I am sad. I am disturbed. I am disillusioned. I am dejected. I am uncomfortable with the harvest of transitions to the great beyond being recorded across my beloved Ilorin Emirate in recent times.
Every Ilorin patriot should be concerned with the timber and calibre of outstanding compatriots of different ages and callings the Emirate has been losing to the cold hands of death, most especially, in the course of this very challenging year. It is of great concern to yours sincerely that from January, 2020 to date, the people of Ilorin Emirate have had the unenviable cause to bury several phenomenal statesmen; most of whom were distinguished pioneers in different fields, and whose services were obviously still needed for the community to attain her full potentials.
The latest addition to the league of such valued elders and shinning patriots of Ilorin Emirate origin,who passed on recently,was Shaykh Ahmad Olayiwola Kamalud-Deen,the Khalifat Adabiyyin and the Spritual Leader of the Ansarul Islam Society Worldwide;who died last Friday(June 12,2020) at the age of 82 after a brief illness.
With the demise of that great teacher and his previously deceased compatriots, is our strength not being depleted?Are the walking libraries of our greatness not being burnt down by those deaths?Who are those that would replace such great individuals who crossing-over to eternity in quick succession?All those questions crossed my mind on learning about the passage of the second Khalifat of the most illustrious pioneer Grand Mufti of the southernmost Emirate.
Alhaji A.O.Kamal, as he was fondly called, was not only a member of the pioneering University-trained Arabists produced by Ilorin; but also an exemplary teacher, a seasoned technocrat, a charismatic administrator and a principled community leader.
Born in 1938,the late frontline cleric was the fifth child; and the second son to the legendary Shaykh Muhammad Kamalud-deen Habibulahi Al-Adabiy (1905-2005), the accomplished first Grand Mufti of Ilorin and the illustrious Founder of the Ansarul Islam Society Worldwide. His mother was the late Alhaja Habeebat Kamalud-Deen (d.1985), a daughter to the famous Ajikobi family of Ilorin.
Just like many other children of Ilorin of his time and even till date, the late Shaykh was put under the guardianship of a member of the third generation of students of his father, Shaykh Musa Alfanla Al-Adabiyy, who was based at Offa from circa 1945 to 1952.It was at Offa that the late cleric had his primary education and religious studies under the watchful eyes of one of the most knowledgeable scholars of Arabic and Islamic scholars Ilorin Emirate has ever produced,Shaykh Alfanla.
The recall and subsequent return of his guardian to Ilorin sequel to the death of Shaykh Abdullahi Alabi Onijikipa also brought him to Ilorin. And in 1954, he was admitted into the then Provincial Secondary School (now Government Secondary School), Ilorin, from where he earned his West African School Certificate in 1959. His life thereafter became completely and closely connected with that of the great school in a number of ways as it will be appreciated subsequently.
As someone who was determined to make it in life; and never to hide under the achievements of his great father or the enduring nobility of his maternal lineage, which gave him his middle name, “Olayiwola”,, this outstanding patriot took knowledge acquisition seriously, believing that it was only through that, that he could climb the ladder of success. While some of his contemporaries were taken-up jobs with their School Certificates or rushing into poorly planned marriages, Shaykh Kamalud-Deen proceeded to the premier University of Ibadan, Oyo State, where he trained between 1960 and 196; at the end of which he earned a Certificate in Arabic and Islamic Studies.
The brilliance of the late Shaykh earned him the foreign scholarship of the then government of Northern Nigeria. He was,therefore, educated at the famous Cairo University, Cairo, between 1962 and 1966 courtesy of the administration of the late Sardauna of Sokoto and Premier of the defunct Northern Region, Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello. He left the University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Arabic and headed home with the determination to contribute his utmost to the progress of his society as a teacher, counsellor and mentor. He was subsequently employed by the government of the Northern Nigeria as a graduate teacher.To be professionally equipped for the task of imparting knowledge, Alhaji Kamalud-Deen also received his Post-Graduate Diploma in Education after due training at the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in the early 1970s.
It is significant to point out that the unforgettable subject of this piece turned down several other appointments including a placement in foreign service, which came his way following his graduation with a degree in Arabic, at a time when those who possessed such a qualification were very few and far in between, for teaching. He subsequently taught Arabic and Islamic Studies in a number of secondary schools including Government Secondary School, Ilorin; AbdulAzeez Attah Memorial College, Okene, and several others where he helped in the training of many people who are today outstanding professionals and leaders in various sectors of our lives.
After so many years of teaching including serving as a Vice-Principal in a number of schools, such as his alma mata, G.S.S.Ilorin, Shaykh Kamalud-Deen was appointed as the pioneer Principal of Jebba Teachers College, Jebba, in the Moro Local Government Area of Kwara State, in 1974. He used that opportunity to enrol many; most especially products of modern Arabic schools and primary schools of many year, who have lost hope for secondary education into the school; many of whom later became more useful to themselves and their communities. He subsequently served as the Principal of the premier Secondary School in Kwara State, the Government Secondary School, Ilorin, till 1983.
