A Turban for Ibrahim Imam Brothers

22 Apr 2012

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The family of Ibrahim Imam of Maiduguri has always been rewarded with the Mukaddam-the religious minister or adviser- of the Borno Emirate. But recently a member of the family was given the title of Mutawalli-the financial minister or adviser-of the emirate. This is historic as two brothers are now in the council of the emirate. Michael Olugbode writes

One of the religious books says: "A man's gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men." And it is often said that the good that a man does has a way of speaking for him. This might perhaps be the reason behind the recent turbaning of Alhaji Kashim Ibrahim Imam, the newest shinning light of the Ibrahim Imam's family of Maiduguri as the Mutawalli of Borno.

The Ibrahim Imam family is one the greatest family in Borno Emirate and one of the first elitist families of the Kanuri. The family is said to have a close link with the Europeans when they newly came to Borno Kingdom, their close affinity to the white men paid off greatly as it brought them respect, riches and honour. They were even said to be responsible for the coming of the first flight to the ancient town of Maiduguri.

The first shinning light of the family was Ibrahim Imam, who lived between 1916 and April 1980. He was a great Kanuri politician and was the secretary of the Northern People's Congress and later became a patron of the Borno Youth Movement. He was elected into the Northern House of Assembly in 1961, representing a Tiv district. Prior to his election in 1961, he had represented his district of Yerwa in 1951 after supporting a strike of Native Administration workers.

It was from the family that the first Imam of the emirate was picked and the family has always had something to do with the religious affairs of the emirate, in fact the position of Mukaddam, the religion minister, is reserved for the family and since the first appointment of Usman Imam who was the Mukaddam between 1953 and 1969, there has been Shehu Buhari, Babakura Imam, Shettima Gana, and recently Baba Ibrahim Imam, a brother of Kashim Ibrahim Imam, who was turbaned with him on the same day.

For Baba who inherited the position of Mukaddam as it has been bestowed by the Borno Emirate on their family, was born in Maiduguri on August 16, 1959 and attended various primary schools in the town before moving to Lagos when their father, the then Mukaddam of the emirate, died. He was made to live with his uncle Ibrahim Imam who was based in Lagos and little Baba had to continue his primary education, which he completed at Jinadu Anglican Primary School, Falomo, Ikoyi and went on to Lagos State Government College, Ojo which is the present site of Lagos State University (LASU).

Thereafter, he proceeded to University of Wisconsin, United States where he majored in Accounting, Business Administration and Economics, which he later capped with an MBA in the same institution. On coming back to Nigeria, he had his mandatory NYSC and worked in the banking sector, Borno State Government and Nigerian Ports Authority. At present, he works as the Group Head, Finance and Administration, Bonny Channel Company, which is a joint venture company between the Nigerian Ports Authority and the Channel Management Company.

But for Kashim, he got the honour of the Mutawalli on the merit of his generosity, a virtue many said he has been showing since his early days. Though from a prominent family who in the past had been given more than the Mukaddam title, but his generosity played the card in his favour. According to many who are prominent in the decision of the emirate, the great virtue of Kashim's generosity could not but go unrewarded by his people who through their ruler, the Shehu of Borno feel that there is a special need to give another honour to the Ibrahim Imam family.

People who believe that apart from themselves, many others have gained from Kashim attest to his generosity. These persons include the present Caretaker Chairman of Kaga local government area of Borno State, Alhaji Bunu Kaigama who said Kashim was given the Mutawalli based on his achievement, personality, standing and contribution to the society as the same criteria was used in selecting the two Mutawallis that were before him.

He said: "Alhaji Kashim Ibrahim Imam is the most generous personality I have ever seen. He is generous to a fault. He is very kind and humble. He is someone who is extra patience, highly intelligent and a tactician. He is a politician to the cure. He started politics right from secondary school at Kings College Lagos, where he was elected as the Secretary-General of the Students Council, the highest position a student can aspire for in that college.

“He was elected as president of the Students Union Government when he was studying for his HSC at Borno College of Basic Studies (BOCOBS) and upon entry into the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria he was elected as the president of the National Union of Borno State Students (NUBOSS), an umbrella body of all students of Borno in higher institutions of learning in the country," he said.

Recounting how they met, Kaigama said "I first met him as a student politician and worked with him as a member of the 5-man caretaker committee that was set up to run the affairs of NUBOSS before formerly electing a new executive. He was the chairman of that committee in 1981. Ever since we have been together and right now he is our political role model or better still mentor.
"During our student days, he was the only student leader that could run the activities of the union from his pocket. Also during our sojourn as students most of us when we have problems, especially financial, we ran to him and he will provide even from his last resources and recently he donated N200 million for the completion of the Maiduguri Central Mosque after asking how much it will cost to finish the job.

For the Borno Commissioner for Lands and Survey, Alhaji Babagana Buhari, Kashim is a very generous man and his generosity cannot be quantified. His donation to the Maiduguri Central Mosque, a project conceived over 25 years ago, which was near death, breathed life with the contribution of N200 million by Kashim. There are uncountable number of people in He however said it would not be difficult to combine his new endowed traditional role with politics and business responsibilities, insisting that "I did not stumble into any of these three by accident, I inherited the roles, it is a known fact that my grandfather was an Imam, my father and my uncles at different times had been involved in the emirate council. the state and he is the only one who has donated this colossal amount,"

Kashim Ibrahim Imam who took to politics, learnt from the feet of his uncle who took study of him and Baba, his brother after the death of their father. He was at the popular Kings College Lagos. He earned degrees in political science and international economic relations from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and the University of Maiduguri. He then entered the banking industry. During the short-lived Nigerian Third Republic, Kashim made an entry into party politics and was Borno State chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

He was a member of Hope 93, the political group at the forefront of the MKO Abiola campaign in the 1993 elections. During the Fourth Republic, he was appointed Presidential Liaison Officer to the Senate at the start of President Olusegun Obasanjo's administration, and was elected the gubernatorial candidate of the PDP in 2003 and 2007, but lost on both occasions to his childhood friend, Ali Modu Sheriff of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).

Imam who was conferred with the title of Mutawalli by the late Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Mustapha Ibn El-Kanemi, but had to wait for eleven years to be turbaned by the present Shehu, Alhaji Garbai Ibn El-Kanemi, who disclosed that this was due to many factors chiefly among them, his involvement in politics and other family obligations.

They have been appointed to these traditional offices. My traditional background, and my political engagement, which I also inherited and my business commitment, I will do what is expected of me. I see this title as a call to serve my people in a new capacity.”

On his part, the elder Ibrahim Imam, the new Mukaddam on his appointment said: "I feel very happy, it is just a challenge because it is going to change my life altogether. We were brought up more in the English way in term of our schooling and career, it will be challenging in the sense that now I have to live more in the traditional way. I have to play the role of Mukaddam, I have to go more frequently to the palace, I have to attend the meeting of the emirate council so it is going to alter the way I do things now, I have to respect and uphold the tradition of our people and promote the emirate." He however said he was ready to work hard to justify the confidence repose in him.

With the two brothers ready to work for the growth of their land, one lesson the honour to the Ibrahim Imam family has thought is that no gift is without gain for it is like a seed sown that will yield harvest. Kashim has started receiving the harvest of his generosity; it could definitely yield more for his investment is continuing.

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