Tribute to Mallam Yusuf Olaolu Alli (SAN) as he clocks another year

Birth, Childhood, and Family Background

In many preliterate African communities, a number of mechanisms were used to estimate the period of birth and actual age of individuals in the society. These mechanisms include age group, period of festivals, period of coronation of a chief or an Oba, period of the death of an important personality, and periods of calamities and wars among others.

During the colonial period and in the absence of widespread birth registration among Nigerians, new mechanisms were also adopted to designate the birth and age of individuals. To this extent, many individuals of the colonial era have periods such as the First World War (Ogun Ajakaiye in Yoruba parlance), the Second World War (Ogun Hitila in Yoruba parlance), the outbreak of the bubonic plague, year of elections, years in which new constitutions were introduced, year in which the first demand for independence was moved, and the year of actual independence among others to count the actual year an individual was born, either counting forward and backward.

In the light of the foregoing assertions and explanations, no precise year has been attributed for the birth of Mallam Yusuf Alli. Rather, available records and circumstantial evidences suggested that he was born in the 1950s. Precisely, he was born in Ibadan, though his father hailed from the Ifetedo township of the present Ife East Local Government Area of Osun State. He was the first child of his parents.

Having been born in Ibadan, the first year of infant Yusuf Alli was at Owo in Ondo State. This was because his father who was working with the Ministry of Agriculture of the Western Regional Government was transferred to Owo in Ondo State. The nature of his father job required that he was consistently moved from one part of the Western Region to the other.

After the first year, there was the need for the father to move again and this prompted the decision to bequeath the nurturing of the infant Yussuf Alli to his paternal grandfather at Ifetedo, Osun State. It was with this paternal grandfather at Ifetedo that the young Yusuf Alli spent the first sixteen years of his life. The grandfather was polygamy and had a compound where many children and grandchildren were reared together and this tended to have a huge impact on Yusuf Alli’s life.

In addition to the children were uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins and the rest. In this mix, the younger generation had the opportunity to look up to their elders for inspiration, monitoring, guidance, and mentorship which are done majorly on informal basis. It was really a reflection of the communal life that the Yoruba people of the olden days were known for. Family members lived in the compound, play together, eat together, participate in festivals together, attend schools together, engage in farming activities together, and a whole lot. The advantage herein was that young Yusuf Alli was nurtured to become a great family and community man.

Education and the Academics

The young Yusuf Alli was a very talented and brilliant child and this tended to reflect throughout his education pursuit. Right from his childhood, he was an exemplifying and astute child of excellent conducts, both in character and intelligent. He grew to become a very good orator, with a strong advocacy, and with quintessential writing skills. Mallam Yusuf Alli’s education progression began at Ifetedo when he was enrolled at the Ansar-ud-Deen Primary School, a school initially established by an Islamic missionary group.

He graduated from the school with a Primary School Leaving Certificate in 1968. Because of the arrangement during this period, he spent about eight years in the primary school. He thereafter proceeded to the Local Authority Modern School, Ifetedo where he studied between 1969 and 1971. This later educational endeavour fetched him the Modern School Certificate. At the Local Authority Modern School, Yusuf Alli was a School Prefect. Adolescent Yusuf Alli then moved to Ibadan where his parents had returned.

At Ibadan, Yusuf Alli worked for a little period before he successful gained admission into the famous Ibadan Boys High School. His sojourn at Ibadan Boys High School, where he was between 1973 and 1977, was very successful and excellent.

Yusuf Alli not only became the Labour Prefect at Ibadan Boys High School, he contributed his own quota to the glory and progress of the good name of the school among the comity of schools of that era.

In fact, he won the Best Debater Award during a debating competition for secondary schools hosted at University of Ibadan by the Geographical Society in 1976. He later emerged as the President of the school’s Literary and Debating Society. He graduated from the school with the West African School Certificate ‘O’ Level Grade 1. Some of his results include A3 in Chemistry, A3 in Mathematics, and A1 in Literature-in-English. From Form Two, Yusuf Alli began to represent the Ibadan Boys High School at inter-schools debate competitions.

