A former governor of Oyo State and a retired senior police officer, Christopher Adebayo Alao Akala will be 70 years of age on June 3, 2020. The Ogbomoso born politician was born on June 3, 1950. One spectacular feature of the life of Alao Akala is that he is a product of grace. In other words, we can rightly say that his life is propelled by destiny. Yoruba believe in destiny and that it cannot be changed.
However, according to Christian belief, grace supersedes destiny. From both ends, Akala’s destiny is upheld by grace. Reflecting on his early life, he was born in 1950, barely two years old, he lost his father in a ghastly motor accident at Iroko via Ibadan on his way to Ogbomoso in 1952 from the then Gold Coast now Ghana where he domiciled on a pan-Ogbomoso mission. He became an orphan at two and had to be taken care of by his grandmother, his mother having remarried few years later because of her relatively young age.
Despite this unpalatable circumstance early in life, he, in the course of development as a child, young adult and adult, was always at the right place at the right time. Combination of destiny and grace raised destiny helpers for him. Iya Subuola Otunla, his grandmother, his uncle, Mr. Dupe Otunla, Chief Sunday Adewusi; former Inspector General of Police and duo of Chief Lamidi Ariyibi Adedibu; a political icon and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo; a former president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria were his destiny helpers as a child, student, police officer and politician.
His meteoric rise and rare grace he enjoyed as a police officer and especially in politics where within the spate of ten years rose to become chairman, deputy governor and governor had a hand of God in it. Unknown to many, fierce opposition was mounted against him in the course of becoming a chairman as he was disqualified in1997 by the Abacha Junta but to reemerge in 1999. As a deputy governorship candidate, he was rejected by Senator Ladoja but for the principled stand of Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu and all were witnesses to the ‘war’ which his emergence as a governor was and needs not be recounted here.
According to the departed Nigerian president, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe in his autobiography, Oddesey’, “man come into this world and while he lives, he embarked on a series of activities absorbing experience which enabled him to formulate a philosophy of life and to chart his cause of actions”. The above postulation of the great Zik, arguably apply to Alao Akala. This is because his experience in life as regards his orphanage, unpleasant upbringing and the assistance from the right people in the course of his sojourn shaped his character as adult and formed the basis of his kindness and generosity, ability to forgive and forget, populism and welfarism as his philosophies in government, firstly as a local government chairman, deputy governor and governor.
Alao Akala being guided by his welfarism and populism philosophies while in government ran an open door policies in Oyo and place resources at the disposal of various arms of government including politicians and the consequent were sobriquets like Oyato, o meto, ATM, etc. As a matter of fact, it was Alao Akala who opened the eyes of the people to the fact that resources of the State were meant to better the lots of the people and not the preserve of the leaders as was the case before him. Besides, it was Alao Akala as a governor who exposed the antics of the Ibadan political elite who appropriated the resources of the State to satisfy the insatiable appetite of the elite at the detriment of the ordinary citizens and the city itself.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo as the premier of the Old Western Region sets the pace in Nigeria and indeed African in modernization. Fortunately, Ibadan was the centre of the pace setting efforts of the era and the relics of the great transformation were there to behold. Ironically and despite the domination of political power in Oyo State, post 1991, the pace setting efforts have been jeopardized because the city has not fared better under her hegemonist elite. Two prominent people, one an indigene and the other non-indigene bemoaned the fate of Ibadan and this happened before Akala assumed office in 2007. Chief Afe Babalola, who had spent his adult life in Ibadan bemoaned the turn of events in Ibadan despite the domination of power by her sons at Ibadan Week 2006. Also, Chief Omololu Olunloyo, a former governor of the State during the 48th birthday celebration of Eruwa born banker and financial guru, Dr. Adebayo Adewusi called on Ibadan politicians to allow competent politicians from other towns in the State to govern and that the State should drop mediocrity for merit.
What was the state of Ibadan that Akala met as a governor in 2006/2007. Ibadan witnessed era of brigandage courtesy of the factions of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) orchestrated by political elite in order to seize political power in the State. Innocent lives were lost while properties worth millions of Naira were destroyed. Major infrastructures in Ibadan were in a State of decay. These included historical Mapo Hall and Adeoyo Hospital, Olubadan Palace, State High Court among others. Even, the State Secretariat and the Government House were in a state of derelict.
In addition, Ibadan was a hill of refuse, water pipes were dried, and only few roads were dualized while majority were unmotorable. It is on record that before he left office, Akala shamed Ibadan elites by giving all these dilapidated infrastructures face lift to the joy of the citizen and chagrin of the elite. For this, he became a nettle on their side for which they never forgive him for all his efforts to return as governor were jeopardized.
In addition to leading Ibadan out of its decay, it was Alao Akala government that saved, for the first time, twenty two local governments outside Ibadan from being hewers of woods and drainer of water in their own State!
This is because he was the only governor who was fair to all sections of the State in terms of appointment into key position in government, its agencies and boards of parastatals, he distributed them evenly so that all sections had a sense of belonging. For example, his deputy was an Ibadan man, SSG was from Oyo including the Speaker, and Deputy Speaker came from Ibarapa while the Majority Leader came from Oke Ogun. The Head of Service was from Ibadan including the Chief Judge of the State. In terms of distribution of developmental projects, Ibadan being the capital city had the lion share but not to the detriment of other zones.
In terms of road construction, Oke ogun being the largest part in terms of landmass had the fair share while other zones were not denied their share. In addition, local government councils during the time of Akala were more or less independent and enjoyed financial autonomy. Election was conducted, though not free and fair as should be expected but other parties won some local government chairmen and councillorship. Chairmen were given free hands to develop their areas with less interference from the State governor.
Akala actually set the pace for his successors in all sectors of the State but the hegemonists have deviated but most of their interventions were cosmetics save the controversial Mokola Bridge and Technical University which was founded on deceit. Nothing new has been added to Ibadan of Akala years. Circular road, Circular Hotel, Dry Port, etc remain a pipe dream.
There is no doubt that the gains of Akala years in Oyo State mostly even distribution of appointments and developmental projects have been destroyed by his predecessors who have been pursuing hegemonists agenda at the detriment of the development of the State.
My position as I end this piece is that as long as Ibadan hegemonists continued to rule which is most likely due to its voters population which is about half of the State and lack of cohesion among the political elites from other geo-political zones, Oyo State including Ibadan may not attain its height developmentally. Consequently, it behooves political elite and leaders of thought in other areas to put their heads together and give Ibadan hegemonists a run for their money in 2023 and Akala is positioned to serve as a rallying point for this noble cause.