M.M.A Akanbi: Pan-African ‘Mr Clean’

share on:

Justice M.M.A Akanbi (Rtd)

“My being in Ghana gave me a strong sense of doing justice to all manner of people without fear or favour. I have said it time without number that if anybody gave me bribe when I was on the bench let him come out. When I was appointed as the chairman of the ICPC the whole Nigeria came forward to say that ‘Mr. Clean’ has been appointed”.

SCOPE OF THE PROFILE

PREAMBLE

BIRTH AND GROWING-UP YEARS

EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND

SETTING THE TONE FOR WORKING LIFE

LEGAL PRACTICE TRAJECTORY

RELATIONSHIP WITH FAMILY MEMBERS

SERVING IN THE GAMBIA

PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE

PAN-AFRICA DISPOSITION

HIS STEWARDSHIP AT ICPC

NATION BUILDING EFFORTS

THE APPELLATION, ‘MR. CLEAN’

FULFILLMENT OF DREAMS

INSTITUTION OF CHARITABLE ORGANISATIONS

LIFE CHALLENGES 


Preamble

Honorable Justice Mustapha Muhammed Adebayo Akanbi CFR, PCA (Rtd), the former President, Court of Appeal and pioneer Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) has been selected as the first guest whose profile is being extensively and objectively made known to the public through this platform.

The reason for his choice as pioneer personality on this platform is not far-fetched. Justice Akanbi remains one of the very few Nigerians whose track record of achievements traversed the length and breadth of Nigeria and the continent of the black race in general.

His humanitarian services have no bound. Here is a Ghana-born Nigerian who strongly believes in adding values to the lives of others. He derives pleasure in putting smiles on the faces of his fellow being. He treats everybody that comes his way on the basis of who they are and what they are without minding whose horse is gored. He is a detribalized Nigeria and strong lovers and advocate of the unity of Nigeria.

Distinguished readers and lovers of this platform, enjoy every moment as we take you through the background, growing up years, educational attainment, challenges and achievements of the first Wakili of Ilorin, Honourable Justice Mustapha Akanbi, a cosmopolitan Mr. Clean, a tag for his popularity as an incorruptible judge.

BIRTH AND GROWING-UP YEARS

Honourable Justice Mustapha M.A. Akanbi CFR, PCA, (Retd) was born on 11th September 1932 in Accra, Ghana. His father was Alhaji Muhammed Bello Akanbi Oniyo, a successful businessman, who traversed most states of Nigeria and beyond on business voyages and exploits. Alhaji Bello Akanbi Oniyo’s alias in the business circle was A.O (acronym of Akanbi Oniyo).  Late Akanbi Oniyo was born and bred in the city of Ilorin. He was from Gambari quarters; Magaji Kemberi compound of Awodi area to be precise. Justice Akanbi’s mother was Hajia Nana Aishat Akanbi Oniyo, she was from Okemale area of Ilorin; Ajikobi quarters to be exact. The name of her father was Alhaji Muhammed Jeje.

Justice Akanbi’s father lost his own father when he was very young. When his father died, he stayed with the Magaji (Compound Head) called Ali. The old man was a bit tough. Late Akanbi Oniyo narrated to his children that he would go to Sobi and farm until almost 12 noon before having breakfast. So, he had to leave the family house for old Iponrin settlement. He stayed with an aunt whose husband was a farmer. When he could not continue with the hardship and primitive nature of the rural area, he left and returned to Ilorin. In Ilorin this time, he stayed with an aunt at Isale-Aluko, Okemale area. The aunt was popularly known as Iya Oniyo. The woman’s trading commodity is salt. He too was engaged in the sale of salt. At that time salt was scarce; it was difficult to get salt. He was lucky, he will be sent by his aunt to Ede, Ogbomoso, Ibadan, to trade and later Lagos. That was how he got the name ‘Oniyo’ added to his name. He stayed in Lagos for several years at Laguda House at Oluwole area in Lagos. Later, he proceeded to Ghana.

Justice Akanbi’s mother was the second wife of his father. In fact, he did not grow up to meet the first wife of his father; she died before he was born. She was the mother of their senior sister, Aladua, also called Ummu-l-Falali. In fact, her grave, mother, and the step mother, Hawau Yetunde are there in the premises of Justice Akanbi residence at G.R.A Ilorin.

Justice Akanbi was the fourth child of her mother and fifth of his father. The first born, Alhaji Sakariyahu Oniyo was born in Lagos, the second born was a girl, Halimat, who died when she was young while the third born who was the second son of her mother, Alhaji Sanni was born in Ilorin. Alhaji Sanni Oniyo is the current Magaji of Kemberi Compound at Awodi area, Ilorin. They called him Baba because he was named after their grandfather, Sanni. The name of the great grandfather was Usman. Justice Akanbi was the fourth and first to be born in Ghana. Then, the fifth was a girl, Hajia Falilat Aduke. She was equally born in Ghana.

The economic recession in the thirties (1930s), precipitated the movement of his father from Lagos to the then Gold Coast, now called Ghana. He was there in Lagos with people like Alhaji Salman Jaaji, the grandfather of Alhaji  Umaru Saro, the quintessential businessman. They were all in the same quarters in Lagos. Then he decided to travel to Ghana. In the main time, he had been in Serra Leone. Somebody who had lost his father, he has to struggle for survival. Before that, he used to travel to Ilorin to meet his wife every three months.

Life in Ghana for him as a beginner wasn’t that easy, he could not avoid the luxury of the frequent trip home. And it took his mother five years before she could muster the courage to join his father in Ghana. It was while in there God blessed them with Justice Akanbi. He was born on the 11th of September, 1932 in Accra, Ghana.

In his narration, he emphatically said he was lucky to have been born in Accra, Ghana. If he had been born in Nigeria, probably he wouldn’t have gotten the kind of education that he had because there was nobody in Nigeria that could measure up to giving the type of care he got in Ghana let alone taking him to the kind of schools he attended.

