By Abubakar Imam
“If L.A.K does not make any other contribution apart from this book,his place in the history of Ilorin Emirate is already assured”.
-Mallam Jimoh Pakata(1931-2012)
The second week of November,2020 is not and would not be like any other,at least, across Ilorin Emirate. A date in the forthcoming week would be extraordinary.Two very important events are scheduled to hold therein. The events are also unique. They are the celebrations of two of the Ilorin Emirate’s living legends.
While one of the events has been repeatedly announced,the other may not enjoy as much celebration. Yet,it is very significant.The first is the celebration of the silver jubilee of the official installation of His Royal Highness, the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji(Dr)Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, CFR. The other, is the 80th birthday of a foremost community leader, intellectual per excellence and towering political figure, Alhaji Lasisi Ayinla Kolawole Jimoh.
The celebration of the date humanity and the Ilorin Emirate community in particular was blessed with the coming into earthly life of a son who was named AbdulAzeez is quite significant because of the role in community development, which the celebrant entrusts on himself. It may not be surprising to see those who are born and raised in their ancestral homesteads taking-up the “thankless” responsibilities of community development. It is somehow unusual when one comes across someone who was given birth to or raised elsewhere doing everything humanly possible to project, protect, promote and preserve the heritage and corporate essence of the lands of his forebears, like no other.
Such tendencies are particularly congrous in the case of Ilorin, a situation,which informs its description as “a land of mystery”, considering the fact that the real custodians of its history, promoters of its peculiarities, and torch-bearers of its heritage who sometime symbolise the best of the Emirate in their different callings , are either indigenes born or raised outside Ilorin Emirate. Of particular reference in this category of outstanding patriots is the author of the famous book on the history of Ilorin,” Ilorin:The Journey So Far” , Alhaji L. A. K. Jimoh. This birthday boy incidentally shares the same phenomenal attributes, patriotic fervours and career dispositions with distinguished individuals like the late Commissioner of Police, Abdulsalam Ebun Agbabiaka,who was the first and only Ajiroba of Ilorin; the late Sheikh Adam Abdullahi Al-Ilory(1917-1992),the late Dr.Abubakar Olusola Saraki(1933-2012),the late Prof.Shehu Ahmad Jimoh,OON(1944-2014), the late Justice Mustapha Akanbi,CFR(1932-2018), the late Alhaji Shafi Ajibola Jimba(1942-2017),the late Alhaji Abdulganiyu Folorunsho Abdulrasaq SAN, OFR(1927-2020) and the late Alhaji Shafi, to mention a few. These outstanding patriots, like Alhaji Jimoh, neither had their childhood in Ilorin nor really knew much about the city until they became adults. Yet, no member of their respective generations advanced the cause of Ilorin as much as they did in their different areas of interests.
Alhaji Lasisi Ayinla Kolawole Jimoh,who was the 6th National President and the 6th National Secretary of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union, is an accomplished public servant, trained Political Scientist,seasoned politician and a tireless community leader, whose involvement in the study and writing of the history of Ilorin appears to have completely overshadowed other aspects of his exciting career.
Born in Ilorin on November 11,1940,his father was the late Alfa Mohammadu Jimoh Olarewaju(d.1962), a contemporary to the famous Shaykh AbdulRahman Alabidun (d.1948), while his mother was the late Alhaja Hassanat Abike (d.2004). His parents were from Ariwonka family of Masankore Quarters, Gambari area, Ilorin. His father was originally a member of the Okubiyi family, Okekere Quarters, Ilorin,whose progenitor, Muhammad Sanni, was said to be an itinerant Fulani muslim scholar who migrated from around Konta,near Ijabe along the present-day Offa-Osogbo Highway to Ilorin with the great grandfather of Alkali Saadu Okubiyi, probably during the reign of the second Emir of Ilorin,Shaykh Muhammadu Shitta ibn Alimi. His father(celebrant’s) was said to have relocated to Mansakore Quarters to live with his own maternal family due to the proximity of Gambari to where he(the father) was earning his means of livelihood.
This distinguished elder statesman had his childhood at Calabar ,the capital of the present-day Cross River State,where his father sojourned as a trader and muslim cleric, following his retirement from the services of the Colonial Railways. He had joined in the construction of rail line when the service was extended to Ilorin from Lagos about 1903. He was, thereafter, retained for the extension of the rail line to the eastern segment of Nigeria, which took him to Onitsha, Aba and Calabar,where he eventually settled for a long period of time.