Two major factors gave him edge over his schoolmates and competitors at debate and other curricular and extra-curricular activities. One, he was matured, about twenty years old, before getting to secondary school. Two, the experience he gathered during his Modern School period before coming to secondary school was helpful in molding his confidence and oratory capability. In fact, because of his initial experiences, his English was better than most of his class and schoolmates.

After he had completed his secondary school education at Ibadan in flying colours, Yusuf Alli worked for sometimes before making attempts at gaining admission to tertiary institutions. He worked as a Clerical Tax Officer with the Ministry of Finance in Oyo State in 1977. Also in 1978, Yusuf Alli joined the service of Lagelu Grammar School in Ibadan as a Laboratory Attendant. His first savour at tertiary institution was his few weeks’ stay at The Polytechnic Ibadan to study Mass Communication but had to leave when he got a university admission.

He was one of the first generation of Nigerians to write the University Matriculation Examination in 1978 conducted by Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB). At this time, Yusuf Alli did concessional examination seeking admission to read Agriculture at University of Ibadan, and Law at University of Ife. When the Ife admission came, he was given History Education instead of Law which he had requested to read. He made effort through a family friend lecturer at Chemical Engineering in Ife, Professor S. A. Sanni, to change from History Education department to Law but the Dean of Law only assured him that he can only do a change of course only when he pass his History examinations in flying colours.

Fortunately for Yusuf Alli, he had ‘A’ in all his first year examinations in the department of History Education and was therefore qualified to transfer his admission to 200 Level Law. In addition, the result also granted him the opportunity to become a University Scholar and a national merit awardee. However, his bid to transit to the Law Faculty had an initial encumbrance as the Dean of Education (Prof. Fajana) decided not to allow the transition on the ground that the Faculty would not be oblige to waste its best brain to Faculty of Law.

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When Professor Sanni was told about the latest development, he advised that Yusuf Alli should go and seat for another UME if he was still interested in his Law studies. As a result, he wrote another UME and was very successful but for that very year existing students were instructed to resume before the newly admitted students. This resumption arrangement made Yusuf Alli to return back to the History Education without knowing that his application for transfer into Law 200 Level had been approved.

It was on a Friday after the Jumah Service that a friend informed him that his name was the first on the approved list for Change of Course. The new development was taken with every sense of gratification to almighty Allah. However, the opportunity came with its own challenge which was that he was reaped off the awards of University Scholar and the National Merit Award. This was because of the standing rule that the two awards must be used in the faculty where it was granted or if the faculty authorise that the awards be transferred along to the new faculty.

With respect to this, the Dean Faculty of Education refused to allow the awards to be transferred to Law and this forfeited the awards, he wanted Yusuf Alli to go and prove his mettle in Law also. But Yusuf Alli never relented on his oasis as he made the awards again in his 200 Level Law and was able to use it throughout his stay at Ife. He graduated with an Honour in Bachelor of Law Degree (Second Class Upper) from Ife in 1982.

To be able to practice as lawyer as stipulated by Nigerian regulations, Yusuf Alli was admitted into the Nigerian Law School, Lagos in 1982 and was called to the Bar in 1983 with B. L. Honours.

At Ife, Mallam Yusuf Alli was elected as the Secretary General of the Ibadan Boys’ High School Old Students Association (University of Ife, Branch) between 1980 and 1981. Due to his background in literary and debating activities at secondary school, Mallam Yusuf Alli became a student journalist during his undergraduate days at Ife. He regularly featured in a notable campus magazine known as Torch Magazine.

In addition, he was an editor with Al-Ayat Magazine, a campus magazine for the Muslim students and other interested members of the University community. Upon graduation in 1982, Mallam Yusuf Alli was appointed as the Chairman, Constitution Drafting Committee for the OAU Muslim Graduate Association (UNIFEMGA).

