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KWARA @ 50: WHAT MANNER OF A CELEBRATION?

By Abubakar Sidiqimam
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Evidently, the Kwara State Government has constituted a special committee to plan and execute programmes targeted at celebrating the golden jubilee of the establishment of the state as a unique unit of the federation of Nigeria. The State is, indeed, a lucky one. That is in spite of the several changes that have been done to its physical structure, it remains one of the four states that has maintained her nomenclature since 1967. Others that have not changed their names are Kano, Rivers, and Lagos States. Unlike Lagos State, which has constituted a committee made-up of influential men of pedigrees under the Chairmanship of the acclaimed literary giant, Professor Wole Soyinka, to plan and execute the golden jubilee anniversary of the creation of the “Centre of Excellence” and Rivers State which also put in place a similar committee since last year, the Government of Kwara State has finally put together a committee under the Chairmanship of the hard-working Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Sola Isiaka Gold.

The essence of this piece is, however, not about stories surrounding the creation of the State per se but on how well the succeeding governments of the State have treated those who toiled day and night to make the “idea” planted by Nigerian Patriots led by General Yakubu Gowon a resounding reality and impressionable success.

While it is undoubtful that the success story of the State in the last five decades was catalyzed by distinguished Kwarans and other non-indigenes who offered their best in ensuring that the State worked, the question begging for an answer{s} is that have those heroes been well –recognized to spur succeeding generations to surpass their accomplishments? And most importantly, what should the present administration of Alhaji (Dr.) AbdulFatah Ahmed, which is fortunate to be in charge at this historic moment, do to preserve the wonderful legacies of the founding fathers of the State?

It must, however, be clearly stated that the remarkable progress attained in the last fifty years is deeply rooted in the efforts of past heroes whose contributions to making the polity what it has been right from the time immemorial can never be glossed-over. By this, I mean those distinguished statesmen and women who built the various communities that were eventually woven into the Ilorin Emirate by the Fulani conquest of around 1817, Ilorin province by the subjugating British Empire in 1900 which was eventually renamed Kwara State in May, 1967.

A critical analysis of contemporary situations across the States of the Federation will reveal that the succeeding political leaders of Kwara State have not done enough to immortalize our heroes and thereby negating the enduring lessons of the often-recited first stanza of our National Anthem which impeccably calls for their continuous celebration.

The above scenario apologetically underscores the negative attitudinal tendencies of many misguided elements particularly in this contemporary time who erroneously believe that instead of posting selfless and rarely appreciated services they should just engage in primitive accumulation as shown by the incredible revelation of mind-bungling and gargantuan corruption by our so-called leaders in recent time. This disposition, although amounts to vanity at the end of the day, quenches their immediate desire for “opaque immortality’’.

One is disturbed that monuments and institutions across the State are not renamed after great heroes who worked enormously for the progress and development of the State to appreciate their services and to stimulate greater service delivery amongst the younger ones. This is unlike other States of the Federation that, I think, have gone so many steps beyond Kwara State in properly placing many of their heroes in an open hall of fame for all to emulate. For instance in Oyo State, a whole Local Government Area is renamed after Alaafin Atiba. Alaafin Atiba was the crown -prince of the old Alaafinate of Oyo prior to the eclipse of the famed Oyo Empire. He was, according to Reverend Samuel Johnson, the authoritative Author of “The History of Yoruba”, partially nurtured at Ilorin and eventually empowered by the then Emir of the southern-most emirate, Shitta Ibn Alimi, to relocate the headquarters of the subjugated Oyo Empire to where it is today. If Alaafin Atiba is recognized and honoured by his people, what have we done in memory of his god father, the second Emir of Ilorin, his illustrious predecessor and those who succeeded him as Emir? What about those who played similar roles in various communities of Kwara State such as Oloffa Adegboye Atoteleloye who led his people back to Offa in 1902 ? Similarly, another Local Government Area is named after Oba Akinyele, one of the most distinguished traditional rulers of Ibadanland. The Local Government is simply called Akinyele Local Government Area. Another worthy example from Oyo State is the Oluyole Industrial Estate at Ibadan. The hero after whom the Estate was renamed, Oluyole, was a warrior, a natural ruler and one of those who worked to raise Ibadan as a military centre of Yorubaland. There is also Lagelu Grammar School, renamed after Balogun Lagelu, another outstanding soldier and a founding father of the City of Ibadan. That same Ibadan statesman also has a Local Government Area renamed after him by the appreciative government and people of Oyo State. Was the role of Oluyole and Lagelu not similar to what the celebrated Balogun Kara did here? In the same Oyo State, there is Emmanuel Alayande College of Education renamed after that veteran educationist and phenomenal Principal of the famous Government College, Ibadan. Does Kwara State lacks outstanding professionals of Alayande caliber who can be so honoured ? Definitely, no.

