OPINION: Abdulkadir Orire: The Exit of A Real Giant. By Abubakar Imam
Only the matured ones who never sojourned in Kwara State in the last fifty years or so would genuinely claim ignorance of the name and contributions of Honourable Justice Abdulkadir Orire to the development of Ilorin Emirate, Kwara State and Nigeria at large. His was a name that rang bell consistently and would continue to ring bell for a long time. He was involved in the progress of Kwara State right from its creation and until he passed on to the great beyond. His contributions were so many and great that he was regarded as one of the greatest stakeholders in the peace and progress of Kwara State by all those who mattered at the national level and even beyond. This classification was because no significant development happened in the "State of Harmony" without the inputs of the Honourable Justice Abdulkadir Orire, one way or the other, most especially between 1968 and 2021; particularly when it had to with peaceful co-existence of followers of different religions and education.
Honourable Justice Abdulkadir Orire, a renowned Muslim cleric, distinguished teacher and seasoned jurist, was born at Obaninsunwa on December 28, 1934. His place of birth and ancestral home was then a Village in the outskirts of Ilorin. The Village, which was relocated from its original site to where it is now situated along Egbejila Road in the city of Ilorin to give way for the construction of the Ilorin International Airport, was formerly within the jurisdiction of Asa Local Government Area but now within Ilorin West Local Government Area courtesy of a boundary adjustment executed by the administration of Group Captain Ibrahim Alikali in the late 1980s.
The paternal family members of the departed scholar were originally members of the famous Magaji Abudu family of Ilorin. The progenitor of the family was Abudu Lateju (Abdullahi Olateju) , who was a respected member of the Basorun lineage of the old Oyo Empire. Abudu Lateju, who later paid the supreme sacrifice in the course of his strives towards the greatness of Ilorin Emirate, was said to have joined the Jamaa of Shehu Alimi at old Oyo . He was, therefore, part of the retinue of admirers and students who followed the founding father of the southernmost Emirate to Ilorin for permanent settlement.
Young Abdulkadir started off with the study of the arts and science of Quranic reading and recitation as a kindergarten. He was also exposed to the fundamental aspects of Islamic faith and the exciting culture of Ilorin, which made him grow-up to become a committed Muslim and a sound member of the human community.
This great jurist's voyage into western education started in 1943 at the instance of the late Daudu Ballah, Alhaji Saidu Alao Omo-Oloni, who was a friend to his father. It was Alhaji Omo-Oloni, a grand uncle to the incumbent Emir of Ilorin, who insisted on the enrolment of Justice Orire as a member of the pioneer set of pupils of the then Ballah Elementary School (now Ballah LGEA School) Ballah in the present-day Asa Local Government Area of Kwara State .The pioneer Grand Kadi of Kwara State was educated at the school between 1943 and 1947.His classmates at the institution included the late Honourable Justice Saka Yusuf, OFR(1933-2018), the third Chief Judge of Kwara State and former National President of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union; and the third Speaker of the Kwara State House of Assembly, late Alhaji Saidu Ajao Gomih(1934-2011).Other contemporaries of Justice Orire at the school included Alhaja Belawu Akanke Hassan, the mother to the Ilorin Emirate's first female Medical Doctor, Dr Zainab Funmilayo Ambali(b. 1953);and the distinguished Queen Mother of both Kano and Bichi Emirates in Kano State, Hajiya Maryam Ado Bayero.
As a brilliant chap who was also very serious with his studies, Justice Orire did very well at the Elementary School and became a pride to the founding father of the school, Alhaji Omo Oloni. He was subsequently selected for further training at the then Ilorin Middle School, which is now known as the Government Secondary School, Ilorin. He was trained at the school between 1947 and 1951.At GSS, Ilorin, the departed jurist excelled in his studies most especially in Arithmetic and the study of Arabic and Islamic Studies. His excellent performances in Arabic and Islamic studies not only attracted him to his teachers such as Alhaji Abdulsalam Olomoda and Alhaji AbdulRaheem Okekere and the leadership of the defunct Ilorin Native Authority but also earned him selection for further training at the famous School of Arabic Studies(SAS), Kano. He was trained at SAS from 1951 and eventually graduated from the school in 1955.
