A Glimpse at selected Alumni of Okesuna Primary School, Ilorin, and their contributions to National Development

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By Abubakar Imam

Okesuna Primary School, which is located in the Zango Ward of Ilorin East Local Government Area of Kwara State, has a special place in the history of Ilorin Emirate. Its place in the annals of the State and Nigeria is also symbolic just as its position in the production of innumerable individuals who later contributed to the all round development of Nigeria in various spheres cannot be downplayed.

The school,which is the second educational institution established by the colonial authority in Ilorin and the entire political entity now called Kwara State,has really come a long way. Its establishment in 1915 was only predated by that of the Ilorin Provincial School, now known as the Government Secondary School, Ilorin, which was founded in 1914. It remains the oldest public-owned Primary School in Ilorin and indeed in the entire Kwara State. It is today 105 years old. Its “aburo”,the second oldest public-owned primary school in Ilorin, is Pakata Primary School, which was established in 1934 probably to “decongest” Okesuna School . Pakata Elementary School, as it was initially known, was also founded to serve the needs of the indigenes and residents of the western part of the city of Ilorin, otherwise called “Okemale”.

The importance of the school,which was at foundation, named as Okesuna Elementary School, Ilorin, can be explained in the high quality and successes attained by personalities who passed through it, either as pupils or teachers, in its over a century existence.Little wonder, the acclaimed support it has just received from a non-governmental organisation powered by Alhaji Yakubu Layi Gobir, an offspring of one of the institution’s extremely accomplished alumni,the late Ambassador Abubakar Garuba Gobir.

Most of, if not all, the members of the early generations of “home-grown” Ilorin people who had or started the acquisition of western education at home passed through the school at one time or the other . In fact, it is safe to say that with the exception of Alhaji Sanni Okin(1910-1972),OFR, the first Turaki of Ilorin, who attended St. John’s School, Aroloya, Lagos, and “remained in Lagos for his secondary education”, and Alhaji A.G.F.AbdulRasaq OFR, SAN(b.1927),the Mutawali of Ilorin, who had his primary and post-primary education in the eastern part of Nigeria where he was born and raised,and possibly the late Honourable Ibrahim Laaro, all of their other compatriots and contemporaries who dominated the socio-political scene of Ilorin between 1930 and up to the termination of the first republic were distinguished alumni of that great school.

The series of development being witnessed in our contemporary society also have deep inputs of some notable products of the school.Not a few outstanding products and teachers, who contributed to the greatness of the school are indigenes of other places outside Ilorin Emirate.Many of such individuals also attained distinguished status as their colleagues from across the five Local Government Areas constituting the present-day Ilorin Emirate.

A perusal of the careers of some of the outstanding alumni of the frontline school would give credence to that assertion. It would also be, more than anything else, justify the significance of the school to the socio-economic and political evolution of Nigeria.

Mallam Muhammadu Ajeigbe Gobir(1900-1960), the first Waziri of Ilorin,who had the record of being one of the first two sons of Ilorin to receive secondary school education, was a foundation pupil of the school. He was admitted into the school in 1915. He later served as a teacher and Head teacher of the school at various times consequent upon his secondary school education, which he also obtained as a foundation pupil of the Katsina Training College,Katsina, between 1921 and 1926.

The contributions of Mallam Muhammadu Gobir to national development as a dedicated teacher, resourceful administrator and committed community leader were too manifestly significant to be ignored.In addition to the above,he was an effective linguist who acted as a communicator between the traditional leadership of the community and the British colonial administration at various times .In 1958,he was appointed a Member of the Transition Government or Caretaker Council constituted by the government of Northern Nigeria to administer the Ilorin Native Authority(I.N.A) sequel to the disbandment of the hitherto council’s leadership constituted by the defunct Ilorin Talaka Parapo/Action Group Alliance,which ruled the erstwhile N. A. from 1956 to 1958.

Many of the children and younger relations of that pioneer educationist,who he also nurtured to attend his alma mater some decades after his own graduation from there, also made far reaching contributions to human development and left their footprints in the sand of time for generations yet unborn to either appreciate or emulate.

