In the later hours of today, the 206th inaugural lecture of the University of Ilorin, Ilorin, will be delivered by a distinguished academic, an accomplished legal practitioner, former Acting Dean of Law and former HOD, Department of Islamic Law, University of Ilorin, Professor Abdulqadir Ibrahim Abikan. I have been motivated to write on this important occasion owing largely to the huge social capital and impeccable character of the inaugural lecturer. Today’s lecture is the fourth in the series from the Department and one that touches on the specialty of Islamic banking law. The lecture is titled; “Not without the Owner’s Manual: Your Right to a Share of the Global Wealth”.
There is a belief among Nigerian legal academics and practitioners, both at home and abroad, that Islamic law is one of the core areas of legal scholarship of the Faculty of Law, University of Ilorin and its Islamic Law Department is positioning itself as a leading light in Islamic law discourse in contemporary Nigeria. The secret behind this is perhaps the constant national attention that the Department has been receiving in recent years, through the worthwhile efforts of its members and products in the vast area of Islamic law, at both national and international levels.
There are ample instances to support this thesis, but permit me to mention just two. By available record, today’s inaugural lecture is the first to be delivered by a sitting National President of the Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria (MULAN). Also about five months ago, the Department was in the news when its current HOD, Professor Abdulrazzaq Abdulmajeed Alaro, who doubles as member of the Financial Regulation Advisory Committee of Experts (FRACE) of the Central Bank of Nigeria, delivered the third inaugural lecture.
Writing on an occasion like this should ordinarily be an opportunity to extol the academic prowess of the inaugural lecturer, particularly giving an insight into his academic sojourn. I have instead chosen to celebrate the genius in our lecturer, as a man of many parts with exceptional abilities, who had risen through the ranks and steadily, to become a household name in the legal profession.
In my congratulatory letter to him, dated 22th July, 2020/2nd Dhul-Hijjah 1441, on the occasion of his emergence as the 8th MULAN National President; I had aptly captured the public perception of his personality saying:
“The public perception of your personality, which cut across the two major sectors of the Nigerian society of the learned and educated of the formal sector on one hand and the unlettered and artisans of the informal sector on the other hand; [is] that you are a university don, bar leader, Shari‘ah scholar, legal expert in Islamic finance, Islamic activist, highly connected figure, informed but conscious Muslim, amiable teacher and gentleman; thereby suggesting to one’s mind, albeit curiously, that no other person could have been chosen to occupy that topmost position in our association [MULAN] at this time! In other words, your eminence is a round peg in a round hole.”
As far as I know, he has been very resourceful to successive university administrations; notably the eras of Profs. Oloyede, Ambali and Age. During Oloyede’s tenure, he convened the 1st Unilorin International Conference and served in the capacity of Sub-dean and Chief Examination Officer of Law – the highest level of trust in the academic environment. Under Ambali’s watch, he served as the Acting Dean of Law, and shortly afterwards as the pioneer Dean of Law at Al Hikmah University, Ilorin. Presently in the Age-led administration, he is the Director, School of Preliminary Studies, Fufu. It therefore goes without saying that Prof. Abikan is very much in touch with university traditions and academic global practices.
As a bridge builder and President of Postgraduate Students’ Society, Mr. Abikan (as he then was) was responsible for bringing to a halt the rancour that has kept dividing the Nigerian Community at the International Islamic University, Malaysia, prior to 2005. He equally revived the dead and forgotten Association of African Students in Malaysia (AASIM). This is in addition to securing, for the very first time, a downward review of PG Fees. The former Vice Chairman of Ilorin Bar, has served meritoriously in various capacities in the Nigerian Bar Association, both at the branch and national levels. At the University of Ilorin, he initiated Non-Interest Cooperative Society in 2003 (which now gives loan in millions without interest).
My first contact with him was at a public lecture on Islamic banking and finance organized by the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS), University of Lagos, Akoka, in June 2011. Apart from Dr. Umar Aliyu Bashir (now Secretary, FRACE) who was in attendance, Dr. Abikan (as he then was) was the only expert invited to speak at the event. I was then a final year student of Islamic Studies Education at the Lagos State University. While making his presentation therefore, Dr. Akanbi (now Professor and Vice Chancellor, Kwara State University, Malete) had wet our appetite on what to expect from Dr. Abikan, alluding further to the fact that his doctoral research was in the area of Islamic banking law or better put, legal and regulatory framework for non-Interest banking. It was not surprising thereafter to witness a mind-blowing and magnetic presentation made by our inaugural lecturer and celebrated scholar of today, on Islamic finance discourse to the admiration of all participants including non-Muslims – who hitherto had misconceived the introduction of Non-interest (Islamic) banking in Nigeria, to mean an Islamization project.
As an undergrad law student, I can say that majority of the students cherish Dr. Abikan’s student-centered leadership style during his tenure as the Acting Dean of Law. In the very first week of assumption of office, Dr. Abikan had a general meeting with all law students, seeking for our cooperation and also assuring everyone of his willingness to operate an open door policy. In a faculty where lecturers are so much revered and the Dean of Law is an authority onto itself, at least from a student perspective, it was heart-warming to see a Dean of Law appearing in such humble garment! Despite his water-tight schedule, Dr. Abikan was always following my academic performance and extra-academic activities, albeit from a distance. The first and only day (so far) that I received the warmth embrace of my teacher was at the front of the university mosque when, upon his return from the Sudan, he was informed of my emergence as the president of students.
I have also benefitted generously from his kind gesture on a number of occasions. Just last December, he officially invited me to the 2020 MULAN Retreat held in Kaduna and even requested that I move together with him on the journey when he tapped me for the values he thought I would be adding to the National Retreat. His kindness and generosity towards me at the time was amazing.
I observed him all through the retreat and realized he did not even see his kindness as doing any favour! I then concluded; “this is a sharp contrast to the misguided bossy attitude of some Nigerian academics, who want their student(s) to thank them throughout a lifetime, for a favour they have done.”
Combining impressive attributes along with burdens of academic publications, consistently for a period of two decades and still counting, is a rare blessing bestowed by the Almighty on you, sir. Only the lucky few will appreciate this mercy, as said by Allah; “And few of My servants are grateful.” I therefore, seize this joyous moment to congratulate you sir, on today’s occasion and wish you more life impacting accomplishments in the years ahead. As torrents of congratulatory messages come in for you today, it is my prayer that the genius in you, will by the leave of Allah, remain forever ev ergreen. Aameen.
Idris Alao, Esq.
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