In Our Days, Lagos was a Clean City



Interviewed by Funke Olaode

Can we have an insight into your background?
I was born in Lagos on May 29, 1945. I attended CMS Grammar School, Lagos and University of Lagos where I studied sciences. I later went to England where I did my master’s and doctorate degrees in Agricultural Economy. I came back to Nigeria immediately after my studies and worked for federal government in the fishery department for 13 years. I was appointed Commissioner for Agriculture in Lagos State between 1986 and 1991. After my tenure I established an agro business consultancy outfit. I was doing that until I became acting National Secretary of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) just before the 2015 elections.

How would you describe your growing up?
I am from Isale-Eko on Lagos Island. It was interesting growing up in Lagos. It was a very peaceful city with a population of less than one million. I am from the royal family of Akitoye. My great-great grandfather Oba Dosunmu was the one that handed over Lagos to the Oyinbos (Queen Vitoria). I learnt he was preparing letter for Queen Victoria when he died. Lagos of old was very clean. The gutters were very clean as we could float paper boat. In fact, there were stationary van that used to carry meat in those days unlike these days where meat is being moved around in the open. Again, the families were united. There was no discrimination between Christians and Moslems. We were all raised together.

Tell us about your parents?
My father, the late Prince Babs Babatunde Akintoye worked with the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN) and later became the first black engineer of that era in Lagos. My mother was a teacher and later became a seamstress.

Did your privilege beginning place a burden of expectation on you?
Yes. Incidentally, I am the first son. My father wanted me to cut a class so I can carry the mantle well. He moved me from Mrs. Buyers to Mrs. Andrews. These were the returnees from Brazil and Serra-Leone in those days. They were exposed and well educated. I first lived with Mrs. Buyer where I cut my teeth in etiquette and mannerism and later moved to Mrs. Andrews’ household.

What factor shaped you while growing up?
Education was becoming prominent in Lagos in those days and all the indigenes that have had the taste of education were living a sophisticated lifestyle. Having seen this it propelled and influenced me because Lagos has always been an ambitious city that pushes you.

At what age did you go into politics?
A friend of mine, the late Funsho Williams invited me into politics. We were classmates in the University of Lagos and later became good friends. He came to my house one day during the reign of the late Gen. Abacha and said ‘Remi, I learnt they would not allow me to contest for governorship of Lagos state but you can contest.’ That very day he took me to the house of Bode Olajumoke and that was how my romance with politics started.

Were you not afraid when Funsho Williams was murdered?
I was not though it was painful losing a very close ally. This is part of politics in this uncivilized climate. The developed countries didn’t get there the same day. I believe we will get there one day. My late friend was a man of peace. My consolation is that he lived a Christian life.

How would you say life has treated you in the last 71 years?
Life has taught me contentment. My father died at 93 and was still handsome. In my case, so many factor contributes to my ageing well. No matter how worst the situation may be I don’t carry it over. Why are you disturbing yourself because by tomorrow another problem will surface? I also try to eat well.The other thing is that right from my youth I have been contented with life and what comes my way. I believe whatever God wants to give you will reach you and if you run after what He doesn’t want to give you, you get hurt along the way. It doesn’t mean that we should sit down and not do anything.

Are you fulfilled?
I am fulfilled because God has been kind to me. But I still have an ambition and this ambition is for me to build an old people’s home. What influenced me is that when my mother was getting old I built a small apartment for her in my home and took very good care of her. That was when I knew what goes into taking care of the aged.