Nigeria is a land filled to the brim will all manners of personalities, some quite colourful while others are very bland. However, one string that runs through virtually all of Nigeria’s prominent personalities is CONTROVERSY. Abdulazeez Arisekola Alao is a name that means different things to different people. To one swathe of Nigerians, he was nothing but the personification of religious piety, generosity, philanthropy, humility and kindness. On the other hand of the spectrum are fellow compatriots who believe strongly that this chieftain with fashionable African tribal marks was nothing but a ruthless, conniving, barely-literate businessman whose only claim to fame and wealth is directly linked to an unabashed collaboration with evil, repressive military rulers and thieving governments. While some see Arisekola as an angel, some others dismiss him as a rotten embodiment of corruption, a dinosaur of the past era who died while seeking medical assistance in Europe after taking active part in the plunder of the Nigerian nation and destroying its system, including the health sector.
So who exactly was Arisekola Alao, the late Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland? The essence of this piece is to present the story in a most balanced manner, the good, the bad and of course, the downright ugly. The judgment is left to you, the highly-esteemed reader. Mine is to present the facts on ground. So if you are ready, let’s roll!
BIRTH AND EARLY DAYS
Arisekola was born on the 14th of February, 1945 (there’s something about this date, figure it out yasef..lol). His father was Alhaji Abdur Raheem Olatunbosun Olaniyan Alao while his mother was Alhaja Rabiatu Olatutu Abegbe Alao and both were peasant farmers who hailed from Ajia in Ona-Ara Local Government Area of Oyo State.
He attended the St. Lukes School at Adigun, Ibadan and later the ICC Primary School, Igosun, Ibadan owing to the steady insistence of one school teacher named Mr. JO Oladejo as the young Arisekola was said to have been somewhat uninterested in secular education. Instead, he displayed a greater proclivity for Islamic education, which he had been passionately dedicated to since the age of three.
Later, he applied to the Christ School, Ado-Ekiti and Lagelu Grammar School in Ibadan. He did very well, emerging third at Lagelu Grammar School. However, he was forced to drop out of school owing to the poverty and financial handicap of his parents.
Since Arisekola could not push further with formal education, he decided to try his hands on business. Without wasting time, he started selling Gammalin-20 in 1961 when he established the Azeez Arisekola Trading Company. Business seemed good and by 1972, he veered into the sale of imported motor cars with the establishment of Lister Motor in 1972. Over time, he would have other businesses such as:
-Lister Oil Nigeria Limited
-Lister Property & Estate Company
-Lister Printing Press
-Lister Farms and Fishery, Abegede (said to cover 200 hectares of land)
-Lister Flour Mills Nigeria Limited (you remember that Lister semolina shey?)
-Lister Insurance Company
-Monitor Group of Newspapers
-Aris Corporation, London, United Kingdom
-Barakat Investment Nigeria Limited
CAVORTING WITH THE MILITARY
Arisekola’s businesses had reportedly collapsed before Abacha came to power but his fortunes changed for the better when Sani Abacha became the Head of State. They became friends when Abacha was serving as the General Officer Commanding of the 2 Mechanized Division of the Nigerian Army, Ibadan, Oyo State. Their friendship grew over time and by the time Abacha became the lord of Aso Rock, Arisekola was there to support him, got good business deals and also procured spiritualists and marabouts for Abacha, from Sarkin Shasha in Ibadan to the ones imported from Chad, Senegal and even the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, a nation in the northern West African deserts.
Arisekola was also a major beneficiary as a sole contractor for the Abacha government during the days of the ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG). He was awarded contracts to supply army uniforms for the Nigerian soldiers, alongside their ammunition and even food materials. He even went ahead to launch The Monitor newspaper specifically aimed at polishing the battered image of General Abacha. At that time, Arisekola entered Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Nigeria’s most heavily-defended fortress, as he desired. He moved about with fully-armed personal guards and his escort of mobile policemen sent a very strong message to the already-oppressed people of Nigeria.
Lam Adesina blamed Adedibu and Arisekola Alao for losing the governorship elections in 2003. Rashidi Ladoja also blamed the two of them for his controversial impeachment in 2005. Arisekola Alao was a long-standing ally of Akala but they later fell apart. He did not also initially support him. In 1983, during the hotly-contested governorship elections, Arisekola Alao led the people of Ibadan in opposing the candidature of Bola Ige, eventually paving the way for Dr. Omololu Olunloyo.
LOVE, MARRIAGE AND FAMILY
Arisekola was a polygamist and had 45 children. One of his sons, Umar Farouk Arisekola-Alao is the Oyo State Commissioner for Youth and Sports. Umar was born in 1982 and he got a degree in biomedical science from the Irwin College, United Kingdom and a second degree in accounting from the St. George’s University, Grenada, West Indies. He is also into oil and gas business. He said that it was difficult to get the full attention of his father as he received numerous visitors on a daily basis.
ARISEKOLA ALAO AND POLITICS
Although he did not run for any political office himself, Arisekola was closely in tune with political events and happenings in his Oyo State. In October 1998, Abacha was dead, Nigerians were getting set for a new democratic era and a number of politicians were jostling for the governorship of Oyo State. Rashidi Ladoja, a chief and Third Republic Senator flew in all the way from London where he was based and declared for the Peoples Democratic Party (forget the fact that he had earlier promised Bola Ige he would be joining the Alliance for Democracy, AD), former governor Ishola Kolapo was also revving up his engine to retake the governorship seat while Alhaji Yekini Adeojo was also considered a favourite to pick the PDP ticket.
However, Arisekola did not support any of these people, he had his own candidate. Taoheed Adedoja, a professor and Provost of the Federal College of Education (Special), Oyo was Arisekola’s anointed candidate who ran on the platform of the All People’s Party (APP), then led by Arisekola’s comrade, Lamidi Adedibu. Eventually, the election was won by the late Lam Adesina, a star of the Alliance for Democracy known and respected for his vicious struggle against the Abacha regime. Fast forward to April 2007 and Otunba Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala was the governor of the state. But Arisekola was not too happy with Adedibu for supporting Akala, a non-Ibadan indigene to the detriment of an Ibadan son. It took the intervention of Obasanjo for the two of them to mend fences.
