…..As Tinubu, Sanwo-Olu, Others Extol Akande’s Virtues
By Benjamin Omoike
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was in the spotlight on Thursday for the wrong reasons as he was accused by President Muhammadu Buhari of jeopardising the chances of most South West Governors in the 2003 general elections.
President Buhari stressed that former President Obasanjo’s ‘diabolical double cross’ tactics was responsible for the failure of most South West Governors, including Chief Bisi Akande of Osun State, from making second term in the 2003 general elections, which he described as “electoral massacre”.
Buhari, who extolled the virtues of former Interim National Chairman of All Progressives Congress, APC,
Akande, stated this at the formal launch and Public Presentation of Akande’s autobiography, titled: “My Participations”, held at Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Other personalities at the occasion were: The chief host, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, All Progressives Congress, APC, National Leader, and former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, Governor of Osun State, Adegboyega Oyetola, Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, and Speaker Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa.
Former Ogun State Governor, Gbenga Daniel, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Minister of Interior, represented by his son, Governor of Kano State, Abdullaii Ganduje, represented by his deputy, Gawuna, Governor of Kwara State Abdulraham Abdulrasak, chairman of the occasion, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi.
Others include: Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, Senator Tokunbo Abiru, Senator Solomon Adeola, representing Lagos West Senatorial, Opeyemi Bamidele, Governor of Yobe State,Mai Mala Buni, Governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, Senator Musuliu Obanikoro, Senator Ganiyu Olarewanju Solomon, GOS, Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, Dr. Usman Bugaje, Prof Ayobami Kehinde, the book reviewer, Mr. Segun Ayobolu, members of the Lagos State Executive Council, Executives of Bola Ahmed Tinubu supporters Group, Women for South West Agenda for Asiwaju, SWAGA, Lagos State, delegation from Osun State, traditional ruler of Lagos, Oba Rilwanu Akiolu I, represented by White Cap Chiefs and other monarchs.
Speaking at the public presentation of the book, ‘‘My Participations,” the President said the author has retained his ‘‘inflexible integrity,” in and out of public office, never accepting or offering bribes.
The President described Akande as “a decent, truthful, and friendly person as well as an administrator of the first order, whose leadership qualities made him the unanimous choice as the first Chairman of the APC.”
Seizing the occasion, Buhari recalled his first meeting with Akande, his passion for Nigeria, achievements, and disappointment as governor of Osun State as well as his many battles to wrest power from the then ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party.
According to the President: ”My first personal contact with Chief Akande was, if I recall correctly, in 2006 when preliminary consultations were coming to fruition for a grand coalition to unseat the PDP Government.
”Those efforts eventually came to nothing. ”Neither he, nor I, nor many of our friends and associates gave up as, in Chief Akande’s words: “the country was going down and down under PDP” (p.396 of My Participations), ” he said.
The President recalled how Akande had risen to prominence from his participation in the Constituent Assembly established by the Military Government of General Olusegun Obasanjo.
Buhari: ”He was always in the thick of things through the difficulties and political discontinuities of the 1980s and 90s.
‘‘He emerged as Governor of Osun State in 1999 when the military handed over to the civilians.
”Chief Akande had a horrendous baptism as Governor of Osun State with discord from his own party; his State Assembly (including an attempt to impeach him without any reason whatsoever); from the trade unions.
”On top of that, he inherited a deeply indebted Treasury, huge arrears of salary, allowances, and pensions. Enough challenges to overwhelm many aspiring leaders.
”Bisi Akande stood four square and faced all the challenges head-on and overcame most of them.
”His first action was to stop payment of critical allowances, an euphemism for government money customarily shared by the big boys in Osun State. This set the tone of his Administration.”
Recounting the achievements of Akande, Buhari noted that: “it is on record that within one year, Akande had paid off all the salary and other arrears, showing his mettle as a competent and serious administrator.
”By 2003 Chief Akande had virtually sanitised governance in Osun State having cleared some of the troublemakers from his government and, though reluctant to serve a second term, he was persuaded to run again.”
Reflecting on the political history of the author, particularly his bid to seek a second term as Governor of Osun, President Buhari declared: ” It is common knowledge that Akande was the victim – along with other AD Governors – of a diabolical double-cross which ended his gubernatorial career. Only the steadfast Asiwaju Bola Tinubu escaped the electoral massacre masterminded by President Obasanjo.
”Desperately disappointed though he was, and being a good Muslim, he accepted this setback as part of the trials of life. He looked to the future of service to the country.”
Reminiscing on APC’s ascent to governance at the Federal level in 2015, Buhari said: ”Chief Akande was in the thick of further attempts in 2011 and 2014 to fuse together different groups and dislodge Peoples Democratic Party, PDP from governance.
”The key to his thinking which coincides with mine is that Nigeria can only be successfully managed by alliances between major groups.
”Although, we failed in 2011 but by persistence and knowledge that PDP was driving the country towards disaster, several major parties were able to finally coalesce into APC in 2014 .
”Chief Akande was unanimously chosen as the first Chairman of this great coalition.
”Throughout the difficult negotiations, I found Akande truthful, steady and always with an eye to the ultimate goal.
”In or out of office, he has retained his inflexible integrity. On p.400 of his book, he wrote: ‘I never gave to or demanded bribe from anyone all my life.’ A perfect gentleman. A perfect public officer, he said.
