Tributes have continued to pour on the late Secretary General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Abdul-Lateef Adegbite, who died Friday in Lagos at the age of 79.
President Goodluck Jonathan described the late Mr. Adegbite as a bridge-builder who reached across ethnic and religious divides to promote peace and unity.
This is contained in a statement issued in Abuja on Saturday by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati,
The President said Mr. Adegbite’s tenure as Secretary-General of the NSCIA would forever be remembered for fostering peace and unity among religious groups in the country.
Mr. Jonathan said the late cleric would also be remembered for his moderating influence.
He observed that Mr. Adegbite’s wealth of experience in government, private practice and especially in handling inter-religious matters, would no doubt be missed.
“He was a devout Muslim leader, distinguished lawyer and academic,” the President said.
He further noted that Mr. Adegbite, the late Seriki Musulumi and Baba Adinni of Egbaland served meritoriously as Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Public Awareness on Security and Civic Responsibilities.
He urged the family of the late cleric, the people of Ogun, the Muslim community and Nigerians to take consolation in the knowledge that the late renowned Muslim leader made indelible contributions to the development of the country.
The President prayed God Almighty to grant his soul eternal rest.
Adegbite was a voice of moderation and unity – Atiku
Also mourning the late statesman, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said Nigeria has lost a voice of unity and moderation with the death of Mr. Adegbite.
In a condolence message released by his media office on Saturday in Abuja, the former Vice President noted that the late Adegbite would always be remembered for his untiring efforts to bring unity and understanding between Muslims of the North and South, thereby making them speak with one voice on matters of common interest and the country’s larger interest.
According to Mr. Abubakar, the late Mr. Adegbite, in collaboration with former Sultan Ibrahim Dasuki, had significantly removed the seeming distrust between the Muslims of the South and the North.
The Turaki Adamawa also recalled Mr. Adegbite’s role in dousing tensions in the country at challenging moments. He particularly recalled Mr. Adegbite’s role in nipping a crisis in the bud during protests against THISDAY Newspaper following the publication of perceived blasphemous material when Nigeria was about to host Miss World Beauty Pageant in 2002.
According to him, the late Secretary General ended the crisis by advising Muslims to accept THISDAY’s well-meaning apology in good faith and stop further protests that could be hijacked by miscreants and overshadow the validity of the complaints by aggrieved Muslims.
The former Vice President said the late legal luminary and former Attorney General in the defunct Western Region had left a vacuum as a peace maker which would be difficult to fill.
The former vice president prayed to the Almighty God to forgive the gentle soul of the late Adegbite and give his family the fortitude to bear this heavy loss.
He also urged the Jama’atul Nasril Islam and the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs to immortalize the late Adegbite in recognition of his outstanding role as a voice of unity and moderation.
A great loss to the nation – Ekeremadu
In his own condolence message, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, said with Mr. Adegbite’s demise, Nigeria has lost an agent of peaceful coexistence.
In a statement in Abuja on Saturday, Mr. Ekweremadu described the late religious leader as a fine gentleman and intellectual, noting that Adegbite would be remembered as a “national agent for religious stability”.
The Senator said, “Alhaji Lateef Adegbite was a true patriot, an unbiased religious leader, a detribalised Nigerian and indeed, a national figure whose penchant and capacity for inter-religious tolerance and harmonious co-existence would be greatly missed by all.
“He spoke his truth to the best of his knowledge and he spoke it with courage, conviction and without any form of bias.”
Mr. Ekweremadu, condoled with Nigerian Muslims over the “irreparable” loss and urged Nigerians to emulate the great legacies of the deceased.
“The entire nation owes it to the memory of the late Dr Lateef Adegbite to banish all forms of divisive tendencies that trigger ethno-religious crises which put the nation on the edge and make meaningful development difficult,” he said.
Muslim groups pay tribute
Various Islamic groups have also been paying glowing tribute to the late Mr. Adegbite, describing his death as a big loss to the Muslim community and the nation.
The groups in their various condolence messages described him as an exemplary leader and a lover of peace whose death had created a vacuum in the community.
The groups include the NSCIA, Nigeria Inter Religious Council, (NIREC), Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria, (MSSN), Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria (MMPN)
Others are Obafemi Awolowo University Muslim Graduates Association (UNIFEMGA), Muslim Ummah of South West Nigeria (MUSWEN), National Council of Nigerian Muslim Organisations in the USA (NCNMO) and the National Council of Muslim Youths Organisations (NACOMYO).
In his condolence message, Prof Ishaq Oloyede, National Coordinator of NIREC and Mr. Adegbite’s deputy at NSCIA, said, “we have lost an illustrious son of Africa’’.
“As an academician, an erudite scholar and season lawyer, a political figure, a religious leader and founder of many Islamic societies and groups, the religious community has lost a rare gem,’’ Mr. Oloyede said.
In his message, MURIC National Coordinator, Prof Ishaq Akintola said Mr. Adegbite lived a life of devotion and piety.
“He promoted the golden qualities of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence even at the peak of worst crises and irrational provocation.’’
Mr. Akintola said Mr. Adegbite was a team player who steered the affairs of the Muslim Ummah with dexterity, adding that “Nigeria has lost a gem’’.
In his tribute, National President of UNIFEMGA, Abdulwahab Egbewole, said the death of Mr. Adegbite should be a lesson that “we need to do our best to serve Allah and leave our footprints in all the areas we may find ourselves’’.
He described the deceased as “a consummate administrator, committed academic, focused religious leader, concerned community leader and a bridge builder”.
The MMPN Chairman, Abdur-Rahman Balogun, said the demise of Adegbite was a great loss to the Muslim Ummah.
He added that the deceased was instrumental to the formation of many professional Islamic organisations in the country with the aim of projecting Islam through their professional callings.
NACOMYO said the death of Mr. Adegbite was a big loss to the Ummah.
Mas’ud Akintola, NACOMYO Coordinator in Oyo State said Mr. Adegbite’s death had created a big vacuum for the Ummah and prayed Allah to grant him Aljannah Firdaus.
Adegbite was born in Abeokuta, Ogun, on March 20, 1933 and attended Methodist School, Abeokuta and Kings College, Lagos.
He co-founded and was the first national president of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria.