By Kehinde Ayanboade
Chief Bisi Akande was born on January 16, 1939 at Ila-Orangun in the present State of Osun, Nigeria.
By parentage, he comes from a long line of highly-respected warriors and administrators. His father, Pa Lawani Bamgbose Akande, was a grandson of Pa Ladimeji of Ile Asudan, Isedo quarters, Ila Orangun, who was one of the Generals in the Yoruba inter-tribal wars. His mother, Madam Hunmuani Akande, was a daughter to Chief Elemese Adesina of Ile Obalumo, Odo Ilegun (also in Isedo quarters of Ila-Orangun) — the traditional Head of Service in the kingdom of the Orangun of Ila.
After his primary school education at Native Authority School, Oke Aloyin, lIa-Orangun (1946-1952) and at Methodist School, Ode-Idanre (in the present Ondo State) in 1953, Bisi Akande started life as a shop keeper with B.M. Akadiri at Oke-Ola in Odode, Idanre.
He was subsequently lucky to become one of the pioneering teachers in the Obafemi Awolowo’s Free Primary Education programme (introduced in January 1955) at Ijama village of Idanre in the then Western Region of Nigeria. He later trained as a Grade III teacher at Divisional Teachers’ Training College, lle-lfe (1957 and 1958).
A TRAINED TEACHER
During his teaching career in Muslim School, Omu-Aran (present Kwara state, 1959), Muslim School, Ilawo-EJigbo (present Osun state, 1960-1961), Catholic School, Oro (present Kwara state,1961-1962), and Mac-Job Grammar School, Abeokuta (present Ogun state, 1963), he pursued further education through correspondence courses from Wolsey Hall, Rapid Results College, and The School of Accountancy – all based in England.
PRIVATE SECTOR WORK EXPERIENCE
He joined the British Petroleum Nigeria Limited in August 1963 as a Manager-in-Training in the Finance and Accounts Department, and later attended several professional courses in several reputable institutions including:
International Computers Limited Training College, Beaumont, Windsor, England (1974);
London School of Computer Technology, England (1975);
International Institute of Public Management, Washington, DC, USA (1979).
Chief Bisi Akande worked for British Petroleum from 1963 to 1979 when, as Manager, System and Computer Services, he left (on a Leave of Absence) to serve in the Government of the old Oyo State: first as Secretary to the Government and, subsequently, in November 1982, he became the Deputy Governor to Chief Bola Ige.
A GRASSROOTS MOBILISER
Side by side with his job with BP, between 1963 and 1978, Chief Akande involved himself with various local town union activities. At various times, he served as a member of the Ila Students Union; member, Ila Grammar School Board of Governors; Convener, Ila Emancipation League; Secretary and member of the Ila Union in Lagos; member,
Secretary, Treasurer and President (consecutively) of Ila Charity Club; Finance Coordinator of Ila Electricity Planning Committee; member, Osun North-East Consultative Committee, etc, etc, etc.
DRAFTED INTO LOCAL POLITICS
In the process, in 1971, he was appointed by the Military as a member of Ila Local Government Management Committee and, in 1976, he was elected unopposed as a councillor for Isedo Ward 1 into Ila Local Government Council. In 1977, he was also elected to represent Ila/Odo-Otin Local governments in the Nigerian Constituent Assembly that wrote the 1979 Nigerian constitution.
HIS WAY INTO NATIONAL POLITICS
At the Constituent Assembly, Chief Bisi Akande met many Nigerian leaders like Shehu Shagari, Ibraheem Gusau, Tatari Alli, Ibrahim Tahir, Solomon Lar, Prof Shiayo, Paul Unongo, Adamu Attah, Sam Mbakwe, Sylvester Ugoh, Ambrose Alli, Richards Akinjide, Prof Tugbiyele, Abraham Adesanya, Bisi Onabanjo, Ayo Fasanmi and a host of others.
