Saheed Ahmad Rufai
It is inconceivable that there can be a dearth of credible sources for Dr. Lateef Adegbite’s biography. He was a Attorney-General in Law and Secretary-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs. It is acknowledged that several pages have been written about him by researchers, journalists and others in the business of writing. Yet, certain aspects of his lifestory have received more coverage than others. One of such underrepresented themes is his family life as a father and a husband during his heydays. That is the rationale for this piece which covers the hitherto unpublished aspect of the life of the worthy man who transited on 28th September, 2012. The piece relies on oral evidence collected by this writer during his close engagement with members of Dr. Lateef Adegbite’s immediate family two decades ago.
During their three-year courtship in the United Kingdom, young Lateed Adegbite and his fiancee, Tayyibat Yetunde Carew pursued their different professional trainings with all sense of commitment. And by the time their marriage was consummated in the Kingdom in 1961, they had already grown into one as much as two souls ever can.
The opportunity to meet for the first time ever with this lady of unfading beauty and composure presented itself to young Adegbite in 1958. A Yoruba girl of twenty and a young man of twenty-five, it was love right from the first moment! He had seen her fleetingly at the Ibadan Conference of the Muslim Society of Nigeria where he was the chief host. Indeed, it was a charming Muslim girl that she spotted amidst the multitude there present. He was arrested and held spell-bound by her beauty!
Gorgeously attired in a traditional Agbada and Sokoto made of Alari fabrics, young Lateef Adegbite was sitting at the high table with such eminent Muslim leaders as Alhaji D.S. Adegbenro then Minister of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in the old Wester Region, Alhaji Shittu Aminu Adeoyo then the Otun Olubadan, Alhaja Hummuani Alaga, a highly prosperous merchant and distinguished philanthropist, as well as Prof. S.O. Biobaku, an eminent Muslim intellectual who later became Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos. There was no chance for him to interact with her at the function though he managed to register her face in his memory.
Few days after, the photographs taken at the conference were out and Adegbite was fortunate to have seen in some of them the face that bewitched him some days earlier. ‘Who is this beautiful girl’, he inquired, pointing at Tayyiba’s face in one of the pictures. ‘She is well known to me’, replied Ganiyu Emiola, an Ibadan-based associate of his. ‘This is cheering’, Adegbite muttered to himself elated that someone close to him knew her. Consequently, they scheduled a mutually convenient time to meet with her and he requested Emiola to kindly inform her ahead of their visit.
On the specified day, Adegbite and Emiola headed to Native Authority School, Odo Aje, Agugu, Ibadan where Tayyiba was a teacher. Getting there, they were directed to her classroom from where the three of them came to discuss briefly outside the school premises. Face-to-face with Tayyiba, Adegbite was once again introduced as the young man who had presided over the MSS activities few days earlier.
She was surprised to see him as a man in his mid-twenties unlike the elderly of fifties attired in a Yoruba traditional outfit, that she had seen at the event! It is interesting that the young man who, like the aforementioned Muslim elders at the event, was dressed in a heavy dandogo which made him look mature, had today appeared in a shirt and a pair of trousers. Sequel to their interaction at that meeting, natural feelings were experienced which culminated in an immensely blissful and blessed union.
Young Adegbite was dark, with regular features, fine bright eyes, and a beautiful countenance full of animation, and it was difficult to identify a correlation between his youthful appearance and his great reputation as a young scholar. His wife was a dignified young Muslim lady and an illustrious daughter of the prestigious Carew Family of Lagos from where one of their forebears moved to establish himself in Ibadan. She was the daughter of Mr. Zanzaliu Carew, an elder brother of to the late founder of Green Spring Hotel, Ibadan, Alhaji Yekini Carew.
Early in their courtship, Lateef Adegbite and Tayyiba travelled to the UK for further studies. As busy as they were at that time, their love and spirit of togetherness blossomed so much that they realized that when together, life was perfect. By the time they returned to Nigeria in December1965, the young couple’s blissful life brimmed over as their union had already been blessed with children.
Back in Nigeria, their schedule became busier than it was in the UK. And after raising five children who are a great pride to the family, Alhaja Tayyiba chose to retire early from the Federal Public Service having served diligently as a Lecturer at the prestigious Yaba College of Technology. Consequently, she devoted her full time to the management of the family. The sweet fruits of her sacrifice in this regard include the undivided attention that she devoted to the home-front which culminated in a domestic comfort that served as the bedrock for her husband’s excellent performance in public service. Throughout her fulfilled and enviable life, she demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that she indeed was a pillar of support to her genial spouse.
The blissful couple desired the best character for their children and pursued the realization of such a desire through proper upbringing, orienting and training. Both were good disciplinarians but were not always severe. They only resorted to severity where all other alternatives fail. His eldest child, Mr. Talal Oladipupo Adegbite, now Bashorun and Seriki of Oba (a township under His Royal Majesty, Kabiyesi Alake) attested to this in an unequivocal manner, ‘Dad never tolerated nonsense from me and never did my mum’ he remarked.
