Friday, October 4, 2019 7:50 am
Drums were on Thursday October 3, 2019, rolled out at the University of Ibadan International Conference Centre for the celebration of the 80th birthday of elder statesman, Lt. Gen. Ipoola Alani Akinrinade, rtd, whose patriotic contributions to the survival of Nigeria cannot be ignored. Clad in Agbada Aso Oke, Akinrinade spent the whole occasion receiving guests as they came to greet him. The security of the venue of the celebration was such that, apart from monarchs and some other well-known personalities, guests were not allowed into the main hall without their invitation cards. Even members of the press were given a tough time by hefty bouncers made up of men and women before they could get access into the hall.
Lucky guests, who were able to get screened, were ushered into a beautifully decorated hall. At the right side, was a display of decorated vases, which were used to depict the celebrant’s journey in the military, each representing his rise through the ranks from a private soldier to a Lieutenant General in the Nigerian Army. Sumptuous meals with assorted drinks, fruits and small chops, were served, and Jimi Solanke’s Band, Tiger Band belonging to 2nd Div. and several traditional performers including poets, entertained the guests.
Among the states’ governors in attendance were: Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun, Dr Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, Dapo Abiodun of Ogun represented by his Deputy, Mrs. Noimot Salako-Oyedele, Engr. Seyi Makinde of Oyo represented by his Deputy, Engr. Rauf Olaniyan and Ogbeni Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo represented by his deputy, Mr Agboola Ajayi. Also, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala, Chief Olusegun Osoba and Chief Abdukareem Adebisi Bamdele Akande, Professor Modupe Adelabu, Otunba Grace Titilayo Laoye-Tomori, were former governors and deputies present.
Also in attendance were monarchs including Ọọ̀ni of Ifẹ̀, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, Alaafin of Oyo, Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, Alake of Egba, Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo III, Orangun of Oke Ila, Oba Adedokun Abolarin, Aroyinkeye I, Akinrun of Ikirun, Oba Abdul Rauf Olawale Adedeji, Ataoja of Osogbo, Oba Jimoh Olanipekun, Aragbiji of Iragbiji, Oba Abdurasheed Ayotunde Olabomi; Olokuku of Okuku and Olokuku of Okuku, Oba Abioye Oyebode Oluronke II.
Former Registrar of the Joint Admissions Matriculation Board, JAMB, Prof Dibu Ojerinde, former Vice Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University, Prof. Wale Omole, Leader of Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, Prof. Banji Akintoye, former Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, Speaker of Osun seventh House of Assembly, Hon. Timothy Owoeye, The Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile – Ife, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, Dr Wale Ahmed, Dr Kunle Olajide, Dr. Oluyomi Abayomi Finnih, Major-Gen. Ike Nwachukwu, Gen. Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, GOC, 2 Div., Ibadan, Maj.-Gen. Anthony Omozoje, Air Commodore Olusesan Idowu and Gen. Raji Rasaki, Senator Biyi Durojaiye, the Executive Editor, The News Magazine, Kunle Ajibade, Chairman Editorial Board, Nation Newspaper, Sam Omatseye, Ademola Oyinlola of Tell, Gbenga Adefaye, Editor-in-chief of Vanguard, Chief Deji Osibogun, Ayo Opadokun, Arch. Muyiwa Ige and Dr Amos Akingba were also in attendance.
Oyetola, who noted that he was proud to be the Governor of Osun State, where the celebrant hail from said that Akinrinade is one of the selling points of the state, adding that he has continued to render his services to the progressive family, Nigeria and humanity. He described Akinrinade as “a sure encyclopedia of insights, analysis, guidance and direction for a nation in search of solutions to national issues. He is a terror to bad regimes, including his military colleagues who failed to relinquish power to civilian administrations at record time. He is a passionate commentator, who always speaks the truth to power, even at a personal cost”.
Governor Fayemi, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, pointed out that though, Akinrinade has no iota of tribalistic sentiment, he is a patriotic Yoruba man, who wants the Yoruba to take their rightful position in the country. “He is self-effacing to a fault. He doesn’t want to be recognized for his exploits. He paid for the first transmitter of the radio, Radio Kudirat that we used during the struggle. He is a people’s general. People respect him. We look up to him for guidance”. He pointed out that there are still some challenges in the country that need urgent attention stressing, “We are still in search of liberation”.
