The Celebrated ‘Homecoming’ of a Distinguished Descendant of Shehu Alimi


By Abubakar Imam

Everyday is made special by the Almighty Allah, the Maker of all things. Everyday or occasion is not just made unlike the other but it is so because no date can be relived in its exactitude. However, some dates are much more special and extraordinary than others because of one phenomenal occurrence or the other.

The concluding week of the month of August, 2020 would, no doubt, remain a specially unique one in the contemporary annals of Ilorin and Kano Emirates as the “southernmost” Emirate of the Caliphate would be playing host to a great grandson from one of “the northernmost” Emirates.

The uniqueness of the moment is for no reason other than the “homecoming” of an “extraordinary ambassador” of the sociocultural uniqueness of Ilorin Emirate from the ancient Kano Emirate. The visitor is a First Class Emir and one of the most respected traditional rulers one can come across anywhere across the nation. He is His Royal Highness, the 15th Emir of Kano, and Chairman, Kano State Council of Chiefs, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero (b.1961), who was appointed and assumed the office the same date with his immediate younger brother, His Royal Highness, the Emir of Bichi, Alhaji Nasir Ado Bayero(b. 1964). His Royal Highness, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero is to be hosted by his cousin, the Emir of Ilorin and Chairman, Kwara State Council of Emirs and Obas, Alhaji (Dr.) Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, CFR (b. 1940)

The epicenter of the royal visit shall be no other place but at the hallow chambers of the ancient Palace of Ilorin, the ancestral home of his mother, where it all began and where their mothers (of the Three) Royal Highnesses were born and bred. The event shall be a brilliant and exciting relive of history and traditions. Both the young and the old; the indigenes and the residents; the learned and the upcoming ones as well as other people of varied categories are bound to learn so many lessons on what life is all about.

Since the reported itinerary of the respected Emir of Kano and his beloved younger brother, the venerable Emir of Bichi to Ilorin got to the awareness of yours sincerely, I have been tasking my faculty on how the historic visit will play out. I have also asked myself some questions on the connections of the visit with the illustrious past, the evolving present and the envisaged bright future of Kano and Ilorin Emirates.

As I was ruminating on the essence of the proposed visit, I recalled the stimulating contents of the musical album waxed by the renowned Ewi exponent and now a Muslim evangelist, Alhaji Moshood Olarewaju Adepoju (b.1940), which was dedicated to the colurful celebration of the 25th anniversary of the installation of the 9th Emir of Ilorin, the late Alhaji (Dr.)Sulu Gambari,CFR,(1914-1992),who reigned between 1959 and 1992,which eventuated in the ‘turbanning’ of the incumbent Emir as the first Ciroma of Ilorin in 1984.The celebrated poet had sang that “whoever that does not know what royalty and glitz are all about should go to Ilorin for him or her to marvel at how royal splendour, religious majesty, traditional glamour and extraordinary cultural uniqueness are displayed by the father and his son to the amazement of all”. I think and believe that the display of those royal celebrations would be reenacted in Ilorin during the visit.

To those who don’t know or are not quite sure, Ilorin, yes the city of Alimi, is the maternal home of the visiting Emir. He was, until his historic appointment and subsequent installation, first as the Emir of Bichi and ultimately as the Emir of Kano “Double Prince” of two of the most historic Emirates of Northern Nigeria, Kano and Ilorin. He is also a son to the penultimate Emir of Kano, the late Alhaji (Dr.) Ado Bayero, CFR, LLD, JP; (1930-2014), whose reign is the longest as the Paramount Traditional Ruler of “the Emporium of Northern Nigeria” from 1963 to 2014. He is also a grandson to Shaykh Abdulkadir Shuaib Bawa, CBE,(1887-1959),the longest reigned Emir of Ilorin who served as the Paramount Traditional Ruler of “the Frontline Emirate” between 1919 and 1959.