He was in Accra for the first five years of his birth. Thereafter, he was taken to Ilorin to stay with his mother, who had relocated to Nigeria.  At that time, most of the houses in Ilorin were thatched roof, but the standard of living in Accra, Ghana, was by far higher than Nigeria. The level of education and social amenities were better than what was in place in Nigeria. His father came to Nigeria when the young Akanbi was seven years, having sighted his father, he insisted to follow him back to Accra. He wept profusely and his father was compelled to take him along.  A decision that was against the will of his mother but she accepted it in good faith. He was taken back to Ghana after spending two years in Ilorin.

EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND

The young Akanbi was taken back to Ghana in 1939 by his father. He started school in Accra in September 1939. He was first enrolled in Arabic school at the nearby compound. The school was founded by Alhaji Dikko, a respected Muslim Mallam from Ile-Ada’ara in Agbaji quarters of Ilorin. Alhaji Dikko was a senior brother to Alhaji Yusuf Agbaji, the founder of Mankondoro at Agbaji. There were also two other schools. They were Makaranta Alif founded by Mallam Sharubutu, who hailed from Borno state and Makaranta Alhaji Ahmadu Basha. After a month in the Arabic school, he was made to join the children of Alhaji Yahaya Giwah at Africa College, around September 1939. Africa College was one of the finest private schools in Accra.

His father sent him to a fee-paying school, African College, which is more than what was then paid in government-owned schools. Pupils of the school were taught by old men who knew the value of education, who devoted their time to them.

One day, he took seriously ill at school. He was down with fever; his teacher, Ms. Glover Addo was very worried. That was in 1942/43. At the close of the day, she did not allow him to go home which was a considerable distance from the school. She took him to her house where he was given medical treatment and made to rest on a bed. When he woke up, he was given hot Ovaltine to drink and on being satisfied that he had rested enough and was fit to walk home, she got an escort to see him off.

This special treatment and kind gesture are one of the reasons Akanbi developed the more positive mental attitude to the English school than the Arabic school because he was attending the two schools concurrently.  At the English school, teachers loved them; they gave them presents any time they performed well as compared to Arabic school where they get flogged always. As a boy, he was tough. Sometimes, he would go to the beach with friends to swim instead of going to Arabic school. Just like Nigeria, Ghana is blessed with big Sea and beaches. He was doing well in school. Although he did not know the value of western education, he was fascinated by the way and manner they were being treated in the school.

Africa College was a very good school. There he was given solid educational foundation. The school afforded him all the training required to be a man. The school was founded by one Mr. Johnson, a Sierra Leonean whose commitment to the ideals of education was remarkable.  In his days, Africa College was blessed with many good and dedicated teachers. Most of them were quite advanced in age and they treated the pupils as they would treat their own children.

In the school, they were taught the rules of grammar, the science of language and the art of using English words correctly. Indeed, he acquired a mastery of the Davidson and Adcock English Grammar, an excellent textbook for the study of grammar. By the time he moved from standard one to standard two, he had known almost off-hand, the definitions of the following words; grammar, language, noun, pronoun, adjective, verb, adverb, preposition, syntax, prosody, and etymology.

Between 1939 and 1949, he attended African College (Primary) and Accra Royal Senior Primary School, Accra before proceeding to the Odorgonno Secondary School, Accra in 1950/53 where he obtained the Senior Cambridge School Certificate in 1953.

Some forty years later, he visited Ghana and had the following narration about the visit: “When I visited Ghana in 1982, then I was a Justice of the Court of Appeal in Ibadan, I paid back my due to Ms. Addo who later became Mrs. Suwer. I tried to locate her in Ghana through the help of a friend, Alhaji Surakatu Giwah. After some efforts, we were able to trace her to the house where she and her husband lived; unfortunately, she had gone out. I met the husband and introduced myself to him as a Justice of the Court of Appeal in Nigeria and told him the purpose of my visit. He was moved. He invited his children to listen to my story which I passionately repeated. He was visibly happy. The following morning, I went to see her.

Luckily, I met her in the house. She had aged and could not readily recognize me. I had to tell her who I was. I mentioned the names of some of my old classmates like Mensah and Yiadom both of them Kwahus; Alhaji Usman Ajadi Sanni and Ibrahim Abubakar, all of whom stayed long in Africa College right up to the secondary school level. I narrated my experiences in the school. I spoke of how she treated me when I was ill. I spoke of her kindness and love. She was moved. I gave her some money and handed her a beautiful Christmas card from the Court of Appeal, duly signed by me as a justice of the Court. She opened the envelope, read the contents, stretched out her hands and embraced me warmly.”

To say the obvious, Ghana gave him a very solid educational background.  His father, having lived in Lagos where he had seen the likes of the fathers of Chief Rotimi Williams, Chief Fani Kayode, felt that his children must acquire standard education. In achieving this goal, he made sure that he bequeathed the young Akanbi with sound and qualitative education in Ghana.

If his father ordered for any goods that have not arrived while in Lagos, he would go to the court and listened to how they decided cases in the courts, even though he did not go to school. Even in Ghana, when somebody told his grandmother that Akanbi was going to read Law, he said jokingly “kini omo Akanbi o ba tunse tikobase Law, Baba re naa Lawyer” (what Akanbi’s child could have studied if not Law, his father too, a lawyer). Contrary to that, his reading Law was accidental. It was not the resolution of the young Akanbi to read Law but to become a teacher because he was very good at English, History and other subjects.

When he moved to Nigeria, Akanbi also attended the Institute of Administration, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria from 1960 to 1961.

“When I came back from Ghana, I sat for an exam with 29 people, some are Igbos, others are Yorubas and Hausas. The standard of education I had in Ghana really helped me. Retired Justice Uwais was among those that wrote the exam. Then when I left the A.E.O cause, the Balogun Alanamu, Alhaji Akanbi Joss was the first to go to A.E.O cause. At that time, if you don’t know Alhaji Sadu Alanamu you don’t get up. Each time I went for the interview, he was usually not there. I did well during the interview and I came with a good certificate. At that time, Nigeria was not as bad as this in which it is who you know before you get anything. I took the first position in the interview, the late Baba Olajide who was an Egba man called me when I was going, riding a bicycle, he was accompanied by all the chief clerks and others on that day.  He said ‘Akanbi omo dada’ (good boy) come and see me in the house, it was he who suggested that I should go and read Law. The ambition of my father was that either I become a lawyer or I become a doctor. When I was at school in Ghana, I did both Arts and Science subjects and I have credit in most of the subjects,” he said.

