Alhaji Hamidu Erubu: Tribute To A Great Statesman

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By Abubakar Imam

The first message I read on my phone on Sunday, March 10, 2024 after observing the Subhi prayers was from the Secretary-General of Ilorin Emirate Professors’ Association (IEPA) and the Treasurer of Kwara State Professors Forum, Prof Binta Ajibola Suleiman, who informed me of the transition to the great beyond of her father and one of the highly distinguished surviving statesmen Ilorin Emirate was left with, Alhaji Hamidu Gambari Erubu, MFR, CON. The message said that the great man died around 11:30 p.m, the previous night.

The news was most shocking and unexpected to yours sincerely. This is because I was always assured by his children that he was fine whenever I came across any of them. The news was also devastating as it came a day after the demise of Pa GB Ladipo (1926-2024), who was a member of the neighbouring Aduagba (formerly known as Oje) family of Erubu Quarters, Ilorin, and a longstanding community leader. It came, not the least, at a time I was rounding off a piece on the exploration of the profiles, careers and contributions of members of the set of alumni of Ilorin Middle School (now GSS, Ilorin) to which Alhaji Erubu belonged. In the piece, I had described Alhaji Erubu as one of the two surviving members of the historic set. The other person, who is now the only surviving member of the set is Alhaji Hamidu Eyitayo Aluko, who is the Imam of Alikali Ikokoro Mosque, Oke-Aluko, Ilorin.

It was in 1990 that I first saw Alhaji Erubu when he attended the fidau organised for the repose of the soul of Alhaji Salman Yahaya Alada, the father of the second republic Secretary to the Government of Kwara State, Alhaji AbdulRasheed Salman. I saw Alhaji Erubu from a distance exchanging pleasantries with my late father, Mallam Jimoh Imam Pakata. I was instantly attracted by his height, physique and elegance. It was thereafter my father told me that they had been friends since 1943 when they were both enrolled into the then Pakata Elementary School, Ilorin.

As a good friend, Alhaji Erubu invited my father, who was fresh in retirement, to come to Lagos, the then capital city of Nigeria, with a view to finding him a contract appointment that would keep him busy since he was only retired but not tired of being productive. Alhaji Erubu was then serving at the presidency. Unfortunately, his efforts at finding his good friend a post retirement job did not materialise.

I got close to Alhaji Erubu in 2016 when I visited him with the purpose of inviting him to the wedding and walimah ceremonies of my younger siblings. I introduced myself to him and he immediately recollected my late father. It was then and from me that he got to know of the death of my father.

Alhaji Erubu was not happy that he was not informed of my father’s passing early enough. He, nevertheless, promised to attend the walimah ceremony as invited. And he did. He was conveyed to the venue of the event by Prof. Sulyman. He later invited me to his GRA Ilorin home in the course of which he took me into his career right from his childhood.

I discovered this illustrious son of Ilorin to be a very loving and passionate gentleman. The emotions he often displayed towards me particularly when it had to do with his ruminations about his relationship with my late father, however, reduced the frequence of my visits to him.

This epitome of piety, service and simplicity was a descendant of a progenitor who migrated to Ilorin from Kaoje in the present-day Kebbi State. His progenitor, Shaykh Abubakar Kasandubu, who was a Fulani prince and versatile itinerant Muslim scholar, was also said to be a nephew of the progenitor of the famous Belgore dynasty of Ilorin, Shaykh Muhammad Belgore, who died in 1913.

Alhaji Erubu, a seasoned educator, distinguished financial technocrat and foremost administrator, was born in the city of Ilorin on May 29,1931. He hailed from Erubu Compound in the Erubu Quarters of Ilorin. His father was Shaykh Mohammad Basharu Erubu, a prominent Muslim Scholar and community leader, while his mother was Alhaja Hauwa Tuma, who hailed from Agbeyangi community in the Iponrin District of Ilorin East Local Government Area.

Young Hamidu literally discovered himself as a pupil of a Quranic school, which was ran by his father. It was under his erudite father that he acquired the skills of reading the Holy Quran. He was also tutored and got exposed to the basic knowledge of Islam and the culture of Ilorin Emirate along with his contemporaries.

At the age of 12, Alhaji Erubu was considered matured enough to begin what was considered western education. His maturity also accounted for his instant transfer to Pakata Elementary School, Ilorin, where he was later appointed as the Head Boy. He had been initially enrolled into Okesuna Primary School, Ilorin along with his brothers but was later moved to Pakata Elementary School, Ilorin, because he was considered old enough to be able to treck long distance to school. Okesuna Primary School, Ilorin, which was closer to his home, was considered overcrowded, then. I remembered him telling me, in an interview, that the arrangement to move him to Pakata from Okesuna was effected by the penultimate Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Sulu Gambari, CFR, the father of the incumbent, Alhaji (Dr) Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, CFR, who gave him a note to a future Baba Isale of Ilorin, Mallam B. S. Mohammed, who was popularly known as Mallam Baba-nkanni. Mallam Baba-nkanni, who later served as the Baba Isale of Ilorin from 1966 to 1983, was the Headmaster of the Pakata Elementary School, Ilorin, from 1934 to 1937 and between 1938 and 1957.