The intellectual wherewithal and commitment of Justice Orire to greater scholarship attracted the support of the Government of the erstwhile Northern Region, which sponsored him for further studies abroad. He consequently left the shores of Nigeria for the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, where he was educated from 1959 to 1961. He thereafter secured admission into and was trained at the prestigious University of London, United Kingdom, between 1961 and 1964 from where he eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Arabic. His contemporaries at the University included the late Prof. Ismail Balogun, who was the founding father of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Ilorin and the late Prof. M .O. Abdul who served at the University of Ibadan. His Ilorin compatriots who were in the United Kingdom about the same time with him were the
Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji (Dr)Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, CFR; the pioneer Chief Judge of Kwara State who later retired as a Judge of the Supreme Court, Honourable Justice Saidu Kawu, CON(1928-2013); the third President of the Court of Appeal and pioneer Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practises Commission(ICPC), Honourable Justice Muhammad Mustapha Adebayo Akanbi, CFR, (1932-2018); and a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Saliu Modibbo Alfa Belgore, CON, GCON(b. 1937).
On his arrival in Nigeria and subsequent engagement as an educator, Justice Orire convinced himself of the need to be professionally trained as a teacher. To achieve that vision, he proceeded to the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, from 1965 to 1966 at the end of which he received his Postgraduate Diploma in Education(PGDE) from the nation's largest University.
Justice Orire had earlier began his exciting public service career as a classroom teacher at Baboko Senior Primary School, Ilorin, in 1956 . He also taught at Government Secondary School, which was then known as the Provincial Secondary School, Ilorin, between 1956 and 1959 before travelling abroad for further studies.
On his return to Nigeria, he served as a Graduate teacher at the famous Barewa College, Zaria, from 1964 to 1966. He was also the Vice-Principal, Arabic Teachers College, Sokoto between 1966 and 1969. He rounded-off his teaching career as the Principal of the Arabic Teachers College, Sokoto, a position he held between 1969 and 1971.
In 1971, Justice Orire transferred his services to the judiciary as a Judge of the Shari’ah Court in the old Kwara and North-Central States. He was a Kadi of the Court between 1971 and 1974.
In 1975 and following the full fledge status granted the Kwara State judiciary , Justice Orire was appointed as the pioneer Grand Kadi of the Kwara State Shari’ah Court of Appeal. He held the position creditably and unprecedentedly from 1975 to 1999.As a teacher and Muslim jurist, he was a contemporary to Justice Abubakar Mahmud Gumi, CFR(1922-1992), the pioneer and only Grand Kadi of the old Northern Region; the Honourable Justice Haliru Binji, the pioneer Grand Kadi of the Old Sokoto State and the Honourable Justice Nasir Ahmed Lemu(d. 2020), the pioneer Grand Kadi of Niger State as well as a former Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Justice Muhammad Bashir Sambo, among other pioneer Muslim jurists across Northern Nigeria.
In the course of his brilliant judicial career, Justice Orire was at a time a Resource Person at the National Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Lagos. He also served as a member of the Nigerian Constitution Review Committee in 1987. He was also a Member of the Constitutional Conference between 1988 and 1989. He also served as a Member of the National Political Conference constituted by the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2005.
Outside the judiciary, Justice Orire was the Chairman, Jamaatu Nasril Islam, Kwara State Chapter, from 1973 to 2000.He also served as the Secretary-General of the aforementioned organisation from 2000 to 2010. Justice Orire also served as the Chairman of the National Hijra Committee from its inception till his point of death in the course of which Sheikh Ahmad Olayiwola Kamaldeen (1938-2020), the late Khalifa Adabiyyin, served as his Deputy prior to his death. He was also the founding father and Chairman, Islamic Missionaries Association of Nigeria (IMAN).
The well-travelled Justice Orire was also the Chairman of the National Council of Ulama. He was also the Vice-President, National Da'awah Council. He also served as the Chairman of the Kwara State Council of Ulama. He was also instrumental to the establishment of the Kwara State Muslim Council in 1968 and several other organisations targeted at promoting the practise and understanding of Islam.