General Oluwole Rotimi, in his remark, decried the disparity in the political appointments between the North and South, saying that the only thing that could address this is sincere restructuring. He appealed to the governors to work together for restructuring, urging the governors in the South to convince their counterparts in the North to embrace restructuring because they do not have anything to lose.
General Godwin Alabi-Isama, a close friend to the celebrant, whom he met 59 years ago in a train on their way from Lagos to Military School in the North, noted that while Akinrinade was 21, he was 20 when they got to military school.
Emphasising that he would only talk about the bad side of Akinrinade, he revealed how they used to sneak out of the military school as cadets to attending ceremonial functions with ladies. He equally narrated how the two of them went about with girls, including a girl friend to one of their instructors. He said that Akinrinade is a bold and courageous person who is not afraid of anybody except idiots, who will go to hell, adding that Akinrinade knows that idiots can even win election in Nigeria.
Appealing to the Yoruba to unite, he urged the Yoruba never to underrate anyone that has agenda or invest in humanity, stating that all the good things late Chief Obafemi Awolowo did during his life time are still there. He alleged that the problem of Ruga was created by Olusegun Obasanjo, the former president of the nation with the enactment of land Decree. In his tribute, he described Akinrinade as “highly focused and principled, he is a scion of Yoruba nobility, an illustrious son, an iconic statesman, kind-hearted and loving. He is a patriot to the core and remains a true and trusted friend for all time”.
Showering encomium on the celebrant, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor Bolaji Aknyemi narrated how Akinrinade has risked his life for the nation, adding that former Military head, late General Sani Abacha attempted to eliminate him for his various activities geared toward enthroning democracy in Nigeria.
Among those who sent tributes to the celebrant for the occasion was General Muhammadu Buhari, who lauded his great achievements and love for Nigeria. He said: “As a junior officer, I admired Gen. Akinrinade, his exploits as a Commander during our unfortunate civil war (1967-1970), his post-war contribution to retooling the Nigerian Army, and eventually, his emergence as Chief of Army Staff. He retired as Chief of Defence Staff. It is only God who can preserve a man to be 80, particularly one who had been to the front, fighting war of unity and one who was in the commanding height of the military, when coups and counter coups were fashionable”.
In the same vein, General Abdulsalami Abubakar prayed for continued good health for the celebrant. He said: “We congratulate and rejoice with you on the momentous and happy occasion. We give God all the glory for seeing you through this far”.
In his own tributes, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu noted that Akinrinade deserves all the accolades he is getting at 80, stating that he is one of those who sacrificed for the democracy being enjoyed in Nigeria today. He noted that, for democracy, Akinrinade suffered untold deprivation and was hounded endlessly by agents of the military dictator. Tinubu said: “For close to 30 years that our paths have crossed in the field of struggle for the termination of military rule in Nigeria, and political emancipation of Nigerians, General Akinrinade has not changed a bit. He is a true democrat, an unrelenting fighter for rule of law and social justice and a statesman extraordinary. He is very political, though not a politician. After the annulment of the June 12 election, General Akinrinade was among the few of us who formed NADECO to demand the de-annulment of that election”. We were in the trenches together with General Akinrinade. Together, we were forced on exile from where we continued the struggle. A combatant soldier who is no stranger to battles, he provided direction and leadership for us in the struggle against the annulment”.
To General David Jemibewon, the celebrant, who was his senior by a year in Offa Grammar School, is “a very likeable and friendly personality. He has the gift of high intelligence, innovative thinking, capacity for hardwork and commitment”.
The celebrant’s wife, Omowale also prayed to God to continue to bless and protect him and add more glorious years to his life. His son, Olufunsho said: “I love and respect you very much and I am justifiably proud to call you father. I thank you for the good name you have established and the shining example that you have and continue to be”. His other children, Bolakale, Odunayo, Leye, and Ayo also wrote glowing tributes about their father’s exemplary life.
