The date was August 4, 1964. A star was born. In fact, two stars were born in that the last time I had the zeal to write anything like this, it was to celebrate the announcement of my friend – and mutual friend with SAS – Professor Saka Matemilola – as the 14th Olowu of Owu Kingdom in the ancient city of Abeokuta. Kabiyesi Olowu and Senator Salisu were born on the same day. I am older than both of them by 20 months as I was born in January 1963. But by the design of Allah, Olowu, Salisu and myself are all from Abeokuta – except none of us knew this to be the case as something even stronger – Islam – brought us together as young boys.
The coincidences do not end there; Olowu, Salisu and myself somehow ended up with three young ladies from Ijebuland as our respective wives – assuming my in-laws would not remind me that Iperu is not Ijebuland. And by a grander design which none of us is able to explain till this day, having been tenants in different parts of Lagos as we began the journeys of life and struggles for relevance – with Olowu and myself finding ourselves in the United Kingdom – the three of us ultimately ended up living together as each of us built his house in the same housing estate founded by ourselves and other Muslim friends in a beautiful corner of Lekki. Today, Olowu is my king in Owu; Salisu is my senator in Ogun Central and I am their Imam in Lagos.
Back to SAS
September 1983: Fate brought SAS and I together as we started the most crucial stages of our lives as students at the University of Lagos (UNILAG). It wasn’t long to see the leadership qualities in him – a natural attribute which Allah has endowed him with. It was impossible to be with us and not know him. SAS was and is a talker. But he walks his talks. The original Mr. Swagger, he operated in the company of elders – both in terms of age and seniority in the university. So influential was he that he was almost a ‘wife distributor’ and match-maker general. It is little surprise therefore that he shared one to himself too – our highly respected sister – Dr. Rashidat Salisu – wife and mother of all his children – five wonderful boys. Whereas the normal trajectory for a young man was to get his degree and look for a wife later, SAS was one of those who found their wives before their degrees. And I was close to falling victim of his wife-sharing abilities as he tried his best to match-make me too. What he didn’t bargain for was my ability to say no. My future wife was waiting for me in London.
Sometime in the year 2000, a group of wannabe friends with no Kobo in their bank accounts gathered themselves together and had the temerity to approach His Majesty – Kabiyesi, the Ojomu of Ajiranland in Lekki Peninsula to be entrusted with what was to become seven hectares (hectares, not acres) of land to develop a (non-commercial) housing estate – a place for friends to build and live. Guess who was appointed the president and spokesperson! SAS. While I was far away in London, those who were present on the day informed me that SAS’s gift of the garb was a big factor in Kabiyesi granting the requests of the wannabes. The boys achieved their mission – to go worry about how to pay for it later. Fast forward 23 years, this estate of ours – literally fit for a king – is one of the most beautiful and secure places to live here in Lekki.
A man of many abilities, SAS’s gift of the garb is only matched by his writing skills. He is one of the best writers I know – even as his origin was very humble in that he was not of the nursery school stock. If this article were to be written about me, and I was to choose who writes it, SAS would be my undoubted first choice, not for any reason other than his ability to put pen to paper.
Five years ago, the generation of our seniors at the University of Lagos completed their terms as leaders and presidents of our alumni association – University of Lagos Muslim Alumni (UMA). It was time to pass the baton of leadership to our generation – the class of 1986. Who was the one chosen among us? SAS. He became a two-time president of the association we are most proud to be part of. It is a big loss for any Muslim who passed through UNILAG to not be part of this unique association.
A devout Muslim who’s not in-your-face with his religion, not many would have known that SAS gave up a potentially highly lucrative career in the bank for the simple reason of the need to avoid dealing with interest (Riba or usury as we call it in Islam). It is a measure of how quickly his career grew that SAS was the first of our generation of friends to visit me in London – many years before anyone else could.
Highly educated with two master’s degrees to boot, SAS is a fellow of the Computer Society of Nigeria. And you wouldn’t rubbish his Islamic education as well. His IT consultancy played a big role in the automation of the activities of JAMB with a major input into what is today known as computer-based tests.
Many do not know, and others would have forgotten, that a much younger SAS was a candidate for the House of Representatives in the 2007 general elections. He was clearly rigged out. He became Deputy Chief of Staff in the administration of His Excellency, Governor Ibikunle Amosun in 2011 – even as all who knew him thought he deserved a higher position. It is arguable that the boldness to walk out of that regime went a long way in ultimately granting his wish of a seat at the senate. To this, we say ‘alhamdulillahi Rabbil ‘aalameen. And our gratitude also goes to His Excellency, Governor Dapo Abiodun for fully supporting his senate ambition.
We beseech Allah to guide, guard and honour him in this position of honour.
– Imam Nojeem Jimoh is the Chief Imam, Lighthouse Central Mosque, Lekki, Lagos
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