At graduation, he won the National Academic Merit Award, 1980-1982. Eight years after, Mallam Yusuf Alli returned to his alma mata (University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University) for a Master of Law (LL.M) which he obtained in 1991. Later on he joined the Chartered Institute of Arbitration of UK and Nigeria as a fellow of the Institute.

Career Growth and Progression

Having been influenced by his oratory capabilities which were majorly exhibited during the debates he participated in, Mallam Yusuf Alli passion for Law as a course of study cannot be underestimated. After his Bachelor of Law Degree and the graduation as Barrister of Law from the Nigerian Law School, Mallam Yusuf Alli was posted to Ilorin, Kwara for the mandatory one year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) for his primary assignment.

This marked the beginning of his legal career as he was posted to the Ministry of Justice in Kwara State. He was specifically attached to retired Justice G. A. Obanyan as a legal assistant and researcher. But this posting was not satisfactory to him as he was not given the opportunity to engage in the real legal tasks. He sought for permission to be attending private Chambers in the evening so as to gain the necessary experiences. It was after the permission was granted that Mallam Yusuf Alli approached the Chamber of Chief Obafemi Awolowo for internship.

September 15, 1983 was his first day in court as he was requested by Chief Obafemi Awolowo to go and defend a case at the High Court in Ogbomoso. It was a case filed against the Town Planning Authority for illegal demolition. Though the judgement was given, it was not in favour of the Chamber which Yusuf Alli represented. In fact, the owner of the case felt that the case was lost because it was handled by an amateur, not Chief Awolowo himself.

It must be noted that between June and July 1983, Mallam Yusuf Alli was on Industrial Trainee with the firm of Lateef Adegbite & Co. After passing out from NYSC, Mallam Yusuf Alli joined and made partner with Adegboyega Awomoloo & Co., Law Firm in Ilorin in 1984. During his stay at the law firm, he engaged in legal practices such as legal drafting, writing of briefs, and appearing at various categories of court among others. In 1994, Mallam Yusuf Alli began his own private legal practices by establishing a law office in Ilorin. The law firm was registered as Yusuf O. Alli & Co., and was named the Ghalib Chamber. It started operations on 1 June 1994 and was located along the famous Taiwo Road in Ilorin. It was initially a three bedroom rented apartment. Later on, Ghalib Chamber became an expansive two storey building with state of the art facilities, including modern library with contemporary books worth millions of naira.

The edifice (named Ghalib House) was completed in 2001 and there was an extension in 2011. The Chamber which he started alone had three personnel four months after (i.e. Mallam Yusuf Alli and two other colleagues) and later grew to have more than fifteen personnel in its pay roll. Also as his law firm and legal services kept expanding, he had the opportunity to establish a second branch of the Ghalib Chamber in Abuja. The two branches became a beehive of activities for clients that find his services immeasurable.

In addition was a corresponding office that was established at Tafa Balewa Square in Lagos. The two Chambers and corresponding office usually have NYSC corps members posted to them for attachment and training. In the course of his legal practices, his colleagues hold him in awe. They are particularly at home with the way he mesmerizes his opponents when arguing and marshalling his points. He is full of wits, eloquence, drama, and oratory.

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Mallam Yusuf Alli has handled series of election petition cases where he acted as the lead counsel to former Oyo State Governor Ladoja; lead counsel to former Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose; lead counsel to Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State; second lead counsel for Governor Olusegun Mimiko in Ondo; lead counsel in all Governor Bukola Saraki’s cases, lead counsel on Governor Fatai Ahmed cases; lead counsel to Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, the second lead counsel in the case concerning Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nassarawa; and handled all the cases relating the election matters of Alimodu Sherrif when he was Governor of Borno State in 2008.

He was the second lead counsel in the successful defence of election of President Yar’Adua in 2007. He also handled cases relating to chieftaincy titles including those of the Oluwo of Iwo, the Ataoja of Osogbo. He became a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in September 1997. Exactly 14 years, after his post-call to the Bar. he was the first in his set of 1983 in the Law School to become a SAN.

