Akilu Aliyu

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Akilu Aliyu

Alhaji Dr. Aliyu Akilu M.F.R (1918 – October 19, 1999) also known as Malam Akilu Aliyu or Aqilu Aliyu was a Nigerian poet, writer, scholar, politician[1] and one of the greatest Hausa poets of the twentieth century. Aliyu was born in Jega (in a town called Kyarmi, in present-day Kebbi State. For his early education, he was trained in a Quranic school in Kano, under the Tijaniyya brotherhood, and later went to Borno to study under prominent Islamic scholars from the northeastern part of the country. He was an erudite poet who wrote in Hausa and Arabic, and his recitals drew great acclaim among many Hausa speakers. He started writing Arabic poems in the 1930s.

Malam Akilu’s aptitude in poetry began to show while he was only a teenager. In an interview with Radio Nigeria, Kaduna in 1966, the poet said that he started composing in Arabic even before venturing into Hausa poetry. As at then, he said in the interview, he had over seven hundred poems to his credit some of which had up to 300 verses. In fact, he composed one with a thousand verses![2]

Biography[edit]

Akliu Aliyu was born in Jega (in a town called Kyarmi, in present-day Kebbi State For his early education, he was trained in a Quranic school in Kano, under the Tijaniyya brotherhood, and later went to Borno to study under prominent Islamic scholars from the northeastern part of the country. Malam Akilu’s aptitude in poetry began to show while he was only a teenager (mid 30's)

Malam Akilu spent most of his life in Kano, a place he went as an Islamic student in his teens. He was in Maiduguri for a few decades before returning to Kano where he lived till his death. He lived as an Islamic teacher, a tailor and a poet (poetry was a medium through which he taught thousands of invisible students). He established, and taught in, Islamic schools in Maiduguri and Azare.

The poet was most revered by fellow Hausa literati who considered him a senior for his exceptional poetic power. Professor Neil Skinner, the renown Hausa scholar, in his book, An Anthology of Hausa Literature, described Malam Akilu as "vigorous and highly productive poet." Sheikh Na’ibi Suleiman Wali, an Islamic scholar and excellent bilingual poet (Arabic and Hausa), called the late poet a fasihi; a Hausanised Arabic word meaning ‘talented’. Alhaji Mudi Sipikin also held the poet in high esteem. When Alhaji Shehu Shagari was in power (he is also a poet, remember Wakar Nijeriya ),he invited fellow Hausa poets to Argungu and honoured them and of course Malam Akilu was among them. Malam Akilu was also a recipient of a national honour as well as an honorary doctorate degree from Bayero University, Kano.

Another thing that further earned the poet respect was his acceptance of modernity. This could be seen in the flexibility of his poetry which touches almost all spheres of human existence like religion, occupation, leisure, nature, education, et cetera. One of the topics that attracted Malam Akilu’s attention most was education. In fact some verses from his famous poem, "Kadaura Babbar Inuwa", serve as the signature tune for VOA Hausa Service’s educational program, "Ilimi Garkuwar Dan’adam". In that same poem he encouraged the youth to be engaged in professions like medicine, law, teaching, journalism, banking and others. I am sure if Malam Akilu had lived longer he would have written poems on the computer and the internet!

"Wannan dai shine hoto na

Wanda idonku yake kallo na

Bayan na tafi gun Sarkina

Za ku tuna ni watan wata rana

Ko wani ya yi kiran sunana

Sai ku cane Allah ya jikaina

Ya Allah sa ku yi juyayina

Har ku yi min addu’a bayana;

Amin na roke ku zumaina

Allah dai ya cikan fatana."

The above poetic lines were what Akilu Aliyu, wrote under his photograph in Fasaha Akiliya, a collection of some of his poems whose contribution to Hausa poetry in quantity and quality, to the best of this writer’s knowledge, is yet to be surpassed.

The poet was most revered by fellow Hausa literati who considered him a senior for his exceptional poetic power. Professor Neil Skinner, the renown Hausa scholar, in his book, An Anthology of Hausa Literature[3], described Malam Akilu as "vigorous and highly productive poet." Sheikh Na’ibi Suleiman Wali, an Islamic scholar and excellent bilingual poet (Arabic and Hausa), called the late poet a fasihi; a Hausanised Arabic word meaning ‘talented’. Alhaji Mudi Sipikin also held the poet in high esteem. When Alhaji Shehu Shagari was in power (he is also a poet, remember Wakar Nijeriya ),he invited fellow Hausa poets to Argungu and honoured them and of course Malam Akilu was among them. Malam Akilu was also a recipient of a national honour as well as an honorary doctorate degree from Bayero University, Kano.

Another distinguishing quality of Akilu was the way he used his God-given genius in ‘enjoining what is good’ and ‘forbidding what is bad’ as commanded by his religion. He condemned anti-social vices like prostitution and its patronage (in "Yar Gagara" and "Dangata" respectively). He also unleashed his pen, and justifiably too, on the youth who copy the negative, alien cultures of the West.

The poet was (and still is) a pride to Hausa literature, to Northern Nigeria and to his religion. Hamisu Muhammad Gumel said "there could hardly be a Hausa poet with greater patriotic zeal and sense of belonging."

In Malam Akilu, we had our Abu-Tayyib al-Mutanabbi or Ahmad Shauqi from the East. From the West we had in him our Alexander Pope or H.W. Longfellow.

Benjamin Franklin is quoted to have said: "if you would die and not be forgotten either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." Malam Akilu had not only done these two but had even gone beyond. For he wrote things worth reading, did things worth writing (his art has been a subject of many academic researches both within and outside Nigeria) and also sang things worth listening. In fact, from a religious point of view, he observed sadaqatul jariya, a charity with continuous reward, by teaching his students the Glorious Qur’an as well as other forms of knowledge. Here we only grant the poet his request that:

"Ko wani ya yi kiran sunana

Sai ku cane Allah Ya jikaina

Ya Allah sa ku yi juyayina

Har ku yi min addu’a bayana."

May Allah reward him abundantly, forgive his sins and shower His mercy on him, Amin.

Hamisu Muhammad Gumel said "words to him (Akilu) were like a well from which to draw." (Bookshelf, December 3–9, 1999).

Popular Songs Include[edit]

  • Matan Aure
  • Dan Gata
  • 'Yar Gagara
  • Hausa Mai Ban Haushi
  • Maza mamugunta
  • Wakar Najeriya
  • Cuta ba mutuwa ba

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Akilu Aliyu". www.linguistics.ucla.edu. Retrieved 2016-02-05. 
  2. ^ ISBN 1317406168
  3. ^ Skinner, Neil (1980-01-01). An Anthology of Hausa Literature in Translation. Northern Nigerian Publishing Company.