The world is a school in which all human beings are students individually or collectively. The only invariable oxygen of that school is life. Learning in the school of life is a matter of chance. But grasping, meaningfully, the lessons taught and learnt in that school, often depend on the perspective from which the teacher introduces the subject matter. From time to time, human beings remind themselves of the forgotten lessons of life by taking a retrospective view of the past. Through that retrospect, the students of yesteryears may become the teachers today. That is the notion that warranted the writing of this article.
It is man’s to propose. And, it is Allah’s to dispose. Those are the permanent norms upon which human life is based. That norm is a clockwise phenomenon that can never be turned anti-clockwise. You may call it an evidence of destiny or an accident of choice.
The contents proposed for this column, today, are not what readers are about to read here. While planning an article that would be somewhat relevant to the currently trending event in the Muslim world ie: the birth of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), Allah’s divinely guided will came in to intervene. This article had been due for publication since last August. But there is nothing any mortal being could do about the permanent norm of life called destiny.
Human life is a pilgrimage from the unknown to the unknown. No one knows whence he emanated from or whither he is bound. The process by which man evolves is a tapestry which size and shape cannot be measured in whatever terms. All we know about life is that we naturally migrate from womb to womb and finally arrive in a larger transit which we call the world. For a period, we were in our fathers’ natural hollow cave where we struggled vigorously for space and for survival. And, in the attempt to shoot out through the iron gate of life, we suddenly find ourselves swimming along with billions of others, in the name of spermatozoa. At that stage, human beings can be compared to fingerlings, in their millions, struggling to become juveniles. It takes those in the fishery sector of agriculture to understand this analogy better.
Then, from that stage, we move into another hollow space inside our mothers’ wombs and sojourn therein for a while before zooming into this complex world from where we are to migrate into another hollow space, in the belly of the earth, called grave. And, finally, we shall all move forth from the grave into another world not yet known to anybody.
The Process of Human Journey
The process of human journey is both complex and sophisticated. When we were in the loins of our fathers, no one knew of the existence of a place called pregnancy. Yet, we were made to pass through it with little or no option. Thereafter, when we moved into the wombs of our mothers, no one knew of the existence of another place called the world. Yet we fortuitously came to find ourselves in it only to embark on another journey of uncertainty. In the process, we are led to pass through the grave into an unknown destination that will become known to us eventually. The mass settlement in that final destination will be determined, not by mere wish, but by an invisible scale upon which the practicability of the lessons learnt in the world is meticulously inscribed. Thus, the world of man is like a cloud moving forwards and backwards, from time to time, and, gathering momentums for a rain to fall. After its dispersal, one of two occurrences becomes a noted experience. Either the rain falls to give the earth a renewed life or there is no rain at all. In the latter case, the sky becomes clearer as fresh air renews the oxygen of the world. Who, among human beings, can ever skip the process of that natural phenomenon?
Human beings, in their multitudes, are like a galaxy of stars which float incessantly in the orbit while illuminating the spheres for all living organisms. Some of those stars are, in many folds, larger than the earth. But because of their distance from the human view, they look small. However, each of those stars functions according to its pre-destined assignment. ALLAH AKBAR!
The Functions of Stars
As the situation of the galaxy is with the stars so is that of the world with human beings. Some people are great in life and in death. Some are great only while alive and, as soon as they are demised, their greatness becomes like a dispersed cloud paving the way for a clearer atmosphere. Some times, this scenario functions positively, and, some other times, it functions negatively. But, after they might have all departed this world, history takes the centre stage revealing both the hidden and the manifest aspects of each person’s life. It is from such revelations that those who are left behind do pick the relevant substances that can form the guiding factors of their lives.
Searching the Archives
Going through the archives of Nigerian history, it is difficult to find a Nigerian of the contemporary time who has ever captured the above painted scenario as much as Nigeria’s first President, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. In the introduction to his autobiography ‘MY ODYSSEY’, published in 1970, he observed as follows: “…Man comes into the world and while he lives, he embarks upon a series of activities absorbing experience which enables him to formulate a philosophy of life and to chart his courses of action. But then, he dies. Nevertheless, his biography remains a guide to those of the living who may need guidance either as a warning on the vanity of human wishes or as encouragement or both…”
The Root of his Philosophy
Incidentally, it was at Zik’s media stable that Nigeria’s doyen of modern journalism, Dr. Ismail Babatunde Jose, began his career in Journalism through a newspaper called Daily Comet.
