I never took bribe in all my years as comptroller of Immigration – Akindoye Akinyemi

A fine gentleman and former comptroller of Immigration, 79yrs old Akindoye Akinyemi, in this chat with 'Nonye Ben-Nwankwo of The Punch, talk about his life experiences. Brief excerpt below:

How did your journey to immigration start?
When I was working at the Ministry of Transport, Inland Waterways now came to Lagos. All of us were brought to Lagos. I had to start looking for a house. I was doing my work very well. I was posted to the classified registry. It was there that I read in our gazette of a vacancy at the Ministry of Internal Affairs for immigration officers. My rank then qualified me to apply for the job and I applied. I went for the interview and I was taken. That was how I became an immigration officer.

How was life as an immigration officer?
Immigration became all I knew. When I slept, it was immigration. I was the first in many things during my service years. I introduced fellowship in Minna. It was a taboo then. The emir liked me. There was a time I went to him; I had 19 vacancies to fill as a comptroller. I told him that if he didn’t give me eight women out of the 19 to fill up the slots, I would return the slots to headquarters. I knew I couldn’t do that but he didn’t know. He and his chiefs sat and talked about it. Eventually, I went back to him after a couple of years and he thanked me for bringing light to their community. He said they had agreed that females should work. All the female staff I had then were from Gboko. The people of Minna never allowed their females to work. They would always put them in the family way immediately they finished their Standard Six. But God broke that jinx.

How did you feel when you rose to become a comptroller?
Comptroller is the peak of the career. It is either you make yourself a good example or a bad example when you get to that level. There is so much power when you get to that level, in fact, you are next to God. There is nothing you cannot do. But if you are not disciplined, you will be destroyed. In Minna, I never drank, smoked or chased women. I never stepped into the officers’ mess for once in my three and half years as a comptroller. I experienced a lot of strange things while I was there.

Things like?
There was a time one man brought three fowls for me. They had tried to compromise me in many ways but they couldn’t get me. The fowls looked very nice. I didn’t want to kill any of them so I decided to keep them and feed them. I was living in a six bedroomed apartment. I put the chickens in the boys’ quarters. The next morning, I went to feed them, I saw only two.

So what happened to the other one?
Till today, I wouldn’t know. The doors and windows were closed. I was the one that opened the door. I still closed the door and went to work. By the time I came back, one of them was just hitting itself on the floor. Eventually, the fowl died. The last one started crying like a human being. I had never experienced such in my life before. What if I had killed and eaten those fowls? I never slept in Minna during the weekend; I would always come back to my family in Lagos unless I had something to do in the city. People didn’t like my style and they wanted me killed. But God saved me.

But it is generally perceived that men in uniform are usually corrupt, weren’t you tempted to take bribes?I was very disciplined. I found out that when you bribed me, you would have automatically turned me into a robot. You would have taken over my thinking capacity. You would want me to do your bidding. I wasn’t trained for that! No! I was trained to be a professional. I am sure I never asked anybody for a dime. If you come to bribe me, I would certainly spoil that job for you. I spent six years as a comptroller. I pray a lot. I wouldn’t want to spoil my Christian life. Why would I want to spoil my relationship with God? God helped me to overcome everything.

You retired voluntarily two years before your retirement age, why?
God asked me to. It was on a Tuesday at 9am. I had just established the medical service for our immigration officers. I found out that most of our officers were corrupt because they either had sick children or their wives were sick and the doctor would ask them for money before he could treat them. So I decided I wasn’t going to ask these officers not to be corrupt. I decided to provide medical service for them. I had a doctor and three nurses in our clinic. I used to ask for drugs from multinational companies and they were giving us free of charge. 

 So at 9am that Tuesday morning in 1998, I still had two more years to go. But God just told me I was fulfilled in this office. And I told God I didn’t want to go anywhere else. I reminded Him I just came from Minna back to Lagos and I would love to retire in Lagos. I thought He was telling me it was time I moved to another state. But 45 minutes again, the voice came again and was more specific. The voice told me I was fulfilled in immigration service. I just opened my drawer and tendered a letter of voluntary retirement. How could a comptroller of immigration just resign? It was new! But I knew it was God that told me to resign and He had never failed me. It wasn’t even as if I was ready to retire. But there is a testimony. Six months after I had resigned, (Olusegun) Obasanjo had become the president and then, everybody from my rank upwards was removed and they heard about their retirement on the national television. They didn’t send letters to them. I would have been one of them. So that is why I always do what God wants me to do.

But you must have told your wife before you retired…
She thought I was mad. She asked me if I had asked God before resigning. I told her it was God that asked me to resign. Would I have told my children that in my career, I was forced to retire by the government? Some of those people who were retired are still suffering today.