An English poet , John Donne seems to have captured my mood over the recent death of Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi when he wrote that the death of every man diminishes me because I am involved in humanity. More than being diminished, I can say I am terribly devastated over the passing away of this rare breed for I know that we still need him more than the heaven does.
As I watched on Friday, July 8, 2016 from a distance how the remains of Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi, Marafan Sokoto were lowered into the grave at the Hubbare where Uthman Danfodiye and other great men of the Sultan Caliphate were interred, I literally crashed and substantially betrayed emotions, weeping like a baby. Earlier same day, I stood at attention as his body was being brought out of the Arik plane, not from the first class seat in which he usually travelled but from the luggage compartment. And so my friend, my brother, my father, my benefactor and a benefactor of the University of Ibadan where I work has gone to the great beyond! May Allah grant him Aljenah Firdaus.
A lot had been written and said about his life, education and career as a policeman, federal Commissioner, national security expert, family man, technocrat board guru and politician of huge proportions. My tribute is on his life time when the elements had already been well formed in him and the structures well mixed in the matter such as the nature can rightly say as in Julius Ceaser “This was a Man.”
I came close to him about 20 years when I was Warden, Sultan Bello Hall, University of Ibadan from 1996-2001 although I had heard and read of his large heart and wide social networking through the indomitable late Are-Musulumi of Yorubaland, Alhaji AbdulAzeez Arisekola Alao arguably his soul mate in the South West.
Determined to make a difference in my new assignment as Warden beyond the routines of room allocation to students, shop/kiosk to hawkers, students discipline including running after squatters and other mundane assignments, I decided to float a Sultan Bello Distinguished Lecture series in memory of the 2nd Caliph in whose memory the hall was named and who was largely regarded as the founder of modern Sokoto Caliphate after Uthman Danfodio. The first in the series of the lecture which was held on 04 July, 1997 entitled “The Life and Times of Sultan Muhammadu Bello of Sokoto” was delivered by Dr. R. A. Adeleye, former Federal Commissioner of Industry and a renowned authority on the Sokoto Caliphate, and formerly of our Department of History.
The then Sultan, Alhaji Muhammadu Maccido was the guest of honour. He publicly remarked that by naming lecture series after Sultan Bello and not any other thing, we have kept alive his memory and what he cherished most- education and the spread of knowledge. The occasion was witnessed by many dignitaries including members of the Sultanate such as Magayin Gari, Magayin Rafi and the Waziri Sokoto. Although, Alhaji Shinkafi could not attend the inaugural lecture in person, he was the prime mover behind it success and he equally got the Sultan to attend in person. Needless to say that the occasion garnered donations far in excess of N2milllion of that time. I later became a regular visitor to Ribadu Road, Ikoyi, Lagos residence of Marafa Sokoto and we used to drop letters meant for “Sokoto people” in his house .
Alhaji Shinkafi was the Special Guest to the hall at the 1998 edition of the Lecture. A mild incidence happened in the hall on that day. Everybody that we had invited failed to honour our invitation probably because the Sultan did not come. Only Alhaji Shinkafi and his few friends were there. Noble Bellites wore grim faces; . It was obvious that the year’s edition was not going to be as glorious as the previous year’ edition.
When it was time for Alhaji Shinkafi to make his speech, he announced a donation of N500,000 of that time on behalf of himself and those that he invited and did not come!! He said he would “punish” them for not coming!! Noble Bellites and our Hall Master, Professor Adetoye Faniran roared in joy. Noble Bellites started dancing. A week later, Alhaji Shinkafi redeemed the pledge with allocations of different amount to his friends-corporate and individuals such as his law firm, Chief Harry Akande, Alhaji Shehu Mallami, Alhaji Dankabo, Oba Otudeko, Chief Tunde Olojo, just to mention a few.
The University published the benefactions in the bulletin and the Vice-Chancellor wrote appreciation letters personally signed by him to all the benefactors. Alhaji Shinkafi equally raised money from his friends and associates for Queen Elizabeth Hall’s week activities to the tune of N750,000 in 2012/2013 session when my daughter was the Hall Chair.
Alhaji Shinkafi was a well-organised person, you do not have to see him personally or hang around him or sing his praises before meeting your expectations. He has a fully functional office with retinue of efficient and courteous staff. All you needed to do was to write and your letter would get to him and you would be notified of his decision.
By the time I left the office of Warden in 2001, three other editions of the Sultan Bello Distinguished Lectures were delivered by Professor J. F. Ade-Ajayi, Chief Richard Akinjide, SAN and Professor Adele Afigbo. Alhaji Shinkafi was always there to provide the link between us and the Sultanate and his other friends and associates.
I maintained close relationship with him till he breathed his last. On the morning of the day he passed on, July 6, I received a Sallah message from his daughter only to be shattered by news of his death later same day. He was a man of candour, diligent and respect and always seeking the best for people. He was always a man of his word. Right in his house or office, he made contacts and got things done without making noise. I doubt if he kept records of how much his non-financial influence had helped to maintain justice, fairness and equity in our body polity. Shinkafi died in London from an undisclosed illness on July 6, 2016.
- Dr Adeniran is of the Department of Veterinary Pathology, University of Ibadan.