Emirship: Zulu Karnaini, fearless Ilorin monarch who put Kwara on global map

By Saliu Woru Mohammed
His Royal Highness, Alhaji (Dr) Zulu Qarnaini Gambari was the 9th Emir of Ilorin. He reigned between 1959-1992. The 9th Emir of Ilorin, an embodiment of peace, harmony and unity, was highly intelligent, courageous and a principled traditional ruler of iconic reputation. He was a role model and a God-fearing traditional ruler per excellence. He was a very reliable and dependable personality. He was a man of his words who always fulfilled promises and pledges made. As a fearless traditional ruler, the late monarch was always firm and decisive on any matter that affects Islam been the only indisputable spiritual head of Muslim dominated communities. The reign of the 9th Emir of Ilorin witnessed rapid social, political and infrastructural development of Ilorin Emirate and Kwara State in general.
His progressive reign witnessed the creation of Kwara State with its headquarters in Ilorin and creation of the present Asa and Moro Local Government Areas from the former Ilorin Local Government Council, a development which heralded development in the areas of education, economic and job creation. Available records showed that the enviable contributions of Dr. Zulu Qarnaini Gambari in the establishment of qualitative Qur’anic schools and institutions in Ilorin Emirate and Kwara State in general are unprecedented. He also brought about modern improvement in the area of Islamic religion and beyond.
This was the period when thousands of students of Islamic religious studies enjoyed scholarship in abundance without discrimination, while many great sons and daughters of Ilorin came to limelight, through his relentless effort. In this wise, two great sons of Ilorin, world acclaimed Islamic scholars of our time emerged and gained prominence among their counterparts in West Africa, namely, Sheikh Kamaldeen Al-Adabiyy and Sheikh Adam Abdullahi Al-Ilory. The reign of this worldwide well-known monarch brought to limelight hundreds of Islamic higher institutions across the nooks and crannies of the state which produced Professors and Ph.D holders in different fields of humanities.
These learned scholars raised the intellectual status, social and economic development of the city of Ilorin and placed it among other developed cities in Nigeria and beyond. The importance of building a mosque towards the propagation of Islamic religion is needless to be empahsised. A mosque is a place of worship for Islamic religion. It is the house of the Almighty Allah. Mosque was the first to be built by Prophet Muhammad (SAW) upon arrival in the Holy City of Medina. Between 1959 and 1992, the 9th Emir of Ilorin took giant steps in the provision and building of thousands of mosques not only in the ancient city of Ilorin but indeed across the country.
The internationally acclaimed edifice, the first of its kind in the country now under progressive rehabilitation and reconstruction, the Ilorin Juma’at Mosque was championed by the 9th Emir of Ilorin, which he listed among his achievements for which he is to be remembered. The reign of this undisputable great Islamic monarch has brought about the desired love, unity and affection among various communities in the state. He was well known for enthronement and sustenance of peace. He was kind and transparent.
A father of the weak and the poor, the 9th Emir of Ilorin brought to bear his sound knowledge of judicial experience on his rulership. His guiding principle is justice and fair play to all and sundry, hence, he ruled with fear of God. No wonder he was loved by Alanguas and all traditional rulers across the country. As a true Islamic and spiritual leader, he played a commendable role and ensured the acquisition of the present Eid prayer ground along Irewolede in Ilorin.
Dr. Zulu Qarnaini Gambari (CFR) introduced mode of common dressing in Ilorin. He also introduced the end of Ramadan Islamic celebration, thus abandoning “Were” festival including competition among musicians and praise singers which had been in existence for long and which was generally considered unholy to the Islamic tradition. The controversial Palm Sunday Christian festival in the city of Ilorin was also regulated to give peace a chance in the interest of all and sundry during his reign.
In order to ensure accurate data on number of Imams, the 9th Emir of Ilorin established the League of Imams. It was first of its kind and it was to his credit that various Muslim organisations sprang up during his most prosperous and successful reign.
