Justice M.M.A. Akanbi @ 85: The exemplary life of a judicial icon 

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By Is’haq Babatunde

Honourable Justice Mustapha Muhammed Adebayo Akanbi CFR, PCA (rtd) was born on 11th of September, 1932 in Accra, Ghana. Ghana happens to be his birthplace because his parents were residing in the Gold Coast as at the time he was born.

His birth is a special gift to Ghana, his birthplace, to Nigeria his home country, and the continent of Africa in general. He spent his first 20 years of his life in Ghana. Ghana gave him sound and qualitative primary and secondary education.

He started as a teacher, and executive officer and later got scholarship by Nigeria Government to read Law in London. He rose through the rank from state counsel to the President of the Court of Appeal.

To assert that Hon. Justice Mustapha Akanbi is an elder statesman, a colossus, a judicial icon, anti-corruption crusader, an embodiment of sincerity and integrity is to repeat the obvious. In fact, the former President of the Court Appeal has proved beyond reasonable doubt that he is a hero of our time and ocean of Knowledge and kindness from which many Nigerians drink.

Appreciating God for what he has done in his life and by extension in the lives of others through him calls for immeasurable thanks to Allah for spearing his life to celebrate  85th year on the surface of earth.

He is highly respected legal luminary in the country and beyond.  Part of the unique stories about him is that Justice Akanbi prematurely and voluntarily retired as President of the Court of Appeal, a decision that took everybody, especially his colleagues in the profession and associates by surprise.  He retired ‘prematurely’ because he opted out voluntarily before the retirement age.

He is the first high ranking judicial officer to voluntarily retire from the bench before the age when others will be asking for more years to serve.

Having served the country in various capacities, Justice Akanbi was In September 1992 became the President Court of Appeal (Nigeria), the month he clocked 60 years, the post he held until he voluntarily retired in January 1999 before reaching the compulsory retirement age of 70 years.

Shortly after his retirement from the bench, an Ilorin born incorruptible judge was appointed Chairman of Enquiry into embezzlement of Funds and Problems in the National Fertilizer Company Limited (NAFCON) at Onne, Port Harcourt in 1999
His credible performance and the display of high level of unblemished integrity at the Enquiry motivated  the then President of Nigeria, President Olusegun Obasanjo to appoint him as the Chairman of Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC).  His appointment was a recognition of his impeccable integrity, honesty and forthrightness as a judicial officer having retired from the bench as an incorruptible judicial activist.

With his wealth of experience, he established ICPC and set the necessary machinery in motion to fight corruption. So many cases were filed in court during his tenure against highly-placed Nigerians such as the former Senate President, Adolphus Wabara, three senators and two Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), a Commissioner in INEC and so many others who were indicted for various corrupt practices.

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 with proven integrity who will not compromise the philosophy and objectives of the ICPC.
He served ICPC with great credit and he put in all his wealth of experience to lay a strong foundation for the anti-corruption agency. For the good job he did at ICPC, he was offered a second term by the president Obasanjo, an offer he philosophically declined. He has his plans for doing so but many people were wondering why he rejected the offer particularly when he is agile and able to serve.

On retiring from ICPC, he came to his hometown, Ilorin, a decision that is very unusual among sons and daughters of Ilorin who had risen to the apex in their chosen careers. Justice Akanbi came home and set up Mustapha Akanbi Foundation (MAF) and later Ma’assalam Islamic Foundation (MIF). He equally set up an Islamic school, primary and secondary schools and then started his humanitarian services through these organizations.
On November 17th 2016, Justice Akanbi officially commissioned a private library, Mustapha Akanbi Library and Resource Center. Professor Lenrie Aina, Director General of National Library, Abuja was a guest speaker on the occasion.

He continues his war against corruption and bad governance on an unimaginable scale than when he was at ICPC using MAF as a platform. He does this, by organizing periodic lectures, symposia and by the use of handbills to educate members of the public on the evils associated with corruption and bad governance among other methods of disseminating information to the public.
The symposia and lectures were not restricted to Ilorin. The first lecture was held in Abuja, followed by a symposium which also in Abuja with a gathering of the best brains.  Men of the legal profession and in the academic world participated in anti-corruption symposia and found solutions to Nigerian problems. Other lectures were held at MAF headquarters through these symposia and lectures. Similarly, he has equally been using Ma-assalam Islamic Foundation (MIF), which is an offshoot of MAF, to propagate Islam, giving out alms to the needy in the society, wiping off tears from faces of underprivileged and several other related help and assistance in line with the tenant of Islam. The annual visitations to various villages and communities, hospitals, prison yards during Ramadan with provision of food items and cash donation for the host community is another unique way through which the First Wakili of Ngeri helps people. It is interesting to note that the Prayer Group of MIF has since over seven years been organizing special prayer fortnightly which is fully and singlehandedly sponsored by Hon. Justice Akanbi.