Religious Activities, Community Services, and Awards

The fact that Mallam Yusuf Olaolu Alli is a very devout Muslim is incontestable by every standard and many ramifications. The foundation of his passion and devotion to the Islamic courses could be traced to childhood. He very fortunate that he was sent to a Muslim missionary school, the Ansar-ur-Deen Primary School in Ifetedo where he was extensively nurtured in Islamic, God consciousness, and western education. In the school, sound moral and pure Islamic teachings were planted in the minds of the younger generation.

Throughout his educational sojourn, Mallam Yusuf Alli was an ardent Islamic scholar and activist whose commitment to academic pursuit did not dissuade from his commitment to the service of Allah and Islam. He became very active in the activities of the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN) right from the secondary school. On the other hand, the MSSN provided the opportunity for Yusuf Alli and many other vibrant young Islamic brothers and sisters to develop their latent potentials. Specifically, the Ife branch of MSSN prized itself as the training ground for the development of the potentials of members.

Yusuf Alli was a member of the Constitution Review Committee of the MSSN in 1980, and also a President of the Ife branch of the society between 1980 and 1981. His commitment to MSSN was both in cash and as a resource person to numerous of the society’s programme. Apart from his commitment to MSSN activities here and there, Mallam Yusuf Alli fulfilled of the five major tenets of Islam in 1990 by going for the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca.

Two other important makings of Mallam Yusuf Alli are a reflection of his passion and commitment to al-Islam. One, he adopted Mallam (an Arabic word for a scholar, and not commonly used in south-western Nigerian elites except for the teachers at the local Arabic schools) as the appellation in front of his names. Two, when he established his Chamber as a solicitor and advocate, he named it Ghalib (another Arabic word which means victory). In addition to this was the construction of a mosque at the premises where his chamber was located in Ilorin.

Also outside MSSN, Mallam Yusuf Alli had a close ties with an elite Islamic group of young and bond scholars. Apart from this, he presented several papers at many Islamic forums and contributed various scholarly articles in many Islamic journals and magazine. Examples of his articles include; The Concept of Rule of Law under Common Law and Sharia (Journal of Muslim Ummah, Nigerian Law School); The Legal Status and Politics of Sharia in Nigeria (Learned Journal, CAILS Ilorin);

The Nigerian Constitution (Learned Journal, CAILS Ilorin); Shariah and the Human Rights Provision in the 1999 Constitution (a chapter in Perspective in Islamic Law and Jurisprudence); The Challenges and Prospects of Advocacy in Nigeria (a chapter in Advocacy & Law Practice in the 21st Century); The Impeachment/Removal Sections in the Nigerian Constitutions: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (a chapter in Current Issues in Nigerian Jurisprudence: Essays in Honour of Chief Adegboyega Solomon Awomolo);

The Anti-Graft War (a chapter in Nigeria’s Reform Programme: Issues and Challenges); Muslims and the Nigerian Constitution (The Learned Journal of Law Students’ Association of the School of Law, College of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Ilorin); Tobacco Usage and Nigerian Law (the Modern Practice Journal of Finance & Investment Law – Nigeria); Medical Practice and Law in Nigeria: The Challenges in the Millennium (The Jurist); and Pupillage and Law Office Management in Nigeria: The Way Forward (Nigerian Law and Practice Journal).

As a result of his sound religious understanding and the quest to serve Allah, Yusuf Alli is a great philanthropist who had extended hands of benevolence to a lot of people, organizations, and corporate bodies. He was one of the facilitators for the construction of the permanent site for the Islamic Vacation Course of the MSSN, “B” Zone along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.