It was Ayo Fasanmi who attracted Bisi Akande to Chief Obafemi Awolowo and from then he joined the Committee of Friends through which he became a foundation member of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). At the 1978 old Oyo State congress of UPN, Chief Bisi Akande was elected into the state Executive Committee of the party. He subsequently got elected as its State Deputy Chairman, thereby becoming a member of UPN’s National Executive Committee under the chairmanship of Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
JAILED FOR FORTY-TWO (42) YEARS
After the Military seized power in December 1983, Chief Bisi Akande was arrested along with Chief Bola Ige and he was jailed for 42 years imprisonment for what the Military described as ‘conspiracy to unlawfully enrich the Unity Party of Nigeria’. He was released in 1986 before the Military passed the decrees that later enabled the Military itself to enrich lavishly the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC), the two political parties established by the Military to plan its self-succession.
Happily, however, Chief Bisi Akande was vindicated by his own people who overwhelmingly voted for him to represent Ila/Ifedayo/Boluwaduro/Boripe Local governments at the Military-sponsored Constitutional Conference under General Sani Abacha. After winning the election, he snubbed the Military and boycotted the conference in obedience to the directives of Afenifere and the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). And that was part of what led to the big “June 12” protests and the cat-and-mouse bloody scrambles between NADECO and Abacha’s Military administration.
NON-PARTICIPATION IN MILITARY POLITICAL PROGRAMMES
Chief Bisi Akande joined in the formation of PSP and PPP – the two political associations which were not registered in 1989 and 1996 respectively. He thereafter suspected that the series of military programmes called ‘Transitions towards handing over power’ were mere ploys for self-succession or self-perpetuation in office, and he therefore refused to participate in partisan politics under the military.
In 1994, Chief Bisi Akande was a co-author of the “Yoruba Agenda”, while his selfless and positive activities in mobilizing colleagues largely contributed to the production and popularisation of the definitive “Yoruba Agenda” which was published and launched in 2005 and which was widely circulated among the members of the Obasanjo’s Constitutional Conference of that year.
BACK TO ACTIVE PARTISAN POLITICS
Following the demise of Gen Abacha and Chief MKO Abiola and the military disengagement from Nigerian political administration, Chief Bisi Akande, as the Chairman of Afenifere for Osun state since 1995, co-founded the Alliance for Democracy (AD)- a political party on whose platform he contested and won elections to become the governor of Osun state (1999-2003). His tenure as governor was most remarkable and singularly spectacular for the unprecedented infrastructural development in Osun state.
He thereafter rose to become a leading light among the Yoruba leadership and a famous Nigerian statesman.
LEADING NATIONAL PROGRESSIVE POLITICAL PARTIES
In December 2003, in controversial circumstances, Chief Bisi Akande was persuaded by his colleagues (the former AD governors) to accept to be the National Chairman of the Alliance for Democracy.
As soon as his nomination became supported by the only then serving governor of AD (Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu), certain leaders became irked and furtively sponsored an alternative national chairman who, they claimed, enjoyed the support of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidency, thereby throwing AD into two factions. The Bisi Akande faction was finally adjudged to be the authentic AD by the Appeal Court of Nigeria. However, in December 2006, Akande decided to resign and subsequently contested for and accepted the chairmanship of the newly-formed Action Congress (AC). In 2010, at the Benin City Convention, Chief Akande was unanimously elected, again, as the National Chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
He is the Founding National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
TRADITIONAL CHIEFTAINCY HONOURS
In recognition of Chief Bisi Akande’s indomitable courage, fighting spirit and a knack for adventures reminiscent of his warrior-ancestors, he has been conferred with the traditional chieftaincy titles of:
Asiwaju of lIa-Orangun (his home town), as well as Agba Akin of Oke-Ila Orangun, Balogun of Aramoko-Ekiti (from where his ancestors migrated to Ila Orangun during the Yoruba wars), Jagunmolu-Oodua of Ijebu-Ife, Apesin of Ilashe-Ijesa and Bashorun of Ilobu.