Old age is a treasury. Not necessarily of material wealth but of deep wisdom derived from varied experiences, which money cannot buy.
Longeivity is a rare blessing: Everyone desires it.Not every human who want it is blessed with it. It is not mandatory and it is also not hereditary. Neither wealth nor erudition,not even illustrious ancestry, makes it certain, as some would say in local parlance, a ‘sure banker’. No one secures long life by being extra-ordinarily careful or loses it through mere carelessness. It is a special favour from the Almighty Allah who grants the privilege to whoever it pleases Him to grant such a favour!
Notwithstanding the above and just as the late founder of the Ansarul Islam Society of Nigeria, Shaykh Muhammad Kamaldeen Al-Adabiyy, once asserted that old age is a test of faith on its own,I believe that it is not easy for anyone to
survive several challenges of life and to live for so long on the surface of this sinful earth to deserve being addressed as “Baba”, “Baba Agbalagba”,”Alhaji Agba”, “Mama Agba” or “Iya Sunna”of a family, profession, quarters or even a town or a polity as big and complex as our beloved Emirate. Such special attributes , which stand such categories of people out, should not be lost on younger generations for so many reasons!
The above established conviction informed the reason yours sincerely elected to always celebrate statesmen and women of Ilorin Emirate extractions, particularly at auspicious moments of their lives.This, I do , because I know that the kind of training, exposure and philosophy inculcated in them by their illustrious predecessors, discourages them from celebrating themselves, even in commemoration of their birth, as their contemporaries from other cultures often do.
It is, therefore,only right to express gratitude to a generation that believes that the little they say about themselves is too much, by registering the contributions of such illustrious heroes in documented history. While also encouraging the younger generation to emulate their outstanding sacrifices.
No community, particularly traditional one, exists or progresses without forthright elders and patriotic elites who work for its all-round transformation through qualitative leadership and effective mentoring of the younger generations.
Ilorin Emirate has proven not to lack such category of individuals, who devote their yesteryears for the betterment of the generations that own today and those in charge of the morrow in our great community.
Among such persons in the glorious annals of Ilorin Emirate is a distinguished statesman, foremost technocrat and outstanding politician, Alhaji Shehu Usman Mustapha, the third National President of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union; who marks his 90th birthday on the last day of this month.
Alhaji Mustapha, who is popularly known among his contemporaries as Usman Alao or Usman Aluko,was born on April 30,1930 to the family of the late prolific muslim Jurist, Alkali Mustapha Abubakar Aluko(d.1969).The father to this birthday ‘boy’ secured enduring fame as a forthright and courageous Judge of the Customary Court at Offa in those old days. He was simply known as “Alkali Offa” while his mother was Alhaja Laelatu a.k.a Iya Malete (d.1981),who hailed from Oja-Gboro area of Ilorin.
Alhaji Mustapha’s father was so famous for his uncommon sagacity, incomparable boldness and unpretentious bluntness while dispensing justice that the people of Ilorin Emirate evolved a subsisting saying that “no one can be more blunt than the Alkali of Offa”. People of Ilorin Emirate of his generation and the litigants who had cases before him as well as those who trooped to his court to take a glimpse at the other side of life regarded Alkali Mustapha for whom he was. He was a man who never minced his words. He was said to be a close friend to Shaykh Abdulbaki Abdullahi of Omoda, who was the father to the famous Shaykh Adam Abdullahi Al-Ilory (1917-1992), the renowned Islamic scholar and founder of the Markaz Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Agege, Lagos State.He was also a friend to Alhaji Bello Akanbi Oniyo(d.1984),the father to Justice Mustapha Akanbi,CFR(1932-2018).
The subject of this piece received his Quranic education under the watchful eyes of Alfa Yahaya Ahmad of Ile Kewu, Isale-Aluko, Ilorin, where he acquired elementary Islamic education, a training he completed around 1943.
On how he started modern schooling, Alhaji Mustapha recalls that one day,he was suddenly prunned-out of his playmates at Isale-Aluko for a place and event he had no idea of. The then young Usman, who was named after the famous founder of Sokoto caliphate, Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio, eventually found himself at an unusual arena of a school premises. And there, he was registered as a pupil of Pakata Primary School, Ilorin,making him the first indigene of Isale Aluko, Ilorin, to be registered for formal western education,which he started in 1939.
At the school where he was educated till 1943, he was taught by many outstanding teachers including Mallam Muhammadu Babankanni, who served as the 16th Baba Isale of Ilorin between 1966 and 1983. His contemporaries at the oldest western educational institution In the present-day Ilorin West Local Government Area of the State included the present Balogun Alanamu of Ilorin, Alhaji Abubakar Akanbi Jos; Alhaji Oseni Elelu, Alhaji Baba Elelu and Alhaji Oba Alausa.
