By Lukman Olabiyi, Lagos
President Muhammadu Buhari has painted a graphic picture of how former Osun State Governor Chief Bisi Akande and his counterparts in South West, except Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu, were politically ambushed by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo (OBJ) at the 2003 gubernatorial election.
President Buhari said the ‘electoral massacre’ masterminded by ex-President Obasanjo was what ended Akande and others’ second term ambitions as incumbent governors of their various states.
The president described the ex-president’s tactic at the poll at the time as a diabolical double-cross. He revealed this while speaking at the public presentation of the autobiography of Akande, entitled “My Participations,” held at the Eko Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.
“It is common knowledge that Akande was the victim – along with other Alliance for Democracy (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,” the president stated.
”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,” he said.
President Buhari described Akande as a ‘‘perfect public officer,” and the type of person he could go into the jungle with, saying that he had retained his ‘‘inflexible integrity,” in and out of public office, never accepting or offering bribes.
The president, who heaped praises on the former governor of Osun State, further described him 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.
President Buhari used the occasion to narrate 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.
”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 also narrated how Akande had risen to prominence from his participation in the Constituent Assembly established by the Military Government of General Olusegun Obasanjo.
”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,” the President said.
Recounting the achievements of the former Governor of Osun State, President 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,” he said.
Minister of Science, Technology and Innovations, Ogbonnaya Onu who was the Chairman of the occasion, said Akande made an important contribution to APC.
“Akande did so much for the APC that he deserved every honour that can be given to him. Akande is a unique personality who deserved to be celebrated, he worked very hard and was determined to succeed in life. Through home studies and correspondence he worked hard to become an accountant.
“This man stood by whatever he believed in, his honesty saved him several times in his life. His life shows that our nation is a land of opportunity. He was born poor but never allowed it to dissuade him. His story showed that one future is not determined by one’s background. It showed Nigeria has a bright future, our nation can benefit from the life of Akande,” Onu stated.
Speaking at the event, Tinubu described Akande as a hero and a man of impeccable character.
He said with men like Akande with selfless character, the lives of Nigerians would be made better.
Tinubu said Akande is a key light in the nation’s political story and that his life has shown what a public figure of a nation like Nigeria ought to be.
“From a humble beginning, he rose through hard work and perseverance to the top, he did not walk the easy way but through hard work. He tutored himself to become a qualified accountant at the age of 22,” he said.
The former governor of Lagos State said without Akande, the merger that brought about APC would not have been possible.
Lagos State Governor. Babajide Sanwo-Olu also showered encomium on Akande for leadership style and also being a good role model to young ones.
Speaking with journalists on the occasion of the book presentation, Osun State Governor Adegboyega Oyetola described the book, as a compendium of reflections by a man whose philosophy about life is inspiring and trans-generational.
“Chief Akande is 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 successors will surpass him,” he said.
Speaking further, he noted that “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 to 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,” he stated.