OPINION: Halima Tayo Alao:A True "Abiyamo" @ 64 By Abubakar Imam

Date: 2020-12-06

About twenty years ago, to be specific, on December 25, 2000, at the opening ceremony of the annual national conference of the then Ilorin Descendants Progressive Union(IDPU), now Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union, a distinguished son of the Emirate , late Major-General Abdulkarim Adisa (1948-2005), who was the Chairman of the event, spoke the minds of thousands of his voiceless compatriots. Though the departed warlord was not at the event in person, he spoke through his representative, late Captain Abdulkadir Oba Ubandawaki. General Adisa urged the umbrella sociocultural organisation of the good people of Ilorin Emirate and the generality of the community not to forget the contributions of several succeeding sons and daughters of the community who did well, particularly when they are no more in office. His submission was well informed, faultless and applauded then. It remains valid till date. Some years earlier, the highly respected author and historian, Alhaji L. A. K Jimoh(1940), while speaking at the 1993 edition of the same programme as the Guest Speaker, raised the same issue in his usually convincing perspective. He particularly made references to the exceptional patriotism and profound contributions of late Alhaji Yusuf Amuda Gobir, OFR (1934-1975) and late Alhaji Saka Saadu, OFR, (1938-2017), who left office as the Secretary to the Kwara State Government three years earlier . He urged the Union not to forget the patriotism of the duo simply because the former was dead and the latter was no more in office (as it was the case then).

The two gentlemen, General Adisa and Alhaji LAK ,were concerned with what ought to and should be done to keep the names and contributions of the truly distinguished heroes afloat. The celebration, according to them, should be targeted at making those heroes objects of emulation for the younger and future generations of our people.

To what extent the Union and the community had gone in that direction can be discerned from happenings and developments that have occurred in its annals over the years. The annual calendar of the Union is an instance in that direction and the establishment of an Hall of Fame by the IEDPU is another one. On his part, His Royal Highness, the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji (Dr) Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, CFR, has also appreciated the contributions of many of our heroes through the institutionalisation and conferment of honourary chieftaincy titles on no fewer than twenty distinguished indigenes of Ilorin Emirate in the last twenty-five years of his fascinating reign.

This genre, which this author has embarked upon in the last few years following his discovery of the hitherto unimaginable potency and pervasive reach of the social media platforms as a means of propagating ideas to thousands of his compatriots, is most importantly influenced by the need to always celebrate those who have really touched the lives of others in so many ways so that their selfless contributions would not be forgotten and can be emulated by emerging leaders here and there.

Among such individuals who, I sincerely believe, should not be forgotten simply because they are no longer holding political offices is Hajiya Halima Tayo Alao, a very distinguished daughter of Ilorin Emirate, respected Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Architects and an accomplished technocrat, who marks her 64th birthday today, Sunday, December 6, 2020.

I must say that, though I have known of Arc. Alao as a public figure for more than twenty five years, I have never met her at individual level; not to talk of her commissioning this effort as a means of polishing her image for whatever purpose as some doubting Thomases may be insinuating. But her impact has been felt by yours sincerely through those she assisted despite having no form of prior relationship with them .This particular piece is also encouraged by the fact that she is, at present , not in partisan politics to the best of my knowledge.

I decided to celebrate her for many reasons. I must confess that nothing pleases me more in the more privileged ones than knowing that my compatriots are assisted to be gainfully employed , a factor this glamorous lady priotises. Her beneficiaries in that wise are too many. The first person, a friend and brother from Pakata, told me of how he disturbed this birthday lady with ceaseless text messages day and night until she found him a job. The other, another friend and contemporary of mine at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, who hails from Alore Quarters of Ilorin and now an Assistant Director in one of the federal agencies, also told me how he "recruited" the respected penultimate Mukadam Oniwiridi Pakata, Shaykh Ibrahim Abdulsalam (d. 2013), to plead with this elegant woman when she insisted that she was interested in giving jobs to only those who had none rather than those who are already employed. The third one just woke up one night and succeeded in placing a call to this *abiyamo*.He told her that he had concluded plans to commit suicide simply because he had no job. The ex-Minister, as a loving mother, appealed to him to exercise patience. She eventually succeeded in fixing him up. He is today an high-ranking officer of an agency of the Federal Government. I also remember several interventions in community development of Arc. Alao,which were brought to the attention of members of the old Ilorin Branch of IEDPU, where I then served as the Secretary between 2004 and 2008, by the then National President of the Union, late Alhaji Ahmad Hameed (d. 2009). Her legacies included but not limited to the retinue of our compatriots who are now high-ranking personnel of the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency(NESREA), the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency(NOSRDA) and the National Parks and Federal Medical Centres ,to mention a few

