By Abubakar Imam
Saturday,July 25,2020 was a unique date in the annals of Ilorin Emirate. It was not like any other day. It was a memorable date that would remain permanently secured in the warehouses of chroniclers of history. It was a day the people of Ilorin Emirate, and indeed, humanity “conspired to do away with the physical essence” of a monumental pioneer in so many facets of development of Ilorin Emirate and, indeed, Nigeria. It was the day the remains of an evergreen patriot, Alhaji Abdulganiyu Folorunsho AbdulRazaq, SAN, OFR, was committed to mother earth. The epoch-making event, which gave the date a special place in history, took-place at no other place but at the ancestral residence of the illustrious AbdulRazaq family, Yerinsa Compound, Idigba Quarters, Pakata Area, Ilorin.
Alhaji AbdulRazaq was, undoubtedly, one of the greatest sons Ilorin Emirate was ever blessed with. His life and times were closely interwoven with the destiny and destinations of Ilorin Emirate in so many ways and at so many epochs of its march to greatness since the 1940s.No one can truly or scholarly exhausts the history of Ilorin, no matter how short or brief the effort may be, without giving Alhaji AbdulRazaq monumental colourful reference. This is not because one of his progenies is, at present, the Chief Executive of Kwara State but significantly premised on the fact that he was an incomparable personality and a foremost patriot who accomplished so well and for so long a time in a single lifetime and in a far better manner than many of his compatriots in the struggle for the development of Ilorin Emirate.
Born at Onitsha in the present-day Anambra State to the family of Mallam AbdulRazaq Usman Yerinsa, a Muslim cleric and businessman, who hailed from Ilorin, on November 13,1927, Alhaji Abdulganiyu Folorunsho AbdulRazaq was one of the most accomplished indigenes of Ilorin Emirate of all times. His mother was Alhaja Munirat AbdulRazaq, who was a daughter to the Onikatako family in the Gaa Aremu axis of the same area of Ilorin.
That unforgettable son of Ilorin Emirate was so many things to so many people in an incontrovertibly eventful life time of almost a century. He was a talented educationist, pioneer school proprietor, venerable lawyer, profound administrator, outstanding politician, great parliamentarian, committed nationalist, shrewd businessman, acknowledged author, excellent media technocrat, focused diplomat, untainted doyen of stock broking, remarkable community leader and exemplary statesman, who started out as a pupil of Quranic Schools both in his hometown of Ilorin and at the abode of his illustrious parents, Onitsha.
At the age of 11, Alhaji AbdulRazaq commenced the pursuit of western education at the CMS Central School, Onitsha, which he received from 1938 to 1943. He was also educated at the famous Kalabari College, Buguma in the present-day Bayelsa State between 1944 and 1945.The learned gentleman completed his exciting post-primary education at African College, Onitsha, between 1945 and 1947. He was a pupil and contemporary to the late foremost jurist and scholar who retired as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, otherwise known as Socrates of the Nigerian Judiciary.
While undergoing his undergraduate education in the eastern part of Nigeria, the late Alhaji AbdulRazaq was intellectually far better than most of his contemporaries (Igbos and non-Igbos) schooling in Onitsha alike, according to one of his younger compatriots, Alhaji Safi’i Adebayo Usuf (b.1929 and Magaji Olodo family of Oke-Aare in the same axis of Ilorin) ,who was also raised at Onitsha. Alhaji AbdulRazaq was said to be a smart and intelligent young boy who was so focused on his education that he was always reading and reading even while walking on the streets of Onitsha. Alhaji Usuf added that the deceased was never found doing anything aside burying himself in books, which later paid off for him. Other Ilorin indigenes who were schooling at the same city about the same time but younger to him in age and hierarchy were the late Lawyer Abdulmumini AbdulRazaq, Alhaji Abdulmalik Babamale (b.1934) and ,of course, Alhaji Safii Adebayo Usuf earlier mentioned.
