By Issa Aremu
Our profound appreciation goes to Almighty Allah that grand father, father, mentor, a poet, pan-African leader and incorruptible role model, Hon. Justice Mustapha, Akanbi, CFR, PCA (Rtd) Wakili of Ilory turns 85 years today. The comprehensive birthday activities to celebrate the pioneer former Chairman of Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), started last Friday and Saturday in Ilorin with prayers for a worthy life in the service of Allah and humanity.
Thanks to the celebrant, Chairman, Management and Staff of Mustapha Akanbi Foundation (MAF), for the extended privilege to share some thoughts on the theme: “Nation Building in Africa: Role of some African Leaders” this morning as a Guest speaker at the 2017 MAF lecture dedicated to the 85th birthday anniversary of the legal titan . I bring to my Lord fraternal as well as revolutionary greetings in line with trade union traditions. First from my union, (National union of Textile and Garment workers), Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC of which am a NEC member, and IndustriAll global union of which am the Vice President representing Africa. Unknown to many my Lord is more than a judicial titan. He is indeed a senior comrade in his own right given his commitment to fairness and justice to all. He talks truth to power no less than he admonishes the powerless to demand for justice. My Lord proudly identifies with the masses and mass organizations. Many times my Justice Mustapha Akanbi had been an inspirational resource fellow at series of our union’s educational programmes singing solidarity songs with passion. Today also marks the 11th anniversary of Mustapha Akanbi Foundation (MAF). MAF is a fast growing impactful humanitarian foundation in the world. Precisely because I am involved (with apology to Chief Emeka Ojukwu) with this great humanitarian process, I bear testimony that Mustapha Akanbi Foundation (MAF) has truly come of age. Let me commend President Muhammadu Buhari administration for initiating the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme. With participating Sixteen states so far, one million of the most vulnerable and poorest Nigerians are paid N5,000 monthly stipends under social investment scheme.
But unknown to many what the Federal Government has commendably adopted as a state policy is precisely what Justice Mustapha and his foundation had been doing in retirement in the past ten years. In the age of elite greed and elitist state capture of national commonwealth, we must salute MAF’s art of giving so much out of nothing (compared to those that have in abundance) to the aged, the sick and disabled. The Foundation is also catching the youth positively young via reading and writing skill acquisitions in public secondary schools. This is refreshingly empowering in a country in which the political class has turned our youths into cannon folders in the political partisan wars of attrition to be used and dumped. The Foundation, MAF is truly acting local but thinking global through high profile public agenda setting lectures such as this.
My Lord is almost a global citizen by birth; born 85 years ago; 11th of September 1932 as a third child to our great grand father, Alhaji Muhammed Bello (Akanbi Oniyo) and our great grand mother Nana Aishat (Ki Olorun forun Kewon!) in cosmopolitan Accra, Ghana. It is an open knowledge that my Lord’s parents were of great warrior Kemberi stock of “Afin- area” of Ilorin . He was born into a rich heritage of industry, long distance enterprise and scholarship dating back to almost 500 years of the great Ilorin community. By 1938, six years after his birth, my Lord’s father was already an international exporter of wide range of goods from kola nuts, potash from Maiduguri, dried okro (orunla) to guinea fowl eggs. Today we celebrate my Lord as a symbol of hard and smart work, incorruptibility, enterprise, selflessness and generosity. But it all started from a good home. As the Yoruba saying goes, Bibi re osee fowo ra. (A good pedigree is not something one can buy with money or better still money can hardly improve on circumstances of birth). Alhaji Akanbi Oniyo successfully lived on dignity of his labour and sweat. True to his remarkable enterprise, as far back as that time he bought a house in Cow Lane Accra, (comparable to our present day Broad or Allen street in Lagos or Taiwo Oke/Taiwo Isale in Ilorin!). The building is a legacy house today “developed into a storey building comprising fifteen shops” bequeathed to his children.
I strongly recommend the Autobiography of my Lord entitled The Story of My Two Worlds; to all Nigerians and indeed all Africans. For me, the 400 page book compares very well with Long Walk to Freedom of Nelson Mandela’s 700 paged Autobiography in terms of details about “Challenges, Experiences and Achievements” of a great African. The book is a compendium of self/community actualization as well as nation building. My lord through MAF has commendably put in place a sustainable initiative to further continue in retirement same good work spanning some decades at the bar and the bench. Contrary to received wisdom, Nigeria still has selfless leaders who should be celebrated while alive to serve as role models for the youth. Justice Mustapha is audaciously a worthy leader.
Nigerian youths must learn the secret of longevity of some of our worthy elders and parents who notwithstanding persistent Nigerian underdevelopment, God nonetheless kept them alive beyond the continent’s average life expectancy rate. Such leaders include Justice Mustapha Akanbi, who we are celebrating at 85 today. My Lord’s life shows that Pipe laye lere laye, (longevity is the reward for having lived good life). My Lord’s father late Alhaji Bello Akanbi Oniyo Ibn Mohammed Sanni ibn Usman, a great entrepreneur in his own right, actually died at the “ripe old age of well over hundred years”. Talking about long life, Nelson Mandela died at 95 (18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013). Wishing my Lord more rewarding years in the service of God and humanity . Happy day sir!
*Aremu, is the Vice President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)