Niyi Aremu: Ilorin River Basin’s M.D. @50

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By Abubakar Imam

Ilorin Emirate is indeed a blessed entity. It is a glorious polity as it remains an epicentre of progress in Nigeria. Check the annals of Nigeria from the time immemorial; most especially since its political independence, you will always find, see and feel the impact of Ilorin; a place that is either referred to as Garin Alimi or Ilorin Afonja, in the nation’s march to greatness!

Those of us who have a genuine claim to its citizenship are, in fact, very fortunate because those who preceded us had really worked hard to give us lasting legacies in scholarship, traditional technology, diplomacy, commerce, administration and what have you. They have left no stone unturned in order for the present and future generations to find things easier than they experienced.

Our forebears were and are also fortunate because the generations of patriots who took the batons from them have not really disappointed them. I say this with all sense of history and modesty. Take an excursion into our history and you will agree with me that the building of Ilorin Emirate over the last two centuries was shouldered by people from all age grades. I hope and pray that I or someone else will one day have the opportunity to remind us of those stimulating phases of our history.

While we honour and appreciate the contributions of the ”agbalagbas” amongst us on their milestones,it is also dutiful if we celebrate the ”omokekeres” too as it is often said that “Omode gbon agba gbon ni aafi da Ile-Ife”.It is in the light of the above that I am dedicating this piece to the celebration of a “really young” man, Dr.Adeniyi Saheed Aremu, as he marks his golden anniversary birthday on Friday, July 10, 2020. There is no doubt that he and his achievements are worthy of being celebrated. This is particularly dutiful of yours sincerely because,despite the inclemency of the current situation of things in our country, one can still find a contemporary of mine doing well for himself and his community as the Chief Executive of a Federal Government-owned establishment.

But some people would ask about what is unusual in the accomplishments of this birthday boy; most especially for and in a community that has produced a Vice-President of Nigeria, in 1984,- late General AbdulBaki Babatunde Idiagbon (1943-1999) at the age of 40;the first Minister of the Federal Republic in 1964; Alhaji A.G.F.AbdulRazq, SAN, OFR (b.1927) at the age of 37; its first Permanent Secretary, in 1962, in person of late Alhaji Yusuf Amuda Gobir, OFR,(1934-1975) at the age of 28 and the nation’s first Senate Leader, in 1979, late Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki (1933-2012) at the age of 46.The tendency is also there to dismiss this attempt with the argument that Ilorin had its first Chief Executive of a State of the federation in 1975, through Major-General Abdullahi Mohammed(b.1939) when the statesman was just 36 years of age; its youngest elected Governor, in 2003, in Dr.Abubakar Bukola Saraki,CON(b.1962),at the age of 41; and its first Vice-Chancellor, in 1997,through Prof.Shuaibu Oba AbdulRaheem, OFR,(b.1947),at the age of 50; and of course, its Islamic intellectual wonder-boy, in 1922, through Shaykh Muhammad Kamaluddeen Al-Adabiyy, MFR,OFR,(1905-2005) when the late sage was just 17 years of age, to mention but just a few of the scintillating achievements of our illustrious predecessors during their youthful ages!!

Yes,success at a young age is not so unusual or extraordinary in our annals as recalled above.But giving consideration to the present “gloomy situation” at which many of our people are yet to know “odo ti won a da orunla si” even at 40 plus and when many in their 50s are depressed with the recent decision of the National Assembly to put a stop to the plan of the executive arm of the Federal Government to provide a three months palliative temporary jobs for the dregs of the youths , I think it is worthy of celebration when one comes across young men and women who are excelling. This is particularly more worthy when such individuals are products of humble backgrounds. Doing this, I believe; would convince the upcoming ones that no matter how saturated the political economy of our dear country may be those who are determined and industrious amongst them would always succeed.

Dr. Adeniyi Saheed Aremu, a seasoned Engineer, thorough academic, prolific administrator and remarkable community leader, was born in Kaduna, the headquarters of the defunct Northern Region, on July 10,1970. His father, who hailed from the popular Aganni Compound in the Popo-Giwa area of Ilorin, was Mallam Rasak Aremu, the pioneer professional journalist from Ilorin Emirate and ex-Editor-in-Chief of the once vibrant kaduna-based New Nigerian Newspaper at the zenith of its glorious past,while his mother was the recently-deceased Alhaja Rihanat Aduke Aremu.

