Oyinlola: An Officer And Statesman

Sina Ogunbambo pays tribute to Olagunsoye Oyinlola, former governor of Lagos State, at age 70

Apart from his scholarly activities at Odo – Otin Grammar School, Okuku, in the 60’s, the young Prince Olagunsoye Adedapo Oyinlola was more of a hunter. Usually in the midst of friends on a hunting expedition, he will aim at a bird on a tree and hit the target with just a single shot from his catapult. The confidence in his shooting prowess and his love for military uniform gingered him to join the Nigerian Army in 1969 rather than accept his admission to Ahmadu Bello University as an undergraduate after successfully completing his West African School Certificate examination in 1968.

His eagerness and admiration for this disciplined profession further propelled him to join as a Private, rather than as an officer, as he possessed the requisite qualification. Once pencilled down as a batman for Brigadier General Raji Rasaki rtd. due to his usual appearance in well-starched and properly ironed khaki uniform, this legal practitioner who became an orphan at the age of nine, through dint of hard work, determination, brilliance and good luck, rose to become a Brigadier General (rtd.) in Nigerian Army and the Governor of Lagos and Osun States. His last political office was National Secretary of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Born on February 3, 1951 to Oba Moses Oyewole Oyinlola (the famous Olokuku of Okuku and a member of defunct Western Region House of Chiefs in the Parliament) and Olori Comfort Ololade Oyinlola, the charming prince had his elementary and secondary education at Okuku, proceeded to Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, Command and Staff College, Jaji, University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile – Ife) for a diploma in International Relations in 1979, University of Madras, India for M.Sc degree in 1988, Buckingham University in United Kingdom in 2003 for LL.B degree in 2003 and Nigerian Law School, Abuja for BL 2012 post degree qualification and call to bar.

Oyinlola’s professionalism in the army was brought to the fore between December 1992 and September 1993 as the Contigent Commander and the Commanding Officer of the 245 Reconnaissance (RECCE) batallion made up of 39 officers and 621 soldiers. This was a United Nations Operation Restore Hope (UNiSOM) in Somalia, when the nation broke out in a destructive flame of an ethnic war. The Mogadishu airport was then a smouldering asphaltic wasteland of decomposing bodies strewn with unspent cartridges, bombed – out vehicles and a thousand shards of innumerable items. Col Oyinlola (as he then was) had a dangerous mission of cleansing the airport and salvaging it from wandering tribes of outlaws. In the face of guerilla warfare, anonymous enemy and cannonades being hurled from everywhere, he accomplished the mission with almost negligible casualty. In the words of Col Tony Nyiam rtd. “Oyinlola’s-led Nigerian troops achieved what the Americans troops could not”.

As the Military Administrator of Lagos State from December 10, 1993 to August 22, 1996, he did a lot of trouble shooting to bring peace to the state as this was the peak of antagonism by the civilians towards General Sani Abacha’s regime after the annulment of June 12, 1992 Presidential election that Basorun Moshood Abiola Abiola won. Despite this tense atmosphere, Oyinlola built several schools, general hospitals and housing estate in Lagos State. The Opebi link bridge and road, with Lagos House Governor’s Lodge at Abuja were some of the legacies he left behind. He also introduced the security outfit “Operation Sweep” to combat armed robbery.

As democratically elected Governor, he was in charge of Osun State from 29th May, 2003 to 26th November 2010. His accomplishments this time around deserves a tome for publication. However, the highlights are building of Osun State University, establishing government-owned mining company – Livingspring Mining Corporation (with 11 mining sites in Nigeria), commencement of Livingspring Free trade zone to diversify the economy and building of Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding. There was also industrial harmony and prompt payment of workers’ salaries throughout his tenure.

Blessed with a good wife, Omolola and four lovely children and grandchildren, Oyinlola is a study in human relations. He is ever humble and well-cultured. His sense of humour is superb and former Nigerian Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd.) once told this writer at an interview session that it was the humour and then brilliance of Oyinlola that brought them close.

Oyinlola’s compassion and accommodation (especially for the masses) was what brought him to politics and the study of law. He is determined to render more of free services to the under-priviledged and oppressed through the rule of law. His life is that of meritorious service to God and humanity.

As the bubbling “young man” who also has passion for golf joins the septuagenarian club on Wednesday, February 3, 2016, I wish this refined officer, gentleman and accomplished statesman, a happy birthday.

––Ogunbambo, a journalist, was Oyinlola’s Chief Press Secretary in Lagos State.

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