OPINION: Who is Saliu Mustapha: The New Turaki of Ilorin? By Abubakar Imam

Date: 2021-10-27

"History transforms people and creates enduring

magic, lumping together event, identity and

symbolism in a notable capsule".

---Reuben Abati

Come Friday, October 22, 2021 the city of Ilorin, the renowned "sanctuary of saints, scholars and soldiers", would play host to thousands of people from far and near at a major socio-cultural event, which promises to be historic, exciting and monumental. The event, which is also expected to attract dignitaries from all walks of life including His Excellency, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, GCON, SAN, Vice-President, Federal Republic of Nigeria; and His Royal Highness, Emir of Bichi, Alhaji Nasiru Ado Bayero, is the turbaning of a celebrated patriot, wonderful philanthropist, unassuming community leader and remarkable politician, Mallam Saliu Mustapha, as the new and fourth Turaki of Ilorin. The ceremony would hold at the instance and in the ancient palace of the Emir of Ilorin and Chairman, Kwara State Council of Emirs and Obas, His Royal Highness, Alhaji (Dr) Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, CFR.

The Emir, who is also the Chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi, had on Thursday, July 22, 2021 announced the appointment of Mallam Mustapha as Turaki of Ilorin. The appointment was announced along with those of eight other equally distinguished compatriots who bagged one traditional title or the other in recognition of their pedigrees and varied contributions to the progress of the nation's most unique traditional polity.

As someone who had established a very firm reputation for himself, at least, in the last one decade or thereabout, the appointment of Mallam Mustapha as Turaki of Ilorin did not come as a surprise to the overwhelming majority of the people of Ilorin. This is because most people believe that he had paid his dues. It was and still the conviction of the people that the conferment was well deserved as it would spur him and others to do more towards the continuous positive and all-round transformations of our homeland.

Yet, many people of Ilorin, until very recently, did not know Saliu Mustapha as much, due largely to his being self-effacing and limelight shy. Though, he is not a homeboy like yours truly, he is no less an Ilorin man. He is in many ways like all the previous holders of the prestigious title of Turaki of Ilorin. This assertion will be explained subsequently.

Then, who is Saliu Mustapha? The new Turaki is from Ile Ilorin, Bamidele Quarters in the Baruba axis of Ilorin. His ancestral home is the very location from where the blessed city of Ilorin took its exciting name. He is a descendant of a great man with fascinating pedigrees.

His grandfather, Alhaji Mustapha Ibrahim, who died in 1995, was one of those young men who left Ilorin during the colonial era for other places in search of the proverbial greener pastures. It was to Ekpoma in the present-day Edo State that he went and settled. After trying his hands on many productive activities, the Turaki's illustrious grandfather became a very successful Cocoa Merchant, who was blessed enough to establish glowering reputations as a man of industry and philanthropic disposition.

Understandably, Alhaji Mustapha picked two of his wives,Alhaja Rabiat Asunle Mustapha and Alhaja Hawawu Mustapha ,from Ilorin. His third wife,Alhaja Aminat Ayinke Mustapha,hailed from Ogbomoso. The parents of his first two spouses, though of Ilorin origin, were also based in the same axis of the Muslim dominated parts of the "heartland of the nation".His first wife was a senior sister of late Alhaji Mohammed Malik,a member of the first generation of professional Pharmacists produced by Ilorin Emirate. Alhaji Mustapha's second wife was the Turaki's paternal grandmother. She was a great woman, who was a shrewd business woman that traded in textile and jewelries. She hailed from Ile Olowu in the Ita-Kudimo area of Ilorin but her family has its rural stead at Ile Kelebe, Laduba in the Asa Local Government Area.

The new Turaki's paternal grandmother was a sister to Salamatu Jimoh, mother to one of the most accomplished patriots and influential academics of Ilorin origin, late Prof. Shehu Ahmad Jimoh, OON (1944-2014). As a proud son of Ilorin, Alhaji Mustapha never forgot to send all the products of his marriages, including the Turaki's father, to Ilorin either for acculturation or marriage. He did that as if he was too sure that today would come.

