BORN INTO WEALTH
Samuel Ladoke Akintola was born on the 10th of July, 1910 into a family whose attributes were wealth, valour, courage and bravery, and such person must naturally measure up to the family standard- “omo tekun ba bi, ekun ni yoo jo.”- (a young tiger will always live like its forebears). His father was Akintola Akinbola and his mother, Akanke. Ladoke was an enigma of a man, a Baptist Lay Preacher, a Yoruba Fundamentalist, verbally gifted and naturally gregarious Attorney, former Editor of Daily Service, School Teacher, Railway Worker, Scholar, Linguist, street and world wise, brilliant, witty, scholarly and humorous, lived a full blown life for 56 years. July 10, 1910- Jan. 15, 1966.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Premier of Western Region, 1952-1959, had relinquished his seat as Premier, for a higher calling as Prime Minister, but unfortunately his party; the Action Group could not make it. Ladoke Akintola as Leader of the opposition in the Federal House of Representatives and Deputy Leader of the Action Group, was asked by his party- the Action Group, to vacate his seat at the House of Representatives and contest election to the State House of Assembly, for him to succeed Awolowo as Premier of Western Region. A loyalist party member vacated his seat and Akintola emerged unopposed as candidate from Ogbomosho South East State Constituency.
HIS EARLY LIFE
The Akintola family, famed in Military background and substantial wealth, emigrated with Ladoke to Minna in 1914, where he had his early education at C.M.S. Minna. Shortly after, his father was caught in the Adubi War on his way to Lagos to buy textiles and did not return until 1918. Ladoke was thereafter sent back to Ogbomosho in 1922, to live with his grandfather, Akinbola, where he continued his education at the Baptist Day School from 1922-1925. In Minna, he had honed his skill and proficiency in English, Yoruba, Nupe and Hausa language.
After his Elementary education, he moved to Baptist College Ogbomosho – a teacher training and Seminary school in 1925 and after completion of Secondary Education in 1930, being a brilliant student, he was sent to Baptist Academy, Lagos, as a tutor of General Science, Biology and Bible Knowledge. Whilst in school, he had started dating Faderera Awomolo, a sister of his friend in Baptist College, who had also trained as a Nurse in Baptist Hospital, Ogbomosho. Faderera’s father, a very strong willed Policeman, from Igbajo- an Ijesha speaking community, in present day Osun State, also had very strong views. Faderera inherited her father’s stubbornness and married Samuel Ladoke Akintola in 1935 when she was sent on a domestic errand to Lagos.
In the life of Samuel Ladoke Akintola, Faderera like her father, had strong views and influence. She begat five children- Modele, Yomi, Abimbola, Ladipo and Olatokunbo. Samuel Ladoke Akintola was a teacher and House Master in Baptist Academy, Lagos for an uninterrupted period of 12 years, between 1930-1942. S.O. Gbadamosi, who later became a strong politician and influential business man, was one of his students at the Baptist Academy.
After the drudgery and stagnant life of a school teacher and lack of career prospect, he resigned from the Baptist Academy in 1942, to join the Nigerian Railway Corporation, where he worked briefly, before relocating to the profession of Journalism, by joining the Nigerian Daily Service Newspaper of Ernest Ikoli in 1942, from where he rose steadily to become its Editor. The profession of journalism had then been described by Chief Obafemi Awolowo as that belonging only, to the “flotsam and jetsam” of the society. Ernest Ikoli was distinguished enough then, to own a bicycle.
MEETING OBAFEMI AWOLOWO
Ladoke had met Ernest Ikoli, Akinola Maja, Obafemi Awolowo, H.O.Davies, Samuel Akisanya, later Oba Odemo of Isara and some other Nationalists in 1943 at the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM) where Awolowo was then Secretary. It’s a funny coincidence, that at a later time in the Western Regional Crisis, the Ladoke Akintola Government had reduced the salary of Oba Samuel Akisanya then Odemo of Isara, to One Pound per annum, when the Odemo crossed to the other side of the divide.
Funnily, Akintola had once in 1943, supported Ernest Ikoli, an Ijaw man against Samuel Akisanya for election to the Nigerian Legislative Council In 1943, when Sir Dr. Kofo Abayomi vacated the seat, to proceed for further studies in ophthalmology in the United Kingdom.
