Gills Gilbert Nyanganji
A week ago I received a sad news. My friend and partner, Prince Mustapha Hammangabdu, the Ciroma of Gashaka, with whom I shared many developmental ideas about the state of our local governments, had passed away after suffering a brief illness. This was a really terrible news for me. There are not that many people as smart, impressive and ambitious as the late Ciroma.
We often say that the hour of death cannot be forecast. When we say this we imagine that the hour would be in a distant future. But we never truly picture ourselves thinking about our friends and loved ones as only memory.
The late prince became a friend of mine in my teenage years as a boy growing up in Gashaka. Our friendship however grew stronger in the early 2000s when he became open about his political aspirations in Gashaka local government area after serving in different capacities in private organizations across the country. At that time, working with the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) in Gashaka, I recall giving my support to his campaign with the provision of logistics for spreading the word about a candidate with progressive ideas for his people, a brave young man who was willing to take on the political hegemony of his family.
On his part, prince gave his complete support to the Green Trek Project I led in 2010 in the Gashaka/Gumti National Park to create awareness about the existence of and the ecotourist potentials of the most ecologically diverse park in Nigeria and to rally youths together to foster unity, encourage competition and endurance, and bring people closer to the wonders of nature on the mountainous Mambilla Plateau. An agriculturalist and conservationist himself, Mustapha supported this project of mine in every way he could. He was a friend indeed.
The Ciroma was an amazing personality, known for his social nature, his approachability, his unwavering integrity and his trustworthiness. His yes was his yes, he made himself always reachable, and was without any religious or ethnic bias whatsoever. I will never forget a favourite song of his which talked about Jesus opening the door for everyone. The prince loved this song even though he was Muslim. Such was the spirit of love and unity that he embodied.
As we advanced in our different paths, we became increasingly aware of the similarities in our visions for Gashaka and the people of Taraba. I realized that the prince believed in me as much as I did in him and together we both shared our concerns, our dreams and laid out concrete plans for the future of our community.
Unknown to either of us, my last contact with my friend would be in early December, 2017 at the Garki General Hospital in Abuja. As he laid there recovering, we talked about projects like the reconstruction of the Gashaka football stadium with a Polo track, drawing the federal government’s attention to the potentials of the Gashaka/Gumti National Park and partnering with the Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk-Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) to maximize the agricultural opportunities in Taraba state. These were some big ideas we intended working on together to achieve.
The late prince was a friend, a partner and, in fact, a brother. He was one of the most optimistic and forgiving person I have ever known. He was a man with a heart of gold and the ability to withstand any disappointments no matter the extent.
Prince Mustapha left a legacy of ideas on both myself and his closest confidants; a legacy of a treasure trove of futuristic visions he had for his people. Being a man who stood for the youths himself, it is my earnest desire to uphold hid legacies by rallying young brains and hands in the Gashaka LGA around the successful implementation of these ideas and ensure that the dreams of the late prince for the region become a reality.
Rest in peace, Ciroma.
The people of Gashaka will miss you.