•Oloye LEKAN ALABI, Burial Planning Committee Chair Speaks
Plans are in a top gear to give the late Ibadan-born business mogul, Sir (Chief) Bode Akindele a befitting burial.
Sir Bode Akindele, a business magnate of international repute and the Baba Ijo, Methodist Church, Agbeni, Ibadan, it would be recalled, died on Monday 29th June, 2020, at the age of 87.
A burial planning committee has, however, been set up by the family, and chairing this committee is no other person than the Ekefa Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oloye Lekan Alabi.
No other person could have been more appropriate for the role than Oloye Lekan Alabi. He shared a robust, cordial relationship with Sir Bode Akindele in his lifetime. Theirs was a relationship, spanning over 36 years, that transcends just being Ibadan men.
So, by virtue of their relationship, Oloye Lekan knows and understands the standards Sir Bode Akindele represented in his lifetime.
No wonder he had written 9 tributes in honour of Sir Bode Akindele in which he captured his relationship and experiences, as well as life and times of the deceased.
In this interview with City People’s Correspondent, DARE ADENIRAN, Oloye Lekan Alabi speaks on the burial plans for Sir Bode Akindele, and the main objective of his committee. His 36 years relationship with Sir Bode, what they have in common and many other interesting issues. Enjoy the excerpts.
You were recently appointed Chairman, Planning Committee for the burial of late Ibadan business mogul, Sir (Chief) Bode Akindele. Tell us about the program?
Let me, first of all, say that, he is not limited to Ibadan as a business mogul. He had his businesses, and not a business, industries spread over five continents.
So, Sir (Chief) Bode Akindele is not the mere typical businessman, but an industrialist of global reach. Manufacturing, Shipping, Real Estate and of course, with his well-known charity which he did underground. The family honoured me as you have said to chair the burial planning committee, made up of eminent persons and daughters and sons of Sir Bode Akindele, naturally.
We held our maiden virtual meeting yesterday. The principal objective of the planning committee is well known; to organise a decent burial, reception for the dead. But in view of the current lockdown in the country and over the world, the highlights will be a decent service commendation, the typical Christian funeral service and decent, modest burial for Sir Bode Akindele.
Give us insights into some of the lineup of programs to the burial sir?
Yesterday was our maiden meeting as I told you. So we are going to have another meeting very soon, and the mandate to the committee is that, whatever we are going to do, however modest, must be cleared with the Bode Akindele family.
So, I can’t not be specific now, which is Friday 10th July, 2020, a day after our first meeting. But I assure that by the grace of God we’ll try our best to meet the standard with which Sir Bode Akindele was known all over the world. He was a man of 100% etiquette. Everything must be in place when he was alive.
We have seen many of your tributes in honour of the deceased. Apart from being an Ibadan man, what was your relationship with him?
I have written nine tributes since he died on Monday 29th June, 2020. So I can’t really explain my relationship with him. I said in the 9th tribute that, “now I am going personal”. Personal in the sense that I have been wondering even before his death, why is that very deep, cordial and beautiful relationship between me and Sir Bode Akindele?
But as I mentioned in the tribute, he was not alone. I have had privileges of being accepted closely by distinguished Nigerians, some are dead, some are alive. But in retrospect with Sir Bode inclusive, in my private moment, I have always searched myself, aren’t you lucky to have been allowed close by powerful people? And I have found out the answer, what that they saw in me, those who are dead and those who are alive, some of their virtues, if not all of their virtues. Which number one is humility, integrity, discipline, hard work, respect for the laws and modesty.
But now to answer your question specifically for Sir Bode. Our affinity for our tradition and culture particularly dresses. Sir Bode dressed well. He was an epitome of the typical Yoruba, Oyo, Ibadan dresser.
I was about to ask that what do you think people see in you that makes them to be giving you the responsibility of chairing these committees and programs?
If I am not going to be immodest, whenever one is called upon to come and serve, I honour them. Although I have rejected some, maybe for logistics reasons or for some personal reasons. But on those committees that I have been invited to serve, and which I have a say and most of them, I would rather be the chairman. On our first meeting, I would implore my co-members to please, let us know and I take it that I am serving not for any material benefits but I consider it an honour to be asked to come and serve. And so, we must give 100% service to such committee and those who have invited us.
Two, please you may go and check the records, I have always avoided, in these assignments, anything to do with money. There would be subcommittee for food, drinks, subcommittee for entertainment but of course, they will report to me as chairman. And I tell them please, we have our reputations to keep. Let me tell you as an example.
One of the weddings of the late Aare Abdul-Azeez Arisekola-Alao’s son or daughter naturally, Lekan Alabi was the Chairman of Arisekola Alao’s social engagements. So, there was this particular one, two members and they told the committee that they were interested in providing services; food and drinks. I told them no, we would throw the thing open to the public. Let those who know they qualify and can give us quality service apply. That was the first thing they took against themselves, not me. I didn’t know they didn’t like that aspect. So the thing was thrown open, caterers from outside Ibadan bidded, and when eventually the contract was awarded, two of them invariably, they used a proxy, which I didn’t know, to get the job. I told them we would not pay 100% cost upfront. We would pay 25 per cent mobilization. If you are reputable or you are not reputable, you should go and find the means to provide the services, then we pay upon quality, timely delivery.