Other numerous tributes by family, friends and associates described the octogenarian in various ways, including his being a Yoruba to the core. According to Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, “Baba Alani, is the go-to-man on anything concerning the Yoruba. He carries out this philosophy, fortified by his deep personal commitment to the dignity of the people. I admire this great man for not drawing the blinds on challenges and for keeping the lights of reality aglow for us in our search for regional cohesion, growth and development”.
The governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu and his wife, Arabinrin Betty, described the celebrant as “a quintessential African patriot, statesman of Nigerian descent, a proudly Yoruba Omoluabi who has seen it all”, while Governor Olusola Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State extolled him for his “towering and exceptional achievements in service to this great nation both in the military and as a diplomat extraordinaire”.
In his few remarks, Akinrinade, who noted that he was pleased with the life he has lived, though, just like any other human beings, he had his own ugly times, urge the political leaders to be conscious of the fact that common people are at the centre of the politics they play and the decision they take. Sharing his view about Nigeria, he said, “This is not a Nigeria of my dream. But if we strife very hard and have elites understanding themselves, their background and the wishes of the people very deeply, we can build Nigeria that will be comfortable for all of us. I am a Yoruba man because that is the only thing I am very sure about. Somebody has to build Nigeria before I can really wholly accept that I am a Nigerian. We have not tried hard enough to build Nigeria that deserves all of us, a nation that we can all be proud of”.
The celebrant expressed disappointment over the qualities of the nation’s leaders saying, “I am not quite certain that I am very comfortable with what we have produced in form of people to succeed us. It is not only our generation that has failed, the generation before us also failed. If we can be making little more progress, we will succeed”.
Advising the youth, Akinrinade stated, “Whatever you do, don’t hurt other people. Enjoy yourself, when they give you work, work hard, satisfy yourself, when it is time to play, play very hard as if there will be no tomorrow”.
Lieutenant General Alani Akinrinade is a native of Yakooyo in Ife North Local Government Area of the State of Osun. He was born on October 3, 1939 to Emmanuel Olanrewaju Akinrinade and his wife, Victoria Olatundun. Alani had his primary education in Ipetumodu and went to Offa Grammar School in what is now Kwara State for his secondary school education, which he finished in 1958. He moved to Ibadan, the capital of the old Western Region where he started work at the Ministry of Agriculture. He later joined the military in 1960. He first went to the Nigerian Military Training College, Kaduna, and then had a brief stay at Mons Officer Cadet School, Aldershot, England en-route the prestigious Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, England from 1960-1962. He attended other military institutions in Nigeria, United Kingdom and United States of America including the Royal College of Defence Studies (formerly known as Imperial Defence College, London).
Akinrinade was commissioned as second lieutenant in the infantry Corps on December 20, 1962. He was promoted Lieutenant on March 29, 1963, Captain on March 29, 1965; Major on June 10, 1967; Lieutenant Colonel on May 11, 1968; Colonel on October 1, 1972; Brigadier General on October 1, 1974 and Major General on January 1, 1976. He became Commander of the Ibadan Garrison, 1970-1971 and GOC of 1 Infantry Division, 1975-1979. He was promoted to Lieutenant General on October 2, 1979 and was appointed Chief of Army Staff. He was later to become the Head of the entire military as the first Chief of Defence Staff in 1980 during the civilian administration of President Shehu Shagari. He voluntarily retired from service with effect from October 2, 1981 at the age of 42. After his retirement from the military, he became a full time farmer in Yakooyo, growing cassava, exotic fruits and produce garri, which his farm exports. He is also into fish farming among other things.
After Major General Ibrahim Babangida overthrew Major General Muhammadu Buhari on August 27, 1985, Akinrinade was invited to serve as Minister of Agriculture, then Minister of Industries, and later in 1989, as Minister of Transport. He, however, left government in 1989, when he no longer felt comfortable with the regime and returned to his farm. With the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election by the Babangida regime, Akinrinade became a pro-democracy campaigner, opposing the views of the governments of Babangida and General Sani Abacha. This put him in danger under the Abacha regime. He fled into exile in 1996, using the now famous NADECO route and stayed in the United Kingdom for a while and later moved to the United States of America. He eventually returned to Nigeria in 2000.