Some of these personalities included Alhaji Yusuf Amuda Gobir, OFR,(1934-1975), who died at the prime age of 41 as a Super Permanent Secretary in the federal public service. He was the first indigene of Ilorin Emirate to attain that exalted rank,which he first did in the public service of the erstwhile Northern Region at the unusual age of 26. He was also in-charge of the Federal Ministry of Defence during the nation’s Civil War, which lasted between 1967 and 1970. He was said to be a very smart intellectual, outstanding technocrat and an epitome of patriotism who ensured the recruitment of qualified indigenes of Ilorin Emirate into various Ministries, Parastatals and Agencies of the Federal Government. Not only that, a few who were not public servants also became rich and influential through contracts he was said to have facilitated for them from the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. There was also His Excellency Ambassador Abubakar Garuba Gobir(1934-1996), who also taught at the school,before switching-over to foreign service during which he represented Nigeria in several countries as a diplomat prior to retirement as a Permanent Secretary in the federal public service in 1988. One other son of the first illustrious Waziri of Ilorin and, in fact, the eldest, Alhaji Yakubu Amori Gobir(1931-2010), was also one of the pioneer Permanent Secretaries who built Kwara State from scratch. He was an outstanding public servant, who served his community, state and country with total dedication and loyalty prior to his retirement from public service in 1981 and before his death about 30 years after his distinguished services as a respected elderstatesman.

Waziri Muhammadu Gobir’s nephew, Mallam Amuda Ahmed Gobir(1930-1980), the father to Prof. Aishatu Ahmed Gobir of the University of Ilorin and Mallam Ahmed Ladan Gobir of Dangote Organisation,was also an high-ranking technocrat in the services of the Federal Government , who along with his other “siblings” earlier mentioned were pupils of the same school from about 1939 to 1943 or thereafter.Mallam Ahmadu Gobir, a cousin to the first Waziri of Ilorin,who was the biological father to Mallam Amuda Ahmed Gobir,otherwise called Amuda Agba among his contemporaries ,was also an early pupil and later an outstanding teacher at the Okesuna School.

Alhaji Yahaya Ori-Okoh, MFR, OBE (1907-1998),the first Madawaki of Ilorin; was another outstanding personality produced by Okesuna Primary School, Ilorin. He was enrolled at the school in 1917. He was a nationalist, politician, technocrat, teacher,entrepreneur as well as a community leader of unparalleled status!

The late Madawaki was one of the founding fathers of modern party politics in Northern Nigeria. He was a founding Member of the “Jamaat Mutaneen Arewa”, the socio-cultural organisation of the people of Northern Nigeria,which later transformed into the Northern People’s Congress(NPC).The Party was the most dominant of the nation’s first republic politics parties,which ruled the Ilorin province,the Northern Region and the entire federation of Nigeria before the first republic was terminated through an unfortunate military intervention in January, 1966. He was a Member of the Northern Nigeria House of Assembly from 1947 to 1957.

Alhaji Madawaki was also the first Northern Nigerian Regional Minister of Health. He held the position from 1952 to 1957. His removal from the ministerial office partially eventuated in the loss of Ilorin Province to the Western Regional political party – the Action Group/Ilorin Talaka Parapo Alliance in the subsequent election. He later served as a Commissioner in Kwara State between 1972 and 1975 following the resignation of Alhaji A. G. F. AbdulRasaq from the administration of the late Brigadier-General David Lasisi Bamigboye, CON(1940-2018).

The outstanding leader,who also had a former federal legislator and ex-Minister of the Federal Republic,Alhaji Aremu Babatunde Yahaya, among his children, held the prestigious traditional title of Madawaki of Ilorin between 1955 and 1998 when he died.That outstanding patriot succeeded in serving as the Madawaki under four succeeding Emirs of Ilorin.He was the only one who was as that privileged so far since the establishment of Ilorin Emirate.Alhaji Madawaki was also a renowned teacher whose pupils included the first and only Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,the internationally distinguished Alhaji(Sir)Abubakar Tafawa Balewa(1912-1966),GCON, who he taught at the Katsina Training College and Alh.Haruna AbdulRasheed(1913-1995), CFR, the penultimate Emir of Gwandu in the present-day Kebbi State who was also his pupil at the same Katsina Training College.

