At first I thought I heard him say Kunta Kinte. I strained my ears to be sure I heard him correctly. When I heard him say Akaunta Biliti once more, I knew this was not Kunta Kinte.
Legend has it that the fellow used to live within the precincts of the former cabinet office, near the now famous Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos. He attended every Council meeting, and made sure no government ministry in General Yakubu Gowon’s era spent a penny or kobo outside the budget without the approval of the Governing Council. Below is a sneak peek at some of the decisions influenced by Akaunta Biliti in those days:
Professor Taslim Elias, the attorney general of the federation and federal commissioner for justice, had to obtain the approval of Council at its meeting of 3rd July, 1968 for the ministry of finance to release the sum of £291, to enable one of the law officers in the ministry to attend a United Nations seminar taking place in Geneva from 8-26 July, 1968.
Chief Femi Okunnu, the federal commissioner for works and housing, requested the approval of Council at its meeting of 22nd July, 1970, for the sum of £940, for two officials of the ministry to attend the 5th Highway Conference in Montreal, Canada from 4-10th October, 1970.
Dr R.A. B Dikko, the first medical doctor of northern origin and federal commissioner for mines and power, had to obtain the approval of £1,859 from the Council at its meeting of 2nd February, 1971, to cover the cost of sending three delegates from his ministry to the 8th World Petroleum Congress in Moscow between 13-26 June, 1971.
Akaunta Biliti ensured there was strict adherence to financial prudence and transparency until his opponents, having built a groundswell of opposition over the years, forced him to fly out of the window when he could no longer stand the heat inside the Cabinet office. The argument still persists as to whether he has since returned or not.