The respected Emir of Kano, just like his brother, His Royal Highness, the Emir of Bichi, Alhaji Nasiru Ado Bayero, shares so many things in common with his most distinguished host, the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji (Dr.)Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari. Just like his guest, the Emir of Ilorin is also a grandson to the 8th Emir of Ilorin whose reign is the longest , late Shaykh Abdulkadir Shuaib Bawa. Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari also became the Emir after the inheritance of the office by a preceding Emir, just for a very brief period of time, as it happened in Kano before the historic appointment of Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero. The Royal Guest is also a well-trained professional like his host. The Emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero, trained as a media and public relations practitioner. Prior to his accession to the throne of his illustrious progenitors twenty-five(25) years ago, the respected Emir of Ilorin was the Presiding Justice of the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal.

It is also historically significant to say that the visit is coming during the tenure of Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq as the Governor of Kwara State. The father to the visiting Emir was not only a friend to the late Alhaji Abdulganiyu Folorunsho AbdulRazaq, SAN, OFR,(1927-2020),the father to the governor, but also a colleague to the late Emir of Kano. They were also officers of the law. While the late Alhaji Ado Bayero was a Police Officer, the recently deceased father to the governor was an outstanding lawyer. They were appointed as non-career Ambassadors , issued with Letters of Credence and departed, in the same ship to their respective countries of posting on the same date. Alhaji AbdulRazaq was posted to Ivory Coast while Alhaji Ado Bayero was posted to Senegal. In fact, the first diplomatic assignment handled by the late Mutawali of Ilorin was suggested to him by Alhaji Bayero. The two also left the diplomatic services about the same time for different greater responsibilities at home. One became the Emir and the other a Parliamentarian and member of the Federal cabinet. They were, of course, members of the same political party, the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), during the first republic. So, the visit of His Royal Highness to His Excellency would be a continuation of the relationship established by their illustrious late fathers.

Those who don’t know would ask the fuss about the energy, time and resources invested towards ensuring that the visit of His Royal Highness to Ilorin is hitch free. Why is the Emir of Ilorin so prepared for the visit? Why is the mobilisation for its success so uncommon? Why are sociocultural organisations of the people of Ilorin so involved? Why does the Emir of Ilorin set up a Committee on the visit? Why are the elites of Ilorin Emirate involved? Why this and why that?

The visit and its success mean so many things not only for Kano and Ilorin Emirates but also for Northern Nigeria and the rest of the country.

It would answer so many questions like: Is there any other evidence(s) to show that Ilorin is part of Northern Nigeria? How else do we (the people of Ilorin Emirate) present the fact that we have a stake in the biggest Nigeria’s traditional political institution across the Niger? The fact that the visiting Emir and his brother, who is no longer coming, are partly Ilorin is enough evidence that the peoples of the two Emirates are one and the same.

The visit is bound to remind observers of what Ilorin stands for in the history and sociopolitical equations of Nigeria. Many who do not bother to investigate the vision and mission of the founding fathers of Ilorin Emirate would begin to interrogate the foresights of the builder of the Emirate, Sheikh Salih Alimi ibn Janta (1740-1820) and those who worked with him towards evolving the most unique Emirate, the nation as ever seen, as well as the efforts of all those distinguished soldiers, scholars and saints who succeeded them in the building of Ilorin as a place that is a home to all.

The fact that the Emir of Kano and his brother, the Emir of Bichi, have a distinguished Princess of Ilorin as their mother means a lot in the efforts at integrating the culturally heterogeneous people of this great nation. It is a profound harbinger of hope that every effort at building one and united Nigeria is a clear possibility.

The essence of the visit can also be appreciated in the fact that it would broaden the quality and magnitude of tranquility between the leaders and peoples of the three Emirates who would begin to see themselves as more or less the same people (that they have always been ). The people of Kano residing in Ilorin would be more assured in their residency in Ilorin just as the people of Ilorin Emirate, who reside in Kano, would be at peace with themselves and others knowing full well that their brothers are in charge of the extremely respected traditional leadership in their abodes of residence.

The relationship between Kano and Ilorin Emirates is deep and ancient. It has taken centuries in the realm of migration, trading and education from one to the other. Many Ilorin families traced their ancestry to Kano. These families include the Galadima Ngeri family,which produced the mother to the legendary Shaykh Taju-l-Adaby(1877-1923),who was reputed to be the bridge between the archaic and sophisticated Arabic and Islamic scholarship South of the River Niger and teacher to the renowned pioneer Mufti of Ilorin and founder of the Ansarul Islam Society of Nigeria, Shaykh Muhammad Kamaluddeen Al-Adabiyy, MFR,OFR,ORSA,(1905-2005),the legend who led the private effort that eventuated in the synthesisation of Arabic and Islamic model of education with the western style of learning in Nigeria.