-When it was time to appoint ministers in July 2007, Arisekola also sent in the name of his own candidate, Dr. Aderemi Babalola, to represent Oyo State. Governor Akala forwarded the name to the Ogas at the Top. He was later made the Minister of State for Finance. So it was no surprise to observant analysts when in January 2009, Babalola as minister of state constructed two world-class hospitals worth $1 million for the Red Cross in Abuja and Ibadan, one of the special guests of honour at the opening ceremony apart from the Nigerian First Lady Turai Yar’adua, was Arisekola. Babalola was later pushed out of government in September 2010 because of the ‘sin’ of his godfather who decided to support the presidential ambition of former military dictator, Ibrahim Babangida. He was reported to have ‘resigned’ on health grounds and President Jonathan “wished him full recovery and a speedy return to an active life.”
-In August 2009, Arisekola was a guest at the Lagos office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in connection with the N5 billion naira that his company, Lister Oil Limited, owed Intercontinental Bank Plc. He arrived the EFCC office in a convoy, which included a limousine. But in an interview with the Guardian, Arisekola went defensive:
“I have been doing business of buying and selling of shares with the banks for over 18 years” lend credence to CBN’s claim. Intercontinental Bank bought 100 million units of shares worth about N3.3 billion for me and I have shares with them. They always hold the certificate as collateral because they know we never defaulted. The shares are with the banks, it is their shares anyway. How would you say Arisekola owes N5 billion when they used the loan to buy shares and kept the certificates with them as collateral?”
CRITICISM AND CONTROVERSY
-Arisekola, like many other prominent Nigerians, was a pack of controversies. He was blasted mercilessly by many Nigerians who accuse him of colluding and collaborating with the most corrupt leaders to enrich themselves at the expense of the Nigerian populace whom they offer crumbs as a form of pacification. But that is not all. He has been accused of even more terrible things, and that includes the loss of lives of innocent civilians.
-THE KILLINGS: The late Arisekola Alao had a retinue of personal security aides who fired at and killed Nigerians at will. For instance, during the riots in May 1998 during which his newspaper publishing house in was damaged, his personal security aides fired at Nigerians, killing many innocent citizens in the process. He would later receive the sum of N100 million from the Abacha government, the sum which Arisekola described as compensation for his losses. Well, the high-handed and iron-fisted nature of his security team was also corroborated by a Canada-based fan of Abiyamo, Mr. David Olan Upwords, who stated:
I remembered the evening of a particular day in May at Liberty Stadium, Ring Road, Ibadan when poor hapless young Nigerians practicing football and some others were shot and killed in cold blood by the security forces working for Arisekola after a riot broke out against supporters of Abacha- a group Arisekola belongs to- The riot occurred between 7 am and 10am some of this young people ran into an hospital the personal security guards followed them and shot them point blank. I personally know 4 of these boys, while one Ibo guy working for Arisekolas newspaper escaped with gun shots in the stomach and legs. Whatever we do history will never change.
In November 1998, Arisekola and Adedibu were accused by the United Action for Democracy (UAD) alongside the government security agents and his private armed security guards for the deaths of 15 Nigerians. UAD added that ‘we shall not forget’, and they also described the combined forces of the government and people like Arisekola as ‘fascist’.
-In November 2009, Arisekola advised that armed robbers caught with guns and ammunition should be shot immediately they are arrested. He then promised to support the police with five crime patrol vans and build a barrack for the mobile police (MOPOL).
-THE GTB BANK BANKRUPTCY CASE
In July 2011, a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos State (headed by Justice Pat Ajoku) judged that the bank should serve Arisekola court processes in the bankruptcy case involving him. The judge went further to say that the notice should be pasted on the gates of his Arisekola Villa, Oluwo Kekere Bashorun, Ibadan, Oyo State. GTB had fired a suit against Arisekola praying that the court declare him bankrupt because he was not able to pay back the N6.9 billion naira loan that he owed the bank (the loan was given to his company, according to GTB). Arisekola retorted that he did not owe GTB a single shishi.
Still on the GTB case, in September 2011, Arisekola’s lawyer and the former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) engaged Justice Okechukwu Okeke of the Federal High Court, Lagos in a shouting match. Part of it went thus:
Akeredolu: At the adjourned date, the Rules of the court still allow us like 20 minutes to canvass arguments on our addresses. You need to hear us out.
Okeke: When you have it in writing what do you need the argument for.
Akeredolu: You gave a mareva injunction which crippled the business of my clients, this is a serious matter and that is why we must be able to canvass argument when we come.
Okeke: You are free to insist, you cannot teach me what to do.
Akeredolu: It is wrong of you to give an ex-parte order like mareva injunction which should lasts for 14 days and then adjourned the matter till November 7, that is unfair.
INTERESTING THINGS ABOUT ARISEKOLA ALAO
-In 1980, a group of Islamic scholars came together and made him theAare Musulumi of Yorubaland, meaning the ‘Chief of Muslims of Yorubaland’. Yorubas are predominantly found in Nigeria’s southwestern region and some parts of Benin Republic.
-Although many Yoruba leaders worked assiduously towards the release of MKO Abiola, Arisekola did precisely the opposite. He was accused of not being interested in Abiola’s release but instead, he worked tirelessly for Abacha to continue in power for life. MKO would later die in jail.
-When Daniel Kanu organized his Youths Earnestly Ask for Abacha (YEAA) in Abuja, Arisekola and Adedibu also organized their own similar rallies in Ibadan for Abacha to continue for life.
-In April 1999, workers of Arisekola at his Monitor newspaper office in Ibadan were dragged before an alfa (Muslim cleric) where they were given some concoction to eat. Why? Armed robbers had invaded the Ring Road, Ibadan office of his media house in the middle of one night and they went away with lithographic lens and other valuable equipment. They were taken to the alfa to drink concoctions so that the real culprits or enemies from within could be identified.
