Memories of the political earthquake that swept across the Southwest reverberated in Lagos yesterday.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who recalled the perfidy, lamented that five Alliance for Democracy (AD) governors – Chief Bisi Akande (Osun state), Otunba Niyi Adebayo (Ekiti), the late Chief Adebayo Adefarati (Ondo) and Aremo Olusegun Osoba (Ogun) were sacked from power through what he described as former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s diabolical political double-cross.
The president, who praised Akande for his “inflexible integrity and disdain for bribery”, spoke at the presentation of his autobiography. My Participation, held at the Eko Hotels, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Eminent Nigerians, including Senate President Ahmed Lawan, All Progressive Congress (APC) National leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, APC National Caretaker Chairman Mai Mala Buni, Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, his Osun and Ekiti counterparts — Gboyega Oyetola and Dr. Kayode Fayemi – Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi (Ojaja II) and Alhaji Kashim Imam, who presented the book, poured encomiums on the former All Progressive Congress (APC) Interim National Chairman.
Tinubu, who survived the 2003 electoral manipulation, described Akande as a hero and a man of impeccable character, whose selfless lifestyle has inspired many people in positions of leadership.
Oyetola lauded Akande’s virtues, describing him as a leader who is not afraid that his successors will surpass him.
President Buhari, who attended the ceremony before going for the inauguration of the Naval ships and helicopters in Lagos, said he could go with Akande in a jungle.
He said: ‘’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”.
The President 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.
My first meeting with Akande
President Buhari spoke about his first meeting with Akande, his passion for Nigeria, achievements, and disappointment as governor of Osun State, and his many battles to wrest power from the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He said: ‘’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.”
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.’’
Recounting the achievements of the former Governor, President Buhari noted that within one year, Akande had paid off the salaries and other arrears, showing his mettle as a competent and serious administrator.
He added: ‘’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.’’
Reminiscing on APC’s ascent to governance at the federal level in 2015, President Buhari said: ‘’Chief Akande was in the thick of further attempts in 2011 and 2014 to fuse together different groups and dislodge 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, but 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.”