Celebrating a national treasure: General Alani Akinrinade at 80

Celebrating a national treasure: General Alani Akinrinade at 80

Friday, October 4, 2019 6:31 am


 

Generaal Alani Akinrinade

By Siyan Oyeweso

Birth, childhood and education

“I am speaking from the Cabinet Room of 10, Downing Street. This morning, the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German Government a final note stating that unless we heard from them by 11 o ’clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us. I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently, this country is at war with Germany.”

The above statement was the exact words used by Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister (1937 to 1940), on 3rd September, 1939 to declare war on Germany. That same day, France also declared war on Germany. This was the beginning of the Second World War, the largest, as well as the bloodiest war in human history. It was a war that involved virtually all parts of the world. On 3rd October, 1939, exactly a month after the war started, a man who would later became a General in the Nigerian army, Josiah Ipoola Alani Akinrinade was born in Yakoyo, a sleepy town to the north of Ile-Ife, Osun State of Nigeria. He was born into a humble family with strong Anglican background, of Pa Emmanuel Olanrewaju Akinrinade, a bricklayer by profession, and Chief Victoria Olatundun Akinrinade, a laundress and a business woman. Madam Victoria Olatundun Akinrinade was the daughter of Pa Oyewo Adekunbi and Madam Ajibade Okansinsin Lenu of Moro town near Ile-Ife.

The young Alani Akinrinade had his elementary education at the Origbo Central School, Yakoyo Osun State. While in the primary school, he loathed the idea of going to school. Meanwhile, his father, Pa Emmanuel Olanrewaju Akinrinade, a lover of Western education, believed that education was a channel to greatness in life. The father therefore dissuaded him from playing truancy by inventing a peculiar punishment anytime he was not in school. He would ask him to carry a basket full of yams from a far away farm back home on his bare head. This ordeal, in a way, encouraged the young Alani to see the importance of embracing Western education which was less stressful. After his tedious years at the Origbo Central School, he proceeded to Offa Grammar School, (in Kwara State) for his secondary education between 1954 and 1958. After his secondary education, he worked briefly with the Western Region Ministry of Agriculture between 1959 and 1960 before venturing into the army.

MILITARY CAREER

          The Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF) was the precursor of the Nigerian Army. The RWAFF was made up of units from the former British West African colonies of Nigeria, the Gold Coast (Ghana), Sierra Leone and The Gambia. The RWAFF was an instrument of British imperialism in Nigeria and other West African colonies. The Officers were mainly Britons while other ranks were made up of the indigenous population. However, the outbreak of the Second World War put paid to the British domination of the officers’ class of RWAFF. The war necessitated the recruitment of many more local people into the army. Nigerian men were drafted to fight in some of the hottest battles of the Second World War in East Africa and Burma (today’s Myanmar).

          The gallantry of Nigerian soldiers in Burma coupled with other factors that accelerated the rise of nationalism made way for the indigenization of the officers’ cadre in the RWAFF. Thus the British Colonial Government began the process of the establishment of a real Nigerian Army in the late 1940s by promoting some Nigerians in the RWAFF to the rank of officers’ cadre. By 1954, there were nine Nigerian officers in the RWAFF. At this stage, it was clear to Nigerians and British colonial authorities alike that future stability of Nigeria as a nation depended so much on its army. This was the picture of the military institution, the Nigerian Army that Alani Akinrinade joined in April 1960.

          General Akinrinade started his officer cadet training in what was then known as the Royal Nigeria Military Forces Training College Kaduna in 1960. In August the same year, he proceeded to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst in the United Kingdom for further Regular Officer Cadet Training. In December 1962, General Akinrinade was granted the Regular Combatant Commission in the rank of Second Lieutenant. Between 1965 and 1966, the General took the Infantry Officer Career/Airborne Course in the United States of America. In 1971, he was at the Staff College, Camberley while in 1978 he attended the Royal College of Defence Studies in the United Kingdom.

