By Olutayo Irantiola
“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”
― C.S. Lewis
Today, I stand to speak as a son of the gallant officer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, former Governor of Oyo State and Chief of many Yoruba communities. As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child”. I have been raised across different geographical regions and by various great persons; one of such is Otunba Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala.
I started out knowing him from a distance until I got closer to him about 11 years ago. Prior to then, he is one of the sons of the late Revd Baba John Adegoke Okesiji, JP. History has it that when the two of them were on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1994, that was when he shared his intention to go into politics amongst many others. By the time he was a serving Governor, Baba got the appellation, “Baba Gomina” in the Owode area of Oyo town.
Asides from this, he was the senior of my mum, Grace Modupe Adewunmi Irantiola (nee Okesiji) at Ogbomoso High School, Ogbomoso. He was her college brother and he ‘defended’ her throughout his stay in the school. So, it was not a hoax that he eventually became an officer.
On a sunny afternoon, my Mum and I went to meet him in his Governor’s Office, Secretariat, Agodi, Oyo State. I told him that I was waiting for his contribution to the biography that I have drafted. He told me that he would be writing the foreword to the book. I obliged! There was no greater honour than a sitting Governor endorsing your work.
Accessing him subsequently became a riddle, until Wale Alao, my great friend, gave me an inroad to the Government House where I met TJ Adepoju. The journey to Government House was usually a long scary one. I remember the nights when I would be running down the street upon leaving the Government House. It was there that I saw the full display of the DSS officers attached to the Governor and he was usually referred to as “Tiger.” I knew that it takes a strong man to be an elected officer in Nigeria. The duo helped me in getting the draft to the Governor and also getting the foreword to the book.
On two different occasions, the Governor sent TJ Adepoju to me. It is generally assumed that busy people do not remember things or fail at fulfilling their promises; Alao-Akala does not belong to that class. If he made a promise, he fulfilled it. This fact would resonate with all those who have a kith and kin relationship with him and he made an indelible mark on my heart.
Despite the paraphernalia of office, Alao-Akala is an accessible man within his people. His residence, Opadoyin Lodge, Randa, Ogbomoso, Oyo State and Bodija, Ibadan, is always filled to the brim while he was in office and even at retirement. People throng to him in search of help and he was willing to help within his capacity.
Alao-Akala is a loyal man. His loyalty and dedication to causes that he believed in cannot be faulted. You will know where he stands in every situation. He is a man filled with wisdom which he had garnered over the years from his job and mentorship by great men like the late Chief Sunday Adewusi, Inspector General of Police; his relationship with his Mum, Mama Opadoyin Akala; Grandma, Iya Alaro; the Baptist family, the Ghanaian community amongst others.
Alao-Akala is a man that keeps relationships across years. He still remains my Mum’s senior of repute. In another message to me, he said I should ensure that the bond with Wale Alao and TJ Adepoju is strong. Inversely, he has passed down the relationship beyond their generation to us.
Alao-Akala saw more than you can imagine! He saw through issues, situations and challenges. He knew when you were giving your best and he applauded such strides. Equally, He loved peace; he was a great mediator and arbitrator. In our last conversation in November 2021, he urged me to be at peace with all men.
He is a man filled with innate wisdom and knowledge of the Yoruba worldwide. During the launch of the biography that I authored, he made reference to “IWA” which is Character. To him, character is what will sustain one beyond office; character is very pivotal to success in life and character will preserve legacies.
He was a man and definitely, he had many shades to everyone! In all, Alao-Akala was a great man.
The Great Tiger of Ogbomoso land is gone to rest with his maker; may Ogbomoso be comforted with the demise of another Great Son!
Adieu, Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala, Eni rere moba rode!
Olutayo Irantiola, PR Consultant, Lagos, Nigeria. He blogs on www.peodavies.com