Rejoinder: IBB Must Face Probe over $12.4bn Oil Windfall

Writes B. Y. Muhammad

The Punch newspaper in its edition of 22nd of August, 2016 published a report filed by one Mr. Ramon Oladimeji under the caption: “IBB must face probe over $12.4bn oil windfall, says SERAP”. In the said report, a Nigerian rights advocacy group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) had in an open letter, called on the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to use his office and power under Section 174(1) of the Constitution and sections 104 -106 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act to re-open the unresolved case of the “missing $12.4bn oil windfall.”, which SERAP, according to the report claims was spent between 1988 and 1993 by the government of former President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.

The purpose of this write-up is neither to defend the Babangida regime against any act of financial impropriety which its detractors are alleging it committed while in power nor is it meant to prevent the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) from exercising the constitutional powers of his office to probe General Babangida and his regime as he is being urged to do by SERAP.

It is almost 22 years now, precisely on the 27th September, 1994, when Justice Pius Okigbo submitted his report.  It is important to note the most vociferous critics of, and commentators on General Ibrahim Babangida and his regime today are either in their 30s or early 40s and may not have been sufficiently conversant with some of the observations of the Okigbo Panel which relate to certain items of expenditure by the administration of former President Ibrahim Babangida, which some individuals and organisations have in the last two decades consistently drummed up to attract undue public hysteria.

Since the relevant facts of the Okigbo report have been variously mangled and misrepresented to serve the ends of political mischief, and equally dangerous to leave important national discourse of a historical nature in the hands of people with inherited prejudices and second-hand wisdom, it is necessary to place on record the correct facts for the interest of the discerning public, in order to bring an end to the lingering doubts and the regime of mischievous misinformation.

The much talked about Okigbo Panel was set up by the Federal Government in 1994 to examine the operations and make recommendations on the Re-organisation and Reform of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Its scope of time reference was from 1988-1994. While it encompassed the period of the Babangida regime, its time frame stretched to 1994, long after the end of the regime in August 1993. The work of the Panel was never a probe of the Babangida regime or indeed its financial management practices. It was rather aimed at improving the operations of the CBN.

The Panel had questioned the funding of certain projects from dedication accounts. Before going further on the dedication accounts under reference it is important to point out that the institution of dedication accounts held with the Central Bank is not new in Nigeria’s public financial management system. Accounts of extra-ministerial agencies like the PTF, OMPADEC, NDDC, PTDF, etc. are examples. The object of these accounts is usually to dedicate and hypothecate funds for the execution of specific projects and items of expenditure that the government, from time to time, may consider urgent and important but outside the scope of the normal budget process. The institution of Dedication Accounts under the Babangida regime is therefore not an isolated phenomenon.

The relevant dedication accounts are as follows: Central Bank Dedication Account, for domiciling the proceeds of a quantity of crude oil set aside for the prosecution of ‘priority projects’ as listed further below. NNPC Sales of Mining Rights Account, opened with proceeds of the sale of 20% mining rights of the NNPC/Shell Joint Venture in 1989 also used to settle part of the country’s indebtedness to the London Club Group of Creditors. Other accounts were Signature Bonus Account and GHQ Special Fund Account.

Specifically, the Stabilisation Account, was created in October 1990 to receive revenue from crude oil sales above the budget benchmark. Between October 1990 and June, 1994, well after the Gulf War had ended the total receipts into this account was US$4.398 billion. By the admission of the report and based on an annexure from the Central Bank reproduced on page 211 of the Okigbo Panel report, the actual total receipts into the Account that could be attributed to the period of the Gulf War amounts to about US$2.4 billion, (i.e.US$1.234 billion in 1990 and US$1.160 billion in 1991 respectively). Even that figure makes a generous allowance that the Gulf War lasted to the end of 1991 but the war actually ended in February 1991.

From the relevant CBN records, the total sums remitted to ALL these accounts from 1988-94 was US$12.441 billion. Therefore, the much touted figure of US$12.4 billion as proceeds of the so-called Gulf War windfall has no basis. It is merely the sum total of all receipts into the combination of five dedicated accounts for the period of 1988-94. The sources of funds into these accounts were varied and therefore by no means restricted to the above – the – benchmark receipts from oil during the first Gulf War (1990-91).