POLITICS, JOURNALISM AND LIFE IN UK
During this period of politicking and journalism, he passed the University of London Matriculation Examination and went to Fleet Street, London School of Journalism in 1946, on a one year British Council Scholarship for opposing as Editor of Daily Service, the general strike of 1946. Ladoke after completion of his study in Fleet Street, shifted to a degree course in Law and was called to the Bar in 1949. He had a tough life in the United Kingdom. He worked part time, with the British Rails, pushing wheel barrow at the Euston station as a porter, whilst also being in good contact with the West African Student Union (WASU) of Ladipo Solanke, founded in 1925.
Samuel Ladoke Akintola came back home in March 1950 and started his law practice in Lagos and later formed a Partnership in 1952 with Chris Oladipo Ogunbanjo and Micheal Odesanya as- Samuel, Chris & Michael (Solicitors), with Samuel Ladoke Akintola as the dominant figure. Micheal Odesanya, later Justice Rtd, direct sibling of S.O. Gbadamosi, was also his student in Baptist Academy, Lagos.
Awolowo had also qualified as a Lawyer in 1946 and started his law practice in Ibadan and later went into a partnership with Biodun Akerele, father of Lagos socialite- Hillario Babs Akerele, as- Awolowo, Akerele & Co. When Samuel Ladoke Akintola came back home in March 1950, one of the few people he visited, was Obafemi Awolowo in Oke-Ado, Ibadan, whom he had known as far back as 1940s then as a member of the Nigerian Youth Movement. (NYM)
On his way to Ogbomosho after his call to the Bar, he branched at Ibadan, where he visited only two places- the Awomolos- his in-laws and the Awolowos- his friend. Whilst in London, his son, Yomi had lived with Mr. Oyediran, an Offa man and Principal of MBHS Lagos, where he lived with Olukayode Oyediran- later Vice-Chancellor, University of Ibadan, who later married Awolowo’s first daughter- Omotola, when Awolowo was in Calabar Prison.
Samuel Ladoke Akintola and obafemi awolowo were of the same age bracket- Awolowo being born on 6th March, 1909 and Samuel Ladoke Akintola, 10th July, 1910. They exchanged notes and started their Legal and Political friendship in 1952, they started the Action Group (AG) Party together and they were jolly good friends. In the Action Group, Samuel Ladoke Akintola and Awolowo were prominent. Akintola later became the Legal Adviser of the Party alongside Arthur Prest. They were the brightest legal minds in the Action Group.
Chief Bode Thomas- 1918-1953, became the Deputy Leader of the Action Group. He later formed Nigeria’s first indigenous law firm called-Thomas, Williams, Kayode & Co. i.e. the trio of Chief Bode Thomas, Chief Rotimi Williams and Chief Remilekun Fani Kayode.
BODE THOMAS BARKS AT OBA ADEYEMI AND BARKS TO DEATH
Bode was a brilliant lawyer, but also very haughty and arrogant. He was made the Divisional Council Chairman in 1953 while the Alaafin of Oyo was a mere member. On his first appearance in council, after being appointed Chairman, all council members stood up for him in deference to welcome him, except Oba Adeyemi, who for cultural reasons could not show deference to anyone in public. Bode Thomas rudely shouted at the King for having the temerity and audacity to disrespect him-”why are you sitting, when I walked in, you don’t know how to show respect?”At that time, Bode Thomas was 35 years and Oba Adeniran was in his 60s.
The Alaafin felt very insulted and nonplussed. He said, “se emi lo n gbomo baun” (is it me you are barking at like that?). Oba Adeniran Adeyemi just told him — ma gbo lo baun (continue barking). Oba Adeniran Adeyemi II, was father of the incumbent Alaafin- Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III
The confrontation happened on November 22nd 1953. Bode Thomas got home and started barking! He barked and barked like a dog all night, until he died in the early morning of November 23 1953. He cut short his promising career. Oba Adeniran Adeyemi II was thereafter deposed and sent on exile in 1954, for sympathizing with opposition NCNC, because he had come in conflict with Bode Thomas who was Deputy Leader of the Action Group before his untimely death. He cut short his promising career both as a lawyer and deputy leader of the Action Group. In fact, at a session in the Parliament, Sardauna Ahmadu Bello, had described Bode Thomas as “arrogant and ungracious”
LADOKE AKINTOLA’S RISE
After the death of Bode Thomas, there was the need for Oyo-Yoruba to succeed Bode Thomas and after a keenly contested election, Samuel Ladoke Akintola, emerged as the Deputy Leader, by defeating Chief Arthur Prest, an Itshekiri lawyer and colorful politician, and thus his meteoric rise in the politics of Action Group, Western Region and Nigeria in general.