As a distinguished scholar of Islam, who had served as a model to generations of Muslim scholars, personalities and activists, Justice Orire was a patron to several Muslim organisations within and outside Kwara State. These organisations included but not limited to the Young Muslim Brothers and Sisters(YOUMBAS) , the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN) and the National Council of Muslim Youth Organisations (NACOMYO), among several others. Only very few also know that Justice Orire was not only a card carrying member of the Ansarul Islam Society of Nigeria since the 1950s but also one of the enduring admirers of the Founder of the Society and the pioneer Grand Mufti of Ilorin, Sheikh Muhammad Kamaluddeen Al-Adabiyy, MFR, OFR, ORSA(1905-2005).Justice Orire was so close to him that he became one of those who committed a certain percentage of their monthly salaries to the running of the oldest voluntary Muslim organisation in Northern Nigeria, which he religiously maintained until his retirement. He was similarly close to the Founder of the famous Arabic Training Centre(Markaz), Agege, Sheikh Adam Abdullahi Al-Ilory, ORSA (1917-1992) as he was to other renowned Islamic scholars and respected Muslim personalities across Nigeria.
The roles of the Honourable Justice Abdulkadir Orire in the establishment of the University of Ilorin is not new to chroniclers of history. The idea, which eventually led to its establishment, initially as a University College, was mooted by him through the then Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council of the University of Ibadan, late Alhaji AbdulRahman Okene, OBE (1914-1999). His support for the establishment of the Kwara State College of Arabic and Islamic Legal Studies, Ilorin is also well-known as well as similar supports for many schools across Kwara State were also stimulating. His efforts in the "discouragement and criminalisation" of staging of night parties as well as sales and consumption of liquors in the traditional segment of Ilorin courageously and patriotically shouldered by Sheikh Muhammad Kamaluddeen Al-Adabiyy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, respectively, with IDPU as a strong partner, would remain evergreen in the minds of culturally conscious indigenes of Ilorin Emirate who participated in the efforts at preserving and protecting the sanctity of the city.
Any attempt to enumerate other contributions of the late courageous elder statesman towards the development of Ilorin Emirate would be an herculean task, which no hurriedly written tribute as this can accommodate. But his contributions towards the development of human resources of Ilorin Emirate cannot and should not be glossed over. Many of those who passed through his tutelage are today very distinguished leaders in various sectors of life. Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, CON(b. 1951), a former Ag. National Chairman of the erstwhile governing party, the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) was his ex-student. The same goes for the 5th Grand Kadi of Kwara State, Justice Saliu Olohuntoyin Muhammad(b. 1951). He was also either a direct or indirect mentor to all those who succeeded him as Grand Kadi of Kwara State. Many of his students and mentees also became Grand Kadis of other States of the federation and distinguished academics and technocrats of high standards. The immediate past Executive Governor of Niger State and Talba of Minna, Alhaji Muazu Babangida Aliyu, CON, was also one of his ex-students.
Justice Orire was also a former Vice-President of the Ilorin Descendants Progressive Union, now known as Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union. In fact, he had to resign from the position on his appointment as a judicial officer in 1971. Between 1995 and 1996, Justice Orire also served as a Member of the Special Committee constituted by the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji(Dr)Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, CFR, which was saddled with the responsibility of resolving the issues surrounding the ownership of the moribund Ilorin City Hall Complex. The Committee, which had five members and operated under the Chairmanship of the late Madawaki of Ilorin and the pioneer Chief Judge of Kwara State, Justice Saidu Kawu, CON(1928-2013), is left with two surviving members, Ambassador Abdulkadir Muhammad Sambo Imam, a former Nigeria's Ambassador to the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Ilorin Emirate's first Professor, Prof. Saka Nuru(b. 1935).The other member of the Committee who passed on before Justices Kawu and Orire was its oldest member, Alhaji Abubakar Lah, the multilingual late Shettima of Ilorin.
