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Ismail Girigisu: Tribute To An Unsung Hero

The historic city of Ilorin yesterday(Tuesday, November 3, 2020) lost one of its finest citizens. The departed hero was Alhaji Ismail Adisa Girigisu. He was one of those who were saddled with the responsibility of protecting the community’s future through his appointment as the pioneer Principal of the Barakat Community Secondary School, Ilorin. The great teacher, who succumbed to the potency of the agent of death, died at an obviously advanced age and after a well-spent life in the services of Islam, Ilorin Emirate community and humanity at large.

Alhaji Girigisu was, undoubtedly, an unsung hero of the teaching profession. He was also a distinguished promoter of Islam, who did much of the propagation through amiable personal conduct and fascinating attitudinal dispositions. He was also a productive agent of community development and an efficient instrument of nation-building.

Alhaji Girigisu, a trained teacher of Biology and Agricultural Science, was the pioneer Principal of the 40-year-old Barakat Community Secondary School, Oke-Pakatan,Ilorin. He took over the leadership of the school from the scratch and succeeded in graduating five different sets of students of the school to greater accomplishments

The late Principal had earlier taught in many schools including the Government Secondary School, Malete,where he participated in the moulding of several other distinguished individuals and technocrats of note. He was a very simple, easygoing and contented gentleman who took his job of teaching and character moulding with utmost seriousness.

Alhaji Girigisu,who was a member of the famous Girigisu family of Akalambi Quarters,Ilorin, served as the Principal of the School from 1980 to 1990 before his redeployment to Banni Community Secondary School, Ilorin. He was succeeded at Barakat C. S. S,Ilorin, by Alhaji Abubakar Mustapha Oniyangi (as the Principal) .

The late patriot was an excellent leader,dedicated teacher,honest administrator and a man who had a firm and effective control of his staff and students. He was not an armchair, office sitting or money chasing Principal.He was a School Manager who priotised going round the various classes to ensure that real teaching and learning take place. He was indeed a father to all those who attended the school between 1980 and 1990 in the course of which he left lasting positive impressions.

Many of my contemporaries at the school would recalled that Alhaji Girigisu sometimes took over the teaching of some subjects he had mastery of whenever the school did not have the complement of teachers for such subjects. I cannot forget his professional delivery when he taught my class reproduction, a topic in Biology as part of preparations for our final exams. The great teacher simplified the topic so well that the not too enthusiastic members of our class,including my humble self, were able to digest the essence of the topic.

The late Principal, who was a also strict disciplinarian, would never speak in indegenous language to students. No matter the situation, he would always speak in English Language to us in order to encourage us acquire the capacity of learning and inculcating the nation’s official language. Where he discovered that a particular student could not express himself or herself freely in the presence of others,he would invite such a student for interaction and counselling, which helped a great deal.

The foremost scholar would also not tolerate any form of misdeed, indolence or indecency. Any student who crossed the line of decency was always visited with prompt justice on the Assembly Ground to serve as deterrent to others. The only student I remembered who escaped punishment was a senior, who got the late Shaykh Yahaya Murtala Oke-Agodi(1931-1995) to plead on his behalf. The old teacher pardoned the student after he(student) was thoroughly tongue lashed by the crowd pulling preacher for his misconduct.

Alhaji Girigisu would always encourage students to work harder in their studies as he warned that a time would come when we would want the school hours to be prolonged for us to read wider and cover more grounds. During his time,examination malpractice was not tolerated in any way. He would always say that “those who will pass should do so with integrity and those who will fail should fail with dignity. I would not tolerate malpractice of any form here”.

Understandably, the school,under his watch, grew from strength to glory as it competed favourably with older ones both in academic and extracurricular activities such ss sports. As often serious as he was, Girigisu also joked a lot in order to diffuse palpable tensions.

