BY CHIDI OBINECHE
Chief Alex Akinyele,a high chief of Ondo town and a former spokesman of the Nigeria Customs service, was the Minister of Information and later sports in the Military administration of General Ibrahim Babangida,Rtd.At 75,the once ebullient man has lost some of his essentials, though his voice still has the familiar ring.SUNDAY SUN met him at his Magodo,lagos home recently,and took him on a number of contemporary and social issues,including the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, and his life. In his Vintage character,the logbosin of Ondo emitted fire,taking the questions as they came.Excerpts.
Are there things you regret not doing now given your present condition now?
My present position is no cause for any alarm. All I have to do is to go abroad and do my my medical checkup.That’s all. I would have done it here before, but it’s a pity, I have been advised to go abroad to do it. but somehow I was afraid of a major surgery on my body. In September I will go, and by the grace of God, you will find another Alex. Oh, the Alex you used to know.
Let us start with Nigeria. The present administration of Jonathan has been assailed by a lot of criticisms. What don’t u like about Jonathan’s administration?
There isn’t anything that is peculiarly unusual about the administration. We have been going through the same experience all these years. So I don’t think there is anything extraordinarily bad in the administration of president Goodluck Jonathan. Do you say there is no water? There has never been water. No electricity? There has never been electricity. Bad roads have always been with us.Joblessness has always been with us. Corruption has always been with us. And so, there isn’t anything extraordinary,or peculiar about Jonathan’s administration. On the other hand, sincerely speaking, with respect to him, he has tried. You might not know how much he has tried except you watch NTA. The NTA focuses attention on his administration. He, \as an individual has done nothing extraordinarily bad. The thing is that Nigeria is an unfortunate country; we go through a lot in this country.
The administration has been criticized especially by your very good friend, IBB, and other former rulers. Do you share their sentiments?
I share the sentiments of Gen Babangida very much, and that is why I said whatever the general has said could be said for another president now. During the administration of Babangida,there was life abundant. Babangida expects so much from the democratic dispensation. I think that is his opinion.
If you were called back to serve in government now, would you accept?
By the time I served, I was young, and I had great expectations. There isn’t any job the president can give me now that I will accept. No.
So they say, experience comes with age; wisdom; and all that. Don’t you think you can apply your wisdom towards the solution of our problems?
Wisdom comes with age. Does energy come with age?
What if you were given an advisory role?
If am given an advisory role? I will not accept an advisory role where my advice will not be taken.
Now to the Minister the information. Some people say the machinery is not particularly very vibrant; what do you think is missing?
No other person could have done the job of minister better than MAKU. The way he is doing it,is okay. But yes serving as information minister under these numerous masters that we have now in government is not easy. The governor is a master, the members of parliament are masters. The senator is a master, the other ministers themselves are masters, the chairmen of different boards and parastatals are masters.And all of them seem to have a say. So they won’t make the job palatable for me. How many people will you quarrel with? See TUKUR, who we all know very well, as a fine gentleman. Since he became the chairman of PDP, he has known no peace. Criticisms here and there and all the rest of it. The system is not well tailored at all. And there are more saboteurs in government now than ever before. What is very visible in government now are colossal acts of indispline. There is no discipline at all, and it is unfortunate. This government has more problems than former governments. President Jonathan is battling with militants, Boko haram , disloyal ministers, oil cartels etc. You see, I pity him. I don’t think that he bargained for all these. And the way I look at him, I don’t think that he has the stamina to do all this, but he is only trying his best. All I can do for him is to pray for him,, and i do that conscentiously like Gowon is doing. That is what we need in Nigeria. Prayers.
Do you think he is actually tackling the problems in a manner that could give hope?
If his cabinet, if his party people, will give him the chance, he will do well.
I want us to look at Boko haram, at the crises in PDP, the crises in the governor’s forum. it’s a harvest of crises, here and there.What do you have to say about these?
What I have to say is that the spirit of nationalism, or patriotism is not in any of these people. They are all self seeking people, and where it does not suite them, they don’t care what happens. I am sorry, all over the world there are problems. Before you came in, I was watching CNN, and I said Nigeria is better than this. The structure is not good. If the structure were better, and if the leaders were serving people,and the ministers, party chairmen, the local government chairmen, and all the rest, were just one bit, more patriotic, honest and sincere, we shall have a better situation in Nigeria.
The North is pushing for the presidency, and some of their leaders are saying that if they don’t grab it in 2015,it is goodbye to Nigeria. Do you share the view that Nigeria could divide because it’s a very huge country?
Nigeria will not break up. Some events may shake Nigeria, but she will not break up. You hear people like Babangida saying that Nigeria will not break up. And those who say if they don’t grab the presidency in 2015 they will do whatever they intend to do, they are not sufficiently patriotic. I think it’s very selfish. But you see the crux of the whole matter is that the PDP said in its wisdom;that this is the way we will do our thing from now till some time to come. Who broke it? Who broke that arrangement? What reason has he to break it? And if he broke it, why should anybody support him in that party?