Alhaji Madawaki was also the teacher to the 9th Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Zulukarnain Gambari Muhammad,CFR.The late enigmatic traditional ruler was his pupil at the Ilorin Middle School(now known as G. S. S. Ilorin) in the late 1930s. His students also included the pioneer Chief Judge of Kwara State and the first indigene of Kwara State to serve on the bench of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, Justice Saidu Kawu,CON, (1928-2013). He also taught many of the members of Justice Kawu’s generations and those who came after them, who attended the Ilorin Middle School,Ilorin, between 1930 and 1939. Alhaji Madawaki,who was initially known as Yahaya Ilorin among his contemporaries across the country, would also be remembered for the brilliant suggestion of the name ‘Kwara’, which the “State of Harmony” bears till date.

Alhaji Saadu Alanamu, who lived between 1912 and 1996, was another outstanding product of the school.That extremely brilliant patriot and the second Waziri of Ilorin attended the great school between 1920 and 1924. He was the dominant technocrat who epitomised the administration of the Ilorin Native Authority from 1933 to 1947. He was subsequently elected as a Member of the Northern Nigeria House of Assembly between 1953 and 1956.

Alhaji Alanamu, who was styled “Allah Naomu”,by his contemporaries at the Katsina Training College including the charismatic Alhaji Ahmadu Bello(1909-1966),GCON, the Sardauna of Sokoto and the Premier of the defunct Northern Region and the late Dr. Abubakar Imam(1911-1981),a member of the Dr. Azikwe’s led West African Press delegation to London in 1943 and the pioneer Editor of Gaskiya tafi kwobo, was the most learned(in western education) indigene of Ilorin Emirate from 1948,when he bagged a Diploma in Local Government Administration from the University of London and 1955,when the Emirate produced its first University graduate and incidentally the first Lawyer from the whole of the Northern Nigeria in Alhaji Abdulganiyu Folorunsho AbdulRasaq.

From 1957 to 1960, Alhaji Alanamu served as the Recruitment Secretary of the erstwhile Northern Region, a position which was similar to the Chairmanship of the modern day Civil Service Commission. While holding that office, Alhaji Alanamu assisted many of his younger compatriots from Ilorin Emirate to secure appointments and even ensured their career progression in the Public Service of the erstwhile Northern Nigeria.

That unforgettable son of Ilorin was also the Agent-General(Ambassador) of Northern Nigeria to the United Kingdom between 1960 and 1963. He eventually retired from the regular public service as the Managing Director of the Nigerian Produce Marketing Company in 1968.He retired as the highest paid public official in Nigeria.

Alhaji Alanamu, who succeeded Mallam Muhammadu Gobir as the Waziri of Ilorin from 1979 to 1996,was the only individual who was privileged to play very critical and decisive roles in the selection and acessesion of three succeeding Emirs of Ilorin in 1959,1992 and 1995. He remains the only person who would be so privileged in the history of the two centuries old Ilorin Emirate. He gloriously died as the 2nd Waziri,the 9th Balogun Alanamu and the Balogun Agba of Ilorin.

Alhaji Zulukarnaini Gambari Muhammad(1914-1992), the penultimate Emir of Ilorin and the father to the incumbent, was also a product of the institution. He was a pupil of the school between 1930 and 1933. His contributions as a Judicial official, businessman and political activist at the provincial level; as well as been the Emir of Ilorin, between 1959 and 1992 during which the community was irreversibly transformed, would forever remain indellible in the annals of the community. He was a Minister without portfolio in the erstwhile Northern Region and a foremost traditional ruler who was well-venerated across the length and breadth of Nigeria.

