Chief Alexzanda Opayemi Akinyele, alias Aleco, was a public relations guru who succeeded through practical professional principles to survive the rocky times of disunity and peace in Nigeria. He even grew stronger afterwards before he passed to eternity on Friday, November 15 2019 at 81.
The charisma he brought into the practice of Public Relations in Nigeria excelled that of those before him as president of Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR). The first president when it was established in 1963 was the bulky and heavily built Dr. Sam Epelle of the famous Railway Corporation fame who used the Radio programme “Alao seki seki” to promote the interest of people in traveling by the rail. He was followed by Chief Kanu Offonry in 1975 to 1977 before Chief Bob B.E Ogbuagu, the veteran journalist turned PR guru who headed the NIPR from 1977 to 1980 and ended up as the Managing Director of Champion Newspaper. After him, Ikhaz Yakubu stepped into his shoes as president from 1980 to 1984.
Chief Akinyele because of his performance in the Custom Service where he brought life into PR practice and came into limelight became president between 1984 and 1988. Before his sojourn as NIPR president, activities of the institute were restricted to its southern states. Aleco turned the table by exposing the image making profession to the North. His efforts led to, for the first time, the election of a president from the North in the person of Alh.aji Sabo Sarkin Mohammad, aka Sarkin Media, after the reign of Chief Mike Okereke of UAC PR fame and like Chief Kunle Ojora before him. Chief Okereke held the position between 1988 and January 1993.
My first encounter with Aleco was when he came to inaugurate Kano State chapter for which I was the first state elected chairman after the caretakership of Mr. Bala Chibok, a PR manager with the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). My relationship with Aleco took a better turn after the chapter played host for a National Council meeting of the institute. The singular occasion made me to meet a very patient and understanding person with human feelings. I had taken my state vice chairman, Alh Sabo Sarkin Mohammad with me to the EXCO meeting meant only for state chairmen. The move stood on the nerves of Aleco who ordered the vice to walk out of the meeting. I humbly objected and explained what laid behind my feelings, actions, words and deeds. I stood my ground that my deputy would not be humiliated as a prospective state chairman and even future president of the institute based on his experience as a professional, who once worked for BBC, became chief press secretary to the then vice chairman of the Supreme Military Council, General Shehu Yar’Audua, after serving national newspapers and in the foreign service. Alh. Sabo was also one time state Commissioner for Information. There and then, the council resolved that any state where a non-indigene is chairman, the deputy should be an indigene, vice versa.
I was happy Aleco responded to overture of peace and unity. He was peaceful, humble and cheerful with all men even as an engineer of consent whom I had read so much about as a veteran journalist turned PR and media consultant before the fateful day of my encounter. Frank, humorous, friendly, dandy, tall and handsome, Aleco was ladies choice because he had no dull moments to pay compliments anytime, anywhere a beautiful dame passed. ‘That’s a pretty one” he would say because of his eagle eyes for beauty.
We came closer. When he knew my other friends and colleagues in PR and the media like Temple Benson, Julius Berger PR adviser; Victor Dorgu of Mid – West Motors PR Manager Fame; Clackson Majomi, Alex Nwokedi of NEPA fame, Chief Segun Osoba of Daily Times and later governor of Ogun State, Oba Akran of Badagry, Isaac Rufus of Guinness Plc, Major Adebayo Shitta, Chief Jibade Oyekan, Major Armstrong Ibikunle and Paddy Akwa – all PR gurus.
Aleco was fond of Kano and its people after several visits which led to the launching of other state chapters including: Kwara, Kaduna, Borno, Plateau, Niger and Sokoto. After his service in the Custom, he became a full-fledged PR consultant and Director of Cybele Cosmetics Ltd. with Indian partners. He was always open-minded to any discussion. Aleco arguably may be the last great star of his era whose image shall be difficult to duplicate. He had no hidden agenda anywhere or anytime. He discussed private family life in the open with layers of media hypes which revealed the true features of a unique and remarkable PR man. During the regime of General Ibrahim B. Babangida, Aleco at different times served as a Federal Minister of Information, chairman of National Sports Commission and later as chairman of National Reconciliation Committee. He was the most orgiastic spectacle deeply involved in peaceful activities. Aleco was a High Chief of Ondo with large heart accouterments of expensive living, choice property, cars, traditional clothes, good wine and food. Aleco shall be greatly missed by his critics who called him a jester. Better still, he initiated the NIPR practitioners Decree of 1990, now an Act of Parliament with the main objective of establishing professionalism and excellence as the hallmark of PR practice in Nigeria.
• Prince (Dr) Ajayi Memaiyetan, a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations wrote via email