Olamide Alao-Akala, the first child and daughter of the late former Oyo State governor, Dr Christopher Alao-Akala, shares with FATTEH HAMID her father’s life before prominence and his rise to become a governor, among others
It has been over a year since the death of your father, Dr Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala. As the first child, how do you feel now about his demise? Do you miss him?>>>Continue Reading…
Definitely, I do; it has been a year and six months since he died. I miss him every day. He was my friend; we were very close and I don’t think there was a thing I did that my father didn’t know about. In fact, I was closer to my father than my mum and she was always very jealous about that. I remember when I was in school; I attended the Federal Government Girls College, Oyo, Oyo State; back then, everybody knew who my dad was because he would just randomly come to the school in his uniform (he was a policeman at the time). I think that was one of the things that stood out. People would come to class and say, ‘Alao, your father is in the administrative block’. He was always there and he was not an absentee father. Whenever he was in plain clothes, I could feel it. My father taught me forgiveness, not that he sat me down and lectured me on this virtue; no, he taught me forgiveness through his lifestyle. He also taught me gratitude and the man was too kind. Sometimes, I beat myself up that I’m not as kind as he was, but I’m trying. In short, he was one of a kind.
What fond memories of him remain with you?
I have many fond memories of him. I mentioned one earlier about always coming to my school unexpectedly when he was a policeman. One of those memories was that as a policeman, he was always being transferred to different parts of the country. At a time, we were living in Lagos. But anytime my father came home for the weekend, he would make sure that he left an impact. It was either he took us to a restaurant or other places to have fun. Just like how people would say fathers take their daughters out so that a random man wouldn’t bamboozle your daughter with that, I think that happened to us because my father would take us to the latest restaurant in town as we were growing up. So, growing up, it wasn’t easy for guys to ask me out because I had it all from my father. We had that connection.
At the point when he transitioned from being a policeman to a politician, what was that time like at home?
It was smooth. The reason was that he was a grassroots politician back home in Ogbomoso, even before he ventured into politics. We were always going to our place in Ogbomoso for almost all celebrations. When he decided to venture into politics, we just felt like that was our life because he wasn’t just going into politics, we had sort of prepared for it; it was seamless.
What changes occurred to him after he became a politician?
Nothing changed. He was just the same. When he became the Ogbomoso North Local Government chairman, I remember people always complained back then in Ogbomoso that who was this Akala? The question came up when they noticed that he was doing too much; going to work Mondays to Fridays, getting to work by 8 am when other chairmen strolled into their offices by 11 am. I think his lifestyle as a policeman shaped him and helped him to be responsible when he became a politician. He was always a disciplined man and he remained disciplined till he died.
You said earlier that he wasn’t an absentee father. When he became the governor of Oyo State, was he still present as he was?
Nothing changed. I remember that I would go and knock on his door every morning when he was the governor and we would chat before he went to work. Sometimes, I would pick an outfit for him, telling him which one to wear for the day. That wasn’t restricted to me alone; it was the same for all of my siblings. We all did that for him. When he came back home, we would be having dinner together. So, being a governor didn’t affect anything,
Being the child of the governor, what was his life like?
Since I didn’t grow up in Ibadan when he was the governor, I never had it easy because I didn’t know Ibadan. In fact, in those days, people never knew that I was the governor’s daughter. I made friends who only knew who I was after over a year of being friends with them. I think that also depended on our personality as his children. If you want people to know who you are, people will. Being the first child and first daughter, I never went about with policemen; I never went about with several cars. I was a cabbie girl. I remember we were renting cabs for N200 per hour at the time. It was a cab all the way.
Don’t you agree that bearing a strong resemblance to your father will make people recognise you as Alao-Akala’s daughter?
If you are not thinking about it, you wouldn’t know it, or maybe you have heard something about it and you saw me, then you would be wowed. Yes, I got that a few times. When I went to the bank, I had people behind me whispering about my identity, but we lived through it.
Among his children, who reminds you of your late father the most?
My brother reminds me of our late father the most because he took after him as a politician and I see a lot of my dad’s mannerisms in him. I see the way he carries himself. Before my father died, I never saw it in him, but after he died, it was not something hidden anymore. The other day, I was in the house and he (my brother) wanted to call someone, I snapped out of my sleep because I thought it was my dad. He was calling someone and I snapped out of my sleep because the voice was just so much alike. I thought it was my father, but of course, it was my brother. The way he carries himself, the way he walks, speaks and the way he does everything reminds me of my father.
