Exit of Journalism Icon, Bilkisu Yusuf

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Bilkisu Yusuf

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Death has robbed Nigerian journalism of an icon Bilkisu Yusuf, first female editor in the North, who died in the stampede in Mecca on Thursday, September 24

| By Olu Ojewale | Oct 5, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |

IN her own right, Bilkisu Yusuf, first female journalist to edit a newspaper in the North, was an icon. As a professional in the male dominated world enclave, Yusuf was no doubt able to hold her own in journalism profession, which made her a house-hold name.

Unfortunately, Yusuf, who had more than three decades experience in journalism, died in active service, on Thursday, September 24. She was among 717 persons who were killed in the stampede at Jamrat in Mina, near Mecca, while performing the stoning of the devil rite on the day.

The unexpected tragic event was even more harrowing considering the fact it happened while the whole world was still mourning the death of 109 persons killed after a crane collapsed at the Grand Mosque on September 11, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Just as in the event of crane accident, Nigerians who were in the holy land on pilgrimage were not spared. Many prominent Nigerians have so far been named among those who died in the incident. But nothing would have prepared anyone close to Yusuf that the incident of Thursday would snatch her away. The Journalism profession has, indeed, lost a gem and one of its very best.

As a professional, Yusuf was a model and brilliant human manager, who touched many lives, including that of this reporter. One of those who will not forget her in a hurry is Aliyu Muktar, a former editor at Triumph newspaper, who once worked with Yusuf. Muktar said in an interview she would be missed not only as a professional, but also as human rights activist who was always fighting for the poor. “She was for me a role model; an excellent career woman, very thorough and unassuming. You know, she was brave, sincere and always fighting for the downtrodden. You also know her antecedent; Hajia was somebody who would not tolerate injustice anywhere. We are all going to miss her. But that is the wish of Allah, we cannot query him,” Muktar said.

Since the news of her death filtered in, the social media has been inundated with condolences from those who knew her.

Oby Ezekwesili, former minister of Education, twitted three times thus: “The sadness of Mecca tragedies know no bounds. Our sister, one of the most brilliant voices for Girl-Child, Bilkisu Yusufu died. Too Shocking!

“Bilkisu Yusuf was an extraordinary woman and professional. A distinguished journalist who gave plenty Research and Voice to the Girl Child, SAD!

“Bilkisu Yusuf attained heights that she direly wanted the GIRL CHILD to surpass thru society’s Collective Actions. What a most PAINFUL LOSS!”

Ayo Obe, a lawyer and human rights activist, twitted: “Devastating news tonight of the loss of Hajia Bilkisu Yusuf in the #HajjStampede – such fond memories of her, a true leader among women.”

One Kadaria Ahmed said in her twit: “Trailblazing journalist/editor, Bilkisu Yusuf. Gone but will never be forgotten. RIP Anti Bilki.” And yet another person.

Jibrin Ibrahim, a sympathiser, said it was very sad that such a good person died. Ibrahim described Yusuf as “great humanist, advocate, journalist, networker and above all a devoted Muslim, who died in the course of serving God.”

Until her death, Yusuf was a columnist for Daily Trust and Leadership newspapers. A woman activist, she was educated at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where she received a BSc in political science. From there she got an MA in political science from the University of Wisconsin, United States. She earned an advanced diploma in journalism and international relations from the Moscow Institute of Journalism and International Relations, Russia.

She worked at the ministry of Information, Kano; editor, Sunday Triumph, Kano; editor, New Nigerian newspaper, Kaduna, and editor, Citizen Magazine, Kaduna.

Yusuf was a founding member of several human rights organisations, including Women in Nigeria, WIN; the Federation of Muslim Women Associations in Nigeria, FOMWAN, and Advocacy Nigeria, where she was the executive director.

She was a consultant and trainer in media, gender and conflict management and peace building. She was on the board of FOMWAN, the Nigerian Interfaith Action Association Against Malaria, NIFAAM; Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria HERFON, ABANTU for Development, Vision Trust Foundation, among others.

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