Sheikh Abdul Hafeez Abou: A century of discipline, learning & leadership

At the sparkling reception tastefully put together on the historic occasion of his 100 years birthday at the upscale Harbour Point Hall, Victoria Island, Lagos on Wednesday, August 10, 2022, how the Baba Adinni of Lagos and Chairman, Executive Council, the Lagos Central Mosque, Sheikh Abdul Hafeez Asamu Abou was ushered into the waiting all-white leather seat, could rival that officially reserved for presidents and state governors.

His entourage was made up of very distinguished senior citizens of Lagos State, who, like Abou, the patriarch of the Nolah family, were all dressed in snow white agbada with uniform cap to match.

It was a fascinating sight and evidence of life of integrity which Abou has so far lived, impacts of which spread on hundreds of beneficiaries who formally and informally passed through his tutelage, either in western schools or Islamic circles, where he is a force to reckon with as a respected and globe-trotting scholar whose Arabic diction can hardly be faulted.

The Tabloid.net gathered that the late Premier of the defunct Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the late Premier of the Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the late Minister for Lagos Affairs, Alhaji Muhammed Ribadu and the late Emir of Kano, Alhaji Sanusi benefited from Abou’s knowledge during their tour to Egyptian government; Abou it was who performed introduction of the visiting Nigerian leaders to their hosts.

It was also learnt that he was turbaned the Baba Adinni of Lagos in 2009 and the oldest of all the Baba Adinni of the Lagos Central Mosque. None of the past holders of the prestigious Islamic title in history was revealed to have lived up to a hundred years.

“He is a special one who deserves the long life he is enjoying today. You can see he is enjoying his life with the way he walks and easily identifies his old friends,” a source remarked.

Regardless of the enviable honour to which he was treated on his arrival into the reception hall, the Baba Adinni cut image of one not really given to such a grandiose ceremony. He was calm; wearing a simple look of a disciplinarian he is, even though he was warmly acknowledging homage paid to him by guests who came from different locations to be part of that epoch-making congregation.

A few hours earlier to the reception, the Lagos Central Mosque, Lagos Island, had hosted the birthday special prayer which started from 11 and was wrapped up at 1 pm. The session, witnessed by a congregation of Islamic scholars, their pupils, white cap chiefs and invited guests, featured quran recitations and commissioning of the Sheikh Abdul Hafeez Abou Clinic, which was performed by Abou himself.

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Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fasola read the congratulatory message sent to Abou by President Muhammadu Buhari just as Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr Kadiri Obafemi Hamzat also stood in for Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

 

The prayer session was strictly conducted not to spill to afternoon prayer (Salat Shur) hour, according to the instruction by Abou who is reportedly averse to practice whereby obligatory prayer is sacrificed for socials, especially inside mosque.

“Baba is a no-nonsense Islamic scholar who will, under no circumstance, bend Islamic laws and convention for any other thing no matter how important. He lives a Spartan life, which makes him above all those things which easily compromise practice of the religion,” another source, close to the Lagos Central Mosque management, also told our correspondent.

Even at the well-attended reception, the programme of events was religiously followed by the dutiful comperes; thereby creating no room for the usually excessive merriment with which gatherings of that class are reputed. There was no live band; there was no secular song and sounds; only recorded Arabian music had the day. There also was no serving of food and clinking of glasses; guests were, instead, served packs containing food items and drinks otherwise called takeaway.

“This reception has taught me a new way of doing things. It is a modest but highly exclusive function. It has taught me that one can organize a big function as this without making noise and attracting what I should call negative attention. But I didn’t expect less because of the Baba involved. He would not allow a noisy reception, and we have to thank the organizing committee for sticking to the rule,” the source further said.

Another unusual highlight of the gathering was the organized way a biography written in honour of Abou was handled. There was no formal presentation, which often goes with public purchase and donations. Copies were instead given out to guests. And by five o clock, curtain was drawn on the reception, after which all guests departed the premises in almost a choreographic character.

Buhari, through Fasola, extolled the virtues of Abou and appreciated his contributions to national development and peaceful co-existence in the country. The president thanked God for sustaining his life, saying “Allah has been so good to him and no wonder his longevity and success on the face of the earth.”

