Gobirawa in the Diaspora: The Legacies of Mallam Muhammadu Ajeigbe Gobir the First Wazirin Ilorin, 1902-1960

Being a paper presented at the First International Conference on Gobir Kingdom, Past And Present: Transformation And Change, held at The Usmanu Danfodiyo University Auditorium, from 9th – 13th July, 2018

Gobirawa in the Diaspora: The Legacies of Mallam Muhammadu Ajeigbe Gobir the First Wazirin Ilorin, 1902-1960


Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto


Sakariyaulawal Yittametu
Department Of History
Kwara State College of Education, Ilorin


            The Gobirawa as a distinct people live, in their large number, in diaspora all over west Africa since time immemorial. Arguably, the Gobirawa of Ilorin is the most viable Gobirawa diaspora community in Nigeria. This is as a result of the fact that they are able to maintain distinct traits in the midst of the Yoruba, their hosts. In addition, the Gobirawa are recognised in Ilorin officially through their head – SarkinGobir of Ilorin – the title that has been on ground consistently for the past two hundred years. Also, the Gobirawa of Ilorin have maintained unbroken ties with their kith and kins in Sabon Birni, Tsibiri, Izza, Bafarawa, Bube etc. (Interview Muhammad Ahmed Yusuf Gobir, June 2009; Danlad 2009:46).

It is also a widely known fact that the Gobirawa as distinct Hausa descendants in Ilorin have been making strong presence in the Emirate since the beginning of the nineteenth century. Their presence is felt in various aspects of endeavours – politics, education, economy and religion. The exploits of the Gobirawa in Ilorin as a group vis-a-vis other elements have been captured by many scholars (Jimoh 1994; Danlad, 2009; Gobir 1976). In all, it is generally agreed that they are one of the most politically formidable and socially resilient people that have settled in Ilorin especially since the formation of an emirate in the city.

In the over two hundred years of the history of Gobirawa in Ilorin Emirate, one of their most outstanding  personalities is Mallam Muhammadu Ajeigbe Gobir (popularly called Alfa Ajeigbe), the sixth Sarkin Gobir of Ilorin. He was a great high-flying individual having achieved some firsts in specific undertakings and preoccupations in the Emirate. He was the first of a duo to attend secondary school; he was the first Wazirin Ilorin combining it with the title of Sarkin Gobir of Ilorin and the first western-trained Security Secretary of Ilorin Native Authority. This study, therefore, discusses in a concise analysis, the life and times of this great son of the Gobirawa whose efforts in the development of his immediate community and beyond is being felt several decades after his demise. The study argues that Alfa Muhammadu Ajeigbe Gobir was an exemplary character and a worthy Gobir ambassador in Ilorin.


Justification of the study

The writing of the history of outstanding personalities is very imperative for many reasons. Documenting such history for posterity sake is paramount and that is why the great American author Sue Monk Kidd observes that, “stories (and values) have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here” (Kidd, 2002:133). Indeed, writing the history of personalities or heroes also engenders some didactic benefits. For example, Malumfashi. Yandaki and Abdullahi (2017:18) also stress that by, highlighting on specific individual role models and some other historic milestone of events and happenings we might bring back those good sides of our life for the transformation, rebranding and/or reformation we are now harping on all over the place.

Thus, we strongly believe that there is no better time to write on the life and times of our subject matter than now. This is particularly true at this crucial time when the legacies of Gobir Kingdom and the Gobirawa are being celebrated.


Early Life

Mallam Muhammadu Ajeigbe Gobir was born in 1902 to the family of Alfa Isa Gobir. He was an auspicious child who showed some qualities of excelling among his peers. He was enrolled in the Provincial Elementary School in Ilorin in 1915 where he was regarded as a promising pupil. Because of his brilliance, Gobir was promoted to the rank of Mallam (teacher) in the same provincial elementary school at the beginning of 1920 (NAK/ILORPROF/14/45/365/1936). In other words, he became a teacher under the colonial administration just five years after starting his elementary education.

In 1921 a landmark achievement was recorded in the educational development of Ilorin. Mallam Muhammadu Gobir became a direct participant in this development. This was as a result of the fact that two admission slots were allotted to Ilorin to fill into the only teacher training college of northern Nigeria in Katsina in that year. Therefore, two pupils were chosen to fill the admission slots in the College from Ilorin. Thus, Mallam Muhammadu Gobir and one MallamUsumanu were sent to Katsina Training College from Ilorin. The two pupils successfully completed the course in 1926 at the College thereby becoming the first indigenes of Ilorin Emirate to obtain secondary school education (Hermon-Hodge, 1929: 255).