In 1953, and under the new government of Sir John McPherson, the Action Group in accordance with the McPherson Constitution of 1951 nominated four members to the Central Cabinet- S.L. Akintola, Arthur Prest, Bode Thomas and Sir Adesoji Aderemi and thus Chief S.L. Akintola became Minister of Labour and he was able to settle the Iva Valley incidence of the coal miners in Enugu.
Samuel Ladoke Akintola who had earlier been seen as anti-labour whilst in the Daily Service as Editor, was able to settle this crisis, to the applause and satisfaction of the labour movement.
In the cabinet, the Governor General- Sir John McPherson described him as a “master of ambiguities” and Chief Anthony Enahoro buttressed this when he said “Akintola derived virtue in ambiguity” and Chief Obafemi Awolowo after the London Conference of 1953 described S.L. Akintola as “an able lawyer. He is a brazen and affable character who cannot be ruffled easily, if at all. His peculiar gift consists in his capacity to argue and defend two opposing points of view with equal competence and plausibility. This quality backed by a sense of humor and his capacity for nuances made him a puzzle to opponents”
The Sardauna of Sokoto- Ahmadu Bello also described Akintola as “being quick and could be friendly and interested in all around him”. All these periods, Akintola had since 1930, been a Lagos man. In fact, he built his first house on 20 Ajasa Street in the city of Lagos and was very friendly with Lagos elites like S.O.Gbadamosi- his former student, Ayo Vaughn, Sir Kofo Abayomi, H.O. Davies, Dr. Akinola Maja, Sir Kofo Abayomi, Dr. Akanni Doherty and others.
Awolowo: Founded Action Group and Azikiwe: Succeeded Macaulay as NCNC president
Awolowo: Founded Action Group and Azikiwe: Succeeded Macaulay as NCNC president
Whilst Obafemi Awolowo had since 1927, lived and been an Ibadan man, Ladoke Akintola was a Lagos man, even though he did not speak the Lagos variant of Yoruba language- “mo de, mi de”. Whilst Samuel Ladoke Akintola remained a member of the Federal House of Representatives in Lagos and Opposition Leader in the Parliament, Awolowo was fully entrenched in Ibadan, as Premier of the Western Region.
AS MINISTER OF HEALTH, COMMUNICATIONS AND AVIATION
Samuel Ladoke Akintola, later became the Minister of Health. He was, whilst as Minister of Health associated with the completion o f the University Teaching Hospital Complex, Ibadan (UCH), between 1954-1956 and was able to release the sum of £10 Million Pounds to aid its quick relocation, from the then Adeoyo Hospital, established in 1926, which had housed the Hospital.
In 1957, he was re-appointed back to the Federal Cabinet, alongside Ayo Rosiji despite the disapproval of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He was thereafter made Minister of Communication and Aviation and he was instrumental to the founding of Nigerian Airways to compete with the West African Airline Company (WAAC), British Overseas Airways Company (BOAC), the precursor of British Caledonian Airways and later British Airways, that had hitherto dominated the aviation sector in Nigeria and in 1958, he travelled to Holland to source for the set of airplanes for Nigeria Airways.
As Minister for Health, the great Samuel Ladoke Akintola, was on a tour of Hospital establishments in the Northern Nigeria in 1957. The Great Diplomat, humorist and wordsmith, was being taken round the Nassarawa General Hospital in Kano, when his eagle eyes fell on a young dazzling beauty and damsel- Ms Rosannah Bolanle Adedeji, a Yoruba Nurse in the Hospital. In his characteristic humour, he wondered what a Yoruba damsel was doing in the Sahara Desert. As if by design, they both had near identical facial marks.
That encounter, became a love at first sight that eventually produced Ladiran Akinniyi Akintola in 1959. Ladiran is now a Judge of the High Court of Justice, Oyo State. He gave the child a name-Ladiran and his cousin, Ladokun was present at the naming ceremony. His bossom friend, Hon. Dejo Adigun and Ladoke’s younger brother-Akinbowale Akintola became regular emissaries. It is a striking coincidence, that Ladiran later married Simisola Oluwatoyin Ige, daughter of Dele Ige and younger brother of Bola Ige- Ladoke’s implacable foe at the 1962 Jos Conference.
