By Abubakar Imam
Justice Saidu is not only from the famous Alikaki Isale Ajanaku family of Ilorin, he is also one of those who pursued the career that gave his ancestral family its name and reputation in the history of Ilorin Emirate with total dedication. He has served the nation and humanity meritoriously. He has consequently and glowingly attained the age of retirement in a most fascinating way and without any form of blemish whatsoever. He has also deservedly booked a space for himself in the arena reserved for distinguished statesmen and stateswomen who swam in the ocean of jurisprudence and emerged out of it with their immaculate attires unsoiled.
Honourable Justice Salihu Saidu, an eminent jurist, conscientious teacher and outstanding administrator, was born to the famous Alikali Saliu Usman (Alkali Agba) family of Isale Ajanaku Quarters, Ilorin, on February 14,1956. His birth took place in the abode of his illustrious progenitors, Ilorin. His father, Alhaji Saidu Alkali a.k.a Oniwapélé (d. 2007), was a prominent civil servant, who started his career in the defunct Ilorin Native Authority and ended his sojourn in the public service as a staff of the erstwhile Ilorin Local Government in 1987. The mother to this outstanding patriot was Alhaja Maryam Ayinke (d. 2017), a great teacher, exemplary community leader and aunt to the 5th Grand Kadi of Kwara State, Honourable Justice Salihu Olohuntoyin Muhammad. She hailed from Ori-Okoh Quarters, Ilorin.
Young Salihu, as not unexpected of a child born into the family of distinguished Muslim scholars and celebrated jurists, started-off as a pupil of a traditional Quranic school at Ile Alfa Aladua in the same Isale-Ajanaku neighbourhood, Ilorin. He was trained in the arts and science of Quranic reading and recitation at the school along with his contemporaries who included late Engr. Imam Yahaya, who worked with the Kwara State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources; and a Magistrate with the Kwara State Judiciary, Alhaji Ahmed Ibrahim Dasuki. While being nurtured in the best of Ilorin cultural nuances, Justice Saidu was also granted exposure to the fundamentals of the Islamic faith, which accounted for his rise as a decent Muslim, upright jurist and patriotic citizen of this great country.
As he was undergoing training in Quranic studies, Justice Saidu, who is well-known among his contemporaries across Ilorin Emirate as Salihu Ajanaku, was enrolled as a pupil of Oke-Aluko Primary School, Ilorin. He was educated at the school from 1963 to 1969 at the end of which he received his First School Leaving Certificate in flying colours.
After a very solid and fruitful primary education, Honourable Justice Saidu was admitted into the Government Secondary School (GSS), Omu-Aran, the headquarters of the Irepodun Local Government Area of Kwara State. It was at that school that he successfully sat for his West African School Certificate (WASC) between 1970 and 1974.
Shortly after his School Certificate programme, this outstanding jurist was trained as a teacher at the Omu-Aran Teacher’s College, Omu-Aran. He was trained at the school between 1974 and 1976 after which he obtained national minimum teaching qualification, Grade II Teacher Certificate. At the College, he met Alhaji AbdulWahab Muhammed, a former Auditor at the famous Kaduna Polytechnic, Kaduna and also a onetime Chairman IEDPU, Northern Zone; Alhaji Baba Akanbi, an high-ranking topnotch of the Department of State Services; and Alhaji Ganiyu Bello, a retired Director of Personnel Management in the Kwara State Local Government Service Commission.
Determined to pursue higher professional training and qualifications to keep the reputation of his family as an abode of outstanding jurists afloat, this illustrious son of Ilorin Emirate proceeded to the School of Management and Vocational Studies of the then Kwara State College of Technology(now Kwara State Polytechnic), Ilorin, where he obtained Diploma in Law after a rigorous academic programme, which ran from 1978 to 1980.
