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Tribute to Dr. Lateef Adegbite: Muslim leader and family man par excellence

September 28, 2021, marked the ninth year since the demise of Dr Lateef Oladimeji Adegbite, a one-time Secretary-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic…

September 28, 2021, marked the ninth year since the demise of Dr Lateef Oladimeji Adegbite, a one-time Secretary-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Baba Adinni of Egbaland and Attorney-General & Commissioner for Justice in the Old Western State. 

Given his status as a public figure whose professional, religious and social services to humanity transcend geographical boundaries, Dr. Lateef Adegbite has been a subject of engagements among scholars, researchers, journalists and public analysts. 

However, there’s understandably little or insufficient evidence of attention to the family life of the great legal icon and Islamic leader in public discourse, especially with regards to his life and times with his wife – the late Iyalode, Alhaja Tayyiba Yetunde Adegbite. 

In marking the ninth anniversary of his transition to Allah’s mercies, this article seeks to address one of the hitherto infrequently explored aspects of his life. It should be noted that this article revolves around the Iyalode’s angle of Dr. Adegbite’s life in two ways – her description of him and his bereavement of her in 2001. 

According to the late Iyalode, the world-class university don and legal scholar possessed an uncommon capacity for hard work. He would wake up around 5.30am to lead his family in a congregational Subhi prayer. That done, he would take his bath and listen to the news via the Voice of America (VOA), the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), local news or newspaper review. He would thereafter get himself prepared for the office. He was not accustomed to taking breakfast before leaving home but only takes juice (fresh oranges), a cup of tea or something similar. His normal take-off time to the office was around 8am, except when he had to travel out of Lagos. 

On returning from the office, this one-time Nigeria’s Representative on the Commission on International Commercial Practice, Paris, as well as Nigeria’s Alternate Representative at the International Court of Arbitration at the headquarters in Paris, would observe Maghrib and subsequently Ishai prayer, after which he listened to the Cable Network News (CNN) and later, the Nigerian Television Authority news by which time he took his supper. At times, he would have some outings to visit one or two places or people before returning home to listen to news and take his dinner. He characteristically retired to bed by midnight. He indeed was such a hardworking person that never left a day’s job uncompleted even if it meant working throughout the night. He consistently maintained this usually busy schedule, moving on steadily as a dedicated worker and great labourer who often achieved in a single day what most men of his age could hardly accomplish in a week. 

A former president of the Nigerian Olympic Committee, Dr. Adegbite was said to have operated the above-described routine from Monday to Thursday before travelling to Abeokuta on Friday, thereby fulfilling official commitments in his Abeokuta office before leaving for Jum’ah Prayer. 

During weekends, he would attend to social, community, Islamic as well as family engagements before returning to Lagos in the evening of Sunday or early Monday, to resume his normal routine of the week days, which was occasionally punctuated whenever he travelled out of the country. The routine was also often punctuated whenever he had several functions to attend as he at times would have four different Islamic events to attend in four different states in a day and would hardly fail to attend any of them. 

A man with a rich sense of humour, the late Baba Adinni of Egbaland cracked jokes where necessary and was capable of a healthy laughter which he sometimes did with all his body anatomy.  He talked at length only where necessary and was not known to be a flamboyant speaker even in informal discussion. He cherished correctness and appropriateness and would not hesitate to correct grammatical mistakes committed around him at the dining table. He indeed was a charismatic personality who walked in a stately but humble manner. His sense of dressing always called to mind his maternal grandfather of Igbore, Alfa Bisiriyu Giwa of Igbore, Abeokuta, in his colourful appearance on Eid days.

As a general rule, Dr. Lateef Adegbite liked good and rich food. This, according to the late Iyalode Tayyibah Adegbite, was at the time covered in this article, being discouraged to avoid complications as a result of old age. ‘He loved vegetables (especially ewedu and efo) and salad as well as fruits, juice, citrus, tangelo orange and others of similar nature’, remarked the revered Iyalode who added that ‘he took solid (heavy) food only once in a day and liked taking tonic water’. 

