“Your future has a price…preparation,” said American author, Mike Murdock. Engineer Abel Olusola Alalade, Former General Manager (GSM Operations) in the defunct Mobile Telecommunication Limited, MTEL who will soon become a septuagenarian in an interview with TOS NEWS reveals the price he paid in his career, the problems of the present generation and Nigeria at large. Adebayo Fajinmi brings excerpts.
TOS NEWS : With your trajectory, how are you feeling, knowing fully well that you will turn 70 on December 5?
Engr. Alalade : I am feeling very excited and grateful to God.
TOS NEWS : As an accomplished telecommunications Engineer, what inspired you and made you thick while growing up?
Engr. Alalade: I had the desire to become a broadcaster when I was in secondary school, but divinely, I found myself in telecommunications. Back then, I was both a science and an art student, so that made it easy for me to get along.
TOS NEWS : What major factor aided you to attain the peak in your career?
Engr. Alalade : Diligence! I was a very hardworking person and I always make sure that whatever goal I have set come to reality. That helped me a lot. At a point, I was even becoming a perfectionist and you know that calls for a lot of problems. Meaning, you would not have enough sleep, you would not have many friends and sometimes be alone.
TOS NEWS : I know you have had many rough roads. Can you tell me one that appeared overwhelming?
Engr. Alalade : There were challenges most of the time, but most of them were subdued very quickly. But the one I could remember very vividly was in Kaduna. The General Manager was not around, and I was acting as deputy and there was a crisis. One of our staff was beaten up by one of the Generals then in Zaria and I had to take a bold step to subdue the situation. That was when I knew I could be a good coordinator of events. I saw myself being in charge of the medical, finance and general services. Everything was under me and I had to put all the resources together. I told a medical doctor to take pictures of lacerations at the back of the staff and I sent it as a report to then Managing Director. Having received the report, the MD quickly called another General who was related to the General in question. That was how he came to apologise and pay the bill he had refused not to pay. It was a huge challenge for me.
TOS NEWS : If you compare your generation with the current one, can you see any difference?
Engr. Alalade: Yes, a big one. My generation has patience, but the present generation is impatient and has subscribed to luck.
TOS NEWS : Don’t you believe in luck?
Engr. Alalade : I don’t. You can’t see me gambling. During our time, we believe one could obtain success only through hard work. I am not saying we don’t have hardworking ones in the present generation, but they’re very impatient. They want to ride luxurious cars and live in mansions. All these are good, but there should be orderliness. Impatience and discontentment are the two major problems.
TOS NEWS : You publicly presented your memoir ‘Walking With Destiny, Achieving Greater Heights’ as a young sexagenarian in 2016. Why didn’t you wait for a time like this?
Engr. Alalade : Thank you. I published it that time because I was eager to put my experiences on the paper for people to read. Although I didn’t take the decision unilaterally; I asked a very senior colleague when I wanted to publish it. And he said, “Sola, whatever knowledge that you’ve gained and you want to share with people, do it at the time you want to.”
TOS NEWS : Why did you give the book that title?
Engr. Alalade : Walking with destiny came when I was discussing with my children. One of them made a suggestion from the life of the British statesman Winston Churchill, adding that his trajectory has to do with destiny. Then I looked at myself and said my life also has very much to do with destiny. Come to think of it, Igbajo is a place where many people from different towns settled after the war. History had it that my forefathers migrated from Ila-Orangun and at the same time, our great mother, Osaniyintola, who later became Yeye-Ikan also migrated from Ile-Ife. When she was coming, she stopped at Owo (in Ondo state); she wanted to be their Queen but they rejected her. Later, she was told to go to Igbajo that she was going to meet one hunter called Esi-Ile who would later become her husband. They got married and settled at Peete farm land where my fathers grew up and eventually became an area of property. My mother Oreoluwa was betrothed to my father Babawale. My maternal and paternal sides were friends. My grandfather said to the other side, if the next child is a girl, it’s my son that would marry her. That came to pass when they were born. That is destiny. Therefore, I looked at myself and said I have been working with destiny.
