Dieing at the age of 85 in an environment like ours cannot be regarded as going to the great beyond too early. Though no one wishes to die, when it comes at such an age and after a fulfilled and gracious life, we have to accept death with a profound sense of gratitude!
Yes,we all live,but some were or are more alive than others.Some people would die for themselves-bo ba ku, o ku fun eleda e ni , as we say in local parlance, while a few others die for humanity-o ku fun gbogbo aye .The philosophical essence of those sayings suggest that in all situations, it is not really the age of the deceased that matters but what he lived for. It is that singular factor that determines the magnitude and quality of reactions of people to the death of an individual.
In spite of the commonality of the phenomenon of death,it is still very very difficult to comprehend.It is a necessary end that always makes itself very obstructive. It cares less about the place or position of its victims. It doesn’t give premium to who its targets are. If not, some people who had worked against its manifestation like the subject of this piece, should have been exempted from experiencing it, or given some form of honour before it lays its ugly hand on them.
I must confess that this tribute was delayed due to the state of confusion I found myself in upon learning about the death of Dr. Yusuf Amuda Aluko,OFR,last Friday (May 15,2020).I had been confounded with how and why death decided to take such an invaluable gentleman away and “unceremoniously”. How could such a “great priest in the temple of life” just give-up the ghost like a common man? How could a man who was so full of life and so energetic be taken away in such a sudden manner?Why should a whole Amuda Aluko who was never reported sick just kick the bucket like that? Why should the life of a glowing patriot be terminated in such a manner without giving him the privilege of saying bye to his compatriots on the sick bed?
But after a few days of rumination, and subsequent interactions with those who have been around for quite a while, including two generations before my own , it became clearer to me that death would always come at the appointed time and seize the soul of whoever his time has come, regardless of any other factor. I was referred to portions of the Holy Quran and the traditions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad as well as other historical occurrences to be at home with the unquestionable potency of death over all mortals, which drive home the point that all would eventually die except the Almighty Allah, who created life and death itself.
The transition of Dr.Aluko to the great beyond is a lesson for you and I on the greatness of life and vanity of human existence. Though his death has, again, robbed the people of Ilorin Emirate the services of one of the most consistent believers in the city’s greatness,the demise of that illustrious figure has thrown-up so many lessons that cannot be totally captured in a short essay of this type.
I had the privilege of a personal relationship with the late Physician.Ironically, he never really knew me as a person while I knew him so closely. He was among those Allah used to ensure that I am living to tell the story of my survival from a devastating health challenge I suffered when I was very young.
The story dated back to sometimes in 1973.I was a little child then and being raised somewhere around Igbaja in the present day Ifelodun Local Government Area of Kwara State by my mother’s paternal grandmother.I was told that I fell sick, with an illness so terrible that all the medicines and efforts applied on me refused to prove efficacious. My body was resistant to all the medications at the disposal of those to whom I was surrogated. The old woman and her people were disturbed. They decided that if I would die I should not do so while in their care. A decision was taken to bring me to Ilorin. My father,the late Mallam Jimoh Pakata(1931-2012), a school teacher and my mother, who was nursing another baby, had no choice but to take me to the newly-established Garin Alimi Hospital,then, at Isale-Oja, in Ilorin.
The owner of the facility,Dr. Aluko, was not unknown to my father.They were classmates at the Middle School, Ilorin.Luckily, Dr. Aluko was on duty at the moment I was taken to the hospital. He received me and allocated a bed space to me. Upon thorough assessment of my “hopeless” case , he tongue-Iashed my dad for not bringing me to the Hospital on time . Upon my father’s attempt at explaining that I was being raised outside Ilorin, he attracted another round of vituperation from the late Tafida,who felt a child needed all the care of his parents, most especially in his formative years. I was admitted and treated for about a month at the Hospital.And eventually healed by the Almighty Allah at the end of which N3:00k was paid as the cost of the services .
Each time my mother remembered that episode, she would always say “if not for your father’s friend, you might have gone”.
As it was with me, I believe that so it was for so many of my compatriots who had one form of contact or the other with Dr. Aluko, particularly in the course of his professional medical practice. One thing that I am,however, delighted about, is that I was able to narrate the story to him when he was alive. Although, he had forgotten the episode, he thanked Allah that he was alive to be told of his positive interventions in the survival of others.