BEGINS HIS REIGN AS PREMIER
As a result of the failure of the Action Group to form Government at the centre in 1959, Alhaji Tafawa Abubakar Balewa formed the government of Nigeria in 1959 and Chief S.L. Akintola having now become a Member of the House of Assembly, as a result of the withdrawal of a House of Assembly member, representing Ogbomosho East, who had withdrawn for him, was officially called by the Governor of the Western Region, Olola, Sir John Rankine, to form government by 15 December, 1959 and thus the relocation of Samuel Ladoke Akintola, after staying in Lagos for 29 years, to Ibadan.
Akintola had no private home in Ibadan and had not lived in Ibadan before except as a visitor. Chief Obafemi Awolowo all through his period as Premier of Western Region, did not live in Government house, but lived in his house at Oke-Bola Ibadan. There was then the need to look for accommodation that would serve as Premier’s Lodge, for Samuel Ladoke Akintola.
By March, 1960, a disused and dingy house, formerly used by one of the Colonial masters, was discovered and refurbished in the Iyaganku Government Residential Area, which then became the Premier’s Lodge. He lived in this house as Premier between March 1960 and January 1966, when the volley of bullets hurled at him by the Military Turks, led by Captain Nwobosa of Military Barracks, Abeokuta, cut short his life.
It is an irony of history, that the Premier’s Lodge where Akintola’s life was cut short, later became the Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division, until recently, when it relocated to the new Court of Appeal Complex, Adeoyo, Ibadan.
At his first appearance in the House of Assembly, the Leader of the House- Hon. J.O. Odebiyi described him as “a man of varied career who has been a teacher, journalist and a lawyer, before his exalted position as Head of Government and that the new Premier is known for sincerity, loyalty to a cause and assiduity and furthermore, that he was an interesting debater, whose humor and diction in English and Yoruba command great respect”.
The Opposition Leader- Hon. Dennis Osadebe in seconding Hon. Odebiyi’s introductory speech, also added that “when the history of the present generation comes to be written, the new Premier will be remembered for the part he played in Nigeria’s Independence” S.L. Akintola while responding, in his characteristic humour and dignified candour, likened himself to “a bride who should be seen and not heard”.
FADERERA AKINTOLA AND HID AWOLOWO
Faderera and HID Awolowo were women with strong views and influence on their husbands. There was a mutual antagonism and recrimination, between them. They were of varied background and idiosyncrasies. Initially, they tried to tolerate this relationship and were sufficiently close. Shortly after becoming Premier, Samuel Ladoke Akintola sent his daughter, Abimbola to the United Kingdom to study medicine.
As evidence of initial amity, the young lady was seen off at the Ikeja Airport by both Faderera and HID, who generously gave the girl E50 Pounds Sterling and also arranged that she should be met jointly by Yomi, Akintola’s son and Segun, Awolowo’s son at Liverpool. However, as a result of the political travails that started in 1960 and traverses 1966, the centre could no longer hold between the Awolowo and Akintola families. Hitherto, the Awolowo and Akintola Children had been exchanging holiday visits.
The period between 1960-1966, were periods of the greatest political dispersals, intrigues, power play, subterfuge, innuendos and deep hatred in the Western Region. To Obafemi Awolowo, it was a period of “fierce and howling storm and a four year journey through the dark and dreary tunnel”. This family feud and acrimony between Chief Mrs. HID Awolowo and Chief Mrs. Faderera Akintola also aggravated the crisis. Faderera had insisted and refrained her husband from attending meetings at the Leader (Awolowo’s) house at Oke-Bola, and that henceforth, political/party meetings, should hold at the Premier’s Lodge. This, Chief Awolowo found very amusing, insulting and embarrassing.
ORIGIN OF FEUD AND THE COCACOLA WARFARE
Chief Mrs. Awolowo, as wife of Premier was a major distributor of certain commodities, but when Chief Awolowo went to Lagos as Opposition Leader, Faderera insisted on taking distributorship of these products, because of the belief that it was her right as the wife of new Premier, but Mrs. Awolowo would not let go of her distributorship. This Coca-Cola warfare and acrimony spilled to the party, where Awolowo saw Akintola as rebel and betrayer, whilst the Akintola Group saw Awolowo as being too dictatorial. Alfred Rewane, Awolowo’s confidant and chairman WNDC, had earlier brought Pepsi Factory to Western Region.
Unfortunately, these intrigues and brutal manipulations, that had seen the exit of Oba Adesoji Tadeniawo Aderemi as Governor of Western Region, did not spare the children of the major actors of the politics of the Western Region.