-In 1999, the military government of General Abubakar Abdulsalami officially gazetted the properties and sums corruptly acquired by the late Abacha and his cronies, which included the late Ibrahim Abacha, Abdulkadir Abacha, Alhaji Ismaila Gwarzo, Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu, Chief Anthony Ani and of course, Alhaji Abdulazeez Arisekola Alao. The official gazette, released in Abuja, was dated May 28 but was signed on the 26thMay by General Abdulsalami. They were all to return billions of naira while Arisekola was to return the sum of N100 million which he admitted collecting.
-When the heat was on Arisekola to return the N100 million, he went to meet Adedibu and asked for the N10 million that he had collected as his own share. But the Alaafin of Molete said he should provide evidence that he ever collected shishi. Adedibu later owned up that he collected.
-In October 1999, the late fiery lawyer Gani Fawehinmi implored the Obasanjo presidency to arrest Arisekola and retrieve the looted funds.
-Although Arisekola was accused of working against the mandate of MKO Abiola, he was later quite close with Titi Abiola, one of MKO’s wives.
-In January 2000, posters calling for the application of sharia law in Oyo State appeared around the Oja Oba and other areas in the state by a faceless group called the Propagators of Islamic Light and Truth (PILT) and Arisekola was fingered but that was not proven. The Oyo State Government stated that it was not possible to implement sharia in a multiethnic and multireligious society like the state.
-In February 2000, a bitter fight broke out at the Oyo State Assembly over the largesse offered by Arisekola. The gift came in form of sponsoring four members of the assembly on Holy Pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. For those who did not benefit from the largesse, they resorted to blackmailing and firing petitions against one another.
-In March 2000, a conference for sharia held at the Arewa House in Kaduna was single-handedly sponsored by Arisekola.
– In March 2000, in an interview with TheNEWS he was quizzed as follows:
Q: Can you tell us your own trial period?
A: I have been tried so many times.
Q: Can you give us one of those specific trials that readily come to your mind?
A: One of this was when my properties were burnt. My press, Monitor Press, was burnt on 1 May 1998. But within 35 days, The Monitor was back. I evacuated all the machines and I remember that I spent over N396 million to restore everything. And we resumed operations on 8 June, the day Gen. Abacha died.
Q: That is an instance. We want more instances so that we know…
A: (Cuts in) The second instance was after the opening of my mosque. I went to the University of Ibadan (UI) with a friend in my new car (limousine). We also had General David Jemibewon with us. We came out of the car, the students started shouting: Abacha’s friend, Abacha’s friend, Ole! (thief). As soon as we came out, they started burning the vehicles. They burnt my limousine and everything in it. I was lucky. The police piloted me out of the place, maybe that might have been my end.
That very day, I didn’t stay one hour in my house. I went straight to Mecca. The following morning, I was in Jeddah to thank God because my hereafter was more important to me than what happened. People didn’t see me because I had no inkling of what would happen but since it had been ordained that it would happen, it happened. There was nothing anybody could do that day. It must happen. Those that did it were not the ones doing it, it was a test from God. I came back after seven days. People were wondering but I knew there was nobody on earth that does not have his or her trying period. It only varies.
Q: What lessons will you say you have learnt particularly when you realise that some of these trials came because of your relationship with the late Gen. Abacha? Two, if you had a second chance, would you have done the same things you did?
A: (Cuts in) What have I done? What are the things?
Q: The relationship with Gen. Abacha that necessitated the attacks…
A: I would do more than that. I can’t deny my friend. Mind you, I was his friend, I didn’t know he would become head of state. I had nothing to do with his government. I didn’t take contracts from his government. I didn’t have any special thing with the government. I was the man’s friend, period. Before he became the head of state was the ECOMOG contract people were talking about. It was when he was the Chief of Army Staff.
Q: I wanted to ask about the ECOMOG contract when you said you…
A: Yes, he was the one that gave it to me. The then president asked him to get somebody that would not deceive them and that would not fail them during those periods. So, he trusted me that I would not fail them, and they gave the job to me then.
Q: You made so much money that time from the ECOMOG contract…
A: You people are hypocrites. You heard and you read everything about that so-called contract which is nothing to me. I have been what I am for over 30 years now. What Almighty God makes me to be. He has already made me for at least 30 years. This so-called contract that you are saying I did it for about four years. It was worth about N18 million per quarter. Later, as the troops increased for about one and half years, it increased to about N105 million per quarter. Why you people are hypocrites is that the same month they took the contract from me, they increased it to N313 million, none of you asked how and why?
Q: We knew the contract sum was jacked up.
A: Jacked up! Did you people talk about why it was jacked up? Did anybody do anything about it? That is why most of you are definitely going to hell, especially you press people. ECOMOG was not the only one, they are doing it at Bakassi, they are doing it in Sierra Leone and so on. There is another one in Somalia. You see, you people, anything that concern, this Arisekola, as if I have not been what Almighty God made me before now, you kept on shouting, shouting Arisekola’s name. It doesn’t move me anywhere. Those who really know me, know this. It was increased by over 300 per cent immediately but I leave everything to Almighty Allah.
-When Vice President Atiku Abubakar opened the Child Care Trust (CCT) the pet project of the late First Lady Stella Obasanjo in May 2000, Arisekola donated the sum of N20 million to the project in addition to the N2.5 million the previous month. A sum of N228 million was raised that day.
-In May 2000, he donated the sum of N5 million at the PDP Southwest Zone Fund Raising Dinner.
-In March 2000, a crisis broke out the Ifes and Modakekes over a site that has been designated for the location of a mosque to be built by Arisekola. He was accused of being the brain behind the crisis by supporting the Modakekes alongside the Alaafin of Oyo but he described the claims as spurious and baseless.
-This is what Professor Sola Adeyeye, a member of United Foundation For The Defence of Nigeria (UFDN) and a co-founder of Radio Kudirat International said in New York in June 2000 about Arisekola in an interview with Tempo:
First, I have never forgiven Arisekola. I know that recently, he had an interview in which he claimed that he was only a friend of Sani Abacha that he did not support his agenda.
Let him tell that to the marines. Was he not the one who was going to spend N10 million to purchase television sets that were specifically designed to promote the presidential ambition of Sani Abacha when the same Arisekola cannot boast of ever giving N10 million to University of Ibadan, when the same Arisekola can never boast of ever giving N2million to the motherless babies home at Ibadan, but he has N10million to give to buy television sets.
