immigration The Olora of Ora Kingdom, Kwara State, Oba Adebayo Akolade in this interview with SYLVESTER OKORUWA and SEGUN KASALI at his Lagos home spoke of his days as an administrator, career officer in the immigration service, socialite, among others.


CAN you share some of your experiences as a youth..

During my primary school, I didn’t know much. We were only copying whatever our teachers did. Sometimes, we quarrel as little children. even when children in primary school. Same thing happened in secondary school but as of that time, we knew how to handle ourselves better and I had already learnt how to behave myself whenever my teachers were around and to copy them when I felt what they were doing was right.

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As a traditional ruler one could easily assume that you were born with a silver spoon …

No, I wasn’t born with a silver spoon. My parents were not very rich. They were just average people but able to send my siblings and I to school.


Did you experience challenges paying your school fees?

In Yorubaland then, you must go to school whether your parents were rich or poor. They may have to suffer but will at least put you in school. I can say that I was a bit lucky because from primary school and secondary to graduate and postgraduate levels, everything was just in a sequence. I got it right. I did not have the experience of following my dad to the farm because he was staying in Lagos and there was no farm in Lagos. Throughout my primary school days, my teachers were always pointing to me, bringing me out among others, and saying that they ‘have to really pay attention to this boy.’ Whenever we wanted to collect our report cards, it was common, at that time, to say that they wanted to see my parents because they felt I was very good in school and this was always a part of me until I got to the university where nobody cares about who comes first or last.


How different was the Lagos of your younger days and now?

Lagos has always been a very nice place to stay. When we were growing up, we didn’t have many cars. I could walk from my area in Ofin to Victoria Island. No doubt, Lagos has affected the way I live. In Igbeti, which is very close to Ofin in Lagos State, we were used to watching Egun and Eyo.  As of that time, there were lots of educated people in Lagos and we too wanted to be like them. So, all those things really affected my way of thinking.


Were you also called ‘oba’ while growing up, like the late Ooni of Ife, Okunade Sijuwade?

No, because I was not really seeing obas in such a way that I would love to become one.  Though my father wanted to become an oba, but I wasn’t keen about it. In fact, I was asking why he was so interested in the traditional institution and he said I couldn’t understand, because I was still young. He said he was entitled to it and he wanted it. However, he didn’t get it, but I got it on a silver platter.


Can you take us through your academic journey?

After my secondary school education, I came to University of Lagos, where I did Diploma in Education. Then I went to University of Ibadan, where I studied Educational Management. I went to Lincoln University, where I did Master in Business Administration.


You seem so interested in education.

No, I wasn’t so keen on it. I wanted to become a lawyer, but I wasn’t offered Law at the University of Lagos. So, instead of staying at home, I decided to start with Diploma in Education. I reapplied for Law and I was still not offered. I was later offered Sociology. As a result, I opted for University of Ibadan because I didn’t want Sociology. I applied for Law again at the University of Ibadan but I was still not offered and I settled for whatever was available. As of that time, one could only apply to three universities.

I applied to Ife, Ibadan and Lagos, but only Lagos and Ibadan offered me admission and I decided to go for Educational Management at the University of Ibadan not because of anything special but because I wanted to go to school. I didn’t want to break my education and I wanted to do it at a go. I still had the feeling that I would come back to Lagos and apply for Law again after my programme in Ibadan. But I didn’t do it when I started working because I was very busy.


What point were you trying to prove with Law?

In Lagos then, Law was a popular profession. In those days, parents were always proud to say ‘my son is a lawyer’ and I wanted to be a lawyer too.


How much of your past experiences made you what you are today?

Really, I put everything to God because if I had an ambition to do something and for obvious reasons the university didn’t give me that and I had to pick another line and I am doing well there, it can only be God. So, it has no serious impact on my life since I finished my degree. In fact, I went to my home state, Kwara and I was employed as an Administrative Officer in the government. I worked there for about six to seven years and I was posted to the Governor’s Office where I served many governors as a protocol officer.

I served Colonels, Brigadiers in the Army. I served Colonel Adamu Attah. From there, I served Cornelius Adebayo. Then I served Colonel Ahmed Abdullahi. Thereafter, I left the service due to human problems. I opted out of the civil service of Kwara State and went into federal employment, specifically the Nigerian Immigration Service, where I spent 28 years and the rest of my working life.


