By Rafiu Ajakaye
Nigeria’s top Muslim cleric Sheikh Garba Akinola-Ibrahim died Sunday evening at a government hospital in the commercial city of Lagos, according to a local Islamic official.
Akinola-Ibrahim died at age 79 after a protracted illness. He was until his death the chief imam of Lagos’ Muslim community, an office he took on July 30, 2000 after decades in the civil service.
“The sheikh died at the Lagos State Teaching Hospital, and will be buried tomorrow [Monday] afternoon, God willing,” Imam Tijani Gbajabiamila, chief of Qur’anic exegesis at the Lagos central mosque, told Anadolu Agency.
Akinola-Ibrahim was a major Muslim preacher and a senior member of the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), the country’s apex body for the estimated 100 million Muslim population.
Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode issued a message of condolences on the cleric's passing, calling him a "man of God who spoke truth to power not minding whose ox was gored, and contributed immensely to the growth and development of the state."
He added: “He was a devout Muslim; humanist and bridge-builder and would be remembered for his fairness, boldness and thought-provoking sermons.”
Akinola-Ibrahim “was indeed an epitome of unity for the Nigerian Muslims and a worthy father for all. He will be remembered for keeping Muslims together in the state and beyond,” Saheed Ashafa, chief of the Muslim Students Association of Nigeria, said in a statement Sunday night.
"Although the vacuum he left behind may appear difficult to fill, his legacy while alive will create a source of guidance for the Muslim community,” Ashafa added.