Consequent to his successes in the above programme and considerable experiences garnered as an official of the Court of Justice, Justice Saidu was admitted to read Law at the Bayero University, Kano. He successfully studied for LL. B programme at the institution renamed after the longest-serving Emir of Kano, Alhaji Abdullahi Bayero, between 1981 and 1985. His contemporaries at the second generation University included Alhaji Aliyu Oba Ajikobi, a retired Director, Finance and Accounts, Police Service Commission; and Barrister Mahmud AbdulRaheem, a onetime General Manager, Kwara State Broadcasting Corporation (Radio Kwara); Ilorin. Others include a late Khadi of the Kwara State Sharia Court of Appeal, Justice Abdullahi AbdulKareem and Prof. Abubakar Imam Aliagan, a renowned media personality and Head, Department of Religions, University of Ilorin.
As a lawyer, who was not only determined to practice but to also excel, his next port of call was the Nigerian Law School, Lagos, where his knowledge and skills in the study of law and its practical applications were broadened, sharpened and strengthened for his future role as a judge. He concluded the programme between 1985 and 1986, at the end of which he was called to the Nigerian
Justice Saidu commenced what later turned out to be a very fruitful working life as a teacher. He was a classroom teacher under the then Ilorin Local Schools Board from 1976 to 1978, when he left the pedagogy. He was given a job as a Court Registrar. He was on the job throughout his training as a Lawyer and subsequent qualification and call to the bar. He served as a Court Registrar in the Kwara State Judiciary from 1980 to 1987.
In between, he taught as a Member of the National Youth Service Corps. Having been trained as a teacher and working briefly as one did not make his NYSC teaching a difficult task for him. It was a repeat of the experience he had earlier acquired. He was an effective NYSC teacher at Orjis Commercial School, Orlu, Imo State, where he offered the mandatory youth service in Imo State in 1987.
Towards the end of 1987, Justice Saidu was appointed as a Magistrate in the Kwara State Judiciary.
As a Magistrate in the Kwara State Judiciary, Justice Saidu served at Share, the headquarters of Ifelodun Local Government Area. He also dispensed justice as a Magistrate at Lafiagi, the headquarters of Edu Local Government Area. He was also a Magistrate in his ancestral home of Ilorin. In all of those places, this illustrious son of Ilorin Emirate left an astonishing record of a serious-minded, balanced and just jurist to the applause of his family, colleagues and admiration of Ilorin Emirate as a community.
His sterling performance as a Magistrate in Kwara State did not only attract the attention of higher authorities but also informed his elevation to the federal judicial service. Justice Saidu subsequently transferred his services following his appointment as a Deputy Chief Registrar (DCR) of the Federal High Court. He served as the DCR of the third layer of the federal judiciary from 1996 to 2001.
On August 1, 2000, he was appointed as the Ag. Chief Registrar till March 1, 2001, under the watchful eyes of the historic second indigene of Ilorin Emirate who qualified as a lawyer and the longest serving Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, the late Honourable Justice Mahmud Babatunde Belgore, the second Wali of Ilorin. Justice Saidu was eventually elevated to the prestigious rank of Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court of Nigeria, which he competently held between March 2001 and September 2002.
Being a brilliant legal technocrat and someone who maintained all the fascinating qualities desired in a would-be Judge, this illustrious son of Ilorin Emirate was appointed as a Judge of the Federal High Court on September 9, 2002. His appointment and swearing-in as a Justice of the Federal High Court was a sequel to the recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC) and the eventual approval by the then President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR.
By the appointment, this outstanding “interpreter of laws” joined the league of his respected senior compatriots such as Justice Mahmud Babatunde Belgore (1936-2010); Justice Mustapha Akanbi, CFR(1932-2018); and Justice Lambo Jimoh Akanbi (b. 1952); to mention a few, who had been privileged to serve on the bench of the Federal High Court at one time or the other.
As a Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Saidu served across this heterogeneous country. He served at Jos and Abeokuta Divisions. He also worked at Osogbo and Abakaliki Divisions as he did in Lagos and Port-Harcourt Divisions of the Court at one time or the other in the course of his services to the people and government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is gratifying to note that Justice Saidu did his best towards quick and impartial dispensation of justice so well that the appellate court and the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court of Nigeria had, at many a time, affirmed his well-researched, well-delivered and impeccable judgements on various matters brought before him.