The tenth Emir of Ilorin, Mallam Aliyu Abdulkadir(1918-1995) was another fascinating product of the School. His reign as the District Head of Bode Saadu in the Moro Local Government Area of Kwara State from 1956 to 1992 was exemplary in the application of the principle and practice of modern public administration and most especially in rural governance. He contributed greatly to the promotion of the bond of unity between the people inhabiting the city of Ilorin and their brothers in the hinterlands.His appointment as the Emir of Ilorin and Chairman, Kwara State Council of Chiefs between 1992 and 1995 also secured him a very remarkable position in the history of Ilorin as not only its shortest reigning Monarch but also one of the most admired Emirs of Ilorin.

Among the most celebrated alumni of the school was also the late General AbdulBaki Babatunde Idiagbon(1943-1999).General Idiagbon, an outstanding statesman,colourful political figure,apostle of decency and brave soldier, who served as the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters(Deputy Head of State/Vice-President) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, from January, 1984 to August 27,1985,was educated at the school between 1953 and 1957.That exemplary soldier was a classmate to Alhaji Yinusa Gada,a former National President of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union and Hajiya Maymunat Oniyangi,the pioneer Principal of Government Girls Secondary School,Okesuna,Ilorin, and they were taught, among others,by Alhaji Amuda Ahmed Gobir at the school.

The institution was also one of the intellectual factories from where the baking of the first Ilorin-born democratically elected Governor of Kwara State, the late Admiral Muhammad Adebayo Alabi Lawal(1946-2006)was carried-out.Governor Lawal was the first Kwaran to attain the feat of Admiral rank in the Nigerian Navy. He earlier served as the Military Governor of Ogun State from 1988 to 1990.

Prof. Shuaib Oba AbdulRaheem, OFR(b 1947),who also attended the famous school, is also the first indigene of Ilorin to serve as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin and indeed any University.He did so between 1997 and 2002. His sterling performances as the Chief Executive of the institution earned him the title of the father of the modern University of Ilorin as would be remembered for laying the foundation of the exceptionally-fascinating record of the institution as the nation’s most peaceful and sought-after University.This patriotic academic-turned-Politician also made the record as the first Muslim to preside-over the affairs of the University of Ilorin as its Chief Executive.Prof. AbdulRaheem, who is also the first Talba of Ilorin, is also the first and the only Nigerian so far who had the privilege of serving twice as the Executive Chairman of the Federal Character Commission.

Another prominent individual who attended the school in his formative years is Hon. Justice Saliu Modibbo Alfa Belgore(b.1937) C ON;GCON. He was a pupil of the school between 1944 and 1948. This great son of Ilorin served as the Chief Justice of Nigeria from 2006 to 2007.He was the first occupant of the enviable office from the North-Central Region. He remains a Member of the National Council of States.

The longest-serving Chief Judge of the Federal High Court- Justice Mahmud Babatunde Belgore (1936-2010) also started his educational career at the same school. He was a pupil of the school from 1940 to 1944. He was the second indigene of Ilorin to qualify as a Lawyer and the first indigene of Kwara State and Northern Nigeria to sit on the bench of any arm of the Federal Judiciary.

The school also produced several other individuals who attained remarkable status in life. They included the late Dr. Abdulkadir Salman Oniyangi, OFR,(1935-2020), a distinguished Medical Doctor and seasoned technocrat,who was the Secretary to the Military Government of Kwara State between 1984 and 1985.This particular patriot was a National Commissioner of the Independent Electoral Commission(INEC)between 2010 and 2015 ,which creditably conducted an election that resulted , for the first time,in a peaceful transition from one political party to the other in the chequered history of Nigeria.

Alhaji Saka Alesinloye(1933-2007),- a veteran journalist, outstanding public relations guru and the penultimate Baba-Isale of Ilorin,also passed through the school as a pupil in the early 1940s. The late Alhaji Alesinloye served as the Chief Press Secretary to both General Murtala Ramat Mohammed and General Olusegun Obasanjo during their tenure as Heads of State between 1975 and 1976 and from 1976 to 1977,respectively.He was also a pupil of the Okesuna School along with his cousin, the late Alhaji Ibrahim Adelodun Yusuf(1933-2008).The late wordsmith and publicist later established the first private Public Relations firm in Nigeria,Public Affairs Consultancy, after his disengagement from the civil service.

