Thursday, December 24, 2020 9:35 pm
By Tunde Ipinmisho
I have just learnt of the death of the former Grand Khadi of Niger State, Sheikh Ahmed Lemu. Although he died in ripe old age, I feel a great sense of personal loss at his demise.
I have known the departed Sheikh since my days in Minna. He was one of the resource persons who readily volunteered his views to us at NTA Minna where I cut my journalism teeth and worked till 1989.,
Sheikh Lemu lived his faith and was a friend of all. I cherish the great moments I had with him, the last being at the funeral of the late Chief Judge of Niger State, Justice Muazu Mohammed.
Early in 1984, I was appointed the Caretaker Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Niger State. Our team decided on the not too popular step to launch the then War Against Indiscipline (WAI) for the Union. Sheikh Lemu was one of those I personally went to invite to the event. Many of our members were sure the Sheikh would not attend the function, taking place as it did, at the Press Centre in Maikunkele in the Niger State capital, to where journalists retired in the evenings to sip their beer. However, promptly, and on time on the appointed day, Sheikh Lemu came as did the late Emir of Minna, Alhaji Ahmadu Bahago.
He stayed throughout the event and if I can recollect correctly, it was he who offered the opening prayers. It then became the joke among us journalists in Minna that I was the only one who could bring the Grand Khadi to a beer parlour. Ever since then, the grand old Sheikh had drawn me very close to him. Whenever we met, often at public functions and at airports, he would hail me as “my Chairman”.
One day in 1987 or thereabouts, I went to see him in his chambers over an issue that was troubling my heart. At the end of his counsel, I was left wondering if it was my Pastor who jus spoke to me. He harped on right standing with God, freewill giving, observing prayer vigils and fasting.
My last encounter with him was at Justice Muazu’s funeral in Minna. After the Janaza prayer, I made to join the funeral party as they headed to the Minna Muslim Cemetery, but Sheikh Lemu drew me aside and pointed to a chair near him and asked me to sit down. Then he launched into a lecture on how the Quran excused the elderly and the weak from that function. For all the time it took for the people to return from the cemetery, he shared rare experiences with me.
Sheikh Lemu held strong views linked to his Islamic faith and was not afraid to openly express them. When David Mark, then a 36 year old army lieutenant colonel arrived as governor of Niger State in January 1984, he introduced many measures, some of which were not agreeable to the largely conservative populace of the state. One of such was coeducational secondary schools. The people of the state didn’t like it but Sheikh Lemu, who referred to is in an interview with us then at NTA Minna as “the lunacy called coeducation” was about the only public servant who openly opposed it.
Of course, his love for his late British born, Islamic convert wife, Aisha, was one of Sheikh’s distinguishing attributes. You couldn’t be with them and not be affected by the force of love they transmitted to each other.
I will have lasting memories of this counselor, great friend, incorruptible judge and one of the leading lights of Islam in Nigeria.