A roll call of the projects funded from the dedication accounts shows that they were of long term national strategic interest. These include: Third Mainland Bridge, Ajaokuta Steel, Itakpe Iron Mining project, Shiroro Hydroelectric project, the LNG, Egbin Power station, The National Eye Centre, Kaduna, Abuja network of roads including the dualization of the Abuja-Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport highway, among others. It is important to point out that even the Panel admitted that the President’s approvals for these projects were informed by anxiety over delays in their completion: ‘’So much had been spent already on these projects that the President concluded that they warranted extra expenditure to take them to the point of commissioning.’’ None of them was spurious nor was money expended on non- existent projects. Similarly, monies expended to relieve some of Nigeria’s embassies abroad which were in dire straits as well as other minor expenses are normal occurrences under any government.

The observation that some of these items of expenditure may not quite fall into the Panel’s definition of ‘priority projects’ is a matter of opinion of an economist, whose sense of a priority project could fundamentally differ from that of a politicaL administrator or a head of state. The question of what constitutes ‘priority projects’ can only be the preserve of the government of the day. To question the sense of priority by a sitting Government after the event is merely an academic exercise and conjecture by distant actors. Former President Ibrahim Babangida, in the discharge of his solemn obligations to the people of Nigeria and in concert with his colleagues in the administration, made a determination that certain key projects and expenditure items were in the highest interest of the government and people of Nigeria at the time. He accordingly approved expenditures to ensure speedy and timely completion of these projects.

The Okigbo Panel made value judgments on some items of expenditure funded with receipts into these various dedication accounts. Nowhere did it indict the former President, General Ibrahim Babangida for any acts of financial impropriety nor was there any suggestion that he or anyone else acting on his behalf personally benefitted from any of these expenditures. Also, nowhere did the report mention that the US$12.4 billion went missing under the watch of General Ibrahim Babangida.  SERAP ought to know that the Office of the President is too far removed from the centres of petty accounting and book keeping to be dragged into such matters.

One would have expected that SERAP that takes patriotism and concern for the national interest as its point of departure would at least display a minimum level of thoroughness and seriousness when it sets out to fight a public cause. Furthermore, organizations that claim affinity to civil society and who wish to appeal to a serious national and international audience should at least do their homework before hitting the headlines of newspapers with their spurious claims. A situation in which deliberate falsehood and outright ignorance is peddled in the name of interest in public accountability and transparency is to say the least, to lend the noble cause of civil society championship to cheap political opportunism and professional mischief makers.


By Baba Yunus Muhammad

Presidential Libraries exist in a world all of their own. Though, they are as the name implies, research and reference centers, they are not libraries in the usual sense. They are archival centers which bring together in one place the documents and artifacts of a President of a country and his administration and presenting them to the public for study and discussions without regard for political considerations or affiliations. These documents are known as presidential documents and artifacts.

Presidential documents may be defined as any documentary material, or any reasonably divisible portion thereof created or received by the President, his immediate staff, or a unit or individual of the Executive Office of the President whose function it is to advise and assist the President in the course of conducting activities which relate to or have an effect upon the carrying out of the constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties of the President.

These could be records of the tragedies, the problems, the successes, and the evolution of policies that affect the nation and the world during a particular administration. Presidential libraries also document the most personal and private thoughts and feelings of a President to the most formal foreign or economic policy memorandums on presidential decision-making. The records include the classified memos and files of the National Security and Executive Councils as well as the files documenting domestic issues, and audio-visual files.  Presidential gifts that are accepted on behalf of the country and a range of objects that have been received from foreign governments or citizens and foreign citizenry are all housed in a Presidential Library.

Concerned mainly with the presentation and preservation of records and the memories of national and international events, a presidential library is very much a part of, and a reflection of the local environment in which it is located. As such, A Presidential Library offers a unique glimpse into how a country’s history is preserved and presented to both the general and academic public.