Shaykh AbdulRahman Temim,a cleric, jurist and preacher, who was the Grand Mukadam of Ilorin between 2008 and 2009,also attended the school.He was a pupil of the school in the early 1940s.

A retired senior official of the Nigeria Immigration Service,Alhaji Afolabi Yusuf and his wife, Alhaja Halimat Ajoke Yusuf,OON,a teacher and community leader,who served as the Honourable Commissioner for Education in Kwara State, also attended the school.The two were there in the 1950s. Alhaji Abdulmumini AbdulMalik, a retired Assistant Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service; Dr. Ahmed Funsho Ameen, who served as the Executive Secretary of the Kwara State Scholarship Board;Pharmacist AbdulRaheem Zubair,who later read Law, and the 5th Grand Khadi of Kwara State, Hon.Justice S. O. Mohammad, were also among celebrated products of the school who graduated from the institution in 1965.

Alhaji Musa Ubandawaki, a seasoned journalist, who is currently in the employ of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, and Dr. Funsho Yusuf,who works with Shell Petroleum at Port- Harcourt,are among hundreds of pupils of the school who received their first School Leaving Certificate from the historic institution in the 1970s.

Engr. Ali Temim,a high-ranking employee of the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company;Dr. Tajudeen Sanni, a teacher of Law at the University of Uganda and Dr. Safiya Sanni of the Kwara State Ministry of Health, are some of those who received their primary education at the school in the 1980s.

The school has equally produced thousands of other alumni who are too numerous to be mentioned.Many of them are today operating far and near within and outside Nigeria as distinguished men and women. Among them are several Medical Doctors, hundreds of Engineers, innumerable Lawyers, thousands of business tycoons, several loyal military and exemplary para-military personnel, high-ranking politicians,fascinating teachers,countless conscientious clerics and a great number of polished technorats, to mention a few,who have attained positions of eminence in their various callings .

The questions you would permit me to ask are: how many of the successful products of the school either identified with it or have their children and wards enlisted as pupils in the school? If there are none or just a few, why is it so? Do we need to say that if the services offered in the school in the 1940s were so poor and unreliable Mallam Muhammadu Gobir and his likes would have enrolled their children in their alma mater?Can the school,as it is constituted at the moment, produce the calibre of alumni earlier enumerated?

The reality of the situation is that the school and its like across our constituency and beyond have been unjustifiably abandoned and unreasonably neglected by those who are constitutionally empowered to maintain and run them. The abandonment of Okesuna and similar institutions by stakeholders is a serious disservice to our history and the overall development of the country.

If that is so, must we fold our harms and do nothing? I think we should not,even if we would not take “the comforts of our eyes” to the school and its kind. Parents who have no other choice than to enrol their children there are also free born and worthy citizens of this great country who also deserve the kind of quality life we are securing for ourselves and our children.

We must, therefore, emulate the kind dispositions of Waziri Kasar Hausa,Alhaji Yakubu Layi Gobir,whose foundation was reported to have announced its decision to commit a whooping N100 Millions Naira to the development of the school attended and served by his illustrious forebears.

Others who are so blessed should also take the interests of the children of the “common people so much loved by God that He created them in millions”into consideration by ensuring that they receive the best possible form of qualitative education at minimum cost and in the most conducive atmosphere as they did when they were younger.

This suggestion is important for the future of this country and most especially for the security of those we are obtaining huge loans to educate. If we leave the innocent children of the poor to their fate, they would,at the end of the day,visit their anger on those we love and the consequences may be more pernicious and fatal than what is currently being experienced in the Northeast.

While it is important to impress it upon the government at all levels to ensure that everything is done to preserve the shining heritage that the school represents, it will also not be out of place to remind all the well-to-do alumni of the school and similar public-owned institutions to assist their alma mata materially and otherwise. This is to enable those institutions to produce more people of high quality as the heroes earlier mentioned among its present and future generations for the greater development of our community and the Nigerian society as a whole.

Imam is the National Publicity Secretary of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union.

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