The State of Osun has not done badly as well in recognizing her heroes as we have Oduduwa College at Ile-Ife and Bola Ige State Secretariat at Oshogbo among others. Although there was no claim that Sheik Alimi descended to Ilorin from heaven but he was like Oduduwa in the socio-political engineering of the entity now called Kwara State. If a foremost college is renamed after Oduduwa at Ile-Ife, what have we done to immortalize Shaykh Alimi, the progenitor of the distinguished ruling family of the state capital?

The issue is not a south-western affair. Many sister- states of the North have given honour to those who deserve it. In Kaduna, there is Hassan Usman Kastina House, Lugard Hall and Nuhu Bamali Polytechnic all renamed after those who did well to the State. The same is noticeable in Niger State as the State parades U.K Bello Park, General Abubakar Abdulsalam Park, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida University, Lapai. While in Sokoto, the seat of the caliphate, there is Shehu Shagari College of Education, Shehu Kangiwa Square, Usman Dan Fodio University and Sir Abubakar International Airport and, of course, in Bauchi State we have Tatari Ali Polytechnic which was renamed after the first democratically-elected Governor of the State.

One is, therefore, appealing to the present government of Kwara State to use the privilege of the forth-coming golden jubilee anniversary of the State to do the needful by renaming most, if not all our monuments after genuinely patriotic heroes whose contributions and services to the progress of the State are not only verifiable but can never be ignored. I am sure that the renaming of the imposing State Secretariat Complex after General David Lasisi Bamigboye C.O.N, the first Military Governor of Kwara State will be a right step in the right direction. The multi-million Naira Metropolitan Square should also be renamed Sulu-Gambari Square in honour of the nineth Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Muhammed Sulu Gambari C.F.R whose prosperous reign ushered-in the creation of the State and who creditably served as the Chairman of the Kwara State Council of Chiefs between 1967 and 1992. Honourable Justice Saidu Kawu C.O.N, a veteran teacher and seasoned public administrator, who served as the first Chief Judge of Kwara State before retiring as a Justice of Supreme Court, also deserve to have the Judges’ Quarters in Ilorin renamed after him. He worked earnestly in building the State judiciary from the scratch to greatness. His patriotism should be appreciated from the prism of the fact that he accepted the offer to serve on the poorly rewarded bench instead of pursuing a more lucrative career in private practice. Other outstanding Jurists who not only attained the pinnacle of their careers but also did the state proud at the federal level such as Justices Saliu Modibbo Alfa Belgore C.O.N, G.C.O.N, Mohammed Mustapha Adebayo Akanbi C.F.R, Mahmud Babatunde Belgore, and Issa Ayo Salami O.F.R should be honoured.

Chief Cornelius Olatunji Adebayo, the second elected Governor of the State who earlier served the State as a Civil Commissioner and a Senator and eventually as an Honourable Minister of Communications and later Works deserves to be honoured too. Either the College of Education, Ilorin or that of Oro should be renamed after him. He was in fact, the pioneer Head of Department of English Language of the parent institution of the two Colleges, the then Kwara State College of Technology, Ilorin, in 1972. C.O Adebayo, as he is fondly called, had to resign his appointment at the then University of Ife, now known as Obafemi Awolowo University, to help in building the College of Technology which was transformed to the Kwara State Polytechnic. Alhaji Mohammed Sha’aba Lafiagi should also have the College of Education (Technical) Lafiagi renamed in his honour as I support the renaming of the Kwara State University,Malete, after the second Republic Senate Leader, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki. That is, if renaming the Government House, Ilorin, after the most influential political leader in the history of the State, will be too much. The late Alhaji Muhammed Alabi Lawal should also be honoured with the renaming of the Kwara State Polytechnic, Ilorin. After all, he did his best in the circumstance he found himself and also because he was an accomplished Mechanical Engineer and a professional exemplar of those the institution is established to produce and for his services as the first elected Governor of the State in the current democratic dispensation.

