Call him Governor Seyi Makinde’s father and you will not be wrong. He is one of the men at whose feet Governor Seyi Makinde learnt. At 87, the story of Chief Theophilus Adeleke Akinyele is veni ,vidi ,vici. He has seen it all. In his much younger days, he could be described as a disciplined man of power. By the time he retired as the Head of the Civil Service, a job that included the responsibility of the present day Secretary to the State Government in 1978, he was called up for yet another season of service. He was appointed as the Director of Budget and Special Adviser to President Shehu Shagari on Budget Affairs.
Interestingly, Chief Akinyele, a one-time Registrar of the prestigious University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) hails from Ajia, and not just that, he and Governor Seyi Makinde’s father are cousins. A man with a reputation for excellence, Chief Akinyele told the trio of TUNDE AYANDA, WOLE ADEJUMO and OLAWALE AWE how being focused has worked for the Governor and why he is doubly sure Governor Seyi Makinde’s tenure will be a great success.
Chief Akinyele who believes “God has a way of using the best materials at the best time” also advised the Governor not to criticize past leaders but strive to perform better than they all did.
It will not be out of place to say congratulations sir, the governor is your son…
We should congratulate each other. He is my adopted son.
How did your relationship with Engr. Seyi Makinde evolve over the years? We would want to know how he came to you in the first place?
He didn’t come to me; we were born in the same village (laughs). You see, his family is Aigbofa family; the full name is Aigbofa La Nwo’ke, Ifa kan o si ni para. It is a prominent family in Ajia. That is why they nominated him from the family to become a chief. He is a chief of Ajia and his father was my cousin. He was a good Christian; unfortunately he is not with us anymore. May his soul rest in peace.
So, he didn’t come to me, we are related. So when you said I am his father, yes, I am his godfather, I am his stepfather and traditionally, I am his father because traditionally in Yoruba parlance, if you belong to the same family or you are children of the same stock, then you become relations.
Where were you when you heard the news that your son has become the Governor and how did you feel when you received the news at that moment?
I was in the United States of America when I heard. Naturally I was happy, because for the first time, in my own judgment, people voted not on the basis of party but on the basis of personality, what they have done and what they are capable of doing for the people. And this young man is energetic, humble and consistently focused. He would remember that I am one of those who tried to persuade him to go through the Senate originally but he said ‘ah, Daddy, no. I will look like a harlot who will go for anything. I am focused on going to be the Governor.’ So I started praying for him. I even wanted to blackmail him by saying you want to join a party that is said to be corrupt. He said ‘tell me, which party is not corrupt?’
Long before he became the candidate, he was already doing things for his school, Bishop Philips Academy, for churches, for mosques and for his village. As I said, he was nominated by his family. He built a gas turbine to provide electricity for the people in his community, he gave them a borehole, renovated his school, Bishop Philips Academy. If you recall, there was a flood disaster in Ibadan and he gave the people of Apete a bus because they were cut off because the bridge collapsed. Those are some of the several things he has done to help people. So, I saw that he is focused. People love him because they can see that he has ideas to help people. All I could do was to pray for him because I have only one vote.
The Governor-elect looks up to you as a role model; what are those qualities that you know you have that you have seen in him?
I am not God, I have my own faults. For this young man to be so focused and humble; it is an asset to him and God has been kind to him, he is highly intelligent. I asked him two questions, when he started campaigning, first, I said I hope that you know that in politics, there is mudslinging, people will tell lies against you, and say things, but you need to know that the truth will prevail. Secondly I asked him, do you know that in politics, there is no amount of money that can please them? So you must be ready. Thirdly, you must take care of your security. So I said security is important. And believe in God.
Anybody who believes in God, God will help him. Religion is not important; one must acknowledge that there is a Supreme Being.
When he was going to join politics, his father brought him to you. Can you recollect the advice you gave him then sir?
The father was worried, naturally because the father was not a politician. He was a businessman but a quiet one in the oil industry and a gentleman. He said ‘Daddy, oro omo yin o ye mi o’. I have seen a difference in his approach. It makes me happy that this election, they voted for him not minding his party. I am not sure they bothered about his party, in my own judgment. And that is good because that is the stage we are in Nigeria.
I am not a saint; I have tried my hands in politics before. I tried during the gubernatorial election, the one that produced Omololu Olunloyo. I have worked with the government at all levels; from being Third Class Clerk in 1953 to being Head of the Civil Service in 1978, retiring as Head of Service in 1978, that is something. I have been Registrar, University of Ife before. So God has been kind to me.
You should not do the kind of politics that will make me run away from you, or make you run away from me. We will meet again. Something is bound to bring us together. When you said you are Adejumo, I said I know the Adejumos of Oke Offa Baba ‘Sale, some of them were my seniors at school, some of them were my juniors. We are bound to meet. Even if it is not that close, there will be something that will bring us together. You may be in need of my pen, just to sign your signature and if you sign for millions, you may bless me (laughs). So you see, in life, we are all interrelated. Take that into politics, it should not be a do or die. And thank God, he is not a do or die person, we thank God for that. That made the people to elect him.
