Alao-Akala’s birthday is June 3: Top 12 reasons he’s idolized
Things he did and what he was, that made him to be so much loved and considered great.
Chief (Dr) Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala receded January 12, 2022, at the age of 71 years 7 months, into the pantheons of the gods. He was idolized by many people no doubt about that. He was not born great but had greatness thrust upon him and by sheer doggedness achieved greatness. He might not be a global icon but within his sphere he attained a position of eminence that will make his name preserved in history.
Adewuyi Adegbite, a historian and author, corroborated this when he submitted, “He (Akala) might not be a great man in the context world’s great men but in his locality or in the context of his environment, he can be described as such.”
Dr. Tayo Adeyemi Adiatu, chairman of Tulcan Energy, also noted, “In the period Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala held sway, Ogbomoso had one of its peak periods. He was Ogbomoso. He loved the city, loved her people. And he made them both better and greater.
“But this special love was borderless, he loved people everywhere, many drank from his milk of human kindness. All this makes his name ever preserved in history.”
Ogbomoso, Oyo state of Nigeria, where the iconic figure fondly called “Akala,” hailed from is noted for its great men in all generations, and it’s the reason it earned the cognomen, “The land of the Valiant.” In recent memory, such men as Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola (late Premier of defunct Western Region and Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, died 1966), Col. Shittu Alao (second indigenous Nigerian head of the Nigerian Air Force, died 1967), Brigadier Benjamin ‘Maja’ Adekunle (who attained great fame in the Nigerian Civil War of 1967 – 1970, died 2014), Chief Sunday Adewusi (the Super Cop who became Inspector General of Police 1981 – 1983, died 2016), Chief Ladiji Abidemi Gbadamosi (a wealthy industrialist involved in many silent eleemosynary activities, died 2016), Gen Oladayo Popoola (held offices as Military Governor in two states and was member of the Provisional Ruling Council), Chief Adebayo Amao Alata (the industrialist who thrust the name of Ogbomoso into the world industrial map, died 1994), His Imperial Majesty Oba Oladunni Oyewumi Ajagungbade III (the Soun who took Ogbomoso crown to its highest pitch, died 2021) and so on, all helped to sustain and deepen this descriptive tag. Akala fits in eminently in this illustrious category and he was arguably the last of them – “the Last Don,” some others are though coming up, climbing the ladder of greatness, where they will be described in that breath. Akala and these men, who ruled in their individual era, by their achievements, gave their hometown greater visibility.
So, Akala, what are the things he did that qualified him for a place in the pantheon of these gallant men! This is to commemorate him on the anniversary of his 73rd (posthumous) birthday.
In this wise, Adewuyi Adegbite, who described himself as “an associate, beneficiary and a very younger brother” of Akala, similarly dissecting his persona and the reasons he was so much idolized asserted, “He was loved for many reasons. 1. He was free minded 2. He had no mind for malice 3. He was a free giver 4. He kept to agreement 5. He was charismatic 6. He was a home boy. 6. He was humble.”
But he also observed, “Though, as a mortal, he had his own shortcomings which are legendary but his virtues covered all.”
Now, The Insight looks at 12 of these reasons in a broader view.
1. He rose to prominence against overwhelming odds – An epic grass to grace story
He lost his father at the age of two and in the face of the circumstance of his young mother remarrying, he was left in the care of her maternal grandmother who sold indigo (local dye called aro). Poverty dealt him in, unable to pay his fees after primary school he ran to Ghana, where he made a little headway before coming back to Ogbomoso, where he shook off the encumbrances of birth to begin his rise to stardom by finishing secondary school, working briefly as a teacher and then joining the Nigerian Police, where he rose to the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police. The high point of his police years was serving as ADC to Chief Sunday Adewusi when that one was Inspector General of Police. He later pulled out voluntarily to make foray into politics where he attained great heights. Only few people had/have such inspiring life trajectory – from grass to grace.
2. His simplicity, humility and geniality
Akala possessed an amiable personality that stemmed from his simplicity and humility. He evinced quantum of magnetic trait that made him exceedingly fascinating. He was a quintessential good man. He never ignored or underrated anyone, never evincing aura of superiority, never a snobbish, accommodating, affable; he possessed such attributes that make someone a man of the people. It was the open sesame to the overwhelming love he enjoyed among the people. This disposition no doubt played a vital role in Akala’s rise to the top. It endeared him to those who changed the narrative of his life at critical times.