He must be a joker. So, I mentioned people like him, people like Shonekan, people like Ooni of Ife who got into the exalted throne of our forefathers.
-In July 2000, he donated the sum of N2 million to the Royal Advancement for Development (RADEV), a pet project of the wife of the Ogun State Governor, Mrs. Aderinsola Osoba.
-In September 2000, he appeared before a Swiss judge on at least two occasions and it was in connection with the recovery of the billions of dollars salted away under the Abacha regime.
-In October 2000, at a Special Service for the commencement of the 2000-2001 Legal Year at the Oja Oba Central Mosque, Ibadan, Arisekola advocated for the enactment of the ‘Muslim Family law’ for Muslim faithful in Oyo State.
-In December 2000, armed robbers snatched over seven exotic cars in Lagos on Christmas and Boxing Days, the family of Arisekola was also attacked on the Lagos-Abeokuta Road in his convoy of Toyota Prado jeeps and Lexus saloon cars. His wife narrowly escaped the bullets of the robbers but his orderly, a police sergeant was not that lucky, he was shot dead instantly before the robbers made away with six cars in the convoy. The police would later say that it was actually not a robbery but an assassination attempt on Arisekola’s life.
-In January 2001, Arisekola was quizzed over the murder of Chief Lai Balogun, an architect and former presidential aspirant who was assassinated on the 7th of December, 2000 at his residence in Akoka, Lagos. President Obasanjo had ordered an investigation into his killing stating that the police must fish out the culprits.
-In February 2001, the Nigerian Union of Journalists issued a seven-day ultimatum to Arisekola to negotiate the conditions of the workers at hisThe Monitor newspaper office. Workers were reportedly maltreated and the NUJ vowed to also ensure that Arisekola pay the allowances of the retrenched workers and even those that died of hunger as they were not paid their dues on time.
-In 2001, the Obasanjo presidency was determined to recover as much as possible of the Abacha loot. Well, some Abacha’s associates actually vomited some of the money that they had swallowed and these included Dan Etete, Abacha’s oil minister and Alao Arisekola, a Muslim leader and business partner of Abacha. A Senator also refunded the sum of $2 million that was paid into his First National Bank of Boston London bank account by Arisekola’s Aris Corporation on the 30th of September, 1997.
-In July 2001, it was reported that Dublin-based businessman and Arisekola’s son, Wole Arisekola, planned to buy 3SC (Shooting Stars FC) for N2 billion naira. At that time, 3SC was facing dwindling fortunes.
-In January 2002, he was honoured by the Islamic Foundation for Science in Sokoto State for his contribution to the development of science education in northern Nigeria.
-In January 2002, the late former works and housing minister, the late Major-General Abdulkarim Adisa was launching a medical endowment fund in honour of his late mother, Alhaja Belawu Akanke Adisa and one of the guests at the event was Arisekola and he donated N1.5 million. Adisa said at the event of Arisekola:
“…for those who don’t know, Alhaji Arisekola Alao is my mentor. It was he who gave me the appointment as military governor. The Are Musulumi is the one who took me round to the powers that be”.
At that event, Arisekola also donated another N2 million to the University of Ilorin Endowment Fund.
-In May 2002, Arisekola alongside other prominent indigenes of Ibadan including the Olubadan of Ibadan, the late Oba Yinusa Bankole Oladoja Ogundipe (Arapasowu I), Ambassador Olu Saanu, Professor Akinwunmi Isola, Chief Bode Amoo and others dragged Governor Lam Adesina of Oyo State before a high court in Ibadan over the creation of 34 new local government councils in the state.
-In June 2002 in Osogbo, Osun State, as the President of the Grand Council of Islamic Affairs (GCIA), Arisekola condemned the taxation of mosques and churches. He said the idea which was being mooted by some state governments would be nothing but the commercialization of the word of God and that would lead to immorality in the society. He said: “I think it is ignorant of anybody to ask mosques or churches to pay taxes. We need to educate those making such suggestions. Do they make money in these places? He was speaking shortly after the opening of the Osogbo branch of the Nasirul-Fathi Society of Nigeria (NASFAT).
-In December 2002, a fracas almost broke out at the Ibadan Central Praying Ground when supporters of the Alliance for Democracy and the Peoples Democratic Party began chanting praises of their candidates (Lam Adesina and Rashidi Ladoja) at the Eid-el-Fitr prayers. While some were shoutinng ‘Up Lam, Great Lam!’, others were shouting ‘PDP, Power, Power!’ It took the intervention of Arisekola who doused the mounting tension on the prayer ground when he grabbed the microphone and said:
“It would be a disservice to Allah if we come here to play politics. Instead, we should concentrate on our prayers so that Allah would accept them.”
-In March 2003, Bola Tinubu raised the sum of N1.3 billion naira for his re-election bid. Arisekola was one of the donors.
-Arisekola was a good cook and making pounded yam (iyan) and vegetable soup was said to be a very easy task for him. However, his favourite food was amala (yam flour) with gbegiri (bean soup) and eweduwhich he could consume all day, a combination popular among the people of Ibadan.
-Although he was the Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, he was respected for his tolerance of other faiths. He had many Christians on his staff list, one of whom is named Simeon, his cook for 40 years. Simeon was his only cook.
-Arisekola had a diminutive stature and was not fat or too robust. He was lean in weight.
-Arisekola had no barber, he shaved his head all by himself. He was also a strong believer in the potency of local herbs and would consume concoctions he made for himself. Part of his daily routine was also the reading of the Holy Qu’ran, the Muslim religious text.
-As a businessman, Arisekola set up Lister Insurance Company in October 1977. The company was later declared a ‘failing’ company by the National Insurance Commission but was nursed back to health. As at 1977, he was also into the sales of vehicles. Later, he was one of the major promoters of Islamic banking in the country.
