Like RDA, like YAQ: Diadems for dons of distinction

On January 20, 2018, the University of Ilorin was jam-packed with a roll call of personalities that converged on it for a three-in-one programme in honour of the first Muslim professor of Arabic in Yorubaland and well-garlanded former Vice-Chancellor of Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin, Prof. Razaq ‘Deremi Abubakre (RDA). That was the day this “don of distinction” (apology to Prof. R. A. Lawal) became 70 years of age; it was the day he formally retired from the services of the University and it was also the day a book was launched in his honour.

As the University of Ilorin was envisioned right from the beginning to be an international centre of excellence in three key areas of teaching, research and community service, it is gratifying that Prof. Abubakre has exceedingly excelled in them and the three areas underscored in “Islam, Intellectualism and Integrity: Essays in Honour of Prof. R. D. Abubakre at 70”, the title of the book compiled in his honour that I am honoured to edit. To say that Prof. Abubakre has an excellent academic career is an understatement. He can be described as excellence itself in its totality, a point stressed by the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Sulyman Age Abdulkareem, in his address, “RDA: Excellence All The Way”, delivered by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Adedayo Yusuf Abdulkareem on the occasion.

According to the Vice-Chancellor, “I congratulate Prof. RDA as he clocks 70. I rejoice with him as he retires from the service of the University and I felicitate with him on the honour being accorded him through this publication. His excellence started from when he was very young that he surpassed his colleagues in all examinations. That excellence continued till he passed out of Markaz in flying colours, winning the admiration of his mentor, Shaykh Adam Abdullahi Al-Ilory. The tradition of excellence continued till he got to the University of Ibadan and became a University Scholar till he graduated excellently with a First Class degree. Excellence trailed him to win the Commonwealth Scholarship that afforded him his PhD training in London and the same excellence in Islam, in intellectualism and in integrity made him to become a Professor just nine years on the job. Then, excellence has defined him and his scholarship from then till now that one can aver that RDA is a man of faith, intellectualism and integrity par excellence!”

All the speakers at the event from the Chairman and former Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Shuaibu Oba AbdulRaheem, the representatives of the former Vice-Chancellor and Registrar of Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof. Is-haq Oloyede, and Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Dr Wale Babalakin, the former Grand Kadis of the Kwara State Shariah Court of Appeal, Hon. Justices Idris Haroun and S. O. Muhammed among several academics, scholars and professionals were unanimous in extolling the values and virtues of this great man of letters. What is evident is that though Prof. Abubakre may bow out as the reality of life is that nothing is permanent, the vast legacies he is leaving behind in many people he mentored to greatness and the erudition of his research works will continue to enliven him forever.

Again, the University of Ilorin stood still on February 7, 2018 at the opening ceremony of the maiden Biennial Conference of the Department of Religions, which was used to celebrate another academic giant and highly-esteemed “don of distinction”, Prof. Yasir Anjola Quadri (YAQ). Also a First Class graduate of the premier University of Ibadan, Prof. Quadri is a cerebral scholar and outstanding intellectual whose simplicity is legendary and abstemiousness is unparalleled.

Described by the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Abdulkareem, through his deputy, Prof. Abdulkareem, as “a highly disciplined, humane and religious personality who has contributed immensely to the growth and development of the University”, Prof. Quadri is a pioneer staff member of the University of Ilorin who is known and renowned as a paragon of discipline, erudition and forthrightness. Indeed, as pointed out by the Chairman of the opening ceremony of the Conference and Bishop of the Anglican Communion, Ibadan, Most Rev. Dr Joseph Akinfenwa, Prof. Quadri is the essential “Magna Charta of the Department of Religions.”

As Prof. Quadri has been committed to the development of staff and students of the University through the various organs and committees he has meritoriously served on, chiefly Student Disciplinary Committee, Dress Code Committee, Library and Publications Committee as well as Appointments and Promotions Committee among others, it is apt that the book, “Religion and Human Capital Development: Essays in Honour of Prof. Yasir Anjola Quadri”, edited by Profs. Y. A. Imam, W. O. Omotoye, P. O. Abioje and Dr A. I. Ali-Agan, is a fitting and befitting diadem for this great man bereft of excess baggage in taste, dressing and style. It is for his passion for development that I was emotional when the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Prof. (Mrs.) Nike Yetunde Sidikat Ijaiya, gave me an opportunity to speak on him at a Committee meeting that held the day after the book launch as it was difficult to imagine the University or Faculty of Arts without the ebullient presence of Prof. Quadri, a strong moral force in the community, a sage that “combines many stars that make him a galaxy, a dazzling spectacle to behold”, as I wrote in “Quintessential Quadri” on this page on  May 16, 2016.

How time flies! Twenty years ago, I was a final year student and my book that year was dignified by Prof. Abubakre with a stimulating foreword at a time Prof. Quadri was my uncommon Dean. Twenty years after, these retiring but untiring dons still continue to inspire me and thousands of others with their distinctive qualities, amazing abilities and if I may add, their peculiar eccentricities.

Sirs, I shall surely and sorely miss you!