          Alani Akinrinade’s promotion in the Nigerian Army was steady. After his training in Sandhurst, he was promoted to the rank of a Lieutenant on 29th March, 1963. On the same date two years after, i.e. 29th March, 1965, he became a Captain in the army. He was promoted to the rank of a Major on 10th June, 1967, a Lieutenant Colonel on 11th May, 1968 and became a full Colonel on Nigeria’s twelfth independence anniversary in 1972. On 1st October, 1974, he was promoted to the rank of a Brigadier General and on 1st January, 1976, he rose to become a Major General in the Nigerian Army. General Akinrinade held many key infantry appointments in the Nigerian Army. He was Staff Captain ‘A’- Army Headquarters from 1964 to 1965. He was appointed Commandant 7 Infantry Battalion in 1966 and Commandant, 3rd Marine Commando (Rear) in 1970. He was Commander of the Ibadan Garrison Organization between 1970 and 1971. From 1971 to 1973, Alani Akinrinade was the GSO 1 SD Army Headquarters. He became the GOC of 1 Infantry Division between 1975 and 1979. He was also a member of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) during the military regime of Generals Murtala Ramat Mohammed and Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo. 

       

   General Alani Akinrinade was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General on 2nd October,  1979 and appointed Chief of Army Staff (COAS) between 1979 and 1980. He succeeded Lieutenant General Theophilus Danjuma in the office and was succeeded by the late Lieutenant Gibson Jalo. He became the Chief of Defence Staff in 1980 before he voluntarily retired from the Nigerian Army the same year. It is very interesting to note that General Alani Akinrinade was the first military officer in the history of Nigerian Army to have occupied the position of the Chief of Defence Staff. While in the Army, General Alani Akinrinade was awarded numerous medals in recognition of his valour and meritorious service. Some of the most important ones are: the Nigerian Independence Medal, the Congo Medal, Defence Service Medal, General Service Medal and the Forces Service Medal. One of the highest honours of the land, the Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) was also conferred on him.

        

  General Alani Akinrinade was a major factor in the Nigerian Civil War. He was an active participant in the liberation of Mid-Western State that was invaded by the Biafran Army. Shortly before he was appointed to command a major battalion during the Civil War, he opposed the third amphibious operation against Onitsha which was led by Brig. General Muritala Mohammed. Certainly, this was a major operation against the enemy stronghold and thus he had to warn Muritala Mohammed of the danger in this operation. This was said to have almost led to serious altercations between the two of them. General Akinrinade was later asked to return to Lagos to cool his temper. However, he was appointed Commanding Officer of 7 Infantry Battalion in Bonny which happened to be one of the hottest spots of the Nigerian Civil War. The battalion was directly under the command of 3rd Marine Commando. The 3rd Marine Commando became a household name during the war because of its exploits at regaining many areas held by the rebels back to the Federal side. The Commando was under a brave soldier, Colonel Benjamin Adekunle, “the Black Scorpion”. Akinrinade’s battalion was later upgraded to a brigade and detached as an independent formation dealing directly with Army headquarters. Akinrinade has been adjudged by many of his colleagues to be a smart and intelligent officer as well as one of the best minds to come into the Nigerian military.   

          While he served as the Sector and Brigade Commander of 3rd Marine Commando in Bonny, Alani Akinrinade had a little challenge. He had a third degree pile. In spite of this, he continued to fight on. General James Oluleye, a member of the Supreme Military Council under General Yakubu Gowon’s government as well as a member of the Strategic Committee that executed the Civil War wanted to evacuate him to Lagos for proper medical attention, but later rescinded his decision because he felt that if General Akinrinade was taken away, Bonny Island would be lost to the rebels. Instead, the General send some pile medicine to him via the sea plane. Meanwhile, while Akinrinade was relieved of the pile, he lost a dear friend and a course mate who came to assist him to fight the rebels at Bonny. When the Chief Commander of 3rd Marine Commando, Colonel Benjamin Adekunle moved to Calabar, operations at Bonny were laid bare as the Colonel did not show much concern about them any longer. The task of reinforcing everything that was left at Bonny fell on General Alani Akinrinade. In view of the dearth of experienced Army officers, he persuaded one of his course mates, Major Onifade to join him at Bonny. Incidentally, on arriving at Bonny, Major Onifade fell under a rebel bullet. The incident shocked Alani Akinrinade. But as a brave soldier, he had to fight on because the war had to be won.       

