My relationship with the late Sheikh Adam Abdullah Akachukwu Idoko started early in the mid-1990s and deepened until his demise. Throughout the relationship, Sheikh Idoko demonstrated the consistency of intent and purpose in the field of Da’wah (calling to the path of Islam) across the six geo-political zones of the country and the Southeastern region in particular.
*R-L: Dr. Abdullah, the late Sheikh Idoko and a Sadaqat beneficiary*
He was very passionate about his calling such that hardly would any gathering inspired by Islamic faith would be held without his presence. While I held sway as the General Secretary of the National Moonsighting Committee of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) in the late 2008s till 2015, I had several interactions with him mostly on development issues and the Nigerian Muslim Ummah. His eagerness and desire to learn more about Islam earned him an opportunity to travel to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where he studied at the Islamic University Madinah and graduated with a Bachelor degree in Shari’ah in 1984.
Endowed with the requisite knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence, Sheikh Idoko returned to the country and created a niche for himself among the comity of Islamic scholars. The contemporary approach to Islamic propagation adopted by Sheikh Idoko made significant impact on the growth and development of Islam in the Southeast so much so that the Anambra State government was impressed by his ERUDITION, CONSCIOUSNESS and SCHOLARSHIP on Islamic matters. Thus, he was appointed as the Secretary, Anambra State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board between 1988 and 1992. With the creation of Enugu State from Anambra State in 1991, he became the pioneer Chairman of the Enugu State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board from 1992 to 1995 and then, a former part-time Commissioner, representing the Southeastern region on the Board of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON). His characteristic was a reminiscence of a verse in the Qur’an where Allah “…has gifted him abundantly with knowledge and bodily prowess…” Q2;247.
Later, Sheikh Idoko’s impactful engagements earned him wider recognition and acceptability in the public space, and in turn, placed more responsibilities on his shoulders. As a native of Umuogbo Ekposi, Enugu-Ezike in Igbo Eze North Local Government Area, Enugu State, he was the choice of the people to lead the University community as the Chief Imam of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Sheikh Idoko also combined his spiritual leadership with administrative and managerial responsibilities as the Director of Islamic Education, Peace and Development Centre, Umuogbo Ekposi, Enugu and President-General, League of Islamic Scholars and Missionaries of Eastern Nigeria. He was “like a twinkle star and diamond” in the Nigeria Muslim Ummah. With his physique, candour, humane and charismatic appearance, he was well-known across the country as a renowned scholar. As an ISLAMIC ACTIVIST, he was deeply in a cordial relationship with his native compatriots and people from other ethno-religious backgrounds.
It was easy for him to navigate the rough terrace of the Southeast where Islam and indigenous Muslims are regarded as minorities and suffered untold hardships from religious bigots. Not unaware of the stereotyping and stigmatisation of indigenous Muslim minorities, Sheikh Idoko repelled evil with goodness always in line with the verse of the Qur’an that says “Nor can goodness and evil be equal. Repel evil with what is better: then will he between whom and you was hatred, become as it were your friend and intimate!” Q41:34.
In 2009, I recall when I had a conversation with him in my capacity as the Executive Director/CEO of Zakat and Sadaqat Foundation, Lagos, that we had concluded arrangements to distribute Zakat funds across all the five states in the East, he advised me that we should kindly consider some non-Muslims to benefit from the Zakat in order to bring public good to them and also showcase the inclusiveness of Islam in ameliorating the sufferings of the less-privileged. As the formidable driver of Islamic propagation, Sheikh Idoko knew the challenges of the indigenous Muslim workers and activists. He was always taking the lead in championing the call for inclusiveness and improved living their conditions. On arrival at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, he was at the airport to receive me and my team.
He ensured that we had the best hospitality in Nsukka, Enugu. I also discovered that he had already arranged for our transportation from Enugu to Abakaliki, the capital of Ebonyi State for the continuation of our Zakat distribution. He was a SELFLESS PERSON and a WORTHY AMBASSADOR OF ISLAM. He was always ready to serve the Ummah and humanity even at the shortest notice. Throughout the successive years of Zakat distributions in the Southeast, he was always on ground with his team to provide logistics among other supports for the successful execution of the Zakat distribution.
