My True Life 'Romance' With His Excellency, Otunba Alao - Akala - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE



Thursday, January 13, 2022

My True Life 'Romance' With His Excellency, Otunba Alao - Akala

---How he hosted me in Oyo State Governor's Office, Government House.

....Why he called me 'Kola Third Eye' and what he told me at his mother's grave.

                            •Alao - Akala

The Daily Crucible | Thursday, January 13, 2022

By Kolawole Adepoju

Mr.Adeola Oloko, the Personal Assistant/Director, Public Affairs of His Imperial Majesty, the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji who just joined his ancestors was Third Eye Newspapers(now rested) Editor of the Grassroot Page in the late 90's; while under his Editorship I was assigned the coverage of Oyo,Ogbomosho and Oke-Ogun axis.

That was when I birthed my first encounter with the then Chief.Adebayo Alao Akala,a chairmanship aspirant to one of the local government areas in the ancient but sprawling city of Ogbomosho,who died graciously today having carved  an enviable historical niche ultimately as former Governor of Oyo State.

During that political days of yore,Chief Remi Odetomi ,a man popularly called ',Omi Yaa'  and another famous politician with the appelation of 'Omo Jesu' were top contenders for the chairmanship of other Council areas in Ogbomosho.Others were pretenders,they were of  lightweight category and as such,were drowning in the political water of relegation into the abyss of history.

As directed by Mr Oloko, with the support of the Political Editor,Mr.Idowu Samuel and his assistant,  Mr.Adewale Rasheed, as well as the News Editor, Mr.Paul Ogundipe of blessed memory, I was saddled with the responsibility of covering, in particular, the  electioneering campaign and the attendant local government elections in Ogbomosho, which was a political flashpoint that was spurred by unhealthy muscle flexing between rival parties and their die-hard kingpins.

Within a short spate of time,,Akala won my heart far ahead of other aspirants because of the sophistication of orderliness and decorum that permeated his public relations mien, and more importantly, the electoral support that heralded, greeted, characterised and intimidatingly trailed his electioneering campaign.

For one, there wasn't any polluted  air of pride and arrogance that is typical of contemporary egocentric politicians in this perversed clime around him.Akala was infectiously a good mixer such  that myself and  other journalists seconded to Ogbomosho from the print media were always in the Quest Space Wagon Bus which he provided like Press Crew bus to move us from one ward to another.

Little surprise that virtually  other aspirants who started their campaigns earlier than him didn't care a hoot.I recalled one telling us that 'are you guys not like foot soldiers who were trained to trek,you just covered five wards and you are panting heavily" but that is not Akala, who apart from providing vehicle to transport us, also equipped us  with cold water,thus showing concern for the fiercely heated sun that was scorching us.

While I was covering his campaign,it didn't occur to me  that Akala was noticing my usual decline of offer of what some journalists called  'keske'( brown envelope or honorarium) while others did,this is without any prejudice to them but a sacred statement of fact.

Eventually, Akala won the election twice as Chairman of Ogbomosho North Local Government( I stand to be corrected)but through out his tenure I deliberately kept a distance as much as he was asking for "the  Journalist that beleive in me and that I trusted" in apparent reference to me.

Chairman Akala didn't stop sending  my colleagues who came  across him to tell "Kola Third Eye" (reference to my person)to see him but I stood my ground until he became Oyo State Deputy Governor, and painfully I was reading in the print media of his  rift with his boss,the Governor who was also alleged of maltreating him.

I recalled vividly that on a particular Thursday I paid him a visit in his office.What I saw therein  was an eye sore such that I almost shed tears  because the ramshackle was a naked shadow of the good old days state of the art Oyo State Deputy Governor's Office.

 Mind you, I'm not insinuating that the  then Governor Rasheed Adewolu Ladoja,a political juggernut that I interviewed twice at his No 8(.....) private residence (when I was covering the private residence of the "Alaafin Molete himself,the late stormy petrel of Ibadan politics,the one that gave me the nick name, "Kekere Awo," Chief Lamidi Akanji Ariyibi Adedibu, the man Friday of  Aare Abdul-azeez Arisekola Alao, both of blessed memory) was responsible for the plight of his deputy however, It was at the peak of their frosty relationship that the Deputy Governor's office was a replica of a mangled abbatoir at the infamous "Gege Oloorun," meaning the ever stinking and offensive odour smelling Gege area in Ibadan.The poser is is Gege still it stinking old self? Should that be,then Governor Seyi Makinde should be called to order.

Having covered about five Governors of Ogun State(Col.Daniel Akintomide; Group Captain Sam Ewang;Navy Captain Kayode Olofin-moyin; Akinrogun Olusegun Osoba(the doyen of Nigerian Journalism) and my bestie, the first term of Otunba Justus Olugbenga Daniel a.k.a OGD Ogidi Omo) as a member of the Governor' Office Press Crew,and during which I enjoyed access to Oyo State Deputy Governor's Office who on three occasions represented the Governor of the State at the periodical but rotational O'odua States Governors Meeting,I knew the standard I saw that day was unbefitting and incomparable with what it used to be.