What was the highest point you thought your dad would get to in politics?
I’m a Christian and the Bible tells us to be diligent in our ways and we’ll stand before kings. When my dad was a policeman, he was one with excellence. When he was a local government chairman, he was one with excellence. The chairmen then were like ordinary chairmen, but my dad took it so seriously that people were asking why he was too serious with it. He took it so seriously that he got noticed and was invited to become the deputy governor. I tell people that in life, success isn’t accidental. My father was diligent. While he was the LG chairman, important people were coming to our house to visit, telling him they wanted to be this and that.
That was the time the former governor of Oyo State, Senator Rashidi Ladoja, was always coming to our house to see my dad and before you know it, my dad was the deputy governor nominee and this was because they had noticed that this guy had something; they noticed that he was diligent and that the people loved him. They noticed that there was something about him that needed to be tapped. Out of the 33 local government chairmen, they could have chosen another person, but he was picked and as time went on, one thing led to another and he became the governor. I don’t think he got there by accident; he earned it and the grace of God was on him.
The build-up to him becoming a governor was ridden with crisis and maybe the biggest crisis ever in the state’s politics. What was that moment like for him?
It was tough but we lived through it. The events were too many at the time and I don’t think he had anything to do with them (Ladoja’s impeachment crisis). I think he was just a lucky person that benefitted from the war that was going on between many other factions in politics. He was just a beneficiary; he was just lucky. I was in school then and I remember my father came to meet me in school because I was always communicating with him and if I couldn’t get to him, then there was a problem. That day, he called me and said he was in my school. I went to meet him and he was in this Peugeot 504 car in the middle of two policemen at the back.
Ordinarily, as the deputy governor, if he was coming, I would have expected a fleet of cars but that wasn’t the case at the time. He told me that there was a lot of crisis, riots, fights and political unrest in Ibadan and that he had to go into hiding for a while. He said that I might not be able to get through to him but he would call me from time to time because if I tried getting through to him, I might not be able to do so. He came to my school at the time, gave me a heads-up, and he went into hiding.
Did he do the same to your siblings?
My siblings were schooling far away at the time. So, he told me to inform them. He told me to call them and let them know that he was not going to be around for a short period of time.
He was a socialite. What defined his style?
That was who he was, he was just doing it. Anytime we had the opportunity to celebrate, he would celebrate. When he was a toddler, he lost his father and I remember when I was growing up, we did 50 years of remembrance; we also did 60 years of remembrance. I was very young when we did the 50-year remembrance and it was a serious party. He wasn’t the governor during these times; he was still a policeman and it was a big party in Ogbomoso. My father was one that people would want to attend his parties. He was who the Yoruba people refer to as gbajumo (a socialite).
Did your father’s name open or shut doors of opportunities for you?
It has opened doors of opportunities, especially after his death. When I do business with people and they discover that I’m Alao-Akala, the discounts just come voluntarily.
Have you had an opposite experience where you were denied an opportunity because of your father?
Yes, that has happened to me once and it was very traumatic to me because I was younger then. I was in secondary school and my father was a policeman. I remember a senior student telling me and my sister that our father was a policeman and he locked people up. Then this senior student locked us up in the box room for hours and we were crying. I don’t think I’ve had anything worse than that. It was more traumatic than any other thing in my lifetime. It was worse because of my younger sister; she was also crying and I had to be telling her that it was okay. The senior students were twins and they were eventually suspended from the school. That experience also helped me build my esteem because some people will just hate you because you’re successful. Currently, I’m into farming and some people will say that she is successful because her father was a rich man. Some people will always hate you, but it doesn’t bother me.
Do you want the kind of fame your father had?
It doesn’t make sense for anyone to seek fame. Why will I seek fame? Of what use will the fame be? One of the side effects of being diligent and being effective at what you do is that it attracts many people to you. Also, I don’t think fame that is sought intentionally will last. Nobody should seek fame; we should seek to be effective in the things that we do. Unfortunately, it attracts people to you.
Your younger brother has followed in your father’s steps as a politician. How did you feel when he broke the news to you?
He didn’t have to break any news. It came naturally. We all knew that he was going into politics. It was only a matter of time. Sometimes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Did you love the fact that he was also going to take the route your dad took?