The IBB Presidential Library, located in Minna, the Capital of Niger State, on the grounds of the palatial residence of General Ibrahim Babangida, the man who ruled Nigeria as Military President from 27th of August 1985 to 27th August, 1993, fits well in the city’s culture that mixes the legacy of history with the promise of tomorrow. A first time visitor to the Library would be surprised by the modest facility which houses the collections. Even though the present facility, said to be temporary is small when compared to Presidential libraries in the United States of America, it is no less intriguing.

Established in 1998 as the first presidential library in Africa, the IBB Presidential Library possesses a huge wealth of materials, comprising thousands of presidential gifts and artefacts and hundreds of thousands of textual, electronic, and audio-visual records, which document the inner workings of General Ibrahim Babangida’s military government, the Armed Forces Ruling Council, at its highest policy level that historians will for decades mine as they write and judge the history of the period.

Tracing the history of the Library, Alhaji Muazu Wali, a retired National Librarian, who is currently Director/Archivist of the IBB Presidential Library told this writer that the idea of the Library originated way back in 1991 when the Babangida administration established a committee led by Professor J.M. Amodu, which visited the United States of America to understudy the Presidential Library System of that country. Upon the recommendation of the Committee a Presidential Libraries Decree was drafted for the establishment of Presidential Libraries for Former Nigerian Presidents. Even though the Decree was never promulgated before General Babangida left office in 1993, the National Library Board of Nigeria in 1996 formally requested access to the Presidential records for their organization into a Presidential Library. Given the huge resources involved in the establishment of a standard presidential library and the budgetary constraints of the National Library, the project remained a dream pipe until 1998, when the Library was formerly established as the General’s personal and private project.  The promulgation of the Presidential Library Decree would not only have made it obligatory for the Federal Government to establish and fund Presidential Libraries for a every former Nigerian President, but would have enabled the Federal Government through the National Librarian to assume the legal ownership, custody, and responsibility for the presidential records of retiring presidents immediately at the end of their administrations.

Safely and professionally moving and tracking of General Babangida’s presidential documents and artifacts from his private collection in his residence to the Library in an organized format for preservation may sound simple on its face but it has been a complex job that has involved careful planning and coordination with many different agencies and professionals. According to Alh Wali, the process of moving the presidential records and artifacts from the private collection of the former President which commenced 18 years ago is still ongoing, an indication of both the ever increasing volumes of materials involved and complexities of the record types.

Since opening its doors to researchers and members of the public the IBB Presidential Library has welcomed hundreds of visitors, mainly researchers and scholars. Thanks to its strategic location, only a few meters walk from the private residence of the former President, it has always been a rare privilege visiting this library and enjoying the experience and gaining new insight into the life and times of the eighth Nigerian President and his administration.

As a vibrant tribute to General Ibrahim Babangida as he turns 75 next month, the IBB Presidential Library Foundation, a Non-Governmental and non-Partisan Organization that administers and supports the IBB Presidential Library has added another first by launching an online version of the Library: This new online Presidential Library possesses hundreds of web pages of presidential resources about the General and his administration. Prior to the launch of the online version of the Library, its collections could only be accessed physically at the Library in Minna. Now, thanks to technology the collection can be accessed online around the world. The site also posts highly and well researched articles on security, politics, society, business and economy, energy and environment, education, arts, culture, health and medicine written by scholars with a diversity of perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences on its Featured Posts section. The website also features two sub-domains: ‘Digital Archives’ and a ‘Presidential Forum’

The Digital Archives provides access to a collection of searchable digitized historical documents, images and recordings of the General Babangida and his regime. Several archivists are said to be currently working to digitize and make available to the public all of its archival holdings in the fullness of time.

The IBB Presidential Forum is an exclusive Forum  for the benefit of outstanding men and women from a variety of academic disciplines and professional backgrounds who have a clear interest in presidential studies and analysis of public policies, and a commitment to fostering discussions and research on a diverse range of historical, political and economic issues reflecting the legacy of General Ibrahim Babangida and his era as President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.  Signed-up members receive a password to get access into this exclusive community which includes a discussion blog, articles and so much more.

According to the Foundation, three reasons underlie the launching of this website: First, as a public service, a way of further enriching the various reflections and interpretations of the policies of the military administration of General Ibrahim Babangida. The digitization of the presidential records of the General is essentially to create a national and international platform that allows the public greater access to Nigeria’s political history via a treasure website and the social media or the growing area of mobile applications.

