By Gbolahan Balogun
Although Ilorin has never slacked in her developmental programmes, the metaphorical sense in which the 9th Emir of Ilorin, His Highness Zulkarnayni Gambari dan Muhammadu Laofe Dan Bawa, "Aiyelabowo V" turbaned the first Mutawalli of Ilorin in 1962 was: “If the mutawalli is honest to the cause, the waqf will be safe”
It is almost 60 years since the first Mutawalli of the Ilorin was turbaned in this same palace. He was 32 years of age but even at that, his personality loomed large on his community and the nation. Here comes the new Mutawalli.
For some months back, the palace of the Emir of Ilorin has been kept alive by courtly praise-singers who devoted most Fridays to singing the virtues of prominent sons of the emirate who have distinguished themselves in their various fields and found worthy of traditional titles and honours by the Emir. They were individuals whose pedigrees are defined in all eminence and had come forward to perform the required traditional obeisance to the House of Alimi after their recognition.
This Friday would be different. The Khakaakin would sing a new tune and the bembe, kalangu, the talking drums would sing of two generations of a family, the Abdulrazaq, whose psychological sense of their community is one of totality. It would particularly communicate complex messages over vast distances of the progenitor, a man whose life was defined by a feeling that not only members of the emirate matter to one another, but that a larger community of Kwara with a shared faith would have its needs easily met through their commitment to being together.
As the train of the new Mutawalli enters the palace this morning, the courtiers and bembe would raise the pitch of their voices in singing the praise of his forebear, Alhaji Abdulganiyu Folorunso Abdulrazaq, the late Mutawalli of Ilorin and Tafida of Zazzau, a former Chairman of the Nigerian Body of Benchers and how he died peacefully on Saturday July 25th, 2020. He would be remembered by his legacies and the children he bequeathed to the community. He would be particularly remembered as a community builder, who helped in the creation of Kwara State and the approval of Ilorin as the state capital. They would sing of his many legal exploits at the various constitutional conferences and commissions of enquiry which were set up to ensuring that both Ilorin and Kabba Provinces remain part of the Northern Nigeria. They would talk of his contribution to the development of Northern Nigeria and recall how he contributed to the creation of Moro and Asa Local Government Areas of Kwara State. Most importantly, the drums would hum his swaggering bravado as he stood his ground and argued powerfully that the boundary between Ilorin and Oyun Division should be shifted from the present day Post Office area; the Ilorin city centre. “Of course it was shifted!” The drums would reach the crescendo.
Then the train would settle at the palace square. The Emir, looking absolutely resplendent in his eminence is flanked by his chiefs. According to tradition, it is expected that the would-be chief would have been brought to the ancient Mosque in the morning for prayers before the turbaning ceremony. Today, the Serikin Salama, the custodian of the palace history has an enormous task ahead. He would provide the history of the Mutawalli title; what it means in the emirate and the expectations of the community.
It is almost 60 years since the first Mutawalli of the Ilorin was turbaned in this same palace. He was 32 years of age but even at that, his personality loomed large on his community and the nation. The octogenarian chronicler of the Ilorin heritage, Alhaji Lasisi Ayinla Kolawole Jimoh described him as a man of firsts: “The first child of his parents; first indigene of Ilorin Emirate, in fact, of Northern Nigeria, to school in Eastern Nigeria (Onitsha and Buguma) at both primary and secondary school levels; the first indigene of the emirate to gain admission into a university in both Nigeria and Great Britain, and the first Northern Nigerian to qualify as a lawyer and barrister-at-law.
He is also the first indigene of IIorin to be honored with a traditional title: Tafidan Zazzau outside Ilorin Emirate, in addition to being the first to be conferred with the traditional title of Mutawalli of Ilorin by the then Emir of Ilorin. Similarly, he is also the first Ilorin indigene to be appointed Nigeria's ambassador to a foreign land and the first to be a Federal Minister. He, also, became the first Ilorin indigene to serve as pioneer Commissioner for Finance and later as Commissioner for Health in Kwara State from 1967-1972”
In a community where culture intermixes with religion, the traditional title of the Mutawalli is one that finds bearing in the Islamic jurisprudence on endowments. According to those in the know, Mutawalli is a derivative of Arabic word wila which literally means “trust”. Similarly, wali means a trusted friend. Semantically Mutawalli is a friend entrusted with the responsibility of the management of a Waqf. Thus, mutawalli is a person upon whom confidence is reposed towards the fulfillment of the purpose of Waqf.
