Bisi Akande at 85…a life worthy of celebration

Tuesday January 16, 2024, would go down well in history as one of the days when who-is-who in the country, across ethnic, religious and professional divides, gathered to celebrate not just the birthday anniversary of an individual but also a life well lived in integrity, commitment and loyalty.

At 85, the lifestyle and relationships of Chief Bisi Akande, former interim national chairman of ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and former governor of Osun State (1999-2003), spoke as dignitaries across Nigeria gathered at Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, to celebrate him.

The personalities that graced the event, which the  Board of Trustees of Adebisi Akande Foundation titled, ‘Celebration of Grace, 85th Birthday of Chief Bisi Akande and Unveiling of AAA Foundation’, included the President and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria Armed Forces, Bola Ahmed Tinubu; Vice President Kashim Shettima, six governors of Southwest states – Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Biodun Oyebanji (Ekiti), Lucky Aiyedatiwa (Ondo) and Ademola Adeleke (Osun), who was represented.

Others were Borno State governor,  Babagana Zulum; Osun State Deputy Governor, Kola Adewusi; Lagos State Deputy Governor Obafemi Hamzat; Minister of Power, Chief Adebayo Adelabu; Minister of Blue Economy, Adegboyega Oyetola and elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai.

Also in attendance were former Governors Olusegun Osoba, Gbenga Daniel (Ogun) and Olagunsoye Oyinlola (Osun); former Deputy Governors Gbenga Kaka (Ogun), Iyiola Oladokun, Alake Adeyemo (Oyo) and Titi Ponnle (Osun); Senators Ajayi Borrofice and Fatai Buhari; Executive Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Dr. Zaccheus Adedeji; Mrs. Florence Ajimobi; Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN); Muyiwa Ige; Prof. Isaac Adewole; Alhaji Fatai Ibikunle; Chief Lere Paimo and Alhaji Kashim Imam.

Also present were Mutiu Are, Cardinal James Odumbaku, Prince Tajudeen Olusi, Gen.  Alani Akinrinade, Managing Director BOVAS  Ltd. Mrs. Victoria Samson; the Aseyin of Iseyin, Oba Sefiu Olawale; Orangun of Oke-Ila, Oba Abolarin; Prof. Sulaiman Bogoro, Bashir Malchida,  Wale Oshun, Sen. Lekan Mustapha; Osun APC Chairman, Tajudeen Lawal; Sports Development Minister, Sen. John Eno; DAWN Commission Director General, Mr. Seye Oyeleye; Group Managing Director, Odu’a Investments Ltd, Mr. Adewale Raji; University College Hospital (UCH) Chief Medical Director,  Prof. Jesse Otegbayo and some Lagos white cap chiefs.

Although Mr. President and his vice were ably represented by Governors Sanwo-Olu and Zulum respectively, the former governor of Lagos State went a step further to honour Chief Akande by inviting him and members of the local organising committee led by Prof. Isaac Ajewole to the seat of power in Abuja, where he celebrated the former governor of Osun State and also made up for his inability to attend the Ibadan function.
The climax of the occasion was the launch of the Adebisi Akande Foundation chaired by the foremost Professor of Evaluation, Olu Aina.

Tinubu, who led the dignitaries, said Akande had often offered him uncommon counsel, just as he hailed the Asiwaju of Ila for his contributions to the socio-economic and political development of Nigeria.

The President described Akande as reliable and dependable, saying that he (Akande) learnt forthrightness, integrity, reliability and Spartan life from his leader, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He said he probably would not have been president today without Akande’s contributions.

Tinubu said: “Baba Akande turning 85 is a landmark achievement that calls for celebration. We must also be thankful to God for his life and for giving the nation an eminent leader like him.

“He remains one of our respected elder statesmen in Nigeria who continues to offer rare insights and counsel on how best to organise our country for effective governance. I have benefited immensely from Baba Akande’s good knowledge and perspectives on a wide range of issues as they affect Nigeria and the Western part of the country.

“As an astute politician, Chief Akande has been part of every political epoch in our country since the Second Republic. He was one of the eminent Nigerians that drafted the 1979 constitution, which the amended 1999 constitution, currently in use, largely mirrors. Beyond his sagely contributions to our national development and political evolution over the decades, the most enduring aspect of  his enviable life is his forthrightness, integrity, reliability and Spartan life which he imbibed from his leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. All these attributes have served him well in all the positions he had the rare honour to occupy in his illustrious life.