His Excellency, Otunba  Akala noticed my state of discomfort,his response swept me off my feet stating "Kola,don't be surprised by what you have seen here.We are here to serve,any other thing like the state of my office is secondary.His Excellency is my boss,I remained loyal to him and I'm sure that those fanning embers of discord will have a rethink when they see me and His Excellency bouncing back stronger."

Barely a year later, as fate would have it, Chief Christopher Adebayo Alao Akala became the Governor of Oyo State.To my uttermost surprise, I was told again that he was looking for me.

At the time,he was no longer using his contact that was on my phone but I recollect that I missed calls from a particular customized contact and whenever I returned the calls,it was always to no avail at the other end, unknown to me  that I was missing the call
of His Excellency  as I later suprisingly discovered,unfortunately his aides usually dropped without leaving any  text message.

Eventually, on a cool evening,the then President Olusegun Obasanjo who was on a presidential visit to Ogun State attended a programme held in his honour at the Hubert Ogunde Hall of June 12 Cultural Centre.

Then, i was Ogun State Bureau Chief of Champion Newspapers and I also doubled as Chairman,Correspondents'Chapel of Nigeria Union of Journalists(NUJ),Ogun State Council. It happened that I came late to the state function because of an exclusive interview with the popular and no nonsense Senator.Olufemi Okunrounmu.

I didn't know that Governor Alao Akala joined the amiable Governor Gbenga Daniel to receive the nation's helmsman.In the processs I some- how unknowingly ran into His Excellencies as they came out of the venue.

Lo and behold,Governor Adebayo Alao Akala sighted me and said 'Kola, I've been looking for you" and 'Ogidi Omo' as Governor Daniel till date is popularly referred to by his teeming admirers retorted, "Your Excellency so you know Kola Adepoju, the young man is doing great".Akala retorted, Kola is one Journalist who reposed unwavering confidence in me but he won't look for you" .

Immediately, Governor Akala handed me over to his Press Secretary or is it Press Officer,Mr.Ojo and his Chief Protocol Officer,one ebony black young woman who spotted low hair cut and who also gave me His Excellency customized complimentary card as directed, but that was after he mandated his aides that  they should allow me to see him the following  Thurday in his office.

This time around,I decided to keep the appointment with His Excellency but surprisingly another set of aides didn't even allow me to see those that he handed me over to during the meeting aforementioned.

The Almighty eventually ordered my step at the reception of the burial ceremony of the highly respected mother of Governor Daniel  in Shagamu. King Sunny Ade was on the band stand,the security around Akala (who initially I mistook as the popular Nollywood actor,Jide Kosoko  because of the semblance) was so tight that even if I recognized him(because it was getting dark) I won't be able to get near him.

However,to my amazement,the simplicity of His Excellency came to play again, Otunba Alao Akala broke protocols as I was passing by while he was devouring a bottle that look like star larger, he directed his security aides to give way and bring me to him.

And before His Excellency I came like the Biblical Queen Esther appeared before the King and found the favour that transmuted her divinely to Queen or is it Joseph and Daniel that became Prime Ministers.

 Akala was furious,twisting my ear lobes punitively and  saying in Yoruba, "Kola, alaigboran omo ni e,mo ni ki o ri mi,o ko oo ri mi' meaning Kola you are a stubborn child,I told you to see me but you refused.Again,he gave me  another appointment and this time around I was a special guest of His Excellency, first at Governor's office and  later I was joined and co- hosted by Aunty Kemi, the very simple and amiable First Lady of Oyo State at the Government House.

I've never been so honoured  in my life.It's not because I wined and dined with the first couple of Oyo State then,which for me remained an opportunity of a life time but what Governor Akala said about me and where he said it always moved me to tears anytime it dawned on me.

Let me give you the mental picture of how it played out:

His Excellency was already waiting for me(what a great honour).Immediately they told him of my arrival,I mean the Governor of Oyo State came down to receive this small,poor boy from IGANNA in Oke Ogun, Oyo North known as Kola Adepoju;that glory will forever be for the I AM THAT I AM,THE ONLY ONE THAT TOOK ME OUT OF THE MYRRH CLAY AND SET MY FEET ON HIGH( tears again like it came tumbling on my cheeks that day).

WHAT A PRIVILEGE! His Excellency held me firmly in his  right hand, he introduced me to his Press Secretary or Press Officer,Mr. Ojo and from there  he took me to the Press Gallery accompanied by many of his aides.

Among the Press Crew Corps that the Governor introduced me to that day was Tola Teriba who was the State House Correspondent  of Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State(BCOS) Ibadan and of course my immediate junior at Loyola College,Ibadan and immediate senior to our Baba,the ONIRISA himself,His Imperial Majesty,the Ooni of Ife,Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi(Ojaja 11).It's on record that we never met but we heard about our far seniors like Prof.Pat Utomi of the famous Lagos Bussiness School,Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Chairman Daar Communication (AIT Fame) and the baritone Mr.John Momoh, Chairman, Channels Television Station, among other bigwigs.