 RETIREMENT FROM SERVICE: THE MILITARY POLITICS

          General Akinrinade’s retirement from the Nigerian Army appears to be political. He was the first Chief of Army Staff (COAS) under the first Executive President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Shagari. He, however, spent only seven months in office as the Chief of Army Staff. This is because some Northern officers advised Alhaji Shehu Shagari about the danger inherent in having General Alani Akinrinade as (COAS). To these officers like Ibrahim Babangida, it was not safe for Shagari, a Grade II teacher to have an Akinrinade who appeared more intelligent and superior in the army. Meanwhile, going by the revelations of Seyi Oduyela, the concerns of the Northern officers could also be interpreted as an attempt to keep the northern oligarchy in power. This argument would appear plausible considering the fact that no Yoruba had occupied the office of the COAS since independence. The list of the COAS since independence, for instance, showed that Lt. Gen, Aguiyi Ironsi and Maj. Gen. David Ejoor were the only officers in the South (non-Yorubas) who have occupied the office of the COAS up to 1983 when Gen, Akinrinade was first appointed to the post. It is also significant to note that up to date, no other Yoruba officer had occupied the post of the COAS. The closest to have come to that was Air Marshal Oluseyi Petirin, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), who was appointed on 8th September, 2010. He is also from Osun State. 

 

         The northern oligarchy in the army, no doubt, still held the view that the region must control every strategic post in the Nigerian socio-political system. This is one of the lessons learnt in the Nigerian Civil War when most of the superior posts in the army were in the hands of the Eastern Region’s officers. The prevalence of the Eastern Region in the top hierarchy was thus perceived as an advantage in the coup that saw the execution of the Northern politicians in power (especially the Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Sir, Ahmadu Bello and the Prime Minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa), while Easterners, like Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was left untouched. Therefore, it could be argued that the plot to keep General Akinrinade out of control of the army was to prevent him from having loyalty of the army under his direction and power. It could also be said that this attempt is a safe move to consolidate the position of the Northern oligarchy in control of Nigeria. 

      More than this, it could be interpreted as an attempt by some of them who were interested in the position of the COAS to claim their prize. They wanted the position because the office of the COAS is the apex of the Nigerian Army (NA). The NA exists under his command to deter all forms of aggression, and to render Military Assistance to Civil Authorities. Section 19 (3) of the Armed Forces Act CAP A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria saddles the COAS with the responsibility of command, direction and general superintendence of the Army. And that, they thought, should not be left in the hands of others outside the North. President Shehu Shagari was therefore persuaded to show him the way out. His government succeeded in achieving this by creating an office that never existed in the history of the Nigerian Armed Forces.

     

In doing this, the General was asked to bring out a blue print on duties of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and his office by the President. This was a new position and office the government wanted to create. This was the same office he was asked to occupy after the government created it, thus easing him out of the office of the (COAS). In his stead, General Gibson Jalo was made the new (COAS). At the same time the new office of a Deputy Chief of Army Staff (D-COAS) was created which was occupied by General Mohammed Wushishi. This incidence was captured by Oduyela when he explained that: Something happened that never happened in the history of the Nigerian Army and did not happen thereafter. The post of a Deputy Chief of Army Staff was created and General Wushishi was appointed as the Deputy Chief of Army Staff. Babangida led the group of those who contrived the concept of the D-COAS.

Against this background, it could be argued that this incidence changed the attitude of General Alani Akinrinade towards the political system of the Nigerian state and politics in the military. He was a senior military chief well deserving of the post of the COAS. His services were needed by the government and he was ready to get it done. He fought to keep Nigeria one during her trying times. He believed in the Nigerian dream in spite of its multi-ethnic structure and socio-political differences. He therefore felt betrayed and wondered why this same institution he fought to keep in unity could not rise above ethnic loyalty and personal aggrandisement. He was unwittingly dispossessed of his service. Realizing this, he bowed out of the Nigerian Army while still very young. Afterwards, he buried himself in establishing a farm in his village Yakoyo near Ife. 

Be that as it may, it is important to underscore the fact that the politics in the military hierarchy showed that it could not isolate itself from primordial ethnic loyalties and selfishness that was noted among the civilian and political class in the first decade of Nigeria’s independence. This is one of the factors that led to the Nigerian Civil War. For General Alani Akinrinade, this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed in the country. He was therefore emboldened to lead the crusade for democratic governance where the interest of every Nigerians would be heard and addressed.

ROLE IN GOVERNMENT AFTER RETIREMENT

          General Akinrinade is of the opinion that the military has no business in politics. He believed that the military had intervened with a promise of revolution that could not be entrenched. The revolution failed to make the nation re-discover itself as a country with functional and effective laws and not a nation of political jobbers. He believed that the military could not rise above the failures of the politicians. The military rulers like their civilian counterparts were reduced to petty geo-political, ethnic and religious interest groups. These interests were often at variance with the needs and the interests of the nation.

