My World

October 6, 2012

I also knew Major Akinyemi:a tribute

By Muyiwa Adetiba
I have tried as much as possible to read all the tributes in honour of Major Akinloye Akinyemi that I could find in the hope that some of the questions in my head would be answered. Questions relating primarily to his premature retirement from his beloved profession, and questions relating to his second incarceration by the same military.

I am particularly grateful to one Col. Nyiam for shedding some light. Maybe we will have to leave the rest to time and posterity because, truth, in time, will always come out.

Although I can not truly claim to know the Major Akinyemi that died, I knew something of the younger, more innocent Akinloye.You see, Akinloye’s parents and mine were friends. His father and mine attended the same institution. The revered St Andrews College Oyo. So it was inevitable in a rural setting like Ilesha in the 50s, that our paths would cross. And it did cross. Often. In fact, as it often happens, my siblings and his found ourselves paired according to age brackets.

So it was that Akinloye became my ‘friend’ in the family. Unlike my brother Dele and his counterpart Akintunde who struck up a good friendship and used to tease each other about the few months age difference between them, I can’t readily think of any escapade with Akin. Maybe we were too young, too protected, to be let to our own devises then. Then the Akinyemis left Ilesha and that was it.

But as fate would have it, two great institutions, Government College, Ibadan and Igbobi College, Lagos, short listed both of us for interview and we met up again. I chose Igbobi College in deference to my brother who had preceded me. He chose Government College perhaps also in deference to his late senior brother Akintunde who I think went to GCI although his more senior brother, the professor, is an old Igbobian.

But what was important was that we linked up and re-established contact. The two schools had sporting relationships which sometimes required weekend stays. I used those opportunities whenever I represented my school, to touch base with my Ijesha school mates. Akinloye was of course, one of them. So the off and on contact went on, until we both grew wings and flew in different directions. I  to journalism, and he the Army.

But you never really forget your childhood friend, doaespite the fact that all the males had Akin in their names and he would reply politely, ‘he is fine’ without giving much away.

We met one more time after his retirement, and it wasn’t a very comfortable meeting. As a journalist, I had heard ‘stories’ about the reasons for his premature retirement. I didn’t know how to ask and he didn’t offer any information.

Although he was the one who came to me as I recall, he seemed withdrawn and ‘aloof’. Completely apathetic to the swirls around him. So the silence was punctuated by polite enquiries about the past and our siblings.

I have always wondered why a country can so easily dispense with the services of his brightest and best. From the little I have said, it is obvious that Akinloye had a good pedigree,and he could have excelled in any profession. He chose the military, and while there, did himself, his family, and the country, proud by collecting accolades wherever he went.

From accounts, it seems the generals broke and destroyed one of their finest officers because he refused to acquiesce and chose to side with the progressives; because he loved the military too much to allow it to be overtaken by forces that could only destroy it?

He might have died unfilled, but I am glad he did not die unsung. In fact, as one writer put it, his eulogy has been better than those of many generals. Given his talent, dedication and promise, its easy to say it was all a tragic waste. But that would be wrong. His ideals will live on. Younger officers will read about him and at the opportuned time, will rise up to say ‘enough is enough’

Meanwhile, I am proud to say ‘I also knew Akinloye Akinyemi. May his soul truly rest in peace.

The latest ‘talk of the town’ wedding

THE nearest I got to being invited to the wedding of the Alakijas was when a friend showed me the invitation card-If that is what one will call what was sent out to the Lagos jet set. It contained every thing; where to sit, what to eat and drink, where to serve your driver, how to retrieve your gifts etc  Even a sticker for you to pack your car!

Every thing was put in a gilded box that you are advised to leave behind and use as a jewelry box. The card promised glitz, it promised glamour…. and may be more… for those who like that sort of thing.

Some of those who went, described the event variously as ‘nice’, ‘rowdy’, ‘interesting’, ‘rich’ etc. Although I really didn’t ask too many people, I didn’t hear anybody describe it as ‘classy. In any case, what is really important to both the hosts and the guests, is that ‘it did not disappoint’

Really, you cant stop the rich from spending their money the way they want. They can decide to buy odd and even private jets if they so wish. Or his and hers of exotic things like rare diamond and  automobiles.  They have been known to buy football clubs and artworks that nobody sees, let alone appreciate. Their only obligation to you and I, assuming they have not stolen the money, is to pay appropriate taxes when due.

But beyond this obligation is a moral responsibility. What I choose to call Individual Social Responsibility (as opposed to Corporate Social Responsibility CSR)

They need to be conscious of the society they leave in. A society where the average Nigerian lives on the equivalent of a dollar a day. They therefore need to impact their neighbourhood in positive, significant ways. I hear the Alakijas are a very generous couple and have touched so many lives.  I can only hope that it is in a planned, meaningful and consistent way.

The rich generally need to be more sensitive to the sensibilities of the hungry poor by not flaunting wealth on social frivolities. Opulent display of wealth is one of the things that stoke the flames of social revolutions.

I will end by repeating a question I once asked during an interview to a man who was reputed to be one of the richest men in South East Asia in the early eighties. ‘Sir, aren’t you embarrassed by your enormous wealth when you are surrounded by so much poverty?’