He attended School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and Gibson Weldon College of Law, London from 1961 to 1962. He was called to the English Bar at the Middle Temple, London on 9th July 1963. He did a post final course at the Council of Legal Education, the United Kingdom in 1963. He is a holder of the certificate of Commonwealth Law officer between 1967 and 1968.

SETTING THE TONE FOR WORKING LIFE

Before proceeding to read Law in the UK, Justice Akanbi started his working career as a teacher. He first thought at New Era Secondary School in Accra. He also thought at Kings Secondary School, Accra. He picked up a job as a surveyor after teaching. He went to surveyor school, but he did not complete the course before he left the school. At surveyor school, he was the social secretary of the school and spent more time organizing lectures, talks and other educative programmes. After leaving the surveyor school, he was later appointed as Government Clerk. He was an Assistant Executive Officer in the Ministry of Education, Northern Nigeria. In 1964, he was posted to the Northern Nigeria Civil Service as a Pupil State Counsel in the Ministry of Justice on 13th January 1964.  He rose through the ranks and in 1968; he became a Senior State Counsel.  He served in various parts of the country such as Kaduna, Kano, Makurdi, Jos, Benue, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Enugu, Ibadan, and Ilorin.  Upon the creation of states, he was deployed from Ilorin to the former Benue/Plateau State as a Senior State Counsel. In 1969, he resigned from the service. Between 1969 and 1974, he went into private legal practice in Kano. He established branches of the firm of Akanbi, Ibrahim & Co in Kaduna and Ilorin.  In 1974, he was appointed a Judge of the Federal Revenue Court (now Federal High Court). He was the pioneer resident, judge of the court in the entire Eastern states with headquarters in Port Harcourt. He held sessions in Calabar and Enugu.

In 1977, he was elevated to the Court of Appeal Bench. He was posted to Enugu Judicial Division of the Court and was later transferred to Ibadan. In 1983, he was appointed Presiding Justice of the Court in the Jos Judicial Division. In 1988, he became the presiding judge in Ibadan Judicial Division. In September 1992, he became the President of the Court of Appeal (Nigeria) the post he held until he voluntarily retired in January 1999 before reaching the compulsory retirement age of 70 years.

He is a diligent, hard working, committed, sincere and God-fearing worker. Both during the service years and during his present retirement period, he is widely referred to as a frank, brilliant, truthful and unbiased legal luminary. These qualities he possessed informed the reason late Bola Ige described him as a cosmopolitan figure. He served and still serving his fatherland meritoriously. Surprisingly, he is rendering more service to God and humanity after leaving judicial service.

 

Just like most lawyers who appeared before him as a Justice of Court of Appeal, Muhammed Abeni, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) acknowledged that “Justice Akanbi had a giant career in the legal profession. He has deep knowledge of the law and equally has an amiable disposition towards junior lawyers. He was very tolerant on the bench. He would rather be on the side of junior lawyers while upholding the scale of justice. He is rather the first high-ranking judicial officer in Nigeria to voluntarily retire from the bench before the retirement age when others will be asking for more years to serve” says Layer Abeni (SAN).

LEGAL PRACTICE TRAJECTORY

Call to the Bar: Justice Akanbi was called to the English Bar at the Middle Temple, London on 9th July, 1963. To him, call to the English Bar was the opening of a new vista of life which would enable him to carve for himself a niche on the sands of time. He practically saw it as an opportunity to rededicate himself anew to the service of God and humanity.

From the Public Service to Private Practice: In 1964, Akanbi was posted to the Northern Nigeria Civil Service as a Pupil State Counsel in the Ministry of Justice on 13th January 1964.  He rose through the ranks and in 1968; he became a Senior State Counsel.  He served in various parts of the country i.e. Kaduna, Kano, Makurdi, and Ilorin. After the completion of states’ creation exercise, he was deployed from Ilorin to the former Benue/Plateau State as a Senior State Counsel. In 1969, he resigned from the public service and went into private legal practice. Between 1969 and 1974, he was junketing from one city to another as taking briefs and defending clients as a solicitor and advocate in Nigeria with his chamber, Akanbi, Ibrahim & Co in Kano.

He established branches of the law firm also in Kaduna and Ilorin. In the main time, Justice Tunde Belgore too joined his chambers. He was later appointed as a Judge and quit the private practice. The then Lawyer Akanbi had a meteoric rising profile.  He became more popular in Kano just as his chambers became famous in the state and Northern region in general. Some of the numerous high profile cases he handled included but not limited to the following;

The state v Bako, Trial of Dr. Kura, the trial of Mallam Mohammed and 3 others, the Kano Treasury Fire Case, The Central Bank of Nigeria Fraud Case. He did a lot of cases in Ilorin, his home town too. He handled the case for Ansar-Islam and Oju-Ekun when the society was building its university. He handled several cases in Ilorin. Most of these cases he did in Ilorin was rendered pro bono because the money he would bring from Kano where he was based was enough for him to take care of himself and parents at home in Ilorin before going back to his base in Kano.

Other high profile cases he did while in private practice were the case of Captain Ajibulu and Agali, the case of M.O. Oguche v. Salish Iliyasu & two others, cases on Appeal to High Court, the case of Alhaji Lateef Adi v.  Alhaji Haruna Kassim, the case of District Head of Dutse & the villagers of Kiyawa and several others.

Career switch: From the Bar to the Bench:  In 1974, he was appointed a Judge of the Federal Revenue Court (now Federal High Court). He was the pioneer resident judge of the court in the entire Eastern states with headquarters in Port Harcourt. He held sessions in Calabar and Enugu.

He was in his office at Bello Road in Kano, a popular area in Kano when Justice Wheeler with whom he had worked with while in the Ministry of Justice in Kaduna, sent for him. He trained under Justice Wheeler. Wheeler told him that he had just got a message from the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Sir Nigel Reed (then it was Chief Justice, not Chief Judge) that he had set up Federal Revenue Court  (now Federal High Court) and they would like him to be one of the judges in that court.