TOS NEWS : What do you understand by destiny?
Engr. Alalade : From the perspective of my life, destiny is what God has determined or planed for you to be. In other words, the purpose one has been created for. Meeting it is your destiny.
TOS NEWS : Can you look at yourself today and boldly say you are a fulfilled man?
Engr. Alalade : Yes, I can say it boldly, that I am fulfilled. I am saying this because I had completed my primary school education at the age of ten and completed secondary school at the age of twenty. I had been an Engineer and a father at thirty. I was already a grandfather at age of sixty; and I was able to reach the peak of my career. Although broadcasting was what I had in mind at the beginning, but I have no regret coming into telecommunications.
TOS NEWS: What can you identify as the gap between your own generation and the present one?
Engr. Alalade : It is globalisation, but it’s not a gap in the real sense. It is part of development. Globalisation has made life the way it is for the present generation. So, it is the way young people are carrying themselves that matters.
TOS NEWS : But this generation has raised a lot of questions, meaning many young people are not carrying themselves the way they should. What will you say the problem is?
Engr. Alalade : It’s because of two things: they’re not contented and they’re very impatient. In my own time, contentment was one of the major keys to live a good life. And for you succeed, you have to work hard. You have to move from point A to B and to C before you get to Z. No quick fix mindset. I think it’s a problem in African continent because what policy makers are after is money, not industrialisation.
TOS NEWS : Let us talk about Nigeria. As an expert, how best do you think Federal Government can leverage telecoms to contain insecurity that holds the nation by the jugular?
Engr. Alalade : If the government is focused, we can decimate the terrorists. Telecoms can be used to curb the menace if it can be properly controlled. But if you look at Nigeria’s insecurity issue, it has to do with religion. Boko-Haram started with the idea that there shouldn’t be education and we all know that ignorance is a disease because you would not know how to take care of yourself if you don’t have it. That’s why I keep saying that our children should be given free education to at least secondary school level.
TOS NEWS : You’re an advocate of true federalism. What do you think is holding Nigeria back in the practice?
Engr. Alalade : True federalism means everybody works separately, and together for development with a very weak center that coordinates activities. This usually brings healthy rivalry. The reason why we have not been practising it is because we are multi-ethnic. True federalism is easy where there are few ethnic groups and that’s why true federalism is being suggested so that we can bring closer people of the same language to work together and get things done. Fortunately, nature has been kind to us. Look at the river Niger and Benue, letter ’Y’, it divides the country into three, but we are not following that.
TOS NEWS : Do you support recent argument that states should be allowed to collect VAT?
Engr. Alalade : Yes, I do. That will lead us to where we need to be. This will bring a healthy competition. Every region has enough mineral resources for development but everybody wants it easy. We depend on oil money and we are not even managing it very well. Everybody wants it easy. Until our leaders are ready to pay the sacrifice, we will not experience rapid development.
TOS NEWS : What do you in retirement?
Engr. Alalade : The moment I retire, I discover there’s need to work with God and when you walk with God, you touch lives. So, everything I do daily is to touch lives.
TOS NEWS : You’re a mentor to many people. How did you develop this skill?
Engr. Alalade : I think it’s a God-given passion. I could remember when I was in primary school, I always strive to assist other pupils who were not good as I was. I did same thing in secondary school and tertiary institution. I’ve left my work on several occasions to help others. Also, when I became the chairman, Nigerian Society of Engineers, Ibadan branch, I made it one of our priorities that our Engineers spend 30% of their time to mentor upcoming Engineers. It’s my joy to see young ones grow.
TOS NEWS : You publish another book recently, entitled ‘Career Pathfinder’. Was it borne of out passion to mentor young ones?
Engr. Alalade : Absolutely true! Remember I told you I wanted to become a broadcaster initially, but I ended up in telecoms. Therefore, I felt there is a need for me to share the information at my disposal with young people so that they can sit and choose their career very conveniently without wasting time. The book is one of my contributions to the development of the youth.
TOS NEWS : How do you want to be remembered?
Engr. Alalade: I want to be remembered for my good legacy when I am no more.