We have seen different examples of politicians. Some will start well and finish extremely poorly; as the Governor’s father, how do you plan to ensure that he does not derail?
Well, as I said, nobody is a saint and nobody is God, except God Himself. But I have studied the young man all his life; as you know, he is very humble, he is educated, God blessed him but he is still humble with it. He mustn’t forget his roots. Anybody who forgets his roots is bound to fail.
We will meet again, look at me, I retired in 1978. I had nothing to do with Shagari other than that he knew me when I was working under Chief Simeon Adebo in the Ministry of Finance in the West. So he invited me. I wasn’t a politician and I served him for four years. I wrote an article in the Nigerian Tribune that as far as I am concerned, he didn’t steal. Nobody will steal a kobo with my eyes open, because when I look at it, your money, your kobo and my kobo is there as well.
There are two people like that in Nigeria that I respect, if only the military had allowed them to continue; Balewa and Shagari. You know why I am saying this? I served him for four years, he never asked me to do anything wrong. And when I say no, he takes me seriously. Yes, you are my boss, I will respect you, but I will not because you are my boss do a wrong thing or allow him to do a wrong thing and therefore misled you or let you do what God did not want you to do. I will be guilty just as much as you are guilty. That is the way I look at life. The adviser and the man being advised, we shall both be guilty before God.
And you know, I had cause to visit him, when he lost four of his children, in a lorry accident in his village, Shagari Village, 30 miles from Sokoto. The children were playing outside, four of them, a bolekaja hit them. I and the Adviser on the Economy, Professor Edozien took a taxi cab from Sokoto. The man was just like any other farmer rearing his cattle. He was just as simple as ever. He said a few things about his life. They locked him up for about 21 months; protective detention they called it. It was imprisonment. The things that they did to him, affected him in some ways; one, he never smoked again because he was a chain smoker when he was the President. When he was smoking then, I would get up and he would say ‘sit down Mr. Akinyele, sit down’. And we saw him, he wasn’t smoking again. I asked him, Mr. President, what happened? He said when he was detained; they didn’t allow him to see the rays of the sun, soldiers guarding him. So, he went virtually blind. Secondly, they didn’t allow him to read books, except the Qur’an. So since he was in detention, he never smoked again and you know part of the problem of smokers is that it affects their eyes.
He wasn’t a looter. May his soul rest in peace. As far as I am concerned, he is one of the best presidents Nigeria has ever had. Don’t let me go beyond that because I might be delving into politics.
Expectations are high, especially with the incoming government. You have been there, especially in the civil service, in what area would you want Engr. Makinde’s government to make a decisive change?
Well, Oyo State is a civilized state. Civilized in the sense that everybody in Oyo State has his own view. That is the evidence of being educated. If you are educated and something bothers you, you will look for the opportunity of voicing out your opinion. That is the state of Oyo. I believe that by the grace of God, he will do well. Why? Because he has been doing very well before he was elected; to the village, the church, to mosques, to his school, to the generality of the people and he has been spending his own money. When his father died, he did something that touched me. In remembrance of his first year, he asked me, ‘Daddy, can I build the village a town hall? I said that is good. Come and take part of my plot in the village, the next one, buy it along and fence it. He built a town hall for the generality of the people, in commemoration of his father’s anniversary. And he did something, he created a place where farmers can come and buy seedlings and seeds to plant. He didn’t call a big party, so I believe that he is focused and with his decisive measures, he can be the governor. He has been in this game now for about 14 or 15 years.
A man who has been on one game for about 14 or 15 years must be an expert and the human qualities I know about him, he will not steal. By the grace of God, nothing will make him steal, God has blessed him. Secondly, he is humble, thirdly, he believes in God; because only God sees the heart. I don’t see your heart, you don’t see my heart. Anybody who believes in God is bound to succeed, if he is strong in that belief. I am not talking of religion now. Religion is different from spiritualism. So it looks to me that because he is young and he is humble, he can relate successfully with the elderly, he won’t be rude to them, so I believe he will succeed.
He should not criticize previous leaders but strive to do better. I hate people who criticize others because a proverb says when you point one finger at somebody, four others are pointing at you. Also he needs to remember that there will be people who will criticize you; don’t say oh, he is my enemy. He is not your enemy, he is just a sycophant. So I believe he will succeed by the grace of God and with the help of young people like you.
You know his father very well; he is no longer with us. But how do you think he would have felt with his son becoming governor?
He would be happy but he would be worried as a father. He would be thinking how would this young man cope? Because he is not the eldest of his children; I know the father too would have been praying for him, that is what a father should do and that is what I am doing now. I pray for him and I believe that the young man has great focus.
Credit: Omi Tuntun Magazine