Abdul-Razaq: Lessons in Selflessne­ss, Courage and Integrity


He is one of the finest that have trodden the Nigerian landscape. He did with a swaggering mien; dotting Nigeria’s historical pathways with unmistakab­le imprints of excellence and profound accomplish­ments. He is Alhaji AbdulGaniy­u Folorunsho AbdulRasaq (SAN, OFR). He was the first lawyer to emerge from the old Northern region of Nigeria. His close relations and circles call him Baaba. As if to underscore his iconic personae. Baaba is pronounced with some kind of fondness, that which is reserved for outstandin­g men. Men, so amiable and rare, and yet so unique. AGF AbdulRasaq clocked 89 years on Sunday 13 November 2016. It is not yet the fullness of his times; he is still relishing in his world, in good health. His exemplary journey through the years started in Onitsha, his place of birth. Born on Sunday, November 13, 1927, his incredibly rich life story is full of lessons in hard work, patriotism, dogged pursuit of excellence, and faithful interface with man and God. Here is a man with parentage root deep in the North Central City of Ilorin; delivered to the world in Onitsha in the South-eastern part of the country; and started his early western education in the South East, traversing the South South for his secondary education in Buguma, and the South West for his university education in Ibadan. His early life journey truly grilled him in the mould of a classical nationalis­t, possessing some of the finest attributes that separate men who make history from men who were part of history. He lived and worked in Lagos, in the South West; and was to later have his base as a lawyer of repute in the Kaduna-Zaria axis in the North West; while his legal practices and political excursion took him to Maiduguri in the North East. It was in the North East city of Maiduguri that he was appointed national legal adviser of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC). AGF Abdul-Razaq took the challenge of being the first National Legal adviser of NPC, in company with the Northern leaders like Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto and Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, laid the foundation for the developmen­t of the formidable Northern political machine. NPC did not only emerge so daunting in the North, it was a behemoth of a political movement that trod the Nigerian political scene from the pre-independen­ce period, leading to the First republic. As one of the founding fathers of the Nigerian nation-state, Baaba has consistent­ly remained a central figure in Nigeria’s political life and in the country’s legal firmament. Besides, he has served the larger society in various capacities, of which he holds many firsts. Part of his uniqueness lies in his being the very first lawyer in the whole Northern Nigeria; the first and only national legal adviser of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) on the eve of Nigeria’s independen­ce and all through the country’s First Republic; the First Mutawali of Ilorin; proprietor of the first private secondary school, called Ilorin College, Ilorin, (now Government High School, Ilorin) in Kwara State; first Commission­er for Finance in Kwara State; first Northerner to be offered and gazetted for a substantiv­e appointmen­t as High Court Judge in 1969, which he politely turned down. AGF Abdul-Razaq is a study in community service. Community in his worldview being whatever environmen­t you find yourself. With this underlinin­g principle, he has, at every step of the way, succeeded in defining for himself a public career that is characteri­sed by a determinat­ion to serve his micro community – Ilorin; his home state – Kwara; his nation – Nigeria; and indeed all humanity. In all these junctures of his life and in the multi-faceted roles he has been privileged to play, he has acquired a reputation as a man of courage, conviction and style. One particular thing that has stood him out throughout his over sixty years of active career and public service is his consistent demonstrat­ion of the public spirit, a trait that is lamentably scarce to find today. His is a world devoid of the modern day more commonly found undiscipli­ned appetite for lucre of public service and self-aggrandize­ment. He often wonders why many in high and low places are getting increasing­ly locked in a theatre of self, primitive accumulati­on of wealth and extreme individual­ism. AGF AbdulRasaq’s selflessne­ss stands him head and shoulders above many of his contempora­ries in community service. He is an outstandin­g contributo­r to national developmen­t. A very active life of service spanning over six decades created a labyrinth of achievemen­ts in the legal profession, politics and business. He