The New Mutawali, Alimi of Ilorin, @ 65

Last week, the southernmost Emirate honoured some of its most distinguished subjects with prestigious traditional titles. The honorees were nine in number. While a few of them anticipated it, I was reliably informed that many of the new title holders were unaware of the honours coming their ways. Some of them were so unaware of the eventual development that they did not even come home for the Eid-El-Kabir festival as they have done many a time in the past.

While each of the honorees and their associates happily received the title conferred on him, I doubt if His Royal Highness, the Emir of Ilorin and Chairman, Kwara State Council of Chiefs, Alhaji (Dr)Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, CFR, knew that the traditional title came at the most auspicious time, particularly for one of them. The respected Monarch never knew that the anniversary of the “call-to-earth” of one of the new traditional title holders, yes, the very one who was named after the founding father of Ilorin Emirate and the Emir’s illustrious progenitor, Shaykh Alicia’s a week away. The man-in- question was, in fact, the very first of the new chiefs who rushed home from his base to lead his relations and friends on appreciation visit to the Emir and pledge his loyalty to the distinguished Alimi Royal Dynasty again. The birthday boy and one of the latest traditional title holders is no other person than the new Mutawali of Ilorin, Dr Muhammad Alimi AbdulRazaq, who marks his 65th birthday today, Saturday, July 31, 2021.

For those who have been very conscious of the sociopolitical environments of Ilorin Emirate in the last three decades, the name, Alimi AbdulRazaq will definitely be ringing bells in their ears. He, just like his family in its entirety, has been a recurring decimal in the march to progress of Ilorin Emirate for many decades. And so,many informed people were not only unsurprised but also very happy when he was named as the successor to his late father and as “the Chancellor Exchequer/Holder of the Treasury” of Ilorin Emirate.

Though the title of Mutawali of Ilorin is not hereditary and the Emir is not mandated by any law or custom to appoint any specific person, there is no doubt in the fact that Dr AbdulRazaq deserves the title. His feet was found to be big enough to enter the shoes left behind by his pathfinding father. The professional accomplishments, philanthropic dispositions and other glittering personal qualities,which Dr AbdulRazaq possesses rightly earned him the prestigious title held by his illustrious father from 1962 to 2020.

Before I am called to question, I must explain that my decision to author this piece is based on four factors. The first and the most important one is that I was reliably informed that Dr AbdulRazaq has quitted active partisan politics. Second, he is the first of the new traditional title holders who will commemorate his birthday after the historic conferment. Third, this effort was based on a request from one of the consistent readers of yours sincerely who felt and convinced me that the new Mutawali deserves this kind of celebration. It is also in response to popular demand from distinguished compatriots who urged me to go a bit deeper on each of the title holders as compared with what is contained in “The New Traditional Title Holders of Ilorin Emirate: A Parade of Paragons of Patriotism”,which I published earlier in the week. And since doing so is in line with my mission and vision of always bringing the leading lights of our community to spotlights for emulation among the younger generations, I felt it would not be out of place to celebrate this outstanding Ilorite on his birthday as I have done to several worthy and outstanding compatriots.

Dr. Muhammed Alimi AbdulRazaq, a distinguished legal practitioner, foremost technocrat,  erstwhile political titan and shrewd business man, was born in the historic city of Zaria, Kaduna State to the family of the pioneer Northern Nigerian Lawyer who doubled as the first Senior Advocate of Nigeria from Kwara State, Alhaji Abdulganiyu Folorunsho AbduRazaq, SAN,OFR(1927-2020). His mother is Alhaja Raliat AbdulRazaq(b. 1930), who hails from the Abayawo Quarters, Ilorin. This birthday boy is a Member of the popular Yerinsa family in the Idigba Quarters,Pakata, Ilorin.

Young Alimi attended the famous Capital School,Kaduna,from where he received his First School Leaving Certificate. His contemporaries at the Capital School included a former National Security Adviser and prominent Prince of Sokoto caliphate,Col. Sambo Dasuki; and a former Director-General of the Energy Commission of Nigeria, Prof. Abubakar Sambo as well as Ambassador Mariam Katagum,the current Honourable Minister of State in the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment. For his secondary school education,he was trained at the popular St. Gregory’s College, Obalende,Lagos,from 1968 to 1972 where he met very distinguished Nigerians like Mr Bode Agusto and Prof. Nelson Oyesiku,the President,World Association of Neuro-Surgeons as well as Dr Rilwan Sadiku,among others.

This birthday boy subsequently proceeded to the School of Basic Studies of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He had his pre-degree training at the school located in the city of his birth and where his father held the honourary chieftaincy title of Tafidan Zazzau from 1972 to 1973.