TIES THROUGH MARRIAGE
Whilst this intense political warfare was going on in the Western Region, the culture of political marriage, within the political class, was unaware of political crisis. Omodele Akintola had earlier whilst studying Law in the United Kingdom, married Alawiye J.F. Odunjo’s son- Soji Odunjo. A young charming Prince Aderoju Aderemi, married the daughter of Hon. Dauda Soroye Adegbenro in 1960, whilst studying in the United Kingdom. The marriage produced Adedamola and Adeyemi. Adedamola Aderemi was the popular choice of the Oshinkola Ruling House, to succeed the throne of Ooni when Ooni Okunade Sijuwade joined his ancestors in July, 2015.
As an interesting corollary, in 1986 Dec, the young Prince Adedamola Aderemi, grandson of Ooni Adesoji Aderemi, married Kemi Oyediran- daughter of Awolowo’s first daughter- Omotola Oyediran. Oba Adesoji Aderemi lost his first child, Magistrate Adedapo Aderemi on 16th October, 1963. Chief Obafemi Awolowo also lost his first child, Segun Awolowo in a car crash, along Ode-Remo on the 10th July, 1963. Segun Awolowo had gone to Cambridge and was called to the Inner Temple Bar, like his father. His life was full of promise; he walked right into the Western Region crisis.
He was very intelligent, sociable, charismatic and a brilliant advocate. He died at the age of 25 in a car crash coming from Ibadan to see his father in Broad Street Prison, Lagos. Omodele Odunjo Nee Akintola, first child of Samuel Ladoke Akintola also died on the 26th of October, 1965 after an alleged overdose of sleeping pills.
THE 1962 JOS CONFERENCE
As a result of the intrigues, the cracks within the Action Group were widened into a chism, as a result of the rift between Akintola and Awolowo. The Jos Conference of February 1962, which was the 8th Annual Congress of the Action Group which held at the African Sports Club Jos, according to Chief Awolowo “acknowledged the existence of real and dangerous contradictions within the party”. At the conference, the young turks- S.G. Ikoku, Prof. H.E. Ajose, Dr. Onabamiro, Prof. Victor Oyenga, Prof. Akin Mabogunje, Bola Ige etc, were very prominent.
At this Conference, due to the subterfuge, Chief S.G. Ikoku was made the Federal Secretary of the party as against Chief Ayo Rosiji, while Chief Bola Ige became the Publicity Secretary. Earlier in 1956, Chief S.G. Ikoku, had contested election to the Eastern Region House of Assembly, against his biological father, Dr. Alvan Ikoku of NCNC, whom he defeated by 59 votes. Alvan, was later an accused, during the treasonable felony trial of Chief Awolowo.
Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola and his supporters left Jos for Ibadan on the 1st February, 1962 to receive the Premier of the Northern Region-Sir Ahmadu Bello who was being honoured at the University of Ibadan, by the naming of a Male Hostel after him -Ahmadu Bello Hall. He hurried back to Jos on 3rd February, where he met a completely different Action Group. He was asked to resign as Deputy Leader of the Party and also as Premier of the Western Region. It was intrigues galore. Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola and Ayo Rosiji and several others, left the Conference by Train to Ibadan on the 5th of February, 1962 without waiting for the communiqué.
In the heat of this political fractitudal warfare, Canon Alayande, a strong member of the Action Group, had on the 19th February 1962, written a letter to Chief Awolowo and advised him to be prepared to “make extreme self sacrifice and self abnegation…You will need to be less inflexible and more condescending” Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, a man known to be volatile with his tongue and dangerous with his pen, could not change the tide of events at the Jos Conference.
On the 27th of May 1962, 66 Members of the House of Assembly, out of 112 Members had passed a vote of no confidence on the Premier which was to be concretized by a meeting of the House to debate the vote of no confidence. The session at the House was disrupted. The Speaker of the House- Hon. Adeleke Adedoyin, after summoning the House to an emergency session, had barely, after the introduction of the motion, by Chief Odebiyi, Hon. S.A. Tinubu from Iresi, in present day Osun State, grabbed a hand bell, ringing to cause commotion.
Hon Emmanuel Ebubedike, an Igbo man from Ozubulu, in present day Anambra State, representing Ajeromi- Badagry-Ifelodun Constituency, who had been displeased with the unaccomplished ambition of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe to become the first Premier of the Western Region, seized the opportunity to grind an axe, grabbed the mace and broke it into pieces, whilst Chief Adeyi took a chair and hit Hon. Kensington Momoh on the head, which also narrowly missed the Speaker- Hon. Adeleke’s head. As this was going on, Hon E.O. Oke from Ogbomosho South West Constituency, started shouting, fire on the mountain! Fire on the mountain! There was mayhem and pandemonium- Two Premiers had emerged. Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola and Alhaji Dauda Soroye Adegbenro.