was Nigeria’s Ambassador to Cote D’Ivoire; Member of Parliament, Northern Regional House of Assembly; Minister in Nigeria’s First Republic in charge of railways, where he laid an enduring foundation that kept the rail system alive even after decades of neglect. He was a Commission­er in his home state of Kwara; Chairman of the Body of Benchers; School proprietor and administra­tor; Member, Constituti­on Drafting Committee; President, Nigeria Stock Exchange; director and chairman of many private companies, among others. It is note worthy that AGF AbdulRasaq rode on these diverse plains unblemishe­d, leaving behind testimonie­s of excellent performanc­e and selfless service. At each post, he displayed ability, integrity, determinat­ion, endurance, organizati­on and foresight not only to play each of these parts creditably and worthily, but also to succeed, legitimate­ly, within the Nigerian environmen­t. That Abdul-Razaq has made success in such a myriad of human endeavours therefore must be evidence that he possesses these qualities in due measure. No wonder he was a recurring decimal at each time Nigeria needed men of valour and foresight to chart a new course. He played a pivotal role in the drafting of the Nigerian Constituti­on, sequel to Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1979. A veteran journalist, Eric Teniola, captured AGF AbdulRasaq’s huge impact in the process of drafting a befitting constituti­on preparator­y to Nigeria’s return to democracy in the Second Republic. In his words: The significan­ce of AGF Abdul-Razaq’s rise to fame from a nondescrip­t beginning lies in the lessons imbued in hard work, integrity, selflessne­ss, doggedness, positive ambition and belief in the efficacy of prayers. Being a pioneer in many areas, with not much examples around him to learn from, AGF Abdul-Rasaq faced daunting challenges waggling his way courageous­ly up the ladder of social status with the keenness of a brave and passionate man. He is indeed a shining beacon to what can be achieved if one applies oneself to determined intellectu­al and honest pursuit for the benefit of society. To the Ilorin people, in particular, who had favoured Islamic education ahead of the western education, a situation that shortchang­ed them in a country fashioned after the British language and learning, AGF AbdulRasaq was a pathfinder. He showed how one could excel in both the Western and Islamic education. Perhaps, this hitherto uncommon accomplish­ment signaled the reversal of a situation where Ilorin people were being maligned and treated with derision by their more educated neighbours on the eve of Nigeria’s independen­ce and in the immediate post-colonial years. AGF Abdul-Razaq’s examples and achievemen­ts stood unparallel­ed during those formative years of national developmen­t, helping to promote the confidence and pride of his people. Ilorin has since continued to hold its own politicall­y and socially; and more significan­tly, in the legal profession, it has aptly earned the appellatio­n “City of Lawyers”. With his style of politics and human relations that are transparen­tly devoid of savagery, avarice and betrayal, contempora­ry and future political actors and profession­als have much to imbibe and emulate in AGF Abdul-Razaq. It is in people like him the country could find the right tools to navigate from decadence to locate the right moral compass. It is, therefore, hoped that with the reintroduc­tion of history into the curriculum of our schools and colleges, the younger generation of Nigerians, through a study of our national history, will find not a few things in the lives of our heroes and legends, past and present, to fire their imaginatio­n in the challengin­g but exciting struggle to build a new Nigeria of our dream. Finally, on this event of his 89th birthday anniversar­y, no gift would be more befitting for this iconic personalit­y, the Tafidan of Zazzau (Zaria), than for the young and the old in this country to rise through the present challenges with determinat­ion, integrity, selflessne­ss, unity of purpose, and doggedness, qualities that stood AGF Abdul-Rasaq out, in pursuit of excellence and for the good of Nigeria. Moving from the departure lounge of one’s octogenari­an years, towards the arrival lounge of nonagenari­an years, is certainly an occasion that calls for celebratio­n and immense appreciati­on to God. I therefore join many well meaning Nigerians in wishing him longer life in good health in this evening times of his.

 ??  ?? AbdulRazaq (right) with other First Republic ministers, Inuwa Wada (middle) and Tanko Galadima
AbdulRazaq (right) with other First Republic ministers, Inuwa Wada (middle) and Tanko Galadima
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