Late Chief Adisa Akinloye (1916 - 2007): 30 Minutes of Chance Meeting
I was an undergraduate student at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, Nigeria at the start of Nigeria’s Second Republic vibrant politics in 1978. During that period (1978 - 1983), Chief Augustus Meredith Adisa (AMA) Akinloye who sadly died on Tuesday, September 18, 2007 served as the undisputed National Chairman of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), the biggest of the mainstream political parties then.
The NPN under the indefatigable leadership of Chief Akinloye became the ruling party after the 1979 general elections that heralded Nigeria’s Second attempt at multi-party democracy, with Alhaji Shehu Shagari (Turakin Sokoto) as the First Executive President. The Second Republic politics and political events were very interesting; issues driven, national in orientation and context, educative, emotional, sensational, colourful and many a times marred by intolerance and political violence.
The imperfections of the politicians and democratic institutions of the Second Republic notwithstanding, Nigeria’s political economy during the unfortunate 16 years of military interregnum (1984 – 1999) and the 8 years of yet another attempt at multi-party democracy from May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2007 suffered greatly than any period in the annals of its developmental history. Other people might differ in opinion.
By providence, the less than 30 minutes chance meeting I had with the late Chief Akinloye some time in 2002 or there about, further convinced me that Nigerians, particularly the Nigerian Press, highly exaggerated the political and economic misdeeds of the Second Republic politicians and leaders. Furthermore, the past and recent revelations and uncovering of the political, economic and financial crimes perpetrated by the successive Nigerian governments, elected and unelected public office holders, private individuals and corporate bodies from 1984 to May 29, 2007 made the Second Republic politicians saints and honourable gentlemen and women.
Late Chief Akinloye in company of his wife and son, were on a private visit to Sokoto to see former president Alhaji Shehu Shagari; his political associate and friend. This was when I saw him face to face for the first time in my life! One of the reasons why I mentioned above, that the Second Republic politicians are saints compared to those who run and managed the affairs of this country from January 1984 to May 29, 2007 was the physical, health and financial conditions of Chief Akinloye at the time of the visit. He was very frail and cannot walk without leaning on his wife or son. He was very weak, fragile and incoherent as he speaks. He hardly remembers past events but was very strong minded gentleman to the core. He quickly recognised former president Shehu Shagari on sight and voice. They embraced and drove in the same car from the farm back to the town.
Yes, he was over 80 years in age. Yes, he was no longer relevant in the scheme of things in the Nigerian politics, public and business affairs since 1984. However, he was the most powerful, most influential and most democratic National Chairman of a national political party Nigeria has ever produced to date. Yet, in 2002 the physical, health and financial conditions of this truly detribalised Nigerian, a nationalist and an astute statesman have been let by the existing system to deteriorate to the level only found in the lowliest social rung of Nigeria’s socio-economic and political stratifications to say the least.
The unscheduled visit of late Chief Akinloye to see former president Shehu Shagari was strictly confidential and private. However, what removed its confidentiality was the mission of the trip itself. He came all the way from Ibadan to Shagari town to seek for the assistance of former president Shehu Shagari.
I was shocked to my bones to know that all what the gentleman, the great statesman, the great leader and the great politician wanted was a letter of introduction to be given to him by former president Shehu Shagari to the Honourable Minister of Water Resources, Barrister Muktari Shehu Shagari. The late Chief remarked that the family was going through a tough time, like any average Nigerian family. I need not to elaborate further as I must respect the privacy of the deceased.
The messages and lessons of this anecdote are many. Space constrain would not allow me to go into many of them. However, some years ago, Chief Audu I. Ogbe, two times minister in the Second Republic and a one time National Chairman of yet another biggest political party in Africa – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presented what I consider a comprehensive analysis of the demise of many of the Second Republic politicians and public office holders.
For example, he cited many of them who died as a result of absolute poverty; inability to put food on the table for family, inability to pay medical, schools and utility bills etc. Many of them sold their properties after exhausting all the savings for the rainy day. Many of them were highly indebted and many were officially declared bankrupt. Late Chief Akinloye and many of his contemporary Second Republic politicians still alive today suffered and are still suffering from these indignities of Nigeria’s faulty socio-economic and political development processes.
For example, the National Assembly has been playing politics with the bill for the retirement benefits of Nigeria’s former presidents! It is interesting to know that former president Shehu Shagari after an upward review of his retirement benefits by the General Abdulsalami Abubakar’s regime in 1998, receives N15, 000 monthly (up from N7, 000 monthly before the upward review).
As a subsistence farmer, the net value of Shagari’s farm is far less than a month food and entertainment budget of a Government House at the State level. His allocated and yet to be developed plot in Abuja is under constant threat of revocation by the authorities until recently when it was walled and a Chalet erected to avoid contravening the development control rules and regulations of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA). Meanwhile, new generation public office holders are busy building multimillion naira mansions in choice places in Abuja and elsewhere overseas.
One of the reasons why Nigeria find itself in the present situation, whereby elected and unelected public office holders at all the levels of governance are found wanting; looting public treasuries and indulging in corrupt practices and other economic and financial crimes may be because Nigerians in these positions don’t want to see themselves in similar situations like what happened to and is happening to their Second Republic predecessors. Since there are no public funded guarantees and insurance against absolute poverty after leaving office without amassing illegal and questionable wealth and fortunes, the present crop of politicians and other public office holders decide to help themselves by looting public treasuries and indulging in all manner of economic and financial crimes.
Therefore, the fear of absolute poverty is the main driver of the greed and kleptocracy introduced into the Nigerian body politics by the “New Breed Politicians.” These set of politicians were mass-produced in the factories of the successive Nigerian military regime’s ill-conceived and misguided “Guided democracy” of the late 1980s and the late-1990s.
The story of late Chief Akinloye’s trip to Shagari town, Audu Ogbe’s analysis of the demise of the Second Republic politicians and even, the predicament of the retirement benefits issue of former present Shehu Shagari are very pathetic and calls for a rethink of our entire socio-economic and political institutional arrangements and order. If we are to succeed in entrenching the ethos of self-less public service, war against bribery and corruption and leadership by example as we are now beginning to see been re-introduced by His Excellency President Umaru Musa Yar Adua - an exemplary life of contentment that is worthy of emulation by all the politicians and citizens in the country, new socio-economic and political order must be put in place by the present administration. This is why the Sudanese business mogul-cum-philanthropist, Mo Ibrahim’s $5m African Leadership Award initiative is a timely and welcome development worthy of emulation and national institutionalisation in Nigeria.
No matter his shortcomings in life, late Chief Akinloye lived an exemplary life of his time that is worthy of recognition by the present generation of politicians and leaders. There is now doubt; the death of Chief Akinloye has further depleted the ranks of the first generation politicians in the country. Chief Akinloye would be missed not only by members of his immediate families but by a generality of Nigerians, political contemporaries still alive and, in particular, researchers and students of Nigerian political history, among others.
On behalf of the Board and Management of theShehu Shagari World Institute for Leadership and Good Governance (SSWI) Sokoto, I join the teaming Nigerians in mourning the sad death of one of the movers and shakers of Nigerian politics and leadership; the man who wielded enormous political influence during his active days. He died at the ripe age of 91. May his gentle soul, rest in perfect peace. Amen.
Abubakar Atiku Nuhu-Koko
The Shehu Shagari World Institute for Leadership and Good Governance (SSWI)
Sokoto, Sokoto State, Nigeria
Tuesday, 20 November 2007