Alhaji AbdulRazaq, who spoke the three major Nigerian languages fluently, also had the privilege of been one of the pioneer students of the premier University of Ibadan from 1948 to 1949.That was at a time he had no one to emulate and when his beloved Ilorin Emirate was often dismissed as a polity peopled by the haters of western education. Among his contemporaries at the premier University was the late Prof. Chinua Achebe(1930-2013),the author of the popular bestselling novel of all-times “Things Fall Apart” and a distinguished management consultant, Dr. Micheal Omolayole (b.1929). That ephocal glory of Ilorin Emirate proceeded to the Trinity College, Dublin University, Dublin, Ireland, where he studied between 1949 and 1954. He also trained at the Inner Temple, London, from 1951 and 1955. His contemporaries across various universities in the Great Britain, but who have all passed on, were the late Honourable Justice Kayode Eso (1925-2012),who retired as a Justice of the Supreme Court; the Honourable Justice Mamman Nasir (1929-2019),the second President of the Court of Appeal; the Honourable Justice Muhammadu Buba Ardo (1930-1991), a retired Justice of the Supreme Court; and the Honourable Justice Muhammed Bello (1930-2004),who retired as the Chief Justice of Nigeria in 1995.
Alhaji AbdulRazaq was called to the bar on February 8, 1955 as the first indigene of Northern Nigeria to be so privileged. The three other jurists of Northern Nigerian origin mentioned above as his contemporaries were, however, called to the bar at various times after the historic initiation of the man popularly called AGF into the legal profession. Alhaji AbdulRazaq returned to the country on the completion of his educational sojourn at the Great Britain but not before obtaining several other academic qualifications such as Master’s degree in History and Higher Diploma in Education.
On his return, he established his chambers first in Lagos and later in the historic city of Zaria where he offered services to his numerous clients. Alhaji AbdulRazaq also joined politics through which he was able to impact maximally on the progress and development of the Nigerian nation. He was elected as the first and only National Legal Adviser of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC). He was the Chief Law Officer of the defunct first republic leading political party between 1956 and 1966.He also held the same office in the Great Nigerian People’s Party (GNPP) founded and led by the celebrated apostle of politics without bitterness, Alhaji Ibrahim Waziri during the Second Republic.
That illustrious son of Ilorin Emirate also served as Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Republic of Ivory Coast (Cote D’Ivoure) where he served between 1962 and 1964.In 1964,he was recalled home and fielded as the candidate of the Northern People’s Congress(NPC) who represented his Ilorin Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives. He not only served as a Member of the legislature but was also appointed as a Member of the last cabinet of Alhaji (Sir) Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa(1912-1966),the first and the only Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He was made the Minister of State for Railways in the Federal Ministry of Transportation and served as such till January 15,1966. His colleagues in the Tafawa-Balewa administration included the late Alhaji Ibrahim Waziri(1926-1992),the founder and presidential candidate of the Great Nigerian Peoples Party(GNPP) in 1979 and 1983;the late Alhaji Yusuf Maitama-Sule(1929-2017), the eloquent Danmasanin Kano and Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations during the Second Republic; the late Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua, father to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua(1912-1993);the late Alhaji Muhammadu Ribadu(1910-1965),who died as the Minister of Defence; the late Alhaji Muhammadu Inuwa Wada(1917-2015),who succeeded Ribadu as the Defence Minister; and the late Turakin Sokoto and the first Executive President of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari(1924-2018)
Alhaji AbdulRazaq was one of the founding fathers of federalism and State creation in Nigeria. He was, indeed, one of those who built Kwara State from the scratch. He was the one who seconded the motion moved by Chief Josiah Sunday Olawoyin(1925-2000), the late Asiwaju of Offa, through, which he suggested the break-up of the erstwhile Northern Region into States in order to bring government closer to the people and to address the fears of the minority tribes. The success of the motion at the meeting of Leaders of Opinion from the erstwhile Northern Nigeria, held on the eve of the unfortunate Civil War informed the creation of 12 autonomous States out of the then 4 Regions to which Nigeria was previously compartmentalised. It was that patriotic intervention that led to the creation of Kwara State.
On the eventual creation of Kwara State, Alhaji AbdulRazaq was one of the distinguished political figures prevailed upon by the first Military Governor of Kwara State, Brigadier-General David Lasisi Bamigboye, CON,(1940-2018) to provide guidance for the young military officer who was not only a Major in the Nigerian Army but also a 27 years old man who never had any practical experience in public administration. Alhaji AbdulRasaq served as the Honourable Commissioner of Finance and later Health and Social Welfare from 1967 and 1972. Prior to his resignation from the cabinet, his colleagues in the Kwara State Executive Council included the pioneer (Acting) Secretary to the Kwara State Government, Alhaji AbdulRahman Okene (1914-1999); Alhaji Ahman Pategi (1914-1977),the then Galadima of Pategi; Mr. Peter Olorunisola, SAN,(b.1940),a son of Igbaja in the presernt-day Ifelodun Local Government of Kwara State, who later emerged as the 3rd Senior Advocate of Nigeria from Kwara State and, of course, Mr. J. T .Obaoye, who was appointed as the Honourable Commissioner for Education soon after his graduation from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1967, along with the late Prof. Shehu Jimoh.
