Bisi Akande: Contemptuous of formal power
PA Bisi Akande would turn 84 on January 16, 2023. Just as his role model, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Bisi Akande was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He struggled to attain greatness through dogged determination, self-discipline, hard work and providence. By all standards he is certainly a statesman, an ascetic person and an unusual politician who had provided leadership at the topmost level for political parties at their formative years and nurtured same to the point of winning at local, state and federal levels. But he is not the type that throws money around or subscribes to the general notion that money solves all problems.
Really, in this regard he is not a popular politician. He has a disdain for the notoriety of money culture in politics. Rather, he prefers to deliver social services to electors in place of stomach infrastructure, an idea popularised by the former Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State. He would rather not spend government money the way he won’t spend his. As a governor, he was miserly with public expenditure. At his inauguration as governor in 1999, he turned down requests by his aides that he holds a lavish inauguration ceremony. He only spent N50,000 of his own money. Throughout his tenure as governor, he guarded jealously the need to separate his private expenses from public ones, even during private social celebrations.
PA Akande is a most faithful person in his private and public life. He rarely challenged his political associates. His deference for Bola Ige was unbelievable. He was definitely shattered by the murder of Bola Ige. He was convinced that the killers of the former Attorney General and Minister of Justice was known to government. He has a disdain for protocols in government except if they add to the quality of governance.
His philosophy of power is what it can be used for to advance the interest of the majority. His politics could be described as a low profile one, as he prefers being loud on governance rather than politics. To him campaign for power grab are essentially deceitful and unethical. He would rather be meager with campaign promises rather than build castle in the air at campaign rallies. He is ever frank with voters. Elections are not a duel nor must elections be won at all cost. If you refer to him as Mr. Governance, you will be dead right. If you pay a visit to Bola Ige House in Osogbo, an architectural masterpiece, you wouldn’t believe that the government of Akande never borrowed to execute the massive project. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, at the commissioning of the secretariat marvelled at how Akande did it without borrowing.
How are we to explain Akande’s accomplishments as governor? Akande’s major asset is his formidable ethics and down to earth approach to this ephemeral life. He is a conservative fund holder. Being prodigal with public fund isn’t for him. But he can be an embarrassment to a typical Nigerian politician with their flamboyant traits and wastefulness.This, because, in the words of Prof. Wole Soyinka, a Nobel laureate, in his foreword to Bisi Akande’s My Participation, ‘Power Hates Truth…Power engages in image-making, image burnishing, credit hustling, indeed, image fabrication…(but in the hands of Bisi Akande) Power feels exposed….’
A serious politician that Bisi Akande is, he was not familiar with brown envelope merely to cultivate media practitioners.
As governor of Osun State, he refused to indulge his wife as the first lady and never allocated funds to that office. When he was accused of not being gender friendly in his administration, his response was that the office of the first lady was not mentioned in the nation’s 1999 Constitution as amended.
In demystifying power and unveiling the phenomenon, Bisi Akande was embarrassingly simple — hardly would you recognise him as your guest if you are hoping that he would be heralded and ushered into a venue by a convoy of expensive jeeps. In and out of government, Baba Omokeke (as his admirers refers to him) remained himself.
No matter what, Pa Akande always talks straight no matter whose ox is gored. He rarely do media packaging. He could be truthfully brutal when, in talking about a former deputy governor of his, he said that the fellow ‘…crept into my life like a silent and malignant cancer.’ He was certainly full of regrets. That he is now in the same party with this former deputy of his is an indication that Akande is capable of cultivating political expediency when necessary.
Without doubt, President Muhammadu Buhari would not have hesitated conceding any ministerial office to former Governor Bisi Akande, but Akande wasn’t the type that is desperate to occupy any office at his age. He just fought for others to occupy juicy power in Buhari’s administration.
His life is dedicated to serving public good, nothing really personal. At 84, Pa Bisi Akande should feel fulfilled having facilitated a formidable alliance between the Yoruba of the South-West and the Hausa-Fulani group of the North-West. Without doubt, Akande is hopeful that his political investments in fixing a ‘progressive’ government will be reciprocated in the election of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu next month.
To a gentleman politician and a ‘rebel’ (with apologies to Prof. Azeez Olaniyan, in The Bisi Akande Phenomenon?) in government, I say happy birthday sir.
• Olurode is a retired Professor of Sociology in the University of Lagos (UNILAG), and former National Commissioner with the Independent National Electoral Commission.