Arc. Alao was born to the Ahmed Abojumeji segment of the illustrious Alimi Royal Dynasty situated at the Agaka Quarters, Ilorin, but in the faraway city of Kano on December 6,1956 where her parents were sojourning then. Her celebrated father, Alhaji Isa Omo-Eko Ahmed(1919-2008), was the late Daudu Abojimeji of Ilorin and an outstanding public servant , who retired from the public service of Kano State as a Permanent Secretary. Her father, who was also the Chairman of Sheikh Alimi Descendants Union (SADU) for many years, was the only son of Ilorin Emirate who served as a Permanent Secretary outside his state of origin. Arc. Alao's mother hailed from the famous Magaji Oke-Ogun family, Ilorin,while her maternal grandmother was also a descendant of the Shitta Orogonloye clan of the Alimi Royal Dynasty at Faagba, Ilorin.

Like other indigenes of Ilorin Emirate, most especially descendants of the founding father of the Emirate, Sheikh Alimi, young Halima began the journey through life as a pupil of a traditional Quranic school in Kano where she started her training in the arts and science of the reading of the Holy Quran. She eventually completed her Quranic studies at Ile Kewu Ita-Elepa,Ilorin. As a mark of her erudition in the holy book of Islam, this outstanding daughter of Ilorin received "Sahada" and also enjoyed the joy of the traditional "Walimatul Qur'an" as part of her wedding programmes as peculiar to her beloved Ilorin Emirate. Her well-laid foundation in the fundamental knowledge of the Holy Quran, which was meticulously blended with adequate cultural education, accounted for her fascinating personality as a good Muslim, a passionate patriot and and a decent member of the human community.

While still attending Quranic school and being moulded in the cherished culture of Ilorin Emirate , this illustrious daughter of Ilorin Emirate was enrolled as a pupil of Magwan Primary School, Kano .It was from that school that she received her primary education between 1963 and 1969, which eventuated in her possession of the First School Leaving Certificate. Her contemporaries at that level of education included her younger siblings the late Alhaji Saad Alhaji Ahmed (1959-2019),who died as the Deputy Registrar, Court of Appeal,Abuja Division; Alhaji Salisu Ahmed(b. 1960), an Ilorin based legal practitioner, and Dr. Abdulkadir Bola Ahmed, the Chief Medical Director, Kwara State General Hospital ,Ilorin. Arc. Tayo Alao also attended the famous St. Louis Secondary School, Bompai, Kano, where she was educated from 1969 to 1973. It was from that school that she received her West African School Certificate in flying colours. Her senior contemporaries at the institution included her elder sister, Alhaja Ramat Bolajoko Yahaya Madawaki; Alhaja Afusat Saro, a daughter to the Wali of Ilorin, Alhaji Shehu Usman Mustapha(1930) and wife to the Sardaurna of Ilorin, a distinguished international businessman, Alhaji Umaru Aminu Saro(1940). Others were Alhaja Mope Dasuki Belgore and Hajiya Nusirat Lawal, a widow of late Admiral Muhammad Alabi Lawal (1946-2006) who served as the Executive Governor of Kwara State between 1999 and 2003.

Following the successful completion of her School Certificate programmer, she proceeded to the College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria,for her Cambridge University moderated IJMB/Advanced Level qualifications, which she successfully ran and accomplished between 1974 and 1976.

Her alluring successes in her West African School Certificate and Advanced Level courses earned her admission into the Faculty of Environmental Studies of the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria . She studied Architecture at the famous institution between 1976 and 1981.Her contemporaries at the premier University of Northern Nigeria included Pharm. Zainab Ayo Ahmed, the Chief Executive of the popular Ayo Pharmacy, Ilorin; Pharm. Aduke Ramat Kuranga, a former Kwara State Commissioner for Health; and Dr Zainab Funmilayo Ambali, the pioneer female Medical Doctor from Ilorin Emirate and retired Permanent Secretary in the Kwara State Civil Service. Others were Alhaji Y. O. Ahmed, the immediate past Ag. National President, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union and, of course, her late husband, Dr. AbdulRahman Obalowu Alao; Arc. S. Ahmed Alege, the Coordinator,Muslim Orphanage Foundation, Ilorin; and Dr Binta Jibola Sulyman, an Associate Professor at the Kwara State University, Malete,and daughter to Alhaji Hamidu Erubu, CON, the pioneer Registrar National Open University of Nigeria. Arc.Alao left the prestigious University with both the Bachelor of Science and the Master of Science degrees in Architecture and consequently became the first female Architect of Ilorin extraction.