General Akinrinade believed that there are times when a democratic nation finds itself in deep political crises which might call for the intervention of the military. In this period, the military often face the dilemma of whether to support the course of the people whose taxes are used in maintaining them in their job. He also queried whether the military can support the government against the people or take their own initiative to bring about the needed reforms. Thus, he observed that:

 When democracy breaks down, and governments become illegitimate, any action taken by the Military short of supporting the government is a violation of its oath of allegiance. If the military supports an illegitimate government, it is not democratic. If it supports a people’s revolution, it is not democratic and if it installs itself in government it is not democratic. This is the dilemma for the military when democracy is destroyed.

Even with this situation, he still believed that the military had no business in any democratic system. He was of the opinion that the military is lacking in the proper administrative skills and political ideology to rule the state. Commenting on the crises of nationhood in many countries in Africa, General Akinrinade stated why the military could not achieve much. 

According to him:

The military was now expected to give what it did not have. Democracy! Democracy is anathema to military culture, they are strange bed fellows. Do we honestly believe that it was possible to subject the taking of an enemy machine-gun post to a debate between officers or between officers and rank and file? In the military we can distill what our soldiers want and what we must do to maintain an effective fighting force, but we are not equipped to distill what the generality of our people want and so we are unable to give it to them. We are not in the business of listening to a cacophony of complaints and riotous debate; that is the realm of the politicians.

Indeed, even while in service, there is no denying the fact that general Akinrinade was opposed to military takeover of government. In response to a pro-coup broadcast from Benin-City in February 1976 by the Brigade Commander, Colonel Isa Bukar (who was later executed along with other coup-plotters), Alani Akinrinade was the first officer to dissociate himself from the coup. Counter-broadcasts dissociating other army units from the coup was made from Calabar by the Brigade Commander, the then Colonel Mamman J. Vasta (who was executed as a result of a controversial coup plot some years later), and then in Kaduna on behalf of General Alani Akinrinade who was then the GOC of 1 Division. In 1981 General Akinrinade openly declared to a Nigerian newspaper that General Gowon was not really involved in the Colonel Buka Suka Dimka’s failed coup attempt of February 13, 1976.

         It was General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida who first made himself a self-styled military president in Nigeria’s political history. The military government of Ibrahim Babangida was reputed to have encouraged and institutionalized corruption in Nigeria. His government also invalidated the 12th June, 1993 election that was adjudged to be the best organised in Nigeria’s electoral history. The election was won by Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. During the eight years Ibrahim Babangida spent in government, military dictatorship appeared to be popular but clearly unacceptable to Nigerians. In spite of the challenges of legitimacy of the Babangida government, General Alani Akinrinade participated in his government. As indicated earlier, he was opposed to military rule, but his participation in the military government of Babangida could not be said to be self-serving. He seemed to believe in the revolutionary changes preached by President Babangida in Nigeria’s socio-political system and his transition programmes to civilian administration. It should be noted that he was not the only one who shared this opinion. Other notable activists like Tai Solarin, and Professor Wole Soyinka also took up appointment in different establishments during the regime to help the government tackle some of the challenges that faced the nation. General Alani Akinrinade’s participation in the government of President Babangida could therefore be interpreted as nationalistic. 

Between 1985 and 1986, the General was appointed the Minister of Agriculture, Water Resources and Rural Development. He served as Minister of Industries between 1988 and 1989 and as Minister of Transport in 1989. He distinguished himself as Minister of Agriculture. Professor Osuntokun once noted that as Minister of Agriculture, Gen Akinrinade was approached to discuss the abolition of cocoa and produce boards set up by the colonial government. Although, the Minister was not favourably disposed to it because he believes that the boards help to guarantee stable prices. However, that was the argument of the colonialist masters. Indeed, Osuntokun had argued that middle-men discouraged farmers and that the market took place under his watch. Given this exposition, there is no doubt that General Akinrinade’s action on the matter remains laudable. However General Akinrinade brought his participation in the government of Ibrahim Babangida to an end at a time he believed the military should hand over to a democratically elected government. By this time, it had become obvious to many that President Babangida’s transition programme was a charade meant to serve his personal interest. 

