BY TUNDE AKANBI
Death is ineluctable, inescapable and inevitable. It is one of the realities of life that humans must grapple with. It is common knowledge that it would come visiting at appointed time regardless of when and how. What matters however, are legacies bequeathed to the next generation.
“Oh our Lord , Pour out on us patience and make us die as those who have submitted (to you)” (Suratul Ar’raaf, 7:126).
In layman’s conviction, Late Hon.Justice Muhammed Mustapha Adebayo Akanbi, the retired jurist fell in this category.
In Ilorin and all parts of the country, the space was beclouded with the shocking news of the demise of Justice Mustapha Akanbi, the pioneer Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) and first Wakili of Ilorin.
Though, Justice Mustapha died at a relatively ripe age of 85, the loss of this great patriot, scholar, a cerebral and an incorruptible jurist was saddening.
Dignitaries from across the country stormed his House No. 6 , Agba-Dam Street, off Ahmadu Bello Way, GRA Ilorin early Sunday Morning to pay their last respect to the man globally reputed for his incorruptibility. He epitomised excellence and was a good natured jurist . Oh dear lord, Late Justice Mustapha Akanbi was a judge of a rare breed, the type of judge that any nation, particularly Nigeria needs and not the questionable characters, “money bags” or “bribery seeking” ministers in the temple of justice.
The late jurist fought hard against corruption in the judiciary while in active service, and judges and even lawyers many at times approached him to listen to wise counsel.
Sadly, his plea and campaign fell on deaf ears in some instances when some judicial officers acclaimed to be innocent were made sacrificial lambs on the altar of politics.
Were he able to rise from his grave, and asked of his regret, he would lamentably point at his inability to wipe out corruption, not only in the judiciary but in the entire nation.
Justice Akanbi died an incorruptible jurist , most courageous, fearless and patriotic. His transition was like a destroyed, burnt or stolen national judicial archive, which might not be found again because the most talented judicial officers of which the late jurist was one, are those who make their talents and position useful for the less knowledgeable. Such is Justice Mustapha Akanbi, the multi-talented Minister in the temple of justice!
No doubt, the pioneer ICPC boss, whose tenure was most remarkable, and the first Wakili of Ilorin was an epitome of of decency and a towery model of a quintessential gentleman.
One of his sons, who took after his profession, law, though in the academics, Muhammed Akanbi, a one time chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ilorin branch and a Professor of Law has this to say about him. “The Iroko has fallen! The elephant has fallen! The lion has roared his best! A legend departs! An enigma transits! Mr Integrity has gone the way of all mortals! Adieu MM 1!
May Allah be pleased with him and grant him Aljanat firdaus. His major interest was nation-building, uprightness, preservation of professional ethics among other salient features of a worthy ambassador.
President Muhammadu Buhari has this to say in a tribute about the late legal luminary “Justice Akanbi would be long remembered for his enormous contributions in bringing credibility and respectability to the country’s judiciary and that his death was a colossal loss, not only to the Nigerian judiciary, but the country as a whole”.
For the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki , his demise was a personal loss to him and described the late jurist as an indefatigable, honest and principled jurist who upheld the fine ethics of the judicial process till he breathed his last.
According to him , Baba Akanbi was fearless, courageous and spoke truth to power during his lifetime.
Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara state who was personally touched by the demise of the Wakili Ilory stated that the state and indeed Nigeria has lost a rare gem, philanthropist and revivalist while his investment in education, which is a key component of human capital development will be greatly missed by all.
Another prominent Ilorin Emirate, a former minister and National Publicity Secretary, of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi in commiserating with the deceased family, said he was a man of peace, integrity and honour while as a lawyer and judge , contributed greatly to the development of Nigeria’s legal system, and that the late jurist was incorruptible, Spartan and fair to all. The Speaker , KWARA state House of Assembly, Dr Alli Ahmad described the deceased as one of the best judges ever produced by the Nigerian judiciary.
As for Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje , he is of the view that the jurist served Allah wholeheartedly, the country diligently and made positive impacts on the society which made him a role model to many people in Nigeria.
“The late jurist played greater roles in the fight against corruption and dispensation of justice. He would be remembered for his laudable contributions to the progress of Nigeria and humanity”, Baraje said.
On his part, one would recall that last year when Justice Akanbi clocked 84 , a Comrade of international repute, Issa Aremu , said this about the Judicial Titan. Justice Akanbi, proudly identified with the masses and mass organizations. Comrade Aremu said Justice Akanbi was a senior comrade in his own right given his commitment to fairness and justice to all and his down to earth simplicity and accessibility.
Mr Festus Keyamo said Late Justice Akanbi had great qualities that other serving jurists in Nigeria should strive to emulate while Chief Adegboyega Awomolo SAN disclosed that the death of Justice Akanbi at this crucial time will definitely affect the Nigerian nation because of what the man lived and stood for, and therefore urged government to endeavour to keep his memory alive. Prince Lateef Fagbemi SAN and Mr John Baiyeshea SAN said there was no aspect of human life where the late jurist did not feature prominently in bringing succour to the less privileged while the deceased was down to the earth, very loving , very caring and had left that legacy of virtuous living , righteous living , even of Godliness. Another prominent SAN, Yusuf Olaolu Alli who saw him few hours before death struck, also described him as a quintessential jurist, a detribalised Nigerian , a Pan Africanist and incorruptible. He was a model for all those who aspire for the best in the society while the NBA chairman, Ilorin branch , Issa Manzuma said his death has created a great vacuum in the legal profession that will be difficult to fill.