Mallam Saliu Mustapha's father, Alhaji Issa Ibrahim Mustapha, was born in 1947 at Ekpoma, Edo State. It was at the present-day University Town that he had his infancy. When he was growing up, he was initially taken to Kaduna where he commenced schooling at UNA Primary School, but was eventually brought to Ilorin and registered at the Baptist Primary School, Surulere, Ilorin. It was,however, at the famous Okesuna Primary School, Ilorin, that he completed his elementary studies.

His school mates in Ilorin included Hajiya Jamilat Funmilayo Gold (b.1950), a retired Deputy Director, Federal Ministry of Education and wife to a former Head of Service, Kwara State and Ex-National President, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union (IEDPU), Alhaji Mudi Adebayo Gold(b. 1942); and Dr. Saliu Ajia; Other mates of the father of the new Turaki of Ilorin were Alhaji Haliru Sarumi and two of the children of Alhaji Sanni Okin, the first Turaki of Ilorin, Musa and Folorunsho Okin. His Headmaster at the Okesuna School was a member of the first generation of educationists produced by Ilorin, who was also a member of the House of Representatives during the first republic, late Alhaji Abdulsalam Olomoda (1900-1975).

While in Ilorin as a young boy, Turaki's dad initially lived under the guardianship of Mallam Abubakar Ajape of Magaji Abudu family and received his Qur'anic education at the famous Ile Kewu Ile Gbagba. His guardian eventually became and served as the Magaji Abudu of Ilorin between 1994 and 1998. He also lived with an aunt of his (Iya Alate) in the Baboko area of Ilorin for whom he hawked household wares to several parts of the indigenous segments of Ilorin like Pakata, Okekura, Adeta and Oloje, among others.

Among his friends in Ilorin in his formative years were a veteran journalist and adminstrator, Mallam Shuaibu Sanda Abudu; a former Commissioner for Education and Ag. Rector, Kwara State Polytechnic, Ilorin, Dr Abdullahi Saadu; and the former Sole Administrator of the Kwara State College of Education, Oro, late Alhaji Ibrahim Duro Sulyman (1943-2021). Others are former Commissioner for Works in Kwara State, late Alhaji Salman Sidiq (BOB); and a Justice of the Court of Appeal, Honourable Justice Mudashiru Nasiru Oniyangi.

The Turaki's father eventually left Ilorin for Kaduna in furtherance of his education. He was subsequently trained at Commercial School, Tudun Wada, Kaduna. He, thereafter, began his sojourn into business.

Most of Alhaji Issa Mustapha's younger sisters married at Ilorin as wished by their father. For instance, Mrs Hasia Yekini, an health practitioner, was married into the popular Otu family near the ancient Pakata Market, Ilorin. Another younger sister of his, Hajiya Wasilat Ajoke Folorunsho, a retired teacher who was trained at the famous Ilorin Teachers' College, married into the Eleran family of Ita-Aburo, Ilorin. Another younger sister of the new Turaki's father, Hajiya Jamilat, married in Baba-Oyo family in the Oke-Anifowoshe axis of Pakata area,Ilorin. The same can be said of Hajiya Halimat Modupeola Ishola, who is a retired Deputy Director, Nursing Services, Kwara State. She married in Kelebe family of Okekura in Ilorin and Mrs Rihanat Aliagan, whose husband is from the popular Aliagan dynasty as well as Mrs Aduke Lah who is married to Alhaji Ladi Lah, one of the sons of Alhaji Abubakar Lah,MFR(1919-2013),the first Shettima of Ilorin.

Mallam Saliu Mustapha hails from Ilorin East while his paternal rural stead is Arobadi in the Moro Local Government Area. His paternal grandmother hailed from Ilorin West and Asa Local Government Areas and one of his aunts' marital home is Ilorin South. Little wonder, Mallam Mustapha always felt at home with every cause brought to his attention from any part of the Local Government Areas constituting his beloved Ilorin Emirate.

The mother of the new Turaki of Ilorin is Hajiya Maryam Abike Mustapha. She is a daughter of the Toba family whose ancestral home is Odo-Ero, Kabba town, the headquarters of the Okun people of the present-day Kogi State. It was, however, at Kaduna that the two parents of the new Turaki met, fell in love and got married. The marriage is blessed with five children; three boys and two girls. Mallam Saliu Mustapha is the surviving eldest as he lost his elder brother, AbdulRasaq Mustapha, a medical doctor. His other siblings are Hajiya Aisha Mustapha, Hajiya Fatima Mustapha Bello and Mallam Muhammad Kabir Mustapha, all of whom are doing very well in their various professions.