Another experience I had with him was in 2016, when I became the pioneer Executive Secretary/CEO of Jaiz Zakat and Waqf Trust Fund (JZWTF). That year, I initiated the Iftar Saim Project (Meals for fasting Muslims) which was approved by the Board of Jaiz Foundation. He provided the logistics and also accompanied our team to Ebonyi and Abia States for the implementation of the feeding exercise. Later in the same year, we returned to the region to distribute Zakat in all the states starting in his native town, Nsukka, Enugu State. The successful execution of the exercise was instrumental to the arrangements put in place by him. On our trips to other states, he monitored our movements to ensure we had a smooth ride and hitch-free exercises.
It is pertinent to mention that we were very impressed with the rank and file of religious and community leaders as well as the diversity of the beneficiaries that attended our exercises throughout the six states in the eastern region. Thanks to the efforts of Sheikh Idoko and other eminent Igbo Muslim leaders. It will not be an understatement to say that the late Sheikh Idoko was truly a RELIGIOUS and COMMUNITY LEADER, AN ADMINISTRATOR and BRIDGE BUILDER between the northern and southern regions of the country. His indefatigable efforts and strides across the Niger, made him a STRONG PILLAR OF ISLAM and CYNOSURE of several Islamic organisations where he held one position or the other such as the Deputy Secretary-General, Council of Ulama of Nigeria; Deputy Secretary-General (South); Vice President-General, NSCIA and Jamaatul Nasril Islam (NJI), Enugu State chapters respectively; a member, Board of Trustees of Jaiz Charity and Development Foundation; National Dawah Coordination of Council of Nigeria; International Islamic Relief Organisation, Nigerian Office and Sultan Foundation for Peace and Development.
The narrative of the history of the nascent Islamic commercial and social finance in Nigeria will be incomplete if Sheikh Idoko’s name is omitted. Little wonder, he was a member of the Financial Regulation Advisory Council of Experts (FRACE) of the Central Bank of Nigeria and a member of the Board of Directors of Jaiz Takaful Insurance Plc among others. He was a SCHOLAR of Islamic finance corporate governance, a very PLEASANT PERSON, KIND, FRIENDLY and always READY TO HELP OTHERS irrespective of their ethno-religious inclination. Sheikh Idoko was also VERY HUMBLE. I recall my recent conversation with him three months ago when he requested that I advise him on the assignment given to him by the Board of Jaiz Charity and Development Foundation on Zakat. He said: “Imam (referring to me), I know that you are more experienced than me on Zakat as you have been doing a long time when you used to come to Enugu and other states in the Southeast and Southsouth. I would appreciate your assistance to make my assignment accomplished…” I was humbled by his SIMPLICITY and UNASSUMING POSTURE. Here was a member of the Board of Trustees of Jaiz Foundation, my employer, yet he approached me seeking knowledge and guidance on an area he knew somebody was above him. He was a SINCERE MUSLIM, OPEN-MINDED and APPROACHABLE.
The exit of Sheikh Idoko has created a big vacuum in the Muslim Ummah and Southeastern region in particular. His death will linger in our minds for a long time. My last conversation with him a few days to his demise – I told him that I called solely to supplicate and wish him a quick recovery. He thanked me profusely for the gesture and also recounted his experience concerning his health and how he managed to attend the recent Board meeting of Jaiz Foundation on Wednesday, September 16. He was excused from the meeting half-way to attend to his health. After consultation with the Board members, the Chairman of the Foundation, Mallam Adamu Bello, directed the management of the foundation to settle all the hospital bills of Sheikh Idoko’s treatment. The Management contacted the family and conveyed the decision of the Board and we were on that process going forward when the news of his death was announced by his daughter, Fauziyyah on Wednesday October 14. Hajiya Zainab Abdurrahman, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation remarked with a heavy heart, “…I just spoke to him a few hours ago. I called he didn’t pick then he called me back to say he was about to have an injection and would call me back. I said ok, I just wanted to check on you…” It was a devastating shock. Nobody saw any looming tragedy on that day. What an irony of life! Sheikh Adam Abdullah Idoko’s journey has come to an end but his legacy will continue to inspire the upcoming young generation on the path of righteousness, growth and development.
His Janazah (burial arrangement) was coordinated by the Management of the National Mosques. He was buried at the Muslim Cemetery in Abuja same day. May Allah grant his family the fortitude to bear the loss. I commiserate with the President-General, NSCIA, the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, CFR, our Igbo Muslim brethren and the entire members of the Muslim Ummah. May Allah overlook his mistakes, be merciful with his soul, grant him peace of the grave and make his final home Jannat al-Firdaws.
* Dr Abdullahi Shuaib is CEO, Jaiz Charity and Development Foundation, Abuja