by Femi Ojo
As Otunba Adebayo Alao- Akala, the former state Governor of Oyo State turns 70 on June today, 2020, I read on various media channels how prominent Nigerians, majority of whom are politicians across party divides including his hitherto political foes; have been pouring encomiums on the Ogbomoso born quintessential politician. In those approbations, I see a common vein that runs across their messages on a consummate political persona called “oyato”.
The man popularly called Akala is of a truth an archetypal in grassroots politics in Oyo State and his dramatic entry into politics first at Ogbomoso North Local Government in 1998, to being the Deputy Governor to his former boss, Chief Rasheed Adewolu Ladoja, another grassroots mobilizer in 2003 to 2007 and of course his ascension as the executive Governor of Oyo State in 2007 – 2011 and his many failed attempts at various times to stage a comeback as Pacesetter number 1 and his serial political philandering with various political parties, all these are reasons why he is politically inventive !
Akala was born on 3rd June 1950, in the ancient city of Ogbomoso where he had his elementary education at the then Osupa Baptist Day School. In search of more knowledge, the man would later proceed to Kamina Barracks Middle School, 5th Battalion of Infantry Tamale, Ghana. At the young age of 24 in 1974, Otunba Alao Akala, joined the Nigeria Police Force as a Cadet Inspector. From that moment till 1995, Akala rose through the ranks, from an ordinary Cadet Inspector to various positions in the Nigerian Police Force and his hard work, tenacity, dedication, loyalty and commitment made him to be appointed to various roles and given many leadership responsibilities at various times while serving the nation. A sound officer he was and this also made the Force to send him to various trainings both locally and internationally including attending trainings at the Metropolitan Police Training School, Peel Centre, Hendon, London.
Alao Akala as a gentleman officer, held several strategic positions at various times in the Force. At a time, he was Officer in Charge of Advanced Training Wing, Police College, Ikeja; Divisional Police Officer, Bode Thomas, Lagos; Divisional Police Officer, Iponri Police Station, Lagos; Railway Divisional Police Officer, Nigeria Railways, Ebutte Meta, Lagos; Area Commander, Western District, Nigeria Railway Police, Ibadan; CSP Admin. Gongola State Command, Yola; CSP Admin. Kwara State Command, Ilorin; Assistant Commissioner of Police, Agodi Area Command, Ibadan, Oyo State Police Command, Ibadan; until in September 1995, that retired from the Nigeria Police as Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Logistics and Supply, Oyo State Police Command, Eleyele, Ibadan.
Like a go-getting man that he is, shortly after his retirement from the Nigeria Police, Akala obeyed the clarion call of his people to serve them at grassroots level. The former police officer without blinking an eye, entered the murky water of politics, got enrolled as a member of a political party, got his party nomination as the contestant for the position of Ogbomoso North Local Government Council and won in 1997 with a landslide. He was subsequently re-elected in 1999 for same position for second term. It was from this little beginning that his name became a household name first from Ogbomoso town then to Oyo State politics. He was elected vice-chairman of Association of Local Government of Nigeria, ( ALGON), Oyo State Chapter between 1999 and 2002.
When in 2003, Akala was announced as the running mate of Chief Rasheed Ladoja on the platform of Peoples’ Democratic Party for the gubernatorial election in Oyo State, the then ruling party AD knew it would be a miracle for her to win a re-election. This is because at the time, Otunba Adebayo Alao Akala had overcome the defining anonymity in Pacesetter’s politics. He had become a political figure that only a naïve political party will brush-off! In 2003, Akala’s popularity had transcended his immediate political constituency in Ogbomoso, he had built bridges, connections and been able to prove his grassroots political weight across all the three senatorial districts of Oyo State and by then, the godfather of Oyo State politics had identified him as a saleable candidate that would give AD an unsalvageable political twinge. And that was exactly, what the candidacy of Akala did when he won the gubernatorial election in that year in a joint ticket with Chief Ladoja!
Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala’s tenure as the Deputy Governor to his former boss, Chief Rasheed Adewolu Ladoja though started on a good note but the events which would later unfold years later first, between the late godfather of Oyo State Politics, late Chief Adedibu and former Governor Ladoja became contentious and the event of January 16, 2006, some months to the expiration of the PDP’s tenure and the constitutional transition of Akala in a piqued manner till date remains highly polemical. That itself, is a story for another day!