-In March 2003, something really interesting happened at Arisekola’s residence in Ibadan. Charles Obisesan, a gubernatorial aspirant under the banner of the All Nigeria People’s Party approached Arisekola for financial assistance. He was introduced to Arisekola by Alhaji Hamidu Ajibade, a principal financier of the ANPP in Oyo State. Arisekola was happy meeting Obisesan, a fellow Ibadan man but his excitement evaporated when he discovered that he was a Christian. Arisekola said he would only support him on one condition, if he changed his faith to Islam and did a turbaning ceremony in the public. Obisesan was not interested in changing his faith and he made this clearly known to Arisekola. But the man who brought Obisesan to Arisekola was very interested in ensuring that he gets the financial support, so he returns to Arisekola and an arrangement was made for a public turbaning ceremony for Obisesan. When Obisesan got to know of the plan, he bolted out of town..lol! But Obisesan still needed Arisekola’s cash so he returned but Arisekola ordered his aides to march the prodigal visitor out of his residence. Precisely what happened during this period and the exact turn of events are still controversial.
-In November 2006, his son, Mr. Musty Alao, an accountant got married to a banker, Ezinne Iwuanyanwu, daughter of Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, a political chieftain in Imo State. Also, his daughter, Asiyah, got married to Umar Junior, the son of Alhaji Umar Abdulmutallab, prominent banker and father of the Umar al-Farooq al-Nigeri, the Underwear Bomber.
-In March 2007, Arisekola, Lateef Adegbite and the Sultan of Sokoto led calls for the inclusion of the Arabic inscriptions on the naira notes, which were earlier removed and replaced with Nigeria’s three major languages of Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba.
-In December 2006, he was honoured with a chieftaincy title, the Aare of Ibadanland by the Olubadan of Ibadan.
-In July 2008, Chief Ade Ojo accused Arisekola of evading custom duties as an importer. Arisekola reacted sharply to this in an interview withThisDAY, he said:
” I could not believe that Chief Ade Ojo, who I have always regarded as my elder brother and a friend of so many years, could descend so low as to concort lies against me just for the sake of playing to the gallery. I want to reiterate without fear of contradiction, that in my 40 years of business adventurism, my integrity has never been in doubt either locally or internationally. I am perturbed by the unprovoked and unprecedented attack on my personality by Ade Ojo. What was the basis of casting aspersion on my personality when in any event, I have disengaged from automobile business for good and ventured into other business for which I am grateful to Allah.”
He also described the allegation as “a bottled anger, envy and animosity, which he has been carrying for about 35 years. This is most unfortunate. As a Muslim, I do not lay claim to infallibility, because perfection belongs to Allah. But in Islam, it is a duty we owe to our souls to aim towards perfection. This is my philosophy of life.”
“I have never been to any custom officer to negotiate any deal or sent anybody to do so on behalf of my company throughout the time I was in automobile business, and, still, I do not do it. I challenge him (Ojo) to name any retired or serving custom officer that was in conspiracy with me to dupe the federal government”.
According to him, “I want to reiterate without any fear of contradiction that in my 40 years of business adventurism, my integrity has never been called to question, either locally, nationally or international.
As a muslim I do not lay claim to infallibility because perfection belongs to Allah. But in Islam, it is a duty we owe to our soul to aim towards perfection. This is my philosophy of life.
As a human being, I have my faults but Allah has been very benevolent on me having come from a humble background to where I am today. So, it would be the height of ingratitude to Allah to engage in unwholesome practices in order to be wealthier”.
“I have no apology for my workaholic habitualities of that period which made me sometimes traverse the Ibadan Lagos Road twice in a day to expedite action on the clearing of my consignments faster than others. Of course I was young hence, more aggressive, more agile and more vibrant than my contemporaries most of whom are of my father’s age.”
“In fact late Pa Ajanaku of Ilesa and late Pa Abusi Edumare of Ijebu Igbo whom I met in the business, were my business contemporaries in the distribution of Nissan used to praise my business acumen and appreciated Allah’s providence that catapulted me into limelight in the business world especially the distribution of Datsun.’’
-Following the death of Adedibu, Senator Lekan Balogun blasted Arisekola, telling him that it is impossible for him to step into the shoes of Adedibu. Arisekola was the chief executor of Adedibu’s will, the whole process was quite controversial and dragged on for over two years after Adedibu’s death.
-In February 2010, he told Vanguard that he had paid all his debts to Intercontinental Bank Plc in form of shares. He said:
“I have paid all my debts with Intercontinental Bank. I paid N2.98 billion about two weeks ago. So, I no longer owe the bank any kobo. I have paid all. But mind you, I don’t borrow money from banks; what I do is buy their shares. I don’t take any money from any bank other than buying shares. The Intercontinental Bank has not paid back my shares. They are making arrangements to pay it back because it was what I used as collateral.”
-In July 2001, Alhaji Hazeem Gbolarunmi, a former deputy governor of Oyo State and Adedibu’s political son granted an interview to The Moment in London and he said of Arisekola:
Aare Arisekola is not a party man. He’s not a politician. Aare Arisekola has sympathy for the President of this country. If you know Aare very well, he believes in being a father to everybody. A certain political party may come to meet him, that we need money to pursue our interest. He will give them. Others will come, he’ll give them. When Papa Awolowo was alive, Aare gave money to UPN to pursue their goals and he equally gave money to NPN to pursue their goals too. That’s his lifestyle. You understand. So, he’s not a politician. He’s never been and said he can never be one, anybody can meet him to seek advice. He’s the Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland.
–In July 2012, Abdulahi, the son of Arisekola, was arraigned before a Lagos High Court for their alleged complicity in the N1.1 billion naira (some other reports put it at N2.6 billion or N1.8 billion) fuel subsidy scam. He was arraigned alongside the sons of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and Ahmadu Ali. They were charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for conspiracy, obtaining money under false pretence, forgery and the use of false documents. However, they were granted bail as moved by their lawyers, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Joe-Kyari Gadzama (SAN) and Mr. Wale Akoni (SAN) in the sum of N20 million each with two sureties in like sum. The judge also ruled that one of the sureties must be a blood relative with a property in Lagos worth not less than N100 million with verifiable title documents. Abdulahi’s company was Axenergy Limited.
-In May 2013, Arisekola was appointed the Deputy National President of the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs while Professor Is-Haq Oloyede was made the Secretary-General of the same body.
