former Governor Alao-Akala 'Anyone who says I bleach is stupid' -
A former governor of Oyo State, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala, in this interview withADEOLA BALOGUN and TUNDE ODESOLA clears the air on some contentious issues
How did you get enlisted into the Nigerian Police?
It wasn’t accidental that I became a policeman. It was a dream I nursed as a young lad. I had wanted to be enlisted in a profession where I would wear uniform. I would have loved to be in the military but unfortunately, the day I was to write a test for the police force was the very day the enlistment into the Army was done. I remember enlistment into the Army was fixed for The Polytechnic, Ibadan. I don’t know why those in charge did that. My number was WS44 in 1973. In the police, I would spend one year and become an officer. In the army short service, I would spend six months and I would become an officer. In the Army short service, there was a limit to where I could get to move but for full course, I would spend three years. I then decided to go for the police.
Why did you want to be a policeman?
I was a barrack boy. My uncle was in the West Africa Frontier; later he joined Ghanaian Army. He was caught up in Ghana Independence in 1957 while he was with the Frontier. They then asked them that anyone that was interested in joining the Ghanaian Army should indicate interest and he opted to stay in Ghana and he automatically became a member of the Ghanaian Army. I went to 3 Battalion Training School and I finished my Form 4 there. I knew how to take care of the khaki and I thus decided I wanted to join the force. So it wasn’t a mistake or accidental that I joined the police. When I joined the police, I discovered that I love the profession and I enjoyed it while it lasted.
To the man on the street, the police force is synonymous with corruption; was this so in your time?
It is unfortunate; what you are seeing in the police is a reflection of the society. It is what we have in the society that we are seeing in the police. So what is happening in the police is not peculiar to the police alone; it is in all spheres. If you say police force is corrupt, other forces are also corrupt because the people are recruited from the society. So, whatever you see now is the reflection of the society.
People are of the belief that no retired police officer can claim that he did not collect bribe while in service; did you collect bribe?
I am telling you now that I did not collect bribe. Do you know why I could not collect bribe? Firstly, I had the opportunity of working in the Administrative Department of the police for about 16 years. As a matter of fact, while I was at the headquarters for 16 years, I was being posted from one department to the other. I did not want to leave, I was pushed to the field and when I got to the field, I asked myself why should I be taking bribe? Let me tell you an experience; there was a relation of mine who had problems with the police and he didn’t want to tell me. The police asked him to go and bring N1, 000. He did not have N1, 000; he then went and sold some of his goods to be able to raise the money. While the fellow was looking for ways of raising the money, I was aware that he was raining curses on the police along the line which means that he might have even cursed the money he wanted to give as bribe. So the policemen unknowingly too would be mixing bad money with good money and spiritually, that has a long way to go in the life of a human being. As an officer, I would just do what I could for you. So, I just told myself that as God has placed me above you, why should I ask for anything from you? If I could help, I would and for God’s sake, an average Nigerian knows how to say thank you. If along the line, you say thank you and you give me something which I didn’t solicit, that is from you. But if you start negotiating bribe as I saw a cop (on the television) that was sacked recently, that is sad. An average Nigerian knows how to say thank you and if you help him, he would say thank you; why do you have to negotiate bribe where you can help? Where would you even discuss a bribe with me? As a matter of fact, if I knew that you had a bad case, I would deal with you. That is where I could be ruthless. And for God’s sake, I worked under somebody like (Inspector General) Sunday Adewusi for many years and I was with him until he retired. So, the way we were brought up, you couldn’t take bribe because we were arresting bribe takers. I was working with Chief Adewusi (at Alagbon) and in those days, the fear of Alagbon Close was the beginning of wisdom. When you hear of Alagbon Close, you will shiver. Then, we were not thinking of how to take bribe. And again when I got into the field, having dealt with a lot of people, I felt that people might want to deal with me too, so I had to be careful. Bribe was not that pronounced during my time.
Was that why you had to quit or you quit when you felt you had achieved satisfaction?
No, I did not quit. There was a time in the police, even among all the uniform forces, people were being branded NADECO. I was branded a NADECO officer and in any of the forces then, they could tell you to go anytime. So, some of us were being branded NADECO and that was the time a lot of people could not pretend not to be aware of the wrong being committed especially during the June 12, 1993 election. During the time, it was easy for your fellow officer to implicate you by branding you as a NADECO agent and that was how many of us were dealt with and were asked to retire.
Were you a NADECO member?
I was not but as a Yoruba person, I had my sympathy for MKO Abiola when his election was annulled.
But some people said you were dismissed from the police.
Dismissed? I was not dismissed from the police. Nothing like dismissal has ever come my way and I don’t know what they mean by that. You see, don’t rely on politicians and their political allegations; politicians would tell you things like that. If you go to the Pension Office now, they will tell you how much I am taking as pension. Again, nobody would be dismissed and still receive pension; the police would have cried out that I am a dismissed officer. Again, you don’t have to blame your misfortune on anybody. If you are retired as a uniform person, you are retired. After all, I was not dismissed; I was given my emolument. What is today’s date? At the end of the month, I will receive an alert from my bank signifying that my pension has been paid. I always cherish it when I receive the alert for my monthly pension. It is not up to my driver’s salary, but at least, I am very happy to receive it.
