100 years of Adegoke Penkelemesi Adelabu (2)
THAT was not the end of the tragedy/comedy as the Olubadan proceeded to offer his guest the traditional Kola nut as a gesture of welcome. Colonel Popoola promptly intervened and proceeded to explain that security and protocol forbade the Chief of Army Staff from eating Kola nut in public.
His Royal Highness the Olubadan was not in the least convinced or impressed. He remonstrated. “Is he not a Mallam (from the North where Kola nuts are part of the staple diet)”? It would be too risky for me to mention the allegation regarding Kabiyesi Ashanke who ascended the throne of Ibadan when he was well over 80 years old and apparently could not speak English.
This was put to the test when the phone in the palace rang and the voice at other end of the phone kept repeating “Hello; Hello; Hello … but Kabiyesi could not make sense of it all and in desperation protested: “There is nobody called Hello in this palace. My name is His Royal Highness Oba Morakinyo Isiaka Ashanke of Ibadan.”
It is, however, on record that subsequent Olubadans especially the current Olubadan Oba (Dr.) Samuel Odulana Odugade I are versed in knowledge and fluent in English. Alhaji Adelabu Adegoke was a product of the politics of Ibadan Native Authority from where he rose to command a more formidable stature in Western Nigeria and eventually the national stage. Although he was rather small in stature, he had won his spurs as “the stormy petrel of the Western Region”.
He was the ultimate grassroots man and his footprints as well as his feet were firmly planted in Ibadan. He breathed the same air and ate the same food as his ardent followers.
Even when he became a Minister, there was no change in his lifestyle as he continued to live in the same house in Ibadan. As for his clothes, there was no way he would demand the hefty “Wardrobe Allowance” that has become a scandal amongst the current crop of Ministers and Members of the National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives).
It must have been 1952 or 1953 when as a little boy I managed to catch a look at Adelabu when he turned up to campaign at Campos Square in Lagos on the platform of his party – the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroon (NCNC).
The entire square was jam-packed and my father, Chief JK Randle had to carry me on his shoulder.
Several speakers delivered their address and they were applauded politely. Even the great Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the leader of the party did not fare much better.
The person everyone wanted to listen to was none other than “Adegoke Adelabu Penkelemesi” !! When it was eventually his turn to speak, the applause that preceded even his first sentence reverberated all over Lagos. Every subsequent sentence was drowned in even louder applause. At the end of the speech, neither my father nor I could recall what Adelabu had actually said.
When we checked with others in the audience, they were no wiser. In any case it did not matter at all. The crowd went home jubilant that Adelabu Adegoke had made their day and provided them with all they needed to demolish their opponents. As far as they were concerned, Adelabu could do no wrong.
Apparently, that is still very much the case so many years after his death. It is not uncommon to hear his surviving loyalists lament, when they see the poverty, ignorance, oppression, greed and impunity which have conspired to rubbish our nation: “Ti o ba si iku Adelabu …” which translates as: “But for the death of Adelabu, we would not be in this mess.”
I must not forget to add that people of Ibadan have their own unique way of coming to terms with adversity or disappointment. I remember that a few years ago, I was invited to the Coronation of the Olubadan. Unfortunately, the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway turned out to be a nightmare and I was stuck in the traffic for several hours.
To make matters worse, the traffic in Ibadan was even more chaotic. Eventually, we reached the venue of the coronation but it was quite some distance away. There were many cars ahead of mine but the drummers made merriment out of our distress and anxiety.
As they weaved their way between the cars, they gleefully declared that the coronation was over, but not to worry: “Ta ba je Olubadan a tun je aboba ku” which translates as: “The Coronation of the Olubadan is over, the next item on the agenda is the Coronation of the person who will accompany him to heaven to minister to his needs whenever he dies.” “Whither Ibadan Politics?” is a profoundly challenging subject and it is not a matter that can be resolved in one day or even one week.
Nevertheless, in crafting a road map for direction as regards the topic, we must be mindful that what has not worked in the past has to change. Indeed, we have to change the conversation from agonizing over problems and lamenting the plight of the sons and daughters of Ibadan, to delivering enduring solutions.
Indeed, it may be tempting to recompose the challenge of “Whither Ibadan Politics” and substitute it with: “If Adelabu were still alive, “Whither Ibadan Politics?” However, even that may not subscribe to easy answers as the problems we now face probably did not exist or we were simply not aware of them when Adelabu was alive.
Virtually, every day we are assaulted and shocked by kidnappings, brutal killings, suicide bombings, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and various other atrocities perpetrated in the Northern Region of Nigeria by Boko Haram insurgents/terrorists. We can only hope and pray that the rage and horrors which they have unleashed do not become a permanent feature in our lives. Boko Haram is arguably the product of the politics and consequences of neglect and revenge.
At this juncture, we are compelled to pause in order to reflect on how to structure a reconciliation with our nation’s dark past and the role of Ibadan in the crisis that commenced in 1962 (Chief Obafemi Awolowo versus Chief SLA Akintola) and the ensuing fiasco of the inconclusive 1963 Census under the Chairmanship of the Chief Justice, Sir Adetokunbo Ademola.
Then came the mother of all crises in 1964 over the disputed election results with Ibadan as the War Zone (not garrison town !!). The main contenders were Chief Obafemi Awolowo; Chief SL Akintola; Chief Remi Fani-Kayode; Chief Ayo Rosiji; etc.
The rage and carnage that engulfed the Western Region as well as the total breakdown of law and order cannot be consigned to mere drama, fanciful fiction or exaggerated systemic failure. “Operation wet e” when the aggrieved took the law into their own hands was the precursor of much more deadly “fire on the mountain and corpses in the valley”.
Any prospects of divine intervention were brutally ambushed on Saturday January 15, 1966 when the first military coup d’état hit the airwaves. It was the beginning of the slaughter of politicians and soldiers by soldiers.
The reason we must admit that even now the fate of our nation still hangs in the balance is anchored on the revenge which was enacted in the forecourt of Government House Ibadan in July 1967.
The Military Governor of Western Region, Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi was captured, handcuffed and bundled into a jeep. That was the last we saw of him until his corpse was discovered along Iwo Road.
In the tradition of the army, he was a gallant soldier who had lost his life while defending his guest and Commander-In-Chief General Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi. He too was mowed down in a gory ironic inversion of espirit de corps – soldiers shooting soldiers, especially their bosses. Since then, we have known neither peace nor joy under the jackboots.
We have continued to muddle our way through – from one crisis to another. If the late Gbadamosi Sanusi Adelabu Adegoke were to be invited to read the auditors’ report on our beloved nation, he may well be tempted to declare: “Nigerian is in a peculiar mess (penkelemesi). Ibadan like the rest of the country is a victim of crisis fatigue.” • Concluded •
Bashorun Randle is a former President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and former Chairman of KPMG Nigeria and Africa Region. He delivered this on Thursday, 9th July, 2015 during the 2015 Edition of the Annual Adegoke Adelabu Memorial Lecture at Ibadan Civil Centre, Agodi, Ibadan.