By itself, Waqf is a special kind of philanthropic deed in perpetuity; an endowment. It involves donating a fixed asset which can produce a financial return or provide a benefit. The revenue or benefit generated then serves specific categories of beneficiaries. Muslims giving waqf typically donate a building, land or cash with no intention of reclaiming the value gained from them. The essence in Islam is for redistribution of wealth and to bring out sense of love and sympathy toward each other in society.
The fundamental principle of Waqf’s is that the asset remains whole. For example, a community may use a field given as waqf in a way that is beneficial – such as by growing crops on it. The land itself is left intact, and so can go on helping the community for generations. The Western perspectives of Waqf comes in various names such as endowment, trust fund and foundation.
Although Ilorin has never slacked in raising any of these for her developmental programmes, the aforementioned is the metaphorical sense in which the 9th Emir of Ilorin, His Highness Zulkarnayni Gambari dan Muhammadu Laofe Dan Bawa, "Aiyelabowo V" turbaned the first Mutawalli of Ilorin. Even though the title was conferred in the tradition of the Sokoto Sultanate where the Mutawalli serves as special counsel to the emir, it did however seem that the express instruction given to AGF, as he was called, was to grow the whole of Allah’s given endowments to Ilorin as a crop field; make it intact that it would help the community for generations.
If the mutawalli is honest to the cause, the waqf will be safe.
Some years before he earned the Mutawalli title, AGF had proved his mettle at the Nigerian London Constitutional Conference which held between 23rd May and 26th June 1957 as he came to the rescue of the Northern delegates and the Northern Peoples Congres, NPC on various vexed issues in the emerging new Nigeria. Although many contentious issues were on the front burner for decision, none, probably received his impassionate crusade as the issue of minorities and their agitations. The conference had received several petitions from ethnic minorities in the three regions for the creation of new regions or states in their areas. Because the conference did not buy the idea of creating new states, it agreed to establish a Commission of Inquiry, which would look into the problem across the country.
The Commission had four members headed by Sir. Henry Willink. It was agreed that the Commission would visit each of these frosty areas for on-the-spot assessment and listen to various positions of the agitators. Among these petitions was the one championed by the Action Group in cohort with the Ilorin Talaka Parapo that the Yoruba speaking people of both Ilorin and Kabba Provinces in Northern Nigeria be merged with the Yoruba-dominated Western Region. This is a demand that flew in the face of the very foundation of Ilorin and the House of Alimi. AGF came to the rescue. Alhaji LOK Jimoh put it this way “But for the agility and brilliance displayed by AGF, which check-mated the superlative propaganda of the Action Group, the agitators would probably have won the day at the Conference.
“What they got, instead, was a “consolation prize” by way of the decision by the Conference to set up a commission of inquiry to look into the agitation and similar ones by other minority groups in the Eastern and Western Regions.
“The Willink Commission later sat in all the affected areas across the country. The sittings in Ilorin were dramatic and tense wherein the Action Group/Talaka Parapo displayed, as usual, the best of intimidating scholarship and political showmanship which was seemingly intended to cow the educationally disadvantaged opponents of the agitation.
“Again, AGF emerged as the Emirate's saviour — his erudition and professional acumen; his captivating oratory and genteel disposition mesmerized both the audience and members of the Commission of Inquiry.
“His bravado paid off immensely and at the end of the day as the best that the agitators got was a mere recommendation by the Commission that a plebiscite be conducted to determine the preponderant wish of the people of the Emirate about the agitation. The plebiscite never held”
Chief Josiah Olawoyin, a compatriot with whom AGF traversed the political space of the then Northern Nigeria narrated in his autobiography, My Political Reminiscences how the duo, representing Ilorin Division delivered a master stroke that stalled Colonel Ojukwu’s heady position that would have disintegrated the country and how the situation gave them the opportunity for the creation of Kwara State. His account particularly attested to AGF’s eloquence.
