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Alani Akinrinade at 80

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Lt. Gen. Alani Akinrinade, former Chief of Defense Staff


One of the heroes of the Nigerian civil war, Lt.-General Alani Akinrinade (rtd.) was 80 last week. A valiant soldier, Gen. Akinrinade rose through the ranks to reach the coveted pinnacle of his career as the Chief of Army Staff. During the war when he observed war fatigue had set in mainly with his boss, the no-nonsense Benjamin Adekunle, the Black Scorpion, he feared that the star command known all over the world might bring harm on itself. Consequently he tore off from the command to report to the High Command in Lagos. This led to Adekunle’s redeployment to Lagos and the then Col. Olusegun Obasanjo, known for map-reading and strategies took over as the General Commander, Third Marine Commando.

Akinrinade combines bravery with quick-wittedness and depth of thinking. He is disarmingly cerebral. He has very strong views on restructuring. He said in an interview he gave to City People in 2017 that restructuring is the answer to the multifarious problems assailing Nigeria. He said restructuring to engender what is now generally called true federalism would make for greater union. A man of the courage of his convictions, he said that if the Igbo wanted to leave Nigeria, they should be allowed to go but with the proviso that there is a referendum among the Igbo at home and in the diaspora. He said the contention that the unity of Nigeria was non-negotiable was absurd, outdated and not sustainable. He saw the answer to the agitations in restructuring, arguing: “From what I can see restructuring the country is an imperative due to her diversities—pronounced cultural differences, differences in language, ethnic origin, values and worldview.”

He did a lot to put down the Dimka coup in which Gene, Murtala Muhammed, the Head of State, and Col. Ibrahim Dimka were assassinated. He was the General Officer commanding in Kaduna. He broadcast to counter Dimka’s incoherent broadcast in Lagos, saying to Dimka that if he did not lay down his arms, he, Akinrinade, would march his troops down to Lagos all the way from Kaduna. He eventually became the Chief of Army Staff in 1979. It was not long upon becoming President that Shehu Shagari reassigned him and he was made Chief of Defence Staff.

The Guardian owes him a debt of gratitude. A friend of The Guardian, if I may recall, he flew home to meet with Tunde Idiagbon when the newspaper had its brush with General Buhari over the iniquitous Decree Four which saw two of its line editors unjustly jailed and the newspaper fined.

I recall when Dr. Alex Ekwueme now of blessed memory turned 80 and there was this celebration in his honour in Lagos, Obasanjo said to him that the former Vice-President had obtained his boarding pass. He should expect his flight to be called at any time! And he looked in the direction of Beatrice. Were I permitted to speak for The Guardian, I am sure the newspaper would just ask that Alani Akinrinade’s boarding pass be collected, it would tear it and ask him to return home in Yakoyo, in Osun State. Mr. General, Sir, it is not yet time.

Ladies and gentlemen, fill your glasses and drink to the health of a good man, a brave soldier and a sound and loveable gentleman; and let us envelop him in our prayerful thoughts for continuing blessings.


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Alani Akinrinade
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