Aki­olu: 75Years of Fond Mem­o­ries

On Oc­to­ber 29, Oba of La­gos, Oba Ril­wanu Osuo­lale Aki­olu I, cel­e­brated 75 years of ex­is­tence on earth with fond mem­o­ries of a life re­plete with chal­lenges and out­stand­ing records of achieve­ments, writes Gboyega Akin­sanmi

THISDAY - - CICERO / MILESTONE -

Last week, Oba of La­gos, Oba Ril­wanu Aki­olu I, marked his 75th birth­day. This came up five months af­ter the monarch cel­e­brated his 15th an­niver­sary on the throne. Across the fed­er­a­tion, em­i­nent Nige­ri­ans have been send­ing mes­sages of good­will to the Chair­man of La­gos Coun­cil of Obas and Chiefs, felic­i­tat­ing and wish­ing him pros­per­ous years. No­table among them were Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari, La­gos State Gover­nor, Mr. Ak­in­wunmi Am­bode and the Na­tional Leader of All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC), Sen­a­tor Bola Tin­ubu. For Buhari, Aki­olu’s un­wa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to the peace and unity of Nige­ria is match­less and un­par­al­leled. Aside, his courage to speak the truth to peo­ple in power, he has distin­guished from other royal fa­thers in the fed­er­a­tion.

Be­yond good­will mes­sages across the fed­er­a­tion, a look into Aki­olu’s life re­veals a lot of lessons. First, just about nine years when he was born into Akin­se­moyin Royal Fam­ily, Aki­olu’s mother passed on. Even shortly be­fore her demise, Aki­olu claimed he had been liv­ing with his mother’s friend in Ibadan for rea­sons he did not dis­close. Af­ter a short while, he moved to the res­i­dence of his brother, whom he fondly called Baba Ibadan.

That per­haps marked the begin­ning of a thorny jour­ney for the monarch de­spite the in­signia of roy­alty upon him. Even though he never shared what he might have suf­fered on ac­count of his mother’s pas­sage in 1957, the pain of liv­ing most of his life with­out ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the care of a mother was har­row­ing enough to get a young man with a promis­ing fu­ture off bal­ance.

But it all turned to be a tes­ti­mony of life­time achieve­ments af­ter decades of hard work. For him, life could have been un­bear­able if not for God’s fac­tor in ev­ery phase of his life’s jour­ney. Orig­i­nally, Aki­olu’s plan was to be­come a le­gal prac­ti­tioner, which he be­lieved, would place him at a van­tage po­si­tion to as­sist the down­trod­den and the op­pressed in the so­ci­ety.

How­ever, the monarch could not im­me­di­ately re­alise the dream of be­com­ing a lawyer. It was not be­cause he could not meet the re­quire­ments for law pro­gramme. But Aki­olu’s con­tact with some po­lice of­fi­cers re­de­fined his ca­reer fo­cus. So, rather than pur­su­ing a le­gal ca­reer, Aki­olu joined the Nige­ria Po­lice Force, which he at­trib­uted to the in­flu­ence of a po­lice of­fi­cer he called ‘Fine Coun­try’.

Be­side Fine Coun­try, Aki­olu equally ex­plained how some po­lice of­fi­cers in­flu­enced his de­ci­sion to pur­sue a ca­reer in the se­cu­rity sec­tor, for which ac­cord­ing to him, he would ever re­main grate­ful to God. By prov­i­dence, Aki­olu rose to the po­si­tion of As­sis­tant In­spec­tor-Gen­eral be­fore he re­tired from ac­tive ser­vice.

Un­til his re­tire­ment in 2002, Aki­olu served in the Nige­ria Po­lice Force for 32 years. But the monarch never al­lowed the thrill of po­lice job to nudge off his ca­reer’s radar. Mid­way into his po­lice job, Aki­olu suc­cess­fully un­der­took a law pro­gramme at the Univer­sity of La­gos, Akoka and was sub­se­quently called to the Nige­rian Bar. For him, this is a dream ful­filled.

He never dis­puted the im­age is­sue that had be­come as­so­ci­ated with the Nige­ria Po­lice for decades. De­spite this chal­lenge, Aki­olu ob­served that be­ing a po­lice­man “is one of the best jobs one can do in this life. It is an honourable pro­fes­sion. But it re­quires truth­ful­ness and faith­ful­ness.”

Un­like thou­sands of po­lice of­fi­cers, who used their uni­forms as weapon of ex­ploita­tion and ha­rass­ment, Aki­olu shared an en­tirely dif­fer­ent phi­los­o­phy, which he claimed, had paid off. Ac­cord­ing to him, all through his ser­vice years, he used his po­si­tion to help peo­ple with­out ex­pect­ing a re­ward for what­ever help he ren­dered to the peo­ple in need, adding, “It hurts me some­times that none of my chil­dren joined the Force.”

