By Tunde Akanni, PhD
If KWAM 1 or any other musician had done any musical stuff to excite Gov Abiola Ajimobi and his fans to cite their government’s accomplishments the same way he recently did for Gov Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos, Dr. Yunus Abiodun Akintunde’s imprints in government would have been inimitably visible. As Ajimobi’s first Works Commissioner, my brotherly friend built the spectacle that has become the cynosure of all eyes in Mokola today which is the overhead bridge. It is one intervention Ibadan people and the rest of Oyo citizens and residents alike will not be in a hurry to discuss. Who can controvert the indispensability of the connecting value as well as the traffic decongestion effect of this bridge to all public institutions that matter in Ibadan ranging from the great University of Ibadan, The Polytechnic Ibadan to the legendary Orita Mefa, as many local folks will like to applaud Nigeria’s premier teaching Hospital, the University College Hospital?
Yunus isn’t your regular type of guy but you can hardly ignore him if you find yourself in his company in whatever context. He is a typically independent minded soft spoken Oyo man who won’t disagree fiercely with you if you happen to take exception to his stance even if it is obvious that his position is conspicuously flawless and beneficial to the majority. Dr Yunus Biodun Akintunde, my friend of no fewer than three decades, is one person I can claim to know more than most others he has today.
For both of us, 1993 was spectacularly testy but turned out to be a watershed in our lives. Having gotten married by then, he provided me with substantial good guidance on all affairs ranging from business to politics and even love life. There’s no explanation, really, till date for the failure of his efforts to get me a wife. Maybe it will still happen…
That year, on the eve of Nigeria’s most historic election, we both travelled to Saudi Arabia for Hajj. When the religious rites were over, he insisted I must buy good gifts for the ‘wife’ he had found for me. I did. I also delivered.
Shortly afterwards, we both located an automatic airpump manufacturing company. It was one item we deemed pretty fine as a befitting corporate gift thriving companies in Nigeria may use to express appreciation and courtesy to their clients. We broached our interest with the management and they were excited. The smart businessman that my friend has always been insisted we needed a partner who could speak fluent Arabic. We got one promptly. Eventually, the company agreed, not only to appoint us as the sole distributor for the entire West Africa, but was also ready to sponsor the media campaigns to give the product maximum visibility. Not many businesses could be as interesting as this promised to be. But June 12 happened! We lost that deal forever.
But the Akin in my relentlessly business-creative friend was far from being daunted. He moved on to some other commercial transactions including becoming an engineering supplies contractor a foremost bottling company. Far from being boastful, he would readily share his breakthroughs with Baba Ede, as he occasionally applauds yours sincerely. “So now that you’re involved in international human rights campaigns, we can begin to prepare for your wedding” he came nudging one day on returning from yet another trip to Saudi Arabia. The trained physicist had started making money from local supplies and diversifying into imports and exports business. “And I can help you invest if you want, into the engineering supplies” he had continued. He went on to add: “ I guarantee you 50% dividend of your principal after every other month. Once you’re ready, just bring the money and then we do a written agreement as enjoined by the Islamic faith we both share”. It looked so good to me. It turned out to be.
Indeed much more. At the end of the first cycle, Baba Oyo, as I also banter with him, brought my dividend of N45,000 having invested N90,000. The next round was no less smooth and then he was ready to fly out again to Saudi. “Now that this wedding plan we’ve been discussing is on course, Baba, you’d help us buy golden wrist watches for couple and some other things my wife might need” . Baba Oyo promptly agreed. It turned out that Baba Oyo helped me to make the money that relieved me of unusual wedding finance-related expenses. He was one of the few select friends present at my Akdu Nikah which was conducted on the eve of my five-month fellowship at the School of International and Public Affairs, SIPA, at Columbia University in New York late 1998.
Resilient and reliable, it was never surprising that my friend had been found fitting for several sensitive positions and consultations by Governor Abiola Ajimobi, Senator Teslim Folarin and so forth in recent political configurations in Oyo State and beyond. Only the best is good for my Akintunde and I mean this sincerely.
Out of government, Hajj Yunus did not go about brooding or belly-aching anyone. He went back to school. Promptly, he plucked a master degree and then an MBA. Not long after, he called me up: “Baba l’Ede, Ive registered for a doctoral programme intending to research on energy and environment”. I told him he didn’t have any option with the likes of Prof Adeolu Akande and several others around him. The good story is that, Ajimobi in his second term found my friend now indispensable. He appointed him Executive Assistant and my friend combined this with studies and business, all of which have rolled together into a beautiful story today.
As the Akintunde Festival in Ibadan (as I choose to reckon with my pal’s birthday anniversary’s multiple, commemorative events) wind down without hitch to the glory of Allah, it is important to formally join him in appreciating Allah’s favours. Alhamdulilah kathiirah.
My meeting with him, years back, was purposive, far from accidental. It happened through Professor Iysa Bello, his former teacher at LASU but my own maternal uncle who solely nested me as a post-NYSC Lagosian. Prof. Bello, whose story I hope to serve most palatably some day soon, in sha Allah, is one individual who has impacted my life mostly and positively, besides my two parents of blessed memory.
My friend was Brother Yunus to most of us being LASU’s pioneer president of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria, MSSN. He bagged a degree in Physics. Brother Yunus received the warmest tolerance and indulgence from my ever warm and urbane uncle. He finished his degree programme promptly, his NYSC too but it was unmistakable that his choice was the “road not taken” by the rest, even if unclear.
Highly cosmopolitan, Yunus took optimal advantage of his exposure through people like Prof Bello, already a global player before he returned home from Canada where he did his PhD after bagging a First Class degree from the University of Medina. Prof Bello combined his teaching position at LASU with being the Africa Representative of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, WAMY, headquartered in Riyadh. Not a few of contemporary muslim leaders in Nigeria today at both subnational and national levels milled around Iysa Ade Bello for mentorship, uncommon inspiration and all as the retired celebrated Sharia university scholar is better known.
Brother Yunus worked briefly as the Admin Secretary of National Council of Muslim Youths, NACOMYO housed by the Iysa Bello-led WAMY. But it only turned out that Yunus used the period to shape up his life of independent living. He soon got married to the love of his life, Modinat. Yunus’ courtship with Modinat earned some of us additional friends including Khalifah Monsur Oloungbebe, Kamal Sanusi, Mutiu Adekola, Sherifat Faleti, the wife’s most intimate friend as well as late Prof Abdul Lateef Adetona.
Such is the intensity of my relationship with our today’s Dr Akintunde that, together, with another mutual friend, Dr Lukman Adam, currently a KWASU Economics don, we had floated a business entity called AKKAD Associates. It is probably time to revive the partnership again now that each of us has had extensive foray in different directions including the public and organized private sectors as well as the civil society locally and internationally. Alhamdulilah for our shared paths and dreams.
Dr Yunus Abiodun is genuinely a jolly good fellow. Sixty hearty cheers and congratulations sir.
Tunde Akanni, PhD is an Associate Professor of Journalism at the Lagos State University. Follow him on Twitter: @AkintundeAkanni