This versatile historian commenced his exciting educational pursuit at the Christ African Church School,Calabar,Cross-River State,where he was educated from 1949 to 1958 at the end of which he obtained his First School Leaving Certificate. Between 1959 and 1962, Alhaji Jimoh was educated at the Missionary Secondary Commercial School,Ikot-Ekpene,in the present-day Akwa-Ibom State. It was from that school that he obtained his West African School Certificate in flying colours.
In 1968,Alhaji Jimoh was admitted into the prestigeous University of Lagos,Akoka,Lagos State, where he pursued and bagged a Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science in 1971. Among his contemporaries at the first generation Nigerian University was Chief Ganiyu Gboyega Jaiyeola of Offa,a distinguished educational psychologist, who retired from the services of the Kwara State College of Education,Ilorin,as a Chief Lecturer,and was at one time the Chairman of the Kwara State Agency for Mass Education;and two former Inspectors-General of Police,Alhaji Musiliu Smith,who is, at present, the Chairman of the Police Service Commission, and Alhaji Mustapha Balogun.Prior to his admission into Unilag,this birthday boy had worked as a staff of the defunct B.P. West African Limited.He was a Station Manager at the Awolowo Road,Ikoyi,Lagos, branch of the Company between 1964 and 1966. From there,he was transfered to the Bank Road’s Station and later to Apapa Depot,where he served as the Superitiendent of the Lubricant Department.
Following the completion of his degree programme, Alhaji Jimoh convinced himself of the need to come back to the abode of his forefathers,Ilorin,so that his children would not be treated as strangers in the land of their ancestors.In doing that, he turned down a job of €1500 per annum for that of £720 , which Kwara State offered new Administrative Officers in the State Civil Service .That notwithstanding, he did not have much friends among the educated elites of Ilorin Emirate of that period. He had joined the administrative cadre of the Civil Service of Kwara State,which then, had only a few University graduates of Ilorin Emirate origin, along with the late Alhaji Ishola Alaya,who retired from the Civil Service of Kwara State as a Director; and Justice Mutalub Ahmad Ambali,OFR(b. 1943),who served as second Grand Kadi of Kwara State between 2001 and 2008. One other young graduate from outside the Ilorin Emirate in the Service then was the late Alhaji Saidu Issa, OFR, an indigene of Lafiagi, who served as the Secretary to the Military Government of Kwara State from 1990 to 1992 and later as the Secretary (Minister) of State, Foreign Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Between 1971 and 1972, Alhaji Jimoh was a staff of the Governor’s Office,Ilorin, where he met and worked with his fellow Ilorin compatriots like Alhaji AbdulRasheed Salman(b. 1938),who later served as the Secretary to the State Government; Alhaji Mohammed Baba Aiyelabegan(1937-2015), who left the public service as the Chairman of the Kwara State Local Government Service Commission;and Alhaji Nasiru Oniyangi(b.1928),who is today, one of the few surviving western educated statesmen of Ilorin Emirate origin of his era; and Mallam Habib Sanni, an Ebira man,who later taught Public Administration at the University of Ilorin as well as Mr Paul Ossai,who retired as the Head of Service in the old Benue State.From 1972 to 1973, Alhaji Jimoh was posted to Idah Division in the present-day Kogi State as the Sole Administrator. That particular appointment came as a big surprise to him because he got it ahead of those who were his Seniors in the civil service.He also served as the Deputy Secretary to the State Executive Council,a function he took-over from Alhaji AbdulRasheed Salman.He held that office from 1973 to 1974 under the headship of Mr Moses Ibrahim, who eventually retired from the Public Service as the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Works.
Alhaji Jimoh, who had earlier served as the Protem Secretary for the Committee,which recommended the establishment of the Kwara State Printing and Publishing Corporation,the publishers of the Herald Group of Newspapers, was posted to the same establishment as the Secretary/Deputy General Manager in 1974. He was also the Managing Editor of the Nigerian Herald ,a position he maintained till 1976. He worked under the pioneer General Manager of the Corporation,Chief Abiodun Aloba,whose pen name was Ebenezer Williams, and who later served as the Chief Speech-Writer to President Shehu Shagari between 1979 and 1983.His fellow Ilorin compatriots, with whom he worked at the Nigerian Herald, were the late Alhaji Sule Raji,who edited the Sunday Herald during the second republic and served as the Honourable Commissioner for Information and Culture,Kwara State, prior to the aborted third republic; Alhaji Oba Aiyelabegan,a very active patriot who also worked for the progress of Ilorin in so many ways; and Alhaji Ahmed Hameed,a former National President of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union,who left the Corporation as its General Manager.
