“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 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 in the world, with the certainty that every living soul shall taste death. Taking solace from the requirements in the Holy book as standard, I struggled out of the deep sense of losing Danladi to muster some courage to write my own narrative about this erudite Nigerian who just passed on. The storm of memories shared with Ndayebo will certainly overflow a newspaper space for articles. This tribute is therefore a kind of token acknowledgement that here was a man, who early enough saw, conquered and left lingering memories of his footprint.
I remember vividly sometimes in November, 2008 as the Secretary to State Government (SSG) when Rabi Gambari brought late Danlandi 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 then Governor popularly called the Chief Servant, Muazu Babangida Aliyu as the next appointee. After few minutes of drills and engaging session, I found in him a pleasant personality, looking innocent and not exhibiting any air that he was from the top echelon of a leading national newspaper in Nigeria. Imagine an editor of a national newspaper accepting the position Senior Special Assistant. But not Danladi, who seemed more concerned with the contributions he could make to the State and the society through the opportunity. The problem was that even if his services were truly needed, how would we accommodate an editor when all the key positions in the Department had been filled and taken? Therefore, my wise counsel was “Ndayebo, go and prove yourself and you will get to the top.”
He replied, “yes sir” and left my office.
Subsequently, I gave him varied assignments and in each and all his delivery was diligent and thorough. Yet, it was still like we were wasting this talent as we could not get the full benefit of his experience and devotion at that point. So, when the governor in his wisdom decided to make some changes later, it wasn’t difficult to recommend Ndayebo for the strategic position of Chief Press Secretary and he delivered beyond expectations as he became the centerpiece and melting point of our media management. He cultivated the entire correspondents chapel, and the whole gamut of the media space of the state and beyond. His connections within and outside the state, up to the national levels were wide and far reaching. Danladi was connected to Lai Mohammed, Sam Nda Isaiah, Garba Shehu, Mahmud Jega, Femi Adesina, Muhammad Garbadeen, Simon Kolawole, Mike Awoyinfa, Simon Reef, Segun Adeniyi, Dare Babarinsa, John Momoh, Kabiru Yusuf, Muhammad Haruna, Kunle Somorin, Mohammed Idris, Gbenga Adefaye, Ibrahim Sheme, Aliyu Akosile, Nasiru Imam, Wale Olaitan, Ruben Abati, Sina Kawonise, Biodun Oduwole, and the entire top notch of the media industry in Nigeria and beyond. Ndayebo was home with all his professional colleagues.
I was always confident he would do a good job in managing the media for the government and the state.
It didn’t take him much to deliver on difficult assignments. Whenever we wanted something done, he would get it done; he was such a meticulous and effective officer and performer. And he would not refuse any assignment however challenging. I remember one scenario where we had somebody waiting at Transcorp Hilton in Abuja to engage with us and I looked at all the aides around me. “Who would I trust to deliver on this assignment”, I thought anxiously. By 7pm, from Minna I dispatched Danladi to meet the person and before 9pm Danladi was there.
Late Ndayebo was very close to me for many reasons, for being an excellent person, very dedicated and committed and ready to deliver on any assignment without complaints or excuses. I recall just a few months ago when I ventured into the murky political terrain to contest for the governorship of Niger state. He was confident in me that I would deliver if elected. He was indeed a friend and a believer in hard work. So when my ambition took off full speed ahead, Danladi opted to resign his appointment as Executive Secretary, Nigerian institute of Quantity Surveyors to join me fully. I appreciated his zeal but promptly objected, insisting instead that he should let me face the hazy political weather alone to avoid too many risks.
Allah (SWT) knows the best. And because of our compelling faith, the decision of Allah in everything is unquestionable and we continue to rest on that belief. No doubt, late Danladi had hopes, he had dreams and we shared dreams and plans but Allah is the master planner. Looking at the unfortunate events that preceded his death, I humbly remember Islamic teaching which maintains that when your days are up you can’t do anything about it. A man who could leave Minna at any time to any other place to deliver on assignment on several occasions and returning safely, but on that fateful day that he had to leave and exit the world, he left Abuja early enough for his journey such that he was not under pressure on the road. He could not be saved when he needed help on account of car accident he was involved in. The rest is history.
Late Ndayebo will be remembered for the things he stood for: loyalty, professionalism, patriotism and commitment. And while alive, anytime he was feeling downcast, I would always do for him what the Yoruba call ‘Oriki’, singing for him in Nupe ‘Gibigi elozhi wunzhia, efujion a tuye’ and even on that day, I remember having the need to call him that morning to sing for him and to inform him that there was a serious assignment coming up which I had penciled him down for and then the phone connection dropped. Because I was on transit, I assumed it was from my end and I called back again only for his younger brother, Usman, to answer the call and inform me that he was not fine as he had an accident the previous night and that they were at the IBB Specialist Hospital in Minna and 40 minutes later, I arrived there and met the late Ndayebo in serious pains. Nothing we did or could do at that time was enough to prevent his exit from the world, making it clear that we had to accept and take solace in the will of Almighty Allah, Who knows why it happened that way.
I want to sincerely appreciate Abubakar Sani Bello, the Governor of Niger State, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and the Commissioner of Health Makusidi for their quick response in mobilizing doctors to attend to him before breathing his last breath. I pray that Allah will comfort us all especially his grieving parents, his son, Al-Amin, and his brothers for the painful loss. Danladi Ndayebo will remain in our memories for his courage, engaging moments, exceptional character, and commitment to professionalism, loyalty, friendship and family.
“It’s not contagious, you know. Death is as natural as life. It’s part of the deal we made.”
* Yahaya is a Professor of Agricultural Extension and Development Communication at the University of Ibadan, and former Secretary to Niger State Government.