In the past few days, the Nigerian public domain has been awash with the celebrations of the 85th birthday of a pan-Nigerian progressive, a Yoruba nationalist and an epitome of selfless leadership, Chief Adebisi Akande. In his country home Ila-Orangun, Ila Local Government Area of Osun State; in Ibadan, the capital city of the new and old Oyo State where his political career had blossomed and glowed; and in Abuja where he had in exemplification presided over the affairs of Africa’s largest ruling political party, the All Progressive Congress, he was celebrated the same day by a wide spectrum of his political followers, friends, allies and even the political foes he had attracted to himself over the years.
It was indeed a honour well deserved by a man who has, through loyalty to his leaders, party discipline, transparency and accountability in governance, selflessness, and mastery over mundane desires, emerged very immaculate and firm in the murky and slippery water of Nigerian politics. As an incorruptible and truthful leader, he remains the brand and face of the leader the Nigerian state ought to have in all the facets of its life but which most Nigerians seem not to appreciate.
His commitment to the above adumbrated leadership virtues, personal discipline and mystical conduct in politics and governance has not only drawn fierce criticism from his political foes and the confused and undiscerning masses, but has also become undeserved burden on this great political hard thinker.
In this first example, during his time in government, he found out that the Nigerian public service has not only often been outsized and indolent, but has also been grossly ineffective and inefficient. For avowedly saying this truth most times, he is vilified and his leadership is feared. What a burden!
Second, in his public life, he has not only spoken against corruption, he has also fought it. Under his leadership in Osun State, kickback on contracts was not tolerated. For this, some of his followers who have fallen out with him have accused him of not empowering them. Akande prefers the good of the public, but they prefer the good of “selves”. Sad still, the ignorant masses are made to believe this. What a dilemma! What another burden!
Third, in his personal life also, Akande has proved that hard work and frugality equal prosperity. He doesn’t waste his financial resources. He saves and invests his dough. He prefers to teach you how to fish rather than giving you fish to wallop. He operates “sleep well account” that has enabled him to give the best of all things in life to his family. He lives a simple life. For this, he is seen as a stingy leader by some of his prodigal fair weather followers. Instead of following in the footsteps of the leader and bringing order into their own personal finances, they in propaganda, vicariously hold him responsible for their profligacy and lack of foresight.
Fourth, in his public life still, Akande believes in fairness. He always wants to act like nature that rains on the farms of foes and friends alike. Hence, he often acts in altruistic manner. Yet, he has not lost sight of the need to lend a helping hand to the development of his country home, in a country where prebendalism is the rule rather than the exception. Today, the history of the development of Ila community has no root without the prominent and fundamental roles Chief Adebisi Akande has played. This has of course earned him the chieftaincy title of Asiwaju of Ila- Orangun. This could not but attract the envy of some of his kinsmen. Thus, in the last couple of years, the agenda to discredit and demolish his political edifice has been on. Violence, vote buying and propaganda have been deployed to achieve this. In 2021, Ila community lost the location of a Federal College of Education to Iwo in Osun State. Then in Ila, some youths launched fierce and virulent physical attack on Akande’s home. Yet at the peak of the crisis, Akande assured his people that something bigger was coming to Ila. Soon after, the then president, Muhammadu Buhari, a friend of Akande, who had publicly declared that, he could go to the trenches with Bisi Akande, approved a Federal University for Ila -Orangun. While it is an open secret that Akande’s influence attracted this public good to the town, yet like the Jews of the old, his detractors continue to chorus :”crucify him”.
What a burden!
In his political career also, Akande abhors carpet crossers and money bags. They often end up betraying their party and their leaders he has consistently maintained. Contrarily however, the affected political neophytes often misunderstand this and often describe Akande as an old cock that doesn’t want the young ones to crow. Amidst this wrong notion, Akande has mentored the patient ones and has let go those in a hurry.
For a very long time, Akande has stood by Bola Tinubu. This is born out of Akande’s belief that Tinubu would lead Nigeria and should therefore be helped by a pathfinder from homeland in order to succeed. This is exactly the motive of his closeness to Tinubu and why Tinubu has made him his confidant and pathfinder which Dare Babarinsa has captured very well in Yoruba as” Baba Isale”. But for his loyalty and as pathfinder for Tinubu, some of his detractors have unfortunately and wrongly seen him as Bola’s lapdog. But like all Baba Isale in Yoruba political process and governance, Akande is certainly on top.
One good news that has attended the birthday celebrations is the establishment of Adebisi Akande Foundation. While we await the details of the foundation, it is my hope that interrogating the Nigerian leadership and followership question and their ecology will form part of its mission.
- Dr. Adebisi writes from Elizade University, Ilara-Mokin, Ondo State.