-ADEDIBU AND THE N100 MILLION FROM ABACHA
-Arisekola Alao was a buddy, soulmate and very good friend of the late strongman of Ibadan politics, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu. Adedibu thundered in an interview in 1999 at his Molete house, that no matter what the public does:
‘Nobody can separate me and Arisekola.’
The duo had been under fire for collecting money from despotic governments. In July 1999, Adedibu exposed their secrets when he confessed that he got the sum of N10 million from Abacha, an amount that he described as chicken change. He said:
‘How much is N10 million?’
Actually, Arisekola had earlier confessed that he got the sum of N100 million from General Sani Abacha and that he handed out N10 million of it to Adedibu, the garrison commander. The Nigerian Federal Government demanded that Arisekola return the N100 million (actually over $1 million at that time because it was N84 naira to the dollar as at May 1998) to the government but Arisekola Alao flatly opposed the move saying that the money was a compensation to him for the losses that he suffered when his publishing house, Lister House (The Monitornewspaper) was destroyed in Ibadan during the 1st May 1998 riots. His Lister petroleum station was also set on fire. But what were the riots about?
Well, it was May 1998 in Nigeria and the nation was under the firm grip of General Sani Abacha, a maximum ruler who was recklessly determined to succeed himself in power. Everything was set for the October transition which would coincide with the nation’s independence celebration. Abacha’s supporters all over the country collected money for campaign ‘runs’ and other ‘logistics’. One of the most visible and vocal of these pro-Abacha figures was Arisekola. That would not have been much of a problem but the big issue was the he was from the predominantly Yoruba southwestern region of the country. To worsen matters, a very prominent Yoruba son, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, the presumed winner of the 1993 elections was wasting away in Abacha’s prisons. In a nation tormented psychologically by paranoid tribal alliances, any Yoruba who supported Abacha clandestinely or publicly was seen as the ultimate symbol of betrayal. Many are yet to forgive Arisekola for that.
Another factor that stirred up the protests apart from the clannish desire to free a Yoruba high chief was the demand for true democracy. Several groups and associations sprang up in their agitation for true democracy and the overthrow of Abacha. A group, the United Action for Democracy (UAD) launched a protest in Ibadan, capital of Oyo State and one of the largest cities in the country. Seven people lost their lives and countless property destroyed. People or businesses identified as supporting the Abacha cause, like Arisekola, were attacked and their businesses destroyed. Thirty seven people were later arrested in connection with the riots and accused of unlawfully setting to fire property worth over N600 million (Lam Adesina was also one of those arrested as one of the ‘prisoners of war’ as they were called). Arisekola’s property as houses, cars and newspaper house were among those burnt to ashes by the irate protesters. The most interesting part of this whole drama was that Abacha himself had never said a single word about contesting or succeeding himself in power but his foot soldiers like Arisekola went all over the country making the message very clear that Abacha was the best thing that ever happened to Nigeria.
It must be pointed out that when Arisekola’s property were attacked during the riots, his personal guards shot indiscriminately at the people. They even went to the hospital to pull off those wounded in the riots from the hospital beds to their deaths. Many patients at the Life Care Hospital in Ibadan that day have very nasty memories of Arisekola that they will never forget in a hurry. Arisekola’s goons beat and gunned down the wounded, other patients and hospital staff. Three innocent citizens on admission in the hospital were shot dead. The sufferings that many Nigerians faced following the May Day protests in the hands of Abacha’s men are better left unsaid for now. At any rate, Tunde Oyedeji, elder brother of Abdul Jelil Oyegoke Oyedeji, one of the victims who was allegedly killed in the hospital by Isaac Adeyemi, one of Arisekola’s bodyguards, fired a petition to the Human Rights Violation Investigation Commission (HRVIC) aka Oputa Panel.
THE CLOSE SHAVE WITH DEATH
Arisekola almost lost his life on a Tuesday, the 17th November, 1998 when he attended an event that he was not even invited to. The venue was the University of Ibadan, Nigeria’s premier university and the school was gearing to receive the Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar as the Special Guest of Honour at the university’s 50th anniversary celebrations. But things did not go as planned initially and for five hours, the convocation ceremony was disrupted. Even General Abdulsalami’s visit was delayed until normalcy was returned. But wetin shele that very day?
The late President of South Africa and Africa’s unforgettable legend, Nelson Mandela was billed to receive an honorary degree in absentia at the university. A convoy of six cars trooped into the university and many of the students thought it was the delegation sent in to represent Mandela. But it was far from Mandela’s convoy. It was actually that of Arisekola, who was not even invited in the first place. When the aluta-blooded students of the great UI discovered that the real masquerade inside the tinted glasses was none other than Arisekola, the gates of hell were flung right open. The angels on duty guarding heaven that day were off duty and forgot to go with the keys.
And so the rampage started when they realized it was Abacha’s very good ally. Arisekola was booed by the students, pelted with stones, water sachets and all sorts of missiles before he was whisked away to relative safety by the security operatives, as the policemen ferried him off in anOperation Gbale, and it was so serious that he had to be disguised in academic gowns. The frenzied students then descended on his glittering convoy. All the six cars in Arisekola’s convoy were set ablaze and burnt to the ground. Some of the vehicles in his convoy included a Lexus limousine, a Mercedes Benz, two Peugeots and a Benz jeep. Charms and automatic submachine guns were reportedly found in the cars. All in all, Arisekola lost about N35 million to that violent incident.
But the next day after the attack and when normalcy had returned, Arisekola remained defiant, saying:
‘I still remain a loyal friend to the late General Sani Abacha.’
He also stated that his relationship with Abacha was on a personal level and denied allegations that he assisted in siphoning off billions of cash of Nigerians’ money. He said, making reference to the $750 million that had been recovered from the Abacha family:
“Therefore, I couldn’t have been an agent of any sort or a collaborator in any alleged perpetration of any sharp practices on our national finances or treasury.”
He also stated that he was doing everything possible to ease tension between him and the youths, saying that he was not an enemy of the people.