Second, because General Babangida was last in public office about 23 years ago and his most vociferous critics and commentators are either in their late twenties or early thirties and may not have experienced first-hand, the Nigeria he inherited in August 1985, when he became President and the high points of his contributions as a leader. It is dangerous to leave national discourse of a historical nature in the hands of people with inherited prejudices and second-hand wisdom. As young people increasingly rely on the Internet as their primary source for information, the Library’s online version will allow the new generation of Nigerians to learn about the Babangida era as a chapter in Nigerian history. And as they discover the strides that were made towards the nation’s development during that period, they too can be inspired to ask of what they can do for their country.

Third, assessments of his eight year tenure as President of this country between 1985-1993 need to be grounded in fact, not partisan fiction and fashionable impressions. To say that, Babangida is easily the most documented past Nigerian leader, weighing in almost equally in both positive and negative directions would be an over exaggeration. Passionately loved and viciously despised, almost in equal measure, but never comfortable to ignore. Equally over documented is the controversial essence of the man himself, his political method and indeed his overall relationship with the various realities that he has had to deal with in the course of an eventful life.

The fact however, regrettably, remains that only few, very few Nigerians really understand the man himself, the currents of his times and ideas, their relationship to the wider national and international community, and how they were shaped by historical and cultural factors. This initiative will open new areas of learning and discovery through the library’s digital archives and will preserve precious documents on digital media for future generation of researchers and scholars to rely upon to write about the underlying principles and structural forms of the life of General Babangida’s administration, and to generate theoretical formulations in areas of political, social and economic problems.

According to the IBB Presidential Library Foundation, the purpose of the website is neither to rehash Babangida’s numerous reform initiatives, initiatives that others have either built upon, out rightly obliterated, mischievously disfigured or cleverly stolen and renamed or brazenly appropriated or misappropriated nor to enumerate the various landmark achievements of his administration. Without a doubt, no leader is perfect, and General Babangida like any other leader made mistakes. It may probably take countless volumes of books or thousands of webpages to address everything that the former President is perceived to have done wrong.

The strategic significance of the site however is that it provides a critical but scientific and objective analysis of events, issues and problems, which characterized the Babangida regime by putting them in a proper historical and intellectual perspective digitally. In addition, the site provides a first-hand source and reference materials on how Nigeria was governed between 1985 and 1993 – a central portal for manuscripts, memos, files, reports, transcripts, research materials, video and audio recordings of proceedings of high level meetings, etc, and news related to the Presidency of General Babangida and his family.

In the long term, the website hopes to be Africa’s richest online resource for information on the Nigerian presidency and Presidential leadership Studies.

Baba Yunus Muhammad is President, Africa Islamic Economic Foundation, Tamale, Ghana.


By Baba Yunus Muhammad

The Islamic tradition takes great pride in its scholars. The learned of Islam are supposed to be ‘the inheritors of the prophets’. The vocation of a Muslim scholar, therefore, is not to seek knowledge merely for its sake, but to make knowledge a path to guidance and bliss. The true mission of a Muslim scholar is to be a person of thought as well as action. Not only to provide theoretical vision but also to give practical counselling, to be a philosopher, a statesman or a stateswoman all at the same time. In short, it is the duty of the Muslim scholar to live by the teachings of the Holy Qur’an, and emulate the best model of humanity, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). It is clear that in this vison, there is no place for men or women of ideas who live for and by their ideas alone. In Islam, men or women of ideas have to be people of deeds as well. A Muslim scholar’s responsibility is as much to his or her learning as to his or her community. History testifies that many Muslim scholars has lived up to this very demanding ideal. One such worthy representative of the scholarly tradition of Islam, a woman contemporary with our own age and hence closer to us in thought and emotions, was the late Hajiya Bilkisu, who passed away in Saudi Arabia on the 24th September 2015. Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilaihi Raji’un! (From Allah we come and to Him we shall return!).

Indeed, death prompts us to re-examine our assumptions about life. We are affected on the physical, spiritual, and emotional levels when someone close to us dies. If we are not able to effectively cope with such loss, we may be vulnerable to exhaustion, illness, and even premature death. Coping with the death of a loved one is more than getting over the experience and moving on in life!