As a firm believer in the greatness of Ilorin Emirate, Alhaji AbdulRazaq established the Ilorin College (now Government High School), Ilorin, in 1967 when it was apparent that vacancies in the existing few schools were not enough for admission seekers. His school, which has been taken-over by the Kwara State Government, was the first secondary school established by an individual in the history of Kwara State. The school, apart from providing meal tickets to many of his younger patriots such as the late Prof. Shehu Ahmad Jimoh, OON(1944-2014) who served as the Principal; Alhaji Mudi Adebayo Gold(b.1942),the first Ilorin man to serve as the substantive Head of Civil Service of Kwara State; and the Honourable Justice Mutalub Ahmad Ambali,OFR,(b.1940),who were few of the teachers at the school during the school formative years, the institution has also produced innumerable outstanding personalities who had their secondary school education there. The list of the accomplished ex-students of the school included but not limited to Alhaji Abdulmumini Ayo Abdulmalik(b.1952), a retired Assistant Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Immigration Service; Senator Isiaka Adebayo Salman(b.1954),who represented the Kwara Central Senatorial District at the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from 1999 to 2003;Alhaji Adebayo Oba Adelodun(b.1958) and Alhaji Saka Ambibola Isau(b.1955),both of whom are distinguished Senior Advocates of Nigeria; Dr. Adeniyi Saheed Aremu(b.1970),the Managing Director, Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority, Ilorin; and, of course, Dr.Muyideen Shuaib Eleyinla, a distinguished Veterinary Doctor based in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, to mention a few.
Alhaji AbdulRazaq, who had served as the Chairman of the *Daily Mail* newspaper, Kano, the precursor to the rested New Nigerian between 1960 and 1962, also served as a Member of the Capital Issues Commission from 1973 to 1978.He was a Member, Vice-President at various times before serving as the President of the Nigerian Stock Exchange between 2000 and 2003. He was also made a Life Bencher in 1971.He also served as the Chairman, Body of Benchers, between 1984 and 1985.
Apart from his participation in several constitutional conferences leading to the nation’s independence, one other enduring contributions of the deceased Senior Advocate of Nigeria to national development was his functional membership of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) put together by the Murtala/Obasanjo military administration to suggest which political system Nigeria would adopt as the nation was preparing for the take-off of the Second Republic. The Committee, which consisted of 49 distinguished Nigerians following the sensational withdrawal of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, GCFR(1909-1987) from its membership, was chaired by the late Chief F.R.A.Williams(1920-2005), the first Senior Advocate of Nigeria. It was the Committee that recommended the presidential system of government that persist in Nigeria till date.
In recognition of his distinguished contributions to the development of legal practice in Nigeria, Alhaji AbdulRazaq was appointed as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria in 1985.He was the first son of Kwara State to hold the prestigious title and the second Northerner to be so honoured after Alhaji Abdullahi Ibrahim, SAN, a distinguished son of Igala, Kogi State, who cut his professional teeth under the late Justice Mustapha Akanbi, CFR,(1932-2018) while the pioneer Chairman of the ICPC was in private legal practice .Alhaji AbdulRazaq was the 54th Senior Advocate of Nigeria by the date of appointment.
Probably because of his efforts as the main advocate (he was the only Ilorin-born Lawyer as at that time) who not only made his services available but also fought vigorously against the attempted merger of the present-day Kwara State (then Ilorin Province) with the South-West prior to the granting of the nation’s independence, that great statesman was appointed as the Mutawali of Ilorin in 1962. He was the first son of Ilorin Emirate to be conferred with that chieftaincy title and the first holder of any honourary chieftaincy title offered by the 9th Emir of Ilorin and father to the incumbent, Shaykh Zulukarnaini Gambari Muhammad, CFR, who lived between 1914 and 1992 and reigned from 1959 to 1992.
Alhaji AbdulRazaq was conferred with the title of Tafida of Zaria in the same 1962 in appreciation of his numerous contributions as the first son of the North who will establish and operate a law firm in the ancient city. The Federal Government of Nigeria also honoured him with the national award of the Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR). He was a winner of several other merit awards by the Kwara State Government at various times for his contributions to the development of the State.
