By Abubakar Imam
This life that we live in is a complex phenomenon. It is an exceptional theatre of absurdities; yet a home to all sorts of incongruities.
No one, no matter how brilliant, meticulous and intelligent he is; can perfectly understand its complexity! No matter what you do, how excellent you do it and notwithstanding the degree of decency and integrity deployed into any human and even humane effort; some people are bound to be displeased with its entirety or part of it for no reasonable reasons!!
My foray into the celebration of some of our distinguished compatriots is vigorously being run down in some Quarters. Some of the critics think the Writer uses it to promote those he celebrates for political reasons. A few others think he does so for a fee! He was even declared a favour seeker by a few virulent critics!! So bad that he was even removed, albeit, temporarily from an Ilorin Emirate-centred WhatsApp platform for having the temerity of posting his last publication there at a particular time!!!
Despite the position of Islam that speculation is not only injurious to the victims but also pernicious to the peddlers, some of us still believe that doing so was their birth right.
But what brings me happiness is that the little I do is appreciated most by those who matter. The growing community of intelligentsia of Ilorin Emirate evidently appreciate it the same way upcoming ones find them plausible. What’s more, many of our surviving elder statesmen find my interventions pleasant.This conclusion is based on the magnitude and calibre of “well-done” messages I repeatedly receive from some of the most distinguished members of our community based at home and in diaspora; many of whom I have never met. The number of “go on sohun” I received far overwhelmed the voices of naysayers.
May I,however, make it abundantly clear that my irreversible decision to take-up this genre of writing, as a pastime, is not out of joblessness. It is informed by patriotism. It was planted in me by my late father, Mallam Jimoh Pakata(1931-2012), who insisted that my education would be incomplete if I do not know about and relate my little knowledge as much as possible with my community and those who constitute it. It was further imposed on me by the parochial and objectionable dismissal of the Ilorin cultural practices and the repeated inelegant experiences of our illustrious forebears as perennial victims of stereotypes and mudslinging in the hands of the South-West Media or Lagos-Ibadan Press. As if that was not enough,the domineering segment of the Nigerian Media once enormously propagated the description of the pioneer Chief Judge of Kwara State and an ex-Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria,the late Honourable Justice Saidu Kawu,CON,(1928-2013), among other prominent leaders and elders of Ilorin Emirate; including His Royal Highness, the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji(Dr.)Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, CFR, in the most ignoble and uncharitable manners,which I should be permitted not to recall here.
It was way back in 1994 that I decided that my charity must start at home. That I will not only struggle to emulate those legendary “dairis” but would always celebrate them for whoever read my works to know that Ilorin Emirate may not have hundreds of billionaires or fascinating mineral resources, as rightly observed many years ago by the renowned uncrowned King of Ilorin Waka ,Mallam Dodo Agbarere(d. 1978), when he sang that Ilorin o ni Cocoa Be ni o ni Obi.Asiri Ola to Nbo konitu .Yes, we neither have Cocoa or yet to have any mineral resource discovered or extracted beneath the soil of the Emirate,but what we lack in those variables are available in precious human resources who should be celebrated.
This decision is further energised by my election as the National Publicity Secretary of the umbrella sociocultural organisation of the good people of Ilorin Emirate. It, therefore, beholds that if I do not promote the image of the people of Ilorin, who will?
The subject of this piece and one of those who are “faithful and loyal” to the cause of Ilorin Emirate, to which I have also elected to advance, is Alhaji Saka Atagisoro Salman, a distinguished Economist, seasoned technocrat and remarkable community leader; who celebrates his 64th birthday today, Friday (August 21,2020). He is one of those who deserve to be celebrated for their accomplishments and contributions. This birthday boy was brought to this life and as a son of the southernmost Emirate at a rural community called Igbesa in the present-day Ogun State on August 21,1956.
Alhaji Salman is a Member of the popular Atagisoro family of the Agaka Quarters, the commercial nerve centre of the traditional segment of Ilorin. His father was Mallam Salman Woli Atagisoro, an itinerant trader of Kolanut while his mother was Alhaja Bedau, a daughter to the equally reputable Opobiyi family of Agbaji Quarters and an aunt to that distinguished technocrat, prominent politician and second republic Commissioner in Kwara State, Alhaji Saka Opobiyi. His late parents chose Igbesa in the present-day Ogun State as the centre of their businesses and so well that they established and operated their successful businesses there to the extent that they even had some of their children, including this birthday boy while sojourning in the place located in a region their compatriots derive pleasure in describing as “Ile Igbo”.