As a progressive-minded technocrat, who was determined to attain the pinnacle of her public service career, she was evidently not satisfied with just her alluring qualifications in the field of Architecture. She, therefore, attended the better by far University of Ilorin for her Master of Public Administration(MPA) degree to broaden her intellectual wherewithal and administrative capacities. She pursued and earned the elitist qualification after undergoing profound training at the nation's most sought after University between 2002 and 2004. This distinguished stateswoman was also trained in Advanced Management and Leadership at the globally renowned Oxford University, Business School, United Kingdom in October, 2009. Arc. Alao had earlier participated in training programmes on Post-Beinjing Zonal Workshops for Women Empowerment between 1996 and 1997 as well as other training sessions, which attracted participation of selected high-ranking public officials from across the world, held in India and the Philippines in 1997. The above were aside numerous conferences, workshops and symposiums she functionally participated in within and outside the shores of Nigeria.

Arc. Alao had earlier commenced her illustrious public service career as a Member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). She did her mandatory youth service at Rational Architects, an Ibadan ( in Oyo State) based-firm of Architects, Builders and Construction Managers, one of the nation's leading architectural firms, from 1981 to 1982. At the firm, she was exposed to profound practical experience, which sharpened her professionalism in the field of Architecture and Construction Management.

Sequel to the completion of her NYSC programme, this outstanding heroine joined the Kwara State civil service as a professional Architect in 1982. She was employed as Architect I and served as such at the Kwara State Ministry of Works and Transport. Subsequently she served at the Kwara State Town Planning and Development Authority, Ilorin.

As an industrious professional and public servant, Arc. Alao was deservedly promoted to the rank of Senior Architect. From 1984 to 1995, she was a Principal Architect and later Assistant Director in the Building Services of the Kwara State Ministry of Works and Housing. As a seasoned Architect, she handled many projects for Kwara State Government which include the Children Specialist Hospital, Ilorin and Kwara State Liaison Office, Abuja. She was also the Monitoring Architect on the FSP Multipurpose Development Centre, Fate Road,Ilorin; Kwara State Trade Fair(Phase I) Complex; Ilorin and the 200 Housing Units, Ajaokuta Resettlement Scheme, Ajaokuta,in the present-day Kogi State, among others.

In 1995,Hajiya Alao left the professional cadre of the public service and she was appointed as the Executive Secretary to the Kwara State Commission for Women. Her performance in that office would continue to be cherished as she worked with others to promote the interests of women like never before. Having excelled in all the responsibilities assigned to her, this great technocrat was appointed as the Sole Administrator/Executive Chairman of the Ilorin South Local Government with headquarters at Fufu. She was appointed as the Chief Executive of the Council by the penultimate Military Administrator of Kwara State, Col. P. A. M. Ogar. As the Sole Administrator of the Council between 1998 and1999, Hajiya Alao initiated , completed and ensured the commissioning of several monumental projects. One of such significant projects was the 22-room Ilorin South Local Government Secretariat, Fufu, which was completed within her ten months tenure and was the last project commissioned by the last Military Administrator of the State, Colonel AbdulRasheed Alade Sekoni in the State. Sequel to the completion of her historic tenure as the Sole Administrator of the Ilorin South Local Government Council, this illustrious daughter of Ilorin Emirate returned to the Kwara State Ministry of Women Affairs. She served as the Director, Women Affairs of the Ministry from 1999 to 2003. In June, 2003, Arc. Alao attained the pinnacle of her career following her well-deserved appointment as a Permanent Secretary in the Kwara State Civil Service by the administration of His Excellency, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, who was the then Executive Governor of Kwara State. She served in the State Ministry of Lands and Housing from June, 2003 to May, 2004 as well as the Kwara State Ministry of Works and Transport. As a Permanent Secretary, Arc. Alao demonstrated uncommon zeal, glittering industry, deep resourcefulness and exciting professionalism in the monitoring and supervision of several monumental projects like the Irewolede Housing Estate, new Airport Terminal Building, Ilorin , numerous road projects as well as the coordination of the formation of the Kwara State Roads Maintenance Agency, among others.

