The newly turbanned 19th Chief Imam of Egbaland Sheikh Sa’adulah Alade Bamgbola, is an interesting man to behold!.

A highly cerebral person, even for his 87th years on earth. A visit to his Iporo-Sodeke, Abeokuta, Ogun State residence on Friday, July 3, 2020 exposed one to an exemplary Islamic scholar.

An epitome of knowledge and humility, his frail stature may portray him as a spent force. Nay. Baba was bubbling with energy and vast knowledge in all subjects of natural and human endeavours.

Though Sheikh Bamgigbola was deprived of western education by his father who insisted that he should learn Arabic studies, he is today an authority in Astrology, Numerology and spiritualism. Equally, his understanding of politics, economics and finances is astounding. Now a fulfilled Islamic cleric and scholar, Sheikh Bamgbola maintained that he had no regrets whatsoever of being deprived of Western education.

Also, it still remains a mystery how a man without formal western education speaks fluent English Language. If his mastery of Astrology, Numerology and Spiritualism is not surprising, what will anyone say of his vast knowledge and understanding in politics, economics and finances at the local and international spaces.

When asked how he made it, the quintessential Islamic cleric cum scholar had no explanation. He only attributed what he turned out to be to Almighty Allah, noting that no creature can become anything in life other than what God had destined him or her to be.

The journey of life for the young Sa’adulah began in 1934, when he was born in Iporo-Sodeke, in the heart of Abeokuta. His father was Alfa Jimoh Bamgbola, a popular Islamic cleric in the area. His father, being a polygamist, had nine wives and several children.

But from his mother, they were two; the young Sa’adulah and his younger brother, Abdul Mojeed Bamgbola, who is deceased.

According to the erudite Islamic scholar, he wanted to go to school like his siblings from the other wives, but his father insisted that he should go and learn Arabic studies. Consequently, he was taken to Alfa Muhammad Alimi Ahwal at Ake to begin his Arabic and Islamic studies.

In 1944, fate connected the young Sa’adulah to the renowned Islamic scholar and then, a nomadic preacher, Sheik Adams Abdulah Al-Ilory, the founder of the famous centre for Arabic and Islamic knowledge (Markaz), Agege, Lagos.

That was the year the renowned scholar came to Abeokuta. The young Sa’adulah was taken to Sheikh Adams to continue his Arabic studies. There, he met the late Sheikh Sodridudeen Bamidele Biobaku, the immediate past Chief Imam of Gbagura, who later became the co-ordinator of the Sulikha Abiola Arabic studies centre, Abeokuta (founded by the late business mogul and winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election, Chief MKO Abiola)as the first pupil (Markazee) and the young Sa’adulah became the second pupil (Markazee).

Later, the quest for further knowledge necessitated the journey of Sheikh Adams Al-Ilory to the prestigious Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt which is among oldest universities in the world today, having been established about 1970 AD by one Jawhar, a ‘Fatmid frontliner who made education his priority in life.

The young Sa’adulah was part of Sheikh Adams Al-Ilory’s team to Cairo, where he was enrolled in the primary section of the reputable university to further his Arabic Studies.

Unfortunately the sudden death of the Egyptian leader, then altered the education policy and truncated their studies, as the new government requested all foreign students in the Al-Azhar University to present letters of sponsorship from their respective home governments as part of conditions for all foreign students to continue their studies.

All efforts to get sponsorship letter, especially from the premier of the Western region, then late Chief Jeremiah Oyeniyi Obafemi Awolowo, who was a relation of the young Sa’adulah’s mother (she was from Ijebu-Remo), failed. Chief Awolowo did not consent to dissipating energy on acquisition of a certificate (Arabic studies) which he thought would not be useful to anyone later in life.

As a result, Sheikh Adams Al-Ilory and his team, including the young Sa’adulah, returned to Abeokuta in 1947. And on April 16, 1952, what is today known as the Centre for Arabic and Islamic knowledge (Markaz) was established in Abeokuta. As the foresight of the late scholar and his mission and vision would not make Markaz to remain in Abeokuta. He later moved the institution to the Jafojo area of Agege, Lagos in 1952. The young Sa’adulah went with him.