Mallam Saliu Mustapha, a distinguished politician, successful businessman and outstanding entrepreneur and remarkable philanthropist, was born on September 25,1972 approximately a month after the death of the first Turaki of Ilorin, Alhaji Sanni Okin, OFR (1910-1972). He started his early education at the famous St. Bartholomew Primary School, Wusasa, Zaria, Kaduna State,which was the school attended by Nigeria's longest-serving military Head of State,General Yakubu Gowon,GCFR(b. 1934). He then proceeded to St John's College, Jos, Plateau State. He was also trained at the Command Secondary School, Kaduna.

On completion of his West African School Certificate (WASC) programme, the new Turaki of Ilorin proceeded to the famous Kaduna Polytechnic,Kaduna. He studied Mineral Resources Engineering at the institution.

As a young man, he had always shown interest in business and politics, which he was introduced to by his friends most of whom were from different states of Northern Nigeria. And no sooner than he graduated that he became a full time businessman mingling it with politics.

His conviction that Nigeria deserves to be properly governed informed his association with leading and spartan political figures like Chief Olu Falae CFR(1938), one-time presidential candidate; and Alhaji Balarabe Musa (1936-2020), the first elected Governor of old Kaduna State as well as President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR.

This admirable son of Ilorin Emirate consequently began a very fascinating political career, which saw him serve as the National Publicity Secretary of the Progressive Libration Party (PLP) at one time. He was once also the National Publicity Secretary of the Progressive Action Congress(PAC).

Mallam Mustapha was one of the early believers in the political aspirations and leadership capacities of President Muhammadu Buhari to serve the nation as its elected chief executive when he teamed up with others to form and run "The Buhari Organisation" (TBO). He was also a leading member of the Buhari Campaign Organisation for several years and has been a notable associate of President Buhari for the past seventeen years.

This illustrious son of Ilorin demonstrated unflinching loyalty to President Buhari and his political aspirations throughout his struggles for power. He followed him throughout his adventure into the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) where he contested for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2003 and 2007. He was also a foundation and National Executive Committee Member of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). He was the National Deputy Chairman of the Party, which was chaired by a former Minister of Information, Late Prince Tony Momoh, when the party contested and lost the presidency in 2011.

Following the imperativeness of the merger of CPC with other political parties on the path to forming the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mallam Mustapha played a leading role. He was among those who did the magic, which eventually led to the displacement of the then ruling party by the erstwhile opposition party at the national level; the first instance at which such would happen in the history of Nigeria.

Mallam Mustapha, who aspired to contest for the office of Governor of Kwara State under the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2019, is also the founder and Chairman of Saliu Mustapha Foundation. The Foundation is a philanthropic organisation through which the leading politician has been offering multidimensional supports to individuals and organisations within and outside Kwara State, particularly across Ilorin Emirate in the last few years. His philanthropic gestures have turned his name into an household one in Ilorin Emirate and beyond as hardly any development campaign or project holds without his name and contributions being associated with such.

Mallam Mustapha is a well traveled gentleman. He has been to almost every part of Nigeria and the world for either business or leisure. He is also a polyglot who speaks English, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba languages, including its Okun dialect, fluently. He is a friendly person who has friends and associates across Nigeria.

One aspect of the life of this young man many have found very astonishing is that despite the fact that he was neither born nor raised at Ilorin, he has shown so much fraternity and commitment to the progress of the community. This,more than any other factor, confirmed his patriotism. He has been moving up and down in ensuring that he offers his contributions in a magnificent manner that one would think he had his childhood in Ilorin.

This outstanding son of Ilorin Emirate, who has a greater future before him, is happily married. His wife is Hajiya Bilikisu Mustapha,who hails from Kano State. The two love birds are blessed with lovely children.

Just like in every situation, the question on the lips of a few unrepentant cynics is "why Saliu Mustapha"? The response of those who know is "why not him"? As it is becoming clearer that His Royal Highness, the Emir of Ilorin, does not take any action without historic basis, contextual congruity and divine guidance, Saliu Mustapha incontrovertibly shares so many phenomena with his illustrious predecessors who held the title in Ilorin. He is,indeed, a round peg in a round hole.

