Tribute to Umaru Shinkafi ( Marafan Sokoto)
Baba Marafa was a unique person. His uniqueness started from his birth; which was noble, his life; which was distinguished on to his passage; which was full of honour. He was in the class of revered Kings and leaders. The final resting place of his mortal body is Hubarre, where Usman Dan Fodio and his successors were laid to rest. It is against the background of his unique nature that the various tributes from both the north and the south of Nigeria have come; not surprisingly.
His footprints are in many areas; most outstanding of which are in the areas of Security, Traditional Institutions, Politics and Law. As the Director General of the Nigerian Security Organization (NSO) in the 2nd Republic, it was a golden era in terms of intelligence gathering. So efficient was the outfit under him, that nothing happened without the government of the day having a prior knowledge. Not even the 1984 coup came as a surprise to the government.
Baba was a deeply religious person who constantly had in mind the hereafter. It has been confirmed that he encouraged a lot of people to be good Muslims. In this regard, he sponsored many to perform the holy pilgrimage to Mecca which is a major pillar of Islam. But most importantly, he lived the life of a true Muslim; he would never joke with his five daily prayers at the right time and in congregation. No matter what he was engaged in, once it was time for prayers, he would get up and join the congregation. I witnessed this several times in the past three decades. It was reported that he built a number of mosques, including the one in Ikoyi prison.
On my way to Saudi Arabia for Umra in June this year, I called on him in London. He was still recuperating. Before I left him, he asked me to find out if the hotel I was going to stay in Medina had facilities for the physically challenged as he could not walk. I then asked him if he would like to perform the Umra and he answered in the affirmative. We spoke a few times from Saudi Arabia, his eagerness to come and worship his God was clearly uppermost in his mind. On one of my visits to him in hospital in The United Kingdom, I asked him if he could still remember Ayyat Qursy in the Quran and he said yes. He brought out his hands and I saw his rosary clutched between his fingers in spite of all the gadgets on his body. May Allah admit him into AljannaFirdausi. (Amen)
He had so much regard for the Traditional Institution and this confirmed the excellent judgment of late Sultan Abubkar Saddiq, ( The father of the current Sultan) in conferring on him the prestigious title of Marafan Sokoto. This cycle of honour was completed by the current Sultan, who graciously and most uniquely honoured his body to be buried at Hubarre in Sokoto.
More than a decade ago, Baba Marafa asked me whether the Alaafin of Oyo knows me and I replied by saying that the Iku Baba Yeye knows my uncle. Baba retorted by saying that he was not talking about my uncle. He asked, “Does the Kabiesi know you in person?” I said no. He then counseled me to find my way to the palace. I did and I will forever thank him for the advice. This paid off very well as Kabiesi even honoured me with his royal presence at my call to the inner bar in September, 2012. Baba Marafa was so happy that the Alaafin came to the event. It is on record that the Alaafin has never honoured any Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in that way. The credit goes to Baba Marafa.
A lot has been written about his politics. He was a compass and a great encyclopaedia of Nigerian affairs. He taught us about Nigeria; her history and heritage. Though a Yoruba man, my great appreciation of Baba Obasanjo was from my knowledge of him through Baba Marafa. Baba Marafa had great respect for Baba Obasanjo. When Baba Obasanjo sought to visit him as part of his consultations towards the 1999 elections, Baba Marafa offered to go to Baba Obasanjo in Ota, out of abundant respect for the great Ebora Owu who often called Baba Marafa by his first name, “Umoru”. The meeting later held at Sheraton hotel in Ikeja. The rest of this is for a future date. He was not sectional in his politics and his office at Ribadu Road, Ikoyi was a meeting point for all Nigerians from all the corners of Nigeria. You would see such great Nigerians as Etim James, Pere Ajuwa, Victor Odili, Hyde Onuaguluchi, Zachariah Idris, Kura Mohammed, Adamu Augie, Kaloma Ali, Hamed Kusamotu, Arisekola Alao, Robert Clarke, Bola Afonja, Alani Bankole, Pa. K.O. Owonikoko, Pa. Anjorin Ohu and many others. His like in this respect is his great friend, the late’ General Shehu Musa Yar’adua. His campaign outfit; ‘Choice 92’ was a great platform which resonated in all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria. As a true believer, which he was all through his life, he accepted with equanimity the decision of the then military government to ban him and 22 other aspirants of the SDP and the NRC from the transition politics of that time. He forged ahead with an abiding faith in The Almighty. The rest is history.
He never appeared in court as a Barrister, even though he was a great Solicitor, whose advice and opinions you could hardly fault. He was a good listener. Whenever he injected your ideas with real life experiences, delivered with excellent choice of words, you could not but bow to thank him. His grammar and use of words are unique and we constantly learn from him till today. Baba Marafa was a mentor, role model, father, friend, instructor, benefactor and indeed a recurring decimal in the lives of those of us who knew him.
Our special condolences go to his Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, the Magaji Garin Sokoto, the Sultanate Council, the wives, children, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, all the relations of the great Marafan Sokoto, the Intelligence community and indeed all Nigerians.
May The Almighty Allah reward him with AljannaFirdausi. (Amen)
Ahmed Raji, SAN, FCIArb. (UK), wrote from Abuja, Nigeria
Though a Yoruba man, my great appreciation of Baba Obasanjo was from my knowledge of him through Baba Marafa. Baba Marafa had great respect for Baba Obasanjo. When Baba Obasanjo sought to visit him as part of his consultations towards the 1999 elections, Baba Marafa offered to go to Baba Obasanjo in Ota, out of abundant respect for the great Ebora Owu who often called Baba Marafa by his first name, “Umoru”. The meeting later held at Sheraton hotel in Ikeja. The rest of this is for a future date.