At what age did you leave the police?
I was about 45 years. I served for 23 years before I left.
What did you go into, personal business?
I floated a private investigative company where I had staff working for me. Let me just put it this way, I went into private business. I retired in 1995 and I went into business immediately and in 1996 when politics started I joined politics.
What brought about your popularity as an Ogbomoso homeboy?
I have always been a homeboy. I started schooling from primary one to primary six in Ogbomoso and when you schooled in that kind of environment, you would naturally come across many indigenes of the town as schoolmates. When you went to school at your home base, you would have a lot of friends. I had a lot of them and, also, the love for my town was also there. Since I came back from Ghana in 1970 up to the time I am speaking to you now, I have never spent a Christmas outside Ogbomoso. The only time I spent Christmas night out of Ogbomoso was in 1980 December when I had to rush to Kano during the Maitasine riots – on an official assignment. I actually celebrated Christmas in Ogbomoso but I had to leave later in the evening when I had to report in Kano same day for the Maitasine riots. I have always been spending my Christmas in Ogbomoso. Since 1974, when I could afford it, I have always been throwing a party in my house and people have always been looking forward to the party every year. I belonged to a group called Soun Social Club. It was a club of my age group then based in Kano but they allowed interested people to join. Every 26 December for about 15 years or so, the late Ayinde Barrister always played for us and I was one of those championing the cause. So, everybody got to know me very well. At that time, my (official) house in Lagos literally became Ogbomoso ‘hostel’. If you were looking for job or anything in Lagos as an Ogbomoso indigene, you would be told to go to Akala house. The only place you could not occupy was my bed; every other space, you were free. God later blessed me with a personal house in Lagos and I was having an official quarters; my personal house became a very ‘big hostel’ for Ogbomoso indigenes. In fact, I was going there everyday to meet people and I called the place Ile Iya Alaro. I named it Ile Iya Alaro after my grandmother. So Ile Iya Alaro was very popular among Ogbomoso people in Lagos. These were the things that brought me into limelight in the town and when I retired, they were the ones that called me to come and become the local government chairman. And that is why I did not work for it. While everybody was struggling to contest on the platforms of Alliance for Democracy and Peoples Democratic Party, I used the All Progressive Party platform to win election in Ogbomoso. APP was not a popular party in Ogbomoso but the people voted for Akala, not APP. When I started politics, Baba Lamidi Adedibu of blessed memory noticed my political activities and my popularity back home. When the PDP needed Ogbomoso votes in bulk, he drafted me to come and be deputy governor.
Now that you mentioned Chief Adedibu, was he instrumental to your emergence as governor?
Yes, he was greatly instrumental.
What of the impeachment saga?
I don’t know anything about the impeachment saga but Baba Adedibu used the impeachment to weaken my boss, the governor (Alhaji Rashidi Ladoja). I don’t know anything about the impeachment and that is the truth.
It is believed that you betrayed your boss (Ladoja).
I was loyal to my boss to the last. If it was not because of constitutional requirement that I had to be governor, I wouldn’t have been governor. As a matter of fact, those who did the impeachment did not have me in mind (to be governor). They thought they could even impeach me and put someone else there. That was why it was not difficult for me when the court said that I should revert to the position of deputy governor, after all, I was deputy governor to him, not to someone else. That is why I always pride myself that I was once a deputy governor, a governor, a deputy governor and a governor. I was not part of the impeachment; those who orchestrated it did not want me. They had their plans; they wouldn’t have put me in the position but for the constitution. As a matter of fact, did you know what happened? I ran away (after the impeachment) and they were looking for me. They couldn’t do the swearing-in because they couldn’t find me. I ran away to Osun and it was a friend of mine, now Senator (Ayo) Adeseun, that came to (Osun) to fetch me. I didn’t want to follow him but they knew they could always send somebody like him to look for me.
You thought they were not sincere enough?
Not that I thought they were not sincere enough, they were not sincere at all; they had their own plans but the constitution did not allow them to carry out their plans.
In the tussle between Osun and Oyo over Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso people believe that you wanted the university to be the property of Oyo simply because you are an Ogbomoso indigene.
Why can’t it be the property of Oyo State?
But what was in the public domain was that LAUTECH was a patrimony of the two states as established by the founding fathers.