To the offer, he was hesitant. He reluctantly accepted the offer because he was enjoying a robust and flourishing career in the Bar. He was committed and having high-level achievements in legal practice.  Justice Wheeler, who saw the offer as a rare opportunity for him, said: “Mustapha if I were you I will accept the offer”. The invitation was in a clear recognition of his versatility and brilliance in the profession.  Before taking his leave from Justice Wheeler, Akanbi replied by humbly saying that “my lord in view of your advice I’m going to think about it”. He went to his father in the hospital, who had come to Kano for eye treatment, and told him about the offer. He never took any decision against the will of his parents. His father said, “they want to appoint you as a judge, High Court or Magistrate court? He enquired, this man is illiterate.” he responded: “High Court.” He now said, “O hun wa owo lo, o page iyi lona, to ba ri owo na tan, kini o tun fi ra toju iyi lo” which means, you are going out in search of money, you encountered honour on the way. If you do not embrace it, what would you use the money to achieve which is greater than honour?

‘Ti o baje ohun to un fun emi pelu iya re ni, gbagbe e, Olorun yio yowa” meaning if it is because of your commitment to what you are giving me and your mother, don’t be bordered, God will provide for us. As a child who has never known to disobey his parents, he considered the decision of his father as final. He drove back to Kaduna and sent to Abdullahi, his partner and told him that Alhaji said he should accept the offer. Abdullahi said, since Alhaji has endorsed it, go ahead. Abdullahi continued with the running of the Chambers. Abdullahi, who later became Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), is now a leading SAN today in Nigeria. Sadiq took over the running of Ilorin branch of his Chambers. Sodiq later became the speaker of Kwara State House of Assembly during Adamu Attah administration. The mantra of his pursuit in legal practice which he revealed to his partners was that if Rotimi Williams is making it in the South, they too will be making it up North.

In 1977, he was elevated to the Court of Appeal Bench. He was posted to Enugu Judicial Division of the Court and was later transferred to Ibadan. In 1983, he was appointed Presiding Justice of the Court in Jos Judicial Division. In 1988, he became the presiding judge in Ibadan Judicial Division. In September 1992, he became the President of the Court of Appeal (Nigeria) the post he held until he voluntarily retired in January 1999 before reaching the compulsory retirement age of 70 years.

Hon. Justice Akanbi had been chairman of several National Judicial Commissions, viz-a-vis:-

  • Enquiry into the collapsed Hostel Building in the University of Ife (now known as Obafemi Awolowo University) (1976).
  • Investigation of Remote and immediate causes of student crisis in the Nigerian Universities and other Tertiary institutions (1986).
  • Enquiry into embezzlement of Funds and Problems in the National Fertilizer Company Limited (NAFCON) at Onne, Port Harcourt (1999).
  • Former Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission otherwise known as “ANTI-CORRUPTION COMMISSION”, among others.

RELATIONSHIP WITH WIFE, CHILDREN AND EXTENDED FAMILY MEMBERS

Each time the young Akanbi came to Nigeria from Gold Coast during holidays, his peers usually thronged his family house at Awodi. That time, most houses including his family house were mud house.  The Tradition at the time was the usage of cow dung to dress the floor, which he was not used to in Ghana though he didn’t find it difficult to adapt whenever he is in Ilorin, Nigeria. Akanbi and his young friends would sit, chat and play on the mat that was spread on the floor. He would buy them items like cigarette, chips, and biscuit to entertain them. He was just like a rich man among his colleagues, especially when he was working in Ghana.  He also used to go to Isale-Aluko where his father grew up to meet a friend called Jimoh Alkali. Alkali is a brother to Alhaji Usman Mustapha, a commissioner in Kwara State in the second republic. He would go there to have a chat with him. He too stayed in Ghana with an Aunt of his before relocating back to Ilorin. Akanbi was loved by his friends. He possesses good leadership quality right from his tender age. This attests to the fact that, what he is doing today and initiatives he floated after service had already become part of him during his formative years.

MARRIAGE; Justice Akanbi got married to Hajia Mufa’atu Aduke in 1964. It was the story of love at first sight. He only saw the woman he married once in Kumasi and proposed to him. He knew the father-in-law to be the leader of the entire Yoruba people in Kumasi. Contrary to the usual tradition when the suitor would be interviewed to ascertain the kind of person, Justice Akanbi surprisingly interviewed his wife to be. He did that because he knew what he wanted in a woman. At that time, Akanbi was 32 years. By the time he finished speaking with her, he was satisfied. One of the questions he asked her was that “can you bear with my spatter life?” the gentle, young and good-looking spinster accepted, she conceded to his dos and don’ts.

To be sure of what he was doing, he interviewed two other women, one in Accra, another in Kumasi. The other two did not pass the pre-marital consideration test. So, he decided in favour of Aduke. Before then, there was serious pressure from his parents about marriage. But what led to the delay was that he had a resolution that he would not get married until he was qualified in a particular field (not having the law in mind). He married her because of her background. She came from the family with good moral upbringing.  He had a full knowledge of her background and that ultimately accounted for her choice coupled with her simplicity and humane character.

The marriage started on a good footing and continued steadily without hindrance till 2013 when Hajia Munfa’atu Aduke went to the world of no return in an Indian hospital, India after a brief illness. Until her death, nobody settled a quarrel between them. They related every day until her death as if they were just wedded. They traveled together including Pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. God blessed the marriage with six children. Four of them are lawyers. One is a Professor of Law at the Faculty of Law, University of Ilorin, and another one who is the only female and the last born is a Senior Magistrate in Abuja.  Two are into private practice, and they are doing well. The two sons who did not read law studied English and Agricultural Science respectively. One is working at Supreme Court and the Agriculturist is currently a Ph.D. holder, working in the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ilorin.

SERVING IN THE GAMBIA

In the Gambia, several judges from Nigeria served on the country’s bench. Among them were late Justice Ejiwumi who retired from the Supreme Court of Nigeria; Justice Ayoola who was the Chief Justice of the Gambia for about ten years and who retired from the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Justice Mustapha Akanbi succeeded late Justice Jide Olatawura. During his time in the Gambia, Justice Ayoola was the Chief Justice of the Gambia.