In addition, he made donations to many schools including the erection of a hostel building for University of Ilorin and the College of Law building of the Osun State University, Ifetedo Campus. Mallam Yusuf Alli delivered about seventy-three lectures at various forums across the country. Among these presentations are Muslims in Search of Identity (Obafemi Awolowo University, 1986); The Role of Muslims in a Multi-Religious State (Ibadan, 1987); Religion – What Business has the State? (Obafemi Awolowo University, 1989); The Role of the Nigerian Press in Promoting Peaceful Co-existence among the People (IMAN, Ilorin Chapter 1989); Religion and Politics: Islamic Perspective (Oyo Town Hall, 1989); How Prepared are we towards the 3rd Republic (Ifetedo Court Hall, 1989);

The Nigerian Constitution 1979 and 1989 (Rotary Club, Ilorin); Delinquency and Drug Abuse (West Africa Youth Camp, 1991); The Abortion Scourge: The Legal Angle (Association of Resident Doctors, UNILORIN, 1993); Crime Control and Conflict Resolution from Islamic Perspective (IMAN, 2009); United Nigeria: The Role of the Youth (World Youth Conference, 1996); The Right and Plight of Windows and the Handicapped in the Nigerian Society (International Federation of Women Lawyers, FIDA, 1996); Nigerian Muslims and the Spectacles of Abandoned Islamic Projects (Ansar-ud-Deen Central Mosque, 1997); Islam as the Flashlight of Universal Human Rights Formulation (Federation of Muslim Law Students, UNILORIN Chapter, 1997); and Shariah and the Human Rights Profession of the 1999 Constitution (the 1999 Nigerian Constitution and the Shariah Conference at Ilorin in February, 2000).

The discipline imbibed in Yusuf Alli’s individuality at home, at the local Arabic school, at the Muslim Missionary school, and due to his active membership of the MSSN were veritable tools that constituted his guiding principles and contributed immensely to his personality as a God fearing, intelligent and one of the great Islamic and legal icons in Nigeria. In particular, the contributions of Yusuf Alli to the promotion of Islam, legal education and practices, and human and capital development in south-western Nigeria cannot be underestimated. He grew up to become a personality with the courage and outstanding consciences while his guiding principle had always been Takwah, the fear of Allah.

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Yusuf Alli has carried out several national assignments. These include his being the Sole Tribunal Judge in the Kwara State Local Government Election Tribunal in 1996; co-opted Member of the University of Ilorin Council Committee that probed the activities of the Bursary Department of the University between 1995 and 1996; Member of the Judiciary Commission of Inquiry into Cult Activities at the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife in 1999; and Chairman of the Kwara State Law Review Committee from 2004 to 2005. Mallam Yusuf Alli is also recognised beyond the frontiers of the country as he was listed in both the “Who is Who” in Nigeria (2003 edition) and in the contemporary “Who is Who” by the American Biographical Institute, the United States of America 2002/2003 edition.

He has participated in numerous national and international conferences. Some of them include the Federal Government Welfare Officer to 1990 Hajj Operation in Saudi Arabia; Member of the Rotary District 913 Group Study Exchange Programme to Canada in 1988; International Bar Association Regional Conference Accra, Ghana in 1999; International Bar Association Annual Conference in Singapore in 2007; National Conference of Nigerian Bar Association Abuja in 2008; and International Bar Association Conference Beu Argentina in 2008.

In recognition of the enormous sense of responsibility, leadership qualities, intellectual prowess, hard work, diligence and outstanding contributions of Mallam Yusuf Olaolu Alli to the legal profession, social harmony, as well as educational, health, youth and democratic development, he has been bestowed with several awards by various groups, bodies, associations, corporate entities and unions.

Some of these awards include the Nigerian Bar Association Merit Award for Outstanding Contribution, 1988; the West Africa International Golden Award for Excellence in Enterprise by the West African Magazine; the Distinguished Advocate of Nigeria Merit Award by the Law Society, University of Ado Ekiti, 2002; the distinguished Alumni Award by the Obafemi Awolowo University Alumni Association (home branch), 2006; the Alumni National Honour of Officer of Great Ife, 2007; Life Time Achievement Award for Continued Performance and Great Achievement in Practice of Law by the American Biographical Institute, 2008; and the Gold Medal for Nigeria awarded by the American Biographical Institute in 2008 for Extreme Contributions and Commitment to Legal Practice, Philanthropy, and Community Service.