That is a lie. LAUTECH belonged to the then Oyo State before Osun was carved out of it. After Osun was created, we still believed that we could still have it together, so we then allowed joint ownership of the university. But there is no law that allows that joint ownership. You know that Oyo cannot enact law for Osun and vice versa. So how can there be a joint ownership law? Unfortunately for Osun, the university is situated on Oyo soil, so how can you enact law for something that is not on your soil? But gentlemen agreement, administrative agreement, yes, we had that. We said the two states would co-fund it, six months apiece. While they acquire the school of health science in Osun, they could enact law for that but in my own wisdom, when Osun created Osun State University which is solely owned by Osun and they are running it like a private university. They have campuses in all their major cities. Oyo did not have anything; LAUTECH conferred half ownership on us in Oyo, so in essence, we have half university; there is no university we can call our own. I then decided that since Osun has got its own university, we too should have our own. But before we have our own, I said we should prepare the ground. The ground that I wanted to prepare was that there must be a teaching hospital and there must be a college of health sciences in Ogbomoso. And I can say it without fear of any contradiction that as at today in Nigeria, LAUTECH has the best college of health sciences in Ogbomoso; go and look at the building and the contents, the lecture theatres and everything. After building the teaching hospital in Ogbomoso, I said let us share the assets of the university, the movables and the immovable. Years back before I came in, they had stopped capital projects and any capital project that was done in Ogbomoso was done by Oyo State and anyone done in Osogbo was done by Osun State. So, I then said let us share the assets and go our separate ways. University of Ado Ekiti used to belong to the old Ondo State and when Ekiti State was created, they shared the assets peacefully. Ondo State believed that the university was not its own and when it was time, they shared the assets. So if they could do that, why should ours be different? I said you Osun, you have your own university, so let us go in peace. I then proposed that even though it could not be 50-50 between us again, I promised them their admission quota for the next five years, they disagreed. I then decided to fight it out. But initially, Oyinlola agreed when the National Universities Commission intervened that we could go but there was a change of government in Osun and the new governor disagreed. But he was lucky I did not win election.
What would have happened?
I would have made it a reality.
But if Osun could have its own state university, what stopped Oyo from owning its own?
This is our own landed property. LAUTECH belongs to Oyo State; it’s on our land. I prepared the ground before I started fighting and when I brought the accreditation team, they opened their mouth and could not close it. What I wanted to do that time was to change LAUTECH to multi campus with campuses at Isheyin and Igboho. It was just a pure convenience for my people because Osun could not have one and a half universities while we would have half. But they were lucky I didn’t win election.
Your successor, Chief Abiola Ajimobi has faulted the quality of roads your administration constructed.
He is entitled to his own opinion; let him do his own that is of quality. Look at me, I am a quality man myself, with due respect. Look at my house, I used quality materials. So, why would I do something that is not of quality; something that I want to leave as legacy for unborn generations? With due respect, I go with quality and if you are not of quality, you can’t flow with me. Everything about me is about quality. He is entitled to say what he wants to say and if I were him, I would just keep quiet. Let him do his own that is of quality.
It was alleged that you demanded for N1bn from the civil service for your re-election but in the process, the civil servants too helped themselves to several millions of naira.
I don’t know anything about that. You see, when you don’t know how government operates, you don’t talk like that. Anybody talking like this is very senseless; he doesn’t have any sense. Am I a signatory to the service account? I did not ask anything from anybody.
You talked about quality, is it in terms of dressing too?
In terms of everything, Akala is a man of quality. Look at me, I am a man of quality, with due respect. I use quality materials.
Is the use of jewellery part of it too?
Yes, I have been using jewellery as a young man. Do you know what they called Ghana before, Gold Coast. I lived in Ghana and that was where I got used to it early in my life. We make statement with our looks in Ghana. In those days when we were in Ghana, your wife bathed you and took care of you. I am from Ghana, so I have been using jewellery (he sends for an album). I want to show you some pictures. Pictures that I took some 40 years back, you would see chains on my neck. Look at my hand chains and rings in this picture. That is how I was brought up. Even when I was in (police) uniform, I wore my chain with my uniform.
Is it not was illegal for you to wear necklace with your uniform?
It was not legal but my uniform would cover it.
Is it part of your own fashion to bleach?
Bleach? That is stupidity; you are asking a very stupid question, how can I bleach? You are very stupid to ask that question. What do you mean by that? What gave you that impression?
(He pulled up his clothe and singlet to show his fair complexion.)
Is this bleaching? Have you seen the cream that I use that makes me bleach or did you know me when I was black? So if you want to write that, put it there that I said you are very stupid to ask me that kind of question. Don’t ask that kind of question again. What you don’t know; you ask. You don’t even know my parents. Is my wife complaining or my children? I don’t know what gave anybody the impression that I bleach. You don’t know me; do you know what it takes to bleach?
Does your wife still bathe you?
She can’t carry me anymore; we are old. Don’t forget that the First Lady is not my first wife. My first wife is an old woman like me and she is still with me. She was also brought up in Ghana and that’s why I was able to marry her. Most of the people in Nigeria cannot keep up with my lifestyle of cleanliness.
What lesson of life did you take away from Ghana?
A lot. It is what has been helping me till now. I took forthrightness away from Ghana. In Ghana, you don’t steal or cheat. If you hear of any stealing there, it is those who came to reside there. We were very straightforward with our fellow human beings. You don’t make your neighbour unhappy. Even till date, there is no serious armed robbery in Ghana. In Ghana, when you know how to do anything, you know how to do it very well. Even when they came here (to Nigeria), they always mastered what they chose to do.
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