CONTRIBUTIONS TO POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT AND ACTIVISM IN THE NATION’S POLITY

         General Alani Akinrinade could be described as a man who combines his brave military personality with political activism. He developed his skills not only for military offensives but also for political construction. Although he is a completely de-tribalized Nigerian, he is noted for defending the course of the Yoruba. He is the President of Yoruba World Congress (Agbajo po Yoruba Agbaiye) where he has been spending his time and resources to help establish a non-political, non-partisan umbrella organization for the Yoruba at home and abroad. 

Perhaps, it is important to underscore his concern for the Yoruba during the Nigerian Civil War. Shortly before the invasion of the Mid-West during the War, there was a misunderstanding between the Northern soldiers and their Yoruba counterparts in the Western Region. The misunderstanding led to a mutual distrust between them. The situation got so bad that Yoruba officers slept outside their Ibadan barracks for fear of being attacked in the night by the Northern soldiers. The Yoruba civilian population also bore the brunt of the menace of the Northern soldiers. This condition agitated the minds of some Yoruba political and military leaders alike, especially, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. General Alani Akinrinade was no less disturbed by the incident. He was one of the five officers who approached General Yakubu Gowon in Lagos to demand for the withdrawal of the Northern soldiers from the West. Others were Generals Olusegun Obasanjo, Olufemi Oluleye, and Majors Foluso Sotomi and Ayo Ariyo.  Although, General Gowon did not like the idea, he ordered that the northern soldiers be moved northward to Ilorin.

          Obviously, one of the things that kept General Akinrinade in the minds of many is his contributions to political thought and pro-democracy activism in his after-service life. This was unexpected from a man with deep military background and training. During the Sanni Abacha years when Nigeria became a pariah state among the comity of nations, General Akinrinade became a member of the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO. This was a pro-democracy group that confronted the military dictatorship of General Sanni Abacha and damned the consequences. It was a group that was emotionally attached to the ‘June 12’ Struggle (as the 12th June 1993 annulled presidential election was later popularly tagged). The General is an advocate of true federalism and re-structuring of Nigeria for the sake of functional federalism. He is a democrat and he believes that this is the only type of government that Nigeria needs. He re-affirmed this position at a lecture when he stated that:

What Nigeria needs badly is a purposeful political reorganization to bring into play our unity in diversity. We need to restore power to the people effectively at the grassroots and unleash their energy for development. We need to honestly and dispassionately without shame, go back to the drawing board and re-engineer our country. We must admit that tribes and tongues differ and there lies our strength and not our shame. We must, when time still permits, listen attentively to the heartbeat of our charge before it gives up the ghost on us.

          Because of his belief in democracy, he joined forces with other like minds to resist the annulment of the 1993 election. When his personal security could not be assured in the country as a result of the pressure on the military government, he had to relocate abroad to continue the struggle from there. While in exile, first in England and later in the United States of America, he was able to convince Europeans and Americans alike that there was no system of government that was needed in Nigeria other than true democracy. Other “soldiers” on the battle field fighting from abroad alongside General Akinrinade included the late Anthony Enahoro, Professor Wole Soyinka, Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, Rear-Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Dan Suleiman.

          General Akinrinade throughout this time fought Nigerian dictators from abroad for a mutually reinforcing quality of federalism and democracy in a multi-ethnic Nigeria. He believed that there was the “need to create a political system that can prevent Nigeria from perdition and self- destruction”. He is an advocate of the creation of a people’s constitution which allows component units to develop freely, while encouraging other units in their efforts to develop in consonance with the values that drive their civilization. He was opposed to rushing into election before the creation of a constitution immediately after the death of Sanni Abacha. He believed that since the Nigerian constitution was modelled after the American constitution, it would be good to occasionally appropriate what is good for the USA as part of the process of deepening Nigeria’s democracy. To him the more Nigeria copied the best from the American system the closer Nigeria got to a point of producing the likes of Barrack Obama in its three tiers of government – federal, state and local government. These would be men who would give Nigeria inspired leadership. They would be men who will emerge not as a result of geo-political, ethnic or religious quotas but those who, in the collective wisdom of the majority of the electorate, are best for the job.

          Akinrinade is a firm believer in a sovereign national conference where the contribution to the centre of each component part making up Nigeria could be discussed since Nigeria is only a conglomerate of nations. He is against the politics of “zoning” which he believes is inimical to a sustainable socio-political development of Nigeria. He believed that the best man should get a political office and not the best favoured. Zoning of political offices was a backward way of thinking. He strongly believed that the pattern of sharing the political offices at the highest level in Nigeria has not really benefited any ethnic group in Nigeria. He traced the occurrence of various social unrest and religious crises in many parts of Nigeria to the collapse of social institutions.

