Today, three thoughts occupy my mind and I wish to ventilate them:
Death is certain
On Sunday, June 3, 2018, news struck the blogosphere and the airwaves that a renowned jurist, foremost philanthropist, great friend of the University of Ilorin and pioneer Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC), Hon. Justice Mustapha Akanbi (rtd), had breathed his last. Ah, the well-acclaimed and much-beloved “Mr Integrity” bade the world bye in a blaze of glory! How would my own end be?
My personal encounter with the revered sage and foremost anti-corruption crusader was when the Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies under my leadership decided to organise a special public lecture to address the potentially-combustible 2015 elections. Prophets of doom were predicting the end of Nigeria and some people were obtaining passports of neighbouring countries. Prof. Danny McCain of the University of Jos agreed to deliver a lecture on what we considered the matter of the moment, “Towards Peaceful Elections in 2015: The Roles of Stakeholders in Nigeria.” Arrangements had been made to get political parties and politicians, traditional rulers, religious leaders, student bodies, civil society organisations, electoral officials, security agencies and the military involved in the pre-election sensitisation.
One couldn’t think of a better chairman for the important event than the late Hon. Justice Mustapha Akanbi. How would a small fry like me get him to attend a programme being organised? I mentioned it to someone who worked with his Foundation and he casually said I should meet him. That was exactly what I did. I was humbled and honoured by his simplicity and amiability. Subsequent visits at the time would make him share valuable life experiences with me.
Not only did the late sage attend the Special Public Lecture as Chairman, his speech was so eloquent and profound, touching on the raw nerves of the subject matter that it was from his angle that most media pundits reported the event. The programme afforded me the opportunity of reading Baba like a book as a living symbol of the attributes of the prophets. He was a very successful man having surrendered himself to seeking the pleasure of his Creator, a man without excess baggage. No wonder that Ilorin was shut down as his modest home at GRA became a Mecca when mourners poured in to pay their last respects to the man who really understood the meaning of life.
His death is our true and collective and loss and it is our prayer that God multiply his kind for the sake of humanity. I commiserate with Prof. Muhammad Akanbi of the Faculty of Law and Dr Uthman Oladipo Akanbi of the Faculty of Agriculture as well as the entire family on the loss of that asset to Nigeria and the world. Just some days before his death, a senior member of this community confided in me on how he personally donated a sum of #500,000.00 to his need and the man was amazed. I understood that was how Baba quietly assisted several people despite his apparent limited means as a pensioner.
As nothing is as certain as death, anytime death occurs, a message is sent to us that our own turn is near. May the Almighty Allah grant him Aljannah Firdaws and grant us the wisdom to live the exemplary life he lived.
“No loss is a true loss if…”
When I was invited to speak at the 2nd International Conference on Human Rights and Armed Conflicts in Nigeria, themed “Assessing Nigeria’s Response to Global Security Threats and Its Implications for World Peace” by the Global Amnesty Watch (GAW) at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, on Monday, May 30, 2018, I had no premonition that the date would register itself on my psyche for long, for a wrong reason.
After the brief opening ceremony, everything was fine as I made the first presentation on “The Role of the Nigerian Army in the War against Terrorism: Pains and Gains”. The Global President of GAW, David Falt, Prof. Pita Agbese of the University of Northern Iowa, USA, and Stuart McGhie, a senior expert and practitioner in Humanitarian Law, London, among others, also made their presentations until the meeting was drawing to its end.
Contrary to the expectation at such a high-profile event in the heart of the capital city, something happened. A light-fingered corporate thief was prowling without my knowledge and it was my bag, containing my laptop, books and documents, that he was targeting. An opportunity provided itself as I stepped out for a moment and before I returned a minute after, my bag was gone. The searing pain I felt was like being stung by a hundred bees and bitten by a rattlesnake at the same time!
As reality dawned on life without the treasure throve that my lost laptop was, apart from other valuables, the initial pains were doused by my reflection that everything bad could still be worse and there are many worse scenarios in life. The lesson is that security threats are everywhere and we should not live under the illusion that everyone at an academic programme is responsible. So, we should always closely guard what belongs to us everywhere. I have consoled myself and moved beyond my initial sorrow because “no loss is a true loss if life is not involved,” as I posted on Facebook a week after.
Together for peace
On Friday, May 5, 2017 at the Vice-Chancellor’s office, history was made as the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. TY Buratai, signed a Memorandum of Understanding facilitated by the Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies under my Directorship, with the University of Ilorin on a collaborative Master of Arts Degree programme in Peace and Strategic Studies.
Represented by the Corps Commander of the Nigerian Army Education Corps (NAEC), Brig. Gen. LF Abdullahi, the Chief of Army Staff noted that the army were proud of that collaboration because they knew the worth of the University. The year witnessed the enrolment of the first set of the senior students and the completion of the requirements of their graduation.
That development was a culmination of a process that started two years earlier and attracting senior military officers to the classrooms of the University of Ilorin was one of the major highlights of my almost four-year phenomenal experience at the Centre. With the graduation of the first set earlier in the year, after the Senate approval of their results, my joy knew no bounds as the future is bright that the University will continue to advance the frontiers of knowledge to all critical segments of the Nigerian society.
Let the truth be told, the University of Ilorin is far better by far!