When the tragic news of Bilkisu’s death in the Makkah stampede was broken to me by a friend and brother, Mallam Ibrahim Sulaiman of the Ahmadu Bello University via a phone call I was not only shocked and devastated, but also utterly confused and thrown into a dream world. I have never known her to be sick, let alone to think of her death at the time it occurred. For several days running, I wished someone could reassure me that the news of her death was, after all, just one of those bad dreams. Alas, every passing second, minute, hour and day the thorny reality of her passing away kept mocking me, and shattered my heart to bits.

The demise of Hajiya Bilkisu is no doubt one of the most unfortunate and saddest events that has happened in my life. Bilkisu’s death is a huge personal loss. As a writer, I have had the opportunity of having many significant relationships, but my relationship with Hajiya Bilkisu would probably be one of the most important and remarkable I may ever have.

For three weeks after her death I have been battling within myself over a difficult decision, whether, in addition to my regular prayers for her, I should share out my thoughts about her and our remarkable relationship. After weeks of hesitation, I have decided to write my first ever tribute to a deceased person in my professional writing career. And I am doing it as a sense of duty because I am sure if there was to be any tribute to be written in my honour in the event of my own death, Hajiya Bilkisu would have been the first person to do it, and she would have done it perfectly well.

In the past three weeks, I have read scores of tributes and stories about her from brothers, sisters and friends. They have been extraordinary – and each story they have shared about this towering personality will surely keep her alive in our hearts and memories for a very, very long time to come.




I first met Bilkisu Yusuf, as she was then known, in July 1985 in London, United Kingdom, at the World Conference on the Impact of Nationalism on the Muslim Ummah, an annual international event that was organised by the then Muslim Institute for Research and Planning, London. She, together with late Tijjani El Miskeen of the University of Maiduguri, late Ahmad Muhammad Kani, then of the Ahmadu Bello University, Ishaq Kunle Sani of NACOMYO, Ibadan, and some Nigerian brothers were the delegates from Nigeria. I cannot recall if Hajiya Bilkisu presented a paper at that year’s Conference, but I do remember she was among the panel of discussants of my paper, entitled “the Breakup of the Sokoto Caliphate”.

I had circulated a document on the plight of Ghanaian Muslims and a Call for Action among some few carefully selected delegates on the first day of the conference. Bilkisu was among the recipients. When we met at the breakfast lounge of the Conference the following morning, she joined me on my table for us to discuss the document over our breakfast. That morning’s meeting lasted about thirty minutes. From that meeting I had a strong impression that it was not possible to have quick informal discussions with Bilkisu. Within minutes, even if she has never met you before, she will behave as though she was your life-long friend. And within minutes, she will have you listening attentively to her.

The following morning we met again. This time the meeting was longer. Over the breakfast, we discussed extensively about the state of Islam and the plight of Muslims in Ghana and some few ideas about establishing an Islamic Centre in the country. Her emphasis was on education as the only sustainable instrument of empowering the Muslims, even though, as a strategy it could take a very time to make an impact. In fact, we also had several lunch, dinner and late evening coffee meetings at the same spot, where all sorts of issues were laid bare, analysed and debated. Those meetings were revealing as I discovered two interesting features of Bilkisu’s mental make-up.

Indeed, one of the first characteristics of Bilkisu that I noticed from those meetings was her photographic memory: she remembered everything to the minutest of details. A strength that she used to great advantage when she met people. Secondly, I also realised that unlike most Muslim intellectuals and professionals, who once having made their minds on a certain issue saw it as a matter of dishonour to change it, Bilkisu was completely open to suggestions, ever ready to concede her mistakes, and did not hesitate to change her mind when faced with more powerful and convincing arguments.

By the time the conference ended, we had developed an elaborate blueprint to establish a multi-purpose Islamic Centre in Ghana. On the first sight, the proposed centre, with all its ambitious programs looked a bit far-fetched. When I shared the blueprint with some of the delegates for their input and support, the question on the lips of almost all of them was ‘brother, this looks good but where will you find the resources to implement it’? When I later shared my frustration with her over the response I was getting from people, Bilkisu simply told me to ignore all those pessimists, and as if she was encouraging by a flatter, said given my ability to pluck out solutions virtually out of thin air and turn distant dreams into present realities, the project, in her estimation was not an impossible goal. All that I needed was hard work hard and dedication, and of course, a high degree of tawakkul, trust in Allah SWT.

