish my Hausa poetry anthology. Initially, he informed me that there was no available fund to publish my anthology but promised that if he had any, he would contact me. As promised, when he got funding, he published the anthology titled Hawainiya. I now have copies of the book published by the CITAD’s Publishing Company, FOMBINA, which is awaiting formal presentation this September insha’Allah. We are always grateful for his support and encouragement to writers, ANA and APNET.

While congratulating and wishing him more years in good health, I wish to call on the leaders and all well-meaning persons of the society to emulate his character of helping the underprivileged, the poor and the vulnerable.

Murtala Uba Mohammed (PhD) writes from the Department of Geography Bayero University Kano.

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