Last week Tuesday(February 12,2019)marked a year since the demise of the Honourable Justice Saka Yusuf, OFR,who was the third Chief Judge of Kwara State and the sixteenth National President of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union.
The late Jurist,who was well-known among his compatriots as Saka Oloru,was an accomplished statesman and remarkable community leader who completely committed the last segment of his life to the emancipation of Ilorin.
His death,which came a week after the demise of the equally unassuming Senator Ayinla Olomoda,who represented the Kwara Central Senatorial District at the Nigerian Senate between 1992 and 1993, was and remains a great loss to the llorin Emirate considering the quality of the selfless services he rendered to the community as a young man and as a distinguished elderstatesman.
Honourable Justice Saka Yusuf was,no doubt, a dedicated patriot, a reliable community leader and a polished model who afforded the Ilorin Emirate Community selfless services in many spheres since the early 1950s.
The late erudite Jurist was raised by one of the most powerful Princes and District Heads in the history of Ilorin, Alhaji Saidu Alao Omo-Oloni, an Uncle to the 9th Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Sulu-Gambari(1959-1992).
It was the late Alhaji Omo-Oloni, who was the then District Head of Ballah, who took the young Saka Yusuf to the rural community of Ballah in the present day Asa Local Government Area of Kwara State. It was there that he was registered as one of the pioneer pupils of the Ballah Elementary School in 1943. Among his classmates at the first western educational institution in the Asa Local Government Area of “the State of Harmony” was the pioneer Grand Kadi of Kwara State, Justice Abdulkadir Orire (CON).
From Ballah, Alhaji Saka Yusuf proceeded to the then Ilorin Middle School, (now known as G.S.S. Ilorin), from where he rounded-off his junior secondary education around 1950.
Honourable Justice Saka Yusuf, throughout his school days was not only a remarkable student who excelled in his studies but also a model in character-a trait that got him appointed as the Head Boy of the 1950 set of the only publicowned post-primary institution in the then Ilorin Province.
Alhaji Saka Yusuf was also a prolific athlete and a sharp-shooting footballer who embraced fame through sporting activities. He was more famous throughout the then Ilorin Province as an oustanding sports personality.
Upon completing his middle school training, he was offered employment into the Ilorin Provincial Authority and posted to the Emir’s Palace, Ilorin. He eventually served, and was doing very well in the services of the Emirate Council. Among his colleagues at the Palace, then,were the late gifted Orator,Alhaji Sani Adebayo Lawal, who was the Private Secretary to Emir Sulu-Gambari and Alhaji Abdulkadir Oba Shiru who was Justice Saka Yusuf’s immediate Deputy and Successor at the Palace.
As a man who was determined to make it in life as a respected Professional,Justice Saka Yusuf registered for the Ordinary and Advanced Levels GCE while still in the employ of the Palace and despite being one of the raves of the moment of Ilorin’s social scene of those days.
Against all odds,Justice Saka Yusuf travelled to the United Kingdom in the early 1960s to primarily pursue a degree course in Secretarial Administration,which was relevant to what he was doing at the Palace then. But his meeting with his former teacher in London, Justice Saidu Kawu,CON, saw him changing his course of study to Law. That was because Justice Saidu Kawu,who also accommodated him at his London home,convinced him that he would do better in life as a Jurist than as a Secretary,which had fascinated him. He eventually graduated as a Lawyer and he was subsequently called to bar.
Saka Yusuf came back and continued his services to the Kwara State Government as an high-ranking Administrative Officer and later joined the State Judiciary. He was an Assistant Registrar in several divisions of the Kwara State High Court. He, thereafter,served as the Corporation Secretary and Legal Adviser of the Kwara State Printing and Publishing Corporation, the Publishers of the Herald Newspapers on establishment in 1973.
Justice Saka Yusuf was one of the patriotic professionals who made the then “Nigerian Herald” a darling of the Nigerian critical readers and opinion leaders in the 1970s.The paper was so popular that to get a copy of it,one must be ready to buy another newspaper along with it.
He later got appointed as a Magistrate and was doing well at Offa,where he was discharging his duties creditably before the then Kwara State Government prevailed on the then Chief Judge of the State,Saidu Kawu,to make him the Director of Public Prosecution of Kwara State when the misdeamour of his immediate predecessor in that office became a glaring embarrassment to stakeholders.
