Remembering The Cicero Of Ilorin, Sani Lawal



ON the first day of June in the year 2011, by my imagination, the world may as well have stopped moving. Everything seemed to have gone wrong, but it could only be the will of almighty Allah (Allahu Akbar). A great and sincere man, a large heart, who meant several things to several people at several times, had suddenly ended his sojourn on this plane. My doting dad, Sani Lawal was dead.

The elements appeared to have noted this sudden sad demise. The flight carrying us children, family members and other sympathisers scheduled for 3.00 p.m. did not leave Abuja till 4.00 p.m. and instead of its normal route, first to Ilorin, the aircraft flew past to Ibadan before taking us to Ilorin. As a result, Daddy’s burial scheduled for 4.00 p.m. same day, was delayed, and the pain of the loss protracted. And incidentally this great man I want to possess as “my dad” had many “children” in the broad sense, and they all came to grieve his exit. He had political children, he had professional children, he had spiritual children, he had adopted children, he had intellectual children, he had social children, and of course biological children. And he mentored all, equally and generously.

Born on July 27, 1933, dad barely missed his 78th birthday. But it was a peaceful death anyway, a desire he shared with the great John Keats. Since we celebrated his 60th birthday some years back, he promised and prayed not to have any reason to disturb (with sickness) any of his children or anybody for that matter whenever his time was up. Allah accepted his prayers. Probably that was why the news of his demise came as a very rude shock to all of us. But Allah knows best. Daddy still chatted on the phone with my younger sister, Raliat in Atlanta till about 3.30 a.m. and so there was no inkling of his death around the corner. In fact, after his early morning prayers, he still spoke to some people on phone and gave a few appointments to meet later in the day. He called up a young man who usually managed his satellite decoder to meet him at home at 8.30 a.m. and he warned the young man that “if you come late you would not meet me”. Dauda did not meet Daddy alive when he arrived at home at about 9.00 a.m.

As Secretary to the Emirate Council and Principal Private Secretary to the ninth Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Sulu Gambari who also doubled as a Minister in the administration of Sir Ahmadu Bello, the late Sardauna of Sokoto, dad was appointed as a Ministerial Private Secretary and he discharged his duties with absolute loyalty and commitment.

During the hearing at the Willink Minority Commission, Sani Lawal, my father, along other eminent Ilorin indigenes, in a show of solidarity with his people and the Emirate Council, opposed the call for a merger of Ilorin with the Western Region. The issue generated serious controversy, with Ilorin voicing out strongly, forcefully and collectively against the planned merger with the Western Region. Eventually, the colonial government upheld the yearnings of the people and cancelled the plan. By championing democracy in this manner, my father became the darling of Ilorin people. I recall that my maternal uncle and then Legal Adviser to the Northern Peoples’ Congress, Alhaji A.G.F. AbdulRazaq, was the lead counsel of the Emirate at the Commission and partnered strongly with dad, his great in-law.

The reach of the network of Radio Kwara at the time was up to Maiduguri and Sokoto. And those that lived around these places in the seventies would remember the golden voice on that station: “Here is the Kwara State news read by SANI LAWAL. First the main items…” Daddy brought class to news casting in those days, so much so that a lot of people looked forward to the days when it was his turn to broadcast the news. His baritone, diction, phonetics and manner of speech were scintillating. For us his children, our friends and schoolmates were always quick to call our attention anytime dad was on air. And we were ever so proud of him. His professional colleagues also proudly attest that my father was a rare gem in broadcasting and that he taught them so many things through his constant advice, corrections and commendations.

Meanwhile, not many people knew that he merely took to news casting for leisure. He was actually not a member of staff of the Radio House at the time; rather, he was in the administration of the Governor’s Office. In later years, he was appointed as the Secretary to the Broadcasting Commission and also rose to become the Acting General Manager before his appointment as a Commissioner and member of the Kwara State Executive Council following the return the return of civilian administration in 1979.

As Commissioner for Industries in the Alhaji Adamu Atta administration, my father was upright in carrying out his duties as the Ministry flourished. As a frontline politician in Kwara State, he was selfless and fiercely loyal to his political belief.

A family man, who spent a lot of his time at home, words cannot express what this Patriarch meant to his family, and what his family meant to him. My Dad Alhaji Sani Lawal was indeed a father. This great Cicero, man of many parts helped us become who and what we are today. Daddy was a fine teacher and it is with a great sense of pride that we bear “Lawal” as our surname.

Dad, we will keep you in our heart. May Allah forgive your sins and grant you Aljanah Firdous as a final abode. Raheemullah my dear Daddy.

Less than a year after your exit, our mum in whose care you left us also passed away March 2012. We miss her sorely everyday, her boys are still inconsolable and her girls are lost without her but we all take solace in Almighty Allah. I pray to Allah that you are together in the garden where rivers flow beneath.

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