I can remember very well, the very first time I met with Hajia Akenzua one on one. It was when I accompanied the CEO of Minhaj publicity, Etn24 and observe Nigeria, Mallam Eseoghene Al Faruq Ohwojehri to pay her a visit in regards to one of her notable projects.
Before this particular day, I had long been informed that there is a member of the Benin royal family that is a Muslim. I cannot remember if I shrugged it off or not. But, I must at this point say the Benin royal family have a very great relationship with the Muslims of Edo, Southern Nigeria, and Northern Nigeria. An example is enough to lay my point bare. The coronation of the current Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare-n-or-ogieva (Oba Ewuare the second) is a testament to this. The coronation had in its attendance, Muslim Kings and Captains of industries from Southern and Northern Nigeria. Also, the leader of Muslims in Nigeria, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III was present.
Back to our beloved Hajia:
I saw her in the very well-acknowledged cultural and entertainment theatre of Benin City called Oba Akenzua cultural centre. That was in 2016. In that centre, she delivered a speech about her An-Nur Islamic Project. It was a fundraising project organized by Minhaj publicity.
It wasn’t until 2018 that I met her one on one when I accompanied Mallam Faruq.
On my second visit, I didn’t only meet with Hajia, I equally met with one of her sons, Mallam Abdulmalik, who I knew beforehand (at Nasfat, Benin City). Here, Hajia and Mallam Faruq had a chat about her project which was very much dear to her.
Mallam Faruq whispered to me the need to pen down her history and contributions to Islam during our visit while she was engaged in a discussion with someone else. This noble task is something I regretted never undertaking
After chatting with the person, I think I managed to get Hajia’s attention and we started talking. It was through our interaction that our beloved Hajia personally told me, that she had written books about Benin kingdom. She presented two copies to me. I think she added that, when I complete the reading of the books, I can request for more and I thanked her. When I settled to go through these books of hers, it was Benin folktales and folklores through oral narrations by her Father, Oba Akenzua II. I was very much impressed when I read the books.
Along with Minhaj’s publicity Boss and Barrister Hakim Igho, I came to Hajia’s house the second time. At this second meeting, the issue that dominated the discussion was about her project and the place meant for it to be planted.
It was Salah time when the Adhan was called, Hajia instructed us to keep silent. She calmly told the Non-Muslim who was present that if Adhan is going on, you allow it till the end before you say anything again. We all were silent till the Azhan ended. They continued the discussion and after Salah in the Masjid she built in her house that doubles as jummah masjid in the very well-known Akenzua lane, the Minhaj boss, Barrister Hakim, Mallam Abdulmalik (her son) concluded the discussion and we dispersed.
The moment Hajia asked us to maintain silence when Adhan began still rings in my head, to date. The memory is still so fresh that it seems as if it happened a few moment ago.
Our Hajia has often been identified with taqwa and jihad(struggle) for the sake of Allah. For example, in one of my fieldwork on the History of Muslims of Benin City, I was granted an audience by a Bini Muslim woman called Mrs Bello. She acknowledged Hajia Akenzua and spoke highly of her dogged quality in getting things done. She praised her for the fact that she nurtured most of her children in the path of Islam.
This notable princess of the kingdom of Benin established An-Nur International Islamic Foundation long before 2009. That organization was on the verge of establishing one of the largest, if not the largest Islamic centre in southern Nigeria called An-Nur Islamic Centre. Hajia had a dream for Muslim women, children and Imams. Her dream was to create an all-purpose Islamic centre that will enhance the Muslim community in Benin City.
Alhaji Barrister Nurudeen Asunogie, a surgeon of English grammar and vocabularies, who doubles as one of the Muslim elders of Benin City, and held the position as Amir of ‘Muslim Society of Nigeria’ said in a short documentary project pitch;
“in regards to Hajia Khadija’s dream… It is good that is coming from a woman. One that men should have embraced before now.”
I will only mention one part of the dream. Imagine a Muslim hospital, for females run by Muslim females. Just imagine. That was just a tip of more than ten laid-out dreams of Hajia Akenzua in collaboration with Minhaj publicity.
The Boss of Minhaj publicity said to me years ago, “Hajia may not have been able to realize this dream of hers, but she certainly gets Allah’s rewards as if the project is already in reality, functioning.”
Hajia Khadija Akenzua left this Duniya 28 of April, 2018. May Allah grant her jannatul firdaus. Aameen.
May Allah protect her children. Aameen.
May Allah raise up more of Hajia Khadija Akenzua who are ready to sacrifice for Muslims and Islam. Aameen.
Shehu Jimoh is a Researcher on the History of Islam in Edo, South-South and Igbo land. ([email protected])