Twenty years after the death of Abubakar Imam, I become his acquaintance. It is one of those nights characterised by incessant blackouts. Sleep eludes me. I struggle to fight off the characters from the book haggling in my head. But the legendary parrot from the white pages of Magana Jari Ce will not stop blabbering. A story punctured at the middle from an earlier tapered-dose narration by my father, himself an Imam fanatic, student, disciple and scholar, as he reads out the red covered Magana Jari Ce, a statutory talking parrot on the cover, on whom the collection of short stories are structured, gazing into the adventures boiling in my eye balls. A tale for a night as Father promised did not materialise. The characters now form in slow rhythms from Father’s stuttering narration. Father dozes away while reciting. Too tired to continue. I will then go to sleep and fight with the incessant dreams, about what fate will befall Musa as he prepares to join his father at war if Aku the parrot does not stop him. Sleep eludes me. I jump up and kindle a candle. Fetch the illuminating red book and feed my eyes with language. I stammer, bit my tongue, shed tears, and leak candle wax all over the masterpiece as I begin my struggle of learning to read in Hausa Language all by myself. I am tired of the torture of waiting.
From then I sleep, wake, walk, talk and dream within Imam’s germane works of Hausa Literature. I succumb to his genius and beseech him to plant tales of fantasy, adventure, courage and resilience, which will germinate in the soils of my young brain, fruits of which I still cultivate. It is a personal code I lived with. Till today, when I am disillusioned with the tedious and thick grammars of English Literature, I return to the welcome familiarity of Imam’s flowing river of amiable words. I do not just read it, I dive in and swim in the river of his literary masterpieces till I feel them brush across my skin, tingling, as they transport me to zones unfathomable.
The truth is, wherever I step my foot in the vast expanse of Hausa Literature, I find stamps of Abubakar Imam’s larger feet. Without him, Hausa Literature would not be written and read in its delicious and exquisite swagger, a genius of the written form. Using knowledge and language mastery of English, Hausa and Arabic Imam delves into intertwined tales and transports the reader across empires, from Europe, Arabian peninsula and Persia, across looping tales intermingled with Hausa oral tales,smelting it all back to the cool familiarity of the Hausa culture.
From the speculative intercutting stories of Ruwan Bagaja to the imaginative and well-laid narrative of Magana Jari Ce, the writing flair of Imam tames hitherto unfamiliar narrative backgrounds and juices everything into indigenous Hausa, creating an everlasting zesty element in the process. These works have entertained and quenched the literary thirst of Hausa readers for ages, and will forever do.
The renowned journalist and Nigeria’s minister of education, Adamu Adamu puts forward the heroic status of Imam as such: “His house became Northern Nigeria’s Bloomsbury, an intellectual watering-hole, a meeting point for religious, philosophical, political and literary discussions”.
Imam is an accomplished writer, journalist and a man of culture, with his array of works having been translated to German, Arabic, Danish, Russian, Polish and English. Without doubt Imamian Literature will continue to prosper, blossom and influence in years to come. An avid Imam Scholar simplifies him aptly: “What Shakespeare did was what Imam did, if not more perfectly done.”
Thank you Abubakar Imam, for this gift of life in writing.