Akintola had earlier been removed by the Governor of Western Region, Governor Adesoji Aderemi on the ground that he could no longer command the support of Majority Members of the House of Assembly, following the interpretations of Section 33(10) of the Western Region of Nigeria Constitution, Which states that “the Governor can remove the Premier, when it appears to him that the Premier no longer commands the respect of Majority Members of the House of Assembly”.
Akintola physically fought his removal. On the orders of the Governor, the office of the Premier was locked amidst tight Police security. Chief Lekan Salami, personally in the full glare of the public and the press, broke down the door of the office of the Premier, to allow him access to the office. This incidence was popularly referred to as “Akintola taku– meaning- “Akintola refuses to go” which was also named after a stubborn lemon grass- Chromolaena Odorata (botanical name).
EMERGENCY RULE IN WESTERN REGION
On 29th May 1962, following this mayhem, the Federal Government dissolved the House of Assembly , imposed an emergency rule on the Western Region, under the Emergency Power Act, 1962 and appointed Tafawa Balewa’s personal physician, friend and Minister of Health- Dr. Moses Adekoyejo Majekodunmi, as Administrator of Western Region till 31st December, 1962.
The Administrator placed restriction orders on prominent Politicians in the Western Region. Chief Awolowo was restricted to Lekki Peninsula- a mosquito infested and inhospitable Island in Epe, whilst Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola was restricted to Oloke Meji Forestry Guest House, Chief Rosiji and Chief F.R.A. Williams to Abeokuta and so many others.
In 1962, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola took the matter of his removal to the High Court under Justice Quarshee Idun, a Ghanaian, then as the Chief Judge of Western Region who, rather than listen to the matter, sent it to the Federal Supreme court for the interpretation of Section 33(10). The Federal Supreme Court interpreted the Section in favour of Akintola and declared his removal as null and void. Alhaji Dauda Soroye Adegbenro filed an Appeal to the Privy Council in London and it was upheld, that Sir Adesoji Aderemi had the right in his capacity as Governor to remove Akintola as Premier, but Akintola in his dexterous political maneuvering, conveyed an emergency meeting of the House of Assembly and passed a Law which amended Section 114 of the Western Region Constitution, by abolishing Appeals from the Western Region going beyond the Supreme Court. Adegbenro’s victory dance was therefore aborted.
In January 1963, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola came back as Premier of Western Region with his New Party UPP, with a new merger agreement with NCNC which later metamorphosed into NNDP. A new office of Deputy Premier was created for the NCNC, in accordance with the merger understanding and Chief Remi Fani Kayode, an equally witty and brilliant lawyer, emerged as Deputy Premier. The remnants of the Action Group and the NCNC, equally entered into a merger agreement to form UPGA.
THE WILD WILD WEST
Politics in the Western Region was becoming wild and dangerous. It was then a Wild Wild West. Hubert Ogunde’s Record- “Yoruba Ronu”, was banned- “ye ye ye Yoruba ronu o”. Awolowo had been jailed in 1963, for Treason and sent to Calabar Prison, but by 1964, Awolowo had become more dangerous in prison than outside. In contrast to Egbe Omo Oduduwa, Egbe Omo Olofin was founded, 10th March, 1964, by the supporters of Akintola and Justice Adetokunbo Ademola and in August 1964, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola was appointed the 13th Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land by Oba Gbadegesin Ladigbolu II, the Alaafin of Oyo.
Akintola had also removed his son in-law’s father- Chief J.F. Odunjo as Chairman, Western Region Development Corporation and replaced with Lekan Salami as Executive Director, as a result of domestic squabbles. Modele Akintola who was married to Soji Odunjo, though a failed marriage, produced Gbolahan Odunjo. The last three years of Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola became very tough, stormy and tempestuous. Akintola, a naturally soft person, by 1965 was already getting disillusioned by the happenings in Western Region, but was only being encouraged to hang on, by hangers on, who were profiting from the crisis.
As a matter of fact, the last 3 years was not the real Ladoke, a Baptist Lay Reader, Yoruba Fundamentalist and Pacifist. Those who were profiting from the crisis were sustaining it. The political gladiators benefiting from the crisis were propelling Akintola to carry on. Chief Akintola after the death of Modele on 26th October 1965, had begun to ask questions, whether the whole fight for the Premiership of Western Region was really worth it at all?