Alhamdulillah, it was nineteen years after our first meeting, precisely in 2004, when the ideas contained in the Blueprint matured and the Centre, known as Al Furqan Foundation was formally established in Tamale, in the Northern region of Ghana. It is to Bilikisu’s credit the Centre has organised four successful major international Islamic events in Ghana: the 1st International Seminar on Islamic Banking and Finance, Accra, 2004; International Seminar on Islamic Education, Tamale, 2005; International Conference on Islamic Family Law, Accra, 2007 and the international Conference on the Future of the Muslim Ummah of Ghana, Tamale, 2008. It is also to her credit that the Centre has established an Islamic educational facility in Tolon, 30 kilometres west of Tamale, Ghana, which was commissioned in 2008 by the then Governor of Kano State, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau; the establishment of two Islamic subsidiaries, the Ghana Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Africa Islamic Economic Foundation.

After the conference we exchanged contacts, and as the editor of Sunday Triumph, she requested me to send her regular contributions, particularly, articles on the status of women in Islam. This I did regularly from London, until she left Triumph for the New Nigerian in Kaduna as its first female editor in 1987. Her movement to Kaduna had coincided with my relocation to Nigeria in December 1987 when I established the now rested Open Press Nigeria Ltd, a publishing company, which was engaged in the business of Muslim news syndication services; book and newsmagazine publishing, including the distribution of the Crescent International, an international Islamic newsmagazine, published from Toronto, Canada.

The proximity between Zaria, where I lived and operated my business and Kaduna brought us more closely. Those were precious times as she engaged me most of the time during my visits to her at the New Nigerian and later Citizen Magazine in Islamic knowledge sharing sessions. Conscious of her yearnings for spiritual purification and development, tassawuf, was central in our knowledge sharing meetings.

As our relationship travelled through the decades Bilkisu increasingly became a source of inspiration to me, she supported and provided my family an utterly pure Islamic love. More importantly and significantly, when I lost three of my biological sisters in the late 90s, Bilkisu stepped in and took up all the responsibilities required of a biological sister. In her, I had a genuine and dependable sister and a friend. To my two wives, Bilkisu was an ideal sister-in-law who always made them feel comfortable enough to share their worries with her, and she was at all times assuring; to my five children, she was a loving, lovable, disciplined, intelligent and a workaholic aunt, and a perfect example to emulate; and to my aged parents in Ghana, particularly, my mother she remained a devoted daughter, and despite the distance that separated them she remained a sincere comfort and cover until the time she died. Certainly, Bilkisu’s demise has left a great vacuum in my modest family!


Bilkisu’s was a life fully dedicated to the service of Islam with, and by the Pen. Her focal points were the all-conquering love of Allah (SWT) and His Prophet, Muhammad, SAW and the importance of genuine Islamic values for the strengthening of man’s personality. In serving Islam, she followed a method of personal interaction and effectively demonstrated the qualities of a sincere Muslimah by precepts and examples. With this method, coupled with her warmth and wisdom she won over the hearts and minds of her compatriots, both Muslims and Christians alike. She was also instrumental in the formation of one of the most successful and enduring Islamic organizations in Nigeria, the Federation of Muslim Women of Nigeria (FOMWAN). It is noteworthy that FOMWAN has since been replicated in Ghana as Federation of Muslim Women of Ghana (FOMWAG), and through it, she has maintained very close contacts with several Ghanaian Muslim sisters.

Although her political and intellectual sympathies have been with Islam, she has never been a political Islamist, Just as she was incapable of showing blind allegiance to any organisation or intellectual or political position.