The repeated enterprising , groundbreaking and exceptional performance of Arc. Alao throughout her career in the Kwara State Civil Service must have accounted for her export into the national arena. She was appointed and served as Honourable Minister of State in the Federal Ministry of Education from July, 2005 to February, 2006, which placed her in-charge of primary and secondary education. She also supervised the National Primary Education Commission, National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult and Non-formal Education and National Commission for Nomadic Education during her tenure and since the completion of her tenure at the Ministry she has been most concerned and committed to Girl-Child education. Encouraged by her commitment to her responsibilities as a Member of the Federal Executive Council, she was redeployed to the Federal Ministry of Health and competently served in the same capacity between February, 2006 and May, 2007 in the administration of His Excellency Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR. In the Ministry of Health, she effectively supervised all the Federal Medical Centres across the nation and several other health initiatives of the Federal Government.

The stewardship of this golden daughter of Ilorin Emirate was crowned with her appointment in July,2007, as the Honourable Minister of Environment, Housing and Urban Development by His Excellency President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua,GCFR. She held the office competently with a lot of remarkable accomplishments at national and international levels. Her tenure coincided with the time when environmental degradation, desertification, climate change and global warming dominated both the national and international discourse and therefore had the privilege of leading the Nigerian delegations to several international conferences and forums on environment. The supervision of the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA),National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSRDA),National Parks, Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria(FRIN) and the Enviromental Health Officers Registration Council of Nigeria (EHORECON) also rested on her shoulders and she delivered on each of them to the admiration of all. Her tenure as the Honourable Minister, which ended gloriously in October, 2008, also witnessed the staging of the first ever Nigerian National Environmental Summit held between 20th and 21st October, 2008. As an Honourable Minister, Arc. Alao led the Nigerian delegations to no fewer than 10 international conferences. She was also the Chair of African Group of Negotiators to many of them. In some others, she was a fascinating Keynote Speaker where her infectious brilliance and diligence were extensively acknowledged.

Sequel to her glorious departure from the federal cabinet, Arc. Alao was appointed as a Special Advisor by the Management of African Programme on Onchociasis Control, which she held between May,2010 and April,2011.She also served as a Non-Executive Director of the United African Company of Nigeria (UACN)-UPDC Property Development Company, PLC. She is a Director of the THAM Girl-Child Foundation and also Director,Global Support for Clean Environment Initiative.

This illustrious descendant of Shehu Alimi has a special place in the annals of Ilorin Emirate, Kwara State and, indeed, Nigeria. She is incontrovertibly the first daughter of Ilorin Emirate to emerge as an Architect. She is the first female Chief Executive of Ilorin South Local Government Council. She is also the first daughter of a Permanent Secretary who will also attained the same rank. Arc. Alao is also the first female indigene of Kwara State who had the privilege of serving in prime positions, at various times and in the three tiers of government ; as the Chief Executive of a Local Government, Permanent Secretary in the public service of the State and a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. She is also the first female Minister to be appointed from Ilorin Emirate and the first female Minister from Kwara State who served in three different Ministries and under two different administrations, which extensively broadened her national outlook, world view and horison.

Arc. Alao was not a public official who served without leaving imperishable footprints on the sand of time. Her glittering accomplishments and contributions would remain in the realm of physical transformation and human resources development of Ilorin Emirate. She assisted innumerable numbers of her younger compatriots with employment and career progression in all and beyond all the agencies of the Ministries where she served. Her illustrious contributions to the building of Mosques and other monumental infrastructures across Ilorin are also too numerous to be lost to history.

The several contributions of this heroine of our time has not and can never go unrewarded. She has received several honours and awards including the "Outstanding Service Award" by the Nigerian Institute of Architects; and the "Nelson Mandela Gold Award for Leadership" by the African Transparent Leadership Centre for her contributions to Environmental Protection. She also earned an "Award of Excellence" conferred on her by the Ilorin Emirate Branch of the Jama'atul Nasril Islam; and the "Excellence and Leadership Award as an Outstanding Minister" by the Kwara State Chapter of the Ahmadu Bello University Alumni Association. She was also conferred with the Trail Blazer Award by the Kwara State Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists. She was also among the very few outstanding indigenes of Ilorin Emirate who were inducted into the first Hall of Fame of Ilorin Emirate put together by the umbrella sociocultural organisation of the people of Ilorin Emirate, the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union (IEDPU).

This remarkable daughter of Ilorin Emirate was married to late Dr. AbdulRahman Obalowu Alao (1952-2019) ,a successful Medical Doctor, who hailed from the Olowufunfun family near the popular Pakata Roundabout, Ilorin. The two distinguished professionals are blessed with children who are also doing very well in their various careers.

On behalf of the National President of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union, Alhaji Aliyu Otta Uthman, fsi, I sincerely congratulate this unassuming heroic figure and confluence of beauty, brilliance and brawn on her birthday. I wish her many more years of good health, prosperous and fruitful sojourn on the surface of the earth.

Imam is National Publicity Secretary, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union


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