Chief Ladoke Akintola in his natural element, would have been happy to remain in Lagos as a Federalist and enjoy the comfort of being a Federal Minister. Omodele, his beloved daughter, had been his closest confidant during the crisis. She single-handedly took a petition to the Queen of England, during the Privy Council Appeal.
Rosiji also had in July 1964 lost a federal election and his car had been stoned at Marina, Lagos. His confidant in his constituency in Owode Egba -Shittu Bandele, had also been killed by thugs, who drove a six inch nail through his forehead. When there is a quarrel, even ordinary songs would have added meanings and political songs, drums and their coinages and interpretations were now being stronger than even bazooka guns.
When Akintola finally came back as Premier in January 1963, he humorously referred to Dauda Soroye Adegbenro as “Soroye”– (you have only seen it but cannot touch it). At party rallies, the Sabada Drum was very popular whilst some drummers would sing- “de mon mo wa, o demi o, osi de omo mi, de mo mo wa” The UPGA group will quickly add- “de mo mo wa,bo rowo mi, o rinu mi, demo mo wa”
Akintola for lack of support from some Ekiti elements derided Ekitis as being too bookish and asking why their names were also prominent with those of birds- “Aluko, a Ti Ala, Ati Oro”– the main target of course being Dr. Sam Aluko- an implacable foe. He wondered why the Igbos were fund of names associated with books- Mbadiwe, Azikwe, Okigwe etc. but quickly quipped, that if they became books, the Ekitis would read them. In Aluko’s town, Ode-Ekiti, on a campaign trail, Samuel Ladoke Akintola was shown the family house of Sam Aluko; and he quickly asked to be shown Aluko’s own house. He had none. He was popularly referred to as a man of integrity in the Action Group intellectual caucus. Akintola humorously remarked- “a man of integrity, to to ogiri tii” the rally went into thunderous laughter and applause. That was SLA!
He had also in London while addressing the Western Region Accounting Students Association United Kingdom Branch, asked why accounting students were still studying accounting, when there was no money to count again at home, jokingly in his characteristic humour and candour. To draw the support of his admirers and supporters, Samuel Ladoke Akintola would sing “Awolowo la ja kan, Akintola la ja Awolowo” regaling them with the story of a dog named Tantolorun.
After winning the 1965 election, he was called by the Governor, Sir Odeleye Fadahunsi to form the new government in October 1965. His tape recorded acceptance speech and message to the people of Western Region to be rebroadcast by the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) had been removed and replaced with another recorded message, by a mystery gun man who stepped into the studio and made his own broadcast, denouncing Akintola and this popular gun man, was later alleged to be a popular playwright- Wole Soyinka. He was arrested and charged before the then newly appointed Judge of the High Court of Western Region- Justice Kayode Esho, as he then was and later retired justice of the Supreme Court. SLA’s former partner in chambers- Michael Odesanya, later Justice (Rtd), was Wole Soyinka’s defending attorney, ably supported by Barrister Dele Ige- Ladiran’s father-in law.
There was widespread arson and killing of people known to be supporters of either of the gladiators. Samuel Ladoke Akintola having lost his most cherished daughter in October 1965, was beginning to have second thought, about his ability to continue with the crisis and asked rhetorically “whether the whole warfare was worth it at all?” Being a soft man, he had even contemplated resigning his position and leaving the affairs of the West to Chief Remi Fani Kayode, his Deputy who was generally believed to be strong, toughened and hardened. Faderera had also suggested this to him, insisting, Ladoke was weak.
Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola was in this state of disillusionment, when on the 13th January, 1966 he went alongside Chief R.O.A Akinjide, then NNDP Secretary General and Minister for Education, to meet with the Premier of the Northern Region- Ahmadu Bello and also the Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa with Lt. Col. Largemma of the Ibadan Garrison, also at the meeting. He, like a clairvoyant, warned the Premier and the Prime Minister of an impending doom.
In my quiet moment and deep reflections, I still wonder what the Western Region would have been without the Awolowo and Akintola’s unfortunate crisis and skirmishes- of course, An Eldorado! And an Eldorado it really was, between 1952-1959, when the slogan of Action Group was –”Life more abundant” with his record of so many Firsts- First Television station, Rediffusion, First Modern Secretariat, First Housing Estate- Bodija Housing Estate established in 1958, First Stadium- Liberty Stadium, First Dual Carriage Road- Queen Elizabeth-Secretariat Road, First Teaching Hospital (UCH) etc. In sync with the crisis, the slogan changed to “Democratic Socialism” in 1962 and NCNC also changed its own to “Pragmatic Socialism”.
