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Book Review: Ilorin Emirate’s Frontliners: Legacy of Legacies by Prof Suleiman Folorunsho Ambali



“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing on.”- Benjamin Franklin

This popular and illuminating quote, indeed, underlies the essence of the book, particularly as it relates to the worthy thing the author, Mallam Abubakar Sidiq Imam, has written on, and which will ever be worth reading. The quote captures the motivation of the author, which is his real incentive to document something about the illustrious individuals that have made and reshaped the Ilorin Emirate in different remarkable ways that are worth writing on.

I must, therefore, note from the outset that this book, Ilorin Emirate’s Frontliners, is a legacy about legacies. The book underscores the meaning and essence of our lives. If you are going to live, leave a legacy. Make a mark that will never be erased on the sand of time. Either way, the author of this book is already making an indelible mark on the sand of time. He is already leaving a legacy on the trajectory of our community. The legacy will be exceptionally enduring because the book is about those that had also made indelible marks on the physic and history of our great community.

Like the former president of the United States of America, Barak Obama, once said, “Our nation owes a debt to its heroes that we can never fully repay, but we can honour their sacrifice”. To me, this book, for which we must thank the author, is a veritable honour to our own heroes in Ilorin Emirate. Like Harry Trauma also once said,

“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country [community] can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. We will never forget their sacrifices”.

By the same token, this book, I believe, is one of the best ways by which we can demonstrate our gratitude to those that had sacrificed for the emergence, birth, rebirth, growth, and development of Ilorin Emirate.
From another perspective, I perceive this book as an exquisite and deserving praise of the good men and women who had served or are still serving our land; and it is, indeed, an encouragement for motivating virtue and heroism.

The book is, certainly, the good memories of our heroes, and a deserving inheritance of great examples of patriotism and true devotion for this Emirate. Undoubtedly, the book is a celebration of the sparkling and luminous models that had made so many sacrifices for the advent and progress of our land, and is a catalyst that will drive genuine inspiration and motivation for other living true sons and daughters of our Emirate.

What I can discern from this classic book, and from the motivation of the author, is that as much as we all wish to live immortally, such a wish does not come true by living forever. Nobody can live forever. We can only achieve the wish for immortality by doing great deeds, which people cannot but remember for life. Mallam Abubakar Sidiq Imam, like any other true son and daughter of the Emirate, appreciates the great deeds of the individuals he has chronicled their contributions in this book by immortalizing their great deeds and contributions. At one point or the other; at every opportunity, the eminent individuals, who are being immortalized in this book, had done great things that had shaped and moulded our Emirate into a sparkling ornament of attraction, pride, and respect to all its indigenes and outsiders alike.

To this end, I personally perceive this book as a potential blockbuster because its contents will never fade, nor become obsolete.

In its uniqueness as one of its kind, this book, Ilorin Emirate’s Frontliners, distinctively articulates, collates and preserves the careers and contributions of the eminent sons and daughters of Ilorin. It identifies and chronicles the life history and achievements of more than 300 distinguished indigenes and residents of the Ilorin Emirate as well as their heroic contributions to the enduring legendary trajectory, reputation and destiny of the Emirate.

The book is, therefore, a sort of Who is Who, as our most revered Emir and the custodian of our culture, heritage and tradition, Maimartaba Sarki Ilorin, Alhaji Dr. Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, CFR, describes the book in his foreword. “Ilorin is known as a home for all; and we have not only a history of unmatched hospitability, we are also known as a divine land that brings prosperity to all residents.”

This is why the author of this book also creates an additional uniqueness about the book through its inclusiveness. Thus, it is commendable and admiring that the book does not only contain life history and contributions of Ilorin sons and daughters, it also recognizes and honours a number of people who have become our sons and daughters through their meaningful and impactful residence in this metropolitan city of blessings. Their inclusion does not only affirm the metropolitan constituents of our city, but, according to His Royal Highness, it is also a confirmation of what the Ilorin Emirate has been right from its inception- a home for all.