Like the last two holders of the title, he was not born in Ilorin. As his three predecessors, he was also not raised in Ilorin. Just like his last two predecessors, his mother does not also hail from Ilorin. He also became the Turaki of Ilorin at 49 just like his last two predecessors who did in their 40s. Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki (1933-2012) was conferred with the title in 1974 when he was 41. Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki CON, became the Turaki of Ilorin at the age of 44. It was only the first holder of the title, Alhaji Okin, who was so conferred at the age of 53.

Two other common denominators among the four are unquantifiable philanthropism and extraordinary national politics . The first three holders of the title were also foremost parliamentarians and professionals. Time would tell of the future political career of the new Turaki. The new Turaki also married from outside Ilorin like his last two predecessors. He is also associated to the "Ilorin-centric" Ansarul Islam Society of Nigeria through his father who was a member of the Kaduna Branch of the Society just like his three illustrious predecessors. Ansarul Islam, an association established by the highly venerated first Grand Mufti of Ilorin, Shaykh Muhammad Kamaldeen Al-Adabiyy, MFR,OFR,ORSA(1905-2005), is the first voluntary Muslim organisation in Northern Nigeria. What a coincidence!

Mallam Mustapha, in my own thinking, deserves this illustrious honour. He has left no one in doubt of his dignity, integrity, patriotism and commitment. He has offered his services very well and with uncommon humility. Only very few community development projects had taken place in Ilorin in the last few years without his magnificent contributions. He has donated hugely through his foundation regularly to the empowerment of widows, women, youths and students and the maintenance of the Ilorin Central Jumaat Mosque. His financial and material contributions to the successes of the last three editions of the annual Ilorin Emirate Grand Durbar Celebrations have also been mind blowing.

The moral, material and financial support of the new Turaki of Ilorin to the community's foremost sociocultural organisation, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union, in the last few years had also been exceptional. What about his donations to the building of mosques and other infrastructures across Ilorin Emirate? He has also been a regular feature on invitation to book launch and similar events on and about Ilorin and its people.

Anyone who does what Mallam Mustapha is doing ought to be rewarded,celebrated and retained by an appreciative community. Is that not the main reasons why traditional honourary titles were institutionalised? That is exactly why the people and friends of Ilorin are joining hands with the Emir, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, CFR, to honour a great icon and one of the shining stars of his Emirate in order to stimulate more patriotism among his subjects.

Leading the packs of eminent statesmen and women in the commendation of the Emir on the choice of the new Turaki is the National President of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union (IEDPU), Alhaji Aliyu Otta Uthman,fsi, who said that "Mallam Mustapha is more than qualified for the prestigious title going by his pedigrees, contributions and assuring potentials". "I am of the conviction that the title would spur him to do more for himself, the community and humanity", Alhaji Uthman concluded.

An elder statesman and foremost technocrat,who served as Head of Service and Secretary to the Kwara State Government between 1992 and 1993,Alhaji Shehu AbdulGafar,OON,recalled that it was not long that he met the new Turaki but that he(Turaki) has left in him an enduring positive impression. Alhaji Abdulgafar,who is also the Danmadami of Ilorin and Chairman, Central Working Committee of Ilorin Central Jumaat Mosque, described Mallam Mustapha as one who comes to him as "a very humble, nice,godly and a complete gentleman who keeps promises". "His consistent voluntary donations of millions of Naira to the Ilorin Central Jumaat Mosque",according to the former IEDPU National President, "have been incredibly astonishing". "His contributions to the successful organisation of the Kwara State Qur'anic Recitation Competition at which he donated N1 Million to participants was also a pleasant surprise to me and members of the Committee. I am always happy when patriots contribute generously to the cause of Allah. Mallam Mustapha truly deserves the title and I wish him long life and a more prosperous career",Alhaji AbdulGafar concluded.

To the Talba of Ilorin and a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress(APC), who previously served as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin and Executive Chairman, Federal Character Commission (FCC),among other positions of high responsibilities, Prof. Shuaibu Oba AbdulRaheem,OFR, Mallam Saliu Mustapha" is a gentleman and patriot,focussed and disciplined. He is well deserving of the honour bestowed on him by Mai Martaba,Emir of Ilorin".

