REMI IDOWU writes to celebrate Chief Bisi Akande on the occasion of his 80th birthday
Even in retirement, Chief Bisi Akande is still a stick of political dynamite at 80 years this week. He has achieved what no leader has in terms of organisational skills in the area of political administration. He championed the first political merger of the ACN, CPC, ANPP and a segment of APGA to form the All Progressives Congress in 2013. That in itself is a first of its kind in the history of Nigerian politics. Another first was a successful handing over to his ally, Chief John Oyegun who then drove the party to victory in a presidential election that saw the reigning party then, the PDP suffered a devastating loss to the new party; the first time a ruling party would lose an election at the federal level and handed over power to an opposition party. Chief Akande was an architect of all that.
His fascination to Buhari becoming a civilian president was shared with me as far back as 2007 in London during one of our discussions that he would have preferred Buhari as the candidate of our party then, the Action Congress but for those who were milling around the General and using him solely for their own selfish agenda. That revelation, to me, then was shocking. Buhari? Why Buhari the man who incarcerated you for months? My instant reaction to him was, Buhari? A retired military dictator? Why Buhari? The rest is now history.
I am part of that history telling as I have written two whole books in support of this former military dictator who is now a full-fledged Democrat. The takeaway of that encounter is: some people would sacrifice their personal loss and pain for the collective good of their country. That is Chief Bisi Akande for you.
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Amongst the pack of leaders Nigeria has experienced is this one man who stands conspicuously taller than the rest in character, honesty, integrity, achievements and personal examples as a leader and as an unassuming team player in the quest for nation building. His is no other person than Chief Adebisi Akande.
His meticulous national and international rise became noticeable when he became the governor of Osun State in the Fourth Republic between 1999 and 2003. Prior to that, he was the deputy governor to the late Chief Bola Ige in the Second Republic. What did he do differently? He was arguably the only governor that neither created room nor condoned corruption in his government.
Contracts were awarded using a masterstroke policy of not giving advance mobilization to contractors in the execution of same contacts bid for. Added to that was a no-room for variation on contracts during and after execution. With that saintly management style and prudence in a country notorious for corruption, he was able to execute over 500 projects, from education to infrastructure, health, community housing, a new secretariat including over a 1000 kilometers of roads with meagre revenue at the state’s disposal and without borrowing a kobo.
In fact, Osun State was amongst the poorest states, in terms of revenue allocations and IGR. He left the state as the best governed financially and in terms of developmental indices as attested to even by his political opponents.
Whilst the Federal government under General Obasanjo was awarding a one-room classroom for an average of N1.5 million, Akande was doing the same standard of a classroom for half a million naira under the Universal Basic Education Programme. That to Osun state was a bonus of “three for a price of one” benefit!
Chief Bisi Akande’s integrity and aversion to greed and corruption was also spotted when Obasanjo wanted him as a ministerial nominee in 2003. What did he do? In a country where most people would sell their mothers and fathers, spilled innocent blood and sweat and worship at Okija shrine and other evil alters to get to power, this simple, God-fearing leader just went on a long holiday, until all available posts were filled. That uncommon tactical rejection dazed OBJ and he was determined to pay Akande back at all cost.
At a time when it was fashionable to sell integrity and honour for a paltry sum of naira, this adorable man with the help of some compatriots stood their grounds, paid their dues in ensuring that the AD (Alliance for Democracy) did not go under water after the political tsunami of 2003 election in the South West states, where five of the six governors (including Chief Bisi Akande) were un-intentionally sold out to OBJ through Afenifere elders.
He fought hard together with his political associate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and others to rebuild the party from AD into AC, then into ACN, and finally into a national political merger as predicted by the Sage, Chief Obafemi Jeremiah Awolowo; All Progressives Congress (APC).
Political historians would have some stories to tell in the nearest future on the emergence of the first successful political merger in Nigeria, the APC, under the able leadership of a man of steel, but sweet in spirit, who for all it takes worked day and night with his friends and political associates that effectually and eventually gave birth to the current Federal government and the over 24 state governments all over the country
It was not an all sweet journey for Chief Akande, a political associate of the late sage. What he lacks in Nigerian standard of measuring wealth, he has in abundance in good nature, good health, amazing grace, respect, honour, competence, wisdom, peace including good friends, associates and political sons and daughters that would go to war with him without a request and without hesitation. He single-handedly repelled the prince from Okuku and his clique in an attempt to maliciously taint his reputation and integrity in a false allegation of corruption. He not only won because he was never guilty but forced them to beat a retreat when all attempts to rope him and force him to admit guilt failed.
A good leader is not made overnight while charity begins at home. Akande is a product of good marriage, family life, and dependable allies, the reason he enjoys the peace and supports both at home front and at the national level.
It is for these reasons and many more that I celebrate with a political Icon on his 80th birthday on Wednesday, the 16th January 2019. Happy birthday Sir, and many happy returns of the day.
*Idowu, author of The PMB Phenomenon and a newly published book, “Buharinomics”, due to be publicly presented very soon, a development strategist, Housing Expert lives in London.