Young Saka, who was eventually raised at his maternal home at Opobiyi Compound in Agbaji, where he was known and addressed as Saka Atagisoro, as a result of the demise of his father while he was still very young, studied the Holy Quran as a kindergarten at Ile-Kewu Babasare in the heart of Agbaji. It was at that traditional Quranic school that he was tutored in and acquired the basic skills of reading the Holy Quran. He was also inculcated with rudimentary knowledge of Islam blended with the knowledge of the specific culture of the land of his forebears, which made him who he is; a devout Muslim, a committed indigene of Ilorin and an exemplary citizen of Nigeria.
As he was being trained at the Quranic school in line with the cultural nuances of Ilorin Emirate, Alhaji Salman was enrolled at the famous Ansarul Islam Primary School, Okemale,Ilorin. His enrollment was effected by the same Alhaji Saka Opobiyi, who was the first western educated member of the birthday boy’s maternal family. Alhaji Salman was educated at the school between 1963 and 1969 at the end of which he received his First School Leaving Certificate. His classmates at the school included the current National President of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union and the first Ilorin man to retire as a Director at the Department of State Services, Alhaji Aliyu Otta Uthman, fsi; the immediate past National Secretary of the IEDPU, Prof.Abubakar Sidiq Mohammed Afunku; a retired topnotch of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board Alhaji Yahaya Ishola; and the Danmasani of Ilorin, Engr. Suleiman Ayinde Yahaya(Oba Alapansanpa),FNSE; and of course, the immediate past and longest-serving Secretary to the Government of Kwara State Alhaji Sola Isiaka Gold,to mention a few. His set was evidently one of the very best produced by the 73 year old first Muslim missionary school in Ilorin Emirate, which was established by the legendary pioneer Grand Mufti of Ilorin, Shaykh Muhammad Kamaluddeen Habibulahi Al-Adabiyy, MFR,OFR,ORSA(1905-2005).
Alhaji Salman was among the few of his primary school mates,who,as a result of their fascinating performances in the common entrance examinations, was privileged to be admitted into the premier secondary school in Kwara State-the Government Secondary School, Ilorin. He was educated at the school between 1970 to 1974 for the accomplishment of his West African School Certificate course, which he earned in brilliant colours. It was at the school that he was nicknamed “Napoleon”. His contemporaries at the centenarian school included the Danmasani of Ilorin, Engr. Suleiman Ayinde Yahaya;Dr.Olayaju Yekini,an Ilorin-based medical practitioner; Prof.AbdulKareem Yakubu Gobir of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; and the Chief Judge of Kwara State, Hon.
Justice Suleiman Durosinlorun Kawu.
The next port of call of this illustrious son of Ilorin Emirate was the School of Basic Studies of the then Kwara State College of Technology(now Kwara State Polytechnic) Ilorin, where he did his IJMB/Advanced Level Cambridge University Moderated programme in the three subject-combination of Economics, Government and Mathematics. He successfully ran and accomplished the pre-university programme between 1976 and 1978.
In September 1978, Alhaji Salman was admitted into the premier University of Ibadan,Ibadan, for a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics. He graduated from that prestigious institution of higher learning in 1981 after a rigorous academic training received from some of the most distinguished academics Nigeria has ever produced. He was a contemporary of a former Deputy Vice-Chancellor(Management Services) of the University of Ilorin, Prof. Adedayo Yusuf AbdulKareem; the Medical Director of Surulere Hospital, Ilorin, Prof. Rabiu Balogun; the Medical Director, Ilorin Clinics and Maternity, Oloje-Ilorin, Dr.Abdulganiyu Abdulbaki; the Medical Director, Arewa Hospital, Ilorin, Dr. Oba AbdulRaheem; and a former Commissioner of Lands and Housing in Kwara State,Dr.Bayo Ishola as well as a distinguished scholar of Veterinary Medicine, the late Prof. Saka Baba.
This seasoned technocrat was also trained at the globally renowned Institute of Social Studies,The Hague, Netherlands, from 1986 to 1987.The postgraduate programme,which was sponsored by the defunct European Economic Community (now European Union) eventuated in his conferment with Master’s degree in Public Policy and Administration.
Alhaji Salman had earlier started his exposure to public service as a Member of the National Youth Service Corps. He offered the mandatory youth service at the Federal Government College, Azare, Bauchi State. His NYSC programme ran between July,1981 and June,1982, which afforded him the opportunity of interacting and establishing lasting friendly relationships with his contemporaries in the unifying programme from other parts of this heterogeneous nation-state.
