Let me borrow from Thomas Hardy’s classical literary work, Return of the Natives as a title to illustrate my piece today. Each year as Muslim graduates of the University of Lagos, we return to our roots for a common purpose to set agenda for the Muslim Ummah. For the past 25 years, we have been doing this, attracting a large audience of not only Muslims but also any objective Nigerian interested in the good of the nation.
As Muslim graduates, University of Lagos is not just were we schooled. It is everything in our lives because within Unilag is another university of Lagos which groomed us to be better Akokites. It is the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria and our iconic masjid whose grandeur is awe inspiring. That masjid, the centre of our thriving Muslim community commissioned in 1985 defined us, bonded us and gave us the best gifts and opportunities in life. Whatever we are taught in the classes or the main university that we didn’t understand well, we grasp when we enter our home, our masjid because there were always better students, perhaps almost of equal academic breadth with our lecturers.
So, leaving the University, we are always pained that we are exiting a home in our Muslim community or the MSS.
Consequently in 1985, some concerned graduating students who felt we must always have opportunity to relive our camaraderie of the student days initiated the University of Lagos Muslim Alumni Association, UMA not to compete with the main alumni body but to add value or complement it from a different perspective, the perspective of Islamic brotherhood. The founding members included Abdul-akeem Jonson, Yunus Abdulkareem, Sauban Ogunpola, Abdulfattah Abdulmajeed and, Sulaiman Abdulmajeed. Others at the historic pioneering meeting that led to UMA formation included assan T.Elias, Abdulanniy Abaje, Taoheed Bello, Wasiu Giwa, B.A Azeez, YKO Kareem, Abdussalam Abbas, Aliu Alade Bello, Muibat Abbas, Silifat Owodunni, and many others.
As UMA evolved into a formidable stakeholder of the University of Lagos, it came up with a number of progressive initiatives to give back to the university community as it also collaborated with other Islamic organizations such as the federation of Muslim graduates association of Nigeria, FEMGAN, Muslim Ummah of South Western Nigeria, MUSWEN and Joint Muslim Front, JMF thereby enriching the community of Muslim Ummah. One programme that continues to put UMA at the forefront of showcasing Muslim relevance in the nation’s polity is the annual Ramadan lecture now in its 25th edition.
For instance, last year, Sunday May 13, a renowned economist, Professor, Binta Tijjani Jibril from Bayero University was on podium at the capacity filled J.F Ade Ajayi to hold the audience spell bound in the explosive lecture titled Challenges of Being a Muslim in Present Day Nigeria. Her presentation was complemented in Yoruba by Shaykh Daud Abdul Majeed.
This year, precisely on Sunday April 28, it is the turn of another Malaysia based scholar, Dr. Lukman Zakariyyah of International Islamic University in Gombak Kuala Lumpur to discuss a very germane issue or theme, Maintain Diversity: Whither the Muslims. He will be complemented in Yoruba, as it’s the tradition by Professor Abdul Razaq Abdulmajeed Alaro of the University of Ilorin. This year’s version of the lecture series will live up to its billing as the silver jubilee edition in the calibre of guests arrayed by UMA to witness the lecture.
The President-General, of the Nigerian Muslim ummah, that is the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, His Eminence Sultan Muhammad Sad Abubakar III is billed to deliver the keynote address while the governor of the state of Osun, Ishaq Gboyega Oyetola has been confirmed as the Chairman of the event. From Lagos and Ogun States, ranking members of the government have also been invited to grace the occasion. UMA President, Shuaib Salis Afolabi has assured that no stone will be left unturned to ensure that the 25t PreRamadan Lecture goes down in history as perhaps the most memorable. This is even reflected in the quality of men and women who were conscripted into the PreRamadan Lecture planning Committee where Barrister Zikrullah Kunle Hassan is our field marshal.
Since the first edition of the lecture series men of scholarly eminence from home and abroad have always being invited to set direction on topical issues for the nation from the Islamic point of view. At the 16t edition in 2010, Late Professor Abubakar Momoh was on stage to speak on Political Reforms in Nigeria: the Role of Muslims while in the following year it was the former Vice Chancellor of the university, the inimitable Professor Nurudeen Alao who had the honour of occupying every leadership position as an academic, from HOD, Dean, VC, Chief Imam of the university and Chairman of the Unilag Muslim community that came to deliver the lecture of Islam, Leadership and Trust: Tripod for good governance.
Others that have featured at the UMA preramadan lecture within the past ten years include Ustaz Bashir Agboola, Abdurrahman Adangba, Prof. Ishaq Lakin Akintola, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, Professor Nuhu Yaqub Professor Tabiu Muhammad, Prof Amidu Sanni, Sheikh Abdullah Akinbode, Shaykh Abdulmajeed Eleha, Professor Yusef Waghid, Shaykh Muhammad Rabiu Adebayo, Professor Hassan Ahmed Ibrahim and Shaykh Moshood Jibril.
For us, the UMA Annual Preramadan Lecture is an opportunity for our return to campus as Unilag remains our nativity, our educational birthplace as successful scholars, professionals and businessmen and women. As we count down in ours, join us at the imposing JF Ade Ajayi Auditorium were we were confirmed as students of Unilag and where we received certificates and honours as graduates of the University of Lagos, the university of first choice and the nations pride.
*Abdulwarees, a 1988 Unilag graduate of Mass Communication is an Assistant Director of Strategic Planning & Corporate Development at Voice of Nigeria, Ikoyi, Lagos.