….Nation’s challenges, I don’t sympathise with you, you applied for the job- Akande tells Buhari
…As Tinubu, Sanwo-Olu, Onu others extol Akande’s virtue
…Akande, a fearless leader- Oyetola

By Olasunkanmi Akoni

President Muhammadu Buhari has said that former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s diabolical double cross tactics were responsible for the failure of most South-West Governors, including Chief Bisi Akande of Osun State from making the second term in 2003 general elections, he described as “electoral massacre.”

Buhari, who extolled the virtues of former National Chairman of All Progressives Congress, APC, Akande, stated this at the formal launch and Public Presentation of Akande’s autobiography, “My Participations”, held at Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Other personalities on 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 Osun State, Adegboyega Oyetola 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, Abdullahi Ganduje, represented by his deputy, Gawuna, Governor of Kwara State Abdulraham Abdulrasak, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi.

Others include: Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, Senator Tokunbo Abiru, Senator, Senator Solomon Adeola, representing Lagos Senatorial West, Opeyemi Bamidemi, Governor of Yobe State, Maila Buni, Governor of Ogun State, Governor 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 SWAGA, Lagos State, a delegation from Osun State, the traditional ruler of Lagos, Oba Rilwanu Akiolu I, represented by White Cap Chiefs, others.

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 and from his own deputy Governor!

”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, a 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 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 Nigerian 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 a hero, a selfless leader, self-disciplined who rose from grass to grace through dint of hard work and determination.

According to Tinubu, the merger of a 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 demeanour, 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 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 sugarcoat or obscure. He says what he sees. Some people wished this book never to see the light of day because they received the words of his sharp pen for their negative roles in key events. Given his kind nature, however, there are many others who won his admiration. As author Amit Kalantri quipped, “An honest man speaks the truth; don’t expect him to speak sweet.”

“Indeed, Prof. Wole Soyinka’s Foreword declares: “This is one historic reckoning that will make many uncomfortable. Many will be reminded of roles played by them which they would rather the nation, indeed the world forgot.”

“The book truly affirms that Chief Akande places a 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 political and life struggles. His life and career is a veritable example for those of us coming behind.”

Akande, a fearless leader- Oyetola

Speaking with journalists on the occasion of the book presentation, Governor Oyetola of Osun, described the book, “My Participations,” as a compendium of reflections by a man whose philosophy about life is inspiring and trans-generational.

He also described Chief Akande as a leader par excellence, “who is always ready to give his best while in charge and always ready to give counsel, guidance and direction in familiar terrains, not afraid that his predecessors will surpass him.

“Chief Akande played people- and developmental-centred politics that is hinged on principles and convictions.

“As a party member, he exuded loyalty to progressive ideals. As a deputy governor, he was loyal to his boss. And as a governor, he demonstrated vision, honesty, probity and exemplary service that set the tone for sustainable development in Osun.

“He is an apostle of good and visionary governance. The Osun State secretariat, Abere stands as a testimony to his enduring legacy.

“He is a bridge-builder and a detribalised Nigerian whose tenure as the Interim National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress set a solid foundation for a viable and enduring political party.

“Chief Akande has successfully employed mentorship as a capacity-building tool for self and societal development.

“He learned at the feet of mentors such as Chief Obafemi Awolowo and remains till date one of the few committed Awoists. He gave his knowledge and experience freely to his mentees to build a sustainable political structure.

“Indeed, Chief Akande is a bridge between the old and the new politicians, which earned him the alias, Baba awon Omo Ke kee ke (father of small children). He is an ardent believer in one and indivisible Nigeria where equity, fairness and justice reign.

“I commend it to all who seek a purposeful living and crave the same for a stronger, better, more prosperous and enduring Nigeria,” Oyetola added.

Earlier, the celebrant and author of the book, Akande, in his vote of thanks, however, said he had no sympathy for President Muhammadu Buhari over bashes being received by his administration on the challenges and state of the nation, saying, “you applied to be Nigeria President.”

Akande said: “I want to thank my host Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, for hosting us, he has done a wonderful job, we admire you, we love you, you are showing us that you are young and that you are capable of doing big things, thank you very much.

“We (Nigerians) know you love the country, but we want Nigeria to be peaceful, to prosper. We abuse you for everything that is wrong in the country.

“We know we are fraudulent, cheaters and for all the wrongs we still blame you for it. I don’t sympathise with you because you applied for the job.”

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