How often we hear it! Too many times it sounds like tales out of moonlight but the odyssey of Alhaji Abubakar Adio Akinboyede is yet another grass to grace story. Grace to grace because Alhaji Abubakar Adio Akinboyede was actually born into royalty, yet starting from the very rung of the ladder, he climbed to the top echelon of his chosen career, a trailblazer in the legal and political terrain and his children have unambiguously proclaimed him blessed.
His story began with a humble educational background many years ago at Ansar-udeen Primary School Ota, at the instance of his grandfather. From then on, Alhaji Adio’s growth and progress took the form of a rocket launched into space. After his elementary education, he gained admission into Ansar-udeen Teachers’ Training College solely by a dint of hard-work. His academy prowess accounted for his rapid rise to stardom.
Alhaji Abubakar Adio Akinboyede, born into the royal family of Akinsewa of Isoloshi, Ota, Ogun State in 1925, is today a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). Twice he was appointed commissioner (Works and Agriculture) and in every sense of the word his life is a role model to all who wish to attain lofty heights in any endeavour. The glory of great men is often unveiled in their story. Enjoy this abridged version of our interview with him as he tells us his precious story.
What precisely was your job profile?
I was engaged in those days to grade agricultural produce (that is cocoa, palm kernel and groundnut) that were being prepared for export to England. It was my responsibility to grade these Agricultural produce. The grade 1 and grade 2 were certified fit for export, but the grade 3 would not go anywhere. The money I saved up while working there was used to further my education in Law.
Hmm! You literally rose through the ranks! Tell us Sir, during your tenure as the Chairman of the Local Government Council of Ota, what outstanding decisions did you take?
I became chairman of the local government here in Ota in 1972. I told them they should stop paying salary, that our work should be voluntary. I suggested we should move a motion on this. The motion was moved and passed that nobody should be paid any salary. How much was the salary? By the end of the month they gave 2000 Naira each to about 30 people, and that was enough money to construct and tar a road at that time! Sometime later, at a meeting held at Abeokuta, I was asked to give a vote of thanks. In doing so, I used the opportunity to distinguish the Egba people from the Aworis as different ethnic groups and that they were to be recognised as such. The then Governor Jemibewon was attentive throughout the discourse and he took note. It was after that meeting that he appointed me a commissioner. So that‘s life for you if you are sincere! Even if your people think you are not sincere to them but within your heart you know you are, you have no problem. You will be vindicated in due time and your work will single you out.
As a commissioner what would you say were your major challenges and achievements?
I was at first the Commissioner for Works, then Agriculture. While I was the commissioner for Works, there were some people that would come to me to bid for one contract or the other. They would say something like ‘Sir, we have not been given any contracts since we started bidding even though we are competent. Please consider us’. I always did and if there was merit in their claim to competence, they were sure to get the contract.
Even when I was the Commissioner for Agriculture, it was the same thing. I would give out contracts without taking money from the contractors. When Onabanjo was the Governor, I was appointed the Chairman of the Civil Service Commission. That was in 1979. As God would have it, we were the ones appointing people for placement into the various departments of all the ministries. I thank God i didn’t soil my hands with bribery and corruption like is the practice today. We ran a meritocratic system.
Life has been interesting even though it was tough. Tough as it was, one still had time to enjoy oneself.
What year did you become a SAN?
That was in 1978 or so. You needed to win a number of cases, which was very important and I had never lost any of my cases for I used to work very hard. I thank God for that.
And is it true Sir, that if one is not influential in the country, one cannot become a SAN?
Well, what you are saying is part of the corruption in this country and it has to be stopped because you don’t have to know people before you become somebody. When somebody is brilliant, let him get paid for what he does. But you know some people will say- ‘He is the father of this, the son of this’. I didn’t have anyone to run around for me but God. I didn’t believe in favouritism and preferential treatment. This is why I always like to help people (whether they are my relations or friends or not). I am always on the side of helping people. So anybody that comes to me, whether I know them or not or whether they are my blood relation or not, I always help them.
So that‘s life for you if you are sincere! Even if your people think you are not sincere to them but within your heart you know you are, you have no problem. You will be vindicated in due time and your work will single you out.
Sir what is your opinion on the procedures for appointing Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) today?
Now people use ‘long legs’- a scenario where people are not qualified and the standards are lowered and rules bent for them. It is very bad. Look at Chief Femi Awolowo. He was the first SAN in Nigeria. He defeated lawyers at the West African Court of Appeal and that was how he became a SAN- through hard work.
Sir, Can you tell us about your family? When did you get married?
My father had 3 wives of which my mother was the first. I am the first child and only survivor of my mother’s 13 children. I got married at the age of 35 to my first wife. That was when I had my first sexual experience and we are still married till date. Our first daughter is about 57 years old. She is a principal in Abeokuta. The second wife stays in Abeokuta. She has 3 girls; 2 of them are lawyers and one is a medical doctor. I have 9 children from 2 wives -the first has 6 while the second has 3 children making 4 boys and 5 girls. They are all married and all graduates too. Life has been interesting even though it was tough. Tough as it was, one still had time to enjoy oneself. That was how I managed to make it in life. I am happy today after all said and done.
INTERVIEW BY: AROWOLO N. OLA
MAKEUP: YINKA MAKEUP INSTITUTE
PHOTOS: SUNDAY MAGLO