Myself and Tola also grew up at Odejayi Street, Agodi Gate where you have the popular Agodi Baptist Church and Loyola College,Ibadan,among others.

Governor Akala, still holding me tightly on his right hand made the most valuable recommendation I've ever received in my life; in apparent remembrance and reference to his chairmanship electioneering days when I declined honorarium from him as a journalist, ditto my small boy encouragement through calls and text messages during his rift with his boss, His Excellency declared to the Press Crew and his aides," Kola is  a symbol of ethical journalism, I have implicit confidence in him and he reposed so much confidence in me. I'm taking him to Government House right now to give him a befitting reception.This is my way of telling you that I value and appreciate integrity, irrespective of status.This is one honour that I'm not only giving to Kola but to all of you who are journalists"(Mind you I didn't quote him verbatim but I'm close to that).

Immediately, His Excellency left the Governor's Office, he directed that I should be driven in his spare car to Government House..

He took me straight to the banquet section of Government House( so to say) where Her Excellency,the First Lady welcomed me with "Kola,we are glad to see you again."

Come and see the table set before me,it was a reminder of the Biblical passage that "He set his table before me"  which is well captured in Yoruba language " O TE TABILI OUNJE SILE NI IWAJU MI" but this one is not in the presence of my enemies(KII SE LOJU AWON OTA MI) but rather in the presence of my lovers,friends,fath-
er and mother.

It was indeed a feast and hearty interaction with His Excellency for over two hours.It would have been more than that but for the fact that His Excellency wasn't comfortable with the fact that(mi o ki ng she igo) I don't take alcohol especially the Star brand which I saw him devoured in quick succession yet without any effect on him but which  rather sharpened his intelligence and composure.

It was a day that remained indelible in my memory because I smiled out of Government House(May be your guess is as good as mine sha).

For me,Otunba Christopher Adebayo Alao Akala is not dead just like he told me when I  visited him after his tenure of office  at his ogbomosho private residence at Taki.

He was glad to see me again.His Excellency honestly and painfully apologised for a political appointment he couldn't give me as promised but I took consolation in the fact that I smiled out of Government House that day with monumental honour and gestures.

His Excellency took me round his compound and on getting to his highly reverred mother's tomb in an exclusive and well adorned part of his residence,he told me I will ever remained grateful to God because it didnt occur to me that He wl make this Policeman a Governor.

It doent matter whether I'm reelected or not,I can't die because God has immortalized me historically and my legacies and the lives of the people I touched will outlived me and live on.

I am a living witness to the fact that Otunba Adebayo Alao Akala was a man who never forget any act of goodness done to him,a man who will never allow the spoil and power of exalted office to make him to look down on those who played one role or the other when he was down there or coming up.

A man who appreciated and rewarded loyalty with conviction that no amount of honour is too much for his loyalists.A Governor who unprecedentedly bettered the lots of Oke Ogun area and impacted extraordinarily on the growth and development of  Oyo State;

A man who excitedly refered to me as Kola Third Eye years after I left Third Eye(1998) with the likes of Messrs Dele Fanimo as State House Correspondent,Oga Yinka Omilani as Editor, Egbon Tommy Adegbite as Chief Photographer,Mr. Akin Salvage as  Deputy News Editor,Mr.Richard Adegbesan as Weekend Editor, Mr.Segun Olugbile as Sub-Editor,Segun Williams,Weekend Editor and my co young Reporter then,Sunday Fadipe,among several others.

Adieu my destiny helper, His Excellency,former Governor Adebayo Christopher Adebayo Alao Akala.You truly came,you saw and you conquered.Please don't forget your beloved wife,my own Aunty Kemi,the children and other relations and Kola Third Eye that you left behind.

Rest in peace omo ogbomosho,omo ogbomojugun.Suprisingly your death came few days after our Kabiyesi,the Soun of Ogbomosho,Oba Jimoh Oyewunmi Ajagungbade joined his ancestors.

Unknown to many,I've adopted Ogbomosho as my second home after IGANNA my ancestral home and I've and will always be nice to indegenes of Ogbomosho because of Otunba Adebayo Alao Akala goodness to me.

God sparing my life, I'm looking forward to pay His Excellency my last respect in Ogbomosho and his Bodija, Ibadan home. I can't wait to see California Hotel, areas like Taki, Rounder, Califo-
rnia, Baptist, LAUTECH and others.

Probably I will also see political gurus like Chief Remi Odetomi, the Koleosos, the Ayantayo Ayandeles, the Akintolas, the Onigbindes, the Onipedes, the Baptist family among others.

Kolawole Adepoju is Head, Directorate of Public Relations, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State.

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