Still talking about Nigeria, there are issues of deportations here and there. It started with the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. Now Fashola has started deporting Igbos and all that. Do you think it makes for unity in Nigeria?
People seem to be making a mountain out of a mole hill. About Fashola sending some people home, He must have done it in the interest of his own state. Was it not Theodore Orji, who asked some Igbos to go back home? There was no noise then, because it was an Igbo man who asked his people to go back . But now that fashola said you go home, people are just hyping it.
What am talking about is the method used in the deportation; dropping them by 3am, in a very ghostly and very desolate place, and most of them are not even from that state. They just dumped them there, reversed their vehicle and sped off. That’s what people are actually complaining of.It is not as if it has not been done before. It was the method, that people are very much angry about?
If some people are angry because of the method they were dumped, who is telling this story?
Those who were dumped, were picked up and they raised alarm?
They normally raise alarm in their own interest.
Now let’s get back home. You were married to an Indian lady sometime ago. Are you still in touch with her and your child from the marriage?
Thank you for that question. I am still in touch with her and my. Daughter. Yes. I am hoping to go to India after my medical checkup in UK to see my daughter and my ex- wife.
Has she remarried?
No she has not.
When you talk to her and your daughter, what is the tone or the exchanges like; given the circumstances that led to her leaving your house; I mean the bitterness, the rancor?
She has every reason to be bitter, but you can’t be bitter all your life. If something makes you bitter then, after sometime you cool off. That’s life.
How old is your daughter now?
Is she aware of what occurred during the relationship that led to the break up?
She is’nt aware,
Right now, is she aware?
Yes she is, because she is always telling me, papa when are you coming here to see me? So she is aware.
Are you planning of bringing her here to Nigeria?
Yes, if the mother allows it.
You once said you love Indian ladies. Have you stopped loving Indian ladies?
I didn’t say I love Indian ladies. I can’t remember when I said so.
You love foreign ladies because your first wife wasn’t from Nigeria; she came from South Africa, the second from India. So that gives people the impression that you love foreign ladies?
I love foreign ladies for some particular reasons, African women too. I love Nigerian women too.
What do you like most in African women?
The culture, self respect to the husband, family.
Are you still in touch with the family of your late wife?
Oh yes, very effectively. I will go there to see all of them very soon.
You are married again this time to a Yoruba lady. Is that the way you structured it. They say charity begins at home, but this time, charity began abroad, and you are now coming back home. Why did you turn it upside down?
Which one did I turn upside down.[ laughs.]
You were married to a Yoruba lady, has it broken up?
Laughs, we have broken up.
When was that sir? On July 11, at the high court this year.
She had no issues?
What was the problem, irreconcilable differences or what?
You have answered your question. Well that is life .At least it’s on record that I once had a wife, whom I stayed for 30 years plus, and we were very happy, but unfortunately for me, she died. That’s all. The two who have come after her,there are irrreconcilable differences.
Would you marry again?
Yes. I will.
Where will you go this time?
Do you have any beautiful sister or cousin or aunty in Igbo land who you can introduce to me,?
I HAVE ONE ALREADY
Let me see her, then we can begin from there.[ Laughs. ]
Since you broke up in July, how have you been coping?. There is no presence of any woman in this big house?
We didn’t break up in July.It’s over two years.
What happened in July was a formal closure of bad experiences. That’s all. I am now afraid of women.
I am old; I have had experience of a bad woman. That was the last one that left me,
The Indian woman and this last one who would you go for?
One thousand times I will go for my Indian woman.
There must be something this woman must have done to you that really hurts you. What is that?
I won’t tell you.
They say Nigerian women are very lousy, especially in domestic matters, and I have a friend who even got separated because he said that his wife, a Nigerian woman was very lousy, even in bed. What do you say to that?
I have no comments on that. I don’t even know what it means for one to be lousy in bed.
How would you advise the younger ones when they want to get married with the experiences you had?
They have to try their own luck.
Your own sons, how would you advise them?
I have four sons, and they are all married happily.
I want to take you back to the national scene. The Boko haram insurgency appears to be a wedge now to Nigeria’s unity. What is your prescription towards the total annihilation of this dangerous set?
The president started on a right track when he announced amnesty. It was a great decision that he took. At the end of the day, what will end the wahala is going to be amnesty. Only great politicians are off the Boko haram people. One thing I know is this, the president cannot claim not to know them.I am sure he knows them. He has tried so far to expose them in the country but to no avail. Let us know what they really want?
You are getting old now. if you die what would you like to be remembered for?
I will go the way of all mortals. That is true. I am now old.
Do you want to kill me.? I am not thinking of what I will be remembered for, because I still have a long way to go. When am nearing the end, I will let you know what I want to be remembered for.