ALAO-AKALA @ 60, I HAVE NOTHING TO HIDE
'Morning shows the day,' is an old, popular adage. Nothing, perhaps, is more apt to describe the life of Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala of Oyo State, who today celebrates his 60th anniversary birthday.
Those close to him describe him as a selfless, faithful, kind-hearted and accommodating leader, who would rather go hungry than see another famished.
To those who shared childhood years with the governor, this is not at all surprising. Messrs Ezekiel Akintunde Olaniyi and Oladejo Akani, are two of such persons who gave insight into this in his Ogbomoso native home last week.
Olaniyi, now a director at the State Primary Teaching Service Commission, Ogbomoso, was admitted into Osupa Baptist Day (Primary} School, Ogbomoso on the same day with Akala in 1958:
'My family was living in Ife , before my father brought me to Ogbomoso in 1958. I was playing with my sister in front of our house when some teachers came to pick me up and took me to school along with some playmates that we used to move around Osupa area of the town.'
Within this group was Bayo Alao (the governor) and Taiwo Emmanuel Adebayo, the current Registrar of the Oyo State College of Agriculture, Igboora. To the young folks, school was only another playground, where they played the local Ikoto and Ido games as well as soccer.
The old teacher told Daily Sun: 'I remember we used to go and buy food from one woman called Mama Kola, who sold porridge. She is the mother of the governor's Chief Security Officer (CSO), Mr. Kola Oyadiran, the same Kola we're talking about. A sizeable bowl of the porridge cost less than a quarter of a penny then.
'One interesting thing, I noted was that we used to beg for a ration from one another, and the person giving you would give you only a pinch. But, instead of giving you a pinch, Bayo would offer his plate and say 'take what you want from it.''
Olaniyi described Akala as 'a likeable character and highly cosmopolitan. Right from our youth, he has loved people and always wanted to be in the midst of people. Anything he had then, he shared. He never wanted people to suffer and he still has the trait.'
There was a separation of few years when Akala, who lost his father relocated to Ghana in 1963. They came together again in 1969 when Akala returned to continue his secondary education in Nigeria. It was disrupted by the mass expulsion of Nigerians by Ghanaian authorities at the turn of the decade.
Olaniyi was then a student of the Ogbomoso High School, where Akala finished schooling in 1972 and where he demonstrated leadership traits and distinguished himself as a strict disciplinarian as Labour Prefect. Olaniyi continued: 'Some nick-named him 'Labour for Brutality,' because he took his job as Labour Prefect very seriously. Friends or no friends, he didn't want to know when taking you to cut the grasses. After the work had been done, you became friends again.'
He explained that Akala's kind heartedness and generosity was based on his experience of deprivation early in life: 'You know, when we finished primary education, he was asked to go and learn a trade by some of his uncles. But, he refused and went instead to go and teach in a village. We call such teachers TO or Teacher Oko (village teacher). And when he joined the police he had to see himself through.
'Despite this, he is very helpful to people. He makes himself available to people. As governor, he has been helpful to most childhood mates. Even children of uncles and relatives who had not helped him in his hour of need, or who had thought he could not be somebody in life have all benefited from him.
'His large-heartedness is not restricted to Ogbomoso. He does same for people from Oyo, Ibadan, Oke-Ogun, even people from outside the state. For instance, I am aware that as a Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in Ilorin, Kwara State, he was helpful to many people within and outside the police. His fellow officers and the rank and file simply adored him for his ready assistance any time.
'There was a time I was teaching at Otu in Oke Ogun area and he was in Ibadan as DPO. Whenever I visited him, he would after entertaining me, still give me N500, which was a lot of money then. If Bayo promises you something, he'll never fail. You don't even need to pressurize him.' So, how does he react to the view that the governor has not done enough for the state?
'Everybody is entitled to his opinion. Our degree of objectivity will differ. I have travelled widely across the state and seen the number of roads he's able to build, even in remote places like Otu-Igbojaye, where the people never thought they'd ever get a road. The same thing in Eruwa, Ido, Saki-Okaka and so on.
'I am in the education sector, and I know the relief parents feel that the state government has taken the burden of paying WASCE fees of their children off them.
'Talk about the Teaching Hospital and College of Medicine being built at Ogbomoso. This is going to bring quality health care within easy reach of poor people. Talk about the College of Agriculture at Igbo-Ora where they now practice post harvest utilization of farm produce, producing fruit juices and the likes and using modern methods of farming. Imagine what this will translate to in terms of agricultural development and food production and security in the state in a matter of years.'
Olaniyi also cited the operation of Ajilete FM, an arm of the state broadcasting station in Ogbomoso, as part of the Akala administration taking development to the doorsteps of the people of the state. To Dr. Oladejo Akani, an Ogbomoso-based entrepreneur, Akala is an elder brother: 'I really can't comment on him, because the Yoruba customs forbid the junior one from talking about his elders. But, we were together before and after he returned from Ghana. All I can say is that he is a very nice person. If he sees you in problem, he prefers to bear that problem. He is very faithful and accommodating'.
Akani says the 'Owanbe' image of the governor as a socialite is due to his love for people and the political imperative to connect with the grassroots: 'He is a grassroots politician and it is only by associating with the people that he can appreciate their problems.'
The secretary of the Ogbomoso Recreation Club of which the governor is president boasts that Akala will break the jinx of failure by past governors of the state to rule it for second term, because of his 'monumental achievements in infrastructural provision and overall development of the state.'