Ode to Apostle Hayford Alile (1938-2018)

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Nosa Osemwengie
Apostle (Dr) Hayford I. Alile, OFR, former director-general of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) and spiritual leader of St. Joseph Chosen Church of God (SJCCG), transited to eternal glory on 1st October, 2018, a year ago. He was 80 years old. The funeral service in his honour held at the Central Cathedral of SJCCG, Benin-city on 8th November, 2018 looks to me as an event which happened just yesterday.

It was a celebration of life. It was like a carnival which attracted the high and the mighty. Some of the dignitaries in attendance were the former Governor of Edo State and APC National Chairman as he then was, Chief John Oyegun; former Governor of old Bendel State, Gen. Jeremiah Useni; former Group Managing Director of NNPC, Dr Jackson Gaius-Obaseki; Iyase of Benin Kingdom, Chief Sam Igbe; founder of Guaranty Trust Bank, Mr. Fola Adeola; former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Chief Joseph Sanusi, to mention a few.

The Edo State Government was well represented. All the branches of SJCCG, world-wide, were represented. The capital market community was not left out. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Investments and Securities Tribunal (IST), The Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Central Securities Clearing System (CSCS) were represented and sent goodwill messages.

The Service of Song in honour of Apostle Alile which held a day earlier, November 7, 2018 at Harbour Point, Victoria Island, Lagos also lived up to its billings. The Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, himself a front-runner in the capital market industry was present. Captains of industries and la crème de la crème of the corporate world were in attendance.

The grandiose attendance at the funeral of Apostle Alile is reminiscent of the glorious attendance at the funeral he organised for his mother, Deaconess (Princess) Annah Efionayi Alile (JP) who passed on to glory 7th February, 1998. The late M.K.O Abiola led the pack of dignitaries to grace that occasion in Benin City. The city was at a stand-still as a result of the crowd. The point is that Apostle Alile had enormous goodwill. In life and in death, he drew the crowd.

So much has been said about his achievements while he was at the helm of affairs at the NSE from 1976-2000. He is credited with the physical movement of the NSE’s operations to its current location in Marina-Lagos, the financial emporium of the country. His other landmark feats at the NSE included the automation of the trading system and the introduction of the All Share Index, among other numerous accomplishments. Before his retirement from the NSE in 2000, he put in place a robust succession plan which produced Prof. Ndi Okereke-Onyuike as DG.

The current Director-General of the NSE, Mr. Oscar N. Onyema (OON), in his tributes to Apostle Alile at his (Alile’s) funeral last year had this to say: “…Apostle Alile’s contributions to the capital market and organised private sector will continue to be referenced. He was indeed a visionary leader, whose foresight and impact on the operations of the NSE remain evident several years after the end of his tenure as Director-General of The Exchange”. Mr. Abimbola Ogunbanjo, President of the National Council of the NSE, in his tributes described Apostle Alile as an “…outstanding authority on the stock market and its operations and he rightly laid a solid foundation for the Nigerian Stock Exchange.”

I have heard it muttered that he favoured ‘his people’ while he was at the NSE. That was a very unfair insinuation. For instance, most of those who managed the NSE with him were not his core tribesmen; they included Dr. Okereke- Onyuike, Alhaji Rasaq Oladejo, former deputy DG of NSE; Mr. Onyewuchi Asinobi who later became Managing Director of CSCS and Mrs Yinka Idowu to mention a few.
Apostle Alile was a man of high integrity who exhibited fair play in all his dealings. In fact, he fitted into the description of a man of conscience, depicted by the great English playwright, Robert Bolt, in his epic book, “A Man for all Seasons”.

Apostle Alile was indeed a man of conscience. In all his actions he knew where to strike the balance. His actions were usually guided by biblical scriptures and utilitarian persuasion of the greatest good for the greatest number.
It was on account of his high integrity that after retiring from NSE, he was appointed by the Federal Government as a Council member of Central Bank of Nigeria. Other areas he served included: Board member of Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc; Chairman Ecobank Plc; Chairman Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industries; Chairman Unilever Plc, to mention a few.