THE ATTEMPTED BOMBING OF DIYA
Oladipo Donaldson Diya, a retired lieutenant general of the Nigerian Army was the second in command to Abacha as the Chief of General Staff (CGS) but that did not stop Abacha from trying to bomb him out of existence. In December 1998, when Ibrahim Yakassai, a medical doctor and lieutenant colonel accused of injecting many of Abacha’s prisoners to death, started confessing, he named Major Hamza al-Mustapha, Ismaila Gwarzo (Abacha’s national security adviser) and Alhaji Abdulazeez Arisekola Alao as those linked to the failed bombing of General Diya who incidentally happens to be of the same Yoruba stock as Arisekola. Diya would later say in an interview in December 1998 that he became very suspicious when he saw Arisekola and Gwarzo at the airport even when they were not travelling. Shortly after, a bomb blast went off at the airport, Diya escaped by whiskers. He was about to enter the aircraft on his way to Makurdi, Benue State. The bomb instantly killed one of the bomb handlers while a second operative was badly burnt. The plane was planned to explode in the skies some minutes after takeoff. Diya said after the explosion, Gwarzo and Arisekola rushed to him, explaining away the event as an ‘accident’. He stated that Alhaji Ibrahim Gwarzo, Arisekola Alao and the Commissioner of Police of the Federal Capital Territory, Alhaji Mustapha were waiting at the Presidential Wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport and that plans were already on the way to condole his family since the plan was to kill him in the explosion.
But Al-Mustapha would later deny all this saying:
“I have spoken on this before. It was a plan in the making in 1994 to use late Chief M.K.O. Abiola as a shield to execute…(He was cut short)”, he had defended himself.
On the involvement of Alhaji Arisekola Alao to do dirty jobs, I have this answer to give. I know Arisekola Alao as the friend of late Abacha and Gen. Diya. He frequents the Aso Rock. But I don’t know anything of his mission at the airport that day if he was there.
And I was not aware that he was to be a member of a team by the Federal Government to console the family of Lt. Gen. Diya in Lagos. He is not a soldier. He is their friend.
ISLAMIC BANKING IN OYO STATE
In September 2011, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) led by the National Vice President of the zone, Bishop Francis Wale Oke , of the Sword of the Spirit Ministries issued a stern warning to Governor Abiola Ajimobi and Arisekola. Oke’s statement went thus:
“My attention has been drawn to a news item both in the print and electronic media on the ongoing move by the Oyo State Government to partner with Saudi Arabia to establish Islamic Banking in the state.
I am of the opinion that, within the few months that Governor Ajimobi has been in office, he has demonstrated a firm and passionate resolve to improve on the welfare of the masses and has come across as a just, non-sectional leader who wants to be fair to both Christians and Muslims alike.
“Likewise, Alhaji Abdulazeez Arisekola-Alao is a man I know very well as a decent and responsible leader, a fervent muslim and a man of integrity. May I however state, that by dabbling into Islamic banking, the duo are setting a bad precedence in the state which may ignite unnecessary chaos.
“When it comes to religion, people don’t yield because it is a matter of conviction. Moreover the Word of God says in Proverbs 22:7 “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” In this wise, if such a deal is struck, then the whole of Oyo State will become a servant to Saudi Arabia/Islamic Development Bank.
“It has been said that he that pays the piper dictates the tune. Islamizing the economy is to certainly Islamize the state. This is unacceptable to each and every Christian voter in Oyo State. We do not want the peaceful co-existence between Muslims and Christians in the State to be destroyed. As responsible leaders, we must not set Oyo State on fire. Government should look elsewhere for financial backing.
The Government of Oyo State is not the government of a religious group, but the government of a Secular State as enshrined in Section 10 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”
The Bishop recalled that the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions directed the Central Bank of Nigeria to withdraw the CBN circular for issuance of Non-interest Financial Institution, NIFI, license as it contradicted Section 10 of the Nigeria Constitution which states that “the Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as a State religion.”
Bishop Oke then implored Alhaji AbdulAzeez Arisekola – Alao not to drag Oyo State into any religious imbroglio, saying, “Alhaji Arisekola – Alao has been a blessing to this nation with his chains of businesses, creating jobs for the unemployed and impacting on the downtrodden. Please, let it stop at that. Do not drag Oyo State into any religious upheaval.
The Church in Oyo State is saying no. Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, are saying no. Every eligible Christian Voter in Oyo state is saying no. We don’t want Oyo State to be drawn into anything that will polarize us. We don’t want a replication of what is happening in Jos, Maiduguri, or some other parts of Nigeria. Oyo State has been a peaceful State and we will like it to remain as such.”
THE MUSLIM LEADER AND YORUBA PHILANTHROPIST
During his lifetime, the late Arisekola Alao donated to various causes.
-In November 2001, at the launching of the N1 billion Endowment Appeal Fund for the College of Science and Islamic Studies, Sokoto State, he was the highest donor with the sum of N2 million naira. He was the chief launcher at the occasion.
-In March 2002, he donated the sum of N1 million to the Nigerian Society for Information, Arts and Culture (NSLAC).
-In November 2002, at the 20th convocation ceremony of the University of Calabar, Cross River State, he donated millions of naira to the endowment fund.
-On Iwo Road, in Ibadan, Oyo State, he constructed the Abdulazeez Arisekola Central Mosque. He was responsible for the payment of salaries to the mosque’s three imams and other staff.
-In March 2005, he donated the sum of N100 million naira to the rehabilitation of the National Msoque, Abuja.
-Arisekola was instrumental to the formation of the Grand Council for Islamic Affairs in 1996 and the Alasalatu Ibadu Rahaman, a body set up for the spiritual advancement of Muslim women. He was also described as the greatest single financier of the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN) and the National Council of Muslims. He also sponsored the seminars and annual vacation courses of the National Council of Muslim Youth Organizations (NACOMYO), an umbrella body of Muslim youths in the country. Arisekola was a patron to over 100 Islamic bodies within and outside Nigeria. But that is not all.
-He also sponsored hundreds of people all over Nigeria to the annual Islamic holy pilgrimage of hajj. Arisekola was the only Nigerian given the honour by the Chief Imam of Mecca of selecting delegates for the annual ceremonial washing of the Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam and the annual international convention of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs of Egypt. A man of many awards, he was honoured with the Commander of the Order of the Niger, Nigeria’s fourth highest honour, on Monday, 22ndDecember 2008 by late President Umar Musa Yar’adua.
