I still cannot believe that my Egbon, Otunba Alao Akala, the former Oyo State Governor is gone. When I heard the news this morning, it came as a rude shock. Though much older than me, he was my personal friend & a respected Egbon who I chatted with regularly.
He had been a friend of City People from its inception in Nov. 1996. I knew him when he was Deputy Gov, of Oyo State, in those good old days. I am an Ibadan boy so I used to frequent Ibadan. I got to meet him through Bola. City People Ibadan Bureau Chief then, God bless her soul!
What shocked me the most about him was when my friends in Ibadan decided to celebrate me in Ibadan on one of my birthdays. All they said was S.K just report in Ibadan on your birthday. And I did. It was meant to be a big party. That was about 16 years ago. The party was slated to start at 4pm that Saturday evening but trust me, I was well deep in production at our Lagos office, because it was going to be a night party, I planned to leave Lagos at 6pm to get there at 7pm.
It was a repeated call from Bola that jolted me as I scribbled away. She said Oga, where are you? Deputy Governor has arrived. He is here already. I promptly left the production, jumped into my car and drove off to Ibadan to join Otunba Akala who was waiting patiently for me. He was in a relaxed mood.
Those were the days when you could make Lagos to Ibadan toll gate in just 60 mins. As I drove to Ibadan I couldn’t believe that the DG of Oyo was waiting for small me. I was shocked when I got to the venue and met Akala dressed like a cowboy with his vintage Hat to match. He waited patiently. He was not in a hurry at all. That was how our friendship started. He was to later attend all the major events City People held in Ibadan. I was so close to him so much so that we once ate Amala together inside his office on his Oak table, at the Agodi Gov’s office. How did that happen? We had gone to see him that day about our forthcoming City People Awards for Excellence and he asked me to wait for him to attend to all those we met on the queue. Once, they were gone, he asked me to join him to do justice to the meal of Amala and a particular Ghanaian soup & fish, he was dealing with. That is how he put it. Don’t forget he grew up in Ghana like most Ogbomosho people and he had become so obsessed with Ghanaian delicacy.
That was how our friendship grew. The only time he got angry with me was once, when I interviewed Papa Dr. Chief Omololu Olunloyo also a former Gov. of Oyo State who made a few uncomplimentary remarks about him in an interview he granted City People. He promptly picked up the phone to call me and protested that I should have told him City People was running Olunloyo’s interview wherein he spoke about him so that he would also have responded accordingly. I later interviewed Akala, and he defended himself. End of story. He was a good man. He was very supportive.
He was one of those who celebrated City People at 25. He took out an advert to celebrate City People. We would miss you. I will miss you. He was nice to a fault. He was a jovial man, always full of life. He liked to crack jokes. But he was also a firm, tough and disciplined man, a no-nonsense man who will give it to you, instantly, when you cross his path.
Good nite, my Egbon.