Opinion: Happy 20th anniversary the 11th Emir of Ilorin. By Solihu Woru Muhammed

Date: 2015-11-11

Historians do not agree on the origin of the name Ilorin, one account has it that the name originated from sharpening of cutlasses from a big stone and thus the name is believed to derive from the words llorin" the sharpening of iron. The stone can still be found in Bamidele's Compound in Idiape Quarters of Ilorin. The other account is that the name derived from the words "Ilu-Erin" which translated as "the town of Elephants". Whatever its historical origin, Ilorin has over the years evolved a culture that is distinct and peculiar, a culture that is neither Hausa nor Yoruba non Fulani, a culture that can only be described as Ilorin. The first known settler in the area was one wandering hunter by name Ojo Isekuse. He was later joined by another man called Emila, both stayed separately. Ojo Isekuse was living around the present Okelele.

These two were followed by a wandering Fulani cattle rearer by name Olufadi who settled in his Gaa, the area where the present Central Mosque is situated. The next settler was another cow Fulani rearer known as Akanbi and he settled with his herd of cattle at the place now known as Gaa-Akanbi. Solagberu, a man of Kanuri origin then came and settled at Okesuna. These settlers were living separately and there was no central authority uniting or ruling them. Afonja, who was Are Onakakanfo of the then Alafin, rebelled against the Alafin and had to leave Oyo Ile to Ilorin where he hoped to recruit mercenaries to fight his way back to Oyo Ile. This aim could not be achieved easily and quickly, this was why he stayed a while at the present Idiape Area. He too, with his group was living separately in their local area. It was at this time that Olufadi sent for Shehu Alimi to come and preach to and convert the people settled at Ilorin to Islam.

Alimi came with his adherents, his scholars and members of his household, the largest single group of immigrants to Ilorin. Among the followers were the Fulanis, the Hausas, the Gobirs and the Kamberis. The Hausas among whom was one, Ali, the patriarch of Balogun Gambari and Kamberis were located by Alimi at the present Gambari area with Sarkin Gambari as the Head, while the Gobirs were settled nearby with Sarkin Gobir as the Head. There were further immigrants who arrived at Ilorin, now a famous centre of Islamic learning. There were Nupes, Kanuris of Ile Kannike, Barubas settled in Baruba Quarters and Malians and Sudanese settled at Oke Imale. Alimi himself settled at Da-ami, the present Ago Market Area, where his palace still stands. Many people from nearby areas came to listen to and learn from Alimi and Ilorin population began to swell as new comers arrives and Mallam Alimi had to look for new areas to settle them with the help of Jida one of his followers.

All these new comers looked towards Alimi for their central authority. There was now unity in administration, vocation and religion, with the mode of worship being congregational prayers and focused allegiance to Islam. It was after all these developments that the people asked Alimi to be their political leader in order to look after the civil aspects of their lives aside from the religious aspect upon which he is already superintended. He declined the civil administration. His children came, learnt fast, living with the local people and studying the environment. Shehu Alimi died in 1823 and his first son, by name Abdulsalami became both temporal and spiritual leader of the town in 1831, thus marking the beginning of Fulani dynasty in Ilorin. It must be noted that prior to 1831 there was no Oba, Chief or any central ruler in Ilorin. Rev. Samuel Johnson in his book titled: "riistotv of the Yarubas" described Abdulsalami as a successful king who raised the Ilorin Fulani rulership to that pitch of glory which Ilorin had never attained before.

The people of different stocks are now co-mixed that by mere looking, one cannot sayan Ilorin man is from Fulani, Yoruba or Nupe origin, but all speak Yoruba and those of Yoruba origin are in the majority. This was the beginning and the foundation that produced in sequence, the almost 200 years of unbroken Fulani leadership of this famous town which has witnessed the following Emirs in succession:

AbdulSalami 1831 - 1842

Shitta 1842 - 1860

Zubair 1860 - 1868

Aliyu Shitta 1868 - 1891

Abdulsalami II 1891 - 1895

Sulaiman 1896 - 1915

Shuaib 1915 - 1919

Abdulkadir 1919 - 1959

Sulu Gambari 1959 - 1992

Aliyu Abdulkadir 1992 - 1995

Ibrahim Sulu Gambari 1995 to date

Prince Ibrahim was born on April 22nd, 1940 in Ilorin as a direct and double descendant of Sheikh Alimi. His father, Alhaji Dr. Sulukarnaini Gambari was a Prince and late Emir, while his mother Alhaja Nma is also a Princess being the daughter of Emir Abdulkadir - the 8th Emir of Ilorin. While providence gave untainted royal blood to Prince Ibrahim as a matter of birth right, his late father, Alhaji Dr. Sulukarnaini Gambari Mohammed gave fate a helping hand in laying his educational foundation.