The young lad was with Sheikh Adams Al-Ilory, in the developmental years of Markaz. The new Chief Imam of Egbaland would not forget in a hurry an incident when the political thugs of a leading political figure in the Southwestern region then, threatened to burn down the centre (Markaz) for what they perceived as the founder’s support for another leading political leader in the opposition.

That was the koloba-koloba years during which the then western region was thrown into political unrest. In the heat of this, Sheikh Adams had to shut down the centre and asked all students to return to their parents until it was safe to re-open the centre.

However, the young Sa’adulah was adamant. He refused to return to his parents in Abeokuta, instead, he stayed with his tutor with the belief that whatever happened to his tutor would be their collective destiny.

The political thugs came to carry out their threat to burn down the Arabic centre. It was around two o'clock in the morning. But they met the brave, confident and courageous Sa’adulah who was combining studentship with security guard job on the premises. It was his bravery that prevented the thugs from gaining access into the premises, as he confronted the leader of the team, Ogberegede, and challenged him or any of his followers to cross over a line he (Sa’adulah) drew on the ground at the entrance, if they would not die. None of the thugs, including their leader, was bold enough to cross the line, hence, they all remained at the main entrance of Markaz between the hours of two and six o'clock in the morning when they departed. It is worthy of note that the uncommon bravery and unflinching loyalty exhibited by the young Sa’adulah, in his early 20s, then, will be hard to find in the youths of today.

For that exhibition of uncommon bravery and unwavering loyalty, Sheikh Adams Al-Ilory had continually commended and blessed Sa’adulah. As a result, when it was time for his Walimot Al-Quaran (graduation), four full-loaded mass transit bus (Molue) of clerics, well wishers and students came all the way from Agege (Lagos) to Abeokuta where, the Walimot Al-Quaran held.

Ordinarily, the graduation ceremony ought to have taken place on the tutor’s premises or wherever he chooses, but reverse was the case in honour of Sa’adulah’s dedication and loyalty during his years as a student at Markaz.

Till date, the new Chief Imam of Egbaland remains the only Markazee to be so honoured.

After graduation, Sa’adulah remained with Sheikh Adams Al-Ilory until 1970 when he came back to Abeokuta. Funnily, the cleric did not see himself as having any source of livelihood. Unlike his peers who immediately after graduation settled down to making a living through conducting funeral services, naming ceremonies or organising special prayers and offering spiritual assistance to people, Sa’adulah went into another sphere different from what he knew all along.

Between 1970 and 1986, wind of fate took him to Canada, Casablanca, India and many African countries where he established strong business and political ties with influential people and governments.

Furthermore, fate would draw him back to his only familiar terrain and where his father had intended for him. He was returning from a business trip to Vankuva, India one sunny afternoon when he sighted his tutor’s (Sheikh Adams Al-Ilory) car ahead of him on the way from the Muritala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.

He had to follow the famous Islamic scholar back to Markaz where he was asked what he (Sa’adulah) was pursuing. According to the now fulfilled cleric, he told Sheikh Adams that he just returned from Vankuva and his tutor’s reply was "Sa’adu, o si n re fa ifakufa (Vankuva), kewu ni mo ko o fa, lo o re pada si Egba, ko maa re e se alfa titi ti o fi di lemomu” (Sa’adu, you are the one looking for trouble, I taught you Arabic and Islamic knowledge, now go back to Abeokuta (Egba) and become a cleric until they make you Imam). That was the saddest day of his life, he confessed!. Reason was because he was with the documents of a $5 million (Five million dollars) loan to execute a refinery project in one of the West African countries. Sa’adulah had no chance, as he promptly returned to Abeokuta to continue a life that he thought was being forced on him. That was the year his journey in life took a sharp turn and followed a steady path to success and fulfilment.

The prophecy of his tutor, Sheikh Adams Al-Ilory, would come to fruition six years later in 1992, when Sheikh Sa’adulah Bamgbola was turbaned as the Imam of Iporo-Sodeke.

It was from this position that he became a member of the league of Imams and Alfas in Egbaland and Ogun State at large. For his vast knowledge in Arabic and Islamic studies, exposure and experiences which cover local and international politics, economics and finances, he rose through the hierarchy of the league in Egbaland.