That was the ori­en­ta­tion, which helped him rise to the cadre of an As­sis­tant In­spec­tor-Gen­eral. Even some of his su­pe­rior of­fi­cers, ac­cord­ing to him, knew him for be­ing forth­right and truth­ful at all times. That paid up es­pe­cially af­ter he pulled out of the Force. For in­stance, within two weeks that he as­cended the throne, he claimed peo­ple con­trib­uted N165 mil­lion for me.

Specif­i­cally, Aki­olu re­tired in 2002, three years to the ac­tual time he was sup­posed to pull out of the Force. His sud­den re­tire­ment trun­cated his vision to be­come the In­spec­torGen­eral dur­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion of for­mer Pres­i­dent Oluse­gun Obasanjo. That, per­haps, might be one of the rea­sons for his pub­lic crit­i­cism of the for­mer pres­i­dent. Even with this dis­ap­point­ment, God com­pen­sated him in an­other way, when in 2003, he as­cended the throne of his an­ces­tors.

Aki­olu’s as­cen­dance to the throne was an­other in­ter­est­ing part of his life, which threw up di­verse chal­lenges for the monarch. Af­ter the pas­sage of Oba Adeyinka Oyekan, on March 1, 2003, the King­mak­ers of the La­gos Tra­di­tional King­dom nar­rowed down their se­lec­tion process to Aki­olu. On May 23, 2003, the king­mak­ers an­nounced him the 21st Oba of La­gos af­ter meet­ing all re­quire­ments for the royal stool.

Long be­fore he as­cended the throne of his an­ces­tors, Aki­olu never at any time hid his in­ter­est in the stool. At dif­fer­ent pub­lic fora, Aki­olu had re­counted how he pleaded with God to grant his re­quest to be­come Oba of La­gos. In the cir­cle of col­leagues and friends, Aki­olu was fondly called Prince.

When the op­por­tu­nity came up af­ter the demise of Oyekan, Aki­olu was lucky to have won the hearts of the own­ers of La­gos, who even­tu­ally put tra­di­tional and in­sti­tu­tional seal on his se­lec­tion. Now, he has spent 15 good years on the throne and 75 years on the earth, which Am­bode said, was a rare priv­i­lege that only God could give.

Aki­olu’s as­cen­dance to the throne did not come easy. Among oth­ers, Aki­olu was fiercely chal­lenged by Prince Ta­judeen Olusi and Prince Adekunle Ojora. Even 15 years af­ter coro­na­tion, Prince Sammy Ade­biyi and Prince Rasheed Modile are still be­fore an Ikeja High Court, seek­ing an or­der to de­clare Aki­olu’s ap­point­ment and in­stal­la­tion null and void. The mat­ter is still be­fore the court, 15 years af­ter coro­na­tion. Un­der the Oba of La­gos State Cus­tom­ary Law, the claimants ar­gued, only two rul­ing houses can pro­duce tra­di­tional rulers: Akin­se­moyin and Olo­gunkutere. Oba Oyekan, who reigned be­fore Aki­olu, was from the Olo­gunkutere Rul­ing House.

Since Olo­gunkutere pro­duced Oyekan, Akin­se­moyin should or­di­nar­ily pro­duce his suc­ces­sor. For the claimants, Aki­olu is of the Olo­gunkutere Royal Fam­ily. But con­trary to this claim, Aki­olu him­self had said he was of the Akin­se­moyin Royal Fam­ily, which the claimants agreed, should pro­duce Oba of La­gos af­ter the pas­sage of Oyekan. Amid these claims and counter-claims, the onus now rest on the court to de­cide Aki­olu’s fate.

On May 23, when the monarch marked his 15th an­niver­sary on the throne, the La­gos State House of As­sem­bly beamed light on the state’s records of growth and de­vel­op­ment un­der Aki­olu’s reign. The Deputy Speaker, Hon. Wa­siu Sanni-Eshin­lokun de­scribed Aki­olu “as a great leader whose king­ship had brought for­tune to the state.

“Be­fore he was en­throned, the pop­u­la­tion of La­gos was nine mil­lion. Now, it has in­creased to 22 mil­lion. This is part of the bless­ings en­joyed in La­gos through the for­tune of the king. This is com­mend­able. Kabiyesi is a great leader, who will never be for­got­ten in the his­tory of the state in the con­text of the econ­omy and other de­vel­op­ment.”

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