They were all among the second generation of pupils of the famous school.
This birthday legend proceeded to the then Ilorin Middle School, (now Government Secondary School), Ilorin, where he was educated between 1944 and 1949.His school mates at Alalubosa included all those previously mentioned in the preceeding paragraph and the Gobir brothers of Ilorin (i.e Garba, Amori, Amuda, and “Amuda Agba”. All but the first were his classmates). Other contemporaries of this remarkable technocrat at that school were the late second republic Minister of Communication, Defence and Industry, who was the first holder of the traditional title of Wali of Ilorin, Alhaji Akanbi Mahmud Oniyangi(1930-2006); Mallam Mamman Bussa, Mallam Bio Muhammad and Mallam Jubril Pategi, who came from different non-Yoruba speaking parts of the erstwhile Ilorin Province, and my late father, Mallam Jimoh Pakata (1931-2012), who was, however, his junior “by far” at both Pakata and Alalubosa!
Between 1949 and 1950, Alhaji Mustapha was trained at the Clerical Training College(now known as the Institute of Administration, Ahmadu Bello University), Kongo, Zaria,along with Alhaji Oba Aluko of Ile Alkali Ikokoro and Mr. Sanni Salau, an indigene of Omu-Aran, the headquarters of Irepodun Local Government Area of Kwara State.
On completion of his training, he was employed by the Ilorin Native Authority along with those two Zaria-trained colleagues of his as typists, under the leadership of the famous Alhaji Saadu Alanamu (1912-1996), who was also known as “Saadu Gbogbo-Iwe” – the Chief Secretary of the Ilorin Native Authority as at the time the birthday boy joined the services of the Authority.
As a man who did not want to limit his knowledge and who was determined to succeed very well in life, he went back to the Institute of Administration of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in the early 1960s; where he successfully earned a Diploma in Accounting. He subsequently served as an Accountant and Chief Accountant in the Native Authority Administration. He,thereafter, retired from the civil service as the Treasurer of the defunct Ilorin Local Government in 1976 after a very productive, exciting and engaging career in the regular public service over 26 unbroken years.
While serving as the Treasurer of the Ilorin Native Authority, Alhaji Mustapha with the support of other top-brass of the Native Authority administration, particularly Alhaji Saka Opobiyi-the Development Secretary, and in collaboration with other prominent stakeholders, most especially the enigmatic 9th Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji (Dr.) Zulukaraini Gambari Mohammad, CFR,(1914-1992) hearkened to the clarion calls of the IEDPU, which he is a member of, and that of the leadership of the then Ilorin Descendants Students Union(IDSU), to assist the Ilorin Emirate Community in the establishment of the Ilorin Grammar School (I.G.S),Ilorin, in 1967. The school was intended to provide more space for qualified indigenes of the Emirate and others the opportunity of obtaining qualitative secondary school education without tears.
Alhaji Mustapha, who had been an active participant in community development, was also among the frontline youths of Ilorin and Ilorin Native Authority workers who vehemently struggled against a misguided attempt to merge the Yoruba-speaking segments of the old Ilorin Province with the defunct Western Region on the eve of the nation’s independence, as vigorously pursued by the defunct Action Group with the active support of the rested Ilorin “Talaka Parapo”.
Following the creation of Kwara State in 1967, and the return of most of his contemporaries of Ilorin Emirate origin who were in the public service of the erstwhile Northern Regional public service back to Ilorin to form the nucleus of the incipient state public service; Alhaji Mustapha joined them in the task of rejuvenating, reforming and strengthening the then Ilorin Divisional Descendants Union to become a formidable socio-cultural organisation with which the interests of the people of Ilorin Emirate would be projected, protected and polished.
His zeal, commitment, contributions and patriotism encouraged his colleagues in the Union to elect him the 3rd National President of the Union sequel to the resignation of his immediate predecessor, Alhaji A.A. Jimoh Oloje (d.1984), who left to join the state judiciary.
Alhaji Usman Mustapha served as the IEDPU National President between 1976 and 1978, during which he led the Union in a repeatedly serious, active but constructive engagement with the Kwara State Government under the leadership of the then Colonel (later Major-General) George Agbazikah Innih. The result of the engagements saw the then Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Zulukarnaini Gambari Mohammed, who reigned between 1959 and 1992 and was the Life
Patron of the Union and other elders and elite, leading the people of Ilorin Emirate in a form of earth-shaking “civil disobedience” and other matured acts of civilised protests, which forced the government to grant the community some concessions on its demands.