He was in that position as the D.P.P till 1986 when he was deservedly appointed as a Justice of High Court of Kano by the Government of Kano State,which requested for his services.
He later served the Ag. Chief Judge of Kano State.And despite the refusal of the authorities of Kano State to appoint him as the substantive Chief Judge of the state he discharged his duties creditably.He was in Kano,when the second Chief Judge of Kwara State,Justice Timothy Adeyemi Oyeyipo,retired which paved way for his appointment as the Chief Judge of Kwara State in 2007. He was the Chief Judge of Kwara State till 2008 when he retired after a remarkable and challenging career.
A year after his retirement, the leadership of the foremost sociocultural organization of the Ilorin Emirate, the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union ( IEDPU), was entrusted on him. He was the National President of the body for four challenging years which ran between 2009 and 2013.
While serving as the number one member of the Union,Justice Saka Yusuf gave a very good account of himself projecting, preserving and defending the corporate interests of the people of Ilorin Emirate to the limit of his ability. He laboured so hard and was able to restore the polished image of the organization so well that the Kwara State Government found it necessary to consult the Union before taking some steps.
He served selflessly and with total and unparalleled commitment. He succeeded in battling against the antipeople urbanization law of the State to the admiration of the “helpless” people of Ilorin Emirate. His efforts also blocked the attempt to selloff some public land across Ilorin.
Not a few compatriots were positively surprised about his principled stand on some community issues,which placed him against the interests of the Kwara State Government. He did all that despite the position of the man who facilitated his appointment as the Chief Judge of the State and who also happened to be the son of his abiding longtime friend.
Every attempt to either cajole or intimidate him to close his eyes against governmental infractions was resisted by that uncommon champion of the oppressed. He would say that struggling for the interest of the Ilorin Emirate had been his pass-time right from the 1950s when he teamedup with others to checkmate the dangerous incursion of the then Action Group of Chief Obafemi Awolowo to Ilorin and that he was among those who worked with the late third Waziri of Ilorin,Dr.Abubakar Olusola Saraki, and other well-meaning compatriots to ensure that Ilorin Emirate was not cheated in the scheme of things particularly in the early 1970s and up till the enthronement of the Second Republic.
Justice Saka Yusuf OFR used all those experiences to ensure that his tenure as the President of the IEDPU was tightly maximized to fight and secure the interests of the Ilorin Emirate Community.
He succeeded so well because he never wanted anything aside the progress of Ilorin. What mattered to him was the sanctity of “the Ilorin Project”.
Among what the late Jurist would also be remembered for was the mobilization of his contemporaries and the Ilorin Emirate Community ,at large, to ensure that the Kwara State College of Education, Ilorin, and the Kwara State College of Arabic and Islamic Legal Studies, Ilorin, remain functional against the desire of some powerful stakeholders who wanted those schools facedout for God’s know reasons.
His leadership of the Union would for long be used as a yardstick to measure the performance of those who would come after him as the President of the influential IEDPU and succeeding elders of the community to always be mindful of what history would say about them while they are alive and when they eventually left the departure lounge of this sinful earth.
Justice Saka Yusuf OFR was a man who saw the office as an avenue of giving back to the community. He never saw it as a means of enriching himself or promote personal interest or those of his children.Monies freely given to him in privacy by politicians and public office holders,which others would have kept to themselves were promptly paid into the account of the Union to the consternation of some members who felt he was laying a “difficult precedent”.
Discerning readers may also be astonished to know of his rejection of a quarter of a million arranged for him to augment the cost of the repair of a portion of his house,which got burnt while he was the President of the Union. Every effort to cajole or persuade him to accept the offer was turned down as he explained that the satisfaction he derived from serving the community at that level was enough for him.
Honourable Justice Saka Yusuf’s intimate friends included the late Alhaji Ibrahim Ade Yusuf, the late Alhaji Akanbi Oniyangi, the late Alhaji Yakubu Amori Gobir and, of course, Alhaji Safi’i Usuf as well as General Abdullahi Mohammed. Justice Yusuf would be remembered for been an honest, upright, humble, courageous,selfless and generous personality who did everything to contribute his quota to the development of his community and the nation at large throughout his public service career.
May Allah grant him eternal felicity and may he be rewarded most generously for his sterling contributions.
Imam was the Third(Recording) Assistant National Secretary,IEDPU, 2009-2013 and the current National Publicity Secretary of the Union.