A former National President of Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union, Ambassador Sheikh Usman Abdul Azeez, fwc, paid glowing tributes to Mallam Mustapha for his extraordinary philanthropy and humility. According to the retired diplomat," Politics apart, his philanthropic outreach is unrivalled in the Emirate and several indigent citizens of the Emirate have benefited and are mostly prosperous today".

He added "I recall, for example and with all sense of appreciation, when the Union was preparing for its 2018 national conference with a budget of N9. 5 Million and I booked an appointment with him. He merely asked me how much we intended to spend and outrightly he volunteered to offset the sum by half".

Mallam Yahaya O. Ahmed, who also served as the Ag. National President of the IEDPU, recalled the contributions of the new Turaki to the success of his administration of the Union. He recalled that it was Mallam Mustapha who donated a utility vehicle and huge sum of money to the Union during his tenure, which it is still finding very useful for its activities. "He even confided in us his plan to establish a large mechanised farm just to employ youths to provide them with a mean of livelihood.His interests revolve around the all-round development of Ilorin",the ex-Banker noted.

The Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency (NEMSA) and Danmasani of Ilorin, Engr.Suleiman Oba Yahaya Alapasanpa, FNSE remarked that the new Turaki is a pride to Ilorin,saying that he has done quite well and has been doing very well spending his hard earned resources towards the progress of Ilorin. "As the Chairman of the Ilorin Emirate Grand Durbar Committee, I can bear testimony that Mallam Mustapha has been a major factor in the successes of the annual Ilorin Emirate Grand Durbar",Engr. Alapasanpa noted.

A former Managing Director of the Lower Niger River Basin Development Authority, Ilorin, who is also the Magaji Muse of Ilorin, Engr. Abubakar Tonile Aduragba, described the new Turaki of Ilorin as an uncommon personality who combines rarely combinable alluring qualities. He explained that it is rare coming across a moneybag who will always be interested in spending for others with exceptional humility.

"Saliu Mustapha is an humble person and I am pleased to say that I was among those whose wish to have him honoured with a befitting traditional title came to past with this development", Engr. Aduragba explained.

To Hajiya Halimat Modupeola Ishola, a relation of the new Turaki and retired Deputy Director, Nursing Services, Kwara State Ministry of Health,"Saliu is very gentle, quite reserved, very peaceful and very respectful and highly unassuming and incredibly generous. At family level, he is as marvelous as he is at community level. He has been very good to all".She added that "the family can never thank the Emir enough for the honour done to her prized son who does not promise what he would not do".

Prof. Aishatu Ahmed Gobir,a leading academic and community leader,in her opinion said that "the Turaki is a man who has contributed immensely to the development of our community. He has particularly helped to preserve and uphold our cultural heritages through his massive donations to the Ilorin Central Jumaat Mosque, the IEDPU and the Ilorin Emirate Durbar Committee".The renowned Child Health specialist and leading spirit behind the increasingly popular Ilorin Emirate Medical Doctors Association further opined that the new Turaki "inspires our youths by supporting their umbrella body,Ilorin Emirate Youths Development Association, and their education". To her, "he deserves this title and much more. I congratulate him and ask Allah to bless him with long life and good health".

On the part of the National President and the National Publicity Secretary of the Ilorin Emirate Youths Development Association (IEYDA), Alhaji Abdullahi Babatunde Salaudeen and Alhaji Uthman Mohammad Jagunma,respectively, "the new Turaki of Ilorin is our benefactor. He is also a benefactor to many individuals and organisations and sub-communities across Ilorin Emirate. Our Association has received priceless supports from him as we believe that the honour being conferred on him is not only a reward for services done but a stimulant for more contributions towards the development of Ilorin Emirate". The duo added that they would never forget his personal presence at the official opening of the Association's ICT Centre and his donation of an utility vehicle to IEYDA,which has aided the Association's movements across the country.

Mallam Saliu Mustapha is, no doubt, a man of history who is also marching into history. He is affectionate and loyal to the Alimi dynasty and the Ilorin project at large. It is the conviction of this author that he is not only fully prepared for all the responsibilities of the title, which is providing leadership for the people, but would make success of it.

As this great son of Ilorin prepares to be turbaned, I pray Allah to grant him sound health, more wealth, greater wisdom and all other endowments he would need to serve Ilorin Emirate community and humanity to the fullest. May he also live long and enjoy greater career progressions far beyond those of his accomplished departed predecessors.

Imam is National Publicity Secretary, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union.


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