His Services to Ilorin Community and Beyond

Upon the completion of his training at the Katsina Training College, Mallam Muhammadu Gobir was appointed as a teacher at the Ilorin Middle School and he proved to be a hardworking member of staff. From 1930-1932, he was the head Mallam (headmaster) at Okesuna Elementary School, Ilorin. He also became a visiting teacher to all the elementary schools in Ilorin Province from 1932-36. Specifically as a visiting teacher, he did not only teach he also performed the role of a supervisor in those elementary schools such as the ones at Oke-Suna, Pakata, Omu-Aran, Lafiagi, Patigi, Baruten etcetera (Interview Alhaji Adama EboDaniyan October, 2018).It was reported that although his educational ideas were limited to the traditional academic type of school, he had been a distinct success as a visiting teacher (NAK/ILORPROF/14/45/365/1936).

Mallam Mugammadu Gobir is always remembered as a sound mathematician and a good mathematics teacher – the first in Ilorin. He taught mathematics efficiently and with great enthusiasm. He made the subject not only attractive but also interesting to his pupils. In the Gobir community of Ilorin, it is believed that whoever is sound in mathematics took after him (Interview, Alhaji Adama Ebo Daniyan, 2018).

In 1936 when the Ilorin Emir’s Council was reorganised by the British colonialists, Mallam Muhammadu Gobir also featured prominently. The Emir’s Council which then had ten members was enlarged to thirteen members. The Magaji Garin llorin and two literate members who represented the educated classes and departmental interest were the three new members incorporated into the Council. Mallam Muhammadu Gobir and Mallam Yahaya Popoola were the two appointed educated members. Therefore, for the first time ever, the Emir’s Council comprised of some educated elements which enhanced its performance and decision making (NAK/ILORPROF/14$/45/365/Emirs’s Council, Ilorin - Reorganisation, December 1936).

As a member of the Emir’s Council, Gobir was put in charge of the Native Authority (NA) Police and Prisons. He thus became the Security Secretary of the NA and his western education and experience was put to bear on the efficiency of the NA Police and Prisons at that time. It was at his instance that many indigenes of Ilorin became yandoka in the NA Police and warders in the NA Prisons (Interview, Alhaji Adama Ebo Daniyan, 2018).

In recognition of the sterling qualities and the selfless services which Mallam Muhammad Gobir was rendering to Ilorin Emirate at that time, Emir Abdulkadir Bawa officially turbaned him as the first Wazirin Ilorin in 1954. He thus became the first official vizier of the Emirate. Why this development became a watershed is because the institution of waziri/vizier as practiced in some emirates in northern Nigeria was not in existence in Ilorin. An official vizier was never put into practice by the Emirate until that time. In that same year, Gobir was also turbaned as the sixth Sarkin Gobir of Ilorin (Interview, Mallam Ismaila Baba Ajape Gobir, 2018) – the chieftaincy of his ancestors after the demise of his predecessor, Alfa Abdulkadir Gobir. As the Wazirin Ilorin, he served as the chief protocol officer of the Emir because of his knowledge of the etiquettes of administration. He also represented the Emir in different forums across Northern Nigeria and the nation at large (Interview, Alhaji Adama Ebo Daniyan, 2018). As the Sarkin Gobir of Ilorin he was reported to have increased the chieftaincy in status and fame because of his standing in the Emirate (Interview Alhaja Fatima Segilola Ayoka, 2018). He was also reported to have enabled the furtherance of ties with his Gobir community in Ilorin and those in Gobir land especially in Sabon Birni.

In later years, the experience and administrative acumen of Muhammadu Gobir was also tapped into by the government to serve the interests of Ilorin Emirate. For example, upon the dissolution of the rancorous Ilorin Native Authority Council in June 1958 by the Northern Nigerian Regional Government, a caretaker committee was appointed to replace it.Mallam Muhammadu Gobir was appointed as one of the caretaker committee members who were charged with restoring sanity to the Native Authority Council (Adisa-Onikoko 1982: 34). The committee was also able to successfully conduct fresh elections and handed over power to a new elected Council.

Muhammadu Gobir held a very rigourous but productive life. He was an astute and routine reciter of the dalailul khairat (a collection of prayers for Prophet Muhammad). He also routinely attended many administrative courses as a public officer. In fact, he died sometimes in 1960 just four days after returning to Ilorin from a course at the Institute of Administration, Zaria (Interview, Alhaji Adama Ebo Daniyan, 2018).


His Philanthropic Activities

Mallam Muhammadu Gobir was a great philanthropist. Scores of people have given details of the assistance he had rendered to them of which he asked them not to make public. It is said of him that on every Friday, children will troop to his compound to be given sadaka (alms) of oranges, mangoes, sugar canes and bananas etc. He epitomised generosity, love and affection to his neighbours and he always counsel others to learn to give to the children of the poor porridge and pap so that Allah will give to their own children milk (Akanbi 2001: 4). In addition, he normally kept British pennies in abundance which he occasionally shared to children in his area of residence.