“Baba Akande is a sharp and brilliant accountant. He was a former Secretary to the State Government and later deputy governor of old Oyo State. He dutifully served the people of Osun State as the governor with tremendous success from 1999 to 2003.
“A committed democrat, die-hard progressive, and prudent yet compassionate leader of men, Chief Akande has done much for this country and for the progressive family. He has been a prominent architect of our nation’s progressive political parties.
“If anyone needs a reliable and dependable compatriot as an ally, Chief Akande is that man anyone can go to battle with. Since we transitioned from the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD) to Action Congress (AC), from Action Congress to Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and now the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Akande has remained a constant feature. I salute his courage and commitment to democratic and progressive ideals.
“Whether in public office or later in life in his capacity as pioneer Chairman of ACN or as Interim Chairman of APC, Chief Akande brought honour and integrity into the discharge of his responsibilities.
“He could not have done otherwise. Baba had been sold early in life on those noble values of honesty, integrity, conscience, courage, hard work, perseverance and the importance of a good name, among others.
“Highly principled and perceptive, Baba Akande is selfless and intensely patriotic. He gave more to others than he gave himself. What he has given to his family, his Osun State, to the Yoruba race, he also gave to this country: the very best…”

The President added: “For me, Baba has been a close friend, ally and advisor through the years.

“Perhaps, I would not be where I am today as President of this country without the help and support he has given. Many countless other people will also affirm that he has had the same positive effect in their lives as he has in mine.”

Chief Bisi Akande CFR

The president’s representative, Sanwo-Olu, also personally extolled Akande’s virtues, who he described as a father, stressing that he has been a source of inspiration in the course of his career.

Governor Makinde, who chaired the event, recalled his first encounter with Akande in 2007 when he contested as a senator, saying there is a need for people to review prospects and recommendations of strategic political leaders like Akande for better service delivery.

Makinde said: “Let me highlight a few of those issues that Baba raised. There can be no better time than the occasion of his 85th birthday to talk briefly about some of the ideals that he stood for.

“We may not be aligned in the same political party, but one of the strongest beliefs of this great man is that power should be used to benefit the people. In so doing, he advocated for fiscal federalism, restructuring and state police.
“I also agree that there’s a vital link between these three constitutional issues and people-forced type of governance. For example, fiscal federalism involves understanding which government functions should be centralised and which should be decentralised.
“You will agree with me that if some of the functions of the Federal Government are decentralised and put in the purview of the states, the people will begin to focus more on getting their governors to function more effectively. This is part of the article that Baba presented in 1977.
“A case in point is the recent amendment of the 1999 Constitution to allow states to generate, transmit and distribute electricity. I spoke about this with my brother, the Minister of Power, Adebayo Adelabu, yesterday.
“Generation, transmission and distribution of power have been devolved to the states. So, here in Oyo State, citizens ask why they still do not have a state generated and transmitted power supply. They are asking me that question. So, it is a shift in focus to a level of government, which is closer to them.
“Those are things that Baba has spoken about and presented as a way forward for us as a nation for years. So far, he has been exposing these issues. So, it is not too late for us to begin to take actions that show we are learning from this thing.
“Indeed, one of the best ways of celebrating our icons, past and present, and honouring their legacies is by examining their thoughts and actions and implementing them in the way that will benefit our people.”

In his lecture titled,  ‘The Leadership Question: Prospects for Nigeria’, Shettima said until Nigerians take responsibility at whatever levels they find themselves, the country would abandon the responsibility of leadership to those who carry political titles.

He said: “I have done the mathematics. A nation of 230 million people will need 230 million leaders. The premise of this statement underscores the significance of adequate leadership coverage to deliver the dream and aspiration of a whole nation.

“Behind this statement is the recognition that unless and until everyone takes responsibility at whatever levels we find ourselves, we run the risk of abandoning the responsibility of leadership only to those who carry titles of His Excellencies, Honourable, distinguished and all sorts.”