It was at the G.S.S, Ilorin, where he served as a subject teacher, Vice-Principal and Principal that he established a reputation of firmness, discipline and total commitment to the all-round development of his students. Though students of G.S.S, Ilorin of his time were said to be very difficult to handle. Alhaji Kamal successfully brought all of them within his effective control. He did that so well that the records of discipline of the school became a source of pride to various stakeholders. Generations of students of the school in the early 1980s and other historically-conscious ones who attended the school prior to and after his Principalship would not forget the enduring slogan of *G.S.S is Great! I will make it Greater!! You will make it the Greatest !!!*, which he introduced as an official singsong of the school .He was the prime mover of the building of a befitting Mosque for the school, which in addition to providing a more decent place of worship for Muslim staff and students, is also being used for the weekly Jumaat service for the generality of Muslims working or residing in that axis of the city.
For his relentlessness in the restoration of glory to the school, his fame became so wide and spread within and outside the State that in 1983, he was deservedly rewarded with an appointment as a Permanent Secretary in the civil service of Kwara State. He subsequently served in several ministries where he left imperishable and impeccable marks as a hardworking and conscientious technocrat. His first place of work as a Permanent Secretary was the then State Schools Management Board probably to expose the state’s school system to his legendary disciplinarian dispositions as it happened at the G.S.S .Ilorin. He subsequently served in the Ministries of Education, Health and Finance from where he retired in 1991. It must be noted that he was the first Arabist to enjoy career elevation to the rank of Permanent Secretary even in the old Kwara State, which comprised parts of the present-day Niger and Kogi States .He was also the first certified professional Arabist who served as an Honourable Commissioner and Member of the Kwara State Executive Council.
His impact at the Ministry of Education as the Permanent Secretary was legendary. Many informed members of the Kwara State Muslim community would not forget what he did at projecting,protecting and preserving the interests of Muslims while also not leaving that of the non-muslim unscratched. The case of the then Kwara State School for the Handicapped,Ilorin, where he worked in conjunction with the Muslim staff of the school to protect the innocent Muslim students of the school against unsolicited conversion to Christianity would remain evergreen in the record of stakeholders in the State. It was the insistence of the Ministry under his watch as its administrative Head that no student of the school would or should be allowed to change from the religions they were born into that saved the very many Muslim students of the school from their dominating and domineering Christian teachers who wanted them to be converted at all cost to their own faith.
While at the Ministry of Health, also as the Permanent Secretary, the late cleric worked with others to bring about the adoption of a more religiously-friendly uniform for female nurses in the employ of the Kwara State Government. Before his posting to the Ministry, all the efforts of Muslim nurses and their supporters from outside to that effect were needlessly frustrated.
Following his retirement from the civil service and despite his “non- participation” in politics, Shaykh Kamalud-Deen was appointed as the Honourable Commissioner for Education in Kwara State in the administration of the 3rd Republic Governor of Kwara State, Alhaji Mohammed Sha’aba Lafiagi. He was on that position, during which he gave a very good account of himself as a resourceful teacher and an efficient administrator, between 1992 and 1993.
So many achievements were also recorded during his tenure as the Commissioner for Education in the State, which gave his beloved Ilorin Emirate a very good image and from which his roles cannot be divorced. For instance, it was during his tenure that the perilous shifting system in primary education sector was abolished for good. Only those who had their primary education from the mid-1970s and 1992 in the traditional segments of Ilorin would understand the hardship that was terminated by that great man and his Principal, Alhaji M.S.Lafiagi.
His determination and resourcefulness also led to the eventual takeoff of the Kwara State College of Arabic and Islamic Legal Studies (CAILS), Ilorin,in 1992. The way and manner he pursued the realisation of the College persuaded so many to assume that he was made the Commissioner for Education just to realise the establishment of the institution. Even when the then government of the State said that its finance was not buoyant enough to offer the then proposed College building facilities, it was the late cleric, through his unforgettable father, that worked on the then Emir of Ilorin, the late Mallam Aliyu Abdulkadir, to mobilise well-to-do members of the Ilorin Emirate community, including the then Commissioner’s younger brother (Alhaji M.O.Kamal) to raise funds with which buildings were constructed for the smooth takeoff of the institution. The College was undoubtedly an answer to the prayers of many who had wanted the previous governments of the State to put into consideration the interests of graduates of many private Arabic and Islamic schools scattered across Kwara State, and most especially Ilorin Emirate, who were desirous of getting themselves prepared for higher education on the basis of their certificates. To the eternal glory of Shaykh Kamalud-Deen, the 28 years old institution has not deter in her roles of providing opportunities for products of private Arabic and Islamic education institutions and conventional secondary schools within and outside the State to get prepared for university education in the twins subjects of Arabic and Islamic studies and other relevant areas of studies or better-placed for employment through the school’s diploma and certificate .
