LET me confess, it is because of General Ibrahim Babangida, Nigeria’s military Head of State from Tuesday, August 27, 1985 – Thursday, August 26, 1993 that I decided to write this hereafter advice series in appreciation of what he did for me 34 years ago, because, as they say, one good turn deserves another. In December 1987, a day after he assumed office in Akure as the Military Governor of Ondo State, Navy Captain Olabode Ibiyinka George, sent his friend, late Mr. Tunde Savage, then a Manager with the Daily Times, that he wanted me to be a Commissioner in his cabinet. I was then the Editor of the Sunday Concord and I turned down the offer instantly.
I had known George since our boyhood years in the Campos Square area of the Brazilian Quarters of Lagos Island. He was living at 1, Ajele Street and I was at 18A Joseph Street. I thought the invitation came because he knew me or that I was recommended to him by Colonel Okunola Okuromade, his classmate at Ijebu – Ode Grammar School through whom we met in 1965. Okuromade was the nephew of the wife of my uncle, Pa Bankole John Adedipe and we both stayed with him at Joseph Street from 1965 – 68.
Three days after Savage’s visit, Governor George sent a mutual friend of ours, late Colonel Afolabi Henry David on the same mission. I still stood by my decision. Five days later, he sent Colonel Okuro- made who came with Colonel David. They told me the Governor had requested them to bring me to
Akure so that he could discuss the matter with me. I told them that making the trip would not
make me change my mind on the offer. As agreed Colonels Okuromade and David came to my house at noon the following day and we left Lagos for Akure. Governor George lodged us in a Guest House within the State House compound. It, when we met at his residence to have dinner that day that he told us his offer to me, was on the orders of the Commander – in – Chief (General Babangida).
He said his boss liked me so much that he spent the last 10 minutes of their 30 – minute discussion after the swearing-in ceremony talking about me glowingly. He said I must be very close to him. I told him I was not and that I met General Babangida at close quarters only once and that was when the Editors in Concord Press of Nigeria interviewed him in 1985 shortly after he assumed office. And that if he had high regards for me it must be be-cause he loved my column The Heart of the Matter in the Sunday Concord.
When Governor George finished talking I told him I could not accept his offer because as a columnist who was examining issues objectively I could not see myself issuing statements on government’s policies and action I did not agree with. In that case, he said apart from the Ministry of Finance, Health, Agriculture and Justice where a professional should be the Commissioner I was free to choose any ministry I wanted, instead of Information.
My reply was that the issue was more than the ministry to which I would be assigned and that the crux-of-the-matter was that given my relationship with him and his wife, I could not see myself work- ing under him and answering Yes sir to him and Yes ma to his spouse.
I then told him that since his offer was on the instruction of General Babangida whom I had respect for that I could accept a part-time appointment as the Chairman of a Board of Directors, not member, of a government corporation or agency and that I must have his telephone numbers for direct access to him and not through his ADC or Chief – of – Staff.
Governor George agreed to my terms and that was why he chose me in January 1989 to be the Chairman of the Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja a subsidiary of Odu’a Investment Company, when it was the turn of Ondo State to provide someone for the position. At the time, Odu’a Investment was owned with Ogun and Oyo States as Osun and Ekiti States had not been created. The appointment was for two years and I served until January 1991.
Governor George spoke on my declining to serve in his cabinet in 1987 at a public event in Lagos
on Thursday, September 2, 2004. This was when he was the Special Guest of Honour at the launch of the book I wrote on the instruction of the Lord titled: Nigeria set aside for greatness and the untold story of June 12 poll annulment.
Knowing how many Nigerians think, I am sure some people would say I turned down the offer for appointment as a Commissioner because I was under a curse from my enemies. But I want such persons to know that in 1969 & 1993 when the Heavenly Father as He did with King Solomon
in I Kings 3:1 – 15 told me to ask Him anything I wanted, I chose that He endowed me with knowledge, wisdom and victory over my enemies at all times and not wealth.
I did not ask the Lord for wealth because I was the son of a rich business man and one of the first fifteen millionaires in the country in the 1930s through the 50s. He was also a politician and a pioneer member of the House of Representatives (1954 – 59) and I did not like his busy lifestyle.
It was because I did not ask for wealth that the king of kings as from 1997 started entertaining from me questions on issues in the Bible and Qur’an and through this I have been able to let people have better and correct understanding of the stories and statements in the Christian Holy Book.
An example was Jesus sending only those he cured of skin diseases to the priests to perform sacrifices (Matthew 8:1 – 4 & Luke 17: 11 – 19). I was the one who let people know it was because it was the only healing that required doing so (Leviticus 14:1 – 32). I plan to publish a book in a few years from now on God’s explanation of issues in the Holy Bible. This gift to me is more than being the wealthiest man in the world.
Having direct access to a Governor or President goes a long way for someone to record achievements during his or her tenure in public office. It was why I succeeded as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Lagos Airport Hotel and the Chairman of Caretaker Committee of the Old Akure Local Government (1995 – 96). If I had been in the cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 when he said his Ministers must reach him through his Chief – of – Staff, late Alhaji Abba Kyari, I would have resigned my appointment within 24 hours except God overruled me.
•Next week: Why Babangida must heed my hereafter advice