Oloye Lekan Alabi, the renowned Journalist, PR Consultant, a Syndicated Columnist and a Motivational Speaker will be 70 in a few months time. He’s a man who has carved a niche for himself in the media space and in the society. Aside the fact that he is the Agba Akin Olubadan of Ibadanland and Cultural Ambassador of the National Museum, Ile-Ife, Oloye Lekan Alabi is a complete, prim and proper man of culture. He is highly disciplined. He always appears neat and decent. Hardly will you see him not dressed in his complete embroidery Agbada. The aura that surrounds him whenever he appears at any occasion is like that of royalty.
Not many people know that the great Oloye will be 70 soon because he doesn’t look it a bit. His carriage, charisma and composure is like that of a 50-year-old. Let us be the one to break the good news and authoritatively tell you that he would be celebrating his 70th birthday. And it will also interest you to know that preparations are already on top gear for the big day, as it will be celebrated in 4 different countries: London, USA, Canada and Nigeria.
But, just in case you are reading about this man of great quality for the first time, let me quickly tell you few out of his many qualities that stands him out of the crowd. Oloye Lekan Alabi is a proud Ibadan man to the core. He was born, bred and buttered in Ibadan. He attended 7th-Day Adventist Primary School, Oke-Foko, Ibadan (1958 to 1963) and was class captain from Pry 2 to Pry 4, School mail boy in Pry 5 and School Prefect in Pry 6. He attended African Church Grammar School, Apata Ganga, Ibadan (1964 to 1969). He was a class teacher at St John’s Anglican Primary School, Akinajo near Arulogun, Ibadan from 1971 to 1972, from where he took employment as the first Editorial Assistant at Onibonoje Press Limited, Ibadan.
He was employed by the Sketch Publishing Company Limited, Ibadan as a Reporter/Writer/Reader Grade 2. He became the company’s youngest and first dual columnist, also in Nigeria. He went to the famous College of Journalism, ‘Fleet Street’, London in 1976 and did his graduation in 1978. He came back to Sketch and resigned from it to join Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Ibadan. He was there from 1978 to 1982. In 1982, when the present Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State Television was established – it was then known as Television Service of Oyo State – He was one of the pioneer editorial staff, when the station started transmission on October 30, 1982. He was the first reporter to appear on the Channel and also the first chairman of the station’s chapel of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ). In 1983, he was seconded as a Press Secretary to the late Chief ‘Bola Ige, then Governor of old Oyo State (today’s Oyo and Osun States).
He was recalled from his sack in 1984 by the new Military Governor of Oyo State, then Lt-Col Oladayo Popoola. It will be recalled that Dr Omololu Olunloyo of the NPN, who FEDECO declared the winner of the 1983 governorship election in Oyo State, sacked many civil and public servants accused of being ‘Bola Ige/UPN loyalists. He was Press Secretary from 1983 to 1989. So, he served four governors, three military officers and one civilian, for a period of six years. In recognition of his professionalism and loyalty, the governments of the owner-states of Odu’a Investment Company Limited, in 1989, appointed him the first Public Affairs Manager of the conglomerate. After 17 years of dedicated service to the Yoruba economic patrimony, he voluntarily retired from the Odu’a Group in 2006, as the first General Manager, Corporate Affairs. He is the Chairman of the Adegoke Adelabu (Penkelemesi) Foundation and the Yusufu Olatunji (Baba Legba) Foundation. He is a Trustee of the Adekunle Fajuyi Foundation, D.O.Fagunwa Foundation, Duro Ladipo Foundation, among others. In 2013, he was conferred with an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by Achievers University, Owo, Ondo State. He’s married and blessed with adorable children and grandchildren.
In preparation of his 70th birthday, City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE and Assistant Editor, SUNDAY ADIGUN visited him in Ibadan and interviewed him. He revealed his journey into journalism, plus many other things people don’t know about him. Below are the excerpts.
When you look back at your life, how do you feel in the entire 70 years that you’ve spent?
Every child, every man or woman, every adult will not be able to capture the first 3 to 4years of their life except it is recorded, but from what I’ve been told repeatedly before I was born predictions were made about my birth and my life in more than 3 places; on my paternal and maternal side. So, here I am. Growing up, it was constantly drumming to the ear; my mission or the prediction before I was born, and in particular my paternal grandmother, Mama Asimowu Odunola of Ekerin Ajengbe clown, wife of my grandfather, Pa Abdusalam Adegbola Alabi alias Owo niwon of Oyetunji Olundegun family Ile oye. The predictions were made, and true to the prediction I came as a male, the first grandchild of my grandfather and grandmother, the first child of my mother, and the first child of my father. My mum is the first of the 8 wives my late father, Abdulramon Oladosu Alabi had. So, it’s just following the exact pattern of the prediction. My growing up was like a script, at this stage you will be this e.t.c, but, it’s not been smooth running all through, because in every cloud there will be blue patches but thank God we surmounted, and we shall continue to surmount all challenges because I wish nobody evil. My motto of life is live and let live, and that whatever you sow, you shall reap. So, I’m just here like an autopilot, just reading the manuscript and it will just tally with what I’ve been told.
How did you cope with the early years in terms of challenges that came your way?
