Even as Baba Isale, Akande still has his plate full

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By Dare Babarinsa
CHIEF BISI Akande’s four-year reign as the Governor of Osun State is a testament that a leader does not need a long tenure to make necessary impact. The truth is that many of our highly successful leaders had only one tenure each. Chief Adekunle Ajasin, Professor Ambrose Alli, Chief Bisi Onabanjo, Chief Bola Ige and Alhaji Lateef Jakande; each only a term of four years.
Though Ajasin, Onabanjo and Jakande had extra three months before the coup de ta of December 31, 1983, they were all essentially one term governors. Now we found gover- nors spending eight years and they depart hardly without trace like a snake slithering across a rock.
Nigerians gave their verdict to Akande on Tuesday, January 16 when the Adebisi Akande Foundation was launched at the International Conference Centre, Ibadan, to mark his 85th birthday.
Akande has had an interesting odyssey and the city of Ibadan, the old war camp of the Yoruba people, has played a significant role in it. It was in Ibadan that he served as an executive of the oil giant, British Petroleum. It was here that he served as the Secretary to the State Government during the Second Republic when Chief Bola Ige was the first elected Governor of Oyo State.
Akande later became Ige’s Deputy Governor when Chief Sunday Afolabi resigned in 1982. It was in Ibadan that Akande was arrested in 1984 by the new military junta and railroad- ed into prison.


Fifteen years later, Akande became the Governor of Osun State, entering into his new era of power and glory.The glory is still in full bloom.
Since he left power in 2003, he had served as chairman of his old party, the Alliance for Democracy (AD), and as the first chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
He was able to put a stamp of unity on an amalgam of different parties and leadership. It is a measure of his success that two Presidents, Muhammadu Buhari, the born- again dictator, and Bola Ahmed Tinubu, hero of the June 12 and anti-military rule struggle, have emerged from the party.
What has not emerged is a systematic way for leadership recruitment which would produce leaders instead of dealers of power. The democratic space, since 2003 especially, has propel into power some monstrous ele- ments, who, in normal times would not be entrusted to run a super market.
Creating the template for the emergence of new and purposeful leadership, not just from the jungle of partisan politics, but from systematic mentoring and training, is a big challenge for Chief Akande and member of his generation. Chief Bola Ige, first elected Governor of old Oyo State, had made it his assignment to get good governors for both Oyo and Osun 1999.
It was his singular achievement that
Akande
Akande became governor for he regarded his former deputy as competent, patriotic, courageous, sagacious and firm.
Akande is a committed Awoist who had been tested by fire. Ige rooted for him relentlessly. Akande became governor 40 years after Awolowo left power in the West. Akande live according to the Awoist tenets and has emerged as an icon of both nation- al and regional politics. His ascetic lifestyle and down-to-earth politicking made him a formidable voice in national affairs. Now 85, he remains relevant as ever.
Yet Akande is an accidental statesman. He never sought public office. It was public office that sought him out. I remember in 1998, Chief Bola Ige, the deputy-leader of Afenifere, main concern was to get good persons to be governors.
He was especially concerned about Oyo and Osun states (the two components of old Oyo State where Ige was governor between 1979 and 1983).
In Oyo State, Ige’s nominee, Chief Michael Koleoso, had persuaded him to settle for Chief Rasheed Ladoja, a high-ranking Ibadan traditional chief and businessman. When Ladoja would not follow Ige to the new Alliance for Democracy, the mantle finally settled on Alhaji Lam Adesina, a for- mer school principal and member of the House of Representatives during the Second Republic. But in Osun, Ige wanted no one else but Bisi Akande. ‘Osun needs Bisi,’ Ige would say again and again. “There are too many things at stake and only Bisi can get things done.”
The duo passed through fire together and
the experience bounded them like blood brothers. The 1983 general election when Akande was Ige’s deputy, was war by other means.
When the military seized power, Ige, like other governors, was detained by the junta. Akande too returned from politics, bruised, battered and poorer.
After he was freed from detention by the new government of General Ibrahim Babangida, Omowumi, his wife, and chil- dren sat him down and extracted a pledge from him that he would not venture into politics again! He agreed!
But he would not, and could not leave Bola
Ige alone on the battle field. During our struggle against military rule, Akande was our leader in Osun State where he held sway as the chairman of Afenifere, the main- stream political and cultural movement of the Yoruba people.
Akande’s accomplishments showed that Bola Ige was right in recruiting him for lead- ership. It is possible for leaders to emerge, but it is better they are recruited.
The country and society are in danger where leaders are left to recruit themselves. We then leave leadership for the highest bidder or the man with the fastest gun as it happens in old American Wild West.
Many of my colleagues in the Alajobi Committee of the Yoruba Nation worked with Chief Akande in Osun. Among them were Lai Oyedutan, who was a commissioner, Ayo Afolabi and Gbenga Adebusuyi. They are all proud of their service. Osun State devel- oped under Akande during a period of polit- ical turbulence. He was rigid and unbending once he believes his decision was in the pur- suit of public good.
It is interesting to note that he spent only four years in office, yet his impact and foot- prints are enduring and far-reaching. The most visible is the expansive Osun State Secretariat and the Bola Ige House, hosting the Governor’s Office complex, Osogbo. Every project he started, he completed. He left no debt. He balanced his budget. He made us proud.
Now Baba Akande is 85. He is a certified old man.For more than two years, I collaborated with him to produce his monumental auto- biography, My Participations, published in 2020, and it allowed me to appreciate his profundity, his breadth of vision, his capacity for details and his iconic role as the linear successor to Bola Ige.
He carried his burden with aplomb and serenity. He remains the Baba Isale to President Tinubu. Even in executing his role as Baba Isale,
Akande would still have his plate full. There are many things to be done to help the President and ensure his success. Congratulations to Baba Akande! I wish him many more years of service to Nigeria and Africa. We have learnt a lot from you! Nigeria owes you a debt of gratitude.
Addendum
ONE is saddened by the news of the sud- den death of our distinguished col- league, Isa Gusau, the Special Adviser to Governor Babagana Zulum of Bornu State. He was a wonderful and dependable ally of the governor and a critical stakeholder in Zulum’s template of running a humane and effective regime in a region darkened by decades of violence and poverty.
Gusau was an excellent journalist who had earlier worked with Vice-President Kashim Shettima. May God console his bereaved fam- ily and may his soul rest in peace. Isa, I thank God for knowing you.

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