Who did you take after, your mum or your dad?

My mum, probably, because she’s humble, has a lot of respect for people. She’s not a harsh person and she’s so kind-hearted. My father died when I was 19 or 20 years and I was just getting into the University of Ibadan.


Did that affect your education?

Not at all. You know back then, I had scholarship and I was a sportsman at the University of Lagos.


Any life lessons from your mum?

My mother was always telling us to avoid waste. We should not eat with two hands for future’s sake and we should learn to respect other people. We should be humble and I say to you that all these things have really assisted me in life.


Any memorable flogging episode?

No. I cannot remember a day that my mother flogged me. But they talked to me with their eyes. When they look at you, you understand what they are saying.


Your dad was interested in the throne he didn›t get it. You weren›t interested, but you got it. How do you see that?

When the late Oba Joel Sule died, I was invited by the community while still with the Immigration Service and I told them I wasn’t interested. They had to approach my family that they met with me and I said I didn’t want it. So, after a lot of pleading and all kinds of things, they invited me to Isale-Eko one day and we were there for a very long time. Everybody started pleading with me and I said okay that they should give me like two months.

Some were even crying that that particular area had been sidelined for a long time. So, this time, they were the ones that said we wanted this particular person. They said I was very good to them and to the community. I did not know they were noticing all that I had been doing, because I was just doing them, to uplift the community. They said that I had done so much so for them and that I should just accept. So, finally, I accepted.


So, how has the experience been?

You know the community is not very big and has not enjoyed the government’s attention, which got so many things crying for help. If you know Kwara State well, Ora is not very far from Omuaran. The road that connects Omuaran to Ora is very bad. People from Ekiti want to come to Ora on a market day. They come every five days. Even Iragbiji people in Osun State come to Ora market every five days.

But after some time, the main bridge, which they have to pass through, just collapsed. So, the day I was given the staff of office, the first thing I did was to gather people of like mind and invite them to my house. Dr Ade Afolabi was appointed as the chairman of the gathering and I told them that we must rebuild the bridge.

The government was to give about N17 to N18 million. I told them that we didn’t need any contractor in this issue and queried if we could not find a boy who did Structural Engineering or even if it’s engineering, from the community. We found one boy and he was able to get some people. All the money we were able to raise that night was about N5 million and we gave it to him, impressing it on him, that we did not have money. So, we asked him to go and do the bridge and he did the bridge.

That was the first thing I did when I became the oba. After that, our health centre had been in a very bad shape and we had to do a total reconstruction. We removed the roof, especially officials’ quarters, nurses’ quarters. We removed the shade, painted them again and put borehole water and generator. So, the health centre is very okay now. Back then in Ora, there was no hotel.

I have a building that I had to concession to somebody and I told him to start it as a hotel, with places where you can drink and buy pepper soup but no standard place to sleep. We did something there too. Another bridge was destroyed by rain, we rebuilt it. So, we have done two bridges – one is big, while the other one is a culvert. There are so many things we have done since I became the oba which I may not be able to remember.


Is your social life still same now as it was?

It’s not very easy. I’m a socialite. I’m a member of the Yoruba Tennis Club, Island Club, Club Arcade and I’m always there with my friends apart from my membership of these three top clubs. So, you see us every time in the club relaxing and having the best of fun.


 What is that thing that gives you a lot of joy but not plenty of money?

Yeah! You see, I have always been a happy person. Even when I was a child, I was a happy child. I don’t allow anything to bother me because I know that anything that goes up must come down. So, I have never allowed anything to disturb my piece of mind. When I was in school, my school was smooth. When I was in the university, it was very okay. And I’m a very good Christian. I put every bit of my hope on God. God has been so fair and nice to me.

If you walk along with God, it will be joy every time because you are not going to see anything that will disturb you. We are very happy in this house. We have nothing bothering us. We go to church, pray.


Any career, domestic regrets?

