By Senator Musa Adede
LT-General (rtd.) Alani Julius Ipoola Akinrinade is 80 today. The drums will roll out at the International Conference Centre,University of Ibadan today for the celebration of this elder statesman who is a rare hero and a great soldier.
Humble and modest, he was born on October 3, 1939 at Yakoyo near Ile Ife, Osun State old Oyo State. He attended Offa Grammar School for his secondary education (1954–1958).
He worked at the Ministry of Agriculture in the Western Region, Ibadan (1959–1960). Joining the army, he began officer cadet training at the Royal Nigeria Military Forces Training College, Kaduna in April 1960, then went to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the United Kingdom (August 1960).
He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Infantry Corps on 20 December 1962. Later he took the Infantry Officer Career/Airborne Course in the USA (August 1965 – July 1966), attended Staff College Camberley (January – December 1971) and attended the Royal College of Defence Studies in the United Kingdom (January – December 1978).
Lt-General Akinrinade rose steadily through the ranks. He was promoted lieutenant on 29 March 1963, captain on 29 March 1965; major on 10 June 1967; lieutenant colonel on 11 May 1968; colonel on 1 October 1972; brigadier general on 1 October 1974 and major general on 1 January 1976.
He held various infantry appointments, becoming commander of the Ibadan Garrison (1970–1971) and GOC of 1 Infantry Division (1975–1979). He was a member of the Supreme Military Council during the military regime of General Murtala Muhammed and Olusegun Obasanjo (1975–1979).
He was promoted to lieutenant general on 2 October 1979 and appointed Chief of Army Staff, and then became Chief of Defence Staff in 1980, during the civilian administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari. He voluntarily retired from service with effect from 2 October 1981.
After retirement, Akinrinade engaged in large-scale farming and was chairman of Niger Feeds and Agriculture Operations (1982–1985). In General Ibrahim Babangida’s government he was appointed Minister of Agriculture, Water Resources and Rural Development (1985–1986), Minister of Industries (1988 – February 1989) and Minister of Transport (1989). He became a member of the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, a pro-democracy group, during the Sani Abacha regime.
The 2014 National Conference was inaugurated by the Nigerian President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on 17 March 2014 in Abuja, Nigeria. There were about 492 delegates that represented a cross-section of Nigerians, including the professional bodies group. The Conference was headed by retired Chief Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi.
Following a plenary session that lasted for weeks, the Conference was broken into 20 committees that included Public Finance and Revenue, among others. Lt-General Akinrinade was a member of National Security Committee. He distinguished himself in that committee.
My discussions and meetings with General Akinrinade on Dr. Amos Akingba and others are what I still cherish till today. The Conference allowed me the golden opportunity of meeting prominent Nigerians who are concerned about the future of this country. If the recommendations of the conference, especially the committee’s report on transportation and security, had been implemented, I am sure Boko Haram, kidnapping and other security challenges we have today, could have been avoided.
As our country marked its 59th anniversary of independence, time is also ripe to celebrate one of the best compatriots who worked, in concert with other eminent Nigerians, to build the foundation for our great nation.
Without a doubt, the elder statesman, who shares birth month with independent Nigeria, may not be too proud with the shoddy state of affairs in the country today, particularly in the areas of national security, national unity and economic growth.
These fault-lines were not in the dream of those who fought in the trenches and at global symposia to keep Nigeria one as a united force in Africa and among the comity of nations worldwide.
With deep insight into hindsight, history has always counted Lt-General Akinrinade on the side of the rule of law, good governance and greater good for the majority of citizens.
Rough roadto victory
At the risk to personal safety and comfort, this defender of democracy and people’s marshal, Lt-General Akinrinade emboldened the army of anti-military rule under the umbrella of NADECO. Their struggle yielded fruit with the enthronement of the fourth civilian administration led by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999.
But the road to victory was very rough. Even tough men like Lt-General Akinrinade had to go into exile, without giving up on the war for emancipation of Nigerians from the clutch of military dictatorship, under the late General Sani Abacha junta. Some heroes and heroines of the struggle died in the ‘battlefield’.
Throughout his four scores of satisfactory existence, the urbane and humane statesman, has carried with him an epaulette of honesty, integrity, patriotism and mega philanthropy.
Brave men like Lt-General Akinrinade are a rare breed. He represents the best of a true Nigerian brand: intelligent, brave and resilient.
Once again, as the soldier-democrat joins the league of sages, generations coming behind should invest time to read up books by this great mentor, and emulate his versatility and creativity – both in the realms of industry and politics.
Finally, General Alani Ipoola Akinrinade(CFR, Fss) deserves a golden place in our national hall of fame. Let’s light 80 candles to a knight in shining armour.
Long live the People’s General and long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.