In an exclusive interview held with Alhaji (Ambassador, Chief, Dr.) Abdul-Ganiyu Kolawole Borokini Alaka. The builder and land properties developer who also doubles as the Aare Musulumi of Oke-Ogun, he was down to earth revealing how he grew from grass to grace and still maintains his dignity and respect. JOHN SILAS reports
The octogenarian is a husband, father, grandfather, philanthropist and a businessman per excellence. He was born on Monday, the 5th of day of May 1941 into the great Abdulahi family of Agboro-Ode compound Adabo Iseyin in the present day Oyo State.
He attended Ansar-Deen School Atori Iseyin for his primary school education and from there he proceeded to the prestigious Baptist Secondary Modern School Kosovo Iseyin for his secondary education, he completed his secondary school education in 1961, just when Nigeria was a year old after independence. He got his first job with the Nigerian National Census Board as a supervisor during the conduct of the National Census of 1963/1964. This assignment took him to several towns and villages which include Afonja, Odoomu, Ado Awaye, Osantu, Ajabeegun, Joloko, Wasinmi, Osugun and Iseyin.
After the census and the challenges that came with it politically, the young Alaka in 1964 left his village Iseyin in search of greener pasture to Lagos in 1964. He did not have to search long for a suitable job, for he carried with him the distinguishing mark of a young man determined to excel in any field of endeavour in which he might engage. Tekunmo Onalaja Company of Idumagbo Avenue Lagos, wasted no time in employing him as a clerk, he worked there for some time and made up his mind to move on in life, so in 1966, he voluntarily resigned his appointment. Before then, he made several efforts to join the School of Accountancy of University of Glasgow, he got admission with them but could not raise the school fees and air fare to Glasgow in the United Kingdom.
At the time of his resignation he read through a copy of the Daily Times newspaper in 1966 of Esusu. Esusu, the traditional banking system is said to have originated among the Yorubas and exported during the slave trade era through Freetown and Liberia to many other parts of the world. That newspaper story influenced his life. He read of how Esusu was practiced in the Caribbean Islands, where they presumably migrated at the time of the transatlantic slave trade and how it was practiced in Jamaica, where it was called ‘partner’, while in other Caribbean Islands it was called ‘syndicate’, how it was used in Cuba and some other Latin American countries and the eventual establishment in several other American cities.
That was what encouraged him to go into the business, he coordinated a group of people who team up to contribute a fixed and equal sum of money at specific intervals – daily, weekly, fortnightly, monthly or bi-monthly – enabling each member to collect the entire sum in rotation. When everyone in the group has benefited from the pool, a new rotation cycle is launched. The order in which people get to draw the money is usually decided by means of a ballot or by consensus.
The Young Alaka started his own traditional banking system business (otherwise known as ‘ESUSU or AJO’ in Yoruba language). His honesty of purpose and business sagacity soon won him the admiration and trust of innumerable men and women who did not hesitate to commit their hard earned money to him. He was soon nicknamed ‘Baba Alajo’. So successful was he in this enterprise that he became the benefactor of many important personalities and merchants within and outside Lagos.
Within this period he tried his hands in all kind of decent business, from cosmetics to textile importations and he had the opportunities to travel far and wide making friends and good business connection. He made good economics use of fund at his disposal. He ventured into business of importation and exportation of goods and materials and this took him to many European Countries.
Being a man destined by Almighty ALLAH to excel in every of his endeavours. His irrepressible business spirit and strong desire to always be on top led him into real property development. His popularity as a developer in central Lagos is incomparable. He has under the umbrella of his company BOKOKINSON NIG. LIMITED and has helped in the development of well over sixty individual and family properties in central Lagos.
As a Developer, he has developed properties for some notable families including: the Williams family, Abina family, Alawiye family, Dosunmu family, Doherty family, Ojikutu family, Balogun Family, Taiwo Olowo family, Sagunro Chieftaincy family and many others.
In recognition of his sterling qualities and achievement in the building development industry, he was made the President of the Association of Nigeria Real Estate Developer (ANRED). He is the Chairman, Board of Directors of Association of Nigeria Real Estate Developer (ANRED), he is a member of REDAN, a member of Nigeria Red Cross Society and he is also the Aare Giwa Adinni of Yorubaland Delta and Edo.
Alhaji is a devoted Muslims who has contributed massively to the development of the Islamic religion in Lagos and Nigeria generally.
When asked what advice he has for the youth, he explained that 1960 and 2020 are not the same. In the 60’s jobs were there for school leavers but today there are no jobs out there waiting for anyone, so he encouraged the youth to fall back into farming and even to go into the trades that their parents must have used to bring them up. He gave an example, if the mother of a girl child is an akara seller, there is nothing wrong if the daughter takes after the mother and add some new innovations in the akara business. He further stated that the discoveries of oil in Nigeria has produced more lazy youths than hard working ones. Youths are greedy and are expecting to get rich overnight and this is not the reality of life.
When asked about some of the challenges he experienced growing from grass to grace, he narrated a story of how his 3 months car that he bought in the 70’s was stolen with his ledger inside it, the ledger had the names of those that kept money with him and how much they saved with him and how much some persons were owing him, he described it as a big deserter then, fro he had to pay through his nose to make sure he preserved the good name he has built over the years with his clients.
The newly awarded Ambassador of Education of the African College of Entrepreneurs stated that he will continue to promote education at all level as far as he is alive and that all praises goes to Allah.
Alhaji (Ambassador Dr. Chief) Abdul-Ganiyu Kolawole Borokini Alaka has received dozens of awards, including: ‘Merit Award presented by F.E.S.S.A’, Aare Musulumi of Oke- Ogun Land; Majeobaje Adinni of Nigeria by Ibadu—Rahmon Muslim Org. of Nigeria; Baba Tayese of Lile by Market Women Association; Life Patron Hasiabul-Jannat Muslim Organization of Nigeria; Life Chairman and Award of Excellence presented By Jamiyyat Suadai; Award of Excellence by the Pharmaceutical Association of Nigeria Student, of Olabisi Onabanjo University; Excellence Award by Association of Real Estate Developers of Lagos State; RATAO Award of Excellence; Award of Excellence by Haisibunaa Lahu Firm Production an Asalatu Jaris; Merit Award by Oke-Ogun Patriotic Movement and Meritorious Award by Jam Iyat Suadai Alasalatu of Nigeria.
Others include Distinguished Islamic Merit Award by Jamiyyat Da’watul Istijaabtik Islamiyyah; Merit Award by Lagos Island Youth Sports Association; Merit Award by Al-Idayat Islam Organization of Nigeria; Excellence Award and Patron by The Committee Of Concerned Lagos Islanders; The Most Philanthropist of The Year award by Emmy Star Promotion; Balogun Adinni of Nigeria by Nadwat-Ul-Ahli Islamic Society of Nigeria; Honorary Award by Federation Of Iseyin Local Government Student Kwara Polytechnic Chapter; Atunluse by Olowogbowo Fancy Carnival Association; Award of Excellence by Federation of Oyo State Student Union and he holds a Doctoral Fellow Certificate from the African College of Entrepreneurs.