Tribute to an officer and a gentleman; General Garba Duba


Two weeks ago my family and Nigeria lost a great example of leadership, honor, service, achievement, resourcefulness, commitment, and excellence, General Garba Duba! 

Uncle Garba was an extraordinary officer, a Lieutenant General who became the Governor of Bauchi and Sokoto States during the regime of General Obasanjo and Major General Muhammadu Buhari respectively.

He was born in 1942 and began his education in Kaduna State at the Kontagora Primary School and went on to attend Provincial Secondary School, Niger State. He joined the army at the Nigerian Training College in 1962 where he met and befirended one of his classmates, Ibrahim Babangida. Incidently Ibrahim Babangida, would not only go on to become the Head of State of Nigeria, he would also become his brother in law when he married Uncle Garba’s cousin, Maryam.

He later on became ADC to the Military Governor of the old Northern region after graduating from the Indian Military Academy. He patriotically served the Nigerian Army through the regime of General Yakubu Gowon, General Ibrahim Babangida and General Sani Abacha.

He was instrumental in providing infrastructure in the State as the Governor of Bauchi. Among that infrastructure was the Bauchi State Polytechnic with a complete structure, residential accommodation, and offices for 16 Local governments, the tractor manufacturing company Steyr Nigeria Limited, expanded the number of Teacher Training Colleges and introduced Schools of Basic Studies on the site now used by the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University and supervised orderly elections for the Second Republic.

Afterwards he became the Military Administrator of Sokoto State where he went on to make his mark again in infrastructure. He was also the Military Commanders of 2nd Mechanised Division, Commander of 3rd Armoured Division and Commandant of the Nigerian Defense Academy.

After a shining, successful, and active Military service spanning over 31 years, Uncle Garba retired in 1993. Upon retirement, he ventured into business, holding positions that included Chairman of the New Nigerian Development Company, Chairman of SGI Nigeria Limited, Director of First Bank of Nigeria, a non-executive director of Honeywell Flour Mills Plc  and and chairman of the board of Leadway Pension, a pension fund administration company.

On the wee dawn of 17th May 2024, at the age of 82, Uncle Garba peacefully passed away. His death devastated the family and many who had interacted with him. Through the example of his life, he influenced so many in the most honorable and noble way. With his death, Nigeria has truly lost a treasure.

My uncle was an epitome of greatness. He had a unique pedigree and an unassuming nature. He was an officer with an extremely gentle soul. He was successful in all ramifications of life. He was a prominent and wise voice. He made a huge impact on anyone that encountered him. He carried himself with a assured posture and possessed thekind of generosity of spirit that an esteemed officer had.

As people, the way we live our lives becomes a discernable countenance of the condition of our heart. What people saw from interaction with Uncle Garba, day in and day out, was benevolence, decency, grace, and wisdom. And that was what made him so endearing.

Uncle Garba leaves a legacy and an example that will stretch nearly all of us to a higher form of humanity. He leaves us a solid message of virtue, duty and solidarity. His life was a model of integrity, kindness, humility, and patriotism. He was part of the generation who gave their life to their country.

Death is painful; however, death taking a precious jewel like Uncle Garba is extremely painful. He was a man with a good heart who cared so much about his community and contributed to its development. He was loving, gracious, and charming. Nobody came around him without being impacted positively. He never seized to be an inspiration to all. He was a great personality; intelligent, discerning, attentive, and full of knowledge. He showed the kind of compassion we each seek to imbibe.

Losing a person to the cold hand of death is not easy; talk more of writing a tribute in honor and respect for such a person. Having to write a tribute to Uncle Garba is painful but at the same time, it allows me to further celebrate him even in death. I celebrate his dedication to the right standard of life and commitment to the moral value which had resulted in a fulfilled life for him and many more he influenced.

My Uncle was an exceptional man, an honest man and an inspirational Leader. As an army officer, he embodied a unique set of qualities and competencies that define the role of an officer. By being the professional he was, he succeeded in every role and possessed the ability to inspire and foster a sense of comradery, and purpose in every task he had. Throughout his career, he led by example and possessed a remarkable combination of leadership, resilience, and adaptability. He always exhibitedan unwavering commitment to his dutiesand motivated his associates to achieve greatness. He demonstrated resourcefulness, and a commitment to lifelong learning, which are essential qualities for navigating the dynamic challenges of the military.He really was a“Top Block” officer with the essential Characteristics of Officer-ship and was a patriot who always put his country first. Always Country First!

From childhood, he was always organized, and hardworking. A long time ago, when he was in Secondary school, he and his friend wrote a letter to an expatriate working at a farm in Niger state and in it they volunteered to work for him during the holiday. The expatriate was so impressed he came to their school personally to see them and formally employ them. A car was sent to pick them during the holiday to resume work. In the farm, they oversaw paying the workers after their shifts. Pleased with their performance, the expatriate gave them some money from which Uncle Garba was able to save and purchase a bicycle, which was a rarity at that time in Kontagora. From inception, he was always focused and industrious.

