In the last few days, the reading of Chief Adebisi Akande’s book titled “My Participations” has gained my attention or quality time. This became imperative for me for two major reasons. One is to ascertain the basis of the immediate conundrums of controversy that greeted the presentation of the book to the public, generated mostly by those who have not even read the book at all, those who have read it halfway and half-heartedly too, and those who were reacting to Akande and Buhari’s speeches given at the book launch. Two, right from the table of content of the book, I had perceived and presupposed that, the book might be targeted at two publics, the Nigerian public and the Ila-Orangun public, the latter being the primordial root of Chief Bisi Akande. The ready question is of course: why should Akande have the Ila public in mind? I came to this discernment because I have always held the opinion that Akande, while not blowing his trumpet, should one day find a platform to unveil his involvement in the development of Ila-Orangun community, which some Ila youths who are today bereft of history and are not privy to, or have chosen to ignore Akande’s participation in community development as a result of warped and subjective account they have been fed with, and have consequently resorted to scathingly criticise a man who did not earn the chieftaincy title of Asiwaju of Ila-Orangun for doing nothing. And in “My Participations” Akande partly did that.
No doubt, upon reading the book, different readers will come up with different opinions on the book as we have been reading in the social and conventional media in the past few days. The book has indeed elicited harsh words from the political actors whose ox was gored in the book. Professor Wole Soyinka, who wrote the foreword to the book, had predictably alerted the author, whose progenitors were warriors, to prepare for wars. With this book, Akande has indeed, broken the bee hives. He should know the implication, Soyinka was saying. Interestingly, Akande is never scared of intellectual combat and confrontation with falsehood. He is unarguably a master of the game. In a monologue, Thomas Carlyle has said “the history of the world is biography of the great man. And I said: The great man always acts like a thunder. He storms the skies, while others are waiting to be stormed.” Akande has stormed the Nigerian political landscape and those caught by this hurricane of a biography are struggling to weather the storm.
Amidst the storms the book has generated however, I strongly hold the view that we must come to the recognition of the value the book holds for the Nigerian state and Akande’s local community and its politics. More specifically in the book, Akande has pinpointed what some notable Nigerians and political actors in his native community had done to undermine democratic consolidation and good governance, and the dominance of their reactions in the public domain so far seem to be gaining in crescendo over the import of the book as a treatise for good governance, efficient and selfless public service, public accountability and probity. But this valuable import of the work should not be lost on the altar of cacophonic, hasty and panicky reactions.
Thus, as the first value of the book, I perceive that it is a clarion call to our youth that they are not too young to engage in politics, be it high or low politics. We can see this in the life of Akande who, as a young lad, got involved in the development of his Ila community. As the book has revealed, Akande had hand in virtually all developmental projects in the town among which are the facilitation of the building of the first two secondary schools; water supply project; electricity supply project; establishment of a bank; and the upgrade of the College of Education, Ilesa, Ila campus, to a full-fledged college of education. In doing some of these, Akande in synergy with others in the town, used the Ila Students Union platform. This brings to the fore, the relevance and potency of students unions then as drivers of community development. Unlike today when student unions have not only lost focus, but have become instruments of oppression of fellow students; tools for election rigging; avenues for self-enrichment and extortion, and worse still, nests for cultists. The book in a way is a call for the need for reorientation of student unionism in Nigeria.
Furthermore, that the book established the fact that bribery and corruption had been in Nigeria since colonial days, is a pointer to the fact that, Nigeria needs to fight bribery and corruption more frontally. Both social epidemics have grown from little bribes in colonial days to gargantuan embezzlement in contemporary Nigeria. In the 60s Akande’s younger brother could not secure scholarship because he refused to give bribe and in year 2000, Akande had, in bureaucratic war, the corrupt phenomenon of “critical allowances” to contend with in the civil service of Osun State as the governor of that state. To me, for Akande to claim in that book that he neither took nor gave bribe as a governor should rather be a testament for emulation rather than a concern for anti-graft investigation, which the man is not even afraid of.
Who says trade union leaders are not betrayers of the workers they lead and the cause they pursue? Akande in that book chartered an illuminating path for answering this question, when he revealed with evidence how union leaders were being bribed to call off strikes in Osun State by his predecessors. This revelation should be a lesson to Nigerian workers in choosing their leaders. Another issue the book has thrown up is the matter of establishing an “impartial and fair” police at either the state or federal level. In the book, the partiality of local sanitary inspectors and by extension those of the native authority police, were cited. So also were the excesses and compromise of the federal government controlled police were cited in the Ife/Modakeke conflict and the conduct of the 1983 general election. These trends have indeed, posed a dilemma for those that stand for or against the quest for state police. But as Akande has said elsewhere in the book, most civilizations arose from experimentation. As such, we should no longer tarry in birthing state police in the spirit of true federalism and in the face of mounting insecurity in the country.
Further still, the author also treats readers to the debilitating effects of the cancer of budget padding when he was governor. Today, this high powered menace has hardly abated. As such, the civil society organisations should not relent in their wrestle with it. That Nigeria is labouring under over bloated and burdensome public service is another concern raised by the book. We should not therefore close our eyes to genuine public service reforms and reengineering with a view to having a sizable, efficient and modernised public service at all levels of government. Above all, in Akande’s account as a political leader, one can discern an epitome of selflessness, accountability and probity. This is of course a challenge to other political leaders and public servants including the budding ones. Akande’s book may not be analytical as a columnist has observed. It is a narrative or historical he said. But is that not the nature of biography? If politics has been defined by V. Lenin as “who does what to whom”, one will then be correct to assert that Akande’s work has provided keen insight to Nigerian government and politics, by the narration of what Nigerian political actors did to one another.
Dr. Adebisi, a political scientist, writes from the Federal College of Agriculture, Akure, Ondo State.