The visit of the Emir of Kano would also afford the people of Ilorin Emirate an opportunity to thank the great Kano Emirate for its effort in the growth and development of the southernmost Emirate. This is because Kano has been, for more than a century, a place of commercial, professional and intellectual sanctuary for thousands of people of Ilorin Emirate. The first generation of western educated indigenes of Ilorin were trained at Junior Primary School in Kano prior to the establishment of first school in Ilorin in 1914. It was in Kano that the legendary Shaykh Ahmad Rufai Nda Salati (1895-1967) completed the processes of his initiation into the Quadiriyya Order. The 10th Emir of Ilorin, Shaykh Aliyu Abdulkadir was also trained as a Veterinary expert in Kano. The late Honourable Justice Saidu Kawu,CON,(1928-2013),the pioneer Chief Judge of Kwara State and the first son of Kwara State to seat on the bench of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, passed through Kano as a young judicial officer in the early 1960s. Kano was also the city where the intellect of one of the longest serving statesmen and jurists of Ilorin Emirate origin, the Honourable Justice Abdulkadir Orire, CON,(b. 1934) ,the pioneer Grand Khadi of Kwara State, Marafa and Seriki Malamai of Ilorin, was sharpened as a student of the famous School of Arabic Studies, Kano. The same could be said of the third Grand Mufti of Ilorin, Shaykh Sofiyulahi Kamaluddeen Al-Adabiyy (1928-2014) and Ambassador Abdulkadir Mohammad Sambo Imam, a Member of the pioneering set of diplomats of Ilorin Emirate origin and Nigeria’s Ambassador to Egypt in the mid-1970s. The two, like the first Grand Khadi and many other accomplished scholars and technocrats of Ilorin Emirate origin, attended the School of Arabic Studies, Kano, which was established in 1932 by the grandfather of the visiting Monarch, Alhaji Abdullahi Bayero, CBE, CMG, (1881-1953), who served as the 10th Emir of Kano between 1926 and 1953. It was also in the city of Kano that the third President of the Court of Appeal, pioneer Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the late Honourable Justice Muhammad Mustapha Adebayo Akanbi, CFR,(1932-2018) embraced fame as a lawyer before his appointment as a Judge of the then Federal Revenue Court in 1974.

What about the first son of Ilorin Emirate to serve as the Vice-Chancellor of a University, Prof. Shuaibu Oba AbdulRaheem, OFR, (b. 1947)? It was from Kano, where he trained and later worked as a University teacher and administrator, that he was eventually appointed as the Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Ilorin in 1997.The Imam Imale of Ilorin, Shaykh Abdullahi Abdulhameed(b. 1949) was also trained and retained in Kano as an academic before his historic appointment as the Deputy Chief Imam of Ilorin in 1987. The late Honourable Justice Saka Yusuf,OFR,(1933-2018) was also appointed as the third Chief Judge of Kwara State from the Kano State Judiciary. Aside Justice Yusuf , five of the former National Presidents of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union(IEDPU),the main sociocultural organisation of the good people of Ilorin Emirate, lived and attained prosperity and eminence in Kano at various times. They are the late Alhaji Umaru Ayinla Ajikobi, who served in Kano as an high-ranking Customs Officer; Alhaji Suleiman Oba Aliyu, the only President of the Union who served while living outside the operational headquarters of the Union; Alhaji Ahmad Hameed (1942-2009),who left his teaching career at the then Abdullahi Bayero College, Kano, of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, to serve on the editorial team of the then The Nigerian Herald; Ambassador Sheikh Usman AbdulAzeez, fwc,(b. 1952),who studied Geography at the Kano Campus of ABU, Zaria, and the incumbent Alhaji Aliyu Otta Uthman, fsi, who served as the Deputy Director, Department of State Services in Kano State; and ,of course, a former National Secretary of the Union and one- time National President of Ilorin Students Union (ISU), Alhaji Abdulmumini Abdulmalik (Asst Comptroller General of Immigration – rtd ), was a student at both Bayero University, Kano and Immigration Training School, Kano. Similarly, the current Grand Patron of the Northern zone of IEDPU, Alhaji Murtala Nuruden Alaaya, studied at both School of Arabic Studies and Bayero University, Kano, as well as lived in Kano until his current appointment as Imam of the ancient Alaaya Mosque, Pakata, Ilorin.