Unsung heroes of the State such as Alhaji Haliru Kaima, who was the Vice Chairman of the Kwara State Executive Council between 1978 and 1979 as well as Alhaji Ahman Galadima Pategi, who served as the influential General Secretary of the first Republic ruling party, the Northern Peoples’ Congress, a Regional Minister in the Northern Regional Government of Sir Ahmadu Bello and the pioneer Civil Commissioner in the State and the late Alhaji Sule Moito, the Founder of the highly–influential Ilorin Talaka Parapo should also be honoured one way or the other for their services. Others in their category are the late Chief J.S Olawoyin, Chief J.G Ekunrin and Chief M.O.A. Olarewaju who was the first republic Federal Minister of Police Affairs and the first Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly, Alhaji Shehu Usman, also deserve to be celebrated.

It will be highly-befitting if the State House of Assembly Complex is renamed Shehu Usman House such as it will be if the State College of Health Technology at Offa is renamed after the indefatigable Opposition Leader in the Northern Regional House of Assembly Chief J.S Olawoyin. The same way it will be welcomed if the new College of Nursing, Oke-Ode, is renamed after J.G. Ekunrin.

Alhaji Yahaya Madawaki M.F.R, an eminent educationist, distinguished nationalist, foremost linguist and outstanding community leader, who was also one of the founding fathers of the defunct Northern Peoples’ Congress and indeed Kwara State should also be honoured with the renaming of the General Hospital, Ilorin. It was Alhaji Yahaya Madawaki, while serving as the Northern Regional Minister of Health, who facilitated the building of the Ilorin General Hospital which was commissioned in 1955.

Other distinguished Kwarans who pursued veneration rather than wealth in the services of the nation should also be honoured in similar manner. Let those concerned unearth the names or identities of members of the special committee which gave Kwara State her name and decided that the Capital of the State should be Ilorin for honour. Let us also bring out the names of those distinguished patriots who contributed their widow’s mite to build the Ilorin United School as the first community-owned Primary School in 1943 in the old Northern Region. Similar honour should also be conferred on those outstanding icons who struggled to establish the Offa Grammar School, Offa in the same year as the pioneer community-owned Secondary School in the old Northern Region. The State should also honour Alhaji A.G.F AbdulRasak S.A.N, O.F.R, one of the surviving Nationalists for his immeasurable contributions towards the development of the State in so many areas. In this category are individuals like the Late General Tunde Idiagbon, General Abdullahi Mohammed C.F.R, G.C.O.N, Admiral Stephen Afolayan, Admiral Ganiyu Adekeye, Air Vice Marshal Bayo Lawal and Dr. Tunji Olagunju. Others are, but not limited to, Professor Olumuyiwa Awe, Professor Jamiu Mosebolaje Oyawoye, Professor Saka Nuru and Professor John Otunola Oyinloye as well as Ambassador Zakariyau Oyeleke and, of course, Professor Shehu Jimoh O.O.N. The Reverend Joseph Ayo Babalola, the founder of Christ Apostolic Church (C.A.C.) Worldwide, a native of Odo-Owa in the Oke-Ero Local Government Area of the State should also be honored for been a wonderful paragon of patriotism, spiritualism and selflessness. I suggest that similar treatment should be extended to Bishop David Oyedepo for his remarkable contributions to contemporary national development including the establishment of the Landmark University at his Omu-Aran Country Home

All those well-meaning Kwarans who served meritoriously as Deputy Governors, Secretaries to the State Government as well as Heads of Service and many others who worked as outstanding public servants should also be creditably honoured. This category include Chief Jimoh Shittu, Chief Ojo Fadumila, Chief J.S Ogunlowo, Chief Ezekiel Oyeyipo, Deacon Adedeji Sayomi, Chief J.A Aderibigbe, Dr. E.O. Soladoye, Alhaji AbdulRasheed Salimon Alada, Alhaji Saka Sa’adu O.F.R, Professor Abdulganiyu Ambali O.O.N and, of course, Alhaji Yusuf Amuda Gobir. This should not be an all-male affairs. Distinguished ladies like Chief (Mrs) Adesiyun, Dr. (Mrs) Amina Ndalolo, Hajiya Haleemat Ajoke Yusuf O.O N., among others, should also be considered for appropriate honour.

