I pro­posed to my wife a day af­ter meet­ing her

Jus­tice Mustapha Akanbi

Weekly Trust - - Front Page - Romoke W. Ah­mad, Ilorin

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

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