A Tribute to Sheikh Alhaji Ahmadu Shafi’i Agege

11th Mar. 2013

“A truly rich man is the one whom people rush into his arms even when his hands are empty”  – Anonymous.

Some people are sent to this world by the Almighty Allah (SWA) to phenomenally impact on the lives of so many ordinary individuals. They came to touch and change the lives of the deprived, the disadvantaged and the impoverished. They shall be the hand that will stand for the truth and guide the unguided. They shall leave their footprints artistically designed on the igneous rock of time. When it is finally time for them to leave the mother earth, the touched and the changed shall testify that indeed they lived a righteous life.

Girrrrrrrrrrrrrr…girrrrrrrrrr…girrrrrrr my phone rang and rang again! I was still sleeping, so at first I thought it was a dream. It was 5am in the morning, who could this be? What is the matter with this person to be calling at this ungodly hour? But something said to me, who so ever is this, there must be a strong reason for him to be calling now. So, I quickly rushed to reach out for my phone, but before I picked the call, it cut. I checked through the menus of my phone only to found out that I already have five missed calls, all from my immediate family members. Immediately, I panicked! The last call was from my senior brother who works in Lagos. I tried calling him back but his line suddenly became busy. Things are happening so fast that I informed my wife “I think something is wrong”. But before I finished talking to her, another call came in from Zaria. It was my mom, immediately I picked the call she cried out “Innalillahi-wa-illaihi-rajuun, Allah yayiwa Baban Agegerasuwa!” My dear brothers and sisters, that was how we started the morning of 12thof March, 2012, exactly one year ago. Since then every single day that passes by we always remember and pray for the Almighty Allah (SWA) to grant him AljannaFirdaus, amin.

Alhaji Ahmadu Shafi’i Agege is also known as Baban Agege among the circle of family and friends. His profile may not look like that of our political heroes like the Sardauna of Sokoto, Tafawa Balewa of Bauchi (The Golden voice of Africa), Awolowo the leader of the Western region or Azikiwe the leader of the Eastern region (The Zik of Africa). But he has made his own unique contributions and impacted on the spiritual well being of so many individuals and groups across the length and breadth of this country. Many people may describe him as a respectful father, a disciplinarian, a philanthropist or a pious elder. His father was a business man and a philanthropist, Alhaji Muhammadu Shafi’i dan Saidun Gwandu (whom I was named after), a native of Bida local government in Niger state. Because of the nature of his fathers’ business, he goes round the country and some parts of West African region before he settled in Zaria local government, Kaduna state. History has it that his father was among the early settlers of Tudun Wadan, Zaria. That was where Baban Agege was born almost a century ago including all his brothers and sisters.

Baban Agege will later join in running the business in the Lagos axis with one of his senior brothers late Alhaji Abdullahi Shafi’i (Alhaji Babba, may Allah grant him paradise), together they joined some of the early northern settlers in Agege, Lagos state. They lived peacefully with their Yoruba host communities for decades without having any problem. No surprise when some people said he is a complete Nigerian. One of his legacies was that, he is always eager to help anyone that comes to him irrespective of your religion, tribe or political affiliation, a virtue that is very rear among today’s men.

As a kid I always look forward to the Eidil-Fitri Sallah celebration because I’m very certain that I will have the best of Sallah attires from Baban Agege. He always sows the most fashionable clothes for us. I still remembered one called Shagari style. It was the latest fashion then and so wearing it makes me feel like a celebrity. The legacy here was that, even though we have a very large extended family at different locations in the country, each and every one of us gets that same type of attire before the Sallah day. You can imagine getting the rewards of more than a hundred people. But he did not stop there, if anyone of us is getting married, he gives you a white Babbanriga da danciki da wando with a unique blue design to be worn on your wedding. I will like to mention here that I have the singular honour and privileged to be the last family member to have benefited from this unique attire. This was because he passed away just about three months after my wedding (may Allah reward him with paradise, amin). In the same vein, nobody can be able to tell you precisely how many people he had sponsored to Hajj for pilgrimage and the lesser Hajj (Umrah) throughout his life because the number is quite much.

Within hours of his death a very large number of people gathered in Agege, Lagos. Someone reliably told me that when he entered the local wings of the Abuja International airport that morning, it was as if everyone he saw there is going for the burial. Alhamdulillah, even though Sheikh Khalifa Isyaka Rabiu of Kano was not able to attend the burial because of his state of health, but he was able delegate and sent Late Sheikh Mudi Salga to come from Kano and also lead the burial prayers. The people of Agege said they have never seen such a gathering of northern masses. But how can we forget in a hurry the miraculous signs and wonders that appeared to people on that day of his burial?

For those that are opportuned to attend the burial prayers, they all testified that a cold breeze came from nowhere and engulfed all of them in the burial ground. How can we also forget the large crowd of people that trooped to his compound from far and near to witness the illuminated image of Sheikh Inyas that miraculously appeared from nowhere on the walls for the lucky ones to see?

Sincerely speaking, I don’t think I am in the best position to write a tribute to such a great man, even though he is my uncle. But at the same time I see it as an opportunity for me to resend my condolence to his children, brothers and sisters, family, friends and well-wishers, especially that I am now very far away from home. May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace, amin summa amin.

Shafi’i Hamidu is a PhD Scholar, writing from the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.