Towards the end of 1976 ,Alhaji Jimoh was appointed as the Corporation Secretary and Head of Administration, Kwara State Housing Corporation,Ilorin.He served as such till 1977 and it was during his tenure that Adewole Housing Estate was conceived, constructed and commissioned. The late Alhaji Saka Saadu,OFR (1938-2017) was the Honourable Commissioner for Lands and Housing then under the administration of the late Major-General George Agbazikah Innih.He also worked at the State Ministry of Education as the Principal Assistant Secretary from 1977 to 1978.He was transferred to the Ministry of Establishment as the Head of the Establishment Division where he was till December,1978.Between 1979 and 1980,Alhaji Jimoh was the Ag.Permanent Secretary in-charge of the Lagos Liasion Office before being finally appointed as the Presidential Liason Officer,a position he held between 1980 and 1982, when he withdrew his services from the Kwara State Civil Service in order to protect and fight for the corporate interests of Ilorin in the partisan politics of that era.
In the early 1990s,this great son of Ilorin became the Administrative Secretary and the Head of Administration of the National Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation (NCAM), Ilorin. It was while in the services of NCAM that he authored and presented the most encyclopeadic compendium on Ilorin, Ilorin: The Journey So Far .Alhaji Jimoh’s interest in the history of Ilorin was stimulated by the different stories about Ilorin and her alluring people which he heard from his father who was an eye witness to the reign of Oba Momo up till the early years of Oba Sulu Gambari(1914-1992). His repeated intellectual encounter with the enigmatic 9th Emir of Ilorin,Oba Sulu Gambari and the late Shaykh Adam Abdullahi Al-Ilory were part of the factors that encouraged him to publish the book,which has undoubtedly secured his elevated space in the annals of Ilorin Emirate. It is incredible that the voluminous, amazing and authoritative book took this brilliant author just four years to complete.
Despite the criticism of the book,which some see as a public relations stunt for Ilorin and generations of its leaders across sectors,many other more informed observers believe that had Nigeria been a greater clime, where undue preference is not given to paper qualifications, a self-made scholar like Alhaji Jimoh would have been engaged as a Professor teaching “Ilorin Studies” in a University because of his amazing knowledge of the history,people and strides of Ilorin since it was founded. This birthday boy, who I see as a special and uncommon gift to the people of Ilorin Emirate certainly knows much more about Ilorin than most of his contemporaries and compatriots. A privilege to drink from his fountain of knowledge in discussion, reveals him as an exciting intellectual, with even deeper insights than his writings suggest; a factor,which I believe accounts for his membership on the Board of the Centre For Ilorin Studies, University of Ilorin.
Alhaji Jimoh’s interest in the service of Ilorin had been stimulated as a child, by the role of his father,who was the leader of Ilorin people at Aba and Calabar axis.He always witnessed his father attending to the need of the people of Ilorin and other Yoruba people,who were either on permanent or temporary sojourn at Calabar in 1940s and 1950s. He was,therefore, convinced of the need to always make himself available for community services,a trend he continued with when he relocated to Lagos to work with his School Certificate.He formally joined the Ilorin people living in Lagos who held regular meetings at the residence of Alhaji Abdulsalam Ebun Agbabiaka, an high-ranking Police Officer.Among the prominent members of the Ilorin community in Lagos,then,were the second National President of the IEDPU,Alhaji A. A.Jimoh,who died in 1984 as a Commissioner in the Federal Civil Service Commission, and Alhaji S. A.Nagode,who passed on in 1983, as a Commissioner in the National Population Commission, after serving as an Honourable Commissioner and Member of the Kwara State Council in the late 1970s.
On joining the public service in 1971,Alhaji Jimoh was disturbed about the apparent poor sensitivity of the young educated elites of Ilorin,who were in the public service of Kwara State, to the cause of their people. Many of them,according to this birthday boy ,were afraid to identify openly with the community’s struggle and socio-cultural consciousness needed to check some negative tendencies of the government of the day headed by the late Brigadier-General David Lasisi Bamigboye,CON (1940-2017) as far as the specific corporate interests of Ilorin Emirate were concerned, because of the fear that they may be labelled as rebels. Drawing from his knowledge of the existence and functional operation of tribal unions such as the Ibiobio Union at Calabar and the Ibo State Union in the East and Lagos,Alhaji Jimoh encouraged his colleagues in the State Civil Service to show more interest in community development through active participation in socio-cultural organisations. The enormous courage,intellectualism,patriotism and bravery, which he displayed were said to have won him the friendship of many of his compatriots one of whom is now a distinguished retired General.