No regret. I won’t even call this a regret. There was a time I was to be made the Head of Nigerian Immigration Service and you know it’s always competitive. I had been told by the Villa that I had been appointed but hearing it on the radio the following morning, it turned out that another person had been appointed. To me, it wasn’t a regret because if I had been appointed, I wouldn’t have become an oba today. A lot of people have told me this, especially Baba Saraki (the late Olusola Saraki). You must have heard of him. He said ‘go and accept the obaship because they would dump you after three or four years once you become Comptroller General, but the sky is your limit if you take this throne. So, why not take it.’ In fact, I thought baba was thinking probably I wanted to become a politician. He said ‘look, go and take the obaship and see what will happen. You can’t compare being in government position and being an oba.

I learnt a lot from him. He was a very patient, a man very accommodating and he believed seriously in sharing. He was a man of the people. He was such a nice man.


Did he ever try to lure you into politics?

He lured me but I always told him, ‘baba, I’m not a politician.’ He would even tell me that I should just retire and ‘once you retire, you will come with me and be doing these things together’ and I would tell him, ‘baba you know I’m not a politician and I don’t want to be a politician.’


Were you told why you were bypassed at the last minute as Immigration CG? 

It was politics nothing more than that. I don’t want to dabble into that political past.


As a former top security chief, what is wrong with our security architecture?

You know I’ve been a security person for 29 years. So, if we say security level should be reduced due to the level of nepotism, it will be messed up. Sometimes, you may not be able to get someone trustworthy enough. This is not security of Kwara State of that of Lagos. No, it’s national security and it’s so important that before putting people there, they have to be screened. I was screened severally before I was considered for Immigration Comptroller General and I had best of the result.


There is this thing about socialites and women?

I’m a one-man, one-wife person. I’ve controlled myself in life. Let me tell you. You know for security job, you are posted here and there. Once you go to a place and your wife is in Lagos and you can’t remove your eyes from what you see, you have to put yourself under a serious control. If you are in passport’s office, a lot of women will come for passport and they want to do it, without fulfilling all the necessary requirements. If you give room for that, you will create a national disaster. So, throughout my career, I restricted myself. I tried as much as possible to avoid mingling. When I go to clubs, we have a special place we stay. We have a lot of Generals: General this, General that, Air Marshall and so on. We find a place to relax and crack jokes.


How did you meet your wife?

We met in Ilorin. When we met, we started going out. We met when I was a protocol officer. If you knew me then, I had the tendency to fail because I wasn’t a serious person. It was left to me to convince her that I was very serious.


Not serious?

I wasn’t serious because I was so casual. I just said come now, you know I like you and she said look at how this one is calling me. My wife’s dad was a permanent secretary in one of the offices in the Governor’s Office. Incidentally, this man liked me. He was seeing me with the governor every time. People pointed at me and said he was a very nice guy.


How did he react to what you were having with his daughter?

He was very happy.


Was the attraction physical?

She was very pretty, with good manners. She was very humble too and carried herself as a responsible girl.


Are you a February 14 person?

No, I don’t understand what that one means (Laughs).


So, no romantic dates?

When I have money, we travel. But when I don’t, everybody sits down at home (Laughs).


Looking at your children, is there any you can point at and say this is me?

All of them. They all look like and behave like me. They are all the same. They don’t just talk. They want to weigh things before saying anything. In fact, if you don’t tell them look it is you I’m talking to, they won’t say anything. If you see them, you can easily recognise that they are my children and they are very humble and respectful.


Moments and memories?

There are so many things. When I was in secondary school, I was the smallest in my class. It was a mission school. I was appointed the school prefect and I was wondering what they saw  in me. You should know when you were in secondary school, how your teachers would write your name on the board and say Bayo Akolade has been appointed the school prefect. The big ones were very annoyed that ‘how can this one be controlling us’ but I was very sound and smart. Because if you are big and tall and you want to use that to say you won’t take to my instruction, I know what to do. There and then, I will tell you to go and cut grass. I didn›t know they were actually checking if one had that quality of leadership and they said that was what made them put me there. And my career too was tailored along that pattern.

I also remember my time as a protocol officer. I was always on the move. There was a time I had an accident with my driver and I was full of gratitude to God for sparing me because the driver was badly injured. When I came out of the car, nothing happened to me. But my people still insisted I must be taken to the hospital and when the doctor checked, he said nothing happened to me.

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