Quoting a famous Hausa saying, ”Labarin zucciya a tambayi fuska” (loosely translated -if you want to know what is in a man’s heart watch his face), Buhari maintained that Akande has a permanent smile on his face, saying ”He is the type I will go into the jungle with.”
Commenting on the book, Buhari recommended it to students of Nigeria politics and the general public alike.
He said: ”This book is a historical document. Students will find this an invaluable source of Nigeria’s politics, notably between 1999 and 2020.”
Akande, a selfless leader-Tinubu
Tinubu in his address, commended the author, Akande, describing him as an hero, a selfless leader, self disciplined who rose from grass to grace through dint of hardwork and determination.
According to Tinubu, the merger of coalition of parties into APC in 2013. could not have been successful without the valuable effort of Akande.
Tinubu, in his five minutes speech, read: “Every now and then, we come across a person so exemplary and excellent that one word seems to fit them perfectly: Hero.
“Chief Bisi Akande is such a person. Our lives are better because of the selfless public and private contributions he has made to this national family we call Nigeria.
“Thankfully, he decided to make a written record of the events, ideas and lessons of his profound life so they may serve to enlighten and educate both the present and the future.
“This remarkable book- MY PARTICIPATIONS- written by this remarkable man is being unveiled here today. Baba Akande knew he had essential things to tell us. In his straightforward way, that is what he did in this book.
“Being a key light in our political firmament, whatever Baba says about his life also doubles as an intimate account of the political story of Nigeria.
Baba Akande represents what a public figure in Nigeria ought to be. He is what many should aspire to be.
“From humble beginnings, Baba Akande rose through hard work, intellect, courage, perseverance, sacrifice, dedication and what he called ‘self-tuition’.
“Baba did not walk the easy road. He earned things the hard and principled way. Nothing deterred him. Though easy-going in demeanor, he was always strong of character. Without seeing the four walls of a university, Chief Akande tutored himself so well that by age 22, he had become a qualified accountant.
“Chief Akande’s political career began with his election into the Constituent Assembly in 1977. Since then, he has not looked back. His skill and abilities catapulted him to becoming the Secretary to the State Government and Deputy Governor of old Oyo State. He then served as the second democratically-elected governor of Osun State.
“People saw in him the rare combination of the gifts of fairness, tolerance and vision. Because of this, he was chosen as chairman of the AD, AC and ACN. As a crowning achievement regarding to party leadership, he served as the APC interim chairman, helping to shepherd the historic merger of several major parties into one.
“Without Baba Akande’s sage guidance, that merger might never have come to pass. We owe him deep gratitude for his singular devotion to consummating the complicated merger in such a positive manner that then Candidate General Muhammadu Buhari was able to demonstrate his popularity by achieving a monumental victory in the 2015 election.
“The connection I share with Chief Akande is longstanding and broad. We have been fellow travellers in the struggle for democracy and progressive governance. We also shared similar backgrounds in Accounting and Finance. We both honed our accounting skills in oil companies, Baba in British Petroleum, me in Mobil, before our forays into politics.
“The book ‘MY PARTICIPATIONS’ is razor-sharp. Apart from giving valuable insights into the makings of this great Nigerian, it provides a view of our political intricacies through the gifted lens of one of our foremost public figures.
“A constant theme of the book is Chief Akande’s unwavering devotion to the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. On Page 17 of this 534-page memoir, Baba writes: “It was not surprising that as I was growing up and becoming more knowledgeable, I became totally indoctrinated and began to study everything about Awolowo and his Action Group. I read all his books and vowed to emulate him in self-discipline, fearlessness, dignity, courage and patriotism”.
“After his first encounter with the late sage in November 1977, the young Akande felt further inspired, pointing out again in the book that, “Awolowo can be rated indeed as one of the greatest intellectuals in the politics of his time.”
“Among important issues highlighted in the book is the historic merger of the ACN, CPC, ANPP and a faction of APGA in the APC. Writing on Page 445, Chief Akande gave the background to the alliance. He wrote: “In the new year of 2013, Bola Tinubu began to engage me consistently on the need for the Yoruba in the South-West to work politically together with the Hausa and Fulani of the North-West.
“He suggested and encouraged me that we both visit Muhammadu Buhari in Kaduna. It was my first time of meeting Buhari in his home and I was attracted to his personal values and austere life. We joined him at lunch, chatted heartily and agreed to work together again. Things began to happen quickly thereafter.
“Chief Akande writes frankly. He does not sugar coat or obscure. He says what he sees. Given his kind nature, however, there are many others who won his admiration. As author Amit Kalantri quipped, “an honest man speaks truth; don’t expect him to speak sweet.”
“The book truly affirms that Chief Akande places high premium on integrity and truthfulness. It could not be otherwise. Indeed, many say President Buhari and Chief Akande are two of a kind: honest, resolute, patriotic and committed to their beliefs. I concur in that comparison.
“We thank Baba Akande for sharing the richness of his experiences in hope that this book will enhance the national political discourse and the democratic journey born of that discourse.
“We thank President Buhari for taking time from his unrelenting schedule to be here today. It shows the mutual affinity the President and Chief Akande share.”
“I thank you Baba Akande. You have done Nigeria proud.”
Sanwo-Olu, in his speech, also described him as “a man of integrity and principle who has paid his dues in the poloitical and life struggles. His life and career is a veritable example for those of us coming