By Peter O. Affen, JCA
“It is with mixed feelings [of humility and pride] that I stand before this august assembly to present this 3rd Annual Personality Lecture in honour of Professor Muhammed Mustapha Akanbi, SAN on the topic – Electoral Justice vs. Legal Justice in Nigeria: Do the Waters Mix? – under the auspices of the Law Students’ Society, Faculty of Law, University of Ilorin: a Nigerian public university that has, over the years, gained notoriety for the stability of its academic calendar. Indeed, I consider it a rare honour and privilege to have been invited to do the honours, as it were, to whom honour is eminently due.
“My personal relationship with the honouree which started as classmates at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife in 1989 has since blossomed into a lifelong friendship, nay brotherhood. Just Lawyers Forum (JLF) [which is the moniker of the alumni group under which Professor Akanbi’s university classmates are organised] has since metamorphosed into one big united progressive family where what happens to one happens to all.
“The man of the moment, Professor M. M. Akanbi, SAN is a man of many firsts. As far as I know, he was not only the first amongst our classmates to become a Dean of Law in the Law Faculty of any University in Nigeria, he was equally the first to become a full-fledged Professor of Law – all at a very young age. What is more, Professor M. M. Akanbi is also our first and only Senior Advocate of Nigeria: that elite club of lawyers who adorn the silk gown [otherwise reserved for judicial officers], have a reserved seat at the inner bar on the front row of the courtroom and invested with the privilege of calling their cases out of turn!
“He has been a law teacher for over 24 years. It is therefore merely restating the obvious that Professor M. M. Akanbi, SAN is a child of destiny who amply deserves the honour being done to him today by his students; and not even my understandably busy schedule as a judex in an increasingly litigious metropolis as the Federal Capital Territory and the steady flow of sensitive time-bound political litigations requiring urgent attention could possibly have stood in the way of my seizing this golden opportunity to publicly demonstrate my admiration and profound respect for Professor M. M. Akanbi, SAN and his enviable accomplishments”.
The foregoing were the ‘Opening Remarks’ of the Personality Lecture I was privileged to deliver in honour of MM (as we fondly called him) at University of Ilorin on April 18, 2019, in the wake of his investiture as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). Unbeknownst to me, that was to be the last time we would see each other physically on this terrestrial, sinful earthly plain, even though we kept in touch through telephone and the social media.
MM added another feather to his already beautifully bedecked cap of accomplishments when he was appointed as Vice Chancellor of Kwara State University KWASU) in 2020: a position he held until his untimely demise. He dreamt of transforming KWASU into a world-class citadel of learning. But debilitating illness crept in surreptitiously, unexpectedly. MM fought with all the strength he had and everything he could muster. Alas, death, cruel death, eventually snatched a rare gem from us on Sunday, 20/11/22) at the unripe age of 51!
The fact that MM lived a simple, exemplary life that impacted everyone he came in contact with in many positive ways offers some cold consolation. He touched the lives of countless underprivileged members of the society through his annual pet project, MMGivit. The life and times of MM reaffirm the truism that life consists not merely in its duration but much more in its donation: he lived as though he knew that life will not be long after all!
When a loved one becomes a memory, all one can do is to relive and bask in those unforgettable memories etched securely in the deepest recesses of the heart. I remain thankful for the moments we shared: as classmates at OAU, Ile-Ife through the Nigeria Law School, Lagos (where the BQ of the official residence of his Dad and eminent Jurist, the Rt. Hon Justice Akanbi at Queen’s Drive, Ikoyi was a Refugee Camp of sort for so many of us who had no hostel accommodation); as young lawyers on the streets of Lagos, the sidewalks of life where humans thrive, looking forward to the future with great expectations; and as adults looking back with gratitude at the various pathways life has charted (and continue to chart) for each and every one of us. Sadly, this is a moment to say Good Night to Muhammed Mustapha Olaroungbe Aremu Akanbi.
May MM’s gentle soul find eternal repose, and may God grant his ever supportive and accommodating wife and children, his siblings, JLF, NLS 95 call set, the Government and Good People of Kwara State, his students (past and present) and teaming army of well wishers the fortitude to bear this sad irreplaceable loss.