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Humuani’s life is a pride to Muslims — Jadesola Oyewole

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Alhaja Silifat Jadesola Oyewole, former National Treasurer of Federation of Muslim Women Associations in Nigeria (FOMWAN), attended Tottenham College London and started Muslim Ladies Circle, is one of the children of the late scholar and merchant Alhaja Humuani Alaga, the Otun Iyalode of Ibadan Land. In this interview with newsmen, she speaks on making marriages work, women activism, girl-child education among others reflecting on the life of Humuani Alaga. EXCERPTS:

JadesolaWHO is Alhaja Humuani Alaga?

She was a very active woman, good disciplinarian, hardworking, religious, very respectful, she believed so much in the Qur’an and practiced it. She was older than my father and gave him all the respect. I could remember, she was always on her kneels when demanding for food-money’; She regarded money given to her by her husband as more blessed. She had never done anything without the consent of her husband. She was an activist, a Muminaat who influenced women to play active part in state, national and international affairs. Her life is a source of pride to Muslims.

What is your advice to women on housekeeping and work?

They should pray to God to give them the right husband. It is good to respect your husband and men should reciprocate that gesture. It will be a great mistake to be married to somebody who’s not God fearing.

Religious  training

We should also make our children better off in terms of moral and religious training. In the 50s, 60s, people were not well educated about Islam but things are better now.

What led to the book presentation in memory of your mother?

It was my mother’s baby; it started with Egbe Ifelodun. Then, most schools were Christian schools. One of my sisters wanted to get to St. Annes’s school but could not, she advised her friends to start a Muslim school and God helped through Isabatudeen in Ojoo.

She loves helping people; she helped a lot of people in their education and employment. Then the grandchildren said they have been hearing a lot about their grandma thereby suggesting that we should put it down in a book form.

What is your advice to those in position of power?

The rich and those in position of power should fear God, help people and be ready to account for everything. I could remember that my mother was always eager to render all accounts no matter how small the amount might be. She loved giving detailed account about every spending. She won’t lie and she hate liars.

How best can women be involved in activism and politics without rancor?

In those days, they played politics with love, now it is money and power. That does not mean women cannot be better politicians; they should do it with honesty. For instance, the likes of my mother and Madam Funmilayo Ransome Kuti used the opportunity they had to help a lot of people; but now, we can’t get close to them. You must know what you want to do before going into politics. Our men should stop holding meetings late at nights. In other parts of the world, no political meetings at night. Going into politics does not mean there shouldn’t be time for the family. Many women are brilliant and will deliver if given the opportunity.

What led to her establishing a school?

She took one of my sisters, Musliat to a mission school for admission. She was asked to wait until all the Christian girls were attended to. This upset her so much that she left the venue and called a special meeting of the Isabatudeen society and narrated her experience.

There and then, members decided to contribute nine pounds each towards founding a school for Muslim girls. This incident led to the founding of Isabatudeen Girls’ Grammar school on 24th January, 1964 with a population of 30 girls.

It was the first Muslim girls’ secondary school in Ibadan. The entrance examination took place in December 1963 and by the end of 1964, the number of students rose to 100. Today, the school has over 1000 students. There were obstacles in granting approval for the school.

At the initial stage, government of the Western Region refused to grant approval for the school in 1964 because it was an all girls’ school, the society protested. Thereafter, the late premier of Western region, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola (S.L.A) intervened and the Ministry of Education gave approval four years later.

The society built a maternity center at Mapo, headquarters of Ibadan Municipal Council which was later handed over to the Council. Her enthusiasm and ability to raise funds earned her appointment into Olubadan’s Palace Committee.

On Education:

Child education starts from the beginning. I am in support of decent dressing and early training with regard to the use of Hijab by female Muslims because every girl-child should be well-protected. We should train the female Muslims how to dress well. Tight fitting clothes can be tempting, but that is not the way.

Advice for women on home and career:

Women should have contentment, no matter the little they have with God’s blessing. It’s unfair for a woman to be outside her home anything after 7pm. We need to be there for these children. But when you are not at home, so many things can happen.