According to the tradition of Ilorin, young Ibrahim started his educational career in a Quranic School off Balogun Gambari Road, Ilorin, in 1945 under a renowned scholar, the late Mallam Abdulsalami popularly called Audu Imale. At the age of seven (1947), his father contrary to the prevailing trend of sending children of noble persons to Government or Native Authority Schools, sent him to United Primary School, Ilorin, a voluntary community-owned school from where the young Prince was moved to Omu-Aran Native Authority School.; And as if Ibrahim himself was determined to justify the tough measures of his father at whatever cost, he completed his primary education in that school in 1956 in flying colours. He was one of the best six in the class of 42 pupils. He gained admission to Barewa College, Zaria in 1967, but his father preferred to send him to Offa Grammar School, another community-owned school. He settled down to the new life at Offa Grammar School, which was fast becoming another first class secondary school when in 1960 four years after his enrolment in the school, he was sent abroad to a school in Oakland, Rutland, England to complete his secondary education. He did his GCE, advanced level in Westminster College between 1963 and 1965 where he obtained LL. B. (Second Class Honours) of London University. He obtained his B.L. professional qualification in 1967, the same year he obtained LL.M of the same London University.

On returning to Nigeria, although three months later, he joined the 1967-1968 set of the Nigerian Law School, passed out with others and was among those sworn-in as Solicitors and Advocates of the Supreme Court of Nigeria at the end of the course, this was another feat indeed. He had his pupilage in the chambers of the legendary nationalist, Chief H. O. Davies, QC/SAN, for a year, thanks again to the guiding hands of his late father who insisted that he wanted his son to pursue a disciplined path. According to the visionary father, "Leadership and no Salesmanship" was the only trait good enough for his son. And through the same royal counsel, he joined the service of the then North-Eastern State of Nigeria as a Substantive State Counsel in 1969.

The prevailing circumstances in the country generally thrust so much responsibility on the young state counsel. The arduous task exposed him to so much in the field in terms of experiences and maturity. Thus by January 1975, Prince Ibrahim Sulu Gambari had become a Principal State Counsel Grade I and by 16th March, 1976, the first Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General of Gongola State.

On the 1st January, 1977, he was appointed as Acting Judge of the High Court of Bauchi, Borno and Gongola States. One and a half years later, precisely on the 1 st June, 1978, he became a substantive Judge of the High Court of Borno State. Having discharged his judicial responsibilities so well in that capacity, he was considered for further elevation which by 1 st January, 1983 saw the young Judge being appointed as a Justice of the Court of Appeal. He was posted to the Ibadan Division where he served for eight years and by July, 1991 he was made the Presiding Judge of the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal, the post he held till his ascension to the great throne of his forebears as the 11th Emir of Ilorin.

He was earlier appointed the Ciroma of Ilorin on the 30th November, 1984. His appointment as the 11 th Emir of Ilorin took effect from 18th August, 1996 while his installation ceremony was performed on the 11th day of November, 1996 by that token, he became the Chairman, Kwara State Council of Chiefs. His Royal Highness, the Emir of Ilorin was conferred with the national title of Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR) in the year 2000 and was also appointed as the Chancellor of the Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka in July, 2001. He was conferred with the Doctorate Degree of Laws (Honoris Causa) of the same University on the 1st June, 2002.

His Royal Highness, Alhaji Dr. Ibrahim Sulu Gambari, CFR was the pioneer Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) upon the formation of the Forum on the ih March, 2000 and held the post until the year 2002 when the first elected Chairman of the Forum, Alhaji M. D. Yusuf came into office. It was His Royal Highness that welded the Turaki Committee, the Northern Elders Forum and the Unity and Development Foundation together and coined the term "Arewa Consultative Forum" with the acronym ACF.

In these 20th eventful years in the exalted throne of his forefathers, Ilorin has witnessed tremendous growth in infrastructural, physical, agricultural and human development. A few high points of his reign include the construction of various road networks, industrial concerns, like Dangote Flour Mill, Agricultural Monuments like the Malete Farm Settlements, Kwara State University, Malete, Ilorin International Airport Cargo, Ogbondoroko Cashe nut Factory among others. Above all, the development of Ilorin indigenes and their appointment into significant positions have been applauded.

His reign has seen the appointment of the first Ilorin indigene, Prof. S., O. Abdulraheem as the Vice Chancellor of a University, a one time National Security Adviser and former Chief of Staff in the Presidency, General Abdullahi Mohammed, Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice S. M. A. Belgore and of course an outstanding former Governor of the state, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, CON now Senate President who has been exemplary in governance. His Royal Highness has carried out a massive construction of new Palace inside the present Palace, constructed residential accommodations for the Sultan, Emirs and Obas who may be visiting him.

The 11 th Emir's reign also witness the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Ilorin Juma'at Central Mosque, the Forum of Magajis and Alanguas Forum, Shehu Alimi Foundation are among the new Associations established. Emir Sulu-Gambari is a messenger of peace and harmony, a friend of weak and the poor and the oppressed. He has been taking good care of his traditional chiefs and clerics. He is well known for his generous and kindness, he has been sponsoring Muslims to perform the holy pilgrimage in Mecca and Medina on yearly basis.

As a champion of peace and tranquility, he is not discriminating against any religion, sex or tribe, he has also been assisting the government in ensuring that peace and harmony prevails in the state.

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