Apart from being the Chairman of the Committee of Surviving Elders and Leaders of Ilorin Emirate put together by the IEDPU and endorsed by the Emir of Ilorin, which worked to ensure that the last general elections were peacefully and successfully conducted, Justice Orire also proved his patriotism in so many other ways to the satisfaction of the greatest percentage of the informed segment of the Ilorin Emirate community. Justice Orire was always willing to accept other responsibilities entrusted on him by the Emir of Ilorin and the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union (IEDPU) throughout his life. While others in his shoes were sometimes and somehow sceptical of the nature of such assignments, Justice Orire would insist on offering his best at every given point and on any issue for as long as it had to do with the peace and progress of Ilorin Emirate and Islam. No communal issue was too insignificant to attract his attention and no one was too young to deserve his listening ears as yours sincerely(as young and "anonymous" as I am) even had the privilege of holding discussions with him on community development issues on more than one occasions in the last five years of his earthly existence.
Little wonder, the great son of Ilorin Emirate was a well garlanded gentleman. He received so many honours and awards in the course of his career. These awards included the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) by the Federal Government of Nigeria in 2003. He was also turbaned and appointed as the Marafa and Sarkin Malamai of Ilorin by His Royal Highness, the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji (Dr.)Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, CFR, in appreciation of his numerous services to Ilorin Emirate, Nigeria, Islam and humanity. It is significant to say that Justice Orire was the first and only son of Ilorin Emirate who simultaneously held two honorary chieftaincy titles conferred on him by the Emir of Ilorin in the chequered history of the Emirate.
Despite his tight schedule as a public figure, Justice Orire was a happily married man who also succeeded in building a happy family which parades highly educated, respected and accomplished men and women who are making impacts in several spheres of human endeavours. He was understandably survived by many children and grandchildren and great grand children including the Honourable Justice Safiya Orire-Abdulkadir, Barrister Musa Abdulkadir Orire and Dr. Maimunat Orire AbdulRaheem, an ex-banker who is also the immediate past Head, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Ilorin. Other children of the distinguished jurist are Mrs Mariam Orire Lawal, Mrs Fatima Sulu-Gambari, Dr Saadat Orire Yahyah and Barrister Falilat Oluwatoyin Orire, a high ranking technocrat at the Ilorin Division of the Court of Appeal. Also on the list of his children are Barrister Abdulkadir O. Orire and Barrister Hafsat Orire Adisa and Dr. Ismail Abdulkadir Orire, a lecturer at the Department of Geography, University of Ilorin.
The list of the children of this first class patriot, not arranged by any order, also include Alhaji Yakub Abdulkadir Orire and Hajiya Rabiat Orire-Issa both of the Kwara State Shari’ah Court of Appeal, Ilorin and Mrs Rukayat Orire-Abdullahi of the National Centre for Disease Control(NCDC), Abuja and of course, Alhaji Usman Abdulkadir Orire, a promising businessman. He was also survived by Hajiya Jamilat Orire, Hajiya Bilkis Orire-Jimoh, Hajiya Aishat Orire-Jimoh, Hajiya Rihanat Orire and Bashir Abdulkadir Orire, a student of Law. Others are Alhaji Ibrahim Abdulkadir Orire, Alhaji Nasir Abdulkadir Orire, an high-ranking official of the Federal Roads Safety Corps and Alhaji Ahmad Abdulkadir Orire, a top-notch of the Department of State Services.
It can be incontrovertibly asserted that the Honourable Justice Abdulkadir Orire came, saw and succeeded in conquering so many challenges as history would remember him as one of the greatest soldiers of Islam and defender of the culture of Ilorin Emirate particularly in this modern era. What is particularly instructive in the career of the late Justice Orire is that despite the fact that he was not born into a family "renowned for Islamic scholarship", he rounded off his earthly sojourn as the Sarkin Malamai of Ilorin and someone whose name is completely associated with Islamic scholarship and majesty.
May I, on behalf of the National President of the Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union, Alhaji Aliyu Otta Uthman, fsi, and the generality of members of the Union all over the universe, sincerely commiserate with His Royal Highness, the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji (Dr) Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, CFR; the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA); the generality of the Muslim Ummah and the Orire family on the demise of this exceptional sage. I pray to the Almighty Allah to forgive his shortcomings and admit him into Al-Janah Fridaouz. It is also my prayers that may Allah grant his family, the legal fraternity and the global Muslim community the fortitude to bear his death.
Imam is National Publicity Secretary, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union.