It should not be about money and career always, quality training of our children should be our pride and priority and we don’t need to have plenty money to train children well.

On your late mum:

Alhaja Humuani Alaga attended adult training classes both for western education and the Qur’an. This is to let us know that no age is too old to learn. Alhaja Humuani Alarape, Amoke Alaga was born to the family of Late Alfa Alaga, a Muslim cleric and trader and Late Asmau Ladebo Alaga in 1907. Both parents were true Muslims and successful traders but not literate in terms of Western education.

The young Humuani (Umulkhairi) accompanied her parents on trading expeditions at a very early age from Ibadan to such places as Lagos, Oshogbo, Ejigbo, Ogbomoso and other towns in the sale of beads and textiles.

Humuani, the youngest of a family of four children (a boy and three girls) was in control of her mother’s trade at a tender age of 15 rendering accounts of all daily transactions to her mother. She got married at the age of 18 to Sanusi Oshinusi an Egba man.

After her marriage in 1925, she started hawking textiles and other goods at the present old Gbagi Market in Ibadan because she was considered too young to own a shop, but between 1928 and 1929, she established her shop at number 30, Lebanon street old Gbagi with the sum of one hundred pounds, and became a dealer with big companies such as G.B. Ollivant, John Holt and United African Company.

By 1933, she had become one of the most successful merchants and employed the services of 10 clerks. In 1934, she was made Iya Egbe Alaso (The Leader of textile dealers) in Gbagi market. She maintained good accounts by employing the services of a book keeper and a secretary who interpreted for her. With her new position, she settled disputes on market, land and family matters relying strictly on her Islamic knowledge of dispute settlement.

Her religious inclination spurred her into building a mosque at Sango area of Ibadan, the mosque had grown from a Ratibbi to a Jumu’ah mosque and still exists today. She established Quranic classes for children for about two shillings a month, employed and accommodated the teachers. She also served as a teacher in the school. On Fridays, she went to the mosque as early as 10:30am to get the place ready for worship.

In 1930, she founded the Egbe Ifelodun with other women. Some of the women who had strayed from Islamic ethics later purified their habits through constant Islamic activities.

In 1958, Alhaja Humuoani Alaga, founded the Isabatudeen society with some members of Egbe Ifelodun, she was made the president of the society. By 1959, Isabatudeen society which started with a membership of eleven had one hundred members with branches in Ijebu-Ode and Abeokuta.

On her market women’s associations’ activities:

Gbagi was the central market, so Alhaja Alaga was the overall leader. In 1938, she led the Women Cotton Trade Union in protest against the Lebanese merchants who still sold in retail at reduced prices thereby undercutting the women traders. The council chiefs investigated and ordered the Lebanese traders to put an end to the practice.

In 1953, she led a delegation from Ibadan African Textile Association to Mapo Hall, seat of the municipal government to protest. They also protested the movement of Dugbe market to a new site. They marched barefooted and without their head ties to Olubadan Yesufu Kobiowu’s palace and gave a three-day ultimatum to change the decision. They succeeded in their request. In 1978, Alhaja Alaga with the market women marched to the Governor’s residence to protest against the killing of demonstrating students by soldiers.

On gender advocacy:

In an interview, late chief Mrs. Fola Ighodalo, the first woman Permanent Secretary, few days before she died said Alhaja Alaga led her and a few women in the civil service to then state Governor for a meeting. She demanded from the Governor, (pointing to some of the women) if they had been performing their assigned duties credibly, the Governor reportedly answered in the affirmative. She then queried why they were not paid the same amount as their male counterparts. She also frowned at the situation where women were placed on daily-pay system whilst the men were on monthly salaries.

The Governor in his remark was said to have quoted from the government’s set rules and regulations but Alhaja replied: “I did not know book” (meaning that she was not literate.); all she wanted was equal pay for equal job. Thereafter, she left the office with her team and that led to a change in the lives of women in the state’s civil service.





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