Friday, October 19, 2012

Adegbite: Exit of a bridge builder

MELLIFLUOUS echoes of dirges, eulogies and encomiums flowed in from different personalities, from across the length and breadth of Nigeria and Africa to praise his numerous impacts on humanity, to explore and appreciate his numerous roles as a peace maker, to eulogize his influence as a positive change agent and to express their deep pains on the unanticipated exit of Abdulateef Oladimeji Adegbite, the Secretary General, Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic affairs (NSCIA) the Baba Adini of Egba Muslim, the Seriki of Egbaland, a revered and erudite constitutional lawyer, a vibrant motivator of youth and a strong believer in one Nigeria.

Adegbite passed on 28th September at age 79, after a brief illness.
Since the announcement of his death, Nigerians, nay Africans, have never ceased to mourn one of its own  illustrious sons, realizing the big vacuum which the death has created. 
We can only realize the depth of the loss of this great son of Africa if we can take time to revisit some of the areas in which his peaceful disposition and moderating influence has helped to assure Nigerians.
Nigeria, no doubt, is a big and complex nation, earning it an appellation of the “Giant of Africa”, yet such complexity is not without accompanying challenges ranging from the political, social, religious to economic hiccups.
Security is one area that the late Dr Adegbite had a glorious intervention. Nigeria, since the past three decades has been experiencing series of ethno- religious conflicts that tend to destabilize the country. Some of these conflicts led to the loss of lives of hundreds of people and destruction of properties.
In some cases, the intervention of prominent Nigerians have helped to nip in the bud, some of the potentially devastating violence been helped to mitigate their escalation. A nation that is blessed with men or women who can abruptly end violence through their power of moral authority, integrity and selflessness is indeed a blessed nation. 
If am to highlight all the achievements of Dr Adegbite, especially in the area of peace promotion, the space permitted will not do justice. I would therefore, merely highlight some here. During the “Miss World riot” caused by a journalist, Miss Isioma Daniel of ThisDay Newspaper, who reportedly blasphemed the holy prophet of Islam, leading to massive demonstrations and rioting in some places in the North, Dr Adegbite was one of the key figures that intervened to calm frayed nerves.
During the Kaduna crisis of 2002, Dr Adegbite was among the prominent religious leaders in Nigeria that proactively intervened to put an end to the orgy of violence that enveloped Kaduna State and its environs.
During the protest arising from the Jyllan Posten (Danish newspaper) cartoons of blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), he was at the fore front with other stakeholders to ensure that the situation was put under control.
When some Muslims rose up and insisted that the position of the Sultan was not hereditary and should be rotated between the Muslims in the North and Muslims in the South, he intervened to ensure that the best interest of the Nigerian Muslim Umma is protected.
As the Boko Haram insurgency continues to take its tolls on Nigerians, it was Dr Adegbite, along with other concerned Nigerians, who cautioned the United States of America not to label them as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).
In some cases of impending or outright confrontation between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, he was at the fore front to ensure that reason prevails and logic rules to sustain a harmonious co-existence.
Even in some political issues that had the tendency to polarise the North and the Southern part of the country, he was at the forefront to mitigate the friction and strengthen the bridge of understanding, relationship and friendship.
His wise (and at times legally–inspired) counsels to the Federal Government during series of national unrest and strikes have helped the nation at those critical times. In his life time, he upheld and exemplified every priceless value of a true and devoted Muslim. He practiced Islam with deep reverence and obedience to Quranic injunctions and Hadith.
He went further to become a crusader and a mouth piece of Islam in Nigeria and beyond, even at the risk of being labeled an “extremist” by those who did not understand him or what he stood for. From the platform of Islam as Secretary General of NSCIA, he consistently promoted inter-faith understanding and built bridges across ethnic and religious divides to promote peace, unity and national stability. He equally used the platform to build bridges between the North and South, destroying prejudice and suspicion. He also used the platform to speak against societal ills such as corruption, immorality and crime.
At the Constituent Assembly, he argued in favor of the introduction of an Islamic Court of Appeal to the southern states of Nigeria, arguing that Muslims had the rights to have their lives judged according to Sharia. He was later supported in that effort by late M.K.O Abiola to introduce Sharia to the southern state as early as 1990s. Today, the voice of Dr Adegbite is still and silent, and belongs to the ages. We are thus deeply pained and saddened.
In October 2003, while writing in a newspaper, he had noted that “the US and their allies should be persuaded to accept that the prevailing international terror would reduce considerably if justice is entrenched in the Middle East. Give the Palestine back their land, there will no longer (be) platforms for the Osama Bin Ladens of this world to thrive. Without justice there can be no peace”.
Born on 20 March 1933 into a strictly Moslem Egba family in Abeokuta, Ogun State, late Dr Adegbite attended Methodist School, Abeokuta and Saint Paul School, Igbore Abeokuta in 1942, He obtained scholarship to attend Kings College Lagos where he was co-founder and First National President of the Muslim Student Society of Nigeria. He graduated in 1956.
In 1959, the Western Region Premier Chief Obafemi Awolowo awarded him scholarship to travel to England to study for a law degree. He attended the University of Southampton, graduating with a BA in law in July 1962. He then studied at the College of Law, Lancaster Gate, in London and then at Grays Inn (1963-65). He later won a commonwealth scholarship for post graduate studies in England. He began his career teaching at the University of Lagos, holding the post until retiring and going into private practice. 
In 1971, he was appointed Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matter in the old Western Region during the military administration of Brigadier General  Oluwole Rotimi. He was again appointed Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of Western Region in 1973. In October 1976, he formed the legal firm of Lateef Adegbite and Co as the principal partner, specialising in commercial and corporate law practice.
We thank Almighty Allah for a life well-spent in His obedience. To the entire Muslim Ummah, we must take consolation in the fact that it is Almighty Allah that gives and takes. We pray to Almighty Allah to grant his soul Aljanar firdaus, to preserve his family, to give them and their friends fortitude to bear this irreparable loss as we bid him farewell with everlasting love and reverence... Adieu, Baba Adini.

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