A former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, on Sunday said he picked the late Mustapha Akanbi as chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission because of his honesty.
Mr Akanbi, the pioneer chairman of the anti-graft agency, died on Sunday. Aged 85, Mr Akanbi was also a former president of the Court of Appeal. He was appointed ICPC chairman by Mr Obasanjo in 2000.
In a condolence message addressed to the Akanbi family on Sunday, Mr Obasanjo recalled how he appointed the late jurist as pioneer chairman of ICPC because of his integrity.
He wrote: “I recall going through a most rigorous search for a new leadership that will take the ICPC to the enviable height I desired for the Commission. Of about ten people I sought for advice from, seven pointed at Justice Mustapha Akanbi.
“His background and disposition were formidably humble, unassuming, and oozing with patent honesty and integrity. I lost no time in settling for him, even though it wasnt an easy task to be able to convince or persuade him to accept the task. I had to use all power of persuasion at my disposal to move him to yield.
“With Justice Akanbi in charge of ICPC, I did not have to worry about how well. He was, of course, a hand-on manager. It is needless to say that for the first time in the history of Nigeria, the combined and complementary efforts of ICPC under him and EFCC under Nuhu Ribadu made Nigerians and non-Nigerians to know that corruption can be put in check and put to flight.
“The two commissions raised the hope of Nigerians that this country can get to where and be what God has created it to be if the leadership is right and the will with commitment is there.”
The former president said he received news of Mr Akanbi’s death in far away Dubai with shock, adding that mortals can, however, never question the designs of the Almighty Allah.
“In a country like ours which is abundantly endowed with stars and frontiersmen,” Mr Obasanjo wrote, “Justice Akanbi was one genuine patriot who radiated dominantly within our national space and beyond.
“He was a distinguished Nigerian, an icon, a paragon of rightness and rectitude, whose life is devoted entirely to the service of his nation. He was a role model and a nationalist.
“He will be recorded by history as a Nigerian who embodies all the high points of our national achievements, and one of the very rare breed of citizens who have combined total dedication, commitment and excellence in all national endeavours they have engaged in.
“All of these explain his conferment with the medal of the Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFR) and appointment, in the year 2000 by me as a democratically-elected President of Nigeria, to head the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), a body vested with the statutory responsibility of combating the malaise of corruption within the Nigerian nation.”
The former president described the late lawyer as a self-made man who built for himself “a most inspiring, even intimidating profile as a formidable jurist, a thorough-bred scholar and an exemplary pacesetting administrator.”
His heroic contributions to national development and unity will remain evergreen in the annals of our history, he added.
“I pray that the Almighty God will in His infinite mercy grant all of us that are associated with him and the immediate family the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss. May He (Almighty Allah) forgive his sins and grant his soul eternal repose,” Mr Obasanjo wrote.