Dr.Aluko was a great man from every parameter of evaluation. He was so many positive things to so many people. He was not just one of those eminent and unforgettable Ilorin men and women of substance, who defined the developmental trend of their ancestral home, but he was also a “principal player” in Ilorin’s march to greatness.
The late Tafida of Ilorin has a very special space in the history of our great community as he does in my heart. He was known as a patriot right from his days as a young man.It is to his eternal credit that he never ceased to show acts of patriotism till his very last moment. So important was the man that the history of Ilorin Emirate cannot be completely told without generous mention of his accomplishments and contributions.
Born to the late Mallam Ishola Abodunrin Aluko and the late Alhaja Asumawu Aluko in 1935,Dr.Aluko,who was known among his contemporaries as Amuda Apabiekun, was the first indigenous Medical Doctor known to the people of Ilorin Emirate.
He started the pursuit of greatness at Oko in the present-day Osun State, which was the base of his parents, as a primary school pupil.He also attended the Ilorin Middle School, now known as Government Secondary School, Ilorin,between 1948 and 1950.He was said to be the youngest or shortest member of his class. He had the advantage of early education because of his father’s exposure to the numerous values of modern western education as an ex-service man and a staff colonial authority.
His contemporaries at the Government Secondary School, Ilorin, included distinguished personalities like the late Second Republic Minister of Communication, Defence and Industry, Alhaji Akanbi Mahmud Oniyangi(1930-2006),who he would always remember as a tough senior; the late Dr. Abdulkadir Salman Oniyangi,OFR, (1935-2020),the first Ilorin man to serve as the Secretary to the Military Government of Kwara State ;the late Justice Saka Yusuf,OFR (d.2018),the third Chief Judge of Kwara State;the late Alhaji Sanni Adebayo Lawal(1933-2011),who was a Civil Commissioner under Governor Adamu Attah between 1979 and 1982 as well as the popular Gobir brothers of Ilorin .Other surviving school mates of his were Justice Abdulkadir Orire,CON(b.1934),the pioneer Grand Khadi of Kwara State;Alhaji Shehu Usman Mustapha(b.1930),the Wali of Ilorin; Prof. Saka Nuru (b. 1935),the pioneer Professor from Ilorin Emirate and the first West African Professor of Veterinary Medicine and ,Alhaji Safii Usuf Olodo(b.1929),the technocrat who had the privilege of setting-up the Ministry of Health of the erstwhile Northern Region under the supervision of the first Madawaki of Ilorin, Alhaji Yahaya Ori-Okoh,MFR,OBE(1907-1998)who was the Minister in-charge of the Ministry between 1952 and 1957, among many others who are too numerous to be mentioned .
Despite his relatively young age while at G.S.S, Ilorin, Dr. Aluko was said to have shown a very remarkable strength in the Sciences,which encouraged the management of the Middle School and the then Ilorin Native Authority to prune him out of the Provincial School for the Barewa College, Zaria. He was at the College from 1950 to 1952.At the College, he met several other students from other parts of Northern Nigeria such as Alhaji Lema Jubril, a distinguished politician,who contested for the nation’s Presidency during the aborted 3rd Republic; Dr. Ahmadu Ali(b.1935), a former Minister and National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and General Yakubu Gowon(b.1934),Nigeria’s longest-serving Military Head of State, and, of course, the late General Murtala Ramat Mohammed (1938-1976),Nigeria’s most celebrated military leader.Prof. Saka Nuru and Alhaji Hamidu Gambari Erubu,CON(b.1931), the pioneer Registrar of the National Open University of Nigeria, were among those with whom he left G. S.S.Ilorin,for the premier secondary school in the defunct Northern Nigeria.
His sojourn at the school turned-out to be another great experience for him.He was among those whom the Premier of the old Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello,GCON(1910-1966),selected to study Medicine locally based on his stimulating record of academic performance. He was subsequently enrolled at the School of Hygiene, Kano, where he was trained between 1952 and 1954.His mates at the School included the late Alhaji Yakubu Suleiman(Yakubu Pakata /Yakubu Wolewole)who ended up as a Chief Environmental Protection Officer,before his death in 1999 after a decade of retirement from the civil service. His performances were said to have been far beyond average,a situation which encouraged more governmental sponsorship. He was, therefore, further educated at Zaria Medical School between 1954 and 1960.The School was one of the several innovations of the administration of Northern Nigeria government to fill the yawning gap in manpower of the North and to specifically train medical personnel at home with the support of the British government. At the end of his rigorous training at the School, which formed the bedrock of what later became the Institute of Health of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria ,Dr.Aluko and a few others who survived the intense “medical inculcation”at the Zaria Medical School were certified to practice and subsequently “inducted” as Medical Doctors,who could practice anywhere in the defunct Northern Nigeria.
