BY DIJI AINA
AHMED Onibudo Street. A boisterous enclave of economic pundits and business gurus located on Victoria Island, Lagos, radiates warmth amidst glittering corporate existence. Here is where those who possess the wherewithal to make things happen converge on a daily basis to perform the ritual of redistribution of wealth.
In spite of the rising sun, the late night downpour still tells on the tows of this morning. From Ozumba Mbadiwe end of this whitewashed street, a nine-storey building stands conspicuously bold and inviting. Princess Court. A solid structure with all the characteristic features of royalty. Limousine cars of various brands are hardly rarities here. To belong to this community, you must have either had a taste of power or be a power broker yourself.
This is where Nigeria’s former External Affairs Minister, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, does business whenever he is in town. At the gate of Princess Court, the “mallam” sentry puts an Hausa speaking person on the move. “Where is Akinyemi and Associates Suite?”, the reporter asked the mallam after exchanging fraternal greetings.
Armed with a guide, an inbuilt lift takes you to the third floor, suite 3D where you are ushered into a combination of secretary’s office and library that is partitioned at an adjacent position. Today the office stirs with importance and seriousness of purpose.
Professor Akinyemi is in the country and at the moment receiving an outside call. So you need to wait some minutes. 11a.m sharp, the ex-Minister and international scholar is through with his call and the lady secretary ushers me into the inner room where the debonair diplomat sits amid reference materials with a computer staring him in the face.
The tastefully furnished room speaks of the man Akinyemi as a lover of art. Pictures of his children conspicuously adorn the shelves behind his back seat competing for space with sets of Encyclopedia. A glittering compass rotating with precision and accuracy tunes you up with wonder.
This ebbullient personality donning a bow tie upon a milk-coloured shirt is a study in contrast when compared with most Nigerian businessmen. He doesn’t wake up very early. By 8 a.m. after saying his prayers, with a little exercise he is already on his way to Princess Court. He takes neither breakfast nor lunch. It is not that the food is not there but simply an habit he cultivated since his university days.
Noticing the state of bewilderment of the reporter who hardly misses his three square meals, he enthuses, “If I have to eat lunch, I can but I will feel very lethargic and miserable”.
Time for the professor is the scarcest commodity. No wonder, he spends the distance between home and office going through the dailies and mapping out the day’s business chart. At the end of the day’s work, he retires to play tennis and later goes home to watch CNN for news update.
Dinner is not compromisable. Akinyemi enjoys drinking wine after dinner. “My best wine is red wine with a good flowery flavour, not too sweet not too dry”, he says with all enthusiasm. The last two hours of his day, lasting till 1 a.m, are spent writing or reading. The latest book he read was on the Israeli Intelligence Service, the Mossad. He takes delight in historical books dating back to the earliest century, as well as philosophy books.
Akinyemi, an alumnus of Igbobi College, and a Christ School graduate, is author of several books, discourses and monographs on International Relations including: Foreign Policy and Federalism; The British Press and The Nigerian Civil War; Angola and Nigeria: A study in national interest.
Born 50 years ago in Ilesa, Osun State, to a school principal and a clergyman, he is married to Rowena Jane Viney and blessed with one son and three daughters. The bespectacled, cherubic scholar who speaks with effortless articulation is no doubt one of the most brilliant minds in the realm of international affairs. He is a man of animated intelligence and clarity of purpose. His accomplishments are long-hewn by a steady disciplinarian candour.
First published 19 December, 1992.