By John Mayaki
Early Life and education
The late honorable Alhaji Aliu Omokide was born on the 29th of December, 1933 into the Eshimozoko family in his native ancestral village of Igarra, Akoko-Edo Local Government, Edo State as the last of seven children.
His birth coincided with his parents’ adoption of the Islamic faith, hence the choice of the name ‘Aliu’. As converts, Alhaji Aliu Omokide’s parents committed themselves to the worship of Allah and they taught the same to their children, including Alhaji Aliu Omokide who was enrolled, alongside his brother, at a Quranic school as a young child to study the Holy Quran and strengthen his understanding of the faith. He studied there for six years before joining the St Mary’s Catholic School (now rebranded Utua Primary School) in Igarra for his primary school education.
As a young primary school pupil, Alhaji Aliu Omokide was already well-versed in the Holy Quran and early observers attested to his impeccable character, obedience, courteous behavior, distinct principles, courage, and complete dedication to matters of faith and morality, despite his young age.
He completed his primary education at the Central School (Lambill) in Lampese-Ibillo where he had his standard six education, as was the tradition at the time. Thereafter, he attended the Provincial Teachers’ College in Agbede, the Government Teachers’ College in Ilesha, and the prestigious University of Lagos, famed in the academic circles as the ‘University of first choice’ given the top-tier education on offer at the institution, particularly at the time Alhaji Aliu Omokide secured admission to study there, obtaining a Diploma.
During his time at the Government Teachers College in Ilesha, a town in present-day Osun state which Alhaji Aliu Omokide traveled to without knowing anyone but driven principally by a quest for knowledge and increased formal training and expertise, he began to interact deeply with the Yorubas in the community, ultimately gaining exposure to and developing a great admiration and respect for the political philosophy of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a foremost Yoruba leader who championed the growth of education and other state-sponsored developmental efforts that remain relevant until this day.
Chief Bamidele Olumuliua who served as the Governor of Ondo State in the Nigeria’s third republic was one of Alhaji Aliu Omokide’s classmates at the Government Teachers College, Ilesha, at the time, with many others also going on to do great exploits in both the public and private sector.
Upon the completion of his studies and having acquired full qualification as a teacher and educationist, he committed himself to the noble goal of helping others, especially underprivileged children, gain access to formal education and self-empowerment to acquired needed tools to navigate the world, improve their social conditions alongside their household, and better protect their rights against abuse and intimidation, particularly in the case of the girl-child.
He built a successful career in the field, first as an elementary teacher, and obligation that took him again to Auchi where he tutored and modeled several pupils who went on to do great things. One of them was Zakari Hussein whose formal and Islamic education, built on the foundation of Alhaji Aliu Omokide’s teachings and guidance, culminated in a doctorate’s degree, the zenith of certifications, in Islamic Religious Knowledge, earning him a lecturing role at the University of Ilorin where he retired as a Senior Lecturer afterwhich he emerged as the Chief Imam of Auchi.
Other notable pupils of Alhaji Aliu Omokide includes the late Brigadier General Suleiman Yekini who retired from a stellar service in the Nigerian Army as Chief Imam and was the Amir Hajj for pilgrims for Nigeria at some point; Alhaji Musa Mayaki who was the former Director-General of the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA); and Alhaji Abdul Salami Uba of Igarra Development Association who fondly called Alhaji Aliu Omokide ‘HM’ (acronym for headmaster).
From elementary teacher, Alhaji Aliu Omokide’s high intellect and diligence saw him rise quickly to the much-desired position as Headmaster before yet another advancement as the Zonal Inspector of Education in the Igarra Education Board.
He served as a teacher, headmaster, and finally the Inspector for education, leaving in his trail landmark achievements such as the introduction of the teaching of modern mathematics in primary schools for the first time and the promotion and standardization of Arabic studies.
Alhaji Aliu Omokide met and married Hajia Kadara Aminat Omokide (nee Shafe) while serving as a teacher at the Muslim School in Igarra in 1961 and shortly after that, he also married Awawu Olayemi Omokide (nee Nasiru). He married both of his wives from the Eshinavaka family in Igarra and interestingly, they were both also his pupils at some point. With them, he enjoyed a happy, successful and fruitful family blessed with children.