The present writer can attest to mummy’s statement that he was not a fan of heavy meal. Afterall, I had the opportunity of dining with him on several occasions on none of which he was served a heavy food. He would start taking his food without much formalities. On few of such occasions where I sat next to him at the dining table, I observed him as a naturally refined man who indeed was unBritish and very un-American!

Mummy was later to tell me about his favourite musicians. They include late Yusuf Olatunji (Baba L’egba), Haruna Ishola (Baban Gani Agba), Ayinla Omowura (Omo Anigilaje), Ebenezer Obe (Chief Commander), and of course, Sikiru Ayinde Barrister as well as other traditional musicians.

The second part of this article, as noted earlier, concerns the Islamic qualities in Dr. Lateef Adegbite with regard to his handling with fortitude the bereavement of his wife, who was a deserving holder of numerous ennobling titles which include Giwa Obinrin of Egbaland; Iyalode and Iya Adinni of Oba, Abeokuta; Iyalode Musulumi of Ibarapa, Oyo State; Iyalode Musulumi of Bayerunkana, Ibadan; Olootu of Alasalatu Society of Nigeria and West Africa; Patroness of Shamsud-deen Al-Islamiyy World-wide, among others.  The purpose of this undertaking is not only to demonstrate that Dr. Lateef Adegbite was a truly submissive servant of Allah but also to showcase the Islamic angle of his life even in moments of sadness.

On Sunday 15th July, 2001, thousands of people converged on his Abeokuta home to pay their last respect to his wife – a Muslim woman of virtue and immense worth. A large proportion of the people were relatives, friends, associates, acquaintances, and beneficiaries of the late Muslim woman leader’s kindness.

The body had been flown into Nigeria very early on Sunday 15th July, 2001. Dr. Adegbite himself and his children had flown into the country on board the same flight. On their arrival at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, the requiem prayer and short supplications were offered for the repose of her soul by the leadership of Shamsudeen Al-Islamiyy Worldwide of which she was Patroness. Dr. Lateef Adegbite’s Mercedes Benz followed the dais that carried the remains of his wife. And then began the movement to the last abode, in Abeokuta.

Consequently, the entourage that brought the remains of the enviable Muslim woman arrived with Dr. Adegbite’s car leading the way after the motorcade. They meandered through the thick multitude of friends and admirers of the bereaved family. People in the waiting crowd pushed and shoved through the pool of people and pressed toward the dais. By the time the hearse arrived at the compound, it was received by the mammoth congregation. Onikolobo Road, Ibara, Abeokuta, where Dr. Adegbite’s residence is located, was heavily jam-packed and stampeded.

Prominent among the dignitaries in attendance were former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (Rtd); former Military Governor of Ogun State and later of Lagos State, Brig. General Raji Rasaki (Rtd); Chief Kola Daisi; late Alhaji Abdul-Azeez Arisekola Alao; late Shaykh Araazim Alaaya; Otunba Subomi Balogun; Dr. Adegbite’s son in-law, Mr. Tunde Folawiyo; and son of late business mogul, Alhaji Kola Abiola. There were numerous others.

Inside Dr. Adegbite’s compound itself, the atmosphere wore a melancholic look. Following the Islamic rites as conducted by notable Muslim clerics, the body shrouded in spotless white sheets was later gradually lowered into the tomb by a team of learned Muslims including Prof. Ishaq Oloyede (now Registrar of JAMB); Shaykh Ahmad Rufai Onilewura (now Deputy Chief Imam of the National Mosque Abuja) and Prof. Tajudeen Gbadamosi, a close associate of Dr Lateef Adegbite, amid the repeated chanting of ‘Allahu Akbar’. 

May Allah be more merciful to Dr Lateef Oladimeji Adegbite and his late wife, the Iyalode Alhaja Tayyibah Yetunde Adegbite. 

By Saheed Ahmad Rufai (Ph.D) who is Education Consultant/Technical Expert on IsDB/OIC/Arab League education project

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