In the Gambia, Justice Akanbi was very committed to the judicial business. He counted himself lucky to have been identified by Nigerian government as one of her judicial officers to serve in another African country. Therefore, he saw himself as a judicial ambassador of Nigeria. He was determined to justify the confidence reposed in him by those who recommended him to serve in the judiciary of that country at the appellate court level. He considered his appointment as the fulfillment of a dream and an opportunity to apply his talent for the service of a West African country. Each time he was in the Gambia, he felt happy that he was giving service to a sister West African country. Sitting with brother Justices from other West African countries gave him more inspiration and a sense of pride and honour.

PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE

Justice Akanbi’s philosophy of life is service to God and humanity. That has been his personal motto right from the time he was very young.  He believes strongly in serving his creator the way it ought to be served in line with the tenets of Islam. His cardinal focus is to help the helpless, liberate the oppressed and assisting the needy in the society. This prime philosophy of life reflected in his disposition to service while in the bar and the bench. He treats everybody that comes his way equally, irrespective of tribal or religious affiliation.  He brought his philosophy of life into the bear when he served as the chairman of ICPC. As a man of impeccable integrity, he made sure that those who worked with him at ICPC, either in the Administrative or Legal Department, were also people of unquestionable integrity who will not compromise the philosophy and objectives of the ICPC. He is a man of high intellectual capability. He opens his doors for everybody and identifies particularly with people who are down below. He is a man whose name has never been heard in any scandal whatsoever. It is very rear to find his type. This is not a way of painting the picture of sainthood but these are factual and things that can be verified.

The anti-corruption czar remains easily accessible and approachable. His simplicity reflects in the type of house he lives in the heart of G.R.A, Ilorin. Contrary to what one sees elsewhere as a residence of men of towering status and position in the country. There is nothing to fear about. He is somebody who does not mix words when talking. He is very frank. Another quality he possesses is his patience with people, making a good listener. He tolerates the weaknesses of others. The only thing he cannot tolerate is corruption. He is a man of faith, not fanaticism. His friends cut across tribes and religions. He has many Christian friends. He works with people that cut across the different strata of the society. He is always willing to have people around him. He cracks a lot of jokes. He appreciates something small. His humane character is inexhaustible.

He does not discriminate. For instance, the former Vice Chairman of Mustapha Akanbi Foundation (MAF), who now succeeds him as Chairman, Dr. Mudashir Salami is an Offa man. He relinquished the office choosing to be their Adviser. He sees everybody as one. “That is the concept of life in Ghana where I was brought up,” he said.

Those who may not like him are those who are not straight-forward. Even if it will affect his children, he will always stand on the side of the truth. “Many people thought because Professor Muhammed is my son and he must be considered for the selection as Senior Advocate of Nigeria during the last interview he did, I didn’t contact anybody on it. They didn’t give him,” he remarked. To him, the committee’s decision is final. The only thing he asked was that, did he do well? Those that witnessed the screening confirmed to him that he did well. When his son went to give him feedback, he simply told his father that it was how God wanted it and that he had accepted the decision in good fate.

When asked to advise political leaders, he said: “I keep on saying this every day, how many Judges that have retired that are talking the way I’m talking and they will say their minds the same way I say it? Some of them are afraid because if they talk, people will hold it against them. My father used to tell me one thing, fear the man who can kill you and raise you up but don’t fear a man who can kill you but cannot raise you up.”

 PAN-AFRICA DISPOSITION

His wide exposure in the continent of Africa and beyond offered him ample opportunity to think globally. Justice Akanbi is pan-African in his thinking. His main concern is unity, progress, and advancement of countries in the continent. For him, working in Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia and his many trips to other African countries empowers him to see the unity of Africa as a priority.

A visit to Mustapha Akanbi Hall in Ilorin would further confirm the tenacity of his thoughts for Africa. First, the hall is named ‘African Hall’. Second, pictures of African leaders are hung, adorning the wall. Notable among them are pictures of Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Nelson Mandela of South, Obafemi Awolowo of Nigeria as well as Nnamdi Azikwe (the Zik of Africa), Sir Ahmadu Bello (the Sardauna of Sokoto), Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Ladoke Akintola, Madam Tinubu, Funmilayo Kuti, all of Nigeria.  These respected African leaders had made indelible marks in the struggle for the liberation of Africa from European imperialists which hitherto held the African continent by its jugular. Justice Akanbi shares their philosophy of life, which is progress and prosperity of Africa. It could be recalled that a Ghanaian, former security officer, Pa Hanson stayed with him for two years as a refugee. He gave him a warm reception, accommodated him, fed him and related with him as a family member till the man went back to Ghana in 2015.

“I was the first to wear a complete ‘Agbada’ for an Interview as an Executive Officer in Ghana. When I was asked by an accomplished public servant, Murphy, and other members of the panel ‘why did you dress like this’? I said I have done this because my parents who are Nigerians thought me that when other people wear English dress like the suit and other types of English dresses I should dress this way to reflect more of the African personality in me” he said.

He added, “In those days, we used to go to Arena to listen to Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, I first met Aminu Kano in Ghana, including Gambo Sawaba, and Anthony Enahoro, I first met all of them in Ghana. Nkrumah was a Pan Africanist, he used to speak for the Unity of West Africa. I have a lot of his quotations in my head now. I was at the arena when Nkrumah said ‘and across the parapets I see the mother of West Africa unity and independence her body smeared with the blood of her daughters and sons in their struggle to set them free from imperialism and I see the springing up cities of Ghana becoming the metropolitan with science…..’ I was in secondary school then. I was a unionist in Ghana. I was the chief convener of Plan Pool Alliance Worker, I was the first Secretary of Muslim Students Union in Ghana and I was the first Secretary of Ghana Boxers Welfare Association of which I was the only man who is not an indigene of Ghanaian. When I was in Kano Offa people set up what they called ‘Club 15′ everyone was an Offa man but I was their Secretary.”

September 11, 2017, special lecture on “Bridging the African Nations” is being planned at the instance of the Mustapha Akanbi Foundation. The lecture is to commemorate the 85th birthday of Justice Mustapha Akanbi. The guest lecture is a Nigerian foremost unionist and former National Vice President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Issa Aremi mni. Professor Olu Obafemi was contacted to chair the occasion. On the 16th of August, 2017, the foundation also organized a programme for youth achievers.

