To the delight of everyone at the Obafemi Awolowo Mosque Complex, Sunday January 7, 2024, was a playback of 1987 with Emeritus Prof. Omar Rahman and Prof. Yusuf Olaolu Ali, SAN, switching roles. The courteous male ushers ensured every guest collected the one page programme leaflet parading a slide of the 1987 reception Lawyer Ali had staged for the new Professor Rahman, then. Also in that photograph is the then budding scholar, now Prof. Kehinde Yusuf of the English Department.
Interestingly, the choice of colours and styles worn by the two key players were symbolically parallel. Rahman donned a bright navy blue cotton material sewn into a free flowing danshiki and moderately baggy sokoto. His blue colour echoed in the fashionably embroidered agbada of the Punch newspaper’s foremost editor of all times, Alhaji Najeem Jimoh.
Ali on the other hand did not leave folks in doubt about his trendy sartorial taste. Sporting slim-fit, whitish top and trouser combined with smooth footwears and a matching cap almost pitching him in contest with high society, all white, city shindig rockers. Ali’s whitish outlook, as if predetermined, literally spread to his regulars including his former roommate as an undergraduate, Prof Siyan Oyeweso; Prof. Abefe Sanusi, YKO Kareem, former acting managing director of Trade Bank, High Chief Jamiu Ekungba; JAMB Registrar Is-haq Oloyede and Engineer Mudathir Abisoye, who retired recently as the Director of Works of the University of Ilorin. The occasion was Emeritus Prof. Rahman’s celebration of the recent conferment on the Principal of the renowned Ghalib Law Firm, Ilorin, Kwara State, Yusuf Olaolu Ali,SAN, the inspiring title of Professor of Practice by the Federal University of Oye Ekiti, FUOYE.
I had hardly finished sharing the announcement of the January 7, 2024, reception in honour of our own Yusuf Olaolu Ali, when my inimitably attentive mentor, Alhaji Najeem Jimoh, remarked that that intervention from “the great rallying point at Ife”, Prof Rahman, was a huge challenge to us all.
“How can we get to sufficiently appreciate this honour to Yusuf Ali, who’s most masterly in honouring all of our high flying folks to come from a retiree, big brother?”
He then went on to add: “This is a question we must all strive to resolve in appreciation of the great SAN”
As if Alhaji Jimoh forged any consensus with fellow guests from different towns and cities, the venue of the multiple meal reception and prayer session recorded an unusual turnout of well-wishers for the one being celebrated as well as the host. It was payback time and one done in full measure. But the host was really fully prepared for what may be described as complete hospitality handed out at what qualified as the unmistakably biggest university campus mosque in the entire south with “all amenities completed”, as they say. The completeness of the reception indeed manifested fully with enough to eat and drink as breakfast, pre-lunch snack, lunch proper as well as decent ‘take-away’ accompanied with well packaged fruit juice and water.
But there was far more to fancy than the meals. As soon as the breakfast was over, the recitation of the Holy Qur’an, shared out in hisbs and surahs, to no fewer than 50 reciters commenced. After Quran recitation were generous prayers concluded with the khutba rendered by Imam Sanusi. Intermittently, additional guests just joining the congregation were recognized. These included former and serving Vice-Chancellors, some other professors, MSSN veterans, captains of industries and several others too many to recount. Professor of Medicine and veteran Imam, Abefe Sanusi, who coordinated the prayer session could not hold back his robust testimonial on the new professor, Yusuf Ali, SAN. Next was the top banker, Chief Ekungba. According to the Owo High Chief, it was most imperative for all to keep thanking the Almighty for His ceaseless baarakah on us. “Even if Allah had given us the freedom to appropriate as much as we could to ourselves at the stage of our lives when our destiny was to be fashioned we may not have done as much as He did for us”, he added.