They took an offence and went to report me to Alhaji Arisekola Alao, that I was becoming dictatorial, I was sitting on money. God bless the soul of Alhaji Arisekola-Alao, I was told by people, behind me in his house that, he said Lekan is the chairman and he is trying to be open. Remember this man has been in government and he is now in Odu’a Investment. He is preaching integrity so you have to comply. They did.
I am not an angel, but one has a reputation to keep, to maintain, some ideals to maintain. Because it is so easy to criticize. Now everybody in this country will criticize one arm of either the government, judiciary, public service, private. I always say this, when we want to sleep at night, we should ask ourselves, have I done the right thing at the right time today? That is the only way Nigeria can get out of the woods.
Sir Bode Akindele meant different things to different people, what do you think he will be remembered for?
A lot. I have had the privilege of relating with him in Nigeria and outside Nigeria, and I found out that, Sir Bode was just one single individual without size. What do I mean by that? I mean the laws, the standard which he maintained in Nigeria, he maintained outside the shores of Nigeria. Always humble, warm but when it comes to business, you needed to see him take action.
Then I think to myself, no wonder Baba is successful and known all over the world. No nonsense, no African, Nigeria factor that people will refer to, no excuse. You must deliver, and but if you had reasons for either maybe not meeting target or time, you must give him notice in advance, concrete notice. Well, it is his destiny because he was sitting on such a large conglomerate; Shipping, Real Estate, Banking, Manufacturing, Media etc. No, it was God.
By virtue of your relationship with Sir Bode Akindele, what do you think endeared him to people, to have enjoyed and still enjoy so much love and respect?
I think one of it would be that, his forgiveness if a mistake had been committed, inadvertently. Because we are all human beings, we make mistakes and sins and beg God for forgiveness. So he had the ability to see through a genuine mistake, inadvertently made mistake and he would forgive on the spot. Let me give you an example.
You know he donated large sums to the Federal government in this palliative for the Coronavirus pandemic, Federal government, Lagos and Oyo state governments, which I coordinated.
The governor of Oyo State government wrote a personal letter of appreciation to him. Lagos State government published the names, list of donors from the billionaire to the millionaire, to the thousandaire, and even somebody who gave, I think one thousand naira, the person’s name was acknowledged, in a 3-page appreciation advert by Lagos State government, in a popular Nigerian newspaper.
Naturally, I went through the list trice, from the number one to the last, I didn’t see Mondandola Group or his name, Sir Chief Bode Akindele. I contacted him, Sir, have you seen today’s newspaper? Lagos State has been kind to appreciate donors. I have gone through the advertisement trice, I can’t find Mondandola Group or your name. His response was, and so Baba Oloye, that is him, in our 36 years relationship, because we came together in 1984, when I was Press Secretary to a military governor.
It was my position in the old Oyo State government that brought us together. Because he will invite governors to functions, particularly the annual carol service at his Alomaja residence. I can count the number of times he called me directly by my name. It couldn’t be up to 50 times. It was either Press Secretary, when I was Press Secretary.
When I crossed over to Odu’a Investment Company Limited as the first Public Affairs Manager, it was Manager. When I was given the traditional tittle of Akogun in Lalupon then it became Akogun. By the time I joined the Mogaji Olubadan traditional line, it was Oloye Olubadan.
So, he said Oloye Olubadan, what advice do you want to give now? I said I am going to contact the top echelon of Lagos State government. If they could list from billionaires, your group, down to the least why would they leave out your own name? You know what he said? He said don’t contact them, maybe our name will come out in Part 2. What humility! Can you see? And we are talking of millions. I thought to myself, which Part 2? We deserved to be in part 1, and that was the end of the matter.
What do you have in common with Chief Bode Akindele?
Many things. In his conglomerate, he had and of course, it still exists, a media agency. So you will see that we connected. He, was of course, far ahead of me in the media. And remember he was in the 60s, manager of hotels, apart from being the Marketing Manager for U.A.C. You can see now, the links. U.A.C, the conglomerate you can compare that to Odu’a Investment Company Limited.
He was a man of high taste and I think I have some taste too. So you can see the connection apart from the primordial Ibadan, Oja’ba axis. The Akindele family house in Oja’ba is close to our own family house at Ile-Ekrin Ajengbe, let’s say about 10 minutes walk.
And my paternal grandmother, Mama Asimowu Odunola Alabi, was the Women Leader of the NCNC in Ibadan in the 1950s, under Adegoke Adelabu (Penkelemesi). Sir Bode Akindele’s mom was also in politics. Though she was with the Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola group, yet they were friends. My grandmother and Mama Rabiatu, the mother of Sir Bode, were friends and co politicians.
So, you can see the connection.
How would you describe the Sir Bode Akindele you knew in a sentence?
The Bode Akindele I knew. Everybody will die. People have been praying for his kind of death. No illness, no transfers to hospitals, no agony to anybody. He slept and died at 87. According to the statement being put out by Kabiesi Olubadan of Ibadan land, Kabiesi said, “even though we should consider 87 an old age-but nobody wants his or her person to go, even if they are above 100.” So, the Sir Bode Akindele that I knew, I thought he will live to his 100s.
The title of his autobiography is, “I Did It God’s Way”. Frank Sinatra, in one of his popular records, said I did it my way. But Sir Bode Akindele said I Did It God’s Way. That was him, that was Sir Bode Akindele. The man who did and touched everything that turned to gold. God’s way.