By Adeleke Gbenga.

How do people read or perceive others more than what these others are passionate about? Passion is the best barometer to measure what significantly goes on in the minds of these other people or what drives them. While some have passions for collections of highly valued objects such as priceless art treasures, others are driven for treasure houses of archeological relics, others have passions for jewelries, some have for golds, others for silvers, others for cars, beautiful houses, others for clothes while other peoples’ passions drive them to acquire money.

Justice Mustapha Akanbi, the late eminent statesman and pioneer Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission (ICPC) had passion for books’ collection. And this passion is legendary. Again, his eyes for books including exotic ones and taste for authors are amazing.

To better appreciate this, one needs to go to his private study to confirm. Over the years, this legal luminary built a treasure trove of resources for his private consumption at a corner of his residence which indeed served him well until he breathed his last.

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Anybody who had an opportunity of coming in close contact with him in his lifetime will agree that he had met with not just a jurist but an eminent statesman of a high cerebral breed.

On November 17th, 2016, the House located at No.6 Dani Link Road, Off Ahmadu Bello Road GRA, Ilorin Kwara State, which also served as his residence hosted an impressive outing of dignitaries and other members of the society to formally open his library, the Mustapha Akanbi Library which he had given out to the public for consumption.

The library was opened by Professor Lenrie O. Aina, Director of Nigerian National Library. In his opening speech, he said strikingly among others ”There is no doubt that this library will live to meet up with the vision of the Mustapha Akanbi Foundation which is to give hope and succour to all and open up new vistas for the development of the immediate environment and the world at large.

”Other expectations of this library can also be derived from the deep tenets of the Mustapha Akanbi Foundation which are as follows:

  • Enthronement of justice, equity and fair play.
  • A sense of duty to a better society.
  • Collection and holding of the library.
  • Catching them young among others”.

Going through the library’s sections, it was beyond imagination that an individual could put up an impressive library that is rich in collections of books that are full of resources and information that can transform a human being and change the society.

That is just the vision of late Justice Mustapha Akanbi. Anybody who is lucky enough to have come into close contact beyond superficial engagement with the library by Providence will know that the library is a resource centre with a catalytic effect.

Late Justice Mustapha Akanbi knew this and that was why he established the Mustapha Akanbi Library to produce a cultured man, a man of vision and purpose who will take his life’s assignments with a sense of mission and purpose.

But first and foremost, the library needs to discover a man first and transform him to a cultured man with missionary sense of duty and purpose. That testifies to the power of book. Anybody who doubts this should read the autobiography of Malcolm X Shabazz. He was an illiterate Black African criminal in United States of America (USA) who had never been to schools nor acquired any form of formal education.

He was thrown into jail because of his hard life of narcotic drugs and criminal activities. On getting to prison however, the windows of an entire world was opened to him through his exposure to prison’s rich library. He stumbled on books upon books and discovered not only himself but also his limitations and inadequacies. It dawned on him that to get by in the world, especially in the world of competition and to really change it, one needs solid education and thorough learning beyond mere collection of certificates that characterizes Nigeria of today.

Malcolm X read books inside the prison, the books that anybody who comes into contact with, will never remain the same again.

This throws up a revelation. Revelation about education without the four walls of the classrooms and teachers. And this is one of the areas where Nigerian education system gets it wrong. Malcolm X anyway became a new man with a mission to change the world of the African Americans in USA and he did with political activism.

There were later books written about him that became national bestsellers in America and the rest of the world, especially the one titled ”The Autobiography of Malcolm X As told to Alex Haley”. There is another recently released to readers in Africa titled ”Malcolm X The Assassination” and many others like that. He became a subject of critical studies in universities across the world.

There is another man who is familiar to the Christians and was also radically transformed by his exposure to books and thorough learning. This man provided an atmosphere for a revolution that changed the world to what it is today. Against all odds then, he changed the language of Bible from Latin to English against the will of Medieval Roman Catholic Church and went further through revolution to break the backbone of the old Roman Catholic Church’s hegemony in Europe.

His name was John Wycliffe. He provided a path which others like Martin Luther, Knox, Fox, Hus among others followed to bring the formidable Roman Catholic Church of that era to its kneels at the expense of their lives.

John Wycliffe’s activities in particular birthed what later dovetailed into civil rights activities and liberation movements that spread to the rest of the world today as human right activities.

Interestingly, most of John Wycliffe’s activities especially those that exposed the Roman Catholic Church’s hypocrisy and corruption which he documented but were however destroyed by Roman Catholic Church took place in the earlier century before the printing press was invented while Wycliffe died before the coming of the printing press, meaning that he lost most of his materials.

A century later when printing press was invented, the novel machines took books and learning away from the hierarchy of Roman Catholic Church and gave them to poor and common men. This was what led to mass education and widespread of literacy that changed the world to what it is today. This is testifying to the power of the book.