Despite the initial lukewarm attitude of a few and the fact that he did not spend his early childhood years in Ilorin,which made some of his contemporaries to jocularly deride him as Omo Kobokobo this great son of Ilorin nevertheless teamed-up with them to strengthen the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union under the leadership of Alhaji Mahmud Bayo Baker,who was not only the Union’s National President but also the Chairman of its Ilorin Branch. The Union then held its weekly meeting at the Ansarul Islam Primary School,Okekere,Ilorin,as facilitated by the founder of the Ansarul Islam Society of Nigeria and pioneer Grand Mufti of Ilorin, Shaykh Muhammad Kamaluddeen Al-Adabiyy, MFR,OFR,ORSA,FISN (1905-2005). On his way to the weekly meeting, he would stop-over at the homes of his comrades to encourage them to join him at the weekly meeting.His services and commitments to the Union and progress of Ilorin Emirate were rewarded with more responsibilities entrusted on him by the Union. This Octonegerian was a member of the delegation of the Union which went to Lagos to invite the late Dr.Abubakar Olusola Saraki to Ilorin to serve as the Chief Launcher of a community development project in the early 1970s. The invitation,which was honoured by the late Waziri of Ilorin,marked the beginning of his(the Waziri’s ) grand entry into community services and eventual partisan politics after the initial setback of 1964. Alhaji Jimoh later served as the Union’s National Financial Secretary between 1976 and 1978. He was also its National Secretary from 1980 to 1982 as well as the National President for four(4) consecutive years from 1983 to 1987. He was the first President to be returned into office via constitutionally sanctioned elections.
Not a few people know Alhaji L. A. K. Jimoh as an established politician but his going into politics was,according to him, at the instance of the leadership of Ilorin Emirate Community,which felt that it was a man of his calibre with unbendable integrity and who was close enough to the then political leader of the Emirate and indeed Kwara State,Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki,who should be encouraged and sponsored to change the course of politics of the State that was led by the first elected Governor of the State,Alhaji Adamu Attah. Despite the informed positions of some distinguished elders like Alhaji Yakubu Amori Gobir, Alhaji Mosadiolorun Umar and Alhaji Sanni Adebayo Lawal,who felt it was too early for a young man with such a bright future in the civil service to withdraw from it just after eleven years and at the age of 42, his desire to save Ilorin from what he believed that the community was likely to face should Governor Adamu Attah be re-elected as a result of the pernicious polarisation of the then ruling party and the unambiguous opposition of the widest spectrum of the people of Ilorin Emirate to the continuation of the late Prince of Ebiraland in office as the Governor of Kwara State, convinced him to pullout of the civil service so that he could be the gubernatorial candidate of the then National Party of Nigeria (NPN). Unfortunately those who urged him on backtracked. However,the emergence of the then sitting Governor as the flag bearer of the NPN and the nomination of Senator C. O.Adebayo as the standard bearer of the then main opposition party,UPN,forced his handlers to lead him into the Nigerian People’s Party. He was assured of the support of Dr.Abubakar Olusola Saraki’s faction of the NPN and that of the Chief J. S.Olawoyin’s faction of the then Unity Party of Nigeria(U.P.N). But at the end of the day,his hitherto dependable political base resolved to support the candidature of Chief C.O.Adebayo of the UPN,who eventually emerged as the second elected Governor of Kwara State.
Not long after,the military sacked the political administration headed at the federal level by Alhaji Shehu Shagari and at the state level by Chief C. O.Adebayo. This celebrant, thereafter, committed himself to community services in the course of which he served as the National President of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union.His tenure witnessed so many developments as the Union took-up more positive dynamism and hyperactive activism in community development, which kept the government of the day on its toes and thereby ensuring that the collective interests of the good people of Ilorin Emirate are protected. Of particular significance, was the sustained advocacy of the Union for the unconditional release of the late Major-General Tunde Idiagbon,the erstwhile Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, from the detention to which he was confined since his heroic return to Nigeria from Saudi Arabia after the government in which he served as the Deputy Head of State was toppled in a palace coup. The advocacy was eventually accomplished in November,1988. Alhaji L. A. K Jimoh was assisted by several members of the Union including the present Magaji Aare of Ilorin, Alhaji Shuaib Aremu Zubair(b.1940) and Alh Abdulmumini Ayo Abdulmalik(1952),a retired Assistant Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service. Both were succeeding National Secretaries of the Union. Alhaji Jimoh was succeeded by a senior compatriot of his,Alhaji AbdulRasheed Salman, as the National President of the Union,who served between December, 1988 and April, 1989.