Justice Akanbi relishes in sharing the value of great leaders like Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania. Nelson Mandela said:”I must step down when there are one or two people who admire me”- Justice Akanbi actually stepped down when many actually admired him. He demonstrated this disposition when he voluntarily retired from service as President of the Court of Appeal and also when he bowed out of the ICPC in 2005, even when he had the opportunity of tenure extension”.

“When I was the President of the Court of Appeal, I remember one time Chief Bola Ige described me as very cosmopolitan in attitude. The reason is quite clear. When his wife was not to be appointed as Chief Judge of Oyo State because of Bola Ige, they said she should go to her husband’s place to become a chief judge. I sent a colleague of mine to go and get her Curriculum Vitae and I put her in the Court of Appeal, Akanbi recalled.

I am a man of two worlds; of Nigeria and of Ghana. I spent the first 20 years of my life in Ghana”

HIS STEWARDSHIP AT ICPC

On February 22, 1999, a special valedictory session was held in his honour by the Abuja Judicial Division of the Court of Appeal to mark his exit from the Bench. A year later, after post-retirement services in various capacities, he was invited by President Olusegun Obasanjo, who informed him that he was planning to set up an anti-corruption agency and that he wanted him to head the agency. Initially, he told the President he had left government service and didn’t want to be involved again in the business of government but Obasanjo reminded him that he too is a retiree and still heed the call to serve the country after leaving prison. He told the President that he was traveling to Saudi Arabia for Hajj exercise, adding that he would seek God’s guidance about the new endeavour. On his return, he conveyed his acceptance of the offer to serve for only a term of five years to the President. On 29th September 2000, he was inaugurated by the President at the Aso Villa at a brief but impressive ceremony.

Within a short spell, with integrity, maturity and determined systemic approach, he mainstreamed ICPC from grand-zero to a national institutional bulwark against public graft. Notwithstanding the limitations of resources and political hostility, ICPC under him investigated and arrested some judges of the High Court, customary court and Sharia court for collecting bribes. The judges were eventually dismissed by the NJC. He also investigated top government officials like the then Senate President, Adolphus Wabara among several high profile arrests and investigations cases handled by ICPC under his chairmanship. Little wonder that a renowned constitutional Lawyer in Nigeria, Femi Falana (SAN) said in a public function in Abuja in 2017 that “since Justice Akanbi left ICPC nothing is achieved”. He bowed out of the Commission in 2005, even when he could go for the second term.

Speaking on how to exterminate corrupt practice in Nigeria, Akanbi said, the person to be appointed the chairman of any anti-graft agency must be above corruption. He must be somebody who is so independent-minded that he must not compromise integrity and dignity. He must be strong minded and must have the fear of God in him. Anybody who takes a job as a fighter of corruption must have the political will. The government must back such person. He said, most of the conferences he attended showed that unless there is political will no one can fight corruption. He still holds the belief that “corruption will be wiped out in this country, “whatever means I don’t know but from all I know, it will go one day.”

He added: “We can’t build a house on sand. It will collapse. And building on sand is building it on corruption, building it on the lack of integrity”.

Based on his experiences, he said, “staff of anti-graft commission must have the courage to face any situation. Because people will come to influence them, that one is certain. I don’t want to mention names of those that came to me to influence cases for them because they are still in politics and they will feel I am running them down, and I do tell them: ‘How do you expect me to do that, you people made the law and I am implementing the law you made and you want to influence me? It is not possible.’ I am sure if we have an independent-minded individual, a committed one who fears no foe, then we will be able to fight corruption in Nigeria. Because, one, he will not discriminate, he will not be biased, he will be thinking of this country, the unity of the people. Not people who are afraid to take people to court with the fear that when they take them to court they may offend the ‘power that be’ in politics.”

NATION BUILDING EFFORTS

To point out that Justice Akanbi’s name rings a bell in Nigeria is to repeat the obvious. His tenacity of purpose and the uncommon zeal to build a Nigeria of his dream informs his unflinching efforts in educating, enlightening and sensitizing Nigerians on the need to rid the country of corruption and other illicit acts. He uses his two charitable organizations; MAF, MIF and other allied initiatives as vehicles to drive his set goals and dreams for the country. Here are his words: “I formed all my initiatives to influence society and see how I can impact positively on the people. Most importantly to leave Nigeria a better place than we found it. What profits a man if he gains the whole world and does not touch the lives of people meaningfully? I don’t see the essence of life if you cannot influence people. I did a poem where I said: ‘If you cannot move your world, move your continent; if you cannot move your continent, move your country; if you cannot move your country, move your town or city; if you cannot move your town or city, move your home. So if I came to this world which I know I will pass through but once and I cannot do any good, it means I do not fulfill my dream of life. Any good I I’ll do let me do it now. The whole essence of life is to touch the lives of people.

“I will like to be remembered by history as a man who came, saw and conquered. I will like to be remembered by history as a man whose special interest was a service to God and humanity and I did my best to the society. I left my mark as a state counsel, as a private legal practitioner, as a judge, as a man who also tried as much as possible to influence and touch the lives of people so that Allah in His infinite mercy will look at me, on the day of resurrection, and say ‘O that my faithful servant, I appreciate what you have done, pass through the gate of Aljanat Fridaus without looking back”.

THE APPELLATION, ‘MR. CLEAN’

“My being in Ghana gave me a strong sense of doing justice to all manner of people without fear or favour. I have said it time without number that if anybody gave me bribe when I was on the bench let him come out. When I was appointed as the chairman of the ICPC the whole Nigeria came forward to say that ‘Mr. Clean’ has been appointed”. It was published in one of the Nigerian journals.

“People followed my way of life and my tenacity in the profession. The brother of the late Emir of Kano Bayero, Yusuf Bayero, who was the junior Minister in the office of the Premier, I prosecuted him. My boss was to do it but he was afraid because he is a Pakistani, he left the case until I resumed duty. I did that. Then all those who relate to me know that, if they have a case when I was in the practice I will defend them. When I am prosecuting, you can’t influence me. When I was a judge, you can’t influence me. I felt honored that General Obasanjo could decide that this is the man who should be the first Chairman of ICPC and he said it openly several times that ‘I asked several people and they confirmed to me, Akanbi is the honest one’. He acknowledges me always, and that was why when I wanted to launch my book, I went to meet him in Otta, he had earlier said I should not come but I went. He canceled all the programmes he had and attended the book launch where he delivered a powerful speech in Abuja”.

