By Mubarak Oladosu
Anywhere you might be from on earth, It is not so common to come by personalities of such multi-dimensional endowments which is tempered with the kind of candor that blends well with kindness, a combination of temperaments that you find properly situated in Dr Usman Oladipupo Akanbi.
I first met this gentleman some 12 years ago and someone whispered something about the nobility of his pedigree to my hearing. Who he was and who had brought him up did not seem to matter to me much at the time.
However, soon enough, it had to matter. It did because that was a time when the inks of my pen were boiling with passion for creative writing but the boiling passion was under the threat of freezing out for dearth of mentors and opportunities.
It was also a dark moment in the annals of the Kwara State Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) as activities were not just at a lull, they were stood still by circumstance. I intimated my then boss, Dr. Isiaka Aliagan about my aching and quaking heart and after a somewhat long persuasion, he spoke with his friend and soon, we created a writing group: ‘The Ilorin Writers Circle’. At a point in time, Dr Akanbi hosted us weekly at his Fate-Tanke residence and he often served us drinks and snacks pro-bono. I was saddled with the responsibility of sending reminders for readings and described as a coordinator, a nomenclature which I was proud to wear like an invisible medal of honour. With the passage of time, our ranks swelled at the circle. After a few years, we were ready to put ANA back on ground in Kwara on account of the steadfastness of the two great men who illuminated the the way out of the dark alleys that we were in and I dare add, without fear or favour, considering the history I met about Kwara ANA’s mild stumble.
Both men later took their remarkable turns as Kwara ANA chairs. In the years that unfolded, Dr. Akanbi never sat me down to teach me about life but to say that the way he has handled his life’s triumphs and tribulations are instructive to me would be an understatement.
Dr Akanbi is the first major accident victim I ever visited in the hospital and I am yet to find that courage or need again. At a time when embezzlement could be said to be the second nature of Nigerians and finding discipline among public officers is as only easy as locating an apple tree in Ilorin or an Igba tree in London, I heard the gentleman left tens of millions of Naira of Fadama funds in place without helping himself with some. Yet, he was the overall head of that World Bank project in Kwara.
In saner climes this would be the norm but here, failing to name and point out this hero would be unfair to the younger generation. I doubt Fadama ever witnessed such sterling leadership again if at all the scheme survived Akanbi’s glorious exit.
I have also heard him say a silent no to some of the people I believed he loved and respected most, because no one is ever right all the time.
Before our very eyes, his poetry collection entitled ‘Verdant Verses’ was a runner up to Prof Akachi Ezeigbo’s work at ANA national awards in Akure in year 2010, if my memory serves me accurately.
From him also, I have been reassured that most of the events of life are neither fortune nor misfortune but they turn out to be either, based on our personal choices after significant life events.
Perhaps Akanbi is a sinner on occasions; occasions when he becomes extremely engaging in discussion. Usman Akanbi is also certainly a sage and a saint who deserves celebration in this age that Nigeria has marched itself into. The age of cutting corners and sharp practices. Dipo Akanbi is as much an accomplished banker as he is a successful Agricultural Economist and University lecturer who has led many farmers out of poverty but remains in relative poverty himself. This I strongly believe is not because he is not smart or wise but because he recognises the difference between the two and similarly reconises that under any circumstance, the value of wisdom will always dwarf that of being smart.
Akanbi’s philosophy is certainly convincing; that on any scale and in any geography, even on planetary bodies where the laws of gravity do not apply, wisdom always outweigh smartness. If you indeed manipulating regulations amount to smartness.
Sir, this content of your character is sadly rare in our generation and it is as humbling as it is inspiring for me. It is on this account that I reckon I will amount to an ingrate if I don’t seize this moment to acknowledge the amazing work of God, that you are. You may not ride brand new cars or fly first class, you indeed shine, glitter and glimmer through and through. May this be the eve of greater happiness and fulfillment. InshaAllah, each fresh moment you experience will be better than the previous one for you.
I should have wished you long life and prosperity but let me stop here to rather pray for you to have them. This moment calls for more than wishes.
Oladosu, a former Publicity Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Kwara State Chapter, writes from the Directorate of Corporate Affairs, University of Ilorin.