By Ahmadu Shehu, PhD.
On Friday, December 17, 2021, HRH Laamiiɗo Fombina, Alh. Muhammadu Barkindo Aliyu Mustapha, PhD, the International Grand Patron of Tabital Pulaaku International, appointed Dr Abubakar Umar Girei as the first Wakilin Fulani Adamawa.
This appointment would have passed the waves without noise, just as other traditional appointments go unnoticed, had it not been put on the very head that fits it in all ramifications. The title itself is rare in a place like Adamawa, where the traditional council and the emirate are based on the Fulɓe culture and traditions.
The Lamiɗo of Adamawa is regarded as the global custodian of the Fulani race, Fulɓe cultural, linguistic, historical, economic and religious identity. Although the Fulani hold most of the major Islamic emirates in West Africa, and indeed within Nigeria, none of these traditional councils upholds the sanctity of the Fulani culture than Adamawa.
It was, therefore, highly unlikely that anyone could ever merit this office, nor could anyone be trusted with this critical responsibility by the Lamiɗo, who himself, is the first custodian of this special role. The traditional office of Wakili refers to “custodian”. In this case, Girei has become an ambassador between the Lamiɗo and all Fulɓe, the overseer of issues concerning Fulɓe and Pulaaku in the Emirate.
The new Wakili Fulani was born on May 25 1962, in Girei, a semi-urban town some ten kilometres away from Yola, the Adamawa State capital. He holds a PhD, M.A. and B.A. in Linguistics and Fulfulde studies from the University of Maiduguri, where he taught for fifteen years at the Department of Languages and Linguistics. His basic education started in Girei I Primary School, after which he proceeded to Arabic Teachers College, Gombe, where he completed his secondary education.
Having earned a First Class degree, Girei took off well and maintained an excellent academic career, rising through the ranks as a prolific writer, linguist and poet. His publications cut across the linguistic circle, publishing in competitive local and international journals on sociolinguistics, morphology, semantics and other fields of applied linguistics.
It is safe to state Girei is the most prominent modern Fulfulde poet with numerous titles that address diverse fields, uniquely analysing all aspects of human endeavours. His books on poetry, such as Duuniya e Fiiji maaru, are the most recent modern Fulfulde poetry that have become reference points for scholars and the general public.
The hope of an academic is to push back the horizon of ignorance on a global stage. In Fulfulde linguistics, where he specialises, Girei has become an undisputed authority, with scholarly and teaching experience in numerous European universities, including London, Bayreuth, Hamburg, and Vienna.
His sojourn into the humanitarian services of the Fulani people began early in his life when he joined the crusade to enlighten the nomadic Fulani to settle down for education. His passion for the education of the Fulɓe led him to pick an appointment as a nomadic teacher, for which he travelled far and wide with nomads to teach their children. For instance, despite being a headmaster in his hometown, Girei moved to Labbare nomadic primary school in Wukari over eight hundred kilometres from his home to teach nomadic kids.
His dedication to the service of the Fulɓe became more apparent when he rejected the admission to study Law and instead applied and studied Fulfulde in the university. His academic career revolved around teaching and researching Fulfulde, Fulɓe Literature and Culture, not only in the university but also in colleges of education where Fulfulde is taught. Those years have seen him produce and mentor future scholars and students of Fulfulde (including yours sincerely) who have become teachers in various prestigious universities worldwide.
Beyond the classroom, Dr Girei has led global projects on Fulfulde. For instance, he was the secretary of Lamido Aliyu’s committee on the translation of the glorious Qur’an into Fulfulde. He was my lead as the editor of the final version commissioned by Lamido Barkido Aliyu Mustapha in 2011. In addition, he serves on various linguistics and translation boards of organisations such as UNESCO, in which Fulfulde has been his primary language of interest.
Girei has served Fulɓe and Fulfulde in more capacities beyond academia. He was a founding member and the pioneer national secretary of Tabital Pulaaku International and is the founding and trustee member of other various Fulani socio-cultural organisations. The entire Fulani leadership understands his wit and dedication to the course, so the Sultan once appointed him to harmonise the Fulani socio-cultural groups.
By and large, in the almost 60 years of his life, Girei had one goal, one career and one success. These are the well-being of the Fulani people and their cultural heritage. Thus, if anyone deserves to be the ambassador and overseer of the Fulani people, Girei is the one. Therefore, it is highly commendable that the royal father, the grand custodian of our culture, has made the right choice when it is most needed.
Given the current socio-economic and political problems facing the Fulani people across the continent, this office couldn’t have been created at a better time, and Girei is the head that fits the cap. We ask Allah to guide him to success. Aameen.
Dr Ahmadu Shehu is Dr Girei’s academic son and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.