FULFILLMENT OF DREAMS

When it appeared that he might not be able to further his education abroad due to the sickness of his father, God miraculously helped him out. “My mother came to me and said if your father is well and he wants you to go to England, if there is a way of avoiding it, don’t go. I didn’t ask her why.  She said, ‘miolowo amon Olorun yioo ran o lo’ meaning; I don’t have money but God will send you. After that, I got a good scholarship to England; I was earning my salary as an executive officer with 45pounds and allowance of 12pounds making 57pounds. Out of the 57pounds, I used to give a friend of mine 5pounds every month in England because we grew up in the same house. His mother also helped me in Accra when my mother was in Ilorin. I have learned that ‘one good turn deserves another’. Most of these people who took care of me, I had the grace of playing key roles in the life of their children.

“I worked very hard and I served my community, state, Nigeria and Africa as a whole diligently and meritoriously. I have bagged various awards across the states of the Federation. Some selected universities in Nigeria such as the University of Maiduguri; Lead City University, Ibadan; Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin and others conferred me with Honorary Degree in their various institutions. To cap it all the Emir of Ilorin  Dr. Ibrahim Sulu Gambari (CFR) turbaned me as the first Wakili of Ilorin in 2009”.

In terms of book publications and deliverance of lectures, he has made a significant mark in this aspect. He has several books to his credit. On November 26, 2014, he launched his autobiography titled: “THE STORY OF MY TWO WORLDS: CHALLENGES, EXPERIENCES, AND ACHIEVEMENTS”. Notable dignitaries in the country, including ex-president, the then serving Vice President, some leading traditional rulers in the country jetted to Abuja to grace the book launch that took place at the popular Sheraton Hotel.

Equally, he has delivered lectures in various institutions like Nigeria police, Universities, corporate organizations as well as various societies and at different fora across the country and beyond.  He said times without number that God has been very kind to him, by giving him the moral and economic wherewithal to offer tremendous services to God and humanity. He said it during his 80th birthday, five years ago that he had lived up to the dream of his life.

His words: “The money I used to build the Mustapha Akanbi Library and Resource Hub was the money I realized from my autobiography that I launched in Abuja. When the money that was realized had gone down, my children had their meeting and asked me, ‘where will you get the money to complete the project? I said I will do it in Shaa Allah. To God be the glory, I completed the library”. The Chief Executive Officer of the National Library of Nigeria, Professor Lenrie Aina commissioned the Library on 17th of November, 2016. Other dignitaries in attendance included the Emir o Ilorin, Alhaji Sulu Gambari among other distinguished personalities across the country.

“I feel fulfilled because I believe that I have been paid by God and by those people who rallied around me to achieve what I have achieved. What God has done for me after I retire is much more than what He did for me when I was in government. The only thing I’m missing now is that my wife did not live to see how things have improved in the house in which we lived together for many years”. He remarked.

INSTITUTION OF CHARITY AND OTHER  INITIATIVES

On retirement, Justice Akanbi set up Mustapha Akanbi Foundation (MAF) on the 9th of June, 2006. The foundation was inaugurated in Ilorin, Kwara State capital on 12th of September 2006. Three years later, in his determination to put smiles on the faces of the needy and promote charity, Justice Akanbi set up an Islamic foundation named Ma-Assalam Islamic Foundation (MIF) in 2009. MIF was established on April 8, 2009. This charitable foundation was born out of the need to attend to the plights of the needy in the society who in quick successions kept inundating his table with a myriad of financial requests shortly after he established MAF in 2006.

MAF, on the other hand, has added profound value to national good governance discourse within a short time. It has left bold imprints in areas of education, human empowerment, health, anti-corruption campaign, democracy and good governance. Apart from significant humanitarian work which has raised hope for the sick and disabled, the foundation is catching the students young through reading and writing skill acquisitions in public secondary schools and tertiary institutions.

In a clear term, MIF is an offshoot of MAF and is consistently meeting up with its cardinal objectives of providing humanitarian services to the needy in the society up till this moment.

The main focuses of Ma-Assalam Islamic Foundation are the promotion of charity, charitable organizations, religious activities and Da’wah programmes.  Other cardinal objectives of the foundation include the development of Islamic education and the spread of Islam and Islamic activities. It equally promotes religious, moral, educational and economic research.

The foundation takes care of the infirm, the sick and the needy as well as encourages and promotes inter and intra religious relationship, peaceful co-existence, and cooperation among Muslims and non-Muslims.

After eight years of its existence, MIF has practically lived up to its obligations by consistently and progressively justifying the purpose for which it was established.

Monumental achievements have been recorded in the areas of visitation to various organizations and establishments with the provision of various types of food items, incentives and other materials that are of great beneficial to the host organizations or communities.

Justice Akanbi, who also doubles as the first Wakili of Ilorin has equally rendered several humanitarian services such as construction of toilet at Oke-Ose Central Mosque, foundation laying ceremony of a mosque at Madala Maximum Prison with a donation of over N200,000 for the commencement of the mosque of which he personally performed the foundation laying ceremony. He later presented the mosque committee with the sum of 250,000 in July 2017.

Patients at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital and that of Sobi Specialist Hospital, Ilorin had benefitted tremendously from MIF kind gesture. Several wheelchairs were provided for the incapacitated patients at Sobi Hospital aside the provision of cash and food items on a regular basis while patients at the UITH also enjoyed same.

Apart from visitations to hospital and prison, various communities and villages across Kwara state have also been playing host to members of the MIF especially during Ramadan with a special Ramadan programme tagged “Ramadan Dawah”.

Not less than 20 different villages and towns in Kwara state have benefited from MIF under the umbrella of Dawah Programme of the foundation. The founder and Chairman of the foundation, Honourable Justice Mustapha Akanbi always leads the team and in most times accompanied by Honourable Justice Idris Abdullahi Haroon, Dr. Salami Mudasiru, Alhaji Fatai Bello, Alhaji Ore and some other friends and lovers of the jurist who share his philosophy of life.