In acknowledging of his contributions to the propagation of Islam and western education and women empowerment in Nigeria, Yusuf Ali has been honoured with varieties of honours and awards. Some of which include the Honorary Award for Excellency by the Competition 1997; Recognition Award by Ifetedo Muslim Community in 1997; Recognition Award Obafemi Awolowo University Muslim Graduates Association in 1997;

Contribution Award by Ifetedo Muslim Community in 1997, Recognition Award presented by Ifetedo Progressive Union in 1999; Merit Award by the MSSN, Oyo Unit in 1999; Award of Excellence by Nigeria Association of Women Journalists Kwara State Council, Knight of the Law Students Society Award by the Law Students Society OAU, Ile-Ife in 2000, Special Award by International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Kwara State, Custodian of the Society Award by the Press Club of Government Day Secondary School, Alore Ilorin in 2001; Merit Award by Muslim Students Society Oyo Area Unit in 2001; Merit Megaphone Man of the Year in 2002; Merit Award by National Association of Muslim Law Students in 2002; Award of Distinguished Lawyer by National Association of Osun State Students, Kwara State Chapter; and Merit Award presented by Law Students Society University of Ilorin in 2002.

Mallam Yusuf Alli has also been honoured with other outstanding awards, they include the Distinguished Advocate of Nigeria Merit Award by Law Society of University of Ado-Ekiti in 2002; Award of Honour by Final Year Law Students Unilorin in 2003; ILUMSA distinguished Personality Award by Ilorin University Medical Students in 2003; Special Award presented by the Postgraduate Students’ Association, University of Ilorin in 2003; Award of Merit as Advocate of Repute presented by the Law Students Society Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife in 2005; Silver Sponsorship Award by Section on Legal Practice NBA in 2006;

Distinguished Personality Award by Kwara State Medical Students Association in 2006; Meritorious Service Award by Nigeria Association of Science Students in 2006; National Association of Muslim Health Students (NAMHS) LAUTECH Branch, Ogbomosho in recognition of his Laudable Contributions to Health and Islam at large in 2007; The Alumni National Honour of Officer of Great Ife by OAU, Ile Ife in 2007; Distinguished Alumnus Award by OAU Alumni Association in 2006; Muslim Merit Award as Muslim Lawyer Personified by Al-Habibiyyah Academy Abuja in 2008; Award of Excellence as a Doyen of Legal Luminary in Nigeria by Nigeria Vogue in 2008; Merit Award of Excellence presented by Ansar-Ud-Deen Society of Nigeria Lobu Branch in 2009; and Award for Contribution by Legal Aid Clinic (NYSC) in 2009.

Yusuf Ali is a sport man and a sport fan.  He was a long distance runner at the Local Authority Modern School Ifetedo between 1969 and 1971.  He is an honorary member, Nigerian Army Sobi Cantonment Officers Mess, Ilorin and was awarded the Certificate of Sports Awards by the Nigerian Association for Physical Health and Recreation, University of Ilorin branch.

He is a patron, adviser, an associate member, a special adviser, and legal adviser to several clubs, social bodies and student associations, including the Senior Staff Club University of Ilorin, Premier Club Ifetedo, Frontline ’82 Club, the AISEC-University of Ilorin branch, Kwara Metropolitan JAYCEES, the Federation of Muslim Graduate Association, Nigerian Economic Students Association-University of Ilorin Chapter and the Ibadan Boys Old Students Association. Yusuf Ali belongs to several professional bodies, including the Nigerian Bar Association, the International Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, the Chartered Institute of Taxation, and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators of London.

We celebrate Mallam Yusuf Olaolu Ali (SAN) today and at every time. Mallam is currently the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council. Osun State University, Osogbo and, also the Chairman, Committee of Pro-Chancellors of State-owned Universities in Nigeria. Congratulations!

Siyan Oyeweso FHSN, FNAL writes from Ede, Osun State, Nigeria.

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