Entry into politics
In all the years of the study and across the different institutions, Alhaji Aliu Omokide maintained an esteemed reputation as a brilliant and highly-disciplined student who excelled at his studies and consistently displayed signs of great leadership with his rare ability to rally a group and lead it successfully towards the attainment of a set goal, creative problem-solving skills, altruism, a great sense of duty and responsibility, and a knack for taking on big tasks even when easier ones were available. He was the ideal 360-student who was not only excellent at his studies but also aware and alive to his responsibilities to the institutions and the society at large.
This led some of his teachers and others who encountered him at the time to make the prediction that became prophesy that he would eventually foray into politics and emerge as the leader of the people. Specifically in 1962, one of his tutors at the Government Teachers’ College in Ilesha remarked that he would nurture a successful career in politics. In fact, a couple of years back in 1952, Chief Okuo Iluse, who later became the Otaru of Igarra, made the same proclamation, having watched Alhaji Aliu Omokide at a close distance for many years and witnessed, first hand, his passion and thirst for knowledge, principled morality, high sense of justice, uncommon intelligence, continuous pursuit of societal growth and development, and great social skills aided by a friendly persona that made him the friend of all.
Exactly two decades after the ‘prophesy’ of the then Otaru, Alhaji Aliu Omokide was elected to the Bendel State House of Assembly on the platform for the Awolowo-led Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), where he served meritoriously and with unprecedented success between 1979 – 1983 in the government of the late Professor Ambrose Alli.
His emergence as a lawmaker in the now-defunct Bendel state was predicated on the aforesaid qualities which distinguished Alhaji Aliu Omokide as one who could be entrusted with the people’s interests and public resources. He did not disappoint.
His quality of service as a lawmaker has been widely praised as the gold standard for representatives in not only Igarra, Akoko-Edo and Edo State, but also across the South-South region and the country.
Public Service Record and Achievements
As a person guided by lofty principles and conscientiousness, Alhaji Aliu Omokide took his duties as a public servant with utmost seriousness and sensitivity for all that was at stake; hence his tenure in all public offices held was characterized by rare honesty and accountability, and vast investment in the people through the provision of critical infrastructure including roads, water, and electricity.
As an elected lawmaker, he facilitated several road constructions that improved the standard of living in his primary constituency by opening up communities for development, providing easy access to markets especially for the farming population, and productive engagement of indigenous youths who not only applied their existing skill but gained additional skills through their participation in the project and improved their proficiency.
He also ensured a steady supply of potable water, an achievement that had a profound effect on health and agriculture given the status of water as the harbinger of life. This was in addition to the stable electricity he was responsible for, causing instant growth in the business community, attracting industrial investors, strengthening security, and improving life and educational outcomes.
Alhaji Aliu Omokide also ensured the construction and equipping of several health centers to improve healthcare, prevent avoidable deaths from curable illnesses, and ensuring the general well-being of his constituents to improve productivity, quality of life, and level of satisfaction.
He pursued, vigorously, the cardinal programmes of the UPN which was anchored solidly on an aggressive rural development agenda designed to eradicate household poverty and empower the grassroots population. He proved himself a formidable ally of the Governor, Professor Ambrose Alli and played an important role on the administration’s success in delivering on its promise to the people with lasting achievements including the establishment of the Bendel State University, Ekpoma which was later renamed Ambrose Alli University, Okpella Cement Factory, Bendel Breweries Ltd, Bendel Feeds and Flour Mills, Ewu among others.
In fact, when at some point some other members of the Assembly, though elected on the platform of the UPN too, tried to impeach Professor Ambrose Alli as Governor, Alhaji Aliu Omokide opposed the move and helped Governor Alli to beat back the move. In his lifetime, Alhaji Aliu Omokide was especially proud of his role during this period given the eventual achievements of the Alli-administration which continues to serve as a reference point for good governance in all the states that make the now-defunct Bendel State and across Nigeria.
