Trib­ute to Umaru Shinkafi ( Marafan Sokoto)

Daily Trust - - OPINION - By Ahmed Raji (SAN)

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.

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