Out of his official duties, he was a guider and counselor. Having been privileged to be among the first Ilorin indigenes to acquire western education, he deemed it a duty to encourage children and wards of his townsmen to do the same in spite of the negative perception with which the populace held it (western education) at that time. It was common of him to scout for promising and brilliant children among the many idled about town and mandate them through their parents and guardians to go to school. It was with this same zeal that he encouraged the youths in Ilorin to also pursue Islamic education too in the various i’lmi Islamic schools scattered all over the city. He was, indeed, at that time an advocate of the learning of both the established Islamic education and the relatively newly introduced western education.


His Outstanding Children

Indeed, Mallam Muhammadu Gobir was not only a distinguished teacher; he was also an outstanding parent who gave his children good moral, religious and western educational training. He was a polygamist and his first wife was Alhaja Sefinatu Ibiyinka. Together with his wives, he was able to raise a remarkably respected extended family. He was blessed with both male and female children and due to his exemplary parental guidance and effective home training tutorials which his children benefited from, many of them later in life became great individuals. For example, three of his male children became important national figures in Nigeria. The first was Alhaji Yakubu Amori Gobir who became a District Officer in northern Nigeria. He also ended up serving as a Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education in Kwara State.

There was also Alhaji Muhammad Garba Gobir who also became a District Officer in northern Nigeria. He was a right hand man of Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto. He later joined the Foreign Service and became Nigeria’s Ambassador in United Kingdom.  Lastly, was Alhaji Yusuf Amuda Gobir who worked with the northern Nigerian Civil Service. He later became the Permanent Secretary in the Governor’s Office, Kwara State. He was also eventually appointed Permanent Secretary to the Federal Ministry of Defence during Nigeria’s Civil War. He also served as the Permanent Secretary Federal Ministries of Establishment and Transport (Uwechue 1991: 260). Also one of Mallam Muhammadu Gobir’s daughters, Alhaja Fatima Segilola Ayoka, worked in the Federal Civil Service. She rose to become a Principal Executive Officer in the Presidency.



An increased loss of acts of patriotism, humanity and philanthropy is bedeviling our society in present times. This loss is now creating acts of selfishness, greed and immorality which our collective efforts seem to institutionalise. These seemingly self-inflicted problems arise as a result of lack of the teaching of heroism and role model personalities to our citizens. As a result of this, the society is left to imbue in their younger generation corrupted examples soiling all aspects of our collective development as humanity. Therefore, one thing is very clear from this study which underscores the compelling need to change our attitudes and promote our own societal role models by teaching their endeavours to our upcoming generations. In view of this, this study has ascertained the fact that the Gobirawa had established themselves in the Diaspora as far as Yorubaland. They produced distinguished personalities like Mallam Muhammadu Ajeigbe Gobir who have made great contributions to their respective homelands and have become heroes that should not only be celebrated but also be emulated. Thus, in our estimation, he was a worthy Gobir ambassador from Ilorin.


Oral Interview, Mallam Ismaila Ajape Gobir, Ilorin, June 2018, aged: 75 years.

Oral Interview, Alhaji Muhammad Ahmad Yusuf Gobir, Sarkin Gobir of Ilorin, Ilorin, June 2018, aged: 60 Years.

Oral Interview, Alhaji Adama Ebo Daniyan, Ilorin, September, 2018. He is a son-in-law to the Waziri, Muhammad Gobir, aged: 90 years.

Oral Interview, Alhaja Fatima Segilola Ayoka, Ilorin, September, 2018. She is the First daughter of Waziri Muhammad Gobir, aged:74 years.

NAK/ILORPROF/14$/45/365/ Emirs’s Council, Ilorin Re-organisation, December 1936.

Adisa-Onikoko, S.A.T. (1982).A History of Ilorin Emirate, Ilorin: S.A.T. Adisa Press.

Akanbi, Mustapha, (2011). “Contribution of the Gobir Dynasty to the Development of Ilorin and Kwara State”, A Paper Presented on the occasion of Gobir Day, Ilorin, 7th November.

Danlad, Y. S. (2009). A History of Hausa Settlers in Ilorin 1900 – 2000, MA History Thesis, University of Ilorin, Ilorin.

Gobir, R. (1976).The Role of Immigrants in the Foundation and Development of the Emirate of Ilorin, BA History Dissertation, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

Hermon-Hodge, H. B., 1929, Gazetteer of Ilorin Province, London: George Allen and Unwin.

Malumfashi, I. M., Yandaki, A. I. and Abdullahi, I. S. S. (2017), “Introduction”, in Malumfashi, I. M. et al (eds.), Heroes and Heroines of Hausaland, Kaduna: Garkuwa Publishers.

Kidd, Sue Monk (2002). The Secret Life of Bees. New York: Penguin Books.

Uwechue, R. (1991).Makers of Modern Africa: Profiles in History, Michigan: Africa Books.

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