His formal registration, however, came few days(August 19,1963) after the Medical and Dental Registration Council of Nigeria offered the late 3rd Waziri of Ilorin and the first Senate Leader of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki registration on August, 16,1963.Dr.Saraki had earlier completed his medical training from England in 1962.
Dr. Aluko eventually went abroad for post-graduate studies at the University of London where he underwent training in Tropical Public Health with specialisation in Community Medicine in the late 1960s.While on the course, his initial “local training and practice” had no negative effects on his classroom and field performances as he did so well to the amazement of the authority of the institution and the Interim Common Service Agency(ICSA) managing the joint assets of succeeding six states of the erstwhile Northern Region, which sponsored him on the course . Dr. Aluko could be adjudged as the Captain of the first generation of Medical Doctors produced by Ilorin Emirate for many reasons even when that generation paraded distinguished professionals and leaders like the late Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki(1933-2012);the late Dr. Abdulkadir Salman Oniyangi(1935-2020),the late Dr. Abdulkadir Babatunde Suleiman (1938-2000) and the late Dr. Hassan Ishaq Adebayo Ajagbe(d.1967).
Dr. Amuda Aluko had the longest practice among members of that generation.Secondly, he was the first among members of that respected generation who will establish an health facility in Ilorin. Also , despite engaging in some other calligs, he never really left the business of stetescope,like others, as he practiced till death came calling. He also survived each and every one of them.
It is important to also say that Dr. Aluko was an incurable optimist and a firm believer in the greatness of Ilorin Emirate. When he was nurturing the idea of establishing his private Hospital, he was attracted by the commercial city of Kano to host the facility.His interactions with one of his former teachers,the late Justice Saidu Kawu,CON(1928-2013), encouraged him to have the Hospital established at Ilorin instead of Kano despite the promise of commerce that Kano held. The late Jurist had reminded Dr. Aluko of the need for him to have the Hospital in Ilorin,saying that money was not everything.He heeded the advice of Justice Kawu despite being a close friend to the penultimate Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero,CFR, (1930-2014),who had offered him mouth-watering promises of large portion of land free of charge and the profitability of the business venture in Kano, a city that, despite its commercial nature, had just very few hospitals, which were owned by non-Northerners and non-Muslims at that point.
Before establishing the Garin Alimi Hospital,Ilorin, Dr. Aluko had worked as a Civil Servant both at regional and state levels till 1972. He had served at Jos,Maiduguri,Sokoto,Katsina and Kano,among several other places in Northern Nigeria.He also worked briefly with the Nigerian Sugar Company, Bacita.
On the creation of Kwara State in 1967, he was redeployed to Ilorin. He was among the few Doctors who were managing the health of the people of the State.He was always moving from New-Bussa to Okene through Ilorin and Offa and to Lokoja down to Dekina and Idda just to save precious lives at a time when the number of Medical Doctors both in government and in private services was too few compared with the ernomous landmass and population of the State.
Having practised Medicine for so many years, Dr. Aluko believed that the wellness and greatness of his people could also be enhanced through active participation in community development and partisan politics.He, therefore, participated in the two in full force while holding on tenaciously to his medical practice.
He was a functional member of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union (IEDPU) for many years. He eventually served as the National Vice-President of the Union in the the early 1980s. He was also a Member of the Ilorin Solidarity Club.Dr.Aluko was one of those elites who never turned down invitations to any community event. He even sometimes demanded for his invitation if such was not extended to him on time. Those who are in the know would also remember that he served as the Chairman at the launch of the Ilorin Educational Endowment Fund in December, 1996 during the the presidency of Alhaji Mudi Adebayo Gold(b.1942).His presentation and donation on that eventful occasion had made the subsequent donation of the sum of N1Million Naira by its Chief Launcher,the late Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki, a “necessity”.It was also at the event that the idea of producing an Ilorin man as the elected Governor of Kwara State became a “community sing-song”. I will leave the rest of this part of the story and most especially the exchange of banters on that memorable occasion between Dr. Aluko and Dr. Saraki for another time. It was the resources generated at the event that the IEDPU used to build the Ilorin Comprehensive High School (ICOHS), Ilorin. Besides that, there is never any community project or programme the late Tafida did not show his commitment to through his widow’s mite.
