Still on the Evolution of Ilorin, By LAK Jimoh
Early Islamic Scholars
The earliest set of Islamic teachers who were scholars in their own right in Ilorin prior to the arrival of Shehu Alimi was mainly Kanuri migrants. They lived in Okesuna and their leader was Malam Abdullahi Tahir, nicknamed Solagberu. Because of his alias, Yoruba historians think Solagberu was originally a Yoruba man. His alias was given by Yoruba people to describe Tahir’s charisma, carriage and the tumultuous attraction to him of many followers. Solagberu’s famous Okesuna was then located somewhere around the present day Adewole Estate towards Mandate Market and not today’s Okesuna in Balogun Fulani.
Solagberu, a beri-beri (Kanuri) migrant, travelled extensively as an itinerant mallam (teacher), covering a vast area of the northern province of Yorubaland. He eventually made Ilorin his permanent base.
Other Islamic Mu’alim from Kanuriland who were with Solagberu at the Old Okesuna and whose descendants still live in Ilorin included the ancestral parents of the Ojibara Family at Oke Apomu who later became Ajanasi in the Emir Palace before passing the title over to the Bature Family, the Mekabara family of Masalasi Bada at Ita Ogunbo, the Onagun family at Ita Egba, the family of Shehu Busaeri Oloyin at Ita Elepa who were Ajanasi too, the Umar Baba Nla (Imam Matase) family of Okeleru/Popo Giwa, the ancestral parents of Mukadam Adangba of Ile Aladodo and the Oninahu family of Kuntu. The progenitor of Imam Munabau at Oke Kura by name Muhammadu Salihu Munabau was also among scholars who lived at Okesuna. Imam Munabau was also once Ajanasi in the Emir’s Palace.
Others who lived at Okesuna (under the leadership) during the days of Solagberu and before the arrival of Shehu Alimi but who were not necessarily Islamic Scholars were the ancestral parents of the Olomoda family of Omoda, the Oloko-ide family of Balogun Fulani ward, and the Balogun Aafin family (who were Baruba by descent) of Idiagbede area of Magaji Aare ward.
Together with these compatriots, Solagberu built up Okesuna as an exclusive community of Muslims in Ilorin before the arrival of Shehu Alimi. The reputation of Okesuna as a mini-centre of Islamic tradition attracted many other migrant Muslims from different parts of Yorubaland, especially from Gbanda, Kobayi, Agoho, Kuwo and Kobe.
When Shehu Alimi later arrived in Ilorin, he got a very warm reception from the Okesuna Muslim Community and felt very much at home in the midst. Shehu’s superior intellect and deeper knowledge of different fields of Islam soon became manifest and were recognised, acknowledged, appreciated and respected by the Ulama of Okesuna. Solagberu and his colleagues therefore submitted themselves to the Shehu’s intellectual and spiritual leadership in consonance with Islamic sense of humility. Naturally, Shehu became the Imam and leader of the community as expected of a purely Islamic community. The people worked harmoniously with Shehu Alimi to consolidate and enhance Islam within and beyond the immediate environment. They propagated the Islamic teaching and fought the jihad war together till the demise of Shehu.
However, the relationship between Solagberu and the sons of Shehu Alimi went sour after the Shehu’s death, leading to war and ultimately to the destruction of the famous Okesuna. Some of those who survived the destruction of Okesuna moved into Ilorin proper and settled mainly in the area which thereafter became known largely as Oke-Imale. The survivors included some members of the Solagberu household whose residence in present day Ilorin is now known and called Ile Solagberu at Agbaji. Other survivors moved elsewhere, especially to Ogbomoso.
Essentially from L.A.K Jimoh’s book titled: “ILORIN The Journey So Far,” published in 1994.