In spite of her exceptional intellectual abilities, there was never a slightest trace of arrogance in her attitude. She treated everyone with equal respect. She never looked at people`s status in life to help them, whether rich, poor, short, tall, Christian or Muslim; whether from the north, south, east or west, she gave all equal opportunity. Hers was a rare quality of always putting others before herself in every situation. She listened to every point of view, every argument; and judged its own merit. A corollary of the absence of arrogance was her simplicity. She had no illusions of grandeur nor a desire to amass large quantities of wealth – both conspicuously notable amongst many intellectuals of our age. She was gifted with eyes that saw only the best in people, a heart that forgave the worst, a mind that forgot the bad and a soul that never lost faith in Allah SWT. It was these rare and unique qualities, which enabled her to overcome some of the most difficult personal challenges and vicissitudes in her life.

It is pertinent to point out one fact: if ever there was an area we differed it was my perception about western inspired civil society organizations working in Africa just as she was uncomfortable with my close association with certain Nigerian and African leaders at one time in my life. She would always call to caution me, and for a good reason too, to distance myself from palaces or the seats of power; quoting her directly, she would say,”Mallam ka kiyaye fada”. While I considered western NGOs as tools of western cultural imperialism in developing countries, and probably never saw anything good in them, Bilkisu would take her time to enlighten me about the roles and work of civil society organisations in modern democratic societies.

Whether she was able to change my perception about western NGOs is not important here, but her contribution to society through civil society activism, as I later discovered, particularly, in the areas of girl child education, general and maternal health, conflict management and resolution, poverty alleviation, civic education and empowerment, both in Nigeria and abroad is unparalleled. Another important lesson I learnt from our difference on this issue was that; to Bilkisu sincere intention was more fundamental in any human undertaking, as attested to in the words of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW), “Deeds [are measured] by their intentions.” The Messenger of Allah (SAW) also said: “How many are the deeds, which bear the image of the deeds of this world but then become – through their god intention – among the deeds of the Hereafter! And, how many are the deeds, which bear the image of the deeds of the Hereafter but then become – through their evil intention – among the deeds of this world”. To Bilkisu, what was necessary in any of her undertakings was to strive for the pleasure of Allah, the abode of the Hereafter, to alleviate human suffering, the revival of religion, and the survival of Islam.


Bilkisu was a woman of many parts. She interacted and worked with different layers of society as well as different religious personalities and institutions; probably, the most controversial was her relationship with the Ibrahim El zakzakky led Islamic movement. In the last few years of her life she had not only given lectures at some of the Movement’s organised events but had published articles on the movement in some of her weekly columns. On several occasions, without her knowledge though, I responded to enquiries from some of our brothers who knew of our closeness, whether my sister had become a Shi’i.

The truth is that Bilikisu was never a Shi’i. What is however important to point out is that in her world there existed two big evils – wars, on the one hand, and ignorance and poverty, on the other – which have stalked human society right down the centuries. Being her primary concern to eliminate those evils she tended to judge all ideas, religious and otherwise, and all social institutions on the extent to which they contributed towards the removal of these evils. In her situation, she might have considered the Islamic movement and other religious or social institutions she interacted with to be, if not fully, committed to the elimination of these evils. Furthermore, in the worldview of Bilkisu the multiplicity of religious traditions and faiths always served as a reminder of the uniqueness of Islam. Every reflection forced on her by the encounter of divergent ideas and plurality of faiths resulted in a sharper perception and a clearer delineations of the contours of Islam.


Bilkisu, in my opinion, towered and stood out from the rest of us because she understood and took the message of the Holy Qur’an to her heart. While ever conscious of the Hereafter, she lived life to the fullest. Hers was a life not just of hard work and sweat thinking, fighting injustice and inequality, but also of fun and joy. Without experiencing the full potential of life and the intellectual joy of being a Muslimah, how could she seriously think about changing the world for the better?

That is the conviction that the invisible power of the Holy Qur’an, with which she became intimately close in the last two decades of her life created in her. Bilkisu did not acquire this frame of mind by virtue of being born a Muslimah. It encompassed her through various stages: fear, dissatisfaction, disbelief, doubts, speculations, objectivity and rationalization. The Qur’an was not an end for her; it was rather a means to attain her goals in this and the hereafter. It taught her to ponder over every phenomenon she came across and strove to attain its reality, which ultimately led to the knowledge of the Creator.

