Former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, Timi Alaibe, says that with the multiple pastime of swimming, fishing and reading, he relaxes. Segun James writes
Someone once asked: can something good come out of Bethlehem? Indeed, something good did come out of Bethlehem and it was Jesus Christ. So, it is not surprising that quite a lot of people still ask this question about Ajegunle, the “Jungle City” of Lagos, given the notoriety and slum reputation of the place.
And just like Bethlehem, Ajegunle has produced quite a number of great Nigerians, who have made their marks in the development of their country. One of such people is Chief Ndutimi Alaibe, the quintessential ‘Ajegunle Boy’.
Growing up along the banks of the Lagos Lagoon, Timi as he is fondly called was a typical Ijaw youth, who took to the waters naturally, swimming from Ajegunle to Apapa and fishing the waters with his mother as a dutiful son even as the mother ensured that her son went to school.
Naturally, swimming has continued to be the greatest pastime of this financial expert and astute administrator. But that is not all about Timi. A visit to his county home at Opokuma in Bayelsa State will expose the fact that he loves books. His library is so rich that some of the books were donated to the Non-Governmental-Organisation set up by his late wife, Alaire.
Many would have thought that after the death of Alaire some years ago, Alaibe would abandon the dream given his many activities especially political, which demands so much of his time, but not this great philanthropist. Alaire’s dream to educate the old people of Bayelsa State is still alive and strong.
The Ajegunle Boy came into political limelight soon after he was appointed the executive director in charge of finance and administration of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2001.
While in NDDC, he battled the late governor of Bayelsa State, Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship ticket in 2003 but at the end of the battle, although he lost, Alams admitted that Alaibe was a formidable opponent.
In 2006, he also went to political battle with then governor of the state and former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan for the party’s ticket but he was persuaded to step down for Jonathan by President Obasanjo, who later shared all the electable positions in the state from the senatorial and House of Representatives to the House of Assembly between the Jonathan and Alaibe supporters. In fact, he had succeeded at displacing Jonathan until Obasanjo promised him the position of the managing director of the NDDC in order to step down for Jonathan.
When militancy took the centre state in the polity, President Umar Musa Yar’Adua appointed Alaibe as the arrowhead of the amnesty programme he had designed to persuade the militants lurking in the deep mangrove rain forest of the Niger Delta, and whose activities had practically brought the nation’s economy on its knees to drop their arms and embrace peace.
Once again, as it was in the beginning, Alaibe took to the waters of the delta moving from one militant camp to the other without any security cover to bring out the boys from the jungle. Because he was one of them, piloting speed boats personally to camp where no government officials were welcomed, he gained the trust of the boys and succeeded in luring them to drop their arms.
The success of the amnesty programme was hinged on the shoulders of this graduate of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology graduate. Although he was born in Lagos, his mum ensured that he returned to his native home to attend secondary school at the Kaiama Grammar School for his secondary education.
Since a goldfish has no hiding place, Alaibe worked at the defunct Allstates Trust Bank, where cut his teeth as an accountant and finance guru. It was from here his reputation as a brilliant, committed and forthright banker brought him into limelight.
Today, Alaibe is out of the public glare having sought to be the governor of his beloved state four times in the past. He may well become the governor at his fifth try because if you ask the average Bayelsan, he will tell you that Alaibe is the man the next time around.