By UTHMAN SHODIPE
Somewhere in the deep bowel of Loyola district in Ibadan, there is a huge publishing complex with the full flourish of journalistic seriousness. It is a new place tucked away at the edge of a sleepy street, which from afar looked like a cul-de-sac.
The complex stirred alive with the polished glow of journalistic necessities. For here, there is a mighty building bustling with the adornments of modern comfort and the startling sophistication of printing technology.
Yet, despite all these, nothing really tells you about the identity of this publishing house. There is no signpost here. Not even a bill board. There is only a black ink scrawl on a concrete pillar with the famous legend: The Third Eye.
The moving spirit behind The Third Eye – Chief Akanni Aluko, J.P. used to be just a name whose combative zeal enlivened the Third Eye advertorial campaigns in the heady days of Babangida’s administration.
From that distorted distance, the Aluko image connoted a fearsome ridigity. Reading him, one had a picture of an arrogant, aristocratic defender of a tarnished estate.
Not true. Aluko is an extraordinary portrait of how not to judge a man from a distance. He is definitely not some hideous character from the ABN scripted drama. Neither is he glowing in imperious omnipotence.
When the reporter, who was meeting him for the first time, was ushered into his vast office, he beheld a short, plumpy figure with a happy cherubic face, resplendent in chalk-white jacquard.
Aluko, a prominent chief from Ijesaland and a fearless public commentator, immediately stood up in a natural camaraderie to pump the reporter’s hand. His face shone with warmth and instinctive friendliness as he offered the reporter a seat.
Indeed, there was a reflexive humility in this Justice of the Peace whose combative energy on the pages of the newspaper contrasted distinctly with the sobered enlightenment this reporter now saw.
Aluko, who was born in 1943 in Ilesa, Osun State, is no doubt a man of strong convictions who pushes his feelings to the public glare with passionate intensity. He is a purposeful ideologue, full of bravura and principled audacity. He carries about him a religious honesty in pursuit of his goals, his dreams. He is an emotional patriot who insists on the sacredness of the Nigerian Union. Nigeria must remain one, he cries.
And of course, he is almost heroic in his vivid gracefulness when subjected to political pressure. It is here his assertive solidity comes alive with defiant, celebrative resolve. It is true, Aluko is not easily ruffled. He maintains a permanent equanimity.
This steadiness of purpose was first honed to an art on the dusty streets of Ifon when he had to hawk cutlasses for his mother at the age of eight. From his early experience Aluko developed a strong independent streak, a restless energy to excel, to be the best. That was the only way he could survive.
And this has largely been the pivot of his enterprising restlessness. For Aluko easily rebels against the straight -jacketing patterns. He is a natural adventurer who always dares the unknown, challenging us all to consider alternatives to accepted norm. Here resides his resolute will, a Catholic belief in his own ability to get things done.
This forceful assertiveness cost him his first job with Niger-Sol, a construction company in Ibadan, in 1969. He was sacked for unionism. But that never deterred him. From his bursary job at Fiditi Grammar School to the more challenging devotions in business that range from frozen fish importation to specialized spare parts marketing – Aluko remains an enigmatic personage who can never stop working. He is an articulate commentator with passionate political individuality.
A father of 10 children, Aluko is a devoted Catholic who is fixated on philanthropic duties, contributing to churches, community development, upliftment of universities and the African heritage.
Aluko wakes up as early as 4 a.m., pays obeisance to his God, listens to the BBC and Radio Nigeria and catches up on his philosophical readings. At 7 a.m., he is already in the office. He comes back home at 6 p.m. after receiving at least 100 visitors who often come in for one assistance or the other. Aluko looks fulfilled, contented with his God, satisfied with the whims of fortune. He has no regrets about anything, he won’t have it any other way. That’s typical Aluko, a dogged ideologue, latched to an iron principle.
First Published Saturday, 5 March, 1994.