Professor Sam Aluko’s Obit(2): Never shunned the role of a “lone voice crying out in the wilderness”

February 26, 2012 

by Tola Adenle

This is just a postscript that is not an afterthought but a sort of addendum to February 7, the day Professor Aluko’s passing was announced.

Like, perhaps, hundreds of thousands who admired Prof. as everybody younger seemed to address him, my feelings for him were more than ‘respect’, more like absolute admiration. I knew him and Aunt Joyce at Ife (OAU) in the late 60s as a fresh Ibadan Polytechnic graduate who worked in the office of the Vice-Chancellor as an assistant personal secretary under Papa Kalango’s administrative leadership while Mrs. Titi Martins (nee Omole) was the substantive personal secretary. Aunt Joyce, an Ife alumnae, was an administrative officer within the Registry under Balmond. In that capacity, I knew just about everybody at Ife – so to say – because it was a very small community, a fact that drove my spouse and I away as it was not that conducive an environment to young people who were students!

I would later become related to the Alukos by way of the marriage of an older brother’s daughter (Sile Adamolekun) to Prof’s son, Gbenga but that counts for very little – thicker than water as blood may be – in my admiration for Prof.

Whenever I see anything written on Prof., it becomes a must-read for me, and having flagged his name, I could not miss the interview – perhaps his last – given to The Sun’s Adeseko before Christmas, a piece I read half a world away in Las Vegas, NV.

Of course the title Mr. Adeseko chose for the in-depth interview was a sedate though equally- classic forthright Prof: “Aluko to Jonathan: Don’t hide under subsidy”, but wanting something more provocative that lead writers of old would look at and nod in agreement, I extracted Prof’s words from the interview as my own lead! Perhaps the title – if I’m allowed to humor myself – but I know that more because of the level of confidence that Nigerians have in Professor Aluko, that interview culled from The Sun for another air-ing here drew 133 readers. Not a huge figure by outside-Nigeria standard but decent here considering the kind of readers who patronize

For why my admiration of Prof went beyond how others might have seen him, we must go back to the same reason why most love him for his straight-forwardness and tell-it-like-it-is style and we must go back to Ife and the politics of the era inside which was embedded the politics of Nigeria – pardon me – the politics of the old West.

These days, cows and rams litter the homes of top politicians and civil servants at Christian and Moslem festivities, a practice that has turned a few state and “federal” top civil servants into cattle rear-ers because year round, their premises resemble cattle-yard. Top Christian civil servants receive rams at Sallah, and it must be the same with Moslems at Christmas.

When the late sage, Chief Awolowo, lost his mother in the early 1970s, political associates fell over each other in seeing who, perhaps, would donate the fattest cow. While I can no longer recall whether Prof mentioned the number of cows donated to the different residences of Awo, I do remember that in an article – perhaps in The Tribune – he wrote of the inappropriateness of Awo letting such sycophantic – not his words – acts benefit the great Awo, a socialist, who could afford to bury his late mother. I think Awo’s retort referred to “pragmatic socialism”.

Well, the invitations from the Vice-Chancellor’s office for private get-togethers to which an unwritten inner circle of Ope (old Action Group) people at Ife were invited coincidentally stopped including Sam Aluko because those generally-never-forget-a-slight inner core of the AG must have considered what Prof wrote not only an affront but a betrayal. He continued to go about his business as usual which included taking then sub-teen [Professor] Bolaji to tennis almost every evening at the Staff Club. Of course I was too young and too lowdown in hierarchy to dare wonder aloud why but suffice to say that Prof respected the man we all considered Yoruba “leader” to the very end, and it seemed things were eventually settled; pardon me, not the “settled”, of the Babangida-era but as in “patch up” or “mend”.

That, dear readers, remains the biggest reason why I was and will always remain an Aluko fan to the end. He stood up for his beliefs and was not one to be afraid of being quoted. And, by the way, the Abacha years that many of his fans cannot understand seems not such a disaster to me. Pardon my saying so because the jury cannot be said to [still] be out on saints and sinners among Nigerian heads of states, “lawmakers”, top civil servants, local government chairmen, etcetera although actually total figures looted are perhaps the only unknown.

Abacha reportedly stole billions in foreign currencies and God-knows-how-much in Naira but Aluko did seem to have succeeded in reigning in government spending spree. Unlike now when even local government officials have retinues of 4-wheel drive vehicles, Prof seemed to have succeeded in containing wastages.

May his soul rest in perfect peace.



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