Uncle Garba was a wonderful husband, father, uncle, friend, sibling, son, boss, and neighbor who always provided for his family. He never saw tribe or religion and only saw humanity. He was inherently courageous, disciplined, approachable, resilient, brave, loyal, competent, efficient, effectively intelligent, empathetic, understanding, compassionate, trustworthy, and devoted. He had integrity and everything he did alligned with his values and the principles of justice.

We shall miss him, with his warmth of spirit, his ability to talk about duty to country, faith and the prayer, which brings God so close to us. At the same time, we give thanks to Allah for the wonderful examples and memories Uncle Garba leaves us: his commitment to daily prayer and his selfless obligation to his beloved country. He will be deeply missed in our efforts to build national peace, and a just, caring and equitable Nigeria.

During the cause of his life, he never ceased to remind us that the greatest poverty of all is to live and to die without faith, with no integrity and unloved. His life will serve as an example for generations to come. Believing in the power of Allah’s grace, which directed his life, each of us, relying on the same grace, can reach so many of the achievements that he achieved.

Uncle Garba’s life proved that the only real revolution in human affairs flows from service to others and self-sacrifice out of love for country and unconditional devotion to The Almighty. He was the genius of the little way of doing great things.

Uncle Garba’s brilliant and good work will always be remembered but more deeply still, we will remember the abundance that shone from within him and his allegianceto the nation; an allegiance that was fueled by absolute dedication to His Maker.

Uncle Grandpa,as he was known by my daughter was especially close to his family and made time to play with them on a daily basis. He loved to swim, play squash, read, watch wrestling and loved listening to Hausa folk music. He taught all his children how to swim and whenever he was travelling with his family, they had to be ready three hours in advance because he was so organised and maticulous. Most of all he enjoyed being around his family, especially his wife, which gave him peace of mind. He had been happily married to Aunty Rabi. Their union and love story is one etched in gold. She was the only person he gave hi-fives to. He loved her dearly and provided all she wanted to the best of his ability. Nobody knew him or understood him like his darling wife. They were known to be each other’s ‘ying and yang,’ which provided the perfect balance in their marriage.

Summing up his life, those who knew him will always reiterate and come back to one thought; Never will you meet a man who more faithfully lived his values. His kind was rare. He was a teacher of all things. He taught by example. His character is the foundation of the conscience of many of those who met him, who worked with him and who were part of his life. His teachings are endless. He was strong in body, in spirit, and in commitment. He fulfilled every obligation he ever undertook. His word was his bond. He was loyal. His faithfulness to the people he interacted with during his lifetime could be seen in the way he steadfastly maintained ties with anyone he ever knew. He had a quiet dignity, respecting himself the way he respected others. Although he is no more, today, however, we have the privilege of celebrating someone who epitomizes leadership; someone whose life reflects a heart of service and commitment to faith, family, friends, and certainly those who strive to follow his example.

The memory of the righteous is blessed so while he may be gone, his memory will remain with us because of the great imprint he leaves in our hearts.

Uncle Garba lived a good life, he invested his life into many people. He is worthy of emulation in every respect of good works. I feel so privileged to have been related to him. He was truly one of our very best… An officer and a gentleman!

He makes Nigeria proud, and he will always make Nigeria even prouder. He will not soon be forgotten. His reward will be great in Heaven. We pray for him and for those who knew him.

Uncle Garba is survived bygrandchildren, 1 wife, Aunty Rabi, 6 children (Sani, Zainab, Abubakar, Hadiza, Imran and Hamza).

To all who loved him; his staff, assistants, neighbors, colleagues, admirers, friends and family:

“May the Almighty reward you and help you to apply patient endurance and appreciation. Indeed, our spirit, possessions and families are magnificent gifts, which God has loaned us for a period, and he takes them away after the termination of that period. Gratitude becomes necessary when He gives, and patience is mandatory when He takes. Uncle Garba, your boss, neighbor, friend, colleague, brother, father, husband, and son was from among that great gift which God allowed you to enjoy in a way that was fortunate and gratifying. Although you loved him, his place is with his maker now. As he has gone home, it is your duty to show patience in his death and gratitude for his life. 

May the Almighty augment your recompense, be kind in your misfortune, forgive the deceased, encourage you with endurance and give you peace. I pray you have the fortitude to bear his loss.”

As we witness another twilight for Nigeria and the death of another patriot, I pray that God forgives and has mercy on the soul of Uncle Garba and makes honorable his reception. May Allah keep him safe and sound, protect the place where he has rested and make his entrance wide; bless him for his good deeds and surround him with a garden filled with beauty. May he receive the gentle blow of a cool breeze, be washed with snowflakes, ice, sleet, water and everything pure and cleansed of sin as a white cloth is purified perfectly. I pray Allah admits him to Paradise and may his grave be spacious and filled with light: Amen.

Written by Hannatu Musawa

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