Oyinlola: A Soldier’s Soldier Is 70

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Seventy years next Wednesday, February 3, life has been kind to a former National Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party and later, Chairman of the National Identity Management Company, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who spent his productive years serving his fatherland in the Nigerian Army. Yinka Kolawole writes

One of the very few people in this country, who have been fortunate to rule two states at different times, is Olagunsoye Oyinlola, a prince of Okuku, Osun State. He was a Military Administrator of Lagos State from December 1993 to August 1996.
Nine years after leaving Lagos, he was sworn in as the elected governor of Osun State on May 29, 2003 and remained on the seat till November 26, 2010. He later became the National Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party and later, Chairman of the National Identity Management Company (NIMC).

Born on Saturday, February 3, 1951 in Okuku, Odo Otin Local Government Area of Osun State into the royal Oyinlola family, Oyinlola carries with him a blue blood. His father, the late Oba Moses Oyewole Oyinlola, was the Olukuku of Okuku between 1934 and 1960.
An orphan at age nine, Oyinlola’s mother, Olori Comfort Ololade Oyinlola, died in 1959, when he was barely eight years old while his father died a year later. He was, consequently raised by his older siblings.

His Education Trajectory
Oyinlola completed his primary education in 1963 at St. Michael’s Primary School, Okuku, after sojourning three other schools due to the changing hands from one guardian to the other. Thereafter, he proceeded to Odo-Otin Grammar School, Okuku, where he obtained the West African School Certificate in 1968. Oyinlola attended the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, where he bagged a Diploma in International Relations in 1979.

He later proceeded to the University of Madras, India, where he graduated with an M. Sc. Degree in Defence Studies in 1988. In 1999, Oyinlola also attended the University of Ibadan, where he bagged a Masters Degree in Strategic Studies, and the Buckingham University, United Kingdom where he graduated in law in 2003. He later attended the Nigerian Law School, Abuja, where he was called to the Nigerian Bar.

A Journey to the Military
Oyinlola enlisted in the Nigerian Army in 1969 as a Private Soldier and was posted to the Signals Corps. He later attended the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, as a participant in the Short Service Course Two and was commissioned as an officer in 1971 into the Armoured Corps of the Nigerian Army at age 20.

Other military institutions he attended included the Nigerian Army School of Education, Ilorin in 1973 for French, English/Current Affairs Course.
He was at the 5e Regiment de Chasseurs, Periguex, France in 1974 and specialized in AML 60 and 90. He attended the NAAC School Ibadan in 1974. It was young officers course.
Also, he was at the Royal Armoured Corps Centre, Britain, 1975 for Troop Leaders Armoured Course. He was at the School of Armour Pakistan, 1977 for Communications Instructors Course.

In 1979, he attended the Command and Staff College, Jaji for Junior Division Staff Course, before proceeding to the US Army Armour School, in 1981 for Armoured Officer Advanced Course.
Again, he was at the Command and Staff College, Jaji, between 1982 and 1983 for CSC course 5; US Army Institute of Personnel and Resource Management USA 1984 Adjutant General Officer Advanced Course; US Army Institute of Personnel and Resource Management, USA 1984 Military Personnel Officer Course.

He had a stint at the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, India from 1987 to 1988 for comparative staff College, and of course, the National War College, Abuja between 1997 and 1998 for NWC Course 6.
Oyinlola had a fulfilling career in the military. He served as a Directing Staff at the Command and Staff College, Jaji and meritoriously in various other capacities as Troop Leader, Squadron Leader, Battalion Commander, Brigade Commander and Acting General Officer Commanding.

As a patriotic officer of the Nigerian Army, between 1983 and 1993, Oyinlola participated in five military/peace-keeping operations in the Lake Chad area, and later in Chad, and was the Commander of the Nigerian Contingent to the United Nations Peace-Keeping Mission in Somalia in 1993.

He performed all his combat and command functions so well that even, the Commander of the American contingent in Somalia, General Wilhelm in a rare letter to him admitted how “honoured” the Americans were “fighting shoulder to shoulder with a professional force like Oyinlola”

His patriotism, successes, humility and level-headedness, saw him being appointed the military administrator of Lagos State, a position he held from December 1993 till August 1996. He bowed out of Military Service as a Brigadier-General in June 1999.