How did my path cross with Apostle Alile’s? I first met Apostle sometime in 1990 or there about. I wanted to join any of the so called ‘new generation banks’ that sprouted in Lagos then. I had read about him as an apostle of God and a very generous man. So, I attempted to see him in his office at the Stock Exchange Building in Lagos. On my first and second visits, his secretary would not allow me to see him. She said I did not state clearly the purpose of my visit.

However, after several attempts, the secretary just led me into the DG’s office one fateful day without much interrogation. I had no biological relationship with Apostle. But when I told him the reason for my visit he just smiled and retorted that what I was looking for was infinitesimal in the eyes of God. He advised me to seek Him first and all other things would be added onto me. He invited me to worship with him at the Victoria Island, Lagos branch of his church which operated then from his residence at Eletu Ogabi Street. I was later baptised in the church by emersion. Suffice to say that through his assistance, I got a job in the banking industry which partly prepared me for my current national assignment. I am immensely grateful to him.

Even though he was an Apostle of God, his friends and associates cut across tribes and religion. Among his close associates were very strong Muslims. They included the then Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, late Dr Lateef Adegbite, the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 election and business mogul, late Chief M.K.O Abiola, Former Managing Director of FSB International Bank Plc, Mr. Mohammed Hayatu-Deen; Chief Bayo Kuku; founder of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Mr. Fola Adeola; renowned gynaecologist , late Prof Tiamiyu Bello-Osagie; renowned lawyer, late Alhaji Abdulganiyu Folorunsho Abdulrazaq ,to mention a few. Many of these Muslims accepted invitations to worship in church service with Apostle, particularly during harvest and thanksgiving programmes. How I wish all of us can emulate the kind of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence practiced by Apostle Alile and his Muslim friends. Our country will be the greater for it.

In a country where many are driven by greed and avarice, Apostle Alile stood out as a very modest person. With his status as a great corporate player, he could, if he wanted, have built his personal house in the heart of Ikoyi or Victoria Island. But not Apostle Alile. He chose to build his personal residence, sometime in the 1990s, at Osapa- London and the branch of his church which he pastored a short distance away from his house. This was at a time that that part of Lagos offered no attraction particularly to people of his calibre. But he was a man of great vision. He saw the potential in that axis. Today, Osapa-London has become the real ‘London’ in Nigeria in terms of opulence, serenity and structure. Many of our nouveau riche and bourgeoisies, at home and abroad, are scampering to get a space in that axis of Lagos, the ‘new Lagos’, much farer than even Osapa – London.

The unique thing about the Osapa branch of SJCCG is that it is a modern parish. And because it was presided over by Apostle Alile, it attracted many dignitaries every Sunday. Every Sunday was like Christmas. Apostle Alile was a great dancer and singer of gospel songs. One of the songs he was fond of is: “join me to praise the Lord, join me to praise the Lord, join me …”. At every opportunity he gave testimony of how the Alile family converted and join the church. The story was told how Annah, Apostle Alile’s mum, was down with strange illness. All medication, orthodox and native, were administered on her to no avail. It took the intervention of the Elect of God, Apostle Joseph Ikechukwu, the founder of SJCCG, who prayed for her and she suddenly was healed. Since then, the Alile family has remained steadfast with the church. When Apostle Ikechukwu passed on to glory in 1998, the mantle of leadership fell on Apostle Alile. There is no doubt Apostle Alile had taken the church to greater heights. Not too long ago, he organised fund raising for the establishment of a cathedral of SJCCG in Abuja, FCT. The programme attracted many eminent personalities including former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon and General T.Y. Danjuma to mention a few.

Apostle Alile was a great evangelist. He evangelised both to the poor and the affluent. I attended one of such evangelical sessions at the Victoria Island, Lagos residence of the former Governor of Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo. That evening worship session attracted many eminent personalities. It was a joyful session I will ever remember; many were blessed. Apostle Alile may have joined the Saints, but his footprints and impacts remain alive. To borrow the popular quote from famous Scottish poet, Thomas Campbell: “to live in hearts we leave behind is not to die”. Adieu Apostle.

Osemwengie, an Executive Member/ Judge, Investments & Securities Tribunal (IST), wrote in from Abuja