3. Defeated the Ibadans
Oyo state politics is dominated by the Ibadans. This domination started during the 2nd Republic sequel to a derisive comment by the then governor of the old Oyo state, Bola Ige, that the Ibadans were non-starters in politics. This was a battle cry and ever since, the Ibadans have seized the reins of politics in the state (employing their humongous population) and have been producing all democratically elected governors. But Akala emerged in 2006 though with the assistance of another Ibadan political warlord, Chief Lamidi Ariyibi Adedibu, to conquer Ibadan by emerging governor, not once but twice – 2006 and 2007 – running the show till 2011, when he fell but gallantly, from power. “The Scourge of Ibadan,” until his death, challenged their power consistently at the polls; no one ever gave them such trouble, and so, they must have heaved a sigh of relief at his death having been rid of their pain. That no non-Ibadan indigene is in the race for the 2023 governorship election affirmed his uncommon bravery. He advocated power rotation among constituent parts in the state.
4. Fulfilled Akintola’s ‘prophecy’
By his rise to the governorship position he fulfilled a prophecy of the legendry Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, who died on January 15, 1966, at the age of 56. Akintola is said to have predicted that not until forty years after his passage would the city produce another top politician in his mould, who would sit astride government as chief executive officer. Akala broke the ice when he was sworn-in as Executive Governor of Oyo state on January 12, 2006, incidentally at the age of 56, the age Akintola died! In the intervening years no politician of Ogbomoso stock achieved phenomenal status. Akala had begun from a failed chairmanship attempt due to malicious disqualification, but had gone ahead to win the same position against all odds, via an unpopular political party two years later. He faced opposition especially in his second term bid; students, youths, powerful political leaders in all political parties rose against him, but relentlessly and courageously he plodded on until his pluck and doggedness brought him to the leading political figure of the day in Oyo state, Chief Lamidi Ariyibi Adedibu, the famed Garrison Commander, mentioned above. Adedibu changed the game at this point and his life approached a turning point. He had gone cap in hand soliciting for second term on the ticket of the more popular Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) controlling national government, but Adedibu, leader of PDP in the state, saw in him potentials and greatness and so offered him the deputy governorship ticket of the party. He subsequently was elevated to position of deputy governor after securing victory along with Senator Rasheed Ladoja. His brilliance, political mastery and stroke of luck pushed him higher. He successfully navigated and avoided many shenanigans and pitfalls and survived many “nights of the daggers.” At the very dawn of January 12, 2006, his boss Ladoja fell and he rose to become the state’s helmsman in his stead though the Supreme Court removed him eleven months later, on December 16, declaring Ladoja’s impeachment “illegal.” He reverted to deputy governorship position but that never dampened his morale or spirit. Having secured the PDP governorship ticket for the 2007 general elections, he plunged into the fray determined to have his own mandate, the full arsenal of Ibadan was unleashed against him but Adedibu and President Olusegun Obasanjo stood by him and victory swung in his favour. He had fulfilled Akintola’s prognostication forty years after!
5. Demystification of governorship position
It is one thing to get elevated; it’s another to excel in that new realm. Akala accomplished great things as governor. He practically demystified the position. The high office did not swell his head. He maintained and retained his humanity and humaneness. He related well with everyone without airs; he sought out old colleagues and mates. Every weekend except it was unavoidable he returned to Ogbomoso to receive his people. All this no doubt constituted a vital rung in the ladder to his immortal status. He availed himself well during which period and beyond the “Akala phenomenon” evolved. He gained popularity that surpassed his predecessors’ and contemporaries’. The “Oyato Governor” sobriquet gained wide fame. One thing is obvious; bravery was a mark of his reign. Amidst a plethora of opposition especially that he is a non-Ibadan indigene he triumphed. By 2011 he was at the height of his power and popularity. This never waned till his transition.
6. Remarkable achievements
As governor, Akala bequeathed a remarkable, enviable record. His strides touched every part of the state. He unfurled the floodgates of achievements to all corners unlike previous experience. To his eternal credit, infrastructures, particularly roads and health facilities, were provided in far flung areas. The College of Agriculture and Technology he established in Igbo-Ora, the LAUTECH Teaching Hospital/College of Health Sciences in Ogbomoso and the replication of BCOS stations across the state and so on will remain some of the important signposts of his tenure. The LAUTECH Teaching Hospital Ogbomoso and College of Health Sciences in terms of magnificence and state-of-the-art equipment installed, and number of workers absorbed particularly endeared him immensely to the people and indeed this was a major game changer in his acceptability as it yanked open the street to the people’s hearts. Even his virulent opponents at the time of construction were in awe of the magnitude of the structures.
7. His benevolence
There is a saying that the smart will always defeat the strong but the benevolent will always defeat the smart. Akala’s benevolence knew no bounds, and was another contributor to his legends. Many drank from his bowls of human kindness; moreover, he did not use position to dwarf but to build others. Many, irrespective of colour, race, origin, academic status, religion and so on had their dreams fulfilled through him. Many were beneficiaries of his large heart. He built several people who are making waves today in different fields of human endeavours. Unarguably, there are only very few active and leading politicians in Ogbomoso today that did not pass through his tutelage.