As the firstborn, typically in Yoruba family and anywhere in the world, you are the role model of those coming behind you. So, challenges are put in the way of male firstborn, because Yoruba says “Esin iwaju ni t’eyin nwo sare”. They wanted you to be successful, well-mannered and a good ambassador of the family. Like all my senior predecessors I went through that as a child. Taught leadership skills and with all modesty. I’ve been in the leadership position from the age of 8. Class captain 7th day Adventist primary school Primary 2-4. School mail boy 1962 when I was 12 years old and in my final 1963, I was the school prefect and all the position that has been falling on my laps, so, growing up took a lot of lessons, sacrifices which in the end were to my own benefits and to the benefits of anybody, who submit his or herself to the real Omoluabi nurturing and self-discipline.
What role did your royalty pedigree play in all of these?
When you see a true born in Yorubaland, in the panegyric, you must hear of crown or honour. In my lineage, both side, on my paternal side, my great, great, great grandfather, Omolaja Ajengbe was one of the founders of this great Ibadanland and he was Ekerin Balogun, hence the title in our family. I am the fourth traditional chief title holder in my family. And on my maternal side, Emure Ekiti/ Agbede Adodo in Ibadan, my uncle was the 3rd passed Elemure of Emure Ekiti. So, on both side you can see royalty, aristocracy, the genuine one. The ancestors I’ve mentioned, the Ekerin Ejengbe fought all the wars in which Ibadan was victorious. My paternal grandfather, Adbulsallam Adegbola Alabi alias Owo niwon was one of the richest cocoa merchants in this town. He belongs to the same club as Adebisi Idikan and he was among the first set of people to buy kit car in Yorubaland. His father had horses in our house before the entry of British and colonialists, before the influx of motor cars, bicycles.
You are always proud that you are from Ibadan. Historically, what makes you like Ibadan that much?
Prophet Muhamed (SAW) said loving your town is one of the demands of God almighty i.e the citizen must be proud of his or her ancestry, whatever the tribe. More so if it is noble. Nobility runs in our family. You will be taught everything about your lineage and the onus is on you to either keep the level or raise it. I’m proud to belong to my lineages. Anytime, any day, anywhere Ibadan is no1. I always say this; the evolution of Ibadan is similar to America, because Ibadan first started as a war camp. Before you could come from all the areas that our ancestors came to settle here, you must be brave and be sure of yourself. Ibadan saved Yorubaland from the invasion of the Jihadists in the 19 century. Ibadan has remained the capital of the western region, later western state, old Oyo State now Oyo State. We are waiting for own state, Ibadan State which is long overdue. So, coming from such a background, and look at the first in everything, first Television, first tallest building, first University, first housing estate, first in everything, you will be proud to belong to such hereditary.
Let’s look at your lifestyle. I would say you retired early and since then you’ve kept a very low profile and you’ve given attention to culture and tradition, and you’ve always been a man at peace with himself while many of your colleagues are still joggling for one post or the other in politics. What really explains all of these?
A planless life is a useless life. Everybody must have a plan. Let me use Chief Obafemi Awolowo as an example. He said at a certain age he drew a plan for himself that at a particular age, year he would do this and that, like going to school, qualify as a lawyer, establish his chambers and do well in politics. Remember what I said earlier, one was taught what to do and what one will become. In August 7th, 1989, I joined the services of Odua Investment Company limited as the pioneer public affairs manager. During my orientation, there was a particular American Magazine which one of its contents and article says “you can fire your boss” I made the photocopy of that and I started reading all over. What the author intended was that every employee should plan his or her retirement and he stated 3 instances of retirement. God forbid the first one, that people could get fired without notice, two; people could retire when they reach the mandatory retirement age and thirdly, God forbid that, people could be out of job due to illness or death. He now said in the articles that for those who want to fire their boss. No 1, Make sure your children are out of school, No2, pay the mortgage. No 3, make sure you are not in any litigation. No4, don’t pray for any illness that will attract medical or doctor attention. He said once you escape those 4points you can sit down and say this is where I’m going. So, I started following those tips. When my last child who is 33 years old entered University, I was marking it in my record when he would graduate and I’m also going to follow suit i.e out of employment. Thank God we have a home. I’m not into any litigation. We don’t pray for any illness, we try to keep a fit life. When I dropped my letter of voluntary retirement to the Group Managing Director of Odua Investment Company Limited, Dr. Adebayo Jimoh, he didn’t take it at first. Eventually he took it, and in the following morning when he was supposed to go for meeting in Lagos, he called me, I told him I was in the office and he instructed me to wait for him. He called 2 of the Executive Directors in Nigeria, briefed them about what I did and they summoned me. When I got there the 2 Executive Directors turned back and said Oloye why did you do this? The GMD said you dropped retirement letter and I said yes. I was asked to sit down and one of the directors, Mr Kumuyi was now mandated to ask me what the company should have done and they didn’t do. I answered that I was supposed to have gone a year ago; I’ve already given myself 1 year because Mr Jimoh just joined Odua a year ago too. The company did not owe me anything, I’m not looking for anything extraordinary, I am ready to go. Odua held two sent-forth parties for me and many others. So it was well planned and signed by God. So as I said, a plan less life is a useless life. People should plan their life. I was expected to retire at Odua in 2012 but I left 2006 and here we are, I thank God. I ascribe it to destiny, good planning and contentment. I’m contented, I don’t run after contract. I don’t go after politician for any obligation or gain, even when I was press secretary to Governors of old Oyo State, I didn’t ask of any personal benefits from any of the Governors. Because I’ve been told my destiny and my future and I’ve been working towards it.
To be continued.