By CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, Deputy Political Editor
ALHAJI Yunus Sanni Giwa Akiyode, who turns 100 years today, is a reporter’s delight. With a toothy smile always on his aged but fair and handsome face, the former banker still accomplishes feats his age mates and those younger could only dream of.
Living in the middle floor of his two-storey edifice, Ijeun Lodge, Pa Akiyode, whose daily chores normally start at 5 am usually descends and ascends the stairs to his room at least four times a day to pray in a mosque that is 200 meters away as well as to exercise. He eats any meal available and most of his teeth are still intact.
Pa Akiyode joined Barclays Bank, Dominion Colonial and Overseas (now Union Bank PLC) in Lagos in 1938. He was transferred to Kano during the Second World War and served in many branches of the bank in the old eastern and northern parts of the country. He was finally transferred to Ibadan Head office branch in 1960 where he retired in 1972 as foreign exchange manager after a 34-year banking career.
Also known as YSG, Alhaji Akiyode is a devout Muslim. In his active days, he was a member of the Ansar-Ud Deen Society of Nigeria; Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), the highest Islamic body in Nigeria; and former chairman of the National Joint Muslim Organisation in Ogun State. The Baba Adeen of Ijeun Township was a member of the Ogun State Pilgrims Welfare Board and Ogun State Advisory Council on prerogative of mercy under the military administration of Governor Oladipo Diya.
WE can do without violence, bloodshed
At 100, Pa Akiyode is not happy with the incessant wave of bloodshed in the country through insecurity and wants the leaders and citizenry to end the bloodshed urgently. Born on January 2, 1913 at Nitoji-Oganla’s compound, Isale-Ijeun, Abeokuta to the family of late Chief Sanni Giwa Akiyode, the centenarian, who is a distant relation of Madam Efunyela Awolowo, the mother of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, is disturbed by the manner politicians have turned elections into opportunities for killing opponents.
“It is wrong to kill people especially during elections. You see how other countries conduct elections in fairness, let us copy other countries that do well. We too we have been trying as much as we can but it is not enough. We should do more. Our leaders should lead by example,” he pleaded.
Secret of his good health: For his age, the devout Muslim and Balogun of Egba Muslims still boast of a strong baritone voice. Asked the secret of his good health and strong voice at 100, he muttered, “It is God I than k God that I feel well now.”
Advice to young people: Though he talks slowly, thinking through what he wants to say and at times scratching his forehead to recollect and reconstruct past events, Pa Akiyode said young people could live healthier lives by shunning excesses and doing things with moderation. Said the centenarian, who sired the second Editor of Vanguard Newspapers, Mr. Toye Akiyode, “I advise young people to try and take heat off yourself all the time. Don’t misuse yourself. Do exercises as best as you can, don’t overstretch yourself. Don’t over-work yourself. Do things with moderation.”
We can keep Nigeria united: Asked his impression of the country and how to move Nigeria forward since he is from the West and has served in eastern and northern parts of the country, he decried the recurrent songs of disunity echoing in the polity, urging Nigerians to remain united.
He said: “We have a pattern at the moment that is not good. Many parts of the country are singing discordant tunes. We should keep the country united as it was a few years ago. I think we can keep it. Let’s try to keep it. We are an important country in Africa and in the world.”
Where Nigeria went wrong: Looking at Nigeria 52 years after independence, Alhaji Akiyode rued Nigeria’s under-achievement, which he said could be ameliorated if our leaders did the needful. “We have not actually achieved our dreams but we are likely to make it. We made mistakes that any new nation or colonized nation usually makes. We will make it by correcting the mistakes.”
Asked where Nigeria went wrong, he listed some of the mistakes as official graft and socio-political and ethnic strives. “There are a lot of them; war, inter-tribal wars affected our development, so also corruption and religious crises. We will correct them through personal sacrifice, telling ourselves what we ought to have done some time ago, which we have not done and acting correctly on what we know is true. This is our chance,” he enjoined
We must fight for a good country: Pa Akiyode also decried the rising wave of violence especially suicide bombing unleashed on some parts of the country by religious extremists. “To me, that is not good. We said we want a country, we must fight for it.
“We must fight for a good country, one country not a religious country. We should try and tolerate one another in what we do so that we will live in harmony. In some cases, some say they are in majority. Because they are in majority, they want religious majority but in some places, Christians are in majority and Christians have been there for a long time and practicing Christianity.
“There should be no majority or minority; we should be one united country. We should pray fervently to God so that we would not be led astray,” he said.
How he starts his day: In the morning, I try to pray. When I wake up, as a Muslim, I pray. I wake up between 5.30 and 6 am and go to the mosque to pray. At about 7 and 7.30, I go to take my bath. After that, I take my breakfast. After that, I dress up and go for a walk. Later I go back home to rest and sleep. In the afternoon, I wake up for lunch, rest and go for prayer when the caller calls for prayer. There is one at 2 O’ clock, another one at 4 O’ clock and after that another one at 7 0’ clock.
You go for all of them? Some times I go and some times I don’t if it is getting dark.
Do you read papers, listen to radios or watch television? I listen to radio and participate my favourite radio station is OGBC. Their programmes differ, if they advertise, anyone that interests me I make sure that I participate. I sponsor an Islamic programme, Temitope.
Secret of his long marriage to his wife of over 80 years: The secret is that she is nice. We have been together for a long time. She had a good mother, who also advised her. She has been a good wife and mother and has tried to train her children the correct way, the Islamic way.
Advise to Governor Ibikunle Amosun to make Abeokuta and Ogun State better: They should not be tired until maximum benefit is achieved. He is doing well and has tried so far. We have a good governor who is sympathetic to the state, Abeokuta and Egba in general.
Free education and other things
We thank them for all the things they are doing for Ogun State. Our governor is very kind and benevolent. We like him and he likes us. He is doing everything to please us; he gave us free education and other things. I thank him very much. I have known your paper (Vanguard) for long, it has been my paper. Do everything you can to recommend him.
His regrets at 100: Hmn! In my daily prayers, I always thank God, my God because God has given me and made me to do all things possible. He made me not to regret because at my youth, I enjoyed my youth. When I was of marriage age, I married. When I was due to bear children, I had children and God blessed me to train them to my standard and to their own standard too as far as they can from secondary to university, some overseas.
I thank God many of them came out successfully in their studies. Some of them are in good positions in private and public sectors. Some are in public office, some are politicians; quite a lot of them are your colleagues (journalists) and so on.
How many children he has: Aah, they are many as you can guess. I am a Yoruba, an Egba, I can marry as many wives and each of them can have as many children as she is able.