I congratulate my brother, distinguished Senator Dr Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe on the occasion of his 60th birthday. Not many achievers are celebrated alive. Posthumous accolades which are unhelpful are becoming fashionable in Nigeria today. Dr Ibrahim is obviously blessed to witness his celebration alive with 287- page Book presentation. Yours comradely was a privileged reviewer of documented worthy life on Tuesday 20th at International Conference centre in a colorful manifestation that had Senate President, Ahmed Lawal as the chair.
The Royal father of the day was HRH, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu Gambari CFR the 11th Emir of Ilorin and Chairman of Kwara State Traditional Councils who came all the way from home to honor a worthy son!. Professor Ibrahim GAMBARI Chief of Staff doubles as representative of the President and son of the Ilorin with a well received good message of hope for Nigeria! Those of us at 60 in relative good health and comfort can be said to have run a worthy race of life. I pray for many happy celebrations for Dr Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe. It is not just how long but how well. The book commendably documents landmark achievements of Dr Ibrahim Oloriegbe at 60.
In 1972, at the tender age of eleven-years, he lost his mother, Hajiya Hafsatu Oloriegbe. His younger brother, Abdul’Majeed, was only three years old then. Again in 1983, as an undergraduate of medicine in ABU Zaria the renowned Alhaji Yahaya Oloriegbe, their father, died at 80. Notwithstanding being an orphan early of life, Dr Ibrahim completed primary, secondary and university studies with distinctions in quick succession.
After a successful and impactful private practice, today Dr Ibrahim Oloriegbe is a distinguished APC Senator, of the Federal Republic of Nigeria representing Kwara Central Senatorial District, having recorded a landmark victory during 2019 elections. He is the first to move motion in the current 9th Senate. He is currently the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health. He was once the majority leader at the Kwara State House of Assembly between 1999 –2003. Today he is the pride of his home town, Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria and Africa In 2015 as a Doctor without bounds ( chapter 12) he headed the Global Fund Country programme to eradicate Malaria in Liberia). He has also been an active non- state actor: At Ahmadu Bello University where he obtained (MBBS) Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, he was elected three times as a member of Student Representative Assembly ( SRA) for Alexander Hall (my Hall same period!) in 1980 and 1981, and Barau Dikko Hall in 1983. He was nominated for the position of President of Ahmadu Bello University Medical Student Association (ABUMSA) and won. As a proud community man, he is an activist of Ilorin Descendants Progressive Union (IDPU) (now Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union- IEDPU, one of the oldest community organisations in Africa. As a professional, he was also involved in Medical Associations such as Nigeria Medical Association, (NMA) Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria and Guild of Medical Directors, contesting, winning and holding executive positions at different times.
Oloriegbe’s story shows Nigeria as a Republic worked, still works and can perform even better for all. There was once a caring inclusive Nigeria from family to kingship, community to the state which took care of all children inclusive of the orphans. There are five takeaways for me in the book. The first is the urgent need for community/family renaissance. I don’t believe in the concept of a failed State because I think it’s Eurocentric and deliberately promoted to under-develop Africa in particular.
But what I fear most is the collapse of communities. If a community is grounded in core values of discipline, hard and smart work and integrity, any failing state can be reconstituted. We need more “ALAANUKU” families such as Oloriegbe lineage (means in English families of kind people): families that through education, love, solidarity and kindness can assist all our children to realize their dreams. It was a caring family and community that made the Senator and his younger brother, Abdul’Majeed, weather the storm having lost their parents. We have to bring back a Nigeria of “Baba ku, Baba ku’ like Yoruba people say,” (meaning that although a father is dead, many fathers abound)! With 30 percent official unemployment, 70 percent Iiving below poverty line, millions of children out of schools, Nigeria need more Alaanuku as leaders. 1999 constitution with all its limitations envisages a caring inclusive kinder Nigeria. It’s time Nigeria ensured that Nigerian State “…direct its policy towards ensuring: that the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group; living wage, old age care and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens.”
My second take is that we must reinvent public schools as the precondition to develop critical mass Human Resources for development. Dr Ibrahim Oloriegbe is a product of public schools that once impacted knowledge. From Alore Local Education Authority (LEA) Primary School, Oke Apomu, to Ansarul Islam Secondary School, Oloje, to Ahmadu Bello University. Yet he was a globally acknowledged student of many distinctions! This is why I commend my state Governor of Kwara Abdulrahaman Abdulrazaq who recently renovated as many as 29 public secondary schools after decades of unacceptable neglect. The hope is that with good governance we can reproduce more of Dr Oloriegbes. Thirdly we must institutionalize teaching of ethics in schools.
The strengths of Dr Ibrahim lie in core values of God- fearing, humility and honesty he learned from home and schools, coupled with his passion for giving helping hand to the needy flows from entrenched values. Section 23 of the chapter 11 of the 1999 Constitution actually prescribes “The national ethics to be Discipline, Integrity, Dignity of Labour, Social, Justice, Religious Tolerance, Self-reliance and Patriotism.” We must teach these ethics in schools. Fourthly as we are moving towards 2023 elections, we must devise some simple criteria for leadership selection as implicit in this book. Just as we should not judge a book by its cover but its content, it’s time we brought to the fore the profile of those willing to lead us beyond their claims. What are the roots of candidates? What is their grounding in the communities? Are they God- fearing? What is their attitude to power and money? Are they in public service for greed or to address the need of the masses as an act of worship as Allah ordained? How do leaders treat their parents and children? Which schools did they attend? How do they treat their spouses? Are they loyal to their friends’ followers and relatives? What values do leaders stand for: well- having of self or well- being and wellness of others? In short are leaders principled? What principles?
Are leaders patriotic as envisaged by the 1999 constitution even with all its amplified limitations? It is gratifying that the testimonies about my Senator answer all these questions in the affirmative and even more. Lastly we must take care of our children such that they can take care of us.
This book is a product of educated and well brought children of Dr Ibrahim Oloriegbe. The initiator of this book is Yahaya Hassan Oloriegbe. He is the first son of a Distinguished Senator. He was motivated to write the biography having listened to “a recount of his (my) father’s) attributes from someone ….in Ekiti State one evening to celebrate the life of another wonderful soul”.
It is commendable that he assembled two chroniclers who have turned what initially were sound bites about his father Dr Ibrahim into a readable beautiful prose. I love reading biographies and autobiographies of iconic men and women. This book stands out in its simplicity of prose, almost lyrical made even more understood by apt home proverbs, quotable quotes as anecdotes. This book could very well be entitled Book of values.
I acknowledge scores of values Ilorin community imbibed in the young ones regardless of the class status of the parents: Fear of Allah ( Taqwa), act of worship and work, non-divisible knowledge seeking, ( Islamic and Western), respect for parents , ( mothers and fathers are mentioned more than 100 times) community, family and kinship ties ( family, 94 times) friendships and comradeship, act of giving, sacrifices, discipline, humility, honesty and integrity.