JANUARY 15, 1966
On the 14th January, 1966 he told his wife Faderera, to proceed to Ogbomosho to prepare their Ogbomosho residence, for a private visit of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, who was on an official visit to Nigeria. The British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, at the Common Wealth Prime Ministers Conference in Lagos in January 1966, warned the host of the Conference, of an Impending military insurrection and offered the Prime Minister- Tafawa Balewa, asylum in one of the British frigates on the Atlantic water. The Prime Minister rebuffed this intelligence report and Akintola’s report, fears and apprehensions, as mere hear say and unfounded.
In the early hours of 15th January 1966, the military struck and after picking Deputy Premier- Fani Kayode in the same Iyaganku neighborhood, moved to the Premier’s Lodge, where Akintola was felled to the ground. The Federal Brigade of Guard Commander in Lagos- Major Okafor had ordered the abduction and eventual murder of Tafawa Balewa, Minister of Finance-Okoti-eboh, whilst Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu also invaded the Premier’s Lodge in Kaduna and killed Sir Ahmadu Bello, one of his wives and some military officers, like Brigadier Ademulegun, Col. Ralph Sodeinde, Lt. Col. Largemma-Commander of Ibadan Battalion and several other officers and thus the end of Civil Government in Nigeria and the beginning of Military interregnum, that did not end effectively until 1999, when another Military man and former Head of State,
Olusegun Obasanjo, became President of the Civilian Government. Perhaps, it is worth mentioning, that the Premier of Eastern region- Dr. Micheal Okpara, the Premier of Mid-Western region, Sir Dennis Osadebey and the Ceremonial President-Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, were not touched by the massacre. As a matter of fact, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe had earlier before the massacre, gone on a medical holiday, before the Army struck on the 15th of January, 1966.
It was the end of an era!
Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola was later buried in his compound in Ogbomosho on 23rd January, 1966 with the entire community wearing a sad, sober and mournful look and a literal end, to the life of an Aare Ona Kakanfo who had fought a war with his tongue, his pen and strength! Chief S. Adeojo and Lekan Salami accompanied the corpse home. The crisis that started in 1962 came to an ignoble end in violence. But Akintola had said that whatever circumstance, he was “content to steer the affairs of the Western Region resolutely in the opposite direction”. He said further “I have no apologies to offer in this regard, I am content to be judged by the outcome of events and history”, in his broadcast speech to the people of Western Region on 11th March, 1964.
Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola was a Federalist in a pluralist society and had always requested the National Government to reflect all shades of opinion even whilst as the Editor of the Daily Service. He believed in a Federalist society, where the Hausa, Fulani of the North West would relate freely with the Yorubas of the South West and the Igbo of the South Eastern Nigeria. If he had his way in 1959 and if Awolowo had not relinquished his position of Premier, with ambition of becoming Prime Minister in 1960, he probably would have remained a Federalist and National Politician and perhaps a Lagosian, that he had been between 1930-1959.
He was also contented with being a Baptist Deacon, Lay Reader, Yoruba fundamentalist and would have preferred a life of a Federal Politician, rather than being a Regional Demigod. One beautiful lesson of the lives of politicians of the 1st Republic was that they were well trained and tutored in Parliamentary nuances, proceedings, procedures and norms. The Hazards of the Federal Parliament and Western Region Parliament speak eloquent testimonies, of the lives of these Nigerians, early nationalists, Leaders and pathfinders.
Interestingly and unfortunately, intrigues are now playing out dangerously in all spheres of our National life and psyche- Politics, Religion, Economics etc as to determine the future of Nigeria, as we steadily march towards the Nigeria of our dreams. It is now a wake-up call that this House must not fall, otherwise, we will all echo the words of that playwright, Professor Ola Rotimi in his book- “Our husband has gone mad again”.
One may find it easy to deride the messenger, but the message still sinks, even as Nigeria, navigates in a dark alley!
SAMUEL LADOKE AJALA AGBE AKINTOLA!
May your soul continue to rest in Perfect Peace!
By Femi Kehinde
NB: Hon (Barr) Femi Kehinde, Former Member, House of Representatives National Assembly Abuja, 1999-2003
Representing Ayedire/Iwo/Ola-Oluwa Federal Constituency of Osun State. &
Principal PartnerFemi Kehinde & Co. (Solicitors) 84, Iwo Road, Ibadan.