Many of us,while in school, did not value the quality of services offered us and humanity by Alhaji Girigisu. But I became aware of his industry when I met the then Principal of the Government Secondary School, Ilorin, Mr.Afolabi. I had pressurised my late father to secure a transfer for me to G.S.S. Ilorin. Fortunately, my father agreed to take me to the G.S.S Principal, who on finding out where I was and why I wanted to change school,said that “Ismail(referring to Alhaji Girigisu) is trying”.With that,I decided to complete my West African School Certificate course at Barakat for which I remain happy till date.

Many of those who attended the school during his time are today prominent men and women who are contributing to the growth and development of Ilorin Emirate, Kwara State,Nigeria and humanity at large. Among those that readily come to my mind are Dr Moshood Sidiq,the Headboy of the 1987 set;Mr Dauda Yakubu,the Head of Chambers,Yusuf Ali,SAN & Co.,Ilorin;DCP Jimoh Moshood,the immediate past Force Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Police;Dr Muyideen Shuaib Eleyinla,a successful Veterinary Doctor based in Port-Harcourt and Dr AbdulRaheem Lawal of the Federal Medical Centre,Lokoja,Kogi State. Others include Mr Dauda Beki,a seasoned academic staff of the Kwara State Polytechnic, Ilorin;Hajiya Risikat Okandeji Abdulkareem of the University of Ilorin;Mr Bisiriyu Hassan Ibrahim,a lecturer of Chemistry at the Kwara State College of Education, Ilorin; and my humble self,Abubakar Sidiq Imam,to mention a few.

Alhaji Girigisu was a quite religious fellow. His character and characteristics, manners and mannerisms and culture and costumes (to burrow the words of the late Danmasani Kano,Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule) reflected Islam and Ilorin. Staff and students of the school were,therefore, not surprised when on his return from Hajj in 1985,he only came back with an Arabic Typewriter for the use of the Shamsudeen Society of Nigeria of which he was a prominent member. He was also a functional member of the Ilorin Muslim community under the leadership of the late Alhaji Muhammadu Nassamu and subsequently under the late Alhaji Sheikh Ahmad Adisa- Onikoko.

I cannot write this piece without remembering all those distinguished men and women who worked with the late Principal to contributing to making my contemporaries and I what we are today. I remember individuals like Mr Alabi,Mr Ekure and Mr Idowu,who at various times served under him as Vice-Principals. The retinue of teachers who taught us under his supervision included but not limited to Alhaji Mubarak Ameen,a son to the former National Missioner of the Ansarul Islam Society of Nigeria, Shaykh AbdulRaheem Ameenulahi Al-Adabiyy (d.2012),who taught Agricultural Science; Hajiya Ramat AbdulRahman, a daughter to the second Grand Mufti of Ilorin, Shaykh Khidir Salaudeen Apaokagi Al-Adabiyy (1917-2013),who taught Yoruba Language; and the Ghanaian trained Mallam Mustapha,a multi talented scholar, who taught several subjects including English Language. Others were Hajiya Kuburat AbdulRaheem, wife of Prof. Hamza AbdulRaheem;who taught Economics; Alhaji Ambali AbdulKareem, who taught Mathematics, Integrated Science and Biology;the late Mrs.Shuaib, a wife to the late Alhaji Shuaib Sanda Abudu,who taught Social Studies;Mr. Salami,who taught Mathematics; Mr.Agethua,a Ghanaian who taught Biology and Mathematics;Dr.Roda Ajiboye,a diligent teacher of Geography who eventually retired as a Permanent Secretary from the Kwara State Civil Service; and also,Mr Hassan Baba Jimba,a fascinating teacher of Physics and Alhaji Imam Ishaq Sidiq,who handled Arabic and Islamic Studies, among several others who are too numerous to be mentioned in this short tribute. May Allah reward them all. Aamiin.

While I urge the family of the late Principal to take solace in the fact that their son,uncle and father not only lived long but also touched so many lives positively, it is my sincere conviction that many of the current School Principals and teachers needed to emulate the tenacity and industry of Alhaji Girigisu and his generation for our education system to live up to expectations.

May Allah forgive my late Principal his shortcomings and grant his soul eternal felicity. May He also afford his family the fortitude to bear the loss,which his death represents. Aamiin.

Imam is National Publicity Secretary, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union.

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