Words can incite anger or invoke passion. They can bring people together or tear them apart. Words can uphold the truth or nurture a lie. We use words to encompass history, describe the natural universe, and even conjure realistic visions of things that exist only in fantasy. In fact, in some mythology, spoken words are thought to be so powerful that they can create worlds, creatures, and human beings – Esther Lombard

There is a popular quote that goes something like this: “Be careful what you wish for; for it could well come to pass”. Sometime in 2019, Tim Akano, Managing Director of New Horizon’s System Solution, had invited some of his friends to Protea Hotel in Ikeja to celebrate Wale Adeniyi, his friend of about 36 years then who had just been promoted to the rank of Assistant Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS). While the toast to Wale was on, one of the guests, another classmate of Wale at Ife had asked what appeared to be an innocuous question: “What would you bring to the table when (not if) you become the Comptroller General of the Customs?” Wale hesitated a bit before firing what appeared like a prepared speech on what he would do when (not if) he becomes the Comptroller General. We all laughed over it. A few days ago, the word became flesh. President Ahmed Bola Tinubu appointed Wale Adeniyi as the Comptroller General of the Customs Service.

In the piece below, Tim Akano gives an insight into different sides of the new Comptroller General that may not be too obvious to many. Please enjoy.

The Wale that I know is a dedicated family man. He is the centre of gravity, the super glue, if you like, the unbreakable bond to his family, friends and community.

Humour merchant, no dull moment, Wale has this unique way of looking for a modicum of positivity in every sea of challenges.

An extraordinary wordsmith. In our class tutorial in those days, the more logical reasoning you put behind your argument and the more sophisticated your grammar, the better your rating in the class. Wale excelled academically. He is an indisputable A student.

Little wonder why early in his career, he was appointed the Public Relations Officer of the NCS. And for the past 40 years I have known him, he has held one leadership position or the other everywhere he has been.

Very religious. Behind all his jocular self lies an ironclad commitment to the Almighty, his Maker, though he doesn’t wear religion as a badge, it shows in his work and relationship with people. He practises silent charity. Kind-hearted, always lending a helping hand to people in genuine need and who are most likely not in a position to repay his generosity.

Wale is a specialist in cooking ‘Fish Head’. He enjoys cooking. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Wale became a regular cook. He usually shared his cooking pictures on our platform proudly. He is a B+ Chef, though.

The new CG is born master of ceremonies (MC) extraordinaire. If Wale had chosen the MC as a profession, he would still have ended up a first-class master of ceremonies, like the world’s best MCs, such as Alan Thicke and Stephen K. Amos. He cracks jokes effortlessly. And it takes a genius brain to get people to laugh, especially when they are in “sifia pains”. Wale is one such person who can make people in “sifia pains” laugh and forget the reasons they are hurting.

Wale taught at one village school long before he gained admission into the university. So, it is in order if I call Wale a once-upon-a-time village school teacher.

The new CG was very troublesome in class. Wale would silently cook all the trouble. It was his lot as the class captain to bring order to the perpetually chaotic international relations conversations. We argued ad infinitum on virtually everything without reaching a consensus: apartheid, multinationals, whether they are evils or agents of underdevelopment or employment creators, Cuba and the USSR, among others
Our class was extremely lively but volatile and noisy. Our lecturers sometimes would lose control of the class.
Once that happened, Professor Okolo, our lecturer, would jokingly give his verdict: everyone is right, and every argument is correct, even though we had five contradictory positions on the table.

But surprisingly, when results were released after the exams, Wale would always end up as one of the best in the class academically. How he managed to juggle the four contradictory roles: a troublemaker and a noise-maker catcher, class captainship, and academic excellence, is one of the unresolved equations about Wale.

Gunners for life. He is a B footballer but an A football fanatical supporter. His team was, is and will remain an Arsenal fan, even when Arsenal is sinking. Wale would rather sink with Arsenal than swim with any other reigning football team champion.
He played football in school, but he was not a fantastic footballer.

