Aunty Marliyya leaves a legacy of unity, faith, love and concern to all who knew her and those who came in contact with her. During the course of her life, Aunty Marliyya never ceased to remind us that the greatest poverty of all is to live and to die unloved and unwanted. She demonstrated that love through her commitment to community, family, relationships and through her work as a doctor.


Last week, my family suffered a gargantuan loss with the passing of a very special, brilliant and unique woman, my aunty, Professor Marliyya Sanusi Zayyan. If there was one person in my family that could be described as ‘the constant protector,’ who always made herself available to her family, friends, and community, it was Aunty Marliyya.

At this sad juncture of her passing, I am moved to remember the impact of the time she spent with us, and how her words of wisdom resounds in my heart. As I use pen and paper to speak about our devastation at the passing of Professor Marliya, I will take the opportunity to spread the word about the message she left and the great lessons she taught.

My aunt was the epitome of excellence, born on June 21, 1962 to the family of Hajiya Hafsatu Sanusi Zayyan and Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi Zayyan, a banker and the son of Mallam Muhammadu, Zayyana of Katsina State. She came from honor, distinction, pedigree, faith and humility. Her father, Alhaji Sanusi Zayyan, remains one of the most virtuous and accomplished Nigerians there ever was! Of his direct brethren alone, there stemmed 12 medical doctors, engineers, pharmacists and accountants. Aunty Marliyya was one in a family of over achievers and she went on to become a doctor who specialised in surgery, gynecology and obstetrics.

Academically, Aunty Marliyya was incomparable; having attended Soba Secondary School in Kaduna briefly before going on to Queen Amina Secondary School in Kaduna, where she graduated with ‘all distinctions.’ She attended SBS at Ahmadu Bello University and proceeded to study medicine at the same institution. After graduating with her medical degree at ABU with distinctions, she did her Houseman-ship in Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital in Kano. Throughout the period that my aunt worked, she completed a Masters degree, where she again passed with distinctions and eventually obtained a Ph-D in the UK. She was a ‘Member of the Royal College of obstetrics and gynecology’ and a ‘Fellow of West African Surgeons. She had recently qualified and became a professor; one of her kind in Northern Nigeria! She was simply phenomenal!

After my aunt had completed University, she had worked in several hospitals and clinics, in her quest to save lives and offer succor to people in need and suffering. She had so much passion for practicing medicine and yearned to help people through her craft. During her time, she had worked in Ahmadu Bello Teaching Hospital, 44 Military Hospital in Kaduna, Garkuwa Hospital, Kaduna, NBTE Clinic, and volunteered with Federation of Muslim Women Societies of Nigeria (FOMWAN) Hospital. She eventually opened her own medical centre in Kaduna named ‘Diamond Hospital,’ where she nurtured and took care of people from all walks of life and social standing. There is hardly a family in Kaduna that hasn’t, in one way or another, been positively affected by Professor Marliyya Sanusi Zayyan. She was known widely for her philanthropic work.

My aunt was a former pro-chancellor of the Federal University Dustin-Ma (FUDMA) and until her passing was the chairperson of the Sokoto-Rima River Basin Development Authority. She had also served as a senior lecturer at the Department of Medicine, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

The day that Professor Marliyya Sanusi Zayyandied was a day that saw less love, less compassion, less light. A great light has not just grown dim it has been put out. A great void has been created with the passing of my Aunt, for hers are shoes that just cannot be filled! We lost a treasure with her passing. Her death marks a time of sadness and emptiness for people far and wide all over Nigeria that were blessed to come into contact with her Midas touch.

Professor Marliyya Sanusi Zayyanwas the truest, dearest and most dedicated mother, teacher, protector, mentor, friend, sister and doctor to so many. She was more than an aunt to me. She was a precious gift from the Almighty Allah. She had so much beauty, grace, strength, wisdom, loyalty, integrity, love and patience. She touched the hearts of all those she came across in so many ways. Her strength on dark days empowered and comforted all those who were with her and those who came into contact with her.

My aunt was a great and devoted mother to her biological children and to so many others within our extended family and beyond. She did everything for her children; from helping out with homework to cooking breakfast and lunch for them. She was everything one needed in a mother; understanding, caring, supportive, religious, playful, yet firm.

Professor Marliyya Sanusi Zayyan was simply the most brilliant person I knew. She was the epitome of loyalty, commitment and virtue. Whenever there was a situation in the community or in the family, Aunty Marliyya would be ready to receive and intercept the consequence. She loved and cherished family and made it a point to remain in contact with family. It seemed like she had a solution and wise advise for every situation, In every family gathering, she would be front and center, offering support for her family and community in any way she could. She was fearless and was always ready to offer a shoulder when it was needed. She always had the strength to go the extra mile when it was required. She was perceptive, objective and a ray of shining bright light. She was the type of person who always fitted in and adapted herself to any and every situation. My aunt hardly ever took a break and was always ready to assist in every sphere of life. She relished in her ability to save lives, by Allah’s Will. The witness of her life was a model of kindness, simplicity, humility, piety and charity. She lived her life with courage. She served people, especially the poor in her community and family, by promoting everyone’s dignity and respect.

