By is’haq Babatunde
It is obvious that the death of Professor Muhammed Mustapha Akanbi SAN, on 20th of November 2022, was painful and shocking to many. He left at a youthful age of 51. Apparently, he left the stage at a period his knowledge, skill and other qualities were highly needed. Prof Akanbi died in the active service as a Vice Chancelor of the Kwara State University (KWASU).
On that fateful day, the news of his demise clouded the atmosphere of Kwara, Nigeria, and touched the world of his family, friends and colleagues . For days and weeks, we wept, wailed and willed him to wake up, to wake us from our nightmare.. Lo and behold! He was gone for real. Today, we are just coming to terms with the fact that no amount of weeping and wailing would return our beloved Prof. MM back to life. Every soul shall have a taste of death at appointed time, as it is cristal clear that Allah will never delay a soul when it’s time has come (Qur’an 63 verse 11).
Though, painful and very hard to believe Prof’s exit, we take solace in the fact that he lived an exemplary life worthy of emulation. Most importantly, he died as a pious Muslim. He had a rare opportunity of visiting the holy land on umrah for supplications and he died few weeks after his return from Saudi Arabia to Nigeria.
God has been so kind to him such that his life was dotted with virtues, legacies and life achievements that his loved ones are proud of. He achieved his life dreams. He was a member of the inner bar as a legal practitioner, a Professor in the academia, a distinguished administrator, and a celebrated philanthropist and many more.
Due to the nature of the job of his father, late Justice Muhammed Mustapha Akanbi, Prof. Akanbi attended various primary and secondary schools across the country such as Kano, Port Harcourt, Ibadan and Okigwe in Imo State. He graduated from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife with a Bachelor’s degree in law in the second class division in 1993 and attended the Nigerian Law School, Victoria Island Lagos, where he also bagged the second class degree and was called to bar in 1995.
During his service year between 1995 and 1996, Akanbi served the nation as a legal assistant in the legal unit of the Central Bank of Nigeria in Lagos. Between March 1996 and 1998, he practised as a junior in the law firms of Wole Bamgbala & Co, Lagos, Olawoyin and Olawoyin, Lagos and Ayodele, ‘Gafar & Co, Ilorin respectively.
Late Prof Akanbi SAN bagged a master’s degree in law (LLM) in 1998 from University of Lagos, Akoka. Between 2004 and 2006, he attended the prestigious Kings College, University of London, United Kingdom for his doctorate degree in law (Ph.D) which he bagged in a record time of 2 years.
In August 1998, the late Prof. Akanbi joined the service of University of Ilorin as a lecturer 2 in the Department of Business law, Faculty of law of the University. By dint of hard work and perseverance, he rose through the ranks and was appointed a Professor of Law in the Department of Business Law in October 2012.
In 2014 he was also appointed an adjunct Professor of Law at the Kings University College, Accra, Ghana for a period of one year. He held several administrative positions, chief of which are: Sub-dean of the faculty of law, Head of Business Law Department, Faculty of Law, Postgraduate Representative, Senate Member, Dean of the Faculty of Law, Deputy Director, Centre for Research Development and In-House Training (CREDIT) and Director, School of Preliminary Studies, Fufu, University of Ilorin.
Professor Akanbi was also active in his professional field. He was one time Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, Ilorin Branch between 2007 and 2009.Past member of the Council of Legal Education in Nigeria 2007 – 2011.
Former member, NBA Committee on Electoral reforms. Former member, Executive Committee of the Academic Forum of the NBA.Former Member, Constitutional Review and Electoral Reform Process, NBA.Chairman, Technical Committee on the Establishment of the Kwara State Multidoor Courthouse. One time external Examiner, Nigerian Law School. Past member, Board of Institute for Continuing Legal Education. Chairman, 2014 Biennial Law Week Committee – NBA Ilorin.Member, NBA Ilorin Caretaker Committee.
Prof Akanbi, SAN, was the Principal Partner, Forum Conveniens Consult, a legal consultancy firm of Solicitors and arbitrators in Ilorin- Kwara State 2012 to his demise. Chairman, Disciplinary Committee, NBA Ilorin (2018- 2020) Member, Law Reform Committee, Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administration (ICSAN)Head of Legal Research Division, National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, Abuja, 2019 – 2020.
In 2015, late Professor M.M. Akanbi SAN founded the MMGIVIT Charity Initiative. The Initiative takes care of the less privileged through redistribution of wealth programmes, educational promotion including poetry competitions and career counselling for secondary schools students inKwara State, among others. The Initiative also provides minimal health services for the less privileged members of the society.
In recognition of his sterling leadership qualities, the American government nominated Prof Akanbi as part of the International Visitor’s Leadership Programme (IVLP) in the United State of America in 2016. On 24th September 2018, and in recognition of his contributions to the development of law and legal profession in Nigeria, Prof Akanbi, was conferred with the award of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), which is the highest distinction in the legal profession in the country.
Professor Akanbi was appointed Vice Chancellor of the Kwara State University (KWASU) on 1st of April, 2020. He held the position until his death on 20th of November, 2022.
The legacies of the astute jurist, legal luminary, shrewd administrator, and dedicated teacher and committed husband and father cannot be underestimated.
In the sadness of his departure, I am happy to remember my former boss, late Prof Akanbi as an incorruptible citizen, and epitome of humility.
May Allah accept him as a God fearing Muslim.