The deeper she studied the Qur’an, the better she understood Allah’s creation and the more she become aware of Allah’s majesty and power. She considered the Qur’an as meaningful only to the seeker of truth. She perceived the Qur’an as the best means to obtain spiritual and material freedom. The Qur’an, as the Holy Book, which contains the most detailed declaration of freedom and dignity of humankind, made her throw away the clutches of superstition of the ancient and the materialism of the modern. It gave her a scale for a balanced living on this earth, freeing herself from the chains of striving for material superiority and at the same time, providing her with self-esteem, personal and social dignity.

Today, as Bilkisu lay buried in her grave in the Holy land of Makkah – her silent lifetime desire and wish given her emotional attachment to the Holy land – I believe it was only her body that was buried. Her ideas and the ideals she stood and laboured for are still with us. They live on in the tributes and stories people are sharing of how she touched their lives; in the love that is visible in the eyes of her bereaved husband, Brother Mustapha Muhammad Bintube; in the spirit and resilience of her two children, Mashood and Nana Fatima and her four grandchildren. For my family, and me things may never be the same – but the world is better for the years Hajiya Bilkisu lived.

I ask Allah, the Most Generous and Most Magnificent, to crown her with His Mercy, Forgiveness, and reward her with the highest grade of Al Jannah through the intercession and Waseelah of His Beloved Prophet Muhammad, PBUH.


The Africa Islamic Economic Foundation (AFRIEF) is a growing organization that works to foster a deeper understanding of Islamic finance, ethical investments and the evolving Halal economy among leaders in the government, private and public sectors in Africa. AFRIEF is registered with the Government of the Republic of Ghana as a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) and networks with Governments, public and private sector organizations at national and international levels. Working in close collaboration with its strategic partners AFRIEF is committed to advancing Islamic economics and finance, promoting technology and human development, improving standards of living as well as providing strategic advisory services to Governments, business and social sector organizations to tackle poverty, deliver both much-needed infrastructure and vital economic stimulus in AU and OIC member countries. We do this by improving government performance, transparency and accountability, and the delivery of basic public services. We work with countries as they develop proposals for change, then help in their implementation. We operate government-wide and deal at the very highest levels.

Within the general promotion of Islamic Economics and Finance, AFRIEF focusses its efforts on creating concrete and pragmatic goals. Recognising that a country’s GDP does not tell the whole story about the health of its economy, AFRIEF promotes an alternative economic thought that emphasizes and places the well-being of the individual on centre stage. Through collecting and analysing data through the application of alternative economic tools and models, organizing and hosting conferences, drafting and presenting reports, and, perhaps most importantly, by running field-projects in many countries, AFRIEF compiles the collective and individual experiences of peoples, organizations, companies and countries from all over Africa.

Bringing together scholars and professionals, leaders, policy makers and graduate students from diverse academic backgrounds, AFRIEF designs innovative and sustainable solutions for today’s challenges, but that are flexible to serve tomorrow’s needs. AFRIEF also works with relevant stakeholders to establish, develop, promote and regulate a financial market based on Shari’ah principles and subsequently, create a secondary market for Islamic capital market instruments in Africa.

AFRIEF supports national regulatory institutions like Central Banks, Security and Exchange, and Insurance regulatory bodies to develop plans and roadmaps towards a well-functioning Islamic Finance and Halal economic system. AFRIEF is also committed to the advancement and standardization of Islamic financial instrument structures and contracts, infrastructure and product development, issuance of guidelines and enhancing co-operative framework among Islamic financial institutions in Africa.

AFRIEF helps visionary leaders and governments across Africa to unlock growth and development, accelerate growth in key sectors, shape infrastructure development to create excellent future cities, and ramp up education and youth employment. It also works with major companies to drive rapid growth and achieve outstanding performance – in banking, industry, telecoms, renewable energy, real estate, construction, health care and diversified conglomerates, and nurture the talents of a new generation.

Organizationally, the Africa Islamic Economic Forum (AIEIF) that is held each year in a different African country is the most important annual event of the Foundation. AIEF serves as platform for exchange of ideas, knowledge sharing and networking. It brings together all stakeholders including government officials, representatives of international organisations, and leaders of business, labour unions and civil society.

For more information please visit: AFRIEF.COM