The loss of a loved one, especially a mother, is a painful experience. For the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most Rev. Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, it’s an even more painful experience as his mother, Mama Hauwa Kukah, who he describes as his stronghold and prayer warrior, was recently laid to rest at their country home in Anchuna Sarki Ikulu in Zango Kataf LGA of Kaduna state. CHIZOBA OGBECHE (of Blueprint) was there.
All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages. This quote by William Shakespeare aptly captures the life and times of Mama Hauwa Kukah who made her entrance into the world in June 1934, in Katul Gida, in Ikulu Chiefdom of Zangon Kataf local government area of Kaduna state.
She played many parts, however, her acts, going by testimony and accounts of those who knew her, superseded the remarkable seven ages.
The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most Rev. Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, while paying tribute to the matriarch, who had her exit on July 10, 2020, after 86 years of fruitful and eventful sojourn, described her as his “stronghold and prayer warrior.”
Kukah, who said his prayer life even as a bishop was not 1/10 of his late mother’s prayer life added, “When I think of my mother’s prayer life, I think of the great St Monica, the mother of St Augustine as a model.
“She was a relentless prayer warrior. Most of her nights were given ton prayer and as Rhoda (his sister) told me, on the eve of her death, she spent almost the whole night in prayers. Her almost permanent bed side companion was her Hausa Bible and rosary. Making the Catholic rosary was one of her favourite past times for a long time. Her faith and love for the church were infectious.”
The bishop, who also described his mother as “generous and without ethno-religious biases,” said, “Mama was an extraordinary woman; it is difficult to find anyone who really knew her that will not testify to a memorable act of kindness, jokes or banter.
“She often drove a hard bargain, persistent and insistent, strong in her convictions, she had a bit of steel, but deep down, she was, for us and nearly all those who knew her, a caring soul. She was a very generous human being who believed in giving than in receiving.”
He recalled that, “When I send her a bag of rice, it does not last a week because she gives it out. There was a time she distributed food shortly after a crisis and people cautioned her for giving Muslim women food but she said ‘hunger has no religion.”
He said his mother was a quintessential politician who in spite of her lack of education was able to analyse and envisage the likely performance of politicians.
“Despite lack of a formal education, most people who met mama would attest to her mental acuity. She was an extraordinary story teller and, in another life, today’s comedians would have been eating out of her hands.
“Composing songs in vernacular came naturally and so easily to mama. She was one of the early founders and quite respected members of the now famous Zumuntar Matan Katolika. In the 1990s, she composed the now famous chorus in Ikulu, A Zumunta Folo (Zumunta is sweet), which is sung at most events of the association.
“She went on to inspire a new generation of Ikulu Catholic Women, composing one song after the other for them. Today, her songs are imbedded in the music culture of both the general and the Ikulu versions of the Zumunta Matan.”
Speaking further on her strength of character, he said, “We often quarrelled over many things because she always sought to make her case.”
Mama, like most people, also faced challenging times especially when she couldn’t give her husband more children as was tradition in those days.
Speaking on his parent’s relationship Bishop Kukah said, “She married our father at the age of 18, joining two other women that my very handsome father had already married, very much in keeping with the pre-Christian culture of their time.
“In her first birth, she was delivered of a set of twins, my humble self and Husseini (as he would have been known), who sadly, died almost immediately.
“Growing up, my uncle always teased my mother and I by reminding me that I was uglier of the twins and that I chopped my twin brother because I feared competition. Used to tell him that I believe it was better to ugly and alive than to be handsome and dead.
“…My younger sister, Rhoda, was born almost four years later and by village standards, this gap was not a good sign for my mother. Two miscarriages followed and seemed to lead to the logic of the day that someone had cast a bad eye on her.
“Two years later, mama married a very handsome soldier, Staff Sergeants Ali Usuba and bore two sons, Godwin and Achungulu, who died quite young.”
Speaking further, he said: “The death of Sgt Ali marked a turning point in my mother’s life. I saw her new husband’s death as an opportunity to bring her back to our father. My father literarily tried to turn me into a co-suitor, cajoling and encouraging me to make a strong case for him.
“I tired, but just when I thought we were about to make a breakthrough. Mama decided we should talk first. One day she sat me down and told me she didn’t want to tempt fate even though she had no problem returning to our dad.
“Mama had become active in church but she was not a communicant. Her resistance to my becoming a priest had mellowed down. I told her that if she did not return to our dad I will have nothing to do with her especially if she contemplated another marriage.
“She told me she was not happy that she could not receive communion. I was a major seminarian and naturally, the prospect of her salvation meant more to both of us. My dad noticed that I had somehow become less enthusiastic in our enterprise. I finally had to summon some courage to tell him the full story.
“Happily, my dad agreed and would, by the mercy of God, come by another route receive baptism and die in the Catholic faith. Now looking back at my parents, I ask, who said you cannot eat your cake and have it if God will it?
Also, paying tribute mama Kukah, the Chairman, Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti state, prayed to God to have mercy on the soul of the deceased.
Fayemi, who was represented by the chairman, Northern Governors Forum, Simon Lalong of Plateau state, said the late matriarch contributed to humanity both locally and internationally through her children.
The governor eulogised mama Kukah, for her deep faith and loving nature, which he said created the right environment for many to benefit from her wealth of wisdom and generosity.
“Mrs. Kukah gave her children proper upbringing, which propelled them to stand up for justice, peace and righteousness. The death of Mama at 86 calls for celebration for a life well lived and the gift of her son to the world, as one who upholds the truth and fights for justice,” he said.
In his welcome address, the community head, Agwam Ajulu, Mr Yohanna Kukah, lauded the deceased for her commitment to women fellowship in the community, saying that she impacted lives through welfare packages.
According to him, her legacy would be recorded in the annals of the community.
The former chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu, a former speaker House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, as well as the chairman and president, Southern Kaduna People’s Union, Jonathan Asake, were among the dignitaries at the ceremony.