From far away Morocco, where he is on a religious visit, the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, a retired jurist himself and a close associate to the fallen hero, described him as an incorruptible judicial officer, who served the nation without blemish.
In his condolence message, the emir recalled that the late jurist was instrumental to the mentorship of many legal practitioners both in the bar and on the bench through his unique and sterling qualities of equity, fairness and justice to all.
“We have lost a rare gem in the Ilorin Emirate and the nation at large. The history of judicial system in Nigeria would not be complete without adequate reference to the tremendous contributions of the late Wakili of Ilorin. We are together in the judiciary at different points in time up to the Court of Appeal”, the monarch said.
The Chief Imam of Offa, Sheikh Muyideen Sulayman Hussein described the late president of the Court of Appeal as an epitome of uprightness .
The Ilorin Emirate Youths also viewed the late jurist as a father to all, a truly incorruptible judge, a committed community leader, anti corruption crusader as well as a rear philanthropist.
It has been confirmed severally that his sojourn in the judiciary was a golden moment as one of the best judicial officers that Nigeria ever produced and would be greatly missed.
Late Justice Mustapha Akanbi was Nigerian media delight. He was a news maker anytime any day. He never closed his doors against members of the fourth estate of the realm.
Another group of Nigerians apart from his immediate family, are those in the legal practice, the Ilorin community, the less privileged in the society, staff of the Mustapha Akanbi Foundation, the Umaru Saros, the Justice Alfa Belgores , the Babalakins, and many others to mention a few, including my mother, who equally described his death as a big blow.
A chapter has ended in the history of the judiciary in Nigeria. His relentless efforts in maintaining discipline and protecting the integrity of the court even in retirement would be seriously missed. He had left a vacuum very difficult to fill.
Nigeria has lost one of its greatest oracles in the bench, a man with indepth scholarship, wide jurisprudential wisdom and a most courageous, fearless and patriotic jurist of our time. He epitomised uprightness, integrity, and character in terms of moral, integrity and principles of Islam and The Holy Quran.
Late Justice Mustapha Akanbi Oniyo, a giant among gladiators, a fine jurist, who died on Sunday at about 1am after a brief illness at a private hospital in Ilorin at the ripe age of 85, would have turned 86, September 11, 2018.
Named Mustapha Adebayo Akanbi, he was born on September 11, 1932 in Accra, Ghana, where he worked as an executive officer in the Ghana Civil Service, apart from being an active member of the trade union.
Upon returning to Nigeria, Justice Akanbi earned scholarship to study law at the Institute of Administration, now Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He subsequently pursued legal studies in the United Kingdom and was called to the English Bar in 1963.A year later in January 1964, he was called to the Nigerian Bar. In 1968, he became a Senior State Counsel after he joined the Ministry of Justice. After setting up private practice in Kano, he was appointed a judge of the Federal Revenue Court in 1974 and in January 1977, he was elevated to the Court of Appeal.
In 1992, he became President of the Nigeria Court of Appeal and retired in 1999.
A year into the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Justice Akanbi was appointed pioneer chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC). The late jurist had a rough time at the anti-graft agency due to the nature of the Act establishing it. As of July 2005, the ICPC had charged 85 people but only secured two corruption related convictions.
In his reaction, Justice Akanbi publicly questioned the role of the government in undermining the agency at that time, a development that is still rearing its ugly head in most government agencies.
He also expressed worry about the law that hindered the agency from investigating corrupt practices dating before the creation of the ICPC.
He subsequently retired in 2005 on completion of the first term of office and in 2006, he established the Mustapha Akanbi Foundation in Ilorin, Kwara State.
The foundation was floated to focus on strengthening civil society groups, governmental agencies and private businesses to engender transparency and accountability.
In 2013, Justice Mustapha Akanbi’s wife, Hajia Munfaatu Akanbi, died at an Indian hospital after a brief illness at the age of 68. He had remained disorganised since that time in spite of his conviction that from Allah we come, and to Him, we shall return until he too breathed his last on Sunday. The couple were best of friends.
The goodness, fear of God, humanitarian services and his humbleness was further demonstrated on the day his fidau prayer was held on 10/6/2018 at the Metropolitan Square in Ilorin where the who is who across the country and even beyond converged to pray for the repose of the soul of Justice Mustapha Akanbi (Rtd) PCA,CFR, and Wakilin Ilorin . Even in death, he would continue to live on as at no point in time , that his name would not be remembered or mentioned as a reference point meaning that the reward of being good is everlasting.
As Justice Mustapha Adebayo Akanbi Oniyo transit to his place of final abode peacefully in this Holy month of Ramadan, it is our prayer that Almighty Allah grant him Aljanah Firdaus. Amin