In her capacity as a doctor, my aunt was incomparable. It was a known practice of hers to deliver a baby for her patient, go to her home, cook a nutritious meal and return to the hospital to feed that same patient. She often went above and beyond to care for her patients and considered them to be part of her extended family.

Even on her death bed, Aunty Marliyya never wavered in her innate urge to help others. At the time she was on admission and weak, just before her passing, her phone would be switched off. However, the minute she became stronger and had some energy, she would ask those around her to turn on her phone so that she could send money to people in need. She constantly worried about others, even till the very end. While on her deathbed, her concern was for other people and not her own. She did this up until the very minute she passed.

My aunt loved to cook and enjoyed the hobby of engaging in interior decoration. She had a passion for writing and there are probably several unpublished writing projects she had started in her home and office.

There is nothing minor about the legacy Aunty Marliyya leaves behind, or the impact she had on others. It is a solid and vivacious legacy. In life she was in a constant state of motion. In death she leaves us in a constant state of emotions. She leaves a solid message of helping, listening, solidarity. She was a whirlwind, never stopping, or slowing down. She was always there for me and for many others. Always. A mother, an aunt, a grandmother, a friend, a sister, a neighbour, a teacher, a mentor, a doctor. She took her relationship with people and her role very seriously and never wavered. No matter what.

Her network of community and family was unparalleled. Aunty Marliyya leaves a legacy of unity, faith, love and concern to all who knew her and those who came in contact with her. During the course of her life, Aunty Marliyya never ceased to remind us that the greatest poverty of all is to live and to die unloved and unwanted. She demonstrated that love through her commitment to community, family, relationships and through her work as a doctor.

The news of Aunty Marliyya’s death is extremely sad news: She will be missed with her warmth of spirit, her ability to adapt to any situation and relate with everyone. Her distinctive witness of care will be missed. At the same time we give thanks to the Almighty for the wonderful memories Aunty Marliya leaves us: her commitment to ibadat and Du’a.

Professor Marliyya Sanusi Zayyan’s good works will always be remembered but more deeply, we will remember the love that shone from within her heart, love that was fueled by her absolute dedication to her faith. She will long remain an inspiration to those who would serve their communities and those who cherish the value of family, and we are blessed to have shared the gift of her life with us all. She will never be forgotten. Her reward will be great in Heaven. We pray for her and for those who follow her that the beautiful memories she left us with will serve as a lesson for us and those who may not have had the privilege of knowing her. She was what my other Aunty Hadiza Imrana described as ‘The-Evergreen.”

Wise, kind, brilliant, generous, genius, sweet, adorable, resilient, warm, kind, caring, loving, courageous, brave, strong, endearing, energetic, thoughtful, enlightened, humorous, pious and hopeful. My aunty possessed all of these qualities and more. I will forever salute Aunty Marliyya. She remains unforgotten! I will always love her.

To all who loved her; her community, neighbors, admirers, students, patients, friends and family, especially her children; Imran, Luckman, Mustapha, Isamail, Uzainatu and her two adopted daughters, Hassana and Hussainah;

“May the Almighty reward you and help you to apply patient endurance and appreciation. Indeed our spirit, possessions and families are magnificent gifts, which God has loaned us for a period and he takes them away after the termination of that period. Gratitude becomes Professor Marliyya Sanusi Zayyan, your neighbour, friend, sister, mother, wife and daughter was from among that great gift which God allowed you to enjoy in a way that was fortunate and gratifying. Although you loved her, her place is with her maker now. As she has gone home, it is your duty to show patience in her death and gratitude for her life. May the Almighty augment your recompense, be kind in your misfortune, forgive the deceased, encourage you with endurance and give you peace. I pray you have the fortitude to bear her loss.”

Professor Marliyya Sanusi Zayyan passed on September 4. She lived on earth for approximately 30,614,400 minutes… Her loss is that of Nigeria, Africa and mankind!

As time ruthlessly rolls on towards the next death, I pray that, “Allah forgives and has mercy on the soul of Professor Marliyya Sanusi Zayyanand makes honorable her reception. May Allah keep her safe and sound, protect the place where she has rested and make her entrance wide; bless her for her good deeds and surround her with a garden filled with beauty. May she receive the gentle blow of a cool breeze, be washed with snowflakes, ice, sleet, water and everything pure and cleansed of sin as a white cloth is purified perfectly. I pray Allah admits Professor Marliyya Sanusi Zayyanto Paradise and may her grave be spacious and filled with light; Amin.”

Hannatu Musawa; @hanneymusawa; www.hanneymusawa.com; www.facebook.com/hannatu.musawa; www.youtube.com/HannatuMusawa