To those of us who are not quite familiar with Popo-Giwa, the ancestral home of the forebears of this celebrant, the sub-community is located behind Ajikobi area of Ilorin, one of the six traditional political wards constituting Ilorin. Parts of Popo-Giwa, however, fall within the province of the Balogun Alanamu traditional political ward. The sub-community is unevenly and artificially segmented into two by the street,which passes through it from Ajikobi Road near Ita-Ogunbo bursting into Kamaldeen Street at Abemi on the road leading to the popular Pakata Roundabout. Popo-Giwa sub-community has produced, apart from the father to this birthday boy, who had earlier been identified as the first professional media practitioner of Ilorin Emirate origin, eminent personalities like Pa Jimoh Omo-Ekun, who erected the first storey building in Ilorin during the reign of Oba Suleiman(1896-1915); Shaykh Muhammad Bello Ajongolo (d.1918), one of the extremely celebrated Muslim preachers of Ilorin origin; His Excellency Ambassador Audu Ayinla Kadiri , who recently retired after a most successful career in foreign service and international diplomacy; a renowned Ogbomosho-based business tycoon,Alhaji Nageri Alao of blessed memory; and Dr.Musa Abdullahi, the fourth Provost, Kwara State College of Arabic and Islamic Legal Studies, Ilorin to mention but a few of the Popo-Giwa’s leading-lights.

Dr. Aremu began his “real life” as a pupil of a local Quranic school where he was inculcated with the intricacies of reading and recitation of the Holy Quran as it was and still common among the good people of Ilorin Emirate. As he was pursuing his traditional Quranic studies, the young Adeniyi also enrolled as a pupil of the Airforce Primary School, Kaduna, where he started his formal education between 1977 and 1981. The retirement of his late father from the New Nigerian Newspapers(NNN) in 1979 as the publication’s “Chief Gate-Keeper” brought young Adeniyi home. He was subsequently enrolled as a pupil of the Trinity Nursery and Primary School, Ilorin, where he schooled from 1981 to 1983 at the end of which he came out as the 2nd Best Graduating Student.

In September, 1983, this illustrious son of Ilorin Emirate was admitted into the famous Government High School, Ilorin, a school that was earlier established in 1967 by Alhaji Abdulganiyu Folorunsho AbdulRasaq,SAN,OFR,the first Northern Nigerian Lawyer and father to the incumbent Governor of Kwara State, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq. It was from that school that he earned his West African School Certificate in flying colours in 1988. His contemporaries at the school included Dr.Muyideen Shuaib Eleyinla, a Port-Harcourt-based accomplished Veterinary Doctor; Air Commodore AbdulRasaq Olarewaju of the Nigerian Airforce and Engr.Uthman Ishaq Apo,who is based at Port-Harcourt.Others are Dr.Abdulmumeen Ahmed,a Consultant with the Federal Medical Centre,Abeokuta; Colonel Oba Agbabiaka of the Nigerian Army and,of course,Hajiya Aminat Ibrahim Oniye, a top-notch of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company,who graduated from the school two years ahead of the birthday boy,to mention but a few.

Like other folks in some parts of Ilorin,particularly the segment the locals call Okemale, Niyi, as he is fondly called by his friends and contemporaries, was exposed to the erstwhile booming indigenous craft of Aso Oke weaving, a vocation he was actively engaged in between 1983 and 1998.It was through that venture that he assisted his late mother to get himself through his education following the earlier death of his father.

For his university education, Dr. Aremu proceeded to the then Ondo State University (now University of Ado-Ekiti), Ado-Ekiti, where he was trained as a Civil Engineer between 1990 and 1998.He left the severally renamed institution with a Second Class(Upper Division) degree. He also attended the premier University of Ibadan,Ibadan, Oyo State, for his Master’s degree in Civil Engineering , which he pursued and successfully accomplished between 2000 and 2003.As a brilliant scholar and academic, Dr. Aremu received the prestigious United States Fulbright Award in 2009,which took him to “the God’s own country” for the concluding part of his Ph.D in Water and Environmental Engineering, which he bagged in 2011. A year after he earned his Ph.D, he was awarded the INSA JRD-TATA Post- Doc Fellowship administered by the Centre for International Cooperation in Science (CICS), India, to study and conduct research at the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur, India.