Wale scored against his own team a couple of times, but he would quickly joke about it and be the first to laugh at himself. He doesn’t allow setbacks to define or overwhelm him.

His commitment to Arsenal is as strong as his commitment to his friends. For Wale, there is no yesterday’s friend. We have been friends for almost 40 years and still remain close friends. And that is the same experience his friends in NIPR have with him.

Wale is an action man, conspicuous, and a doer, a go-getter. In 40 years, I have not seen Wale dropping the ball. No. Once Wale is behind the limo as the driver, be rest assured that Wale will deliver excellently. There is no excuse in Wale’s dictionary.
He can’t get lost in the crowd. He is always eager to add value selflessly in every gathering he belongs to.

Wale writes and speaks English, French and Yoruba fluently. He speaks Yoruba with wise proverbs to drive home his points. His multilingual ability is a big plus for him in the new office as Nigeria is surrounded by French-speaking countries.

When we formed the International Relations Alumni Association (IRAA), he wanted to excuse himself from taking an official position. I prevailed on him to serve as our first BoT Chairman for the whole 30 sets that had graduated from our department at the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University. And typical of Wale, he has done creditably. He piloted the association through the most difficult baby-step years, providing sundry supports: morally, intellectually, financially and humorously.

Wale’s early membership of Man-O-War probably was the best thing, I believe, that prepared him for the several leadership roles which life has thrown at him, most importantly, the new job he would resume this week. From the Man-O-War training, Wale must have acquired, like a stoic, the three life’s most important disciplines: perception, action and details, and thirdly, the discipline of audacity, all of which, I believe, will become very critical in his new role as the new CG NCS.

Sometimes Wale would choose to go for Man-O-War leadership drilling around 5 am in the morning rather than attend the 7 am lectures. We called it “lecture stabbing”. Wale stabbed several lectures to acquire the leadership skills which the country is celebrating in him today. Wale paid wholesale, not retail price for his new prize!

And probably because he is so gifted academically that once he goes through the notebooks, his photogenic brain picked all the salient points. So, he didn’t suffer academically as a result of his prioritising the acquisition of life skills.

With Wale, what you see is what it is and what you get: no deceit, no forming, no embellishments and no showmanship. He is down to earth, authenticity is his middle name.

What else about Wale?

He is a drummer. He is skilful in beating the Yoruba traditional talking drum. He can use the talking drum to make complete statements and proverbs. At the same time, he is a good dancer.

All told, by Wale’s appointment as the new Comptroller General of Customs Service, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is putting a round peg in a round hole. PBAT has appointed a versatile, academically sound and experienced professional with an impeccable character, visionary, tested and trusted, results-oriented turnaround leader as the new class captain of the Nigeria Customs Service. As Wale had done with all the past class captain roles he held, he will not fail to reposition the NCS to make it globally competitive.

I strongly believe Wale would make our generation proud. He owes Nigeria, he owes the Commander in Chief, and Wale owes our generation to raise the bar of quality public service delivery, that it is possible and it can be done!

Having known Wale for about 40 years, I have zero doubt that the new Comptroller General will make a positive difference in MOVING FORWARD to the Nigeria Customs Service.

Wale knows the enormity of expectations from different sources concerning the new task at hand, but since everything Wale touched in the past had turned to gold, the NCS under his watch will witness a phenomenal transformation in the months and years ahead.

We can only add that: may the invisible, most powerful and benevolent God be with him and crown his transformation agenda with a resounding success.

Nigeria is beginning to smell different, as HOPE that JAPA eight years ago suddenly returned to Nigeria from exile three weeks ago. Hope had been hibernating for the past eight years in a foreign territory. The quality of appointments made by PBAT so far is why Hope is back in Nigeria. When the likes of Wale are tapped for national service, which is absolutely based on their competence and professionalism, a radical departure from what we had in the recent past, then there is hope for Hope’s second coming.

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