While he was the National President, the Union also engaged in series of profound advocacies, which compelled the then State Government to extend the provision of modern infrastructure to the hitherto abandoned indigeneous segment of the city of Ilorin, a right that the hapless people of Ilorin Emirate were previously denied. His leadership of the Union was so strong, effective and infectious that the two indigenes of Ilorin Emirate who were members of the State Executive Council as Civil Commissioners- Alhaji Saka Saadu, OFR, (1938-2017) and Alhaji Aliyu Alarape Salman, SAN, (b.1942), in an unprecedented display of patriotism, resigned their positions in government, in solidarity with the Union on her struggle against the established infraternity of the administration they were serving.The matter was so serious that the then Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR (b.1937) recalled in his book, “Not My Will”; why and how he personally intervened in the matter.The respected statesman said that it was only in that instance and in the case of a terrific misunderstanding between his Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters, the late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua (1943-1997) and the Military Governor of the old Oyo State, General David Medayaise Jemibewon, that he,as the Head of the Federal Military Government, directly intervened in matters relating to the day-to-day administration of sub-national units.
Also, under his remarkable leadership, the IEDPU played very vital roles in preparing and mobilising the people of Ilorin Emirate for a very fruitful second republic, which saw some indigenes of the community holding influential elective and strategic appointive positions at all levels of government formed by the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN).
Understandably, he was also one of those distinguished patriots whose efforts not only led to the institutionalisation of the Union as the voice of the people of Ilorin Emirate, but also conferred on her the enduring veneration she enjoys among stakeholders till date.
Prelude to the return to the civil rule of the second republic and upon his conviction, which was precipitated by the popular demand of the people for his active participation in partisan politics, Alhaji Mustapha voluntarily resigned from the Office of the National President of the IEDPU, a situation, which paved way for the emergence of Dr. Abdulkadir Salman Oniyangi, OFR,(1935-2020)) as the 4th National President of the Union.
Alhaji Mustapha is today, not only the most senior former National President of the Union but also the oldest of all the surviving past Presidents of the body and the Chairman of the Committee of Ex-National Presidents of the umbrella socio-cultural organisation of all the people of Ilorin Emirate. He is also a Member of the enviable but informal “League of the Surviving Most Senior Elite of Ilorin Emirate”, which parades but not limited to distinguished elders like the renowned lawyer and nationalist, Alhaji AbdulGaniyu Folorunsho AbdulRasaq, SAN, OFR; the respected technocrat, Alhaji Nasiru Oniyangi; the widely-traveled Alhaji Safi’i Usuf and, of course, the veteran teacher of teachers, Alhaji AbdulRaheem Adebayo, OON (Adebayo Malete). These gentlemen among a few others, are today in their 90s!
While serving as the National President of the IEDPU, the Wali of Ilorin was ably assisted by Alhaji Ahmad Olayiwola Kamaldeen (b.1938), the present Khalifat Adabiyyin, as the National Vice-President, while the late Hon. Justice Saka Yusuf OFR(d.2018); who later served as the Union’s National President, between 2009 and 2013, was the National Secretary.
The academic qualifications, professional wherewithal,electoral worth and selfless contributions of this birthday boy to the socio-economic and political development of Kwara State must have encouraged the first elected Governor of the State, Alhaji Adamu Attah (1928-2014), to appoint him as the Honourable Commissioner for Finance and a Member of the State Executive Council, a position he creditably occupied between 1979 and 1982.
During the aborted third republic, Alhaji Mustapha’s administrative sagacity and versatile political technocracy were again found indispensable and compelling for the smooth running of the party he fraternised with during the aborted 3rd Republic. He was therefore, elected as the Chairman of the Kwara State chapter of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), which ruled the state, between 1992 and 1993, through Senator Mohammed Sha’aba Lafiagi as the third elected Governor of the State. His party also produced the late Chief Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola,GCFR, (1937-1998) as the presumed winner of the annuled presidential elections at both the state and national levels.
This birthday boy was, indeed, a very close ally, dependable friend, intimate associate and political soul-mate of the Second Republic Senate Leader and the late Waziri of Ilorin , Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki (1933-2012), who by common consent, was the political leader of Kwara State right from the early 1970s till he passed to eternal glory in 2012.
In his youthful days, Alhaji Mustapha was an outstanding footballer. He played the game of soccer along with the late Justice Saka Yusuf (d.2018) and one Ajeigbe of Offa, among others, as members of the soccer team of the defunct Ilorin Province. He was also the Chairman of the Kwara State Football Association between 1972 and 1976 in the course of which he was a Member of the Nigeria’s official delegation to the 1974 World Cup hosted by Germany.
Alhaji Mustapha, an honest man who is accommodating to both the young and the old, detests treachery and disunity. He believes that our society will be much better if everyone shows deep sense of unity, humility, decency, cooperation, fraternity and love for one another.
Alhaji Mustapha’s contributions to community development can also be seen in his being a rallying figure of his extended family. He is also one of the patrons of the Isale-Aluko Development Association, a forum that was established to facilitate and catalyse the development of the Isale-Aluko Quarters, Ilorin.
