I proposed to my wife a day after meeting her
Justice Mustapha Akanbi
Daily Trust: At 85, many people still come around you, and look up to you, what is the secret?
I remember my dad. He blessed me specially with a prayer. He prayed God to take care of my needs. My parents took care of me. When we were in Accra, if my father wanted to go to any place at night, he would take me along. And as we went along, he would be lecturing me on life. He would be telling me history of people, great people and those that misused their life time opportunities. He would tell me not to toe bad paths, and not to be extravagant but do things in moderation.
When he came back to Ilorin, I was a presiding judge in Ibadan. He came before I became a judge.
Justice Mustapha Akanbi: DT: Did your parents have influence on you?
Justice Akanbi: My father actually advised me to take the job as a judge, saying it was more honourable than wealth. He said go ahead and take the job of a judge, if it’s what to give us the parents, don’t bother. We’re blessed already. Consistently, as far as my mother was concerned, her husband did no wrong. She also made us to believe that whatever my father did was the right thing. She taught us that wherever your husband is was a place for you. I thank God for her. When I look at life, I realise that the training I had at home was more important. Even though he was an illiterate, he believed in western education. He had lived in Lagos for years. He knew the father of Rotimi Williams, Fani Kayode. He would go to court while waiting for goods he had ordered just to while away time and listened to court proceedings. He would tell me what happened and the circumstances and all that. I learnt a lot at his feet. When I grew up and got married it was with his full permission and he supported me. He would always advise me against corruption, saying a good name is better than gold or silver. Throughout, I lived with my father. I never lived with anyone else. We were all together with my dad in Ghana.
Parents have a lot of work to do on their children. They should give leadership by example. When I got married my parents never settled quarrels between us. Anyone that may want to interfere, no matter how close, I would say I am a judge, I can’t be here seated and you preside over my matter. What’s your business? I never interfered in your marriage why should you interfere in mine? All these home training helped me a lot. The school training is there. Discipline. The Islamic school is also there. The punishment here is even more than that of the school. All the same I think I owe a lot to my parents-way of life, my behaviour and everything. Each time I was going back to my job in Ibadan, my father would tell me, Mustapha, don’t take bribe and don’t allow yourself to be used by anybody. Even when I was a state counsel here for a brief period, my parents never allowed relations to influence me. So I had no fear that anyone could influence me. If I gave him he took and if not, he didn’t complain. He said he had prayed to God not to wait for any of the children to take care of him. He would tell you that you’re not Akanbi and that the name is his name. So don’t do anything to spoil my name for me to be happy with you. So parents of nowadays must get close to their children. Talk to them, tell them stories about life and what life is all about, that those stealing money are no good examples, that God takes care of people who hold on to Him. When we were in Ghana, people would come from Ilorin and you would think they were our relations. We would put them in one big room and my mother would cook for them until they found their way.
Parents have a lot of responsibility and influence on their children. If they make money their watchword, their children would follow them. If they make education their
watchword it would make the future bright. I wanted to be a scholar and a teacher, thinking I would be a professor. I was in Cambridge in 1956. My son is now a professor and I also have a holder of doctorate degree in agriculture. We have an outfit where we train people, distribute books etc. My parents would come to my school to check my academic performance and behaviour. If you don’t go to school he would punish you. If you report me to my dad he would punish me but if you take law into your own hand, he would challenge you. We were subjected to discipline in the house and in school. That’s what had made us.
DT: How do you feel after spending many months in hospital here in Nigeria and abroad, What do you still plan to do for your country?
Justice Akanbi: I feel better now. I built a new library, one of the best in the town, and a centre for knowledge building. Just a few days ago we turned out some graduates. People come to learn computer and how to think better. We have people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs who achieved a lot from nothing and became billionaires through research and thinking. That’s why we have the Mustapha Akanbi Library and Learning Centre. We also have a school and a private secondary school where I don’t take a kobo from. I just even stopped paying from my pocket for some of their needs. They needed a second bus recently and I told the principal to raise N700,000 so I could give them N1million. The first vehicle was donated to us by the state government.
DT: You talked so much about your wife, how you meet her? Justice Akanbi: I met my wife, Munfaat, and in just a day I started preparing for marriage. I had made up my mind that I would never marry in England. I knew I would eventually return home. She’s somebody from a good home. I knew almost all her relations and family members before our marriage. Even some of her elder brothers were my friends. I told myself that if she took after her people I had no problems. When my father learnt of our relationship, he wasted no time in solemnising the union. Her father intended to go on hajj then. The man said he may not return alive, hence the solemnisation should be done before he left. People never settled quarrels between us. If she wanted to have her way, she would use wisdom to go about it. And I showed her my friends, including their photographs for proper identification. She kept laid down regulations. Our friends and family were more at home with her. I thank God. We’ve built a mosque in her memory, and we also have a knowledge platform where we train young ones in Computer Science, etc. During prayers the clerics in the mosque pray for her. May God forgive her sins.