And although there was ample provision for tributes as part of the post prayer reception, many more guests volunteered to share nuggets of wisdom on the man of the moment. Thus began Prof Oloyede, the JAMB registrar. He argued that it was only Allah that determined how best to reward good deeds. He recalled that Prof Ali rightly deserved to be honoured with professorship having been doing pro bono teaching and research, for instance, at UNILORIN for no fewer than two decades without looking forward to this kind of honour. “Added to all these was that our brother consistently relieved me, even when I became the VC, of the burden of organizing reception for some of our professors on attaining that height. He has been relentless in doing these. Now, this honour done him was never anticipated. So what good can Allah not grant us with persistent good deeds and prayers?”. Oloyede finally concluded: “Eni adua ni Brother wa, Yusuf Alli”.
It was time to move upstairs for the reception. But the inimitably generous duo of Rahman and Ali was an uncommon crowd puller. The programme turned out to have availed a profound reunion for old friends, alumni and non-alumni of OAU alike, and therefore loud salutations, pumping of hands and hugs almost continued interminably.
But that break was also timeous for urinals and stretching of legs. And then the gradual re-convergence. High table, as well as its extension guests scheduled to make celebratory speeches took turns to settle. In addition to the host, Emeritus Prof Rahman, were the immediate past chair of the governing council of Summit University, Offa, Kwara State, Alhaji Ebiti; Vice Chancellor of FUOYE, Prof Sunday Fasina; the honoree himself, Prof Alli; former VC of Uniosun, Prof Labo Popoola; Rector of Federal Polytechnic, Ayede-Ogbomoso, Dr Taofik Hammed, Alhaji Najeem Jimoh and so forth.
Emeritus Prof Rahman radiated happiness and fulfilment so manifestly. The erudite geologist recalled that, not being on any social media platform, it took a while before he got to know about this Ali’s appointment that brought him a great joy. So, whether the caption on the historic photograph of 1987 cited earlier was clear enough or not, he literally rewound the story behind it with relish to the applause of all. “Only good can bear good, so lets all learn from Alli who has just started reaping from his numerous seeds of goodness”.
If Emeritus Prof Rahman was happy, VC of FUOYE was rather ecstatic. For him, one of the best decisions his university had taken under his leadership was that of the appointment of Yusuf Ali as a professor of practice. According to him, “our drive to fuse the town with the gown for developmental goals is right on course with this all-important appointment of Prof Yusuf Ali, so energetic in spite of age. He finally enthused: “I want to always be like you sir”.
The commendations were ceaseless: VC of “Better By Far” UNILORIN, Prof Wahab Egbewole further noted:” His journey as a legal luminary is marked by a commitment to excellence, ethical practice…real-world knowledge and insights to students, bridging the often-discernible gap between academic study and legal practice”
Describing it as a win-win appointment, prolific Professor Yisa Kehinde Yusuf of OAU’s English Department averred that Prof Ali is “…ever so willing in the Kajola (let’s thrive together) spirit, to promote the growth of all around him, and ever so willing to celebrate their successes”.
There was no stopping the verbal garlands for Prof Alli, implying that almost everyone around him is united in opinion of Ali as deserving multiple celebrations. Alli has adorned several others with garlands. In the recent time at least, this writer can recall receptions he held in honour of Professors Simiat Elias of LASU and Abdul Lateef Oladimeji of Al Hikmah University, Ilorin. He therefore deserves to be duly appreciated with more garlands.
Beyond the intellectual support Ali volunteers for academic institutions, Ali toweringly rates as an inimitable donor to his alma mater of OAU Ife, University of Ilorin, Kwara State Polyechnic, Fountain University, Osogbo and of course, UNIOSUN where he was Chair of the Governing Council. It was not for nothing that he emerged the Chair of the Chairmen of Governing Councils of State owned universities. It is on record that his interventions in support of humanity at large runs across no fewer than 21 phases even as he remains a committed family man. Father of three daughters, “he built a female hostel at the University of Ilorin in honour of his late wife”. May Allah continue reckon with this and increase His rahamah on the wife’s soul. Amen.
Akanni, PhD, is an associate Professor of journalism at LASU. Follow him on X via@AkintundeAkanni.