“I was one of the five people appointed to the Northern Nigeria Leaders of Thought forum from the former Ilorin Province and it was at one of the meetings that I moved a motion that in order to forestall Colonel Ojukwu's attempt to secede and weaken his position among the various and diverse ethnic groups in the Eastern Region, states must be created to liberate Calabar- Ogoja, Rivers State…
“I added that in the interest of credibility for the Gowon Administration, he should also create states in the North in view of the long-standing demand for a Middle Belt State… Alhaji A.G.F. Abdulrazaq, also from Ilorin Division like me, seconded the motion with powerful argument and the whole house accepted the motion in principle. A committee of seven was immediately setup to look into the matter. The Committee recommended the break-up of the North into six separate autonomous states, including the Central-West State which was later re-named, Kwara State some six months after it was created.
“AIhaji Sule Katagum, former Chairman of the Federal Public Service Commission, presided over the meeting at which I moved the motion. On the 27th July, 1967, twelve states, including six from the North, were created to the joy of all.”
Perhaps nothing explains better how much the first Mutawalli strove to protect and keep intact the much God has endowed Ilorin as the relationship he kept with one of his foremost kinsmen, the late Olushola Saraki, who he saw as another special asset to the community. Long before he served as the leading counsel in the famous Saraki Vs Kotoye legal tussle in the very early 90s, he had stoically stood with him as a senior ally on his road to stardom as he offered all the needed legal assistance.
All these are a tip of iceberg to his many efforts at seeing that Ilorin achieve fame and grow in the right proportion. His efforts include establishing the first private secondary school named Ilorin College in the whole of Northern Nigeria.
If the Mutawalli is honest to the cause, the waqf will be safe. The first Mutawalli, Alhaji AGF was outstandingly honest to the cause of the Ilorin Emirate and committed himself to its growth until his last breadth. May Allah reward him with goodness in the thereafter and forgive his sins.
Enter the new Mutawalli
For the heights he has attained as a lawyer and technocrat, Dr. Muhammed Alimi Abdul-Razaq is launching into his new position with the ingrained cerebral of the father with ease. Here is a man who had held the fort in many cases during the active life of the father at both the professional and domestic levels and, has proven his mettle as one to trust at upper echelon of corporate governance and boardroom politics, even as he remains at heart with his community.
Just as the father once held sway in Nigeria’s financial market as the President of Nigerian Stock Exchange, he was recently appointed to the Board of Directors of FBN Holdings Plc as a Non-Executive Director to bring to the Board his expertise as a regulator and lawyer of over 42 years post-call experience.
It is apparent that Dr. Abdulrazaq is stepping into the seat of the father with outstanding credentials and prodigious intellect. A graduate of Law from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, he holds a Ph.D. degree from the University of Hull, UK and he is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, Nigeria and an elected member of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London.
He is the Managing Partner, House of Laws after working with A. Abdul-Razaq (SAN) & Co where he rose to the position of Partner.
He has served the nation in several capacities as Commissioner, Legal Licensing and Enforcement with the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC); Chairman, National Iron Ore Mining Company, Itakpe and member (TC) National Council on Privatization.
He has attended Executive Leadership programs at Harvard Business School, University of Florida, Georgetown University and the Lagos Business School. He is a member of the International Bar Association and the Nigerian Bar Association.
He is the Founder and Chairman of Bridge House College, Ikoyi Lagos. He is the pioneer recipient of the Alumni Laurette Award of the University of Hull for legal scholarship and educational endowments.
As a community man, many would attest to his large heart and how he has often deplored his professional and social contacts to ensuring that the youths of the town have a head start in life.
This is the new Mutawalli, who would serve the Emir, Mai Martaba, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, CFR and the community in ensuring that Ilorin continues to attain greatness in all ramifications.
Gbolahan Balogun is a Principal Partner, Multicraft Communiations (Publishers of Midlandpostng)
N.B: This piece benefits from Alhaji A.G.F. Abdulrazaq: A Blessed Patriot written by L.A.K. JIMOH, published November, 2018