Like Lion Like Cat
That Dr. Ismail Babatunde Jose was a student of such philosophy in his life time cannot be strange to anybody who knew his background.
By a dint of experience which he garnered through his ‘Walking A Tightrope’ (which was the title of his autobiography), this man was able to accurately define what a school of learning should be and who should be worthy students therein. In his sojourn in life, Dr. Babatunde practically dichotomized between idealism and materialism through a unique ability to understand that the material well-being of every individual could positively or negatively influence the code of his or her conduct. And, based on that understanding, he did not see any reason in being unnecessarily materialistic. Rather, he was convinced that only an adaptation to the concatenations of the spiritual life could successfully pilot a genuine ‘pilgrim’ to the genuine Holy Land.
The Anchor Occurrence
It didn’t sound unusual to genuine Nigerian Muslims on August 2, 2008, when the radio waves throbbed with the news of Dr. Jose’s demise. Generally, news of death can never be shocking to Muslims who heartily believe in Allah; His Angels; His revealed Books; His Apostles, the Last Day and Destiny. We have been thought, through the Qur’an, that “every soul shall taste of death”. But as explicit as the Qur’an is on the inevitability of death, it does not give the time, the place or the manner. So, every Muslim should prepare for it at all times.
As for Dr. Babatunde Jose, his preparation for death to started as soon as he attained the age of 60 year. Unknown to many people, it was at that age that he fully prepared his burial luggage which included the complete shroud with which he was to be interned and kept jealously in his bedroom. Despite being a laity, the lesson he taught to those who are claiming to be clerics along that line is quite symbolic.
Although, he took a step ahead of us in death, we shall all join him one by one, some day, just as he joined those who preceded him in that unavoidable journey. Now, after taking flight from the earth, like a falcon, leaving the falconers behind, he has become a conspicuous and inevitable chapter, not only in the history of Nigeria but also in furthering our understanding of Islam.
It is now left to those of us still alive to cultivate the clauses of guidance from or those of encouragement or even of warning against the vanity of human wishes.
This is not another obituary of Dr. Babatunde Jose. It is rather a mirror with which to see ourselves and reassess the essence of our existence. After all, it is no news that Dr. Babatunde Jose was a a professional colossus who held Journalism with a hand of revolution in order to change its stream for a pleasant sip that it has become today in Nigeria.
His Ladder of Rise
Although, Dr. Babatunde Jose rose from the status of a mere trainee reporter to become the Chairman and Managing Director of Daily Times newspaper which he turned into an empire, his greatest achievement in that sphere was the unprecedented building of human skill which gave Nigeria the most vibrant practice of Journalism in Africa.
Next that was his unprecedented contentment in a society where greed and avarice are considered as the yardstick for greatness. At an agile age, when he was carefully negotiating the sharp corners of the middle age, he turned down an offer by Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, to become the Minister of Information at a time when some hawks were lobbying for that post. Dr. Jose told Balewa that he was satisfied with his professional job and he preferred the post of Managing Director of Daily Times, which he had already attained, to that of a ministerial post. That was a very rare choice in Nigeria especially at a time when political limelight was like a visa to the paradise of life.
And, when, in 1975, a clandestine schism and rebellion by his staff began against him in Daily Times, and, the Military Government, under Murtala/ Obasanjo regime, took advantage of that situation to acquire 60% of ownership in the Daily Times establishment, Dr. Babatunde Jose simply resigned his appointment saying he would not overstay his welcome. A petition by those staff against him was investigated by the then government and he was cleared of all allegations levied against him while the petitioners were all sacked. Thereafter, the government tried to persuade him to withdraw his resignation and retain his post. But he declined the gesture saying it was time for him to quit.
‘The News’ magazine described that episode vividly in its special publication entitled: ‘People in the News’ A survey of Nigerians of the 20th century (1900-1999) as follows:
“Jose’s robust and fulfilling career in Daily Times came to an end with the advent of Murtala/Obasajo regime in 1975. A reshuffle of Daily Times top staff triggered a crisis that gave birth to the Joint Action Committee of Staff and Management of the Daily Times Limited simply known as JAC. The pressure, which consisted of nine top officers including Jose’s deputy, Mr. Odukomiya and notable editors like Areoye Oyebola, Gbolabo Ogunsanwo, Sola Odunfa and Ayo Adefolaju, spearheaded an agitation for Jose’s removal. It was at this time that the federal government moved in to acquire 60% interest in the company. Beyond the JAC lobby it was believed that the government’s action was more to check Jose’s domineering powerful profile.