Besides, there are other worthy Kwarans who never made names working under any government but distinguished themselves in their various callings. Their contributions and services surely catapulted the State to the admiration of others. In this class of eminent Kwarans are Chief Emmanuel Olatunji Adesoye, the Asiwaju of Offa and a leading industrialist as well as Chief Samuel Adedoyin, Chief Abdulraheem Oladimeji and Chief Salman Owolewa. Alhaji Yakubu Abdulazeez, (Azeez Herald) also fall into this category and, of course the first Mufti of Ilorin, Shaykh Muhammed Kamaldeen M.F.R., O.F.R., O.R.S.A, who founded the first voluntary muslim organization in Northern Nigeria, the Ansarul Islam Society of Nigeria, in 1942 While I sugesst the renaming of the Road between Yebumot and Adeta Roundabouts in Ilorin after Alhaji Oladimeji as it was his Al-Hikmah University that actually opened-up that vicinity, I believe that renaming the Kwara State College of Arabic and Islamic Legal Studies, Ilorin, after the late Shaykh Kamaldeen, whose inspirational contributions largely contributed to the take-off of the institution in 1992, will also be a befitting memoriam for a superlative Scholar who worked tirelessly for the promotion of moral and intellectual development of the people of the State via the establishment of several secular and Islamic schools nation-wide. His schools produced several patriots three of whom, at various times, served as the Secretary to the State Government while two others also served as Head of Service in the Kwara State Public Service among others. He was also an undeniable glittering paragon throughout his distinguished career and affording him such an honour will surely bring about moral rebirth among our youth who lacked emulative models.

The first African Best Footballer produced by Nigeria and one of the most accomplished sport personalities from this part of the globe recently described as the most clinical finisher in the history of Nigerian Football, the late Rashidi Yekini, should also be singled-out for honour. I think renaming the Kwara State Stadium Complex, Ilorin, after him will be a befitting appreciation of his services to his fatherland as the highest goal scorer in the history of Nigerian national soccer team. Such honour will remind us of who Rasidi Yekini was as Teslim Balogun and Muda Lawal Stadia in Lagos and Abeokuta respectively do remind us of the contributions of those great sportsmen.

Outstanding cultural icons like Jaigbade Alao, Odolaye Aremu, Adebayo Salami (Oga Bello) Asana Abake, Ray Eyiwumi, Adeyemi Afolayan, Hajia Kulu Lafiagi and, of course, Kolinton Ayinla also deserve to be honoured. Their contributions to the promotion of cultural rejuvenation and ethical re-orientation at various epochs of our history in the last fifty years cannot be over emphasized and should therefore be rewarded with official immortalization.

It is pertinent to propose that other gentlemen and ladies who were or are not indigenes of the state but who adopted Kwara as their home and subsequently did well while living here should be honooured. Such individuals include the Second Republic Inspector-General of Police, Late Chief Sunday Adewusi, Mallam Yusuf O. Ali S.A.N, Chief Wole Olanipekun S.A.N, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo S.A.N, Late Chief Adolphous Okafor and, of course, Professor Isha’q Olanrewaju Oloyede O.F.R

Aside all the names mentioned in this piece, there are several other worthy Kwarans who have done the State proud over the years. This category of individuals include outstanding civil and public servants, conscientious teachers, dedicated medical doctors, diligent businessmen and eminent industrialists as well as other private individuals who posted remarkable contributions to the development of the State in their own little ways. They should be identified and honoured through street-naming and similar exercises. The policy of insisting on making payment for one to get a street renamed after anyone should be discontinued. Such glorification should not be commercialized. It should be reserved for those who actually deserve it. One is, therefore, proposing that all the “new” Housing Estates and streets therein including those of Adewole, Oloje and Kulende should be renamed after eminent individuals who have served or are still serving the government and people of Kwara State dedicatedly over the years.

Effecting the above suggestions will be a remarkable way of making the golden jubilee of the State meaningful. It will also present those to be so honoured for emulation as it will convince younger elements that nothing pays like polished reputation. It will also remind all of us to always ask for what we can do for our State and not what the State can do for us. Above all, it will instill in all of us that no matter how long it takes no labour exerted towards the greatness of the “State of harmony” will be in vain.

Abubakar S. Imam
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