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Remembering Simbiat Atinuke Abiola- In faraway Cairo, Egypt

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By Idris Ayo Bello

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” -John Wesley

Let me state that I am a personal beneficiary of the Late Alhaja Simbiat Atinuke Abiola, the late wife of MKO Abiola. Until she died , she was the chairperson of the Governing Council of the secondary school I attended in Abeokuta, Salawu Abiola Comprehensive High School, Abeokuta founded by her husband, MKO Abiola who named it after his late father. I still remember the sad silence that befell the entire school when we were informed at assembly on that fateful morning in November 1992 when she passed away. I even wrote a poem about her passing then which is somewhere in my archives.

But this short note is not about how the school went downhill from there as MKO got busy with politics after Simbi’s death etc.

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This note is about my early morning discovery this morning in faraway Cairo, the Egyptian capital.
While taking a short leisurely walk as part of my vacation, I saw some girls trooping into a large school, and happened to glance at the name of the school (written in Arabic of course). I thought the named looked odd but then looked again to confirm, and yes, I was right.

The school inscription (shown below) reads
Eastern Directorate,
Nasr City
Simbiat Abiola Girls High School”

Puzzled why a major high school in Cairo would be named after a late Nigerian woman, I resorted to Google and found this ;

“In 1992, while she was on the deathbed and in pains from the
cancer she battled so hard, Simbiat Abiola’s generosity still shone. She was watching the television in her London hospital and when she came to see the devastation and havoc wreaked upon the Egyptian capital of Cairo by an earthquake, she was touched. She was so moved that from her sick bed, she pledged the sum of $100,000 in donation to rebuild a school for young children which was destroyed by the earthquake. A month after her death, the foundation stone for the school was laid, in her honour in an event attended by the most powerful in the Egyptian society.”

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Mind blown! For the year! A Nigerian woman on her death bed in a London hospital, donates $100,000 to rebuild a school for Egyptian girls that she has never and would never meet! Humanity at its best!

I can only think of the number of girls who have been educated in that school since 1992! Simbiat may be dead, but she truly lives on in every girl who passes through that school.

As Islam teaches;
“When a man dies, his deeds come to an end except for three things: Sadaqah Jariyah (ceaseless charity); knowledge which is beneficial; or a virtuous descendant who prays for him (the deceased).” [Sahih Muslim]

The other takeaway for me is that even while going through what must have been tough times, she still had the heart to be considerate to others, and do good even when she didn’t need the praise!

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“If the Resurrection were established upon one of you while he has in his hand a sapling, then let him plant it.”- Prophet Muhammad

I hope I find time to return to that school before leaving Cairo to tell them about this amazing woman whose good deeds live on 23 years after her death.

May Allah overlook the sins of late Simbiat and bless her with paradise. May He grant us the ability to do good deeds that benefit mankind and live on after we are no more.

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