Among the villages and towns that have received the kind attention of MIF included Ago-Oja in Asa Local Government Area of Kwara state where the sum of N200,000 was donated for the completion of the community’s ongoing secondary school building; Oke-Oyi community in Ilorin East Local Government Area of the state where the foundation built a toilet for the community Central Mosque; and Ariibi community where generator was provided for the Central Mosque.

Other communities that played host to the foundation included Olugbija/Ogunedu in Moro Local Government, Ojoku in Oyun Local Government, Osi in Ekiti Local Government, Balla in Asa Local Government, Suala in Ilorin East Local Government, Fufu, the Headquarters of Ilorin South Local Government, Ijagbo in Oyun Local Government, Ajase-Ipo in Ifelodun Local Government, Ogele in Asa Local Government, and Oke-Ose in Ilorin East Local Government.

Among the establishments, schools and hospitals whose foundation’s searchlight was directed at are Borstal Training Institute, Ganmo; Samsudeen School of Arabic and Islamic Studies; Nana Aisha Academy Akerebita area, Ilorin; University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital; Sobi Specialist Hospital; Oke-Kura Prison; and Madala Prison, among others.

The beauty of the visit is that the host community is given liberty of taking every kobo realized from people that are gathered during the visit. The event characterizes deliverance of sermon from selected members of the Islamic Group of the MIF as well as words of advice from the founder of the foundation.

In a nutshell, to aver that MIF has been in the vanguard of putting smiles on the faces of the less privilege as encapsulated in its vision and mission statement is to repeat the obvious.  The above-mentioned visitations and contributions attest to this fact.

In July 2017, Justice Akanbi disbursed the sum of N500,000 as his kind support in the construction of ongoing mosques at Madala prison yard, Lafiagi prison yard in Edu local government area of Kwara state and Bostral Training Institute at Gonma in Ifelodun local government area of Kwara state. Madala mosque received N250,000; Bostral Training Institute N200,000 while remaining N50,000 went to Lafiagi Prison mosque for the completion of the mosque project.

As of now in Awodi, Gambari area of Ilorin, 12 youths are undergoing training in tailoring. In August 2017, he gave financial assistance to some government teachers who were being owed backlog of salaries by the government.

In its message to Justice Mustapha Akanbi during his 80th birthday, the NLC through its then National Vice President, Comrade Issa Aremu mni in 2012 said; “MAF is acting local but thinking global through high profile public agenda setting lectures. Its Chairman, Honourable Justice Mustapha Akanbi has commendably come out with sustainable initiatives to further continue in retirement same good work spanning some decades at the bar and the bench”—Comrade Issa Aremu mni.

He also established Nana Ahisat Academy & Nana Aishat Islamic Nursery and Primary School. In 2006, he set up his first library named after his wife, ‘Munfa’atu Aduke Library’. The library is located right in the premises of MAF at Onikanga Street, G.R.A, Ilorin. Also on November 17th, 2016, he commissioned another public library named Mustapha Akanbi Library and Resource Center.

LIFE CHALLENGES 

Life without challenges is not one that is prepared to excel. So, Justice Mustapha Akanbi does have his share of the vicissitudes of life. And he is used to tackling them frontally leaning on God. But each time he’s faced with a challenging situation, he gets God-sent individuals to give him support. When he was sick, he was taken to Britain, St. Mark’s Hospital, one of the highly expensive in London not knowing it was that costly; he couldn’t pay the medical bill. Perhaps, he would have remained in Nigeria and make do with medical facilities and experts in the country. Those that made money available to take care of him were those he had touched their lives, they paid for him.

Among those that rallied around him included Alhaji Adetunji from Ibadan, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, Oba of Lagos, Alhaji Umar Saro and others. The second medical trip he went, he was told there was no problem. He has to go the third time, this time to Turkey’s hospital and he was treated for cancer of the lungs and liver. When the operation started he was told death has approached. He returned and went to his Chemotherapist. He had the attention of Dr. Olarewaju Babaita who advised him to go to London for the operation. Many were shocked that none of his hairs pulled off when he came back after the operation.

He couldn’t believe what he experienced during the treatment; he said it, “I saw miracles, I saw a vision, I dreamt a dream, I was praying. People were praying for me.” He spent almost twelve months in Britain. When he went the second time for chemotherapy and he had to spend another four months.  He queried the length time, saying: “For what? I want to know why?” Because nothing was seen in the liver but what was seen in the lungs was said to be manageable. He demanded an explanation on the liver treatment.

He didn’t stay there, he didn’t undergo the treatment. He returned to Nigeria after two weeks. Dr. Aminu, his doctor in Abuja had contacted all chemotherapies in the Federal Capital City. They did four chemotherapies for me. Each chemotherapy costs N1 million. In London it was ₤1,900, the first one he did in London was ₤1,500. He said he can’t pay such amount and doesn’t expect people to come and start contributing again. To him, God in His infinite mercy did it miraculously for him in Nigeria. It was confirmed to him that there was nothing more in his liver and lungs. That strengthened his faith and was full of gratitude for those who trusted him and prayed for him (both Muslims and Christians). On his feelings about the challenges of sickness, he submitted, “I feel grateful to Almighty God for taking care of me and touching people for me. It was after the treatment I got a good sum of money because my pension was increased and I got arrears.”

Another of the serious challenge for him was the death of his wife, Hajia Munfa’atu Aduke Akanbi. It hits him like a big blow. He was terribly hurt and devastated because they were two love birds, intimately close. On Friday, November 15, 2013, his beloved wife passed away in far away India after a brief illness. Unfortunately, she died at the time they were planning for their fiftieth anniversary of their wedding. On this, Justice Akanbi remarked, “we shared many happy and some challenging moments. Together we had anticipated a busy time in the year 2014. Within the year, the launching of my autobiography was to hold in January 2014, while our fiftieth wedding anniversary was to come up in February 2014. Everything has now changed”.

To keep her memory alive, Justice Akanbi built a central Mosque in her memory.  He  was able to  build and commission another central mosque in Ghana and died few months afer his return to Nigeria in 2018. He died on Sunday, June 3rd, 2018.

End

share on:

Leave a Response