Recalling some of his acts of benevolence, a clergyman, Reverend Niyi Adebayo, founder and senior pastor of True Worshippers Church, in response to a question by The Insight – ‘Why Akala was loved by the people!’ had recounted an experience he personally witnessed, “One of the core attributes of a great man is accessibility. Otunba Alao-Akala was rich and reachable. He was such a listening person; generous with his wealth, time and attention. He loved the downtrodden so passionately. He wasn’t solving every problem but he did his best for people to the best of his ability.”
Continuing Adebayo, who is facilitator and coordinator of the annual Akala Christmas Carol, added: “One of those nights he used to sit in front of his apartment at his Randa home, several people were waiting to see him as usual. That night, he called out some whose faces he said he had not been seeing around him.
“The first one was a young girl who got admission to a particular university but couldn’t raise fund for her tuition. He asked for her admission details and the girl gave him everything. His Excellency called a man whom he knew in that university to confirm if they had a course the girl was admitted to study. When he had satisfied his curiosity, he accepted to fund the girl’s education for the years she would spend in school, and before my face, His Excellency handed her over to someone through whom the girl would be collecting the money annually. The lady burst into tears of joy and left!
“Next was the turn of a physically challenged man who came to ask Oga for money to feed himself. His Excellency gave him money enough to start a business that his disability can accommodate. He lectured the man on some works he can do without begging around. He warned him that if he sees him somewhere begging for alms, he won’t allow him come near his house again. That one left.
“The third one was a lady who said she had tried to reconcile her parents who broke apart 25 years ago but nobody had been able to bring them together. The lady spoke in tears and concluded that she believed that Gov Alao-Akala could intervene. Oga asked for details of her family house and the matters that caused the disputes. You know he was a grassroots man. There was hardly any compound you mentioned in Ogbomoso where the Great Tiger won’t know one or two faces. He said Pastor, this is your work o. First, pray over this matter and help me encourage this girl. He then told the sister to call her mother. The woman came after about one hour and Oga scolded her seriously. After that, he put the sister and her mother in the car and we went to see the father. The sister and her mother were the first to step down the car. The moment the man saw them both, he went wild and told the sister to tell her mother to go away before he would do something silly. The man was shouting and fuming. At that point, Oga stepped down and begged the man profusely. The man cried for a while and said he agreed to reconciliation. That was how God used him to end a 25 years of separation. Expectedly, he gave the man a good sum of money because of the condition he met him. Those things happened after he had left the office as a governor.
“Gov Alao-Akala was a listening person. He had a first-class respect for men of God, especially if you are the type who preaches the truth. One year, we invited a minister to preach at the Christmas Carol annually hosted by Late Gov Alao-Akala. The preacher started to sing Alao-Akala’s praises. Immediately after his sermon, Oga whispered to me and said “we won’t invite people like this again. We need people who will preach raw truth.
“He will be remembered for so many laudable things.”
8. Passionate about his town and people
Akala loved his Ogbomoso passionately and by extension its people. He often said that since his youth he never celebrated Christmas outside the city, on which day he threw a party for all to wine and dine with him. Years later, he floated an annual Christmas Carol that people have now marked permanently in their calendar. He spent his weekends in Ogbomoso when he was governor and after, never retreating to more posh cities. He was visible, he never hid from the people, accommodating, accessible, picked calls even of numbers not registered in his phones, of unknown persons, mingled well with the people even as governor; he was acutely overwhelmed with love for his place of birth and people reciprocated this love, and this inevitably pushed him up the ladder of greatness.
9. Knack for winning – a master strategist
Winners always attain renown; Akala’s celebrated persona also stemmed largely from his many victories especially in politics. He attained his greatest victory in 2007 when he won the guber election, though he failed in subsequent ones for the same office but he dominated politics within Ogbomoso enclave and in some other important places.
10. Traditional titles held
He held many important traditional titles across Yorubaland such as Bobagunwa of Ogbomosoland, Otun of the Source, Bobajiro of Owu, Otun of Akinmorin, Atunluse of Akure, Akogun Ilua and so on.
11. He gave the world his memoir
If this is all he did his name will be immortalized. Only few renowned people took time to write their memoirs for many reasons but Akala made great effort and sacrifice to write his autobiography (Amazing Grace), which was launched in November 2020. This buoyed his immortality rating in accordance with the postulation of Alexandre Dumas in his historical novel – The Black Tulip – when he made one of the characters, Cornelius, bemoan, “And so it all ends. I cannot give my name to a child or a flower or a book – the three things by which a man may be remembered.”
12. The heavens blazed forth his death
William Shakespeare noted in his historical play, Julius Caesar, “When beggars die, there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.” The death of Akala was a perfect reflection of this eternal quote by the English writer. The number of people who grieved, the number of great men who paid condolence visits, the scale of his burial programme and monuments bearing his name including biographies, movies, statues all attested to his status as a “Prince.”