The controversial electoral processes and the political outcomes that ushered in Akala in 2007 as the elected executive Governor of Oyo State arguably is the abiding legacies of Oyato’s tenure that he is remembered for today. Love Akala or hate him, his tenure as governor remains one of the most striking political periods in the contemporary politics of Oyo State. Between 2007 and 2011 when Otunba Alao- Akala held sway as the number one citizen of Oyo State, Pacesetter s witnessed tremendous infrastructural development across all the zones.
The legacies of rural roads that were constructed during his tenure are still there for anyone to see. The Urban Renewal and Development across the state during his tenure in terms of building of new hospitals, upgrade of the existing ones and structural renovations, reconstruction and expansion of road networks in Ibadan and its environment, the effective agricultural revolutions across the state and his administrations’ stand against the unscrupulous elements that constituted threats to security of lives and property in Oyo State are just some of the few achievement of his government.
Oyato Governor is a man whose personality combines tactfulness, brutality, meekness, firmness, boldness, large heartedness, compassion, kindness and openness which his media communications handlers never communicated strategically well to obliterate his misconcepted public image perception. His love for Oyo State and her citizens is second to none. Against all odds, as the Governor of Pacesetter state, more often than not, Oyo State came first in his developmental agenda, this he brutally demonstrated on the issue of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, a tertiary institution jointly owned by both Oyo and Osun States that up till date remains contentious. Akala on LAUTECH, did not hide his opinion to let Oyo State have the sole ownership and he sure walked where he put his mouth. On the issue of insecurity caused by the rival groups of the NURTW Oyo State Chapter, Alao Akala did not put up a cowardly show, he reeled out the state’ position and he boldly implemented laws that sent strong signals to those who were bent in making the state ungovernable.
Although heroes are no saints, Akala like every other human, goofed on some issues! On such issues were the perennial conflicting issues among the first class traditional rulers in Oyo State. He dabbled into it with good intention but not good counsel or maybe he did not have any or turned deaf ear to it. It was one of the issues that made his re-election a tall mission in 2011. He lost the support of his home Royal Father; the Ibadan Monarch hated him while Alaafin loathed him for his rebelliousness. It was the accumulation of the many political wars and some act of disloyalty by some of his former associates that gave him unfortunate electoral outcomes that exited him from the seat of power and which he tried to stage a comeback to no avail. The irony of Akala’s political career is that up to the his recent poor political outing and alignment with his former traducers, the broad majority of his followers still believe in his political worth. This is in spite of his serial political failures!
What Next Otunba Alao Adebayo Akala?
Like the saying goes “Old age adds to the respect due to virtue, but it takes nothing from the contempt inspired by vice; it whitens only the hair. Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been”. Otunba Alao Adebayo Akala, you have been a beneficiary of God’s amazing grace, from unknown political entity to a household name politician in Oyo State and beyond. Sure, this is the time to retire from active politics and enjoy a peaceful elderstateman retreat and take up advisory political role, mentor young ones and inspire hopes.
Dear Otunba Adebayo Alao –Akala, it is time to be a moral authority that transcends the ordinary politics that guide the worst conduct of political actor. Be that political figure that is currently lacking in Oyo State that array of people far and near will look up to, an honest broker in situations where others fail.
Finally, we know you still have the political energy and thick skin but choose to close the door to active politics and its hustles, open the door to the future, take a deep breath and get ready to reminiscence on the rare amazing grace of God over the years past and press a reset button and start enjoying your Septuagenarian chapter of your life!
Perhaps Akala’s heroism lies in his political achievements and large heart that makes him to be christened “ ATM Governor”. He will remain one of the few politicians in the class of former President Goodluck Jonathan that destiny and God’s amazing grace brought to power by fate in the contemporary politics of Nigeria.
Happy 70th Birthday Sir!
Femi Ojo is a Public Relations /Media Communications expert, public affairs analyst and a serial entrepreneur. And an indigene of Oyo State who currently resides in Lagos, Nigeria and can be reached via email@example.com.