At 70, former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala of Oyo State, spoke in an interview with journalists about his frustration as deputy governor, his rough road to being a governor, his case with the EFCC, his growing years and other issues.
You appear to be seen by many as a controversial person. Why is it so?
Let me guess; it is so because politically, I am an introvert. I do not believe in propaganda. I do not say what I do not believe in. Because of this, people do not know the stuff I am made of and people don’t know me. They don’t know the stuff I am made of. Because I don’t talk too much, they just guess. You know, when you don’t have much information about a particular person, you just guess. It is whatever information that is available that you will use. That is responsible for why they have erroneous opinions about me; I am not controversial.
How will you react to the belief that you were involved in the plan that led to the removal of your former boss, Senator Rashidi Ladoja?
People don’t know what happened that time. I have tried to explain it in my memoir which, by the grace of God, will soon come out. For those who executed the plan to remove my boss, if they were to have their way and if not for constitutional barrier, I wouldn’t have been their candidate for the governorship position. But there was no way they could breach that constitutional provision, and there was no way they could remove both of us at the same time because I was not doing anything. I was hiding as a deputy governor. If they had their way, they would want another person to be the governor. I did not play any role in the impeachment.
I was in Ogbomoso when the impeachment was done. I was not in Ibadan. I wouldn’t have allowed that impeachment to take place. I would have just advised them to let us talk to my boss. My boss was adamant; he was fighting on all fronts that time and that was why they were able to hit him. He thought I was part of it, but I was not. I left Ibadan for all of them when I was about to be killed on December 18, 2005. I nearly lost my life; my office was bombarded. They fired bullets at my office. Luckily for me, I was not hit. The whole of governor’s office was deserted. I narrowly escaped being killed. I just used my experience to manoeuvre out of there. My then orderly also helped me to get out of the office.
Did Ladoja take that personally?
He is still taking it personally. By the time you read my book, you will understand that he made some mistakes. When the seat was vacant, they were looking for me to be sworn in, I was not in Ibadan; I was in Ogbomoso. If I knew there was going to be a vacancy, I would have prepared myself to fill the vacancy. They knew I was not going to come; they had to send my close friend, Senator Adeseun, to me. When he arrived, I said, ‘Look, I know that you are my friend but I don’t trust you too. If you want me to follow you, I can’t follow you tonight. Two, come very early in the morning.’ He said, ‘Let’s go and sleep in Ibadan,’ and I said no. He said, ‘There will be a vacuum, the man is already gone.’ I said, ‘Look, that is not my cup of tea, my life comes first.’ I said, as a security man, he had to take instructions from me. I told him that by the time we would leave Ogbomoso the following day, it was the route that I decided we should take that we would take. He said he agreed. As of 5.30am, he was in my house. I didn’t come out until around 6am. I said they should look round to see if I was safe.
When I came out, I saw him in a rickety Peugeot vehicle. I said we should leave Ogbomoso immediately for Osogbo. From Osogbo, we would go to Gbongan. From Gbongan, we detoured to Ile-Ife. When we were getting to Ile-Ife, he asked what we were doing. Then, we turned round and passed through Gbongan. From Gbongan, we got to Ikire and then to Ibadan. On that day, under the flyover in Iwo, we waited but people did not see me because I sat in the middle. If I was preparing to be the governor, I would have lodged in a hotel. And on January 12, 2006, I would have just walked into the secretariat. I was not part of it and God sees my heart. Maybe that was why God rewarded me by making me to spend four years as governor.
After leaving office, you must have had opportunities of meeting with Ladoja; what extent did either of you go to resolve the issue?
My boss is what he is and I know him very well. What he believes, he believes and it would be very difficult to convince him. He had said that I was not responsible and that certain people were responsible. I thought it had been overtaken by events. The only thing I could do was to record it in my memoir for people to judge. If I had the opportunity to talk to him, I would have challenged him that, ‘Oga, what happened on February 18, 2015? Since you knew that everybody was not going to come to the office, you should have warned me also not to come to office.’ Everybody did not come to the office except Adebayo Alao-Akala, the deputy governor. I put a call through to him; the question he asked me was: ‘Why did you go to the office?’ I said, ‘I am the deputy governor but you didn’t tell me not to go to the office. If you had told me not to go to the office, I would not have gone.’ There is nothing to be discussed and the relationship has been very cordial. One thing again, I had known him before we became governor and deputy governor. He is my ‘senior’ friend.
Why has it been difficult for the two of you to be in the same party since then?