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This is what late Justice Mustapha Akanbi was exposed to in his formative years in Ghana where he was born and schooled.

He invested so much in acquisition of books at every opportunity he had in order to build a treasure trove of resources because he knew the roles books play in changing a human being, society, in building generations of enlightened and learned, well-educated and knowledgeable citizenry who will build a nation. These books eventually piled up to become a giant and rich library.

Because of paucity of such resource centre in Ilorin and in view of the decay of government’s libraries, both Federal and State Libraries, he turned his private library to public use.

This library since his demise continued to play the roles late Justice Mustapha Akanbi envisioned for it; to open its vaults of resources to members of the public in Ilorin. This testifies to the values he attached to learning.

Mustapha Akanbi Library is almost the only surviving private library in Ilorin Metropolis. When one goes to Ibadan in Oyo State, Oyo town and Ogbomoso including Lagos, there are large numbers of private libraries whose number are increasing. Why is Ilorin and Kwara State in general bereft of private libraries? Or what are the people of the State investing their money on. Concerned stakeholders have asked.

During the official opening of the library on November 17th 2016, Professor Lenrie O. Aina promised the contribution of the Nigerian National Library to further enrich the Mustapha Akanbi Library, stressing that, “In collaboration with the Board of Trustees of the Mustapha Akanbi Library, we shall collect books, newspapers, magazines, legal judgments, photographs, diaries, manuscripts etc on or about Justice Mustapha Akanbi from anywhere in the world on a continuous basis.

We are being proactive because we know Justice Mustapha Akanbi will be a subject of many doctoral theses in future especially in Political Science and Law disciplines. Justice Mustapha Akanbi is a gift to Nigeria and everything about him must be preserved for posterity’.”

One of the board members of the library, Dr. Usman Oladipo Akanbi who is also a son of the late jurist disclosed exclusively to News Hub Mag! that a similar library is being built in Oro.

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In his words, “’Because of the establishment of Mustapha Akanbi Library and in view of the roles it is playing among the young generation in Ilorin Metropolis, someone from Oro community in Kwara South has come here to copy the Mustapha Akanbi Library’s model and built same in Oro.

“That is another private library. Others, especially those who are blessed with resources in Kwara, should emulate this. This kind of community service, after-all, is not profit making but social service that is developmental. This is one of the ways by which or through which one can give back to the community what the community has given to us. This is one of the visions of Baba, Justice Mustapha Akanbi, to give back to his immediate community.

“He had one philosophy which he used to repeat over and over during his life time; he used to say, ‘If you cannot change the world, change your continent and if you cannot change your continent, change your own nation (i.e. your country) and if still you cannot change your country, then change your state and if it is difficult for you to change your state, try and change your community. If yet it proves difficult to change your community, change your family and friends. This is it, just make sure you use what you have to change your community.’ This is late Justice Mustapha Akanbi’s way of changing his community; a knowledge platform as a gift to residents of Ilorin in order to change them so that they will go and change the society.”

When News Hub Mag! visited the library yesterday, the first impression was that despite the serene ambience of the library it was a beehive of activities. This might be attributed to the innovation, digital skill hub, added to the library by the trustee of the library. Given the dynamics of the world today, a digital skill hub is like a magnetic pull for the youths and like honey attracts bees so youths and the young at heart are often attracted to digital hub. Some have made the library their home as they often spend long hours there because of the attraction of the digital skill hub.

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The question one would need to ask however is, are these young ones really learning? But that would be a story for another day.

Before his demise the late Justice Mustapha Akanbi had put together his autobiography titled “The Story Of My Two Worlds: Challenges, Experiences and Achievements, Autobiography of Justice Mustapha Akanbi,” which was publicly displayed on the 1st of October 2020 at the premises of the library which also presently hosts the Justice Mustapha Akanbi Foundation. The Foundation had earlier been headquartered at No.6 Onikangan Street, GRA where the African People’s Hall is equally located.

News Hub Mag! reports that the public display of Justice Mustapha Akanbi’s autobiography at House 6 Dani Link Road, Off Ahmadu Bello Road GRA on the 1st of October, 2020 went along with the launching of another book titled ”Memoir of my Midlife” by Dr. Usman Oladipo Akanbi, one of the sons of late Justice Mustapha Akanbi same day.

A section of the library is dedicated to Late Justice Mustapha Akanbi, this section comprises of his own publications and other materials written about him. The section is called Akanbiana. He also has a photo gallery that is full of photos of Nigerian and African political leaders.

The library also has a section rich in archive and other historical documents. This is coupled with many awards the late jurist bagged in his lifetime. The library has spaces for other uses that associations who appreciates its serene ambience will covet for their private meetings. One of such association doing this is the Association of Nigerian Authors who uses the premises for their monthly reading session.

Indeed, the library is attractive to those who know its values and it attractively beckons to them for patronage.

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