Despite his commitment to studies during his school days and tight engagement as a young man growing in Ilorin many years back, he was able to create time to work with others towards making Ilorin Emirate better than it was met. He was the Speaker of the Students Representatives Assembly of the then Ilorin Students Union under the presidency of the late Prince Abdulkadir Okunlola Abdulkadir. He simultaneously served as the Secretary of the Bayero University, Kano, chapter of the Union, which is now known as the Ilorin Emirate Students Union (IESU), in 1981.
Prior to his appointment as a Judge, Justice Saidu was a Member and one time President of the Ajanaku Progressive Youth Association (APYA).Members of APYA included Alhaji Saliu Belgore, Alhaji Oba Abdulsalam, Special Adviser on Security to the former Governor of Kwara State, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed; and Alhaji Salihu Tunde Bello, the Director of Administration, Nigerian Law School. Justice Saidu was also the President of the Young Friends Club, which comprised members from other parts of Ilorin such as Dr Lanre Suleiman, a former Executive Secretary, Kwara State Town Planning and Development Authority and currently a Senior Lecturer at the Federal University of Technology, Minna; and Prof. Suleiman Alege Kuranga, a one-time Chief Medical Director, University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Ilorin. Other members of the club included Arc. Saifulahi Ahmad Alege, the Chairman of the Islamic Orphanage Foundation, Ilorin; Dr. Toyin Agbabiaka of the University of Ilorin and Alhaji Idris Amosa Saidu, the Director, Treasury and Finance,Tertiary Education Trust Fund(TETFUND) as well as Alhaji Yakub Duro Hameed, a Chartered Accountant and tax consultant.
An affirmation of his true character came glaring when yours truly was opportune to meet him. However, the meeting has left an enduring impression on him. It might not be contemplated that a man who had the power of life and death entrusted on him could be so simple and humble to a citizen of my status. Justice Saidu was so friendly that one felt at home to ask him a few questions. His response was not devoid of his characteristic humility. He explained that his unassuming nature was inborn. To him, all are equal before the Almighty Allah, the Creator of all. His response made one speechless.
This outstanding patriot is married to Hajiya Khadijat Titilayo Saidu, who is an Ilorin-based businesswoman. He also consummated another marriage with Hajiya Habeebat Saidu, Director (PFS) in the Kwara State Ministry of Energy, Ilorin. His marriages are blessed with successful children who are doing very well in their various careers.
As Justice Saidu gloriously settles down in retirement, I can only encourage him to count his blessings. He has been blessed in many ways that he cannot possibly enumerate. The Yoruba has another beautiful saying that *Atari Ajanaku Ki Se Eru Omode*(an elephant head is too heavy for an infant). Yes, legal interpretation is not a job for just anyone. It is meant for the deep, the erudite, the contented and those who are God-fearing. This hero of our time from the Isale Ajanaku (Elephant Valley) Quarters, Ilorin, carried the head of an elephant (Atari Ajanaku) on his shoulders. He succeeded in keeping it afloat for over three decades. He should be grateful to his Creator who saw him through the arduous task. He should, therefore, emulate his older professional compatriots who returned to the home of their forefathers to serve humanity the more. He is needed in the realm of mentoring, counselling and conflict resolution as well as general human empowerment. His family, his *adugbo* and the larger Ilorin Emirate require his presence and services in more ways than he can imagine. He has carried the banner of Ilorin Emirate very well and with pride. He has used the citizenship of Ilorin Emirate to the applause of all. Now is the time for him to give back to the land of his ancestors in many ways and manners but within his capacity so that the record of patriotism and service he has rendered would continue to remain shinning glittering and admirable for future generations to appreciate imitate and emulate.
*Imam is the National Publicity Secretary, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union.