What Sanwo-Olu missed in the central mosque, he gained at the reception where he personally was present in a blue agbada. The governor said the centenarian is worthy of emulation having lived his life in service of God and humanity to the best of his capacity. He also said that Abou has been a role model to many Islamic faithful including clerics and leaders.

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“As you celebrate the 100th birthday, it is our prayer that the Almighty God will grant you more grace and strengthen you to continue to live in good health and longevity”, he prayed.

 

Even though All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Candidate who doubled as chairman of the occasion Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was not in attendance, his tribute on Abou was indicative of a father-and-son relationship between him and the Islamic scholar whose father was the late Imam Tijani Faramobi Abou, a grandson to the Chief Imam of Lagos, Late Muhammad Nolla.

The two-term governor of Lagos State from 1990 to 2007 noted steadfastness and life of service to God as two major hallmarks for which the Baba Adinni was reputed even beyond Lagos Muslim community, including Lagos Christian community.

Tinubu said the 100th birthday is a major milestone and express his gratitude to God for granting Abou good health and longevity, urging public to follow his footsteps and ask how God made it possible for him to be that great.

“Baba has dedicated his life to the propagation of Islam. Even with his advanced age, Baba has provided uncommon leadership to the Islamic Ummah in Lagos and beyond, and given inspiration to all us in the shining examples of his life.

“Baba remains an epitome of decency, humility, honesty, hard work, patience, perseverance, commitment to worthy causes and above all devotion to Islam and Almighty Allah,” Tinubu said and also prayed to God to grant Abou good health and more years.

“So that the people of Lagos and Nigerians in general can continue to benefit from his wealth of experience, immense knowledge and wisdom,” he concluded.

In his own demonstration of the bond between him and Tinubu, Abou, while making his remark, thrilled the attentive audience with prayer to be among eminent personalities that would be seated at the Eagles Square, Abuja on May 29, 2023 to witness Tinubu’s swearing in ceremony as President, Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, after he would have successfully climbed the political hill before him at the presidential elections held in 2023.

Abou’s centenary trajectory indicated that he was born at Ita Akanni area of Lagos on August 10, 1922. His education career took off from the Lagos Government School through the Ansar-Ud-Deen Primary School, Alakoro and later to the Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt where from 1944 to 1958, he studied Arabic, Islamic Studies and Licentiate in Islamic law from the faculty of Sharia. In Egypt, he interacted closely with various international organizations and prominent leaders such as King Farouq of Egypt, President Jamal Abdul Nasir of Egypt, Prime Minster of Pakistan Muhammed Alli, Ghana’s President Kwame Nkruma, Hurchv of the Soviet Union.

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He was also said to have served as an executive member of the World Assembly of Muslim Youths from 1954 in Karachi, Pakistan. He was a delegate to many International conferences including the first World Afro-Asian Writers Conference in Teshkand (USSR) and Pecking, in China in 1958 and the All African People’s Conference, Accra, Ghana. He was a delegate to World Youth Festival in Moscow.

He returned to Nigeria in 1959, joined the Ansar-Ud-Deen Society in the following year and got an employment as teacher at the Ansar-Ud-deen College Isolo, Lagos; he rose to the position of the acting principal until his retirement in 1972. He has since served as a member of the Ansar-Ud-Deen Society mission Board.

A statement by the Lagos Central Mosque also revealed Abou as a member of the governing council of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi from 1990 to 1992. He was patron of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN) in the 1960s; a member of the Fatwa Committee of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, the
National Missioner of the Muslim Association of Nigeria; member, National Committee on Shariah and member, Council of Ula’mas.

“The Lagos Central Mosque is Sheikh Abdul Hafeez Abou’s special love. He cherished the noble traditions he met. He, as a Chairman, has dedicated himself to embrace its prominence and centrality amongst Mosques in Lagos. His name lent credibility to the unity cause in the formative period of the Muslim Umma of South West, Nigeria (MUSWEN). He was a member of the Federal Government Hajj delegation for the years 2012 and 2013. He has close relationship with the Sultan of Sokoto and also had the privilege to meet with the then President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan,” the statement revealed.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila affirmed that Abou’s attainment of a century is God’s grace, adding that his attribute “along with many others that define our Baba Adinni, make it essential to honour this admirable person whose life serves as an example for younger generations to follow.”

 

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