As earlier stated, Dr. Aluko also joined active partisan politics during the Second Republic. He was a Member of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN)and one of those who worked for the victory of the Party in the State.In fact, he mooted the idea of contesting for the governorship ticket of the Party in 1983 just to ensure that the party ticket was not giving out on a platter of gold.
During the aborted 3rd Republic, Dr. Aluko fraternised with the National Republican Convention(NRC). He was a gubernatorial aspirant of the party who battled for the Party’s ticket with his compatriots, namely Alhaji AbdulRasheed Salman Alada and Prof. Saka Nuru. He lost the party ticket to Alhaji AbdulRasheed Salman Alada (b.1938),who enjoyed the backing of Prof. Nuru at the very last minutes of the contest.Though he lost the governorship ticket of their party and the party also lost to Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki’s sponsored candidate of the alternative Social Democratic Party(SDP),which fielded Senator Mohammed Shaaba Lafiagi,Dr.Aluko never lost the friendship of those two compatriots of his till the very end of his physical existence.
In the ongoing dispensation, Dr. Aluko’s choice of Political Party was always determined by where the erstwhile political leadership of the State stood and most especially the thinking of the larger Northern Nigeria interest . He was for many years a Member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He eventually joined the All Progressives Congress(APC) to ensure that his desire for changes in the political leadership of the State come to past.
Dr. Aluko was an unusual politician.Long before the idea of rendering periodic report to the electorate became a political culture in Nigeria , that illustrious son of Ilorin Emirate had cultivated the practice. I remember vividly in 1995, when as a Member of the Constitutional Conference of General Abacha, Dr. Aluko walked into the erstwhile National Secretariat of the IEDPU at Pakata to brief the Union on his activities at the Conference.Despite being a nominee of the the then Federal Military Government to the Conference ,he still felt the need to engage and gauge the feelings of his compatriots on the assignment. He was the only Member of the Conference from Ilorin Emirate who did that to my knowledge!
One other vital role played by the late Tafida was the need to ensure that the moribund Ilorin City Hall Project was revived and completed for use. He had came to the IEDPU Secretariat one day to brief the Union on what he saw in a less-blessed community. When he was apprised with the stumbling block to the project , he promised to work on it. He did. But he did not succeed. May be his failure in that attempt happened so that his contemporaries who are still alive can also intervene for the love of our people!
I also remember that he was among those distinguished elders of Ilorin Emirate Community who obeyed the clarion call of His Royal Highness, the Emir of Ilorin and Chairman of the Kwara State Council of Emirs and Chiefs, Alhaji (Dr.) Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari,CFR ,towards ameliorating the suffering of the less-privileged members of the community .The Fund,to which he contributed a quarter of a Million Naira, was necessitated by the effects of the total lockdown of economic activities in Kwara State as a result of the breakout of the dreaded Coronavirus pandemic. He had invited the Co-Chairman of the Fund and the National President of the IEDPU, Alhaji Aliyu Otta Uthman, fsi,to come for the cheque.When he waited for so long without seeing the Co-Chairman,who was obviously busy with related community assignment, Dr.Aluko had to exercise the power of his age and status to give an ultimatum to the Ex-DSS Director to come in person or send someone down or he would take the Cheque personally down to the Emir by himself as he wanted the money paid-in without further delay!The IEDPU promptly delegated an aide to the indefatigable Tafida and the money was paid in to the glory of Allah and glowing memory of the donour.