Shettima defined leadership as the act of leading a group of people and motivating them to work and focus on a group objective.
He noted that Nigeria has experienced brain drain because hopes were not met and the leadership was ill-prepared to meet hopes.
The Vice President added: “The organisers felt we have not gotten to the point in our leadership and that is why this Foundation is to be established in order to groom leaders.

“What are the characteristics of leaders? Leaders should have confidence, strong communication, management skills, creative and innovative thinking, perseverance, willingness to take risks often to change level heads and reactiveness in times of crisis.
“We must accept that expectations are the right of citizens and anticipation is the responsibility of leadership. Expectations for things to be better; expectations to have hope; expectations to have aspirations, for a more fulfilling life are indeed the rights of the citizens.”

Yakassai, who was Senior Special Assistant to Second Republic president, Shehu Shagari, when Akande was deputy governor of Oyo State, described Akande as a patriot and great politician. He led a delegation of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) to the occasion.

One of Akande’s best friends from Edo State, Dr. Alex Ibe, who is also an octogenarian, said as dangerous and inconsistency as the game and business of politics is, “one could be confident to have Akande as a trusted ally, who will not betray you.”

In his opening remarks, the Chairman of the AAA Foundation and erstwhile Chancellor of Igbinedion University, Prof. Aina, said Chief Akande is one of the few politicians who mastered and graduated from the school of thought of the late Chief Awolowo.

He said Akande has lived 85 years of unblemished life, adding that the idea of the foundation was conceived about two years ago to showcase his values.

On what the foundation aims to achieve, Aina said the AAA Foundation seeks to demonstrate the practical application of transparency, efficiency and accountability, leadership development, nation building, governance excellence, community engagement and addressing national issues.

He disclosed that its major programmes would include Bisi Akande Emerging Young Leaders Fellowship, Bisi Akande Annual Lecture, Bisi Akande National Leadership Award, Bisi Akande Think Tank Group, Skill Acquisition Programme and Entrepreneurial Programme

Thanking the guests for the honour done to him, Akande reflected on national security, urging the government to gird its loins.
He alerted the nation to the growing tribe of criminals who were gaining more ground, warning that they may wage a battle against politicians in the future.
However, the celebration of Akande was not restricted to the event, as congratulatory messages poured in from across the country. Immediate past president, Muhammadu Buhari, was among those that sent felicitation messages to the celebrant.

Eulogising Akande, he said it was his pleasure to rejoice with a true patriot, a man of integrity and accountability, as he turns the prestigious age of 85.
In a message he personally signed, the former president wrote: “Chief Akande has built an enviable record of public spiritedness, serving in various political capacities in the old Oyo State and in Osun, where he was governor. His giant footprints are indelibly printed in the sands of time.

“Baba Akande (as he is popularly known and called) is on record as having led perhaps the most successful political alliance in the country resulting in the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which went on to win power at the centre in its very first attempt. He equally served as the first Interim National Chairman of the party, pedestaling it on sound and steady footing.”

In another congratulatory message, a former governor of Anambra State, Senator Jim Nwobodo, described Akande as someone who demonstrated uncommon leadership with purpose and vision as governor of Osun State.

The message read: “Your contribution and commitment to national development is well acknowledged by Nigerians. In my association with you for many years, I have known you as a steadfast and committed democrat and leader. You are endowed with a wealth of wisdom, which you generously share with people around you.

“On a personal note, I nostalgically remember our times as Progressive Governors, formed across party lines in the spirit of one Nigeria, when we traversed the length and breadth of Nigeria feeling secure and at home wherever we were.

“I also remember our days in Kiriki Maximum Prison, when we walked from power to prison. Bisi and I were room-mates in Kirikiri prison, and as room-mates we prayed together irrespective of our different religious faiths. We have every reason to celebrate and thank God for seeing us through to octogenarian age. I wish you another two healthy decades, with energy and enthusiasm. Many happy returns to my friend and my prison room-mate.”

Governor of Kwara State, Abdul Rahman Abdul Razaq, also wrote: “Baba Akande, as he is often called by younger generations, is one of the finest democrats and patriots of our country whose life journey exudes humility, prudence, progressiveness and unapologetic commitment to a country built on the ideals of freedom, democracy and federalism.

“A man of many positive accomplishments, his foundational leadership of the APC remains a fine reference point in our party politics, and I am proud to associate myself with Baba Akande and every great thing that he stands for as an elder statesman.”