Despite the series of disappointments he reportedly suffered in several political parties he belonged to at various times, in his quest to serve his people as a politician,his interest to serve his community keeps waxing stronger . In addition, he is noted to be an apostle of politics without bitterness. While he deploys his deep intellect to the political arena,he is also the type who will never gloss-over fascinating attributes of his opponents.He commends good dispositions as much as he condemns unpatriotic ploys and plots without minding whose ox is gored.He bothers less about political offices but rather, always conscious of the verdict of history on him.That must have accounted for the very few appointments that have come his way in his four decades of profound partisan politics.He was the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman,Governing Council,University of Port-Harcourt,during the tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan.He also served as the Kwara State Amirul-Hajj during the 2019 Hajj exercise,among others.
Alhaji Jimoh,who is otherwise called Hajji White,because of his adherence to white attires since 1978,is married to Alhaja Maymunat Jimoh ,a Lagosian,whose ancestry is traceable to Bida,Niger State.His marriage is blessed with five children who are doing very well by the special grace of Allah .They are Hajiya Kuburat Bolanta,a former staff of the defunct Trade Bank and now a businesswoman; Ambassador Taibat Atinuke Mohammed,who was recently appointed as a Consular-General of Nigeria’s Consulate in the United Arab Emirate ; Alhaji Jubril Bolaji,a frontline Politician and erstwhile Organising Secretary of the Kwara State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party;Alhaji Abdul Biola,an Abuja-Based Businessman as well as an Ilorin-based muslim cleric,Alhaji Tajudeen Babatunde Jimoh.
The efforts of Alhaji L.A.K.Jimoh at securing appointments and career progression for qualified and competent indigenes of Ilorin Emirate into the public services of the Kwara State Government and Federal Government in the last five decades is amazing.He was a man who uses every opportunity available to him to ensure that the people of Ilorin Emirate are not cheated in the public service. In this respect, he would forever be celebrated as much as his several other interventions as a public intellectual, whose voice and appearance anywhere within and outside the Ilorin Emirate always elicites joy from the audience,their intellectual positions or dispositions notwithstanding.
Alhaji Jimoh is a man who came,saw and is still doing his best towards the all-round transformation of Ilorin Emirate. Without an iota of adulation, I want to say that Ilorin Emirate is certainly fortunate to have such a man of great intellect,exceptional courage,unlimited patriotism still very agile,active and willing to serve the more even at an obviously advanced age.My prayer is that may we appreciate and work for the realisation of the timeless prayer of the immediate past National Missioner of the Ansarul Islam Society of Nigeria, Shaykh AbdulRaheem Ameenullahi Al-Adabiyy (d.2012) ,who incidentally played a leading role at the public presentation of the seminal book of this birthday boy in 1994, that Olohun mo je ki oja o tu ki a to mo ohun ti a o ra”.
As someone who has had the privilege of interacting with this elder statesman many a time ,I shall be doing myself and members of my generation a lot of disservice, if I do not say that Alhaji Jimoh is deeply concerned about the future of Ilorin. The present situation gives him a lot to think about on the future of his beloved Emirate. He has the fear that things might turn awry when he says “we must learn to build ourselves up today for tomorrow”and that ” the leaders of today in whatever segment should never shy away from their leadership responsibilities of working for the progress and greatness of the community through both solicited and unanticipated services to the younger generations”.
As regards the IEDPU,the veteran community leader believes that the Union will remain relevant for as long as she distances herself from partisan politics, saying that the Union must not be seen as being sympathetic to a specific political leaning but must be ready to work with everybody and not for anybody. According to the foremost patriot,the Union must be for all the indigenes of Ilorin Emirate, their locations and socio-economic as well as political persuasions notwithstanding. The barometer of the community must be assessed from the sensitivities and sensibilities of the Union to and on contemporary issues with regards to the interests of the majority of members of its geographical constituency.
On behalf of the National President of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union,Alhaji Aliyu Otta Uthman, fsi, and members of the Union across and beyond Nigeria, as well as the generality of the good people of Ilorin Emirate, I celebrate this illustrious son of Ilorin Emirate as I wish him many more years of services to Allah (SWT) and humanity in good health and happiness, which I understand as the only nutrient needed by people of his generation. We must learn to celebrate our heroes while they are alive as I wish other compatriots would find time to join me wherever they are in rejoicing with this wonderful patriot as he marks his 80 birthday.
Imam is National Publicity Secretary, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union