DT: Divorce is on the rise, how do we address the situation?
Justice Akanbi: It is due to the structure of our society. Some people believe you should have courtship. I met my wife for one day. I interviewed her and I looked at her antecedent, background, family background. I knew the father, the grandfather, maternal grandfather. In fact, I was her father’s letter writer. I was a letter writer even to my father right from Standard 3, because he believed that education was the best thing he could give me. But how can I as an educated man marry a woman today and tomorrow I just say she should go? But unfortunately, children I met my wife, Munfaat, and in just a day I started preparing for marriage. I had made up my mind that I would never marry in England. I knew I would eventually return home. She’s somebody from a good home. I knew almost all her relations and family members before our marriage of today even when you train them you don’t have control over them after their marriage. So, what I would suggest is that the girl you won’t be able to keep for life why marrying her? A man you know you can’t be together with forever, why marrying that man? So, I think we need a new orientation. Basically, if we place a lot of premium on money, money does not keep the family together. It’s a matter of give and take, a matter of understanding yourself. The woman should
believe that the husband is the leader of the house, because there can be no two captains in one ship. Otherwise, it would be quarrels. If you marry a woman that is hot tempered or think you’re equal then there would be problem. If I say my wife should not make friends with someone, she wouldn’t, and if she did by mistake, and I looked at her she would know and come inside the room and explain. There I would tell her I didn’t want to see that fellow with her again, so that they don’t be a bad influence on her.
DT: Sir, what is the Nigeria of your dreams?
Justice Akanbi: You know Nigeria is a great country, and our greatness makes us number one on the continent, especially in black Africa. We have the largest population, the resources and all it takes to be a great nation. The Nigeria of my dreams cannot be different because I grew up in Ghana, I was an Nkrumahist, a member of the Convention Peoples Party, a trade unionist. This is not where we expected Nigeria to be or where we expected Africa to be. To commemorate my 85th birthday on September 11, a prayer session and lecture were held. We talked of building Africa and all the rest. So, the Nigeria of my dreams is that Nigeria should take its place. All that’s going on now where people are just after money is not the ideal thing. The founding fathers of this country were motivational speakers. Awolowo gave free education. In the North when they talked of education being free, we had super free education, we all had scholarships. We lived more or less in a palace in Zaria. We were being paid. We had books. After my father had paid a lot on my education in Ghana, I was part of it. Uwais who became Chief Justice of Nigeria was in the school. Late Shehu Mohammed was a Supreme Court judge. Anthony Aina Ekundayo became a High Court judge. All including Shehu Kawu were products of the Zaria Institute of Administration before we went to London to complete our courses. So, when you look at that, the leaders, what they achieved, how they brought us up and all that, we don’t have it again. How many children have scholarships now? How many are they thinking of using huge sums of money they have on? For me, I believe in a united Nigeria, one Nigeria. Because when we were in the school we were 29, there were only 12 from the North and the remaining 17 were from the South, including Igbos. Ogbonnka Njafor, CC Agunlobi, we were my classmates. It was my performance that qualified me to read Law. But what do we have today? People making hate speeches. A principal was ill, I mean the president, some people
wished he was dead, saying nasty things. The Yoruba say quarrels among ourselves should not be taken to wishing others dead. Even ordinary things demand that we should not wish others bad. So, we only hope that we will bring back the crystal glory of the past. We will try to change the orientation among average Nigerians. For me, as long as I live I shall be fighting to see Nigeria as one united people.
DT: People argue that public servants engage in corruption knowing that they won’t get their pensions and entitlements from government. What is your reaction to this?
Justice Akanbi: In as much as corruption is detestable and sad, you know it’s not good you don’t give people their rights. I built this house in 1985. I was living in my family quarters in my house at Awodi when my father died, because he insisted that I must remain in that house during his life time. When he died in 1985, I built this house. We moved here sometime lying on the floor. We didn’t even collect our beds, etc. from Awodi to this place and little by little we did it. Recently when they increased my pension I was able to get some arrears and part of it I used to improve the house. I tell myself that even if I am going to die let me die in peace and comfort, so that when I go to meet my creator I feel fulfilled.
Justice Mustapha Akanbi
Justice Mustapha Akanbi