Why I’m still active at 90 — Akinola, first Lagos State Surveyor-General

Chief Olukunle Akinola (FRICS, FNIS), the first Surveyor-General and Coordinating Director Lands/Survey Services of Lagos State will turn 90 today. In this interview with GBENGA ADERANTI, Akinola talks about life as a surveyor, secrets of his longevity, family and why he is still able go to work at 90. You grew up in Lagos. I […] The post Why I’m still active at 90 — Akinola, first Lagos State Surveyor-General appeared first on The Nation Newspaper.

Why I’m still active at 90 — Akinola, first Lagos State Surveyor-General
Chief Olukunle Akinola

Chief Olukunle Akinola (FRICS, FNIS), the first Surveyor-General and Coordinating Director Lands/Survey Services of Lagos State will turn 90 today. In this interview with GBENGA ADERANTI, Akinola talks about life as a surveyor, secrets of his longevity, family and why he is still able go to work at 90.

You grew up in Lagos. I want you to compare the Lagos of that time and the Lagos of today.

I was born in Ipaja now under Alimosho Local Government Area. Then it was in Ikeja Local Government, which was under the then Western Region. From the school, we used to come to Ikeja for Empire Day. I started my school at Ipaja; after elementary school, I went to CMS Grammar School in Lagos. I stayed there for six years. Then, secondary school was six years. In 1951, the government said it should be five years. We did six years and when we came out, we were known as old boys of Group 51 -6. Those behind us spent five years.

After that I served in Lagos for six years. I’ve always been connected to Lagos.

I went for further training at the Federal School of Surveying, Oyo, all in the Western Region. Thereafter, I was posted to Western Region; under Western Region, I had further education. I went to South-West Essex Technical College, London, Japan and so on

When I finished, I was transferred to Ikeja Local Government; probably because Ipaja was in Ikeja Local Government. They transferred me to the Survey Department in Ikeja; it was then that Lagos State was created and I opted to stay in Lagos State. We were asked whether we would stay with the new state or go back to the Western Region. Since then, I’ve been in Lagos.

At 90, you still remember date, time and events vividly; what is the secret?

It is not easy. I know I was born in 1931. I know I entered primary school in 1939. I know I left grammar school in ’51 and I spent six years in grammar school. I could calculate, I entered grammar school in ’45 and came out in ’51. I spent about four years doing survey work. You are right, it is not easy to remember those days, but don’t forget that I’m a surveyor and we deal in numbers. I know that we spent four years in the Nigerian college and in 1961, I travelled to London, and others followed. When I retired for example, I retired to set up a private practice. I continued to use figures and figures until now that the new technology has taken everything. If you are not engaged with what is going on now, you will be abandoned. That is why you cannot easily forget figures in our profession.

When you were growing up, courses like medicine, law and education were popular, why did you opt for surveying?

We had people who came out of Ipaja who were surveyors, like Mr. Ogunbiyi. He was licensed to practice surveying. I could see that he enjoyed going into the bush; and in surveying then, you would go into the bush to demarcate boundaries. Wherever land needed to be surveyed, you would go there. Also my father was a farmer, and during the holiday, I would go to the farm with him. I enjoyed it. We would trek from Ipaja to wherever the farm was and because of that, I loved going into the bush. So I love to do survey work, I love ‘bush work’.

Land matters are a serious matter. Was there any point in time your life was threatened while doing this job?

Well, like you have now, the omo oniles. When the government said they acquire this or that, they called surveyors, ‘go and demarcate.’ And you must go with very heavy equipment to carry out the survey work. The people may not like it, but when the government announces a gazette, you must know what you want to gazette, and so you must call a surveyor that will demarcate and prepare a plan. However, when you go to the bush, the hostility is there; people who own the land would not allow you to enter their land for any purpose. I had one or two cases. I had led my team to do survey work; people who claimed to own the land seized our equipment and beat the labourers; we called people working with us labourers; and they had to abandon the job and go and report at the office that we were not allowed to do the job. Then they equipped us with security people who confronted the landowners.

It has always been there. But thank God, I never lost anybody. Even the equipment they seized was returned. However, these days, I don’t think it is as bad as that because they don’t carry chains anymore. They may not enter the bush now, as we were doing. It is easy with the equipment that they have now.