          The period of the June 12 debacle was a tortuous time for Nigeria. This was the time when disillusionment of the people against military rule and all forms of dictatorship was ripe. June 12 “war” seemed to be as hot for General Akinrinade as any of those deadly battles he fought on Bonny Island during the Civil War. He regretted the death of M.K.O. Abiola like he regretted the death of his bosom friend and course mate, Major Onifade who was cut down by a rebel bullet on his arrival in Bonny during the civil war. General Akinrinade lamented that Abiola’s death did not allow him to prove whether his pro-democracy group were right or wrong on the action they took over the crisis. This was a man whose vision about Nigeria tallied with the vision of his pro-democracy group. He also regretted the death of so many “unknown soldiers” who lost their lives fighting for the restoration of democracy. However, he was also a victim of this treatment. His house in Lagos was burnt to ashes by forces that were opposed to restoration of true democracy in Nigeria. He lost his books and memoirs and most of the things he got throughout his military career to the fire.

          The nationalist General shared in the big dream of the founding fathers of Nigeria who believed in their collective capacity to build a great, united and prosperous country that would truly be the giant of Africa, a dream that was almost palpable at independence. However, the dream of these founding fathers turned into a series of national misfortunes for Nigeria and its people. The end result was an arrested national development. Although Nigeria is a country so much blessed with human and material resources, it has found itself in a state self-induced confusion, beclouded by incompetence, corruption and moral bankruptcy. To General Akinrinade, for dramatic changes to take place in the fortunes of the nation, Nigerians must pause at regular intervals to ponder the future of the country by telling one another the bitter truth. He believed that Nigeria will get it right if the people stood for what is right and become truly great if they stood for what is great.

          Nigerian economy had serious problems after its political independence. General Akinrinade was of the opinion that although we might blame it on the global economic meltdown, however, the economy had been bedevilled a long time ago due to some panic-induced measures that had always passed for economic management in Nigeria. A notable outcome of this was the emergence of “Me-First Generation” politicians. This was a greedy generation that acquired the national wealth for themselves alone, making the majority of the populace to wallow in poverty and squalor. Political and social problems in Nigeria came as a result of poverty. These social and political problems manifest themselves in ethnic and religious uprisings. As a result of these uprisings, the communal spirit of unity is lost in Nigeria. The only panacea the nationalist General suggested in order to make Nigeria truly great was the need for Nigerians to depart from colonial heritage. Nigerians must emulate Americans who started to do things in different ways when those who later became Americans left England.

 

CONCLUSION

          General Alani Akinrinade, it could be said, is reminiscent of the valiant military heroes of the Oyo Yoruba. The prefix, “Akin” in Yoruba connotes valour and courage mostly borne by descendants of military men in Yorubaland. He emerged from a humble and deeply religious family, started out as a truant but grew up to become a great lover of education chiefly as a result of the manner his truancy was handled – gently but firmly, and with love and discipline – by his loving father. After his secondary education and a very brief career in the civil service, he joined the military. At that time, it was a great risk for Alani to join the army because the Civil War that would claim the lives of many was a couple of years away. While in the military, he employed the military skills and tactics he learnt over the years to command battles on Bonny Island and other hot spots in a bid to ensure the unity of Nigeria. After the war had been won, he went back to the barracks to continue to defend the territorial integrity of his fatherland. He rose to head the very institution he joined exactly twenty years after. He however retired from the military after he was unwittingly short changed for a lower responsibility in the army. Having learnt this bitter lesson, he was emboldened to fight for a sustainable socio-political system in Nigeria that guarantees democratic rule as against military dictatorship, federalism, good governance, freedom, equity, social justice, accountability and transparency. Although, most of these have not been achieved, it is important to appreciate the contributions of General Alani Akinrinade to nation building and democratic development in Nigeria. His role in opposing the regime of Gen. Sanni Abacha is well documented. While he supports the Yoruba interest in the country, he believes that there is no conflict between patriotism and nationalism. He believes one can be a good Yoruba patriot and a good Nigeria nationalist.

Professor Siyan Oyeweso FNAL, FHSN

Osun State University, Osogbo, Nigeria

Tel. No +2348033018902, Email: gafoye@gmail.com


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