Enough is Enough
Although Dr. Nose was retained as Managing Director after the takeover, a new Chairman, Alhaji Aliko Muhammed was imposed on the reconstituted board.
“For Jose, it was time to go. Although he was exonerated by the panel set up to investigate JAC’s allegation of impropriety against him, and the members of JAC were sacked. Nevertheless, Dr. Jose felt it was just enough that his name had been cleared. Even though the government agreed that it was misled into taking over the Daily Times group, the action was not reversed. Jose who had lost the Chairmanship position clearly saw the handwriting of decline on the wall. His notice of resignation was dated 11 February 1976. He claimed that he had forgiven all his dismissed accusers, he however turned down all entreaties for the withdrawal of his letter…”
Perhaps Alhaji Jose’s greatest achievement was his determination to be great in life despite his relatively low educational background. He did not have more than Secondary School Certificate when he chose journalism as a career at the age of 16 in 1941. Yet he reached the topmost echelon of the great Daily Times empire where education was supposed to be the greatest implement for managing that empire.
That he was able to manage the Daily Times in that capacity for 14 good years without blemish is a confirmation that literacy is not the same as education.
The Rising Sun
In modern Nigerian journalism, no one has been able to attain the feat of Alhaji Babatunde Jose. He was the sun, among stars, that generated the energy which dispelled the cloudy atmosphere and photosynthesized the struggling plants with enlivening oxygen. That is why he was generally acknowledged as the ‘Doyen of Modern Journalism’ in Nigeria. If any star was eclipsed in his time, Dr. Jose was there to supply energy with which to bring it back into existence. But which star could ever rescue the sun if it eclipsed?
I first met Alhaji Babatunde Jose in 1972 at Ahmadiyya College Agege, Lagos, where I was then a teacher. He was at that time the President of Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, the organization that later metamorphosed into Anwarul-Islam Society of Nigeria. I got closer to him later in the mid 1990s when he became the Chairman, Board of Trustees of Nigeria/Pakistan Association (a chamber of commerce) of which I was the Secretary General when the late Minister of Communication, Alhaji Aruna Elewi was the President of that Association. That was the time I discovered how deeply religious Alhaji babatunde Jose was. I had earlier travelled with him to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia , in solidarity with the late Sheikh Abubakar Muhmud Gumi, a one-time Grand Qadi of Northern Nigeria . The latter had won King Faisal Foundation Award.
Knowing me as a student of Sheikh Adam Abdullah Al-Ilory, the great proprietor of the great Markaz, Agege, Baba Jose often engaged me in religious discussions wanting to know many things hitherto unknown to him about Islam. And, on most occasions when he was alone, recitation of the Qur’an was his pastime hobby. His religiousness became obvious through the ascetic lifestyle he adopted later in his life.
Ambassador Oladapo Fafowora who was Director General of the Manufacturing Association of Nigeria (MAN) when Baba Jose was the Chairman of that Chamber of Commerce attested to this fact in a remark he once made in writing about Baba Jose’s ascetic lifestyle. He said: “Dr. Jose is disdainful of personal wealth, a reflection of the deep religious faith that has been the dominant influence of his life and public career. As the Chairman of MAN, he never drew any allowance, at all, from MAN. Given his immense talent and organizational ability, courage and determination, Dr. Jose would still have been a roaring success in whatever he turned his hands to. He is both complex and simple. He is driven relentlessly to excel in whatever he chooses to do. He is a man who cares deeply about his family, his friends, and his business associates and about the future of the nation. He has a great compassion for the needy and the downtrodden…”
If such a life cannot be emulated which one will be? ‘THE MESSAGE’ hereby joins millions of Nigerians, not only in remembering this incomparable colossus but also in reminding the current generation the true ladder of greatness in human life. We pray the Almighty Allah to repose Baba Jose’s kind soul in eternal bliss. Amin!
APPLICATION FOR 2022 HAJJ LICENCE AND SLOT ALLOCATION FOR TRAVEL AGENCIES
IN PICTURES: What led to the establishment of Muslim News, Nigeria’s most authoritative Islamic Newspaper
SUPPORT MUSLIM NEWS NIGERIA
With your generous financial contributions to MUSLIM NEWS, you are helping to sustain a culture of journalistic integrity that promotes tranquil Islamic values and ensures it remains free and available to all.
Rawshield PR Company
Guaranty Trust Bank