Sunday, May 17, 2009

Binta Salma Mohammed (1969-2009): A tribute

I don’t know where to start. We lost Malama Binta as she is popularly known by writers Kano. The last time I went to visit her, she was very hopeful that she will recover and me too. Although I was deeply troubled by her condition, I was prayerful that when she recovers, we shall continue with any of our many projects, we have many literary projects, just like those I have with her husband Ibrahim Sheme, he calls them ‘one of those projects’ Although we cannot stop her death, we are saddened by her demise. She was a nice person, a brilliant writer, a generous mother and inspiring teacher. Allah ka jikan Binta Salma Mohammed.
I first met Binta sometimes in 1995 after I joined the services of Bayero University Kano as an Assistant Lecturer. My good friend (then) Adamu Idris Tanko and I were into writing and ANA activities. In our search for fellow writers we stumble upon Binta and from then on we became not only fellows but almost as brothers and sister. We became her brothers, she became our sister. We move together all the time, we eat together, we close work together because then we all live off campus. Tanko has a yellow Toyota Corolla we named ‘old faithful’, he drops her at her home in NNDC quarters and I drop at Gadon Kaya while he drives to Jakara where he lives. We attend her lectures, she attends ours, she attends our seminars we attend theirs. She almost became a Geographer. When we went to the Jos Plateau with her on our annual field course, she walked with us to Pankshin scarpland, Kerang Volcanic Plug, Kurra falls and was greatly inspired and wrote a number of beautiful poems. In fact, it was our influence that decided the title of her first published collection of poems ‘Contours of Life’.
In 1997, when ANA Kano proposed to start its bilingual creative writer’s fora, it was Binta that I turned to for support and advice. While I contacted (then) Dr Saleh Abdu about the possibility of starting Bayero Poetry Society which was suggested by Rajiv Bendre (then director of the British Council, Kano), Binta and I were discussing the possibility of starting a joint forum between ANA Kano and the Department of English and European Languages (then) of the BUK. She was able to convince her department to partner with ANA to submit a proposal to the British Council. Two of us wrote it and sign, she representing their department, I representing ANA, and we became the co-founders and first co-ordinators of the now famous Creative Writer Forum. I can remember vividly how it all began. The first meeting has few of us, Binta, Maigari Ahmed Bichi (then Kano State Deputy Librarian) Tanko and me. We met and read to ourselves what we had. Subsequently we continue to meet on monthly basis, sometimes only three of us, but we still read to each other, after about six months, we were able to attract our friends, students and colleagues and by September 1998, we were a full house. All of us will remember and very much appreciate her contributions to the monthly proceedings.
Binta continued to mentor young poets like Ismail Bala Garba, Aisha Zakari, Zaharadden Kalla Muhammad Kabir Muhammad, Badsha Muktar, Aliyu Abubakar, Umma Aliyu, and a host of others. We attend ANA conventions together and one day while going to Abuja, we branched at Kaduna where we met with Sheme and travelled together to the convention. On the car we started writing a poem which continue to grow as each of us (Tanko, Binta, Malumfashi, Sheme and I) contributed. It was published on New Nigeria’s WriteStuff. It as after that meeting with Sheme a new chemistry was started. We realised that someone is going to rob us. But because he was one of us, when he said to me “I am interested” I said try your luck, he did and he took her hand into matrimony. I can remember that we had a special reading at Royal Tropicana hotel. I compiled the poems and give them a title Contours and Potions combining their two books ‘Contours of Life’ and Sheme’s “Malam’s Potion”‘ Some of the poems are presented below:
‘Contours and Potions’
Edited by Yusuf Adamu

Creative He & She
Yusuf Adamu

Poetically they declared
‘I think I love you’
Like FICTION it seem
To the he & she
Meeting like a SHORT STORY
Making it appear like a PLAY
Stranger than FICTION
It finally became
The creative Sheme
Has taken the Creative Binta
Into a literary voyage
With a social face
A romantic soul
Let’s wait and see
What kind of children that will be
Whether they be just smiling babies
Or wordy babies or both
Muna murna

April 8, 2000 Gandun Albasa

Contours of Life
Adamu Idris Tanko

Contours of life
That’s from the poet’s bride
Yes she caught it right
She caught his
Malam’s portion in good time

Indeed a hopeful beauty
He the gentle kind
I ever know
I pray for a peaceful
Home, a blissful
One for both of you
So many golden seeds
The soil is fertile now
And the season is rainy too
Great you ‘re through
With the downs of life
Now the golden moment begins
8/4/2000 Royal Tropicana Hotel

Isa Ibrahim

“Love is the fate which draws
Two people together”
So she said in her Contours
And marriage?
“that fate that seals semblance”
So she might say
As her fate brings not
A shame but Sheme
And not a sigh but Salma.
What a well-paired couple!

Literati Knot
Nura Ahmad
(for Sheme & Salma on their wedding day 8th April 2000)

It’s not a meet’s
between egg and stone
Rather between paper and pen
Whither the pen without paper
Paper without pen?
What a literati knot

The Bride on her wedding Day
Isma’ila Bala Garba

Poetry so bold like April Sun
It flashes across the room
A ball of light in the night
Leaving behind a trail of words:
Confetti of poems showers on every head
It patches every face
Like a perpetual smile
Of a bride on her wedding day
It whirls loudly in the room
And we all rise up chanting
Oh, marriage is nothing
But the poetry of the mind
Being read at
A wedding day

Happy Wedlock
Obinna Ezenwanne

Beauty accompanied Brains.
Icon of Knowledge and feminity
Nourishing us-comforted in our gains
Thawing up our icy mentality
An inspiring you are our minds

The D-Day
Aisha Usman Bugaje

I have to be there
I got to be there
Sun and rain will not stop me
Neither do chemistry
The wedding of the millennium
The literary union
I cannot afford to miss

The charting and laughing
The eating and drinking
The congratulations of
Friends and well wishers
I have to be part
Part of the celeberation


John Jekpe

Wedding bells for a duo tolls
Two of a literary kind they are
The malam’s Potion reacts
With the Contours of life

“Richard Burton Weds ‘Liz Taylor”
An “Hassan-Tom” marries “Fatima Usara”
A dramatist takes on a poetess
To plaugh and to plunder?
To date and dirt
Almighty has joined
Woe unto him who undo
Union of literary titans

Kabiru Umar Gano

Our fear, our pride
Our jewel in the dust
Our choice

Our poetess
Our love
Our Bint

The sea you light
The heart you light
The throat you clear, are you the tea?