He will for long be remembered for his philanthropy towards the imams, chiefs and his subjects which include sponsoring of large number of Muslim men and women to the holy cities of Mecca and Medinah on yearly pilgrimage.
Today, the ancient city of Ilorin has witnessed tremendous growth in all sectors as a result of many laudable and progressive efforts put in place the 9th Emir. The spread of Islamic and Arabic literatures and the tenets of Islam in Nigeria heightened more into West Africa during his reign. Zulu Qarnaini will continue to be remembered for a very long time for his untiring efforts which led to the emergence of pluralisation of Juma’at mosques thereby increasing awareness of citizenry within the Ilorin Emirate.
As a non-tribalistic ruler, Zulu Qarnaini did not discriminate against any sex, religion, tribe and this accounted for why Igbo community residing in Ilorin and indeed Kwara State feel secured during and after the three years of Nigerian Civil War. The contribution of Dr. Zulu Qarnaini Gambari in all facets of human endeavours is immeasurable. As a seasoned administrator, he maintained a sound relationship with various governments. He was highly respected and known not only by the defunct Northern Nigeria government, but foreign governments. It was during his tenure that the present Kwara State Stadium, the Ilorin International Airport, the Ago and Baboko markets, the Adewole and Oloje housing estates were constructed just to mention but a few.
The great traditional ruler no doubt created a niche for himself and the entire members of “Sheikh Alimi Dynasty”, the good people of Ilorin Emirate and indeed Kwara State in particular.
While we prayed for the repose of the souls of the past Emirs of Ilorin, we pray that the Almighty Allah will continue to provide the present Emir of Ilorin, His Royal Highness, Alhaji Dr. Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari with sound health, long life and wisdom in piloting the affairs of Ilorin Emirate and Kwara State Council of Chiefs and Obas.
Finally, Zulu Qarnaini Gambari was well known by all and sundry to be incorruptible, thorough and diligent in the discharge of his duties when he was a court registrar cum judicial officer during the colonial rule. He was respected and honoured for his transparency, diligence and exemplary character by the colonial masters, which thus won him commendation and award. He was so generous as he was known during his lifetime to make the lives of his chief and subjects comfortable and happy as he usually distribute rams, dresses and money not only to his chiefs but to other well-wishers during Islamic festivals. He was known to be a dogged fighter and courageous who confronted bad governance, head long. A good case in point was during the administration of late Major General Agbazika Innih, a military administrator in Kwara State who then attempted effortlessly to tamper with the Emirate system of government in Kwara State negatively, the rest is now history. In a nutshell, the late monarch demonstrated unequalled leadership and grasp of emirate administration during his thirty-three (33) year reign. Hence, nobody could take Ilorin for granted in the scheme of things during his era. As a bold and courageous monarch, he was able to win some measure of respectability for Ilorin.
Today, he remains a source of pride and aspiration, 20 years after, his track records of unprecedented achievements still remain worthy of emulation. May his soul continue to rest in perfect peace, amen.
Lastly, I want to rejoice with one of his sons, the Chief of Staff to the President to President Muhammadu Buhari, Prof. Ibrahim Agboola Gambari over his appointment to the exalted national and very strategic position and appreciate him over the great achievements he has made within a short time particularly to better the life of Nigeria with specific reference to the sons and daughters of Ilorin Emirate and Kwara State in general. I am using this opportunity to urge all and sundry to always support our sons and daughters occupying exalted state and national positions in prayers.
Dear readers, permit me to end this piece by eulogizing the MD/Editor-in Chief of this medium, Alhaji Billy Adedamola for his masterpiece captioned the “COVID-19 Imam” which appeared on the back page of National Pilot Newspaper of Monday, 3rd – Sunday, 9th August, 2020. It was a fantastic, educative, informative and entertaining write-up of accomplishment and an act of patriotism of one complying strictly with the pandemic protocol in obedience to constituted authorities.
*Mohammed (Ph.D), is the Magaji Nda of Ilorin, Zana of Okuta Emirate and Otun Agba-Akin of Shareland.

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