-In honour of his late mother, he built a 100-bed ward at the Oyo State Muslim Hospital (Rabiatu Alao Ward).
-Although he was not too sophisticated with formal education, his love for education was not in doubt. He established the Pa Raheem Alao Scholarship Foundation for the poor and indigent students of tertiary institutions, beneficiaries were paid per month, per semester or per session. He also donated millions of naira to many universities in the country, both public and private universities. He was also the co-founder and highest individual donor to the Barakat International School at Bodija, Ibadan, said to be one of the most affordable private schools in the state.
-He also gave money to hospitals, schools, sport clubs, homes for the handicapped and various religious organizations.
-Arisekola was also known for his acts of generosity such as the distribution of bags of rice to the needy during the Muslim month of fasting (Ramadan). Many sang his praises and showed their appreciation for his famed generosity. Why is this reminding me of American aerial drops of bags of flour in Darfur?
THE DEATH AND BURIAL OF ARISEKOLA
On Wednesday, the 19th June 2014, news filtered into Nigeria of the death of Arisekola at 69. He died in London during his sleep. He was said to have left for the United Kingdom for a medical check-up the previous Thursday, and had even called his personal assistant in Ibadan the day he died to get his cars ready in Nigeria for his arrival in a few hours, but that was not to be. He would actually return to Nigeria, but as a corpse. After his medical check-up, he decided to have some rest and he passed away in his sleep around 1.30pm.
Immediately the news leaked, his residence was besieged by the poor and rich, many had gone to express their shock and condolences. While many crowed in clusters and groups were still discussing his demise, a truckload of food materials meant for distribution during the coming month of Ramadan (2014 Ramadan) arrived his residence, and the volume of the crying went up by some decibels.
In a statement released by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, President Goodluck Jonathan said that he received the news with great shock and sadness. Condoling with the people of Ibadan and Oyo State, he said:
“As they mourn the famous entrepreneur, community and religious leader, President Jonathan urges his family, relatives, friends, associates and dependants to be comforted by the fact that Alhaji Arisekola-Alao lived a very fulfilled life, and in passing on, leaves behind a legacy of significant and commendable achievements.
He was mourned by Governors Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara, Senator Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, Olsegun Mimiko of Ondo State, Chief Imam of Ibadanland, Busari Haruna and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar. His residence was besieged by troops of associates, various bodies and associations, admirers and relatives.
Amosun said: “It is most unfortunate that Alhaji Ariselola-Alao would die at a time when a lot of Muslims would have benefited from his generousity, but Almighty Allah knows best.”
Mimiko said: “…no doubt, Aare Arisekola is still needed around and would be sorely missed by all for his spiritual and fatherly role.. he lived an exemplary life and was a blessing to his generation, as he made his mark in the area of leadership, service to God and humanity…God will console his family, subjects and friends alike and give them the fortitude to bear the great loss.”
Aregbesola said of him:
“Alhaji Arisekola Alao was a notable figure, successful businessman, a consistent philanthropist and community leader”.
“As Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, he demonstrated his love for peace as a religious leader and led a God-fearing life”.
The Oyo State Government declared a seven-day mourning period in his honour, and Friday, 20th June, 2014 was declared a public holiday and flags were flown at half-mast. The state government also sent a special delegation (Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Monsurat Sunmonu, Secretary to the State Government, Olalekan Alli and two other members of the executive to London) to accompany Arisekola’s remains to Nigeria.
When his body arrived the country, the burial events started in earnest. There was a prayer session at the Lekan Salami Sports Complex in Adamasingba while the final internment was done at his Arisekola Villa, Oluwo Kekere, Bashorun, Ibadan. He was buried according to Muslim rites.
Governor Ajimobi relocated to Arisekola’s residence as the chief mourner where he received an army of visitors. He said:
“You were the rare gem of this world, a foremost Islamic leader, philanthropist of note, an industrialist and business mogul of the first order.
“You were patriotic, a nationalist and undoubtedly the Adelabu of our time. You were the Ibadan prince of the downtrodden, you remain the Mandela of the masses. Ibadan will never be the same without you.”
Governor Amosun said:
“A good man is gone to rest in the bosom of the Almighty Allah. We will miss your smile, warmth, candour, inspiring thought and leadership. A devoted Muslim who cared for all and sundry, philanthropist of repute”.
Popular Nigerian musician, Ebenezer Obey said of him: “He was a man who believed in equality and religious tolerance. He will be forever missed by all and sundry. He practiced his religion with all his heart and he accommodated everybody irrespective of their religion or nationality”.
Numerous traditional rulers thronged his residence and these included the Timi of Ede, Oba Munirudeen Lawal; Elejigbo of Ejigbo, Oba Oyeyode Oyesosin; Seriki Hausawa of Ibadanland, Zungeru; Mallam Haruna Maiyasin Katsina Chairman, Arewa Council, Owatapa of Itapa, Oba Olapade Agoro and many others.
At his burial, Governor Ajimobi resounded: “Aare was to the Nigerian masses what the late President Nelson Mandela was to the South Africans. He served the poor and helped the rich. He came to serve humanity and served them to his very last. He was accommodating, spiritual, religious and intelligent. He had been serving the poor from the age of 19. He was the greatest philanthropist of our time. Aare gave everything he had for the benefit of the people.”
On Friday, 20th of June, 2014 at about 11.15 am, Arisekola was laid down to Mother Earth.
President Jonathan was represented at his burial by Police Affairs Minister, Mr. Abdul-Jeleel Adesiyan while some other dignitaries included national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Ibadan high chief, Kola Daisi, Ebenezer Obey, Adeniyi Adegeye (King Sunny Ade), Rotimi Akeredolu, former Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Musiliu Smith, former Oyo First Lady, Kemi Alao-Akala, Osun Governor Rauf Aregbesola and his Ogun counterpart, Ibikunle Amosun.
As his grave filled with shovelfuls of soil, tears and wailings from the crowd grew louder.
He was a man who meant very different things to different people. But he was Arisekola, He Who Is Able To Accumulate Wealth From His Handiwork.