We have different backgrounds. What I believe in, he does not believe in. For instance, consider the way Sarafadeen Alli was removed as Secretary to the State Government when we were in office. I wouldn’t have done that and I advised against it, that we shouldn’t remove him but he told me it was a done deal.
You were a deputy governor and deputy governors are usually seen as spare tyres. Were you treated as one?
If there was anything worse than spare tyre, I was treated worse. You even take care of spare tyre because of emergency needs but this spare tyre was left deflated so I could not be used. As deputy governor, I was not treated well at all. I was just going to the office to read newspapers. I was not assigned roles. I just forced myself in; they didn’t allow me. When my boss was reinstated as governor after the impeachment saga, he removed me from the deputy governor’s office and put me outside the secretariat, very close to the present Ministry of Environment. My office was outside the secretariat. Secondly, he prevented me from attending the executive council meeting. Till that regime ended, I did not attend executive council meetings.
As governor, how well would you say you treated your deputy?
My deputy governor was working. I treated my deputy governor the way I wanted to be treated when I was a deputy governor. I made him busy. I would have loved that the constitution would recommend specific roles to be performed by the deputy governor.
In your view, should the Commissioner of Police be fully answerable to the state governor?
The Commissioner of Police is attached to the state to help with the security architecture. His office shouldn’t be an appendage of the governor’s office. If the directive given by the governor is lawful, the police commissioner will gladly obey but what some of our governors do is to give unlawful orders and expect the CP to obey them. Who would be held responsible? It is the CP. Unfortunately, you cannot touch the governor. So, the CP would be very wary of the orders. The Inspector-General of Police is assessing the CP based on the rate of crime in the state, so he has to keep the state crime-free. I know where you are going; we are not ready to have state police.
We don’t seem to have good leaders in this country. Is there any hope for Nigeria?
We had good leaders but our good leaders were not allowed to do what they were supposed to do. We need a Nigerian who is slightly insane to lead us. We need a leader that would not look at anybody’s gesture. We need a leader that would just act right. If you want to do what is right, don’t do something that is popular. It may be popular but it may be wrong. If it is not popular but right, at the end of the day, people would enjoy it. We have not had people who give attention to what is happening to us in Nigeria apart from Olusegun Obasanjo. I am a 70-year-old man and I have seen it all. Obasanjo has his shortcomings; but you cannot be a perfect man. Obasanjo is a Yoruba man but did you see any Yoruba who benefitted from his government? He first sees himself as a Nigerian.
You are seen as a personality who takes social life to extremes; you don’t look like someone made for politics…
I was helped in politics because I socialise a lot. In 2007, I was ‘squeezed’ by Ladoja; I didn’t have money to campaign. It was friends who believed in me that rallied round me. A good politician must have a social life. If you are a politician and you don’t have a social life, forget it. In those days, if you didn’t drink and didn’t womanise, people would fear you. How do you mix with people? Anybody that socialises has a very plain heart. He would not have grudges against you. I am a life member of Ikoyi Club, Island Club and Ibadan Polo Club. If I give you one bottle of beer and someone is planning evil against me, you will come and tell me.
How has that helped you?
Oh, it has helped me a lot. It helps me to get vital information. When you have such friends, they will come and tell you about people’s plots (against you). If they say that I wear jewellery; I have been doing that since I was young. You cannot grow up in Ghana and not like it. My mother put gold necklace on my neck as a child.
Some say you defected to the ruling All Progressives Congress so that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission would not bother you?
They said I joined the APC because I had a case with the EFCC. I swear with all that I have in my possession that I have not approached any APC member to help me because of my case with the EFCC. The case with EFCC is not about any political witch-hunt. They didn’t charge me with embezzlement. They said we constructed some kilometres of road. I asked who did it and they said local government chairmen. Am I a local government chairman? They have charged the wrong person. They are just wasting my time. I didn’t go to the APC because of that; I swear on that.
At 70, what advice do you have for those who are just coming up?
Life has taught me that you must be focused and must create agenda for yourself. In my memoir, (I recalled how) when everything was blank when I left primary school, I made up my mind that I must advance in my studies. At a point, I became a mechanic. At a time, I became a farmer and at another time, I became a tailor after primary education before I went to Ghana. You have to know how to trust in God and do things moderately. Women (womanise), moderately, drink moderately. I had a lot of people smoking around me, I tried it but it didn’t go down well with me.
Who had the greatest influence in your life?
Iya Alaro, my grandmother. My father died when I was two years old and my mother was under 30, so she had to leave me with Iya Alaro. Many people didn’t know that I was not her son. Punch