Adegbite: Adieu, Nigeria’s Islamic bridge

The programme included a line-up, a parade, of past Umara (sing. Amir; Arabic for President) covering the 50 years. I called out the agenda item and out the Amirs trooped towards the podium. The first of them, from inception in 1954, was Dr. AbdulLateef Adegbite, and he led the march. Though he seemed to amble and shuffle with age, he was not too bad for wear. As they stood before us I, as MC, asked all who were present on that memorable morning to pray for robust health and longer life for our first president, Adegbite.

Allahu Akbar! Our First Amir survived that prayer for all of eight years: Dr. Adegbite, co-founder and first President of the MSSN and Secretary General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), died Friday last week at the age of 79. Adegbite was the strongest pillar beneath a most important bridge; one that connected Northern and Southern Muslims and brought much-needed national cohesion long before the advent of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC. May Allah have mercy on his soul, amin.

It was the MSSN that spawned almost all rationale Islamic organisations in this country, organisations that brought together Muslims from all nooks and corners of the nation. The Muslim Corpers’ Association of Nigeria (MCAN) was created in the letter and spirit of the MSSN when, by 1973 when the NYSC scheme debuted, Northern and Southern Muslims met again on NYSC Camp, after first meeting as students at the MSSN’s own unique annual Islamic Vacation Course (IVC).

When a military dictator banned the MSSN in the mid-1980s, claiming it was over-radicalised, its members formed other organisations, significantly the National Council of Muslim Youth Organisations of Nigeria (NACOMYO), under the indefatigable Brother Is’haq Kunle Sanni of Ibadan, a brother who, along with Professor Is’haq Oloyede (immediate past Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin) could well step into the rather large shoes vacated Dr. Adegbite as Secretary General of the NSCIA.

The Lagos-based Muslim Public Affairs Center (MPAC) tells us more about MSSN’s Amir Numero Uno: “Born into a strictly Muslim family in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Alhaji Adegbite attended Methodist School, Abeokuta and King’s College, Lagos State on scholarship. He co-founded and was first National President of the MSSN. Until his death, he was Secretary-General of the NSCIA, a position he used well to serve the Nigerian Muslim Ummah. He served in many national offices during his life, including Commissioner for Local Governments and Chieftaincy Matters in the old Western Region. In October 1976 he founded the legal firm of Lateef Adegbite & Co as Principal Partner, specialising in Commercial and Corporate Law…

“Alhaji Adegbite was president of the Nigeria Olympic Committee from 1972 to 1985, Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Governing Council of the University of Maiduguri 1984 to 1990, member of the Executive Committee of Lagos Chamber of Commerce, Director Industrial and General Insurance Plc. Adegbite was awarded Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) and held the traditional titles of Seriki Musulmi of Egbaland and Baba Adinni of Egba Muslims. On 9 March 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan appointed him Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Public Awareness on Security and Civic Responsibilities…”

The Nigerian Muslim Forum (NMF) of the United Kingdom, in its own message, urged the Federal Government to name a national monument after Dr. Adegbite in recognition of his immense contribution to national unity and development. The charity organisation extolled the religious roles of Adegbite and his purposeful life that touched several people, transcending tribe and religion. NMF continued to say that Adegbite’s death is a big loss to the entire Muslim Ummah across the globe, and that his footprints shall remain indelible in the sands of time…

The National Council of the Nigerian Muslim Organisations in the USA (NCNMO), in its own condolence message, stated Dr. Adegbite was a keynote speaker at its Platform 2011, the flagship programme of the NCNMO held in Baltimore, MD, in December last year. He was also guest speaker at Platform 2009 held in Chicago, IL, two years earlier. He was known to always respond to invitations to Islamic programmes, especially those related to the youth. Dr. Adegbite was an academician, a lawyer, a religious leader, a political figure, a personal mentor to many religious groups and individuals in Nigeria and a veritable voice for Nigerian Muslims.

But for Adegbite and the MSSN, Muslim Northerners would have had to wait for the NYSC scheme to be able to make acquaintance with Muslim Southerners. In the event, MSSN’s annual IVCs (which then alternated between the North and the South), brought them together. It was, for example, at IVC that we were introduced to senior Southern Muslim Brothers and Sisters such as Ra’uf Aregbesola, Musa Ayeni, Lateefat Okunnu, Is’haq Oloyede, Jami’u Ekungba, Liad Tella, Femi Abbas, Adam Abdullahi Idoko, Is’haq Kunle Sanni and many more. We also got to know scholars such as Professors DOS Noibi and Husain AbdulKarim when they came to deliver lectures at the IVCs in the 1970s and 1980s.

The MSSN also afforded us the opportunity of networking with senior Northern Muslim Brothers such as Auwalu Yadudu, Muzzammil Hanga, Nura Hanga, etc. At one memorable IVC, the lecture schedule showed that we would be visited by one Ibrahim Shekarau, and one Ibrahim Sulaiman, and one Ibrahim Zakzaky, and one Ibrahim Na’iya Sada, and one Ibrahim Ahmad Aliyu; a total of five Ibrahims. Being the ‘sabon-yanka-rake’ (greenhorn) that we were in Islamic activism, we began to think that Ibrahim was the name to go – and perhaps we should change our names thence!

It was in fact at the MSSN IVC that I met and became friends with a certain contemporary Muslim brother Mujahid Asari Dokubo (who I understand has recently come into some money). In those heady days of the 1980s, we would share the same mattress, or bench, with Mujahid who, to be fair, had always been ‘militant’, off and on the IVC Camp. Especially off.

Finally, it is to the eternal credit of late Dr. Adegbite that this morning in the ancient Northern Hausa city of Zaria, the Wedding Fatiha took place between Hussain Is’haq Oloyede, son of our senior brother Professor Is’haq Oloyede, and Maryam Hayatuddeen Muhammad, granddaughter of the late Galadiman Zazzau and daughter of our senior brother Hayatuddeen Muhammad. As one bridge falls, another is being hoisted, alhamdu lilLah!

This Column sends its condolences to the family of Dr. Adegbite, to the President General of the NSCIA His Eminence the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, all members past and present of the MSSN, and all Nigerians. May Allah have mercy on the soul of First Amir, amin.

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