The Exit of An Exemplary Leader – Mallam Abidu Rafindadi Yazid By Abdullahi Shuaib
When my cell phone rang on Thursday morning, 22 September, 2022 at exactly 7:06am, it was a call from the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (MD/CEO) of Jaiz Takaful Insurance (JTI) Plc, Alhaji Ibrahim Shehu.
Before I could exchange pleasantry with him, he broke the sad news of the passing on of our Chairman, JTI Plc, Mallam Abidu Rafindadi Yazid at the age of 79 years.
Spontaneously, I was dazed and perplexed. Like Simran Khurana said sometimes ago, the sound of heartbreak is deafeningly silent.
One may not hear an audible crash, but those who have loved and lost love can shatter the heart. When I managed to utter few words, they were “Verily we belong to Allah and truly to Him is our return.” Also, as mentioned by Brian Jacques, “A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us.” The loss of our revered and respected Mallam Abidu Yazid really shattered my heart with a feeling of nostalgic memory of my relationship with him. Moreso, it reminded me of the words of Stephen Covey that “Our greatest joy and our greatest pain come in our relationships with others.” The exit of Mallam Abidu Yazid is a painful and monumental loss to the country.
My path crossed with him three years ago when he was given double appointment as a board member of Jaiz Charity and Development Foundation (JCDF) and Chairman of JTI Plc, one of the subsidiaries of JCDF. During his first visit to our head office, Mallam Abidu Yazid personally came to my office accompanied by the MD/CEO of JTI. I was humbled by his humility and simple life style. In short, I felt honoured and respected by his visit. Ordinarily, he could have sent for me to see him but he chose to meet me by himself. That short visit of his revealed to me that aside being humility personified, he was indeed a man of refreshing candour. Deep into our relationship, I observed that his humility and respect for people knows no bound. On several occasions, he would call to consult with me on issues either resonating with the endowment project of JCDF or JTI Plc; and often, sought advices on how to move the organisations forward.
Mallam Abidu Yazid was among the few people of the crescent in the country highly recognised and respected both in the northern and southern regions of Nigeria owing to his outstanding track records of integrity and humanity. I recall an experience shared by one of his family members that when the late Mallam Abidu Yazid resigned on his own volition as the Head of Service and Secretary to the Government of the old Kaduna State, he had less than six thousand naira in his bank account. For such a person at that level, it was expected that he would have amassed wealth. Rather, he lived a contentment life. He was incorruptible. One of the lessons learnt from him was contentment. His lifestyle and commitment to public and private services were highly exemplary and outstanding. Mallam Abidu Yazid was too simple to the core.
The generosity of Mallam Abidu Yazid cannot be expressed in a few lines or exhausted in a few paragraphs. On several occasions where he had official meetings of either the JTI Committee of the Board or Endowment Committee of the JCDF in his house both in Kaduna and Katsina States, he hosted and entertained us with the highest hospitality at no cost to the organisations. On a personal level, he was magnanimous and generous to a fault. I remember when he shocked me on a particular day, he sent an emissary to me all the way from Kaduna to give me a ‘special local fruit-juice’ as a token of his love and care. On that occasion, he made my day splendour. Mallam Abidu Yazid was always eager and ready to touch lives positively. Anyone who has crossed his path, directly or indirectly benefitted from his generosity and large heartedness. Benevolence and kindness were native to him. I also recall another act of generosity he extended to me when he sent another emissary to hand over a ‘special power bank’ to me as a gift. His thoughtfulness and caring disposition have always been inspiring; and this has impacted positively in my life.
As an elderly stateman, his calmness, patience and listening skills are captivating and infectious. There was a day two of us were together having a private conversation, he then said one of the greatest attributes I should strive to cultivate is patient-perseverance in life. He said, with this virtue, success would always trail one’s endeavours. To illustrate his statement, he recalled one of his moments of trial as a civil servant in the old Kaduna State. He mentioned to me that for over six years, he was not promoted while others were.
A case that really touched his heart was when a staff he assisted into the civil service as his junior was inadvertently promoted above him to deputise for the most senior officer on state assignment outside the state. When the memo got to his table, he could not treat it because of the hierarchy of seniority. So, he advised that the memo should be sent to the office of the governor for proper consideration. According to him, when the governor saw the memo, he sent for him and asked how his junior became his senior. Mallam Abidu Yazid told the governor that the civil service system did not avail him of any promotion for six years and that since his junior was a beneficiary of successive promotions, she was the most qualified to deputise. There and then, he said the governor took exemption to the unfair treatment meted out to him and approved his promotion and elevation to the position of a permanent secretary and later, he became the Head of Service and Secretary to Government of the old Kaduna State. His patience perseverance has not only inspired me but has also reinforced my own level of patience in life.
Mallam Abidu Yazid was an astute administrator, a complete gentleman and resourceful person. Under his transformational leadership, JTI Plc rose from a going concern entity to a profitable and growing organisation. Further, he grew the organisation so much so that it was the first ever organisation to declare and share the highest surplus distribution to its policyholders in the Takaful Insurance industry in Nigeria. Mallam Abidu Yazid was very industrious, dedicated and selfless in service both in the public and private sectors until his last breadth. His demise was a great deficit to the country. We have lost one of the illustrious sons of Nigeria. In spite of his age and achievements in life, he never looked down on all the assignments given to him. Rather, he discharged them with equanimity and high sense of responsibility no matter the herculean nature of the assignments.
From far and near, whoever has worked or associated with him, would testify that he worked tirelessly for the developmental strides achieved in the northern region and also for the progress of his motherland. In the words of the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, “The best person is the one who benefits all human beings.” Without mincing words, Mallam Abidu Yazid lived these words during his life time. Throughout my relationship with him, he was goodness personified and paragon of love. He cared so much for others to live a happy life. He sacrificed his resources to facilitate succour for those in distress. He was a colossus, an icon and one of the titans of the financial industry in Nigeria. He was a visionary leader with a good sense of humour too.
Mallam Abidu Yazid was very respectful, loyal to his colleagues on the boards of our organisations, an effective team player and a detribalised man endowed with strong ethical values that stood him out amongst his contemporary. He saw every part of the country as home-away-from-home. What matters most to him when interacting with people of other ethnic extractions was the humanity in people. On that basis, he was able to connect well with the men of timber and calibre in the country. His success story at the University of Ilorin where he presided over as the Chairman of the Governing Council/Pro-Chancellor, saw a hitch-free appointment of a new Vice Chancellor from Osun State extraction.
Mallam Abidu Yazid has zero tolerance for mediocrity and subjectivity at workplaces. Being conscious of his callings and a firm believer in the concept of fairness, justice, equity and stewardship, he believed in giving every person equal opportunity and creating a level playing field for people to proof their worth, competencies and professionalism.
A good relationship is when somebody knows your ups and down, your professionalism and shortcomings and still choose to be by your side. His principled posture in this direction has inspired and motivated me greatly to continue to develop my erudition and consistently learn, unlearn and relearn in our constantly changing world.
Though my few years of relationship with him has ended, but the lessons learnt from his character, professionalism and charismatic miem as an amiable, approachable, open-minded and humble person will continue to impact immensely in my life.
I thank Allah for the opportunity He has given me to have related with him and imbibed some virtues from him. I pray Allah give him an easy and pleasant journey and shower blessings on his grave. May Allah forgive him and have mercy on him and give him strength and pardon him. O Allah! Protect him from the punishment in the grave, grant him bliss in the grave, save him from the torment of hell fire and grant him entrance into Jannah al-Firdaws.
Abdullahi Shuaib is CEO, Jaiz Charity and Development Foundation.