Oyinlola the Administrator
As military administrator of Lagos State, Oyinlola’s primary duty was to ensure peace and safety of lives and property of the people of the state. It is to his credit that despite the volatility of Lagos post-annulment of the June 12 1993 election, he achieved peace by sheer combination of military diplomacy, discipline and native intelligence.

He never had to fire a shot. That was evident at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission headed by the late jurist, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, where Nigerians listened to testimonies and accusations from all manners of people against public officers, who served in the military governments. No one mentioned Oyinlola’s name in connection with any wrongdoing throughout the sittings of that panel.

He was the first in the country to establish a special joint military/police security outfit, which he code-named OPERATION SWEEP, which he launched on May 15, 1995 to combat spiraling insecurity in Lagos. Not only that all his successors in Lagos had kept to that security initiative, all other states in the country also copied it under one code-name or the other.

On physical infrastructure, Oyinlola’s administration in Lagos built roads, bridges and markets across the state. Enduring examples of the efforts of that period are link roads and bridges across canals, which he designed to solve the intractable traffic jams in the mainland part of Lagos.

He started this initiative with the Opebi link bridge and adjoining roads. Oyinlola did many more in other sectors including the epochal appointment of Justice Roseline Omotosho as the first female Chief Judge in the history of the Nigerian judiciary.

Oyinlola the Politician
As governor of Osun state, Oyinlola’s greatest achievement was the enthronement of lasting peace between Ife and Modakeke peoples, who had been at war for over 100 years. He was able to achieve that feat because of his sincerity of purpose that won him the trust and confidence of all sides in the age-long conflict.

Also, as Osun State governor, Oyinlola established and built many of the structures that are there today in the campuses of Osun State University, which UNESCO within the first two years of its existence described as a model.
Today, that university has trained thousands of globally respected graduates and has in its employment, over 850 employees, who earn their living there.

More on other physical infrastructure, Oyinlola constructed the second Osun bridge in Osogbo and dualised the two most important roads that lead into the state capital from Ibadan end. He also constructed across the state over 2,000 kilometers of urban and rural roads.
By the time he exited office on November 26, 2010, his government had connected 87 towns and villages to the national electricity grid through his comprehensive rural electrification programme just as his government provided potable water to several communities.

On education, the credit of Home Grown School Feeding programme, which other states are copying today goes to Oyinlola, who sustained the programme for about six years in Osun State with his successor continuing, where he stopped. He built several thousands of classrooms and provided free education including bursary and free textbooks to primary and secondary school students. He did many more.

The Osun State government, under his leadership promoted Culture and Tourism, which grew rapidly during his tenure. His government achieved the listing of Osun Grove as a World Heritage Site. He was the prime architect of the First Global Conference of Black Nationalities, a Colloquium on Slavery, Slave Trade and Its Consequences, which were held in Osun State from 23-27 August, 2010 and the establishment of the Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding in Osogbo by UNESCO.

In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the development of humanity, Oyinlola was in April 2004, conferred with honourary Doctorate in Civil Laws by the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso and a Doctor of Letters Degree of the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State in 2006.

Prince Oyinlola also bagged a Doctor of Laws Degree (Honoris Causa) from the prestigious Buckingham University, United Kingdom, in February 2007. Similarly, the Osun State University honoured him in 2010 with a Doctor of Laws degree while Lead City University, Ibadan followed suit in December 2010 with the award of honourary Doctorate in Civil Laws on Oyinlola and Fountain University, Osogbo in 2016. He is also a Fellow, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Management.

His Leadership at the NIMC
On Thursday, September 21, 2017, Oyinlola was inaugurated as Chairman of the Governing Board of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), following his appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Acting Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mrs. Habiba Lawal, inaugurated the 9-man board. Represented on the board are the Military, Nigeria Immigration Service, Federal Road Safety Corps, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, other government agencies as well as the private sector.

On January 31, 2018, he was part of the launch of “Coalition for Nigeria” a political movement to check the failings of APC.
However, on Thursday, May 10, 2018, Oyinlola resigned from his position as Chairman of NIMC, citing “a greater political engagement…” He is presently the President of the Nigerian golf Federation and a chieftain of the PDP.