The list of outstanding indigenes of Ilorin Emirate who attained eminence in the public service of Kano also included the late Alhaji Issa Ahmed Omo-Eko, the father to the Ilorin Emirate’s first female Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Arc. Halima Tayo Alao(b. 1956),who attained the position of Permanent Secretary in the public service of the “Centre of Commerce”, the ex-Minister, in fact, had her primary and post primary education in Kano; the late Alhaji Abdullahi Ayinla, who was the first son of the host community to serve as the Registrar of the Kwara State Polytechnic, Ilorin; and the late Alhaji Ahmad Ambali Abdulsalam(1933-1983),who retired as the Chief Veterinary Officer in the Kano State Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Health, among several others.

The city of Kano was also a home to several outstanding entrepreneurs of Ilorin Emirate origin. The list included Alhaji Kuranga Muhammad Onikoko, father to Dr. Shehu Kuranga Muhammed, a former Ag. Managing Director of Keystone Bank PLC; the late Alhaji Abdulateef Adi, an accomplished business magnate and Alhaji Buhari Kelani, a one-time Vice-President of the Ansarul Islam Society of Nigeria, to mention just a few.

In the same token, glowing tributes must be paid to men and women of history whose actions eventuated in the epoch-making development, which culminated in the historic visit. The 7th Emir of Ilorin, Shaykh Shuaib Bawa’s(1915-1919) whose fascinating leadership impacted on all his descendants, needed to be commended. The same goes for the 8th Emir of Ilorin, Shaykh Abdulkadir Shuaib Bawa(1919-1959),one of the most permissive Sovereigns of Ilorin, who despite his alluring majesty, trained all his children to accept the fact that we are all of the same creation. They were the great grand father and grand father, respectively, to the visiting Monarch and his host . The late 13th Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, even in death, deserves to be celebrated for picking one of his wives, the mother to the visiting monarch, from Ilorin. The accomplished Queen Mother of Kano,Hajiya Princess Maryam Ado Bayero, is uniquely great for not only living the comfort of Ilorin royalty and the peculiar sociocultural environment to which she was born and in which she was raised for a marriage that has turned out to be one of the most blessed in modern history; and for enduring all the challenges associated with raising her children so gallantly for two of them to be worthy of simultaneous appointment as Emirs. That illustrious daughter of Ilorin is,undoubtedly, the most royally inclined woman in contemporary Nigeria for being surrounded with royalty all her life. Her case is even more unique and unprecedented as she sits as a Princess, an Aunt to an Emir and Mother to two reigning first class Emirs one of whom is the Chairman of the biggest and most resourceful Emirate in Nigeria.

I congratulate His Royal Highness, the Emir of Ilorin and Chairman, Kwara State Council of Emirs and Obas, Alhaji(Dr.)Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, CFR on the unprecedented emergence of two of his cousins as Emirs as I also felicitate with him on the visit of His Royal Highness to Ilorin. I must also rejoice with the Chairman of the Central Planning Committee of the Visit and Damasani of Ilorin, Engr. Suleiman Ayinde Yahaya (Oba Alapasanpa),FNSE, and his members for their dedication and commendable quality of service by the committee. I warmly rejoice with the National President of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union(IEDPU) for the tremendous progress the Union and, indeed, Ilorin Emirate has been witnessing since he took over the challenging position. To the rest of us and residents of Ilorin Emirate, I share with all of us the pride and glory of living to witness the unprecedented development. It is my hope that we would all, while still observing COVID-19 protocols, troop out to confirm to the visiting monarch and his entourage that Ilorin is next to no other place when it comes to hospitality and fraternity.

*Imam is National Publicity Secretary, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union