Hon. Justice Akanbi has rendered to Nigerian nation invaluable services in the fight against corruption and bad governance. He is never tired of work and ideas on how to solve the nation’s problems at his age. He always finds himself writing or delivering lectures not for any other reason or self gain but to assist Nigerians. He must be praised for putting his meager retirement benefit into the service of the nation. While his peers are busy looking for government patronage where they can earn some money to supplement their retirement benefit, he is using his retirement for the services of God and humanity.
Hon.Justice Akanbi’s meritorious services have been acclaimed and highly rewarded not in terms of financial gains but ways of myriads of laurels which he has in hundreds from local,  national and international organizations, including humanitarian organizations.
In plain terms therefore, Hon. Justice Mustapha Akanbi has lived up to the dream of his life. He is a gift to mankind and humanity from God in a country where we have lost value and virtues through unmitigated corruption. It is a thing of joy to find that there is still a person like Hon. Justice Mustapha Akanbi who stands out as a man of honor, integrity, and incorruptibility. He also has demonstrated that he is a completely and totally detribalized person who is also interested in the welfare and well-being of people, particularly the poor, needy, oppressed and the suppressed. He has also lived a selfless life. It is difficult to find a man of his status in life with all achievements as former President of Court of Appeal, pioneer chairman of ICPC and other various positions and still be as simple and accessible as everybody is very much aware of.
He is a man of high intellectual and 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 or whatsoever. It is very rear to find his type. This is not to paint the picture of sainthood but all the virtues are things that are factual and can be verified.
Usually, in a society like this where people are so battered and thoroughly disturbed and oppressed, people  tend to resign to themselves but Justice Akanbi is one of the very few available to put smiles on the needy and downtrodden.
If the country is blessed with his type multiplied across the nation, then life would be more meaningful to leave on and the resources we have will be well managed for the wellbeing of the citizenry.
Hon. Justice Mustapha Akanbi is very honest man that is why his appointment as ICPC was a welcomed decision by the President Olusegun Obasanjo at that time.

He is very helpful not only to people of Ilorin where he belongs, not to Kwara which is his state but the whole country and beyond. Few years back, he visited the primary and secondary schools he attended in Ghana, remembering that a head master was once a school boy. He was given a rousing welcome and accorded with warm reception. In his usual characteristic, the son of Alhaji Akanbi Oniyo donated generously to the schools. These are parts of gesture the current generation and posterity should emulate from him to endeavor to cultivate habit of giving back to the society that made us.
He is somebody who does not mix words when talking. He is very frank. Another quality that is unique about him is his patience to people. He tolerates the weaknesses of human beings. The only thing he cannot compromise is corruption.
He is somebody that ought to be emulated because he would not please anybody by keeping quite when you are doing something that is wrong.
‘’What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal’’. ‘’Truly great people in history never wanted to be great for themselves. All they wanted was the chance to do good and be close to God’’. The above two quotations are words from two great heroes, Albert Pike and Muhammed Ali respectively who philosophically posited that doing good to others is the needful and not the other way round. Baba as we fondly call him believes in helping others and that practically informs reason God has been very kind to him.
He used to liken himself with a desert where no crop germinates like Saudi Arabia but miraculously those living in the Saudi Kingdom have direct access to not only fresh crops and fruits but also get them at a cheaper rate.

Still fresh in our memories was the way and manner the Ladi Kwali hall of the famous Sheraton Hotel, Abuja, was filled to the brim on November 26th 2014 during the launching of Justice Akanbi’s Autobiography titled ‘The story of my two worlds: Challenges, Experiences and Achievements. The launching of the 412-page autobiography had former President Olusegun Obasanjo as the chairman of the occasion while the Oba of Lagos, Oba Ridwan Akiolu was the chief launcher. The occasion featured twin books in his honour on that day. The second book is titled ‘M.M.A. Akanbi: A Life of Service and Grace (perspectives shared)’. The book was powered by Justice Akanbi’s course mate during the law programmes in London, Justice Muhammed M. L. Uwais (GCON), former Chief Justice of the federation. The book contains 374 pages.
The demise of Justice Akanbi’s wife, Hajia Munfa’atu Aduke Akanbi in 2013 could not be forgotten in a hurry. Late Mrs. Akanbi was a woman of noble character. She was very accommodating, enterprising, loving, cheerful, and God fearing. Late Mrs. Akanbi was an epitome of good mother and very submissive to her husband. Her death left a serious vacuum which could not be filled by any other person.
But the widower, children, family and friends took heart and believed strongly that her death has been ordained by the creator who knows the best and appropriate time for every mankind to quit. May God continue to shower His blessings upon her soul, amen.
Justice Akanbi has firmly launched himself as one of the famous and highly respected legal icons in Nigeria. His contributions towards repositioning Nigerian judicial system are enormous and profound. Justice Akanbi’s impact on service to God and humanity traversed the continent of Africa and beyond.
In recognition of the invaluable contributions of the son of Alahji Akanbi Oniyo from Kemberi compound, Awodi area, Ilorin through his selfless service to humanity,  the Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu Gambari conferred a prestigious chieftaincy title of the Wakili of Ilory, a tilte that no one has ever been conferred with in the history of Ilorin Emirate.

To say that the First Wakili of Ilorin is a pride to Kwara state one will be grossly guilty of underestimation. He is a man of many parts, a Pan African and a true representation of the black race. Happy birthday to My Lord.

Is’haq Babatunde
writes from Directorate of Corporate Affairs, University of Ilorin,Ilorin, Nigeria. 08032246844

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