Alhaji Aliu Omokide was also responsible for the establishment of the Institute of Industrial Technology, one of his many lasting legacies that serve as totems of his foresight, rigorous policy work and deep understanding of the workings of governance, particularly in sparking widespread economic growth, eradicating poverty, and enabling people to live meaningful lives and attain self-fulfillment.
In the House of Assembly, Alhaji Aliu Omokide was respected across the board for his erudition, personal integrity, and commitment to public service. He was a unanimous choice as the Chairman of Business of the House for four years, a choice informed by his exceptional understanding of the economy and uprightness to negotiate deals in the interest of the public and the greater good without advancing self or giving undue consideration to self-serving interests.
Service in the Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board
Although politics has proved such a strong pull that many who venture into it eventually lose their bearing and drift further away from service to God and spiritual forthrightness. However, in this regard, Alhaji Aliu Omokide also set himself apart as a great exception.
In and outside of politics, he never lost sight of the larger, ultimate goal of pleasing God and keeping fidelity to his words. Hence his commendable dedication to Islam, its practice and progress in Edo State and across Nigeria.
He got the rare honor to serve on the pilgrim welfare board as a member for 4 years, during which he made the holy trip to Mecca and Medina on seven occasions. The board was chaired by the late Justice Kensington Momoh and together with Alhaji Aliu Omokide, as well as other board members, they facilitated a smooth planning and execution of the yearly pilgrimage for Muslims in the now-defunct Bendel State with a high-level of organization that drew praises from many quarters and earned the respect and admiration of many.
He also traveled to London, United Kingdom on two separate occasions for Islamic missions as an emissary of faith. He held the position as the Secretary of the Bendel Council for Islamic Affairs in the now-defunct Bendel State for seven years, and was widely credited as an ambassador of the Islamic faith and an exemplary figure for other Muslims.
With his influence, the teaching of Arabic in primary schools was greatly improved on by the State government.
Role as a unifier and bridge-builder
Igarra’s traditional make-up of different tribes and cultures can oftentimes result in charged and divisive disputes and contentions that manifest in varying acts of segregation. However, from his days as a youth leader of thought until his death at the age of 87, Alhaji Aliu Omokide served as a bridge-builder who went to great lengths to heal the divides amongst the people and unify them, as he believed that only with unity and peace can everyone fulfil their potential and achieve greatness.
Together with others he rallied unto himself, Alhaju Aliu Omokide devised and pursued various methods and mechanisms for amicable resolution of disputes in promotion of peace and social justice for all the people of Igarra.
He contributed to the maintenance of the cultural heritage of the Eshimozoko to freely own and beat the sacred Arigede drum, and never once dismissed or looked on any group or culture with disdain or disrespect.
He consistently preached the values of mutual respect and tolerance as the key to peaceful, communal living and co-existence.
Awards and Recognition
Hon. Aliu Omokide also applied his skills in the service of the local government, the tier of government closest with the people and true to his mandate in those days. He served in several committees of local government council, including education, peace and security, National Orientation Agency and numerous others.
His achievements and excellence earned him awards from several notable and reputable institutions, associations and clubs. Some of them include: J.P – Justice of the Peace by Edo state government; Etuno Nationals Union [ENU] Lagos branch in 1997; National Association of Etuno (Igarra) Students, University of Benin/UBTH Chapter’s Etuno Architects award in 2006; Etuno youth Association (EYA); Igarra Development Association (IDA); Igarra Etuno Indigenes Worldwide; Igarra Born Again Christian Association (IBACA); and the Etuno Ambassador Club, Abuja.
Alhaji Aliu Omokide went to meet his Lord on Friday, the 26th of February, 2021 at the age of 87 after a life of wonderful achievements that uplifted many, directly transformed his immediate constituency, inspired widespread positive political changes, contributed to the growth of Islam, and modeled many lives who went on to fulfill destiny and bring about unique innovations that sped the pace of development and spread of prosperity.
He is survived by wives, children, in-laws, and grandchildren.
Mayaki is an Archivist, Historian, Documentalist, Communication, Culture and Media expert (Coventry University, England). He’s an Oxford and Cambridge University-trained entrepreneurship, leadership and sustainability expert and a Professional Consultant on Communication, Management and Strategy (Chattered Management Institute, England).