Prominent Nigerians, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, have expressed shock at the news of the demise of Borno State Deputy Governor, Zannah Umar Mustapha, who passed away in his sleep Saturday morning and was buried by sundown according to Islamic rites.
A statement signed by the Secretary to Borno State Government, Alhaji Usman Jidda Shuwa, confirmed that the deputy governor died in his sleep in Yola, Adamawa State, where he had gone to represent his principal, Kashim Shettima, at the convocation ceremony of Modibbo Adama University of Science and Technology, Yola.
Buhari, in a statement issued yesterday by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, extended heartfelt condolences to the late deputy governor’s immediate family and his relatives.
The president similarly commiserated with Shettima and the entire people of Borno State on the loss and joined the governor, “members of Zannah’s family, his friends, political associates, colleagues in the Borno State Government, constituents and supporters in praying that Almighty Allah will receive his soul and grant him eternal rest.”
Also, the Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki said he received the news of Zannah’s death with shock, adding that it was difficult to believe the information that a man he met in Borno about a week ago during his tour of some Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in Maiduguri could have left this world so soon.
He expressed regret that the late deputy governor would no longer be able to witness the imminent end of “the mindless bloodletting and destruction of property being visited on a peaceful and hospitable people in the North-east zone of the country.”
More condolences poured in yesterday from the governors of Borno, Yobe, Lagos and Ondo states, among others. In his message, Governor Shettima expressed his heartfelt condolence to his late deputy’s family as well as to the entire people of the state for the irreparable loss, appealing for prayers for the repose of the soul of the departed.
The Yobe State Governor, Ibrahim Gaidam, said his thoughts and prayers were with the people of the state while the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, expressed deep pain over Mustapha’s passage, describing it as a tragic loss.
To the Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko, Mustapha’s death was a rude shock and unfortunate as well as a huge loss to Borno State and the nation in general.
Similarly, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Yussuff Sulaimon Lasun, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Wole Oladimeji, described the late deputy governor as a perfect gentleman and lamented that his demise would create a vacuum in the state and among his people.
Both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) mourned the passage of the late deputy governor. While the APC described his demise as a huge loss to his family, his party, his state and indeed to Nigeria, the PDP expressed shock over the incidence.
Meanwhile, a pall of gloom shrouded the state when the news of the deputy governor’s death filtered in. Many wept profusely at his funeral and interment. The governor, whom he had gone to Yola to represent at the Modibbo Adama University of Science and Technology convocation ceremony, could barely hold back tears when he saw his lifeless body.
The deputy governor was found dead in the early hours of yesterday by his aides when they sought the help of the staff of the Yola-based hotel to open his room. This was after it had become apparent that he was yet to rise from his bed.
Mustapha, according to some of his aides who spoke anonymously to journalists, had retired to bed at about 11pm on Friday. This was after instructing them to congregate for Saturday’s activities at 7:30am, insisting that they would be leaving the hotel by 8 am.
The late deputy governor was also expected to attend the early morning Islamic prayers at about 5am yesterday. But when he failed to turn up for the prayers, many had thought that he had decided to pray alone in his hotel room. They (the aides), however, became suspicious when he did not come out even minutes after the planned arrangement.
The deputy governor was confirmed dead at the Federal Medical Centre in Yola. Sources at the Federal Medical Centre confirmed to THISDAY that the deputy governor was brought in dead. His body was subsequently deposited temporarily at the hospital mortuary from where it was later taken to the Yola airport en route the Borno State capital for burial.
His body was conveyed to his official residence in preparation for his funeral soon after its arrival at the Maiduguri International Airport at 4:10pm. With the conclusion of the funeral rites by the Imam Idaini of Borno, Imam Adam Ibn Elsunusiya, it was interred at the Maiduguri cemetery, Gwange.
Among the dignitaries at the event were the Borno State governor, the Yobe State Deputy Governor, Abubakar Aliyu, his Adamawa State counterpart, the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno and other service chiefs, who were in Borno and Yobe State to assess the security situation.
The late deputy governor would be remembered for his passion for the welfare of the IDPs as well as for his forthrightness and candour. Seen in many circles in the state as instrumental to the success of the Shettima administration, he had served as chair to many important committees, among which is the Amir-ul- Hajj for the past three years, the committee in charge of the Legacy Estate and the committee on IDPs, among others.
Born in Biu in 1966, the late Mustapha had a brief stint at the Nigerian Navy, from which he resigned in 1993 to establish a clearing and forwarding business in Lagos.
He later joined politics with the return of democracy in 1999 and contested for the chairmanship of Biu Local Government Council under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but lost the election.
After losing his bid to become the deputy governor of the state in 2007, he was compensated with the appointment of the Chairman of the National Library Board.
He also attempted running for the same post with Alhaji Kashim Imam on the platform of PDP in 2011. When they both lost at the primaries, he decamped from the PDP and formed an alliance with the then All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and was immediately adopted as Shettima’s running mate. They won the elections and were sworn in on May 29, 2011. The duo clinched a second-term ticket this year.
His last engagement in the state was the inauguration of the 2015 Amir-ul-Hajj committee in his office on Wednesday before travelling to Yola.
The first serving state deputy governor to die in office, he is survived by his wife and three children.
Flags were flown at half mask across the state even as many were seen in mournful mood. -Thisday