Alhaji Erubu was, therefore, educated at Pakata Primary School, Ilorin between 1943 and 1945, where it was said that he was found to be far ahead of many of his classmates in neatness, diligence and intelligence. He proceeded to the only post primary school in Ilorin then, the Ilorin Middle School, Ilorin, where he was trained between 1945 and 1948.

Alhaji Erubu was among the few of his contemporaries who were privileged to be selected for secondary education at the Premier College of the erstwhile Northern Region. He was admitted into Barewa College, Zaria, in 1949 with admission number 708. He graduated from the school in 1952. At the College, he was a senior to the nation’s second military Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, GCFR. He was also a senior to the third military Head of State, General Murtala Ramat Muhammad, GCFR, who he said would often run away on seeing him because of the absolute respect for seniors as obtainable in those days. Alhaji Erubu was the Captain of the House he and the Late Gen. Murtala, among several others, belonged to during their days at the famous Barewa College.

His next port of call was the then newly established Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria. He ran his Advanced Level at the institution between 1953 and 1956. He was probably among the first set of indigenes of Ilorin Emirate who obtained such qualification from the institution that later metamorphosed into the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

In 1961, Alhaji Erubu proceeded to the University of Yale in the United States of America. He was at the institution between February and November, 1961. He also attended the University of Hull, United Kingdom from 1963 to 1964 at the end of which he earned a Teacher’s Diploma.

This departed patriot was also trained at the prestigious University of Wisconsin, United States of America, from 1971 to 1972 where he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Education. He rounded off his schooling with the attendance of the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom between 1975 and 1976.

In 1957, Alhaji Erubu started his career as an Assistant Education Officer in the public service of the defunct Northern Region. He taught Mathematics at the Government College, Keffi in the present day Nasarrawa State. In 1960, he was promoted to the rank of Education Officer and taught Mathematics and Science at the famous Government College, Kaduna from 1960 to 1961.

Between 1962 and 1963, this unassuming son of Ilorin Emirate served as the Provincial Education Officer of the defunct Borno Province. His duties, which brought all the schools in the present-day Borno and Yobe States under his watch, centred around inspection and administration.

The professional efficiency and administrative wherewithal of Alhaji Erubu became a singsong across the erstwhile Northern Region. His reputations attracted the attention of the then Premier of the Region, Alhaji (Sir) Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto,GCON; who handed him a special assignment to reorganise the then Sokoto Local Education Authority. He successfully accomplished the assignment, which earned him commendations from stakeholders, between February and May,1963.

From 1964 to 1965, Alhaji Erubu was the Provincial Inspector of Education for the Kano Province, which consisted of the present-day Kano and Jigawa States. He also served as the Finance Officer and Deputy Chief Education Officer (Planning and Finance) in the Northern Nigeria Ministry of Education.

Alhaji Erubu was also the Chief Education Officer (Planning) in charge of the North Western State Ministry of Education from 1968 to 1971. This was when the then Turaki of Sokoto, Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, GCFR, was the Commissioner of Education and subsequently under the then Sarkin Malamai of Sokoto, Alhaji Ibrahim Gusau, who took over from Alhaji Shagari.

Between 1972 and 1974, Alhaji Erubu served as Deputy Chief and Chief Inspector of Education for the same State, which incorporated the present-day Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara and Niger States.

For the next three years, Alhaji Erubu served at the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He initially served as the Deputy Chief Extension Coordinator and Deputy Head of the Department of Adult Education at the institution’s Centre for Adult Education. He eventually retired as the Director and Head of the same Department after serving as such between 1976 and 1977 at the frontline University.

In 1978, Alhaji Erubu was appointed as a Permanent Member of the Kwara State Public Service Commission under the chairmanship of Prof. Albert Folorunsho Ogunshola. He later succeeded Prof. Ogunshola and consequently served as the Chairman of the Commission from 1980 to 1983.

As a tested and trusted technocrat, the government of Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, who became the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from 1979 to 1983, invited Alhaji Erubu to serve as the pioneer Registrar and Head of Administration of the then National Open University, which is now known as the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). He was at the University as its Registrar/Chief Administrative Officer from 1983 to 1984.

Following the initial discontinuation of the University by the military administration, which sacked Alhaji Shagari’s government, Alhaji Erubu was appointed as the Head of Administration of the National Universities Commission(NUC). He held the position between 1984 and 1987.

Apart from serving as the National Coordinator of Adult Education Services under the Federal Ministry of Education from 1987 to 1990, Alhaji Erubu was a Member of the Governing Council of the University of Calabar, Cross River State between 1987 and 1992. He was also a member of the Governing Council of the Ahmadu Bello University during the administration of General Sani Abacha.

He eventually left the public service as the National Coordinator in-charge of Adult Education and Extension Service at the Directorate of Food, Rural and Rural Infrastructures (DFRRI). He was at the defunct federal government intervention agency from 1990 to 1994.