Ilorin Emirate’s Frontliners, which, according to its author, is going to be in a series of volumes, as its chronicles are not yet exhaustive. I appreciate the confession of what many other reviewers or readers might have taken as its main defect. The acknowledgement of the inexhaustiveness of the chronicles in the book is a demonstration of humility on the part of the author. It is also a way through which he has clearly admitted that his accounts shall continuously require updates because many heroic individuals that shall continue to uphold the glory of this community will continue to emerge.
As our revered Emir again noted in the foreword, Ilorin Emirate’s Frontliners is an invaluable bag of treasures. This is because it contains rare information on many compatriots that the younger generations in this community might not have heard about, as it also parades quality and uncommon information about our illustrious sons and daughters that are well-known. The book is therefore a resource of inestimable value.

I have the honour to affirm His Royal Highness’ evaluation of this book as a book of true, correct and scientific information. So, I don’t have any authority to impugn or question the accuracy of the chronicles in this book. Indeed, the book is, to me, not only an outcome of the journalistic skills of the author but also a manifestation of scientific verifiable claims and information. As I have earlier noted, I see Ilorin Emirate’s Frontliners as a legacy of legacies. It is a custodian of facts, information, and claims that many of us might not have known, and which we must not lose or perish as a people. The book provides verifiable information and claims, derived through a scientific process, which will, imperishably, be useful to our children and the generations yet unborn. So, to me, this book is a book of models; a book of inspirations. It has the ability to inspire many indigenes, young and old, for emulating the personalities chronicled here in this book.

It is, therefore, desirable that the author of this book should be commended for digging deep into the archives and historical past to provide invaluable knowledge and information about who is who in the Ilorin Emirate. What motivated the author of this book, as the author narrates it in the introduction of the book, is the love of his community.

The love of one’s community, according to Prophet Mohammed (SAW), is a dimension of faith. We can then say that the author is faithful for the efforts he expended to put together this book, which I can also justifiably refer to as a compendium of the citations of the great men and women of the Ilorin Emirate. The book tells the authentic and accurate life stories of the illustrious sons and daughters of our community. Thereby, the book is a fact-checker of our history, which the media, which are inclined to distort history, can fall back on for accurate information about who had shaped and reshaped the destiny of our community. As the author notes in his introduction, the book is inspired by the constant negative reports and comments on the Ilorin Emirate and its people, as well as the deluge of requests for it; and this motivation, to me, is plausible.

The taste of a pudding is in the eating. But, sometimes, you don’t need to eat a sumptuous pudding before you can evaluate its taste. Thus, many times, from the cover of a book, you can tell the richness of the book. I have read a lot of books, and I can say that most books with hard covers are more often rich in content.

The same I can say about this book. The hardcover and the colourful inner spread photo, both at the beginning and the end of the book are veritable attractions and good harbingers of the richness of the book. As you open the hardcover, the heritage of our cultural display of power gives you the meaning of the heroism that characterized the trajectory of our community, and which radiates among sons and daughters of the Ilorin Emirate.
The layout of the pages of the book is, indeed, journalistic because the author is a journalist per excellence, a veteran in making. The page plan is more of a magazine format with two columns, left and right-hand borders, an alley in between the columns as well as a large bottom space to allow for the running foot of the Emirate’s insignias.

Therefore, the format settles about halfway between book measure and news measure. This format is conducive to slow and methodical reading patterns. This format forces the author to place the photos of the personalities chronicled on either one or two columns, which, for me, results, in the best way, into a quintessential proportion and balance. Although the columns are basically verticals, their width tends to give the impression that they are as much horizontal as vertical, giving a good sense of reading. So, the design of the pages of the book is not congested, making it easier to read and attractive as well.

The use of colour combinations in the book is also quintessential. It is not just to decorate and make the pages attractive, the colours are also exceptionally used to clarify and prove the points of the information and knowledge the author wants the reader to know and imbibe. The colours are also used distinctively to create a good mood that encourages persistent reading. No reader will want to drop the book until he gets to its end because of the attractive colour and page layout format that gives a good sense of reading.

