As Kwara State marks its 50th anniversary, Olaoluwakitan Babatunde writes on the life and contribution of Alhaji Abdulganiyu Abdul-Razaq, the state’s first Commissioner of Finance and legal luminary to its development
When Kwara State was created in 1967 by Yakubu Gowon-led military administration, the first Military Governor, Brigadier General David Bamigboye (rtd) who governed the state from 1967 to July 1975 beckoned on Alhaji Abdulganiyu Folorunso Abdul-Razaq, SAN, OFR from his legal profession to join him in the daunting task of running the newly created state as the first Commissioner of Finance.
Before his appointment as a Commissioner of Finance, Alhaji Abdul-Razaq has distinguished himself as a successful lawyer with flourishing legal practice that traversed the whole of Northern Nigeria and the South West.
He answered the call to join hands with other compatriots to develop the young state and nurture it. While serving as the commissioner of Finance, he managed the finance of the state to the admiration of the Military Governor and people of the state. The government then embarked on massive infrastructural development of the entire kwara State with the present Kogi State.
The successive military and civilian regimes in Kwara has continued to build on the solid foundation laid by the administration of the first government of the state where Alhaji Abdul-Razaq played very important and influential role.
The Mutawalli of Ilorin, who is also the first Northerner to become a lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria has never looked back as he continues to invest his time and resources towards the development and economic growth of Kwara since its creation 50 years ago
To expand the frontiers of knowledge and create an army of educated people that will serve the future manpower need of the state and Nigeria in general, he also in 1967 founded the Ilorin College, Ilorin as the first privately owned secondary school in the state to fill the gap that existed then, in the provision of post-primary education. Before Ilorin College which is now Government High School, Ilorin was established there fewer secondary schools in the whole of Northern Nigeria making it difficult for pupils who finished primary school in Ilorin to get into secondary school. Ilorin College became an elixir for pupils who desired secondary education and their parents.
Speaking on the impact of the school and the contribution of the nonagenarian to the state, a former Commissioner of Education in Kwara and the President of the Ilorin College Old Students Association, Mr. Raji Afolagbe said the founder of his secondary school will forever remain a source of pride for every Kwara man and woman for his vision and sterling qualities.
“His dream was to have a state that will be populated by educated people. He set up Ilorin College to provide quality education for young men and women who will grow to become useful to the state and the entire country. His dream was to have a school that will blossom and excel in all ramifications. And today, that dream has come to pass. He is a man of big vision. He was our role model. He was someone we looked up to. He had lot of students that he was paying their school fees despite the fact that he established the school. In fact, let me tell you what he did, he approached some of his friends to give out scholarships. He even had some companies he approached for scholarship. All you just see is that Baba has gotten a scholarship for you and you don’t know how.’’
The National President also said the greatest achievement of the school is the quality of the old students who have gone ahead to contribute to the socio-economic development of Nigeria.
In his own remark, the first registered student of the school on nominal list who was also the first Senior Prefect and a retired Assistant Contrompler General of Customs, Alhaji Mumini Abdulmalik noted that the founder of the school inspired him and generation of students to success, “he taught us hardwork, integrity and honesty and these are all hallmarks of his own professional and public service career. Ilorin College now GHS prepared us well for life,’’
In the words of Alhaji Saka Isau, SAN also an old student and former Attorney General of Kwara State and former Secretary to the State Government, the foresight Alhaji Abdul-Razaq had was unparalleled .
“He set up our school even though a private school then to fill a major gap. It was his labour of love to meet the secondary school need of Ilorin Emirate. The available secondary schools then were outside Kwara State and the opportunities to gain admission were very few. Apart from also being the first Principal he inspired and motivated us as a father to his children. He encouraged me to study Law like he did to many people and we all turned out to be successful. That is the impact he made in our lives. For Alhaji Abdulganiyu Folorunso Abdul-Razaq, a nonagenarian and a venerable indigene of Ilorin has continued to shine like a northern star with his continuous service to humanity and his people of Kwara State. In his 62 years post-qualification as a lawyer he has been one of Nigeria’s most successful in history, a pathfinder, trailblazer, inspiration, motivator to generation of lawyers many of whom have passed through his tutelage and to many people who have chosen him as a role model.
He committed his life to public service by working as a Member of the Northern Region House of Assembly from 1959-1962, Nigerian Ambassador to Cote D’Ivoire, 1962-1964, member, Federal Parliament, 1964-1966, Federal Minister of State for Railways, 1965-1966 and at the creation of Kwara State in 1967 he was the first Commissioner for Finance and later that of Health and Social Welfare from 1967-1972.
In all his private and public service roles, he left records of service excellence, integrity, commitment to highest ideals of probity and transparency. For a man who had given his life to the legal profession with unblemished and untainted life in his legal and government jobs, he feels very sad now with allegations of judicial corruption which was unheard of when he was very active.
Reflecting on his active days as a lawyer, he said, “In our days, no one heard of judicial corruption. It was unheard of. We as barristers had no dealings with any judge outside the court.
Judges kept themselves and did not attend parties. In any case, in the earlier days of my practice in Northern Nigeria, judges were mostly British and there were no social interaction with us beyond the court. What is heard of these days is amazing. Truly amazing.’’
Speaking on his father and his life of service to Kwara State and Nigeria in general, Dr. Alimi Abdul-Razaq who holds a Phd in Law and also the Chairman of Bridge House College, Ikoyi Lagos, noted that his entire family and siblings are very proud of their father for his devotion to his people and all those that came in contact with him.
He also spoke about his father’s sense of humour when they both had a conversation recently and his father told him that his feets should be big enough to wear his shoes.
‘’It is important to say that Ilorin College which is now Government High School has become a great testimony to my father’s contribution to human capital development in Kwara State. The school has produced very many successful people. We can only thank God for a life of example our father has lived.