QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Africa has come of age. ‘’It’s no longer under the orbit of any extra-continental power. ‘’It should no longer take orders from any country, however powerful. ‘’The fortunes of Africa are in our hands to make, or to mar. ‘’For too long, have we been kicked around: for too long have we been treated like adolescents who cannot discern their interests and act accordingly. ‘’For too long, it has been presumed that the African needs outside ‘experts’ to tell him who are his friends and who are his enemies. ‘’The time has come when we should make it clear that we can decide for ourselves; that we know our own interests and how to protect those interests; that we are capable of resolving African problems without presumptuous lessons in ideological dangers which, more often than not, have no relevance for us, nor for the problem at hand.” – Late Gen. Murtala Ramat Muhammed – in a speech delivered at a Session of the Organization of African Unity – 1976.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF THE FIRST REPUBLIC: I will begin with a confession. Apart from the practical hands-on experiences that God has made me acquire in governments, my views on participatory democracy have been further bolstered by my going through a piece I saw on Governor Nasir el-Rufai’s Facebook page tagged: ‘Going Back to Basics: The Past as Prologue’ authored by Mallam Adamu Fika, CFR the Wazirin Fika who once served as Secretary to the Federal Military Government & Head of the Federal Civil Service. Mallam Fika commenced his treatise by quoting one of his bosses, late Chief Simeon Olaosebikan Adebo, who asserted that: “From my experience of public affairs and my recent dealings with government officials, there is a high level of ignorance of seemingly educated men about past events in this country. ‘’On any major issue many public officers behave as if there had never been a past and that we must copy new fangled ideas and procedures which are then labeled as progressive reforms. This applies to virtually every aspect or facet of our national life and activity. ‘’Needless to say that anything that is new becomes old in the course of time, and if we get into this tendentious habit of disowning not only our past but also our past leadership, we would end nowhere. Let us learn from them, without forgetting what they did for this country”.
THE PUBLIC SERVICE: For the younger generation who might possibly not know Chief Simeon Adebo, he was head of the civil service and chief secretary to the premier of the defunct Western Region. A lawyer, apolitical administrator and diplomat, Adebo served as Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1962-1967, and later, a United Nations Under-Secretary General. Prof. Akin Onigbinde, in his publication titled: “The Unforgettable Civil Servant, stated that ” In 1962, Adebo left Ibadan, not for the expected deserved retirement, but to extend the frontiers of his acknowledge courage and integrity in the discharge of services to the international community. He was appointed as Nigeria’s permanent representative in New York as well as commissioner general for economic affairs in Washington. In his capacity in the later office his duties were to represent Nigeria in its relations with