Considering the delay and virulent opposition the establishment of the institution attracted from non-Muslims who believed that it was solely meant to address the developmental challenges of Muslims, and indigenes of Ilorin Emirate in particular, those who are in the know are of the conviction that only a man of Alhaji Kamalud-deen’s background and status could see to the approval, establishment and operationalisation of the “faith-based institution” as at that material time and in such a manner.
Another very important contribution of this departed patriot was the formation and progression of the National Association of Teachers of Arabic and Islamic Studies (NATAIS) in 1971. He was the founding National Secretary of the Association under the presidency of Prof.M.S.Elgah, who was then in the services of the famous Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. While some literature credited the late cleric with the establishment of the organisation,which not only unite the teachers of Arabic and Islamic Studies; but also boosted their reputations and the image of Islam across the length and breadth of Nigeria, he competently served as the National President of the Association between 1981 and 1983 when he left the classroom for the boardroom.
Shaykh Kamalud-deen, a one-time Member of the Governing Council of the Bayero University, Kano, who also had the privilege of serving as the Chairman of the Committee for the Burial activities of the 9th Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji(Dr.)Zulukarnaini Muhammad Gambari, CFR, on his death in 1992 , assumed the hereditary position of the Khalifatu Adabiyyin; one of the most enduring intellectual heritages among Yoruba-speaking Muslims, and the spiritual leader of the Ansarul Islam Society Worldwide in 2014 following the death of his elder brother and the immediate past Grand Mufti of Ilorin, Shaykh Sofiyulahi Kamalud-Deen Al-Adabiyy.
He was also deeply involved in community development activities right from his youth. His involvement in the progress of Islam are also too numerous and visible to be restated here. He was the initiator of the Summit of Muslim Organisations in Kwara State . He also served as the Deputy Chairman of the National Hijra Committee from 1981 till his passage.
As regards community development activities, he was also a prominent player. Apart from his services as the Chairman of the IEDPU National Education Committee, he also served as the Vice-President of the Union on two occasions and narrowly missed being elected as the National President of the Union as a result of his indifference to the “peculiar politics” of the organisation as at the time he showed interest in the office of the Number One Member of the Union. The late Khalifat was also the brain behind the formation of the defunct *Pakata Forum*, which eventuated in *Ilorin Forum* and the disputable *”Ilorin Foundation”*.
His deep patriotism coupled with profound experiences in social mobilisation and fundraising activities also accounted for his appointment as the Chairman of the Launching Committee of the Ilorin Foundation Project in 1990. He also served as the Chairman of the Project Committee of the unfortunately moribund Ilorin City Hall between 1991 and 1992.
Before and since 1993, four issues constantly engaged his resources, time and life. These include: Islam, Ilorin, the Ansarul Islam Society and G.S.S,Ilorin. He was a proven dedicated servant of Islam. He was a man who was committed to the progress of Ilorin. He led the international membership of the Ansarul Islam Society competently and was also a profoundly committed elder of the G.S.S Ilorin Old Students Association.
As great and useful as he was in religious sphere and community services; he was often criticised for been too rigid and extremely uncompromising. He was also highly opinionated and never afraid of standing alone once he took a position. He was also a no-nonsense figure and exceptionally principled fellow, whose personality was remarkably far from the permissive nature and legendary accomadativeness of his highly-respected father.
He, however, lived a very disciplined life, which was characterised by personal discipline, generousity and timeliness.He was so “careful and meticulous” that, unlike most of his contemporaries, he was married to only a wife, Alhaja Aishat Kamalud-Deen; a teacher and education administrator, throughout his eventful life.They were blessed with three successful children one of whom is a United States-based Professor in a branch of Medicine while the other two, who are male ,are also doing well in their different professions.
It is unfortunate that he did not live to witness the granting of the much-coveted operational licence to the proposed Muhammad Kamaldeen University, Ilorin, which was his baby having moved the motion for its establishment about three decades ago and 15 years after the death of the avatar(his father); after whom the institution was renamed.
Well! Shaykh Ahmad Olayiwola Kamalud-Deen Al-Adabiyy has come and gone. While on this side of existence,he saw and conquered so many challenges. He had really done all he could. The rest is left for you and I to reflect upon and work towards what we would loved to be remembered for since death is “certainly certain”
It is my prayers that Allah forgives the shortcomings of the late Shaykh and grant him an abode in Al-Janah Frudaouz May He grants his family and others bereaved by his death the courage to move on. Aamiin.
Imam is the National Publicity Secretary, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union
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