This day forever
Ogbu S. Ode

This day your beauty
Has found a home
This day your joy forever
Is born
This day I wish
You all I want
This day I give nothing
But dry leaves, dead wood
And words
This day, these are to me
Mightier than the General’s smite
This day was my first, I ask
To share elegance
This day, this scribbling nightingale
Perched on Sheme
This day, will mean HAPPINESS
For you BINTA and SHEME evermore
As the ALMIGHTY GOD hear us

Jibrin Baba Ndace

Today, Beauty, Intelligence
Nobility, Tolerance, Aura
Melting into a soul
Today a soul is reaching
Out to a soul
Today, a spirit is reaching
Out to a spirit
Today, she is drawn to
Him like a bee to a flower
Today, innocent beauty,
Unique beauty, holy beauty
Is bewitched by a soul
Today, an Oasis in the desert
Is discovered by a thirsting traveller
Today, the beauty spot of the
Jungle is discovered by a
Brave hunter
Today, a healthy palm tree
Is discovered by an acute
Today, a pleasure dome is
Discovered by a conquering emperor
Today, love is manifestly

(for Binta & Sheme)
Aisha Zakari

Fourteen hours to the wedding
It was then I reached a painful decision
That is when I made a final decision
After long duration of prayers and analysis
After hectic hours of long discussion
After painful discussions
Now my thinking is at its zenith
No going back I promise myself
Binta’a wedding is such a marking stone
In her life and in my life
On her part ‘cos its her wedding day
On my part ‘cos I reached certain decision
Decision of what I really want
I stretch my hands for I am taking it
It has been waiting for me for quite sometime
Now I am here to claim it as mine
I thank the lord for showing it to me before it is late
I bow down to the Most High for making it mine








I am unable to publish this collection until this day, but am glad that I kept it for all this while. During her life time we shared knowledge and creativity and I always respect her as a person because of her humility, open mind, friendship, maturity, modesty, chastity, purity, brilliance, consideration, and humanity.

When ANA Kano members visited her a few days before she left for Cairo, I was introducing some of the members to her and then introduce her to some of them saying ‘kin san wadannan sababbi ne’ she smiled and said to me ´Yaya Yusuf (as she fondly call me) most of the new members do not know me, especially those who write in Hausa’ we joked about her only short story in Hausa which she wrote in 1998, about the death of a head of state, which she said we discouraged her from publishing, saying, it was her only work in Hausa language. We enjoyed visiting her as a group and she was so happy to see us. It was a memorable visit. We prayed for her and present some gift from the Association.

When I received the news of her demise, I was confused and saddened, so was and is everyone who knew her. We posted the news on the writer’s yahoo groups (josana and dandalin marubuta). Instantly members send their condolences, some called me and hundreds emailed and text Ibrahim Sheme, her husband. I produced a selection from josana below;
Salam,May the Almighty lord ease and relief her soul of this world's burden. Shower her with bliss, forgive her and bestow her eternal peace ameen.May her husband, Dr. Sheme, her three children, her family and friends be blessed with the fortitude to bear the loss ameen.When our time comes may we go in peace and be remembered as those members of the society who works hard and be positively productive like her ameen.Aisha Zakari

Yusuf,Pls extend my heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Binta. She was one of those who genuinely love the arts and displayed so much to the best of her abilities. I can’t recall all the great and memorable encounters I have had with her: she remains very fresh and evergreen as an honourable woman.
Remi Raji

Dear Ibrahim, pls accept my condolence. Allah gave and Allah takes. Who are we to question the timing, or even the decision. May the departed receive pardon and the coveted prize of paradise. Amin.
I am sincerely sorry to learn of Binta's passing. We were together in a writers' workshop years ago (I believe 1995?), and we never met again. I didn't even know she was married to Sheme, like Binta a distinguished friend I came to know many years later. My heartfelt condolences go to her husband Ibrahim Sheme, their children, and their entire family members. May Allah in His infinite mercy grant her eternal rest.
We have lost a gem, a friend, a mother, a wife, a teacher, a mentor, a poetess, a generous human being and a dear colleague. What we must do is to continue to pray for her and her kids. We hope, Sheme will ensure that all her unpublished works are published and as fellow writers ensure that we keep her memory alive. I will finally close with one of her poems I love very much.


Grant, God
A clear release from pain
From enemy and from those that envy
And destroy while they build success
Over our misfortunes
Grant, too, friendship and love
Grant, God
A release from this anguished cry
From this loneliness and helplessness
From wild winds crying out against us
From life’s stillness and stones without juice
From robbers who strip us of our laughter

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Kano, Kano, Nigeria
Dr. Yusuf M. Adamu is a Professor of Medical Geography at the Bayero University Kano. He is a bilingual novelist, a poet, and writes for children. He is interested in photography and run a photo blog ( All the blogs he run are largely for his hobbies and not his academic interests. Hope you enjoy the blogs.