You spoke about Group-51-6, CMS Grammar School. How do you feel when you see your mates now?

(Prolonged laughter) … The question is how many of them are remaining now. 1951? That was when we left grammar school. We were of different ages 20, 21…. Some of us are still alive though. One of them is Mr. Segun Bako. He is about 80; Henry Odukomaya too. Those of us who are alive ask ourselves, ‘how many are remaining? (Laughter again) I’m just one of them. About three of us, I can remember, are remaining now.

Talking about those of you remaining; are you saying that you sometimes think about death?

Of course, you come and you go. We came to the world and we are going to leave the world. You can go anytime. The Bible says our age is 70 or so.

Do you sometimes feel you would have done better in other professions outside surveying?

I don’t think so. When you are able to train yourself in a profession, you equip yourself with the knowledge. When you get into a profession and you get promoted every time and you are not frustrated and you are enjoying what you are doing, what else do you want?

You are not cheated, you are getting what you deserve, you go to work, you get the result you want and you’re not discouraged. What else do you want?

Like you said, Medicine is there, Accounting is there, and many others; you choose your own and follow it up; and when time comes, you leave it. I enjoyed my own because I was lucky to be almost on top all the time. For example, I left Lagos as the First Lagos State Surveyor-General. When I was transferred to Ikeja, I met some senior officers there but when we were separated, I was the one in charge of Lagos State. When I left Lagos State to be on my own, I had gotten to where I wanted to get to in the profession.

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 Talking about luck, all your six children are doing very well in their different professions. How did you meet your wife and what kind of training did you give to your children?

Well, I’m a Christian; my wife is also a Christian. When our children were growing up, we put them in the Christian way we also lived. When they got out, we encouraged them to follow whatever line of profession they wanted. One of my children is an engineer, the other one loved medicine and he followed it up. Thank God, he is a professor of medicine now. We never dictated to any of them that this is what they should do. When they passed out of their elementary secondary, they chose where they wanted to go and we encouraged them.

So none of them showed interest in surveying?

They were not interested. As I told you, it is bush work. The one I convinced to do survey couldn’t do it, he failed on the way. However, I have a grandson who did survey; he is outside the country now.

By the estimation of that time, you could have married more than one wife if you wanted to, why did you choose to be a monogamist?

My father was a Christian. He was a lay reader, Anglican mostly married with only one wife. When I got married there was nothing in my mind to say I must marry more than one wife.

Thank God, the one I had was doing fine. We disagree to agree, our children were doing fine, and there was nothing of interest to make me marry more than one wife.

You are a traditional title holder in Ipaja. Do you still participate actively in the events of your community?

At my age now, I don’t; but when the new oba celebrated his first 100 days in office, we went there to participate. I still participate in some of the things they do. They come for advice but not like in the past when we would go, discuss, spend time on what would be the future for Ipaja. Now if they want anything, they would tell us to advise, which we always do.

What has life taught you?

Never leave till tomorrow what you can do today. A stitch in time saves nine. This has been guiding us. If you have a purpose in life, you follow it. I’m a Christian, whatever they say we should do, I do. I follow up church activities. Life continues. Plan your life as you want it to be. I wanted to be a surveyor and I did survey work. I knew I couldn’t be a businessman. Do whatever you can do. Satisfy your conscience and live a life that will make you happy. And when you’re happy, everything you do will lead you to a good life.

How do you relax?

I do sporting activities, it helps me. When I was in Oyo, I played lawn tennis. When I was in the UK, I did the same thing. I engage myself in sports; I’m still a member of Ikeja Club. I’m one of their trustees. When I was still very active, I played table tennis and lawn tennis there.

You said you engage in sporting activities. Could this be the reason you’re still alive and strong?

Maybe, I don’t know. I don’t drink but I exercise. It is part of a long life also. Don’t just sit down thinking and thinking. When you go out, you talk to people; this helps a lot.

At my age, I still love to go to the club. I still play darts to exercise. That is keeping me going. At my age I can’t run, but I can throw darts, pick come go and record. It makes your brain work because it has to do with figures.

I still go to work. Going to work is one of those things that have continued to keep me going.

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