He was thereafter admitted for his degree programme at the Faculty of Law,Institute of Administration, Ahmadu Bello University,Zaria. He pursued his legal training at the prestigious University between 1974 and 1977 at the end of which he was found worthy of the institution’s LLB(Hons) degree. Among his course mates at the premier University in the northern part of the country were a prominent political figure and pioneer Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party in Kwara State,Alhaji Kunle Suleiman and a retired Justice of the Court of Appeal,Honourable Justice Moshood Oredola AbdulRahman. His contemporaries at ABU,Zaria,also included the current Executive Director of the Nigeria’s Governors Forum, Alhaji Abdulateef Shittu;the famous Dr Fatai Bello and the late General (Arc)Suraj AbdulRahman, who was the Chief of Army Staff of the Sierra Leone Army.

Dr. AbdulRazaq proceeded to the Nigerian Law School,Lagos,where he was further grounded in Law between 1977 and 1978.He was subsequently called to the Nigerian Bar as a Solicitor and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria along with the immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Walter Onoghen,GCON; Honourable Justice Suleiman Galadima and Honourable Justice Amir Sanusi both of whom have also retired from the Supreme Court as well as Honourable Justice Keji Ogunwomiju and Honourable Justice Abdul Aboki who are currently serving at the apex court and Justice Dupe Atoki of ECOWAS Court. Other course mates of this learned gentleman were Asiwaju Gboyega Awomolo,SAN;Senator Udoma Udo Udoma,a former Minister of Budget and National Planning; and Alhaji Habeeb Aliyu. Others included late Chief Kole Aluko,SAN;Chief Seyi Sowemimo,SAN;Chief Awa Kalu,SAN;Otunba Tunde Odanye and a former Senate Leader,Chief Victor Egba,SAN.

This outstanding son of Ilorin also attended the School of Law, University of Hull,United Kingdom for both his master’s and doctorate degrees in Law. He ran the two courses from 1982 to 1983 and between 1984 and 1986, respectively. He is the first son of Ilorin to hold a doctorate degree in Law. His Ph.D thesis, which is on Human Rights Protection in Africa, was a groundbreaking intellectual work as it prescribed the framework for the establishment of the African Court of Human and Peoples Rights,which was subsequently commissioned by the Organisation of African Unity(OAU) now African Union(AU).

Having qualified as a Solicitor and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, this great son of Ilorin Emirate commenced his exciting career as a Legal Officer with A. AbdulRazaq (SAN) & Co. which was established by his illustrious father. He worked under the watchful eyes of his father who ensured that he acquired all the basic practical skills between 1978 to 1986 during which he cut his professional teeth. From 1989 to 2005, Dr. AbdulRazaq served as the Principal Partner,House of Laws (Advocates & Solicitors),a law firm,which has branches in Lagos and Abuja .He returned to AbdulRazaq (SAN) & Co. in 2010 and has been the Managing Partner of the same law firm since then.

All in all, Dr AbdulRazaq has handled several, diverse and highly significant legal matters in his 43 years of practice in the realm of commercial law and general practice. He is certainly a chip of the old block.

As a shrewd business man, this illustrious son of Ilorin Emirate served as the Director, Gateway Insurance Company Limited,Ilorin,from 1983 to 1989.He was also a Director in the Kwara Investment Company between 1985 and 1986.He also served in the same capacity in the Board of the defunct New African Merchant Bank Limited from 1992 to 1994.

As a lover of education and in emulation of his father who established and ran the then Ilorin College (now Government High School),Ilorin,before the institution was taken-over by the Kwara State Government,Dr. AbdulRazaq also founded The Bridge House College, Ikoyi,Lagos. He first served as the Chairman, Board of Governors of the College from 2004 to October, 2005 and since September 2010 till date.

This statesman was also the Chairman, National Iron Ore Mining Company, Itakpe,Kogi State from 2000 to 2005.He was also the Executive Commissioner,Legal,Licensing & Enforcement in the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission(NERC).He also served as a Member of the Technical Committee of the National Council on Privatization from 2011 to 2015.He was also on the Board of FirstBank Holding Company, Plc. In each of those privileges, available records confirmed that he assisted quite a relatively significant number of indigenes of Ilorin Emirate and Kwara State to secure employment and career progression.

Dr AbdulRazaq was born into an enduring notable family that has excelled in the field of law, politics and public service right from the nation’s pre-independence era through the various facets of her political experiences till this moment . It was therefore not surprising when he started politics right from his days in the University. He was the Vice-President of the Students Union at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria,in 1975.He was also a gubernatorial aspirant in the defunct Social Democratic Party during the aborted third republic. He was also a Gubernatorial Candidate on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kwara State in 1999.

Apart from offering himself for elective offices,Dr AbdulRazaq was a Special Assistant (Political) to Ambassador Babagana Kingibe,GCON,when the highly sophisticated politician ran for the nation’s presidency as well as when he became Vice-Presidential flagbearer to the late Chief Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola in 1993.He,along with late Alhaji Waziri Kyari Mohammed, coordinated the Northwest Presidential Task Force of the defunct Hope 93 of Abiola/Kingibe Campaign Team while the National Campaign Chairman was the late Chief Tony Anenih,CFR.He was also the Kwara State Coordinator of the Olusegun Obasanjo Campaign Organisation during the 1999 Presidential Elections which ushered in the Obasanjo/Atiku Presidency in May,1999.

