By Suyi Ayodele
THERE have been many informed commentaries on Chief Bisi Akande’s autobiography. I intend to continue the conversation here by pointing at what I would call preliminary observations from what I have read in the book. I focus on the gaps and other inadequacies.
I start with his travails in politics. He was jailed by General Muhammadu Buhari in 1984 and he recounted that experience on 20 pages (page 197 to 216) but Akande mentioned Buhari’s name in passing only twice. Those two occasions were loudly timorous mentions. The first is on page 209 where he said decree 4 under which he was detained was issued by Tunde Idiagbon, Buhari’s deputy. That is rather strange. Decrees were signed by the Head of State, not by the deputy. The second mention is on Buhari’s overthrow by Ibrahim Babangida (page 210) which didn’t last more than a second in reading. Was it fear of Buhari or love of him that informed this treatment of Akande’s own experience in the hands of the General?
How did Chief Bisi Akande become a member of the Chief Obafemi Awolowo political dynasty? He explained that on page 116. He said he was contesting to represent his people at the constituent assembly that would write the 1979 constitution and met Chief S.M. Afolabi in Ikirun, venue of the election and Afolabi wooed him.
The Ila Orangun, Osun State, born politician said that as he arrived Ikirun, alongside others “for the election, Chief S.M. Afolabi called me aside and introduced himself to me. …He pleaded with me to join the Awolowo group” (page 116). And he was convinced.
He may have deliberately left out certain details of his journey into the midst of the progressives, but he had ample space for how he became the Secretary to the Oyo State Government as against the envisaged position of commissioner. This is on page 131: “Chief Afolabi invited me into (his hotel) bedroom… He showed me the brief insertion of what the military perceived as the functions of the Secretary to the State Government as stated in the handover notes from the outgoing authorities. He confirmed that the governor-elect would offer me the post of Commissioner of Finance but pleaded with me to accept to be the Secretary to the State Government (SSG)….”
Today’s politicians should learn from this that Akande, warts and all, still had the humility to admit that his late foe, S.M. Afolabi was the benevolent squirrel who cracked his political palm kernel for him.
Baba Bisi Akande is 82 years old. By January 16, 2022, some 33 days time, God willing, the former governor of Osun State will be 83 years old. At the launch of his book that he christened: “My Participations,’ all the big birds in Nigeria’s political sky gathered in Lagos to honour him. General Muhammadu Buhari led the pack. I looked at the roll call of the ‘dignitaries’ at the event and I smiled. The gathering was a mixed bag. My elders have a descriptive name for such a flock. “Rikisi pa won po won di ore”- intrigue brings them together and they become friends. The contents of Baba Akande’s book have since gone viral, drawing comments, good and bad. Again, reading some of the reactions to the book, I drew strength from the saying of our ancestors: “Agbalagba ki sa langba langba”- an old man does not play the zig-zag game.
In the book, which ordinarily should be a reflection of the life and times of the old man, as given by him, the former deputy governor to the legend and orator, Chief Bola Ige, in the old Oyo State, decided to be a lapdog of a much younger one, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, whom he said was and probably still the only rich politician around. I beg your pardon. The name, lapdog, was never my creation. I borrowed it from Paul Ibe, the media aide to the former vice president, Abubakar Atiku. Ibe used that to describe Baba Akande, while he, Ibe, was reacting to the claim by Baba that Atiku was always beggarly in the 2007 presidential election; going cap in hand to Tinubu to fund his (Atiku’s) campaign.
Don’t bother about the appellation. Baba Akande understands very well that “isoro ni igbesi”-proposition draws a response. There is eternal wisdom in the admonition that any old man who detests being an object of ridicule for the fowls should not tie a cob of maize around his waist. Some Ibes can be very rude and acerbic. That is not his fault, anyway. Everyman must protect his own pot of soup. Baba Akande used a 559-page book to do just that.
Baba’s book is also very revealing. Nigerians, especially those from the South-West, have Baba Akande to thank for putting some records straight in his book. At least, through the instrumentality of the book, the Yoruba are aware now that, contrary to the narrative that the former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan hated the Yoruba, the man actually did all he could to maintain an equilibrium in the nation’s political power equation. The author, who was a great ‘participant’ in the 2011 power equation game, told us that Jonathan, indeed, supported the zoning of the speakership of the House of Representatives to the Yoruba region.
Akande, his younger boss, Tinubu and other “participants” were the ones who gave out the number four position to Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State. Imagine the distance from Ibadan to Sokoto! In an attempt to sow an early political IOU, the Akande/Tinubu gang worked against Mrs Mulikat Adeola and crowned Tambuwal as Speaker. President Jonathan must be smiling by now; God will always vindicate the just. And for those South Westerners, who were recruited to be Jonathan’s haters on the false narrative that the ex-president hated them, they can now see who the real enemies of the Yoruba race are. Remember, our elders admonish us to allow lies to run for twenty years, truth will always catch up with it in seconds!