Shortly after the completion of his youth service, this illustrious son of Ilorin Emirate joined the Federal Public Service as an Assistant Secretary. He was consequently posted to the defunct Federal Ministry of Housing and Environment on October 20,1982. He worked as such for three years.
In December, 1985, he was posted to the then newly established Federal Ministry of Works and Housing. At the Ministry, he served as a Senior Assistant Secretary, a position he maintained till he was appointed as the Assistant Secretary to the Presidential Committee on the Drafting of a new National Housing Policy for Nigeria in January, 1986.
Following his return from The Hague, he was appointed a Principal Assistant Secretary in-charge of Planning, Research and Statistics at the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing. He held the office between 1988 and 1992.
From 1992 to 2000, this outstanding patriot was the Organising Secretary of the National Council on Works and Housing. He manned the Secretariat of the Council, which was and still a forum at which Honourable Commissioners for Works and Housing from all the States of the federation and the Honourable Minister of Works and Housing meet on periodic basis to review strategies and policies related to works and housing matters and associated concerns in Nigeria.
Alhaji Salman served at the Secretariat of the strategic Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Committee under the Chairmanship of a former Minister of National Planning, the late Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi. He worked with the Committee, which was saddled with the responsibilities of fixing and monitoring strict adherence to the official prices of petroleum products in Nigeria from January to December, 2001.
This prolific technocrat also served as the Personal Assistant to the then Permanent Secretary, Service Welfare Office,Office of the Head of Service of the Federation(OHSF) from January, 2002 to December, 2003. He was,thereafter, promoted to the rank of Chief Administrative Officer and subsequently posted to the Federal Ministry of Sports and Social Welfare,where he served from January and December, 2004.
In January, 2006, he was elevated to the rank of Assistant Director. He served as the Assistant Director (Parastatals) in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation(OSGF) from January, 2006 and November, 2009.
He was, thereafter, seconded to the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency as an Assistant General Manager (Human Resources) in November, 2009. He was later elevated to the exalted rank of General Manager. As the General Manager, he was placed in-charge of Planning, Budgeting and Alternative Energy Department of the Agency from 2011 to 2016.
While in service and at various times, this illustrious son of Ilorin Emirate took advantage of many opportunities to broaden his knowledge and professionalism. He attended several courses locally and abroad. He was at the prestigious Administrative Staff College of Nigeria (ASCON),Topo,Badagry on a number of occasions for various career enhancing programmes. He also attended an International Strategic Management Course organised by the Business Education Examination Council, Dubai, United Arab Emirate in 2008.He also attended a Professional Studies in Strategic Leadership at Albion College, London Graduate School, London; United Kingdom, in 2012. He also went on an MBA workshop put together by the American Management Association, New York City, United States of America, among several other overseas programmes from which Alhaji Salman benefitted.
Alhaji Salman is a Member of many professional organisations. He is a functional Member of the Nigerian Economic Society (NES). He is also a distinguished Member of the Nigerian Institute of Personnel Management (NIPM) and the Institute of Corporate Administration of Nigeria (ICAN),among others.
Despite his scintillating successes in his career, Alhaji Salman remains a grassroot man who maintains close interactions with others at family and community levels. He is a Member of the Third Estate,a sociocultural organisation peopled by some selected distinguished professionals of Ilorin Emirate. He is also a Member of the Ilorin Anchor Men and Women,among other associations he fraternises with.
Available records suggest that ,prior to his retirement from public service, he assisted many of his younger compatriots into the federal public service. Many of those he influenced their employments are today members of staff of different Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government. He was also said to have offered empowerment to many of his lessprivileged compatriots through provision of capital for their businesses, trades and other forms of entrepreneurial engagement as well as rendering financial assistance of various sums at different times to the needy, which assisted many of such categories of people to pull through their academic endeavours at secondary and tertiary levels over the years.
His most significant contributions are,however, in his being a model personality and unofficial counsellor who directly and indirectly motivated his younger compatriots to aim higher in learning and consequent professional careers. He did that through offer of unsolicited encouragement and interventions at the most critical junctures of their lives.
This great patriot,who is married and blessed with four adorable children, retired from the federal public service on August 21, 2016 after a very eventful, fruitful and engaging 34 years of meritorious career in the services of his fatherland.
May I,therefore, join all the relations, friends and colleagues of Alhaji Saka Atagisoro Salman in wishing him a very joyful, fruitful and eventful birthday. I also wish him very many more peaceful, healthy and prosperous years and decades ahead in the services of the Almighty Allah and humanity and most especially his beloved Ilorin Emirate community.
Imam is National Publicity Secretary, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union.