This great son of Ilorin Emirate was also recorded as been among those who contributed towards the emergence of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the Vice-Presdential candidate to Chief Obasanjo. This much was alluded to by Chief Tony Anenih on page 157 of his autobiography,”My Life and Nigerian Politics” where he states:

“we both decided to get a lawyer to advise us, and  Barrister Alimi Razaq of Kwara State was sent for. He came and advised that there was nothing in the Nigerian Constitution that prevented Atiku from being  running mate ,especially as Atiku Abubakar had not  been sworn-in if Chief Obasanjo chose Atiku as his  running mate”, stating further that all Atiku needed to do was to resign his position as governor-elect of Adamawa State.”

The contributions of Dr. AbdulRazaq to national development transcended party politics. He was the Founder of the Nigerian Council for Human Rights,which he also served as the pioneer Executive Secretary between 1983 and 1993.He also a Co-Sponsored the groundbreaking Alhaji AGF Abdul-Razaq Professorial Chair in Public Law,which was instituted at the University of Ilorin in 1999.

Dr. Abdul-Razaq has also been a distinguished Patron to several organisations such as the Law Society of the University of Benin and the University of Ilorin’s Law Society. He is also a Patron to the Ilorin Emirate Students Union(IESU),the National Association of Kwara State Students (NAKSS) as well as the Institute of Chartered Training Managers(ICTM).

This birthday boy has an intimidating profile as a national figure. His network of mentors and  friends include President Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR and General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida,GCFR.He is also close to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo,GCON,who was also his postgraduate classmate in England; and former Vice-Presdent Namadi Sambo,GCON,who was his contemporary at ABU,Zaria.

He also enjoys the mutual relationship with former Governors like Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu,Aremo Olusegun Osoba and Chief Niyi Adebayo,who is the current Minister of Trade and Investment. His close friends include the His Eminence the Sultan of Sokoto, Dr Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar lll; the Mutawali of Borno and Chairman, TETFund, Alhaji Kashim Imam;the Turakin Gwandu and Chairman, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC),Mallam Bello Ibrahim Gwandu;the Sardaurna of Katsina, Senator Ibrahim Ida;the Emir of Lafia and a retired Justice of the Supreme Court,Alhaji Muhammed Bage;and a former Senate President, Dr Ken Nnamani.

This exemplary professional remains a close friend to his primary school contemporaries including the current National Security Adviser(NSA) ,General Babagana Monguno and General Suleiman Wali as well as the former NSA Colonel Sambo Dasuki ,and Barrister Mariam Uwais and Hajia Fatima Wali-AbdulRahman. His friends also include Captains of industry like Alhaji Aliko Dangote,Alhaji Abdulsamad Rabiu,Alhaji Muhammad Hayatudeen,Mr Tony Elumelu,Dr Wale Babalakin,SAN;Mr Wale Tinubu,Mr Wale Edun , Mr Cyril Chukwuma and Captain Hosa Okunbo.

Though not your typical homeboy,Dr AbdulRazaq has a good number of indigenes of Ilorin as friends many of whom are his seniors and whom he consults closely. They include the author of “Ilorin: The Journey So Far”, Alhaji L.A.K.Jimoh;the Za’ana of Ilorin, Engr.Yusuf Olanrewaju Sagaya,MFR,OFR; the Jarma of Ilorin, Alhaji Aliyu Kola Belgore,OFR;and Engr.Muzamil AbdulKareem,to mention a few.

Considering his huge investment in education and the establishment of Bridge House College, Ikoyi,Lagos and awards of scholarships to many indigenes of Ilorin and Kwara State,Dr AbdulRazaq has attracted quite a number of national and international recognitions. In 2016,the University of Hull in the United Kingdom  awarded him the Distinguished Alumni laureate of the University in recognition of his intellectual endowments and legal scholarship. He was also conferred with the Distinguished Alumni Award of St.Gregory’s College,Lagos in 2003.He was also last weekend honoured by the Kwara State chapter of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria,Alumni Association for his distinguished contributions to national development. Dr AbdulRazaq is also an elected member of the Royal Institution of International Affairs and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.

Dr. Abdul-Razaq is happily married to Hajia Kafayat Foluke Abdul-Razaq, a distinguished banker,foremost technocrat and one-time Honourable Commissioner for Finance, Lagos State who is currently the Group Vice-Chairman of Transcorp Nigeria Plc and a member of the Governing Council of the Lagos State University, Ojoo. The lovely couple is blessed with children who are doing very well.

May I therefore join other well-wishers across Nigeria and beyond to wish the new Mutawali of Ilorin a very gracious, peaceful and fruitful birthday as I also wish him many more years of services to Allah and humanity.

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

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