Bisi Akande: Contemptuous of formal power


PA Bisi Akande would turn 84 on January 16, 2023. Like his role model Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Bisi Akande was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He strove to achieve greatness through dogged determination, self-discipline, hard work, and providence. By all standards, he is certainly a statesman, an ascetic, and an unusual politician who provided leadership at the highest level for political parties in their formative years and nurtured them to the point of winning at the local, state, and federal levels. But he’s not the type to throw money away or subscribe to the general notion that money solves all problems.

Actually, in this sense he is not a popular politician. He has a disdain for the notoriety of money culture in politics. Rather, he prefers to provide social services to constituents rather than stomach infrastructure, an idea popularized by former Ekiti state governor Ayodele Fayose. He would rather not spend government money the way he won’t spend his. As governor, he was stingy with public spending. At his inauguration as governor in 1999, he refused requests by his aides to hold a lavish inauguration ceremony. He only spent N50,000 of his own money. Throughout his tenure as governor, he jealously guarded the need to separate his private and public expenses, even during private social celebrations.

PA Akande is a very faithful person in his private and public life. He rarely challenged his political associates. His deference to Bola Ige was incredible. He was definitely devastated by Bola Ige’s murder. He was convinced that the government knew the assassins of the former Attorney General and Minister of Justice. He has contempt for protocols in government, except if they add to the quality of governance.

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His philosophy of power is what it can be used for to further the interest of the majority. His politics could be described as low profile, as he prefers to speak loudly about governance rather than politics. For him, the campaigns to seize power are essentially deceptive and unethical. He would rather be poor with campaign promises than build a castle in the air at campaign rallies. He is always frank with the voters. Elections are not a duel nor must they be won at all costs. If you refer to him as Mr. Governance, you are absolutely right. If he visits the Bola Ige House in Osogbo, an architectural masterpiece, he would not believe that the Akande government never borrowed to carry out the huge project. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, at the launch of the secretariat, marveled at how Akande did it without going into debt.

How are we to explain Akande’s achievements as governor? Akande’s main asset is his formidable ethic and his down-to-earth approach to this fleeting life. He is a conservative fund holder. Being prodigal with public funds is not for him. But he can be an embarrassment to a typical Nigerian politician with his flamboyant features and extravagance. This is because, in the words of Professor Wole Soyinka, Nobel laureate, in his prologue to Bisi Akande’s My Participation, ‘Power hates the truth… Power gets involved in the creation of images, the polishing of images, the manipulation of credits, in fact, the fabrication of images… (but in the hands of Bisi Akande) Power feels exposed…’
Bisi Akande, a serious politician, was not familiar with brown envelopes simply to cultivate media professionals.

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As the governor of Osun state, he refused to accommodate his wife as first lady and never allocated funds to that position. When accused of not being supportive of gender issues in his administration, his response was that the office of first lady was not mentioned in the nation’s 1999 amended Constitution.

In demystifying power and revealing the phenomenon, Bisi Akande was embarrassingly simple: you would hardly recognize it as your guest if you expect a convoy of expensive jeeps to announce it and drive you somewhere. In and out of government, Baba Omokeke (as his admirers refer to him) remained himself.

No matter what, Pa Akande always speaks out no matter whose gored ox it is. He rarely does media packaging. He could be truly brutal when, speaking of a former lieutenant governor of his, he said that the guy ‘…came into my life like a silent, malignant cancer.’ He certainly was full of regrets. That he is now in the same party as this former deputy of his is an indication that Akande is capable of cultivating political expediency when necessary.

No doubt President Muhammadu Buhari would not have hesitated to give ex-governor Bisi Akande some ministerial post, but Akande was not one to be desperate for any post at his age. He simply fought for others to occupy a juicy power in the Buhari administration.

His life is dedicated to serving the public good, nothing really personal. At 84, Pa Bisi Akande should take pride in having facilitated a formidable alliance between the Yoruba of the south-west and the Hausa-Fulani group of the north-west. No doubt Akande is hopeful that his political investments in arranging a ‘progressive’ government will be reciprocated in the election of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu next month.

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To a political gentleman and a ‘rebel’ (with apologies to Professor Azeez Olaniyan, in The Bisi Akande Phenomenon?) in government, I say happy birthday sir.

Olurode is a retired Professor of Sociology at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and former National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission.

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Bisi Akande: Contemptuous of formal power

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