It must also be noted that Alhaji Mustapha is a “perfect Ilorin gentleman”, who embraced “limited polygamy”; unlike you and I who are too conscious of “whethering the storm” of our “ajogunba”. He gloriously entered the institution of marriage in 1950 when he married Alhaja Sabitiyu, a daughter to the Elefo family of Kuntu.He did not stop at that as he added three more adorable wives to his household at various times.His second wife is Alhaja Alarape, a distinguished educationist, who hails from Ori-Okoh area of Ilorin. He also married the late Alhaja Khadijat, who was from Oja-Gboro and also an ace broadcaster, who served as the Director-General of the Kwara State Broadcasting Corporation (Radio Kwara and Kwara Television Service) during the tenure of Admiral Muhammad Alabi Lawal as the Executive Governor of Kwara State, Alhaja Mairo Eyitayo Mustapha,as his youngest wife. Alhaja Eyitayo was also a notable international athlete who wore Nigeria’s colours at so many global sporting fiesta including Olympics and Commonwealth as a sprinter in her younger days .
The marriages of Alhaji Mustapha are blessed with many successful children who are doing very well in their different careers in public service, politics, professional and entrepreneurship areas both within and outside Nigeria. Among the children of this highly accomplished statesman and, in fact, his eldest son is a retired Permanent Secretary in the Kwara State Civil Service, Alhaji Abdulganiyu Usman Mustapha. Others are a wife to a reknown international business magnate and the Sardaurna of Ilorin, Alhaji Umar Aminu Saro MON,CON- Alhaja Afusat Saro; a frontline Politician, former Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources in Kwara State and Ex-Honourable Member, who represented Ilorin West/Asa Federal Constituency at the Nigeria’s House of Representatives between 2011 and 2015, Alhaji Moshood Mustapha; a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Member of the Rules and Ethics Committee of the world’s soccer governing body, the Federation of International Football Associations(FIFA), Alhaji AbdulHakeem Usman Mustspha; an international business tycoon,Alhaji Kazeem Mustapha and a consumate Banker, the Executive Director, Abuja and North Region, First City Monument Bank,and the Founder/Chief Executive of the popular Sobi 101.9 F.M, Ilorin, Mallam Lukman Olayiwola Mustapha.
Other children of this examplary nonagarian include Alhaji Mudashiru Mustapha, an Ilorin-based Businessman; Alhaji Mubaraq Mustapha, who is based in the United States of America; Hajiya Shukurat Mustapha, a Lagos-based Businesswoman and Hajiya Rodiat Mustapha who is also a Lagos-based Businesswoman, among others.
Alhaji Mustapha,despite his success in public service, business, community initiatives and politics, is also a profoundly religious person. He is a frontline Member of the Ansarul Islam Society of Nigeria and one of the close disciples to the late Grand Mufti of Ilorin, Shaykh Muhammad Kamalud-deen Al-Adabiyy, MFR, OFR,ORSA (1905-2005).Years back, he was a usual front-bencher at the nocturnal ramadan preaching arena of the brilliant Shaykh AbdulRaheem Ameenullahi Al-Adaby at the Ilorin Central Jumaat Mosque. He also fraternise with the Ansarudeen Society of Nigeria and he is currently the Chairman of the Ilorin Central Jumaat Mosque Management Board.
In appreciation of his all-round efforts here and there; and most especially as it has to do with the development of Ilorin Emirate in the last 7 eventful decades, Alhaji Shehu Usman Mustapha was deservedly appointed and turbanned as the Wali (the traditional Chief Law Officer ) of Ilorin by the Emir of Ilorin and the Chairman of the Kwara State Council of Chiefs, Alhaji (Dr.) Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari (CFR); at an impressive ceremony witnessed by dignitaries from across and beyond Nigeria about a decade ago.
Alhaji Mustapha, who has visited many countries of the world for business, leisure and religious purposes, appreciates the mercies of Almighty Allah on him over the last nine (9) eventful decades on earth.
This birthday boy would, however, love to be remembered as a man who did his best towards the transformation of his community.
Yes, no life is ever-lived without one form of challenge or the other! The birthday boy “confides” in yours sincerely that he finds it difficult to forget the day he lost one of his wives in the early 1980s.He sees the day as the saddest in his life while he regards the day he was sworn-in as the Honourable Commissioner for Finance by Governor Adamu Attah as his happiest so far.
Yet, Alhaji Mustapha came, plays,acts and is still contributing his utmost to the advancement of his community as he encourages his biological, sociological and political progenies to continue to follow the path he and his contemporaries laid so that his beloved Ilorin Emirate will be by far, better than he met it.
We,therefore,need not wait for our heroes to pass on before celebrating their greatness.
Imam is the National Publicity Secretary, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union.