Professor Ambrose Folorunsho Alli, though not born with a physically imposing stature which differentiates many politicians, he continues to stand tall even among his progressive peers both in learning and in service to the people.
Born, 22nd September 1929 in Ido Ani – a town in Ondo state – to an Ekpoma father and an Ido-Ani mother, Alli experienced cultures beyond his nativity right from childhood.
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After completing his secondary education in Asaba, Ambrose Alli attended the School of Agriculture, Ibadan in 1948 and proceeded to the School of Medical Technology, Adeoyo Hospital, Ibadan (1953–1960) where he bagged the MBBS degree.
He served as House Officer at the Adeoyo hospital from 1960 to 1961 from where he left for the United Kingdom to complete a post-graduate course in neuropathology. After bagging a D.C. Pathology degree at the University of London between 1961 and 1966, he returned home to lecture at the University of Ibadan between 1966 and 1969 and also as a senior lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria from 1969 to 1974).
From 1974 to 1979 when he was elected Governor of Old Bendel state, Alli was Professor of Morbid Anatomy and pioneer head of the department of pathology at the University of Benin, Benin City.
Owing to the sheer brilliance and the rigour in his scholarly publications, he gained a reputation which shot him up as a member of the constituent assembly that drafted the 1979 constitution and later as the first executive governor of Old Bendel state in 1979.
An event which threatened to taint the lasting legacy and credibility which Alli had built over the years resurfaced on April 10 when the government of President Muhammadu Buhari released a statement pardoning Ambrose Alli, Anthony Enahoro and three other Nigerians.
On seizing power from democratically elected public officials in December 1983, Major General Buhari threw Alli in jail after an extra-judicial trial. He was charged with allegedly misappropriating ₦983,000 funds for a road project and sentenced to 100 years in prison.
Despite the charges not being linked to Alli, the result of the trial ensured that Alli spent the larger part of four years in prison across the country. The damage to Alli’s integrity was even more disappointing than the punitive four years. Thus, the April 10 posthumous pardon announced by the Interior Minister, Rauf Aregbesola, would never have been necessary if the kangaroo court set up by Buhari’s junta had never happened.
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Notwithstanding the minor event of Alli’s trial, the brief period which Alli spent governing the people of Old Bendel state remained some of the most fondly remembered by people of the state.
In his time as the first civilian governor of Bendel state, Alli initiated and completed several development projects in the state. Schools, from primary to tertiary, sprouted from different angles in the state. A believer in good education and as a professor himself, he valued how having the best education could quickly spur economic development and set a people on the path of progress.
Roads constructed to access rural areas and Housing Schemes which were initiatives of Alli’s administration are still standing. Progressive reforms such as abolishing charges for services and drugs at state-owned hospitals and eliminating the flat-rate tax were also part of initiatives of his administration to alleviate poverty and stimulate economic growth.
While in prison, Alli’s health deteriorated due to the deplorable living condition and as a result of being transferred for miles between prisons. But for the kindness of the Esama of Benin, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, who paid a fine of N1,000,0000 on Alli’s behalf to the government, Alli could have languished in prison until his death for no crime other than duly serving his people. He was released on February 13, 1988, to wide jubilation by his people not even from Old Bendel state.
On September 22nd 1989, on the day he clocked 60 years on earth, Ambrose Folorunsho Alli passed away – and he was survived by a wife and four children. And in honour of his selflessness, statues were erected by indigenes of old Bendel State.
Featured Image Source: Ambrose Alli University Lagos Alumni
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