Abibatu Mogaji: Indelible In Death By Ibrahym Mojeed-Sanni
On Saturday, July 15, 2013, Lagos woke up to a state of mourning as the selfish hand of death, the messenger of ultimate silence, sneaked in on the Nigeria’s market space, taking away into abiding glory Alhaja Abibatu Mogaji, the Iya Oloja General of Nigeria. In less than 12 hours, death was however, put to shame as Ashabi resonated across the markets and indeed Nigeria with glorifying tributes. The streets of Lagos in no time were adorned with the meek faces of a conqueror; an epitome of mass liberation, a symbol of woman dignity and a mother of many, as eulogies and tributes poured in from the low to the very high.
She came, she saw, she conquered. The aphorism aptly captures the life and times of late Alhaja Abibatu Ashabi Mogaji, the Iyaloja General of Nigeria and Yeye Oba of Lagos. An illustrious daughter of Lagos from the prominent Mogaji family of Lagos Island, whose immeasurable contribution to the growth and development of the market structure and the Nigerian traders led to her installation as Iyaloja of Lagos and subsequently, the Iyaloja General of Nigeria, by General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, during his reign as the military head of state in Nigeria. A role she dutifully discharged with honour and dignity without blemish, mobilizing the market women and men to take their rightful place in the polity and governance in Nigeria. Alhaja Mogaji demonstrated that being a woman is not a disadvantage. She represented the women folk commendably, giving credence to the saying that, leaders are born and not made.
Conscious of the numerical strength of the market women and men, Alhaja Mogaji deployed the importance of this hitherto not well acknowledged mass of people to leverage and demand for their rights and privilege, while ensuring they perform their civic responsibilities to constituted authorities, thus, today, many a state in the country have special place for the market women and men in their developmental initiatives and plans.
Although, she was sparsely educated, her native intelligence, street smartness and her down-to-earth leadership by example style of, one for all, all for one endeared her to her subjects, so much that she enjoyed unalloyed cult followership amongst the market women and men.
Her impartial leadership ascension through records of service to the people, trust and loyalty saw to her installing many Iyalojas (women market leaders) and Babalojas (men market leaders) across the states and in many local government and towns in Lagos, where she held sway as a role model for the market women and men. Little wonder, her name litters many of the markets in Lagos, as a sign of appreciation from her subjects – the marketing community, naming many markets after her. The Guardian Newspaper in its editorial of Wednesday, June 26, 2013 titled ‘Alhaja Abibatu Mogaji (1917 – 2013)’ wrote “She was vocal on the side of the truth and resolute in defence of the downtrodden. Her political activism elevated her to the caravan of the privileged but she remained an advocate of the unprivileged from whom she drew her remarkable relevance. There were women of substance even in her era but she stood out. Not privileged by birth, not elevated by marrying up and certainly not lucky with formal education, Mogaji did it her way: hard work, fearlessness and unflinching commitment to her courses.”
Having served and learnt the rudiments of buying and selling from the revered late Madam Alimotu Pelewura, the Erelu of the common people of Lagos, who was equally a politically conscious leader of market women, Alhaja Mogaji brought astuteness, forthrightness, presence, colour, command, cohesiveness, purposefulness, oneness and unity to the market place. She typifies the enterprising, creative, independent and supportive nature of the African woman. Ready to pick-up the pieces to surmount difficult hurdles. For her, no sacrifice is not too much towards achieving set goals. She maintained, a no friend, no foe stance with successive administration, military and democratic. For her, what is important is the welfare of the people.
People oriented lifestyle, good governance, generosity, service to humanity; feelings for fellow humans and devotion to Islam, her religion of practice before her death, are some of the qualities that stood Alhaja Mogaji out amongst her peers. Therefore, it was somewhat difficult for naïve individuals to fathom how she made such indelible impact on the polity. These traits, she bequeathed her son, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the former governor of Lagos, who has been able to use his goodwill, political sagacity and structure, wide connections, political influence and the benefits of his commitment to democratic tenets to give this mother in a million, of the million masses; a befitting end of life well spent. Being the chief mourner, the former Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has received condolence visit from all walks of life and across political divide in the country; an attestation to the stature of the departed and her socio-political relevance in the country, beyond commerce which is her forte.
For her dedication to humanity and service, she was recognized across the country with honours and made the matron of Nigerian Red Cross Society, Nigerian Society for the Handicapped, Nigerian Legion – Lagos Council, National Union of Lagos Students, The Nigerian Youth Association etc. She held many Islamic and traditional titles like Iya Adinni of Yaya Abatan Central Mosque, Ogba; Yeye Oba of Ikirun Land and Yeye Oba of Kweme Land and many more.
Alhaja Mogaji will sure be missed by different people, because, she represent different thing to different people. Starting from the market women and men who see her as a rallying force and pillar of support of the Association of Market Women and Men in Nigeria, an association she led for over five decades from her very agile age to her frail state, till her death; to the retinue of crowd that throng her Sunday Adigun residence for succour and assistance, which she is never tired of rendering; the government in Lagos and by extension Nigeria, who see her as a veritable means of connecting with the traders and the marketing community. The muslim community, who she is passionate about. Her contribution towards the growth of Islam and support for Islamic clerics cannot be valued. Anytime you see Alhaja Mogaji, she is always clutching tenaciously the Tesbiu (Muslim rosary).
As we continue to pray that Mama rest in Al janah-firdaus, we take solace in the fact that, Alhaja Mogaji’s empire remains intact. There is no success without a successor. Alhaja Mogaji being an excellent administrator of men and women, recognized the need to groom a successor while alive, knowing that ‘Igba o lo bi orere’ (There is always an end to an era), had put in-place a successor plan which culminated into the stepping into her shoes of Mrs Folashade Tinubu-Ojo, as the new Iyaloja General of Lagos. Mrs Tinubu-Ojo, who won the support of over two-third of the markets’ high-ranking officers who were constitutionally empowered to select who the next Iyaloja would be, had been deputizing for her as the Chairman, Lagos State Market Development Board. From Alhaja Mogaji’s benefit of hindsight and leadership acumen, the battle to succeed her would be fierce, which could polarize the market women and men association. Various stakes would have been raised from different “Iyaloja” in Lagos as to who is qualified to succeed Mama. Hence, it is commendable that, after Mama’s death, her “house” remain united. Iwaju ti won doju ko, Olorun je ko da, eyin ti won fi sile ‘koni ‘baje (We pray she rests in Al jannah firdaus, and may all she left behind be at peace).
Wrote from Ikorodu
Do not hesitate to leave your opinion in the comment section below.
To contact Abusidiqu.com for Article Submission and Advertisement or General inquiry, send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org