As good as the layout and the contents of the book are, the organization of the chronicles in the book could have been in a better way. As a book, any reviewer or reader will expect that the book is chaptalized. But the book, as I have mentioned earlier, is unique. The author, being a journalist, adopts a magazine format for the presentation of the contents of the book. Although we might not find any fault in the adoption of a magazine format for the presentation of the contents; nevertheless, I think the arrangement of the celebrated individuals could have been in alphabetical order or could have been done on the basis of other discernable categories that should have made reference easier and smoother. However, the author notes that except in few cases, the chronicled individuals are arranged according to the order of their birthdays.

Although I am not a historian, I think missing out on the life history of one of our most revered Emirs, the emancipator , the conqueror, the trailblazer, the Emir of Emirs, Obas and Chiefs, I mean the 9th Emir of Ilorin, Maimartaba Late Alhaji Muhammed Zulkarnaini Gambari Aiyelabowo V (Rahimau lau) is an omission that needs detailed explanations. This is because of his role in the socio-political and economic emancipation of the people of the emirate. He was in the forefront of Emirate Frontliners. Although his picture was captured in the book, but his contribution to the development of the Emirate should have been succinctly captured too.

Besides, there are a number of grammatical violations, inadvertently or by commission, which could make some meanings difficult or too polysemic for effective communication. I think acknowledgment should have a plural marker. On page VII, paragraph 1, there is a grammatical violation where would is followed by a past tense form of continue.

I want to admit that this must be a manifestation of the printer’s devilish act. The use of inappropriate prepositions before a town is common throughout the book. I am not sure we use at before a town; so in Ibadan, in Iseyin, rather than at Ibadan, at Iseyin, which runs through the book, should be more appropriate. The use of wrong diction such as divergent supports on page V11 paragraph 3 can be misinterpreted by readers. The dominance of long and complex sentences in the book demonstrates the author’s mastery of the structure of the English language, but it could deter the readability or fog index of the book because some readers, who are less savvy, might have been lost on the way through the complex sentences.

Essentially, too, many of the photos of the chronicled individuals are not clear – perhaps because they were dug up from ancient archives. Indeed, the photos of some of the heroes and heroines such as that of Shaykh Girigisu and Shaykh Saliu Kokewukobere, are missing Captions of the photos are illustrative, as expected from a journalist, even though some of the photos do not have captions. Generally, many of the photos are not sharp and focused; they are not well-lit, and their backgrounds are not that technically great.

Besides, there are some white spaces that are left unfilled, especially under some photos. This is not good for overall attractive page planning.
In spite of all the minor shortcomings, which, to me, are by no means any belittlement of the author’s creative acumen or any minus or dent on the delicacy of the book, I unequivocally approve of this book as an invaluable historical resource that all true sons and daughters of the Ilorin Emirate and beyond should possess, own and relentlessly read to appreciate our heritage and the individuals who had contributed so much to shaping and reshaping of our destiny. It is easy to read; it is not only good-looking, but it is also rich in information, knowledge and enlightenment. I, therefore, strongly recommend this book to all the illustrious indigenes and outsiders, including the media, as a veritable reference and archival material.

I am eminently proud and grateful for the opportunity to stand before you all to review this book. I must also thank Mallam Abubakar Sidiq Imam, the man i refer to as “my super sec” for the important work of documentation and of valuable history he has expended so much energy on to put at our disposal. You have demonstrated that you are a true son of the Ilorin Emirate. You, indeed, deserve the position you are occupying in the Ilorin Emirate Descendant Progressive Union, our foremost traditional association and of course that of Ilorin Emirate Staff Association, University of Ilorin.

The council, management, staff, and students of the University of Ilorin are profoundly proud of you. You are one of our worthy ornaments. I pray that Almighty Allah will strengthen you in all ramifications to continuously update this endeavour for the continuous glory of your family and the entire Ilorin Emirate community.

Professor Suleiman Folorunsho Ambali
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Management Services) and Chairman, Ilorin Emirate Staff Association, University of Ilorin.

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