As if buttressing the “lapdog” qualification of Ibe, Akande, in the book told us, in an attempt to remind other “participants” about Tinubu’s ‘generosity’ in the 2007 general elections, that: “Bola was the only one spending the money among us. The rest of us were poor. Tinubu also put all his energy and resources into the formation of the AC and we felt he deserved a spot on the ticket”. In essence, what Baba Akande is saying about his younger boss is that because Tinubu is the ‘richest’ among the “participating gang”, the rest of the country should appreciate him and drop the presidency on Tinubu’s lap. What warped logic! If Tinubu became so rich in 2007 such that Atiku, who in 1993, funded a presidential primary and forced the late MKO Abiola to have a run off in Jos, during the SDP presidential primaries, had to go cap in hand to Tinubu, after Atiku had been vice president for eight years, Baba Akande owes us explanations on the sources of Tinubu’s stupendous wealth. Until Baba convinces us of that, we may be tempted to adopt Ibe’s description as the gospel truth of why the autobiography was written in the first instance. Ibe is no doubt, in my own estimation, rude about the “lapdog” baptism of Baba Akande, the former National Chairman of the APC himself betrayed his purpose of writing the book.
How on earth do we categorise the aspersion Baba Akande tried to cast on the reputation of the Afenifere leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo. Just as a friend pointed out: if I considered Ibe as being rude in calling Baba Akande a Tinubu’s lapdog, what do I call Baba’s allegation that Pa Adebanjo pestered Tinubu to build a house for him (Adebanjo) in Lekki?
If indeed that was the case, why should it be an old Akande to tell the tale? What happened to the caution: “inu ni agba nya, agba ki ya enu”- old ones keep secrets in their bellies and not in their mouths. If Baba Akande expects the ones following him to show him due respect, why would he describe Pa Adebanjo as a blank politically-minded leader who does not have what it takes to contest political positions? Which type of elder, in the age bracket of Baba Akande, would allege that Pa Adebanjo, the late pa Olaniwun Ajayi and Chief Olu Falae refused to suggest younger Yoruba sons to represent the South-West at the 2014 National Conference, but chose to attend themselves because of money? “They could not find any younger Yoruba to send to the conference to represent our interest. They believed, even in their old age, that they were the only people who could have gone there. Sir Ajayi, who was close to 90 at the time of the Conference, has since joined his ancestors. Chief Adebanjo celebrated his 90th birthday in 2018. Chief Falae is in his 80s. Note that Jonathan paid the conference delegates generous allowances”, he wrote. Can we also ask the Ila-Orangun politician why he has not found a younger one to carry Tinubu’s bag around instead of him doing it? Is it also for generous ‘dash’ since Tinubu has the deepest pocket?
Both Tinubu and Buhari described Akande as a honest and truthful personage, who is courageous and bold. But in naming those who did not want Buhari as president in 2015, Akande was bold in calling General Olusegun Obasanjo’s name but became less bold and courageous in naming the Northern elite who shared the same sentiment with Obasanjo. All his “courage and boldness” could allow him to pen is: “A prominent aristocratic leader from the North stayed several nights in Osogbo, persuading Governor Aregbesola to prevail on us not to field Buhari”. The same Akande who was bold in calling Obasano’s name suddenly became descriptive when it got to naming the “prominent aristocratic leader from the North”. That was the same Obasanjo the “participants” called their “navigator” in 2015!
It is not less surprising that Buhari would label Baba Akande as a man with “inflexible integrity in and out of public office, never accepting or offering bribes”. A man of such sterling qualities deserved to be jailed for 44 years in 1983 after Buhari and his gun toting soldiers chased Alhaji Sheu Shagari out of power. Buhari, who became the sole beneficiary of the December 31, 1983 military political heist, threw Akande and his fellow “corrupt” politicians in Agodi Prison, Ibadan, and threw the key to the jail house into Asejire Dam. But in 2021, the same Akande is Buhari’s Mai Gaskiya because “rikisi pa won po”.
Many “reviewers” of Akande’s book, since it was launched a few days ago, have no doubt that it is all about 2023 and Tinubu’s presidential ambition. I have no problem with that. Tinubu, being the “only one that is rich among them (us)”, can use any strategy to realise his ambition. My worry here is how Baba Akande simply forgot that only a child is sent to convert the food of the next door neighbour. It is an aberration to send an elder on such an errand. I am equally worried that Baba would agree to put all the things he wrote on a paper, knowing that his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren would have to read the book. It bothers me that Baba, at his present age, would elect to be a forerunner to Tinubu, when his age and generation say to us that rather than the lion to carry the game bag of the tiger, hunters would rather go on different hunting routes. It pains me that Baba Akande would allow an Ibe to call him a “lapdog” while we could not muster enough justification to impose on the impertinent lad, some exercises in home training.
My consolation in all the razzmatazz of the book launch is again, embedded in the wise saying that two persons do not lose out in a game of lies. If the one being lied to does not know, the ones telling the lies know. Buhari, Tinubu and Baba Akande know that whatever they said at the Eko Hotels venue of the launch of “My Participations” is nothing but “Oyo dobale, inu e loso”- Oyo man prostrates but his stomach squats. They know that they all gathered to deceive one another.
(c) Nigerian Tribune Newspaper