This unassuming teacher had earlier commenced his brilliant working career as an academic staff of the University of Ilorin, which he joined as a Graduate Assistant in May,1999. He was among those qualified, competent and enterprising Almajri (apologies to Prof.Lasiele Alabi Yahaya) “herded” into the services of the better by far institution by its “phenomenal Vice-Chancellor” ,Prof.S.O.AbdulRaheem during his ephocal era of service at the University,which lasted between 1997 and 2002.

Dr.Aremu’s characteristic effective teaching, profound researches on contemporary developments in his discipline and related ones as well as several exciting community development services, which he offered as a staff of University of Ilorin, propelled his steady career progression in the services of the foremost institution. He competently and steadily rose through the ranks to his present status of an Associate Professor at the Department of Water Resources and Environmental Engineering in September, 2016.

Prior to his current appointment as the Managing Director/Chief Executive of the Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority, Ilorin, Dr. Aremu has held several appointments at the University of Ilorin. He was the pioneer Head of the Department of Water Resources and Environmental Engineering when the Department was created in 2013. He also served as a Level Adviser and Departmental Examination Coordinator, to mention a few.

Dr. Aremu also served as the Coordinator, National Water Resources Capacity Building Network, North-Central Region from 2015 to 2017. The Centre is charged with the coordination of water-related issues in Kwara, Kogi, Niger, Benue, Nasarawa and Plateau States as well as the FCT , Abuja. He has also been the Secretary to the Forum of Managing Directors of River Basin Development Authorities in Nigeria since 2017.

During his days as a student,Dr.Aremu was a functional and prominent Member of the Ilorin Emirate Students Union, where he served as National Vice President (South West). He is a well-regarded Member of the Popo-Giwa Development Association. His love for his community also informed his services as the Secretary of the Ilorin Emirate Staff Association, University of Ilorin, between 2015 and 2017.Yours sincerely can also vouch for his “vigorous-passive-membership” of the umbrella socio-cultural organisation of the people of Ilorin Emirate, the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union (IEDPU),as he has always found time to attend most of the activities and functions of the Union most especially since I became it’s Spokesman. He is also a Member of the Proselytes Club under the Chairmanship of Dr.Ilyas AbdulRasaq,an highranking academic staff of the Federal University, Dutsnma,Katsina State.

Dr. Aremu,despite his ongoing serious engagements outside the classroom and laboratory, is a well-grounded and published scholar. Prior to his present appointment, he has taught and supervised several Masters and undergraduate students in various aspects of Civil/Environmental Engineering.

He has also made several presentations related to his area of expertise, and has over 40 articles to his credit in refered home-based, national and international journals as well as scholarly contributions yielding three textbooks. He has attended no fewer than 15 training sessions and about 20 conferences, workshops and seminars,within and outside Nigeria, which broadened his professional horizons, sharpened his intellectual wherewithal and enhanced his administrative capacities.

In terms of private professional practice, Dr.Aremu,whose immediate elder brother,Mr. Kayode Aremu, was recently appointed as the General Manager of Radio Kwara,Ilorin ,has worked as a Consultant to several governmental and non-governmental organisations. He has also served as a resource person to several organisations including COREN, NESREA, institutions of higher learning, Regional Centre for Integrated River Basin Management and the Ministry of Environment. He is currently a member of the Sector Working Team of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Abuja.

This easy-going scholar and practitioner of engineering; who is likely to say who asks this guy for this; is also a member of several professional organisations. He is a Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers as well as a Council Member of the Council of the Regulations of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN).

Dr. Aremu, who is the third and probably the youngest son of Ilorin Emirate to serve as the Chief Executive of the Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority, Ilorin; and one of those upcoming leaders of our community worthy of emulation for his personal successes and contributions to the greatness of Ilorin Emirate. He is happilly married and blessed with children.

Once again, I join other friends and well-wishers of this promising Ilorite to say: happy birthday and many happy returns of the day.

Imam is National Publicity Secretary, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union

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