Alhaji AbdulRazaq contested for the Governorship of Kwara State in 1979 on the platform of the defunct Great Nigeria People’s Party(GNPP). He served Ilorin Emirate, Kwara State and Nigeria in many other capacities in the last seven decades including being the Chairman of the Lagos Segment of the launching of the N40 Million Kwara State Industrial Development Fund in 1985 where the Fund recorded huge donations due to his personal interventions and huge influence.
The noble place of this distinguished patriot in the history of Ilorin Emirate, Kwara State and Nigeria is, therefore, firmly secured .He was the first University graduate produced by Ilorin Emirate. He was also the first Lawyer from Ilorin. He was equally the first indigene of Kwara State and Northern Nigeria to qualify as a Lawyer and the first to be appointed a High Court Judge, which he, however, declined. That exemplary patriot was also the first son of Ilorin Emirate to serve as a non-career diplomat. He was a Federal Minister from Ilorin Emirate and the second from the present-day Kwara State after Chief M.O A.Olarewaju (1916-1968)of Omu-Aran, who served before him as the Honourable Minister of State, Police Affairs. Alhaji AbdulRazaq was also the first to serve as a Commissioner in Kwara State and, of course, the first to have voluntarily resigned from the Kwara State Executive Council.
Apart from also being the first Senior Advocate of Nigeria produced by Kwara State, the late Alhaji AbdulRazaq was also the one who had the honour of recording the minutes of the meeting of surviving members of the cabinet of the first and only Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alhaji (Sir) Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa, under the leadership of the late Alhaji Zanna Bukar Dipcharima (1917-1969),which was held with the Military High Command under the leadership of the then General Officer Commanding, Nigerian Army, the late Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi (1924-1966), following the “successful truncation” of the first republic on January 15,1966. It was at the end of that historic parley that the military surreptitiously assumed the political leadership of Nigeria.
All said and done, those who gave that outstanding patriot his names were divinely guided. The essence of those names synchronized perfectly with his personality and accomplishments. He was named “Abdulganiyu” and he turned-out to be blessed with enormous biological, intellectual and material wherewithal. He was also named “Folorunsho” and Allah really guided him for so long and with absolute mercies throughout, which made him to outlive most of his contemporaries and those who came after him.
Alhaji AbdulRazaq was, indeed, a lucky man on whom the saying of the Yoruba that “emi re ogun oni ribi, okan ni ofi owo mu”(longevity and happiness do not go together) did not materialise. He did not only live long but also lived well and ended well. He was survived by a great woman in her own rights, Alhaja Raliat AbdulRazaq(b.1930), who is not only one of the earliest Ilorin women who had the privilege of receiving western education but was also the first female Councilor in Kwara State and the first woman to drive a vehicle anywhere in Northern Nigeria. Alhaji AbdulRazaq was also one of the elegantly proud fathers one can find anywhere. His first son, Muhammad Alimi, to whom he gave the name of the founding father of Ilorin Emirate, is the first indigene of Ilorin Emirate who earned a Ph.D in Law and a man with extremely intimidating professional and public service accomplishments. Baba AGF was also the father of Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, the current and third son of Ilorin Emirate who will be elected and inaugurated as the Executive Governor of Kwara State. Alhaji AbdulRazaq’s eldest daughter, Hajiya Hairat AbdulRazaq-Gwadabe, was the first and only female Senator who represented the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, at the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria between 1999 and 2003.Another distinguished son of the late elder statesman is Mallam Isiaka AbdulRazaq, the immediate past Chief Financial Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and two times Executive Director, Finance and Administration of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria, who posted enduring legacies in the human resources development of Ilorin Emirate, particularly in the nation’s power sector. His children also included Hajiya Aishat Lawal, a widow of the first Ilorin-born Governor of Kwara State, the late Admiral Muhammed Alabi Lawal, mni; and, of course, the baby of the house, Alhaji AbdulRauf Baba AbdulRazaq, who is a distinguished businessman.
Though no one knows the date, time and other variables that would surround his death, it is debatable if the late multidimensional patriot would have chosen a better time to pass on than now when he had lived a healthy, sane and prosperous life for so long including his witness of the election and inauguration of one of his children as the Chief Executive of a State he made a great deal of efforts in its establishment, development and maturity to being one of the oldest States in the Nigerian federation.
It is my prayer that may Allah forgive the shortcomings of Lawyer Rasaki, as Ilorin elders called him. May He bless his gentle soul with a space in Al-Janat Fridaouz. May Allah also grant his widow, children, relations and the entire people of Ilorin Emirate the fortitude to bear the demise of this spectacularly accomplished son of the nation’s most unique Emirate.
*Imam is the National Publicity Secretary of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union.