The success of this great son of Ilorin in all the positions he held in the public service and after retirement should not be surprising. Alhaji Erubu had always proven himself to be a good leader right from his youth. He was the Head Boy at Pakata Primary School, Ilorin. He was also a Class Monitor/Dispensary Assistant at the Ilorin Middle School. He held the positions of Class Monitor, Library Assistant and House Captain at Barewa College, Zaria. He was also the Assistant College Journal Editor at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria.

Alhaji Erubu was a patriot per excellence. He was a committed member of the then Ilorin Divisional Progressive Union (IDPU), which later became the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union (IEDPU), in Kaduna in the early 1960s. This distinguished statesman had the privilege of presiding over the opening ceremonies of the annual national conferences of Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union (IEDPU) twice. The first time was in 1995. He was invited again for the same role in 2013. He did along with the immediate past Honourable Minister of State, Solid Minerals Development, Senator Rukayat Gbemisola Saraki, CON, who served as the Chairwoman.

He also served the Ilorin Emirate community as the Chairman of the Board of Governors of Okelele Secondary School, Ilorin and Agbeyangi Community Secondary School, Agbeyangi at various times between 1983 and 1984.

He was a very strong member of the Ilorin Emirate Council of Elders, initially under the Chairmanship of Shaykh Muhammad Kamaluddeen Al-Adabiyy, MFR, OFR, FISN, ORSA, and later under the leadership of the Honourable Justice Saidu Kawu, CON. He was one of those Ilorin elite who did everything within their capabilities to facilitated job placement and career progressions for younger Ilorin in whichever positions they served.

Alhaji Erubu was one of the six elders of the Ilorin Emirate community who rose in the early 2000s in defense of the then Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Prof. Shuaibu Oba AbdulRaheem, OFR, when he was been undeservedly harassed by the leadership of the institution’s chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and its parent body. Others who joined in solidarity with today’s Talba of Ilorin were the pioneer Chief Judge of Kwara State, Justice Saidu Kawu,CON; the second republic Minister of Defence, Alhaji Akanbi Mahmud Oniyangi; the second republic Commissioner for Industry in Kwara State, Alhaji Sani Adebayo Lawal; Nigeria’s former envoy to several countries, Ambassador Abdulkadir Muhammad Sambo Imam; and a renowned medical practitioner and politician, Dr Yusuf Amuda Aluko,OFR. May Allah reward each of them with absolute forgiveness and eternal felicity.

Alhaji Erubu was a scion honoured at home and abroad. He was a recipient of several prestigious honours and awards. He was awarded a “certificate of merit” and listed in the “International Who is Who in Education”, in recognition of his contributions to the field of education by the University of Cambridge, London, United Kingdom,in 1979.

Alhaji Erubu was similarly enlisted in the first edition of “Africa Who is Who”, which was published in 1981. He also served as the first editor of “African Journal for Adult Education”.

He equally bagged two prestigious national honours awards. He was first conferred with the Member of the Federal Republic (MFR) by the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003. He was thereafter granted the honour of the Commander of the Order of Niger (CON) by the administration of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in 2011.The two awards and others were conferred on him in recognition of his monumental contributions towards the development of his fatherland and humanity. He was among the prominent indigenes of Ilorin Emirate whose profiles were captured in “Ilorin Emirate’s Frontliners” recently published by yours sincerely.

This highly respected patriot is widely traveled. He visited all the continents and major countries of the world in the course of his career.

Alhaji Erubu was happily married and blessed with eight successful children made up of three boys and five girls namely; Hajia Aishat Peju Alaya, a retired Director, Kwara State House of Assembly, Ilorin; Ambassador Ahmed Basharu Erubu, a retired career diplomat; Prof. Binta Ajibola Sulyman, a Professor of Fine Arts, Head of the Department of Fine and Applied Arts and Director, Centre for Archives and Documentation, Kwara State University, Malete; and Mr Muritala Bashar Erubu, who is the Chief Executive Officer of a Lagos based Private Company. Other children of this patriot are Hajia Maimunat Bashar Folami, who retired as Deputy Chief Registrar, Abuja Division, Federal High Court of Nigeria, Abuja Division; Hajia Maryam Shade Igwe, who is based in London, United Kingdom; Engr. Abdulmumini Basharu Erubu, an Area Manager with the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, Lokoja; and Hajia Atinuke Aljannat Mohammed, who holds a Master’s degree in Development Studies and is a successful entrepreneur in Kano. Alhaji Erubu was blessed with successful grandchildren and great grandchildren who are all doing very well within and outside Nigeria.

May I, therefore, commiserate with the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji (Dr) Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari,, CFR, on the loss of a great son of Ilorin Emirate. I humbly sympathise with surviving members of his generation which has further been depleted by his death as I extend my sincere condolences to all his children and the entire indigenes of the Ilorin Emirate community. May Allah forgive the shortcomings of Alhaji Erubu and may his gentle soul be granted a space in Aljanat Fridaouz. I beseech Allah to grant his children and others bereaved extended family and friends the fortitude to bear his death.

Imam is National Secretary, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union.

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