I didn’t mind. We enjoyed it. Personally, I enjoy politics, I love it; I just wouldn’t vie for offices. My brother also enjoys it and he loves it. I have been to the nooks and crannies of Oyo State. I followed my father to every campaign. If I wasn’t at one, maybe it was when I was out of the country. It didn’t come as a surprise, we grew up in it. One of the reasons I wouldn’t vie for an office is because of people’s expectations. First and foremost, I’m a businesswoman and I will not soil that by vying for offices.
Why do you think vying for political offices will affect your business?
I feel so because the expectations are too high. We want good governance in this country and we expect people that we have voted for to do well in office, but an average Nigerian thinks that you are in office so that you can give them money. That’s the way they think. Right now, if you’re campaigning to be the governor of a state, do you know how much it will cost to be a governor? It is the same thing when vying for other public offices.
During my father’s one-year remembrance in Ogbomoso, one guy was asking me to give him food and I responded to him that he should be patient and that there was enough food. I also told him that if he sat down in a place, he would be served. Do you know what he told me? He said, ‘You’ll see if we will vote for you’. I was surprised that somebody could say this because of food. We are not ready for growth in this country and it’s not everybody that can stand things like that. I can’t stand it but my brother, Olamiju Alao-Akala, has the willpower and patience to relate with people and I admire him for that because I don’t think I can do half of what he does politically.
What was the last memory you had of your father before his death?
On January 2, 2022, I went to his house and he wasn’t back from Ogbomoso. I was driving back to my house when I saw him coming. I made a U-turn and followed him to the house. When we got home, he told me that he wasn’t coming down from the car and that he was going to Lagos to attend his course mate and friend’s 70th birthday; AIG Tunji Alapini. We talked a little bit about my mum’s birthday, which we were planning for January 15. We chatted a little bit; hugged each other and he didn’t come down from his car. I had my head on his chest while we spoke. We said our goodbyes and that was the last I saw of him.
What will you say about his death?
Anytime I think about it, I just ask myself, why? He was just 71; he could have been 85; he could have been 90; he could have added 15 good years before leaving. Every time I think of his last days on earth, that’s what I think of. I’m grateful to God for his life and ours.
With your last encounter with him, that means you weren’t there at his deathbed. Is that correct?
I wasn’t with him. I was in Ibadan and he was in Ogbomoso.
What about your siblings? Were any of them at his deathbed?
None of us was there.
Who was he with at the time of his death?
He was by himself and his workers at home. He came in from Abuja a day before and he was supposed to come back to Ibadan in the morning. In fact, he woke up very early and called someone in the household to switch on the water heater for him. When that was done, he left the room and they just noticed that he was taking longer than usual and that was it; he was gone.
What was his last wish?
My father made his wish known every day of his life. He would always share values and principles with us during every sitting. Sometimes, I used to take my friends to him and if I should say that I wanted to spend 15 minutes, we ended up spending hours and all he talked about were values, life and how one could be a better person. My father would quote dates, months and locations when talking to us about past events.
Speaking of values, what are the main values you took from him?
Gratitude, forgiveness, hard work and contentment; my father would tell you to cut your coat according to your cloth and not according to your size. He would tell you to be good for what’s not good for you.
Who was his favourite child?
I cannot answer that; I have no idea. We were all close to him. I don’t know who his favourite child is.
There are rumours that you were his favourite child. What would you say to that?
Really? It may be because we look alike. I cannot answer that question.
If you are to summarise his life in a word, what will it be?
Kindness! He was just a kind man. The burial we had for him made it obvious that he was a kind and great man.
What do you think the world will remember your father for?
That he was great, kind and extremely forgiving.
What kind of husband was your father to your mum and his second wife?
He was a good husband; he was a provider. Everyone knows that my father had two wives and he didn’t shirk his duties to both. He was a good husband.
After his demise, was there any rancour on how to share his property among the children?
When the husband from a polygamous family in our society dies, what usually happens? They start fighting over the property and start airing their own affairs in the public and all that. Ever since he died, have you ever heard of any fight for property among the family members of Alao-Akala? If you ask me whether he perfected that, what do you think he did if he didn’t perfect it? In my family, we all love each other and that is a result of my father’s perfection in that part of his life. I love both my stepmother and my mum and I can say the same thing for my siblings.>>>Continue Reading…
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