He was the Na’ibuh Imam (second in command) to the immediate past Chief Imam of Egbaland and Chairman, League of Imams and Alfas, Ogun State, Sheikh Liadi Ayinde Orunsolu who joined his predecessors on May 26, 2020.

He stated that he had the best working relationship with his predecessor and all members of the league in Egbaland. The late Sheikh Orunsolu, it was, who reportedly told members of the inner caucus of the league that Sheikh Sa’adulah Alade Bamgbola should succeed him as the Chief Imam of Egbaland.

Now, the prophecy has fully manifested, that brave, confident and loyal Bamgbola has been turbaned as the 19th Chief Imam of Egbaland.

He would now look back and glorify Almighty Allah for His kindness all through his journey in life, just as he noted that he never thought he would attain his present status. Having been earlier turbaned the Imam of his domain, Iporo-Sodeke, he concluded that that was his tutor’s (Sheikh Adams Al-Ilory) prophecy.

Again, there was a period when he was sick and placed on life support device (oxygen) at the Sacred Heart Hospital, Abeokuta, Ogun State through the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Idi-Aba, also in Abeokuta to the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan. He disclosed that he was aided by eight cylinders of the chemical elements in all as his case had become hopeless.

Even, his predecessor, Orunsolu, on a visit to Imam Bamgbola on the sick bed could not control his emotion, as he begged the doctors, nurses and everyone present to do everything humanly possible to safe his dying Na’ibuh. The late Orunsolu prayed to God that he did not want to mourn his Na’ibuh. Miraculously, Imam Bamgbola survived the sickness and came back on his feet, stronger than ever!

Bamgbola’s administration will not be business as usual. A blueprint of policies which will create a paradigm shift in the administration of Islamic affairs in Egbaland, the gateway state and possibly, Nigeria as a whole has been created. Already, several hectares of land have been acquired for mass plantation of castoil seed, high breed cotton and rice. This programme will take-off immediately. Also, negotiations have been concluded with the off-takers who have bought into the scheme and will be ready to buy off the products at the point of harvest. Worthy of note is the cotton which seed, Imam Bamgbola said was brought from Kuwait and could survive three hundred years. Sheikh Sa’ad further stated that this would create employment opportunities for willing Egba clerics and Muslims, particularly in large scale farming as well as in other agricultural productions. He also disclosed that consultation and agreements with foreign experts and partners in the proposed mechanized farming is in progress.

In another development, the lingering crisis in the petroleum sector in Nigeria may be closer to being resolved if the federal government may wish to tap from the experiences of the chief imam who had been deeply involved in the energy sector in the past.

Among the untapped ideas in his blueprint is one which seeks to reform the energy sector viz- a-viz generation and distribution of power. He shared his experience as one of the people, whose companies participated in the bid for the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) during its privatisation process handled by a committee chaired by Bert Nnanji, before he was appointed a minister of power during the ex-President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s administration.

According to Sheikh Bamgbola, his company came first at the end of the bidding, but politics at the national level led to the cancellation of the exercise. He further queried why the Nigerian government or any relevant agencies have not deemed it necessary to probe into why out of the eighteen private refineries licensed by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, only the Dangote Refinery is under construction now.

You should be wondering what manner of a man is the new chief imam. While advising youths to take it easy in their quest to succeed in life, the octogenarian also urged them to be focused and Godly as all races in life will terminate at the Creator’s Finishing Line!

The management and the editorial board of the Gateway Treasured People Magazine congratulate the new chief imam, his immediate family, the League of Imams and Alfas in Egbaland and Ogun State, and all Muslim Umahs as well as sons and daughters of Egbaland on his installation and turbanning ceremony.

We pray that Almighty Allah, who in His wisdom had delayed the fulfilment of this part of the imam’s destiny, until now, will bless this new phase of his life with good health, sound mind, happiness, prosperity and long life.

Our golden advice to the members of the League of Imams and Alfas in Egbaland is to brace-up and key-into the reformative measures as may be introduced by the new chief imam; give him maximum support and cooperation with a view to fostering unity among Muslim Umahs, Christianity and government for the development of Egbaland, the gateway state and Nigeria at large.

*This interview was first published in the special edition of the Gateway Treasured People Magazine in 2020.