He turned 80 last Thursday. Nigerians from all walks of life turned out to celebrate this man described as someone who laid down his life for the sake of the country as ABOOLA BAYO narrates the incidents.
For Lt. Gen. Alani Ipoola Akinrinade (rtd), Thursday , October 3,2019 stands out as a day of reckoning and appreciation of his immense roles to the growth, stability and unity of Nigeria both during the Nigeria Civil War and after when he stood out as one of the backbones and strong defendants and pillars in the Nigerian Army. It was a day many Nigerians put aside their differences to celebrate the man whose towering records in the military knows no bounds. His exploits also transcends the war years into the dark days of the military era in the country during which he rose with others in the then National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) to defend the nation and ensure that democracy returns to the country.
The event marking his 80th birthday was graced by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi; Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi; Alake of Egbaland, Oba Aremu Gbadebo; Orangun of Oke-Ila and other prominent traditional rulers from across Yoruba land, Governors Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti); Gboyega Oyetola (Osun); Seyi Makinde (Oyo) represented by his deputy, Mr Rauf Olaniyan; former defence minister, General Theophilus Danjuma (rtd); Prof Isaac Adewole; Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala; Prof Bolaji Akinyemi; General Alabi Isama; Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka; Chief Segun Osoba; Senator Abiola Ajimobi; Chief Bisi Akande and General Raji Rasaki (rtd) among others.
I’m proud to be his governor – Oyetola
Speaking at the birthday celebration, Osun state governor, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola described the retired General as, a soldier’s soldier, a democracy icon, a patriot, a proud father, family man and a statesman at 80. He said, “One of the proofs of God’s blessings to a man is for his children to gather, celebrate him and declare him blessed in his lifetime.
“Our General, today’s gathering by us, your children – biological, political and military – testify to God’s goodness to you and our appreciation of your life of kindness, service, humility and selflessness. An entry into the octogenarian class is a privilege and it is doubly so if such a life is still a rallying point for national and international engagements. The composition of this audience testifies to the enduring relevance of a man born in the ancient village of Yakoyo 80 years ago but now celebrated across the world.”
Gov Oyetola added further that, “As a patriarch of the progressives’ family, Akinrinade continues to offer counsels behind the scenes to nurture our political family, strengthen our democracy and build a successor generation. As his governor, I attest to Lt. Gen. Akinrinade’s credential as one of the selling points of the State of Osun. His profile and contributions are important chapters in the recognition of Osun as one of the states of distinction in Nigeria.
I am proud to be the governor of a man who typifies the Omoluabi ethos, which our state holds dearly and a fine gentleman who is a reference point in the military, statesmanship and progressivism.”
President Muhammadu Buhari in his tribute to General Akinrinade on his 80th birthday printed with the programme of activities at the birthday celebration stressed that General Akinrinade contributed greatly to the growth of democracy in Nigeria through the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO).
The President also commended him for his exploits during the civil war and his post-war contributions to the retooling of the Nigerian Army and eventually his emergence as the Chief of Army Staff.
His simplicity is amazing- Tinubu
Former governor of Lagos state Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu represented by Dr Oluyomi Finni described Lt General Akinrinade as a man whose life is marked by simplicity, happiness and self-contentment. He said the General
deployed everything he has to accomplish any task he set for himself, saying he served and continued to serve his country with all that he has in terms of intellect, energy, power, doggedness and commitment.
“In the field of struggle for the termination of military rule in Nigeria and political emancipation of Nigerians, the General has remained the same”.
Tinubu said Akinrinade has remained a true democrat, an unrelenting fighter for rule of law and social justice and a statesman extraordinaire, adding: “He is very political though not a politician. We were in the trenches together with Gen Akinrinade. Together, we were forced on exile from where we continued the struggle. A combatant soldier who is no stranger to battles; he provided direction and leadership for us in the struggle against the annulment.”
According to Senator Tinubu, Lt General Akinrinade deserves all the accolades he gets having one of those who fought for the democracy that now thrives in Nigeria, saying, “For democracy, he suffered untold deprivation. He was hounded endlessly by agents of the military dictatorship. After the junta failed in the bid to track him down, his home was burnt, his businesses crippled. Notwithstanding all the tribulations, the General has remained who he is – humble, modest, firm and focused on changing our society for better.”
Akinrinade bought first equipment for Kudirat radio – Dr Fayemi
The chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum and governor of Ekiti state, Dr Kayode Fayemi, in his remarks at the event said Lt General
Akinrinade, as a detribalised Nigerian, is unapologetic about his nativity, saying, he paid for the first set of equipment used to start Radio Kudirat and that he deployed his resources, time, energy and commitment to the NADECO struggle.
“I am always credited for being the founder of Radio Kudirat. But, let me openly say here today that Gen. Akinrinade paid for the first set of the transmitters and other equipment used to start the radio station. He would rather operate in the shadows than call attention to himself. Yet, he is a patriot to the core, one who is never afraid of speaking the truth to power and challenging any status quo that is not delivering development to the downtrodden.”
Speaking on the topic: ‘Akinrinade: the Early Years and the Making of a Soldier’s Soldier,’ Lt General Akinrinade’s closest friend, Gen. Godwin Alabi-Isama said, “We started our training together at Zaria Military Training Depot. From there, we proceeded to the newly built Nigeria Military Training College (NMTC) at Kaduna. We were the first set of Nigerian students at the college now known as the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA).
“All through our military career and thereafter, Akinrinade remains a priceless value to the Nigerian military establishment in the areas of strategy, tactical war assault, psychological welfare and war plan manouvering of the first order.
“He is a man of absolute courage and a very respectable General in Nigeria and anywhere in the world. He is always humble, and amiable.”
Former minister of external affairs, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, while speaking on General Akinrinade’s contributions to the unity, growth and development of Nigeria, stressed that his career as an army officer, active participation and leadership in the Nigerian civil war, which saw him lose many people who meant so much to him, seem to make him believe that only democracy can bring back the dream of a country they had.
“He seems to believe strongly that democracy can recreate the army he joined,” Akinyemi said. He pointed out that the memory of the war seems to keep nudging him to work for the unity and progress of Nigeria.
“Generals always walk their talk. As soon as NADECO was formed, he committed himself and his resources to it, although he knew that it would cause a negative reaction from the then military government. He dared it. He put his life on the line.”
I’m grateful to all – Celebrant
In a chat with journalists shortly after the event, Lt General Akinrinade expressed satisfaction with his life and the privileges he has enjoyed, stressing, “I survived till 80; I went through a few things that some other persons didn’t survive. I’m particularly pleased because at every stage of my life, I amassed people who not only care about themselves, but people who cared about me and have helped me up to this stage. I am grateful to all of them.”