It is remarkable that his children’s opinions about him were not too different from their mum’s. Each of them saw him as a great lover of his family whose welfare he was passionate about. The Bashorun further describes his dad as a man whose primary service in life is to the Almighty Allah. ‘My dad aspires to be the best in everything he does and he believes in the call to leadership as opposed to the search for it. He however sees his service to humanity as a service to Allah’.
In her own description of her dad, Mrs. Fatima Morenikeji Folawiyo who started by declaring that, ‘he is my father and naturally I should be biased about him, and more so that he is a wonderful father, I should be more biased.’ He indeed is kind, gentle, very committed and very idealistic. He is a great and inspiring labourer who, though always busy, is always ready to attend to his children. He is a hard man to offend, so easy-going that one may not know when he is offended. Generally speaking, he is quiet and cool-tempered. My father, Mrs. Folawiyo continued, ‘believes in the unity of Islam and that all people are one from whatever part of the country. At times, he is blind of the extent of how dubious people could be for he trusts many. Mrs. Folawiyo herself a lawyer added that Dr. Adegbite as a legal mind is painstakingly thorough, and has a liberal approach to Law. My father is a great lover of his ancestry and holds the Kabiyesi Alake in high esteem. He enjoys telling us stories about Egbaland and his position as Seriki of the Society’ she concluded.
Hajia Turfa Adetola, another daughter of Dr. Adegbite also has much to say about her dad. She started cheerfully, describing him as a very concerned and lovely father who is very much interested in knowing about the progress of his children from time to time. He believes in persuasion rather than imposition. I had thought my father would be upset by my decision to study Arts but he was not. He rather gave me all the fatherly encouragement that I needed throughout my studies. ‘But one thing is certain about my father: he is undaunted and never jokes with his faith notwithstanding that he lacks a fanatical mind. He is an undogmatic thinking person who employs a modern approach to many things’, remarked Turfa. ‘He, she continued, ‘naturally does not believe in amassing wealth at all cost and is so kind and generous that nothing is too big for him to give out’. ‘I must also tell you that I have never heard or seen my father hurt my mother verbally or otherwise. He is a very accommodating type.
The commonalities in the views articulated above are unmistakable. Dr. Manna Adebimpe Adegbite, another daughter of Dr. Adegbite was not in the country at the time of the collection of the oral evidence contained in this piece. However, her younger sister, Mrs. Saudat Bisoye Olorunnibe, sees her dad as very loving and caring. ‘He, to my mind, always appears to be an understanding type’, said Mrs. Olorunnibe who stressed that ‘Daddy takes his religion seriously. He is happy seeing his children attend to Islam.
His wife, Alhaja Tayyiba Yetunde Adegbite stated for the umpteenth time that her husband is a loving and responsible father who doesn’t want conflict in the family for that doesn’t make him happy. ‘He is not impulsive, quarrelsome or abusive. He indeed believes in consultation either with me or his children. He is not a harsh disciplinarian. Yet he has beaten some of his children on only two memorable occasions. He doesn’t tolerate irresponsibility from them and yet doesn’t threaten to prove harsh to them. Instead, he talks to them using his own childhood experience.
Dr. Lateef Adegbite is a man with rich sense of humour. He cracks jokes where necessary and is capable of a healthy laughter which he sometimes does with all his body anatomy. He talks at length only where necessary and is not known to be a flamboyant speaker even in informal discussion. He cherishes correctness and appropriateness and will not even hesitate to correct grammatical mistakes committed at the dining table. He is a charismatic personality and walks in a humble but stately manner. His dressing always reminds one of his maternal grandfather, Alfa Bisiriyu Giwa in his colourful appearance on Eid days.
Dr. Lateef Adegbite speaks naturally, bows correctly, smiles appropriately and even shakes hands with his guests in a highly refined manner. He is very fond of his grand-children whom he sits and speaks much with whenever they are around. The children will ask him so many interesting questions which he will gladly answer. They too enjoy his sense of humour. His grand-children so far – at the time of these interviews – are Abdul-Lateef Feyishayo Folawiyo, Faridah Omoshalewa Folawiyo, Yasin Adebayo Amusan and Khashiyah Adebanke Adegbite.
As a general rule, Dr. Lateef Adegbite, according to his wife, likes good and rich food. This is now being discouraged these days to avoid complications as a result of old age. ‘He loves vegetables (especially ewedu and efo) and salad as well as fruits; Juice, Citrus, Tangelo as well as other similar things. He takes solid (heavy) food only once in a day and drinks tonic water’ Mrs. Adegbite concluded.
I asked her to tell me his favourite musicians and she listed, late Yusuf Olatunji (Baba L’egba), Haruna Ishola (Baban Gani Agba), Ayinla Omowura (Omo Anigilaje), Ebenezer Obe (Chief Commander), and of course, Sikiru Ayinde Barrister. This writer witnessed several instances that attested to this and hereby say, a statement cannot be truer.
May Allah be merciful to Dr. Lateef Adegbite and his wife, the late Iyalode of Egbaland.
-Saheed Ahmad Rufai, immediate past Dean of Education, Sokoto State University, is a Development Education and Curriculum-Pedagogy expert.