A tribute of this nature would also be incomplete if his roles at ensuring that the tenure of the first son of his beloved Ilorin Emirate as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Prof. S. O. AbdulRaheem, OFR, was not mindlessly truncated at the institution, is not mentioned.The late Tafida was among the six distinguished signatories who signed an advertorial that marked the “End of Discussion”between the administration of Prof.AbdulRaheem and the erstwhile leadership of the institution’s Academic Staff Union of Universities(ASUU).He had signed the piece along with the late Justice Saidu Kawu, the late Alhaji Akanbi Oniyangi, the late Alhaji Sanni Adebayo Lawal,the respected Ambassador Abdulkadir Muhammad Sambo Imam and the venerable Alhaji Hamidu Gambari Erubu, who were among the most respected elders of the Ilorin Emirate Community, sometimes in the year 2000.The messages conveyed in the piece and the caliber of its signatories was the last straw that broke the proverbial Carmel’s back as it encouraged the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration to take more interest in the happenings at UnIlorin and eventually encouraged the phenomenal Talba of Ilorin the much-needed home-support to deal with the matter once and for all.One can, therefore,say that the industrial harmony being enjoyed at the University of Ilorin, is attributable to the intervention of that great leader and his accomplished compatriots at one of the most critical times in the annals of the nation’s most sought-after University.
Another very significant attribute of that great man was his exceptional humility. Anyone who was close to his Hospital would know the man as a friendly personality who regarded every other person as his friend.His mannerism was “jo oremi”,a form of greeting which easily disharms.He was a very pleasant personality to be with.
I must also recall his failed attempt to acquire sound knowledge of Arabic and Islamic studies from a Scholar who he met at a public function. Unfortunately, the arrogance of the Scholar, who is now late, discouraged the Tafida Ngeri from doing so. For a man of such calibre who had wined and dined with Queens and kings to enroll himself as a pupil of someone who was many decades his junior, age-wise, spoke volumes. Unfortunately, he was discouraged by the very arrogant attitude of the teacher the very day the late elderstatesman went for his lesson at the teacher’s home . Dr. Aluko never told me the story. It was that Scholar,himself,who in his characteristic “go and die attitude” that disclosed the situation at a public event.
The great Medic was not a Prophet without honour at home. His services to his community and fatherland were well appreciated in so many ways. Apart from several political appointments he held, he was also a man whose honour percolates among the elites down to the downtrodden.
He had the privilege of being one of the professionals who managed the health of the late 9th Emir of Ilorin,the late Alhaji(Dr.) Zulukarnaini Muhammad Gambari,CFR(1914-1992).He, indeed, accompanied him on so many journeys abroad in search of sound healthcare and was said to be with him when he breathed his last in Germany in February, 1992, after serving the great monarch for several decades. It was,therefore, not surprising that he was turbanned by the same Emir as the first Tafida of Ilorin in 1986 and as the first home-based modern professional to be so honoured.
The “Tafida Ngeri”,as he was affectionately addressed, was also a recipient of the award of the Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR). He also had one of the longest and most strategic roads in Ilorin,the former Asa Dam Road, renamed, after him, at the insistence of the Federal Government . He was also among those who were first admitted into the “Ilorin Emirate Hall of Fame” in 2015 by the community’s supreme socio-cultural organisation,the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union.
Dr. Aluko was “a perfect Ilorin gentleman” who did what every average Ilorin man of his generation did. He was polygamous! He practiced it with decency. It is therefore not surprising that all his children emerged among the most trained and promising leaders of our community who had, while their father lived, took the back seat in several spheres probably because “Erin o kin fon ki omo re naa o fon”. Despite his tight schedule, he always found time to visit them in school to have a first hand knowledge of their performances and offer them necessary support. Two of his children, whom I know will be among those to carry on his enviable legacies are Dr.Idayat Apaokagi,a Medical Doctor like her father, and Pharmacist Lateefat Bola Yusuf, were my contemporaries at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in the the 1990s.
Dr. Aluko was,nevertheless,not too good to be true for he was actually true .Many of our townspeople would insist that he ran his Hospital as strictly as an Igbo businessman would do as no explanation would offer anyone free services at the facility. I don’t think he should be blamed for that as he had many bills to pay.He was also accused of not being a free-spender like others who were into politics.Yes,he would say he won’t do that because he did not believe in “commercial politics”.
Dr. Aluko has gone and gone forever. But he would for long be remembered not through his wealth or his profession, not even through his sophisticated children but by his numerous contributions to the development of our community. It is my prayers that Allah rewards all his good deeds. May He overlook his transgressions and grant his soul a befitting space in Al-Janat Fridaouz. May all he worked for continue to prosper. May our community continue to be blessed with more patriots like the late Tafida who will sacrifice their personal pleasure for the welfare and betterment of our community. Aamiin.
Imam is the National Publicity Secretary of Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union .