Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu Gambari

Dr. Sulu Gambari: An emir thriving 24 years on the throne

NEWS DIGEST–When he ascended the stool of Ilorin emirate 24 years ago, many worried 11th emir of Ilorin- a former Appeal Court Justice- would lack the class and patience to reign successfully.

However, almost three and a half decades of Dr. Ibrahim Sulu Gambari, the 11th Emir of Ilorin in North Central Nigeria, has defeated predictions, institutionalised peace and harmony, recorded mammoth success while solidifying relationship between Christians and Muslims, to whom he is the spiritual leader, in a state of over 3 million people as an accomplished leader.

As Director – General Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation Is’haq Modibbo Kawu said in his tributes on Monday, “24 years down the line, our dear father, Mai Martaba, Sarkin Ilorin, Dr Ibrahim Sulu Gambari, has presided over the steady growth of our community and our state. Your ability to navigate through these changes, and adapt to the cultural and religious roles remain some of your main sources of strength and they underline your wisdom as a father, leader and visionary,” eulogised Kawu, who is also a prince of the emirate.

In a bid to resolve issues of political tension, he has often shown love and equanimity to every divide, while preaching brotherhood and disavowing intolerance amongst the sons and daughters of the community. The present Kwara Governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq is the 4th democratically elected governor in his reign.

For a ruler who fears of depose is thickly woven on his head, a result of old oral narration, alleging the forbearers laid curses on the 11th emir of the emirate; the social, economic and political strides under his spiritual leadership paint a picture of a man who have strongly defeated any bad fate.

Fated to fail

There is a an agelong worries amongst the people of Ilorin: The 11th emir would be deposed. This was fuelled by an unconfirmed popular historical accounts that a certain emir predicted the incidence. There are however two of such ominous stories with slight differences. Some people believe the 9th emir incidentally the father of the sitting emir, late Muhammed Zulu Karnain reputed as very powerful and fiery, had angrily cursed the 11th one to be shamed and deposed unknown to him it was going to be his son. They said the annoyance was informed by strained relationships in the royal family.

Another part of the story claimed it was a prediction and not a curse as rumoured. In fact, that it predated the birth of the 4th emir. They argued that the powerful ZuluKarnain couldn’t have prayed his son fail. The prediction was reportedly made by Sheik Alimi himself, the first father of the Ilorin royal family.

Call to service

But like fine wine, the emir’s reign has only got better with time. For a man who had been turbaned as the Ciroma of Ilorin by the late Muhammed Zulkarnain in 1984 while still in active service as the presiding judge of the Court of Appeal, Ibadan one would have thought he would succeed him. But as fate would have it, the late Abdulkadri Baba Agba became the 10th emir in the shortest reign lasting only three and a half years 1992- 1995. Dr. Ibrahim ascended the throne of his forebears 11th November 1995 after been pronounced earlier on 28th August of the same year jettisoning his status as a serving Justice for the exalted stool of emir without any blight or blotch.

November 11th and the wonder it gave us

There have been no looking back for him. From 1995 till date, there seem to be a general conscénsus on the tremendous development under his rulership. The strong relationship within and amongst the traditional Fulani and Yoruba people and the peace between the fairly large indigent Christian communities and aboriginal Muslims aptly capture it. As the Chairman Traditional Council in Kwara state, the old tune of discord from some communities which appears beaten with time have been attributed to the emir’s wisdom and a strong sense of justice.

Like Prince Agboola Abdulkadri submitted, “he has a wonderful relationship with members of the royal family. As young as I am to the emir whenever I lead other princes to him as their Secretary to lodge complaints, he never looked down on us but took up our complaints and work to address the issues immediately.

This is making cakewalk of the oft- repeated stories of conspiracy and enmity in most royal families. Even ironic that a man whose reign was rumoured unintentionally cursed by his own father, as a result of bad blood in the royal household during his reign, is a builder of friendship and love among his people.

Evolution of growth

If the reign of the 9th emir late Zulukarnain Gambari who used 33years was fortuitous, his son the sitting and 11th emir’s rulership is an evolution of growth and development in the modern world.

The massive establishments of schools and agencies in Ilorin and Kwara during his reign is a testament to this assertion. The creation of tertiary institutions like Al-Hikmah University, Kwara State University Malete and Muyideen College of education among other private and government owned establishments across the state such as International Aviation College and the Advanced Diagnostic Centre, Kwara Inland Revenue Service are eye- catching.

Aside that, the elevation in status of number of Ilorin sons and daughters across the world in various sectors cannot be overstated. Ilorin now offers Professors to institutions across the country and the world at large. It is most unforgettable that two Professors of Ilorin origin; Professor Shuaibu Oba Abdulraheem and Professor AbdulGaniyu Ambali became the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin and awarded Order of the Federal Republic, OFR, and Officer of the Order of Niger, OON, respectively. Most recent is the glorious emergence of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Abuja, Professor AbdulRasheed Na’Allah immediately after 10years as a pioneering VC in Kwasu comfortably becoming the only Nigerian to set the record.

“Other dignitaries who rose to the peak of their careers include; 1. Justice Salihu Alfa Belgore GCON — Chief Justice of Nigeria; 2. Admiral Ibrahim Ola Sa’ad GCON— Chief of Defense Staff; 3. Justice Mustapha Akanbi CON— Chairman of ICPC; 4. Senator Bukola Saraki CON among others.”

This is deference to inexhaustible list of doctors, writers, bankers and journalists to mention few.

Architect of modern emirate

In years to come, when the upcoming generations ask questions about the edifice at Oja-Oba market called Ilorin Central Mosque, the living would sing ode of Dr. Ibrahim even in death. He initiated the renovation of the Ilorin Central Mosque that was built by his late father in 1979 to a world class which several people have conveniently ranked as one of the best in Africa.

Equally in 2018, the sophisticated emir introduced Ilorin durbar festival, an annual event hosted three days after Ileya, joining few other Northern Emirates to showcase the rich cultural heritage of Ilorin. Engineer Yahya Alapasanpa led- committee made a trumpet of Ilorin culture and heritage in the maiden edition. The festival feature royal horse- riding and inspection of guards, and other programs designed to facilitate harmonious relations between his people. Durbar is one event that brings the rich, educated, poor, illiterate, young and old together.

Dubbed the White Elephant, emir of Ilorin also founded the Alimi Foundation for Peace and Development designed for philanthropy and community works for him to help the needy in the society. The 11- man committee is chaired by its National President Dr. Abdulkadri Oba- Sholagberu in living the vision and dreams of an altruistic emir.

In a bid for his emirate to foster intercultural relationships with other parts of the country, the emir have conferred on successful men and women chieftaincy titles. Asiwaju Tinubu of Lagos, Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers and Jay Z bagged the emirate titles.

Does the worries persist?

A peep into the hearts of the people of Ilorin reveal the efficacy of superstitions in Nigerian society. As tremendously developmental the 11th emir of Ilorin’s reign has been so far, there is a handful of people wanting to believe the unverified predictions of his forebears.

Some attributed the possibilities to brimming issues of Ilorin kingship, although roundly denied by several stakeholders, it is a discourse time and events have not washed away.

A part of the emirate hold that the emir is believed to be disposed to politics. There are growing fears a seemingly disfavoured government may depose the emir in the long run.

But in the absence of truth does falsehood thrives. The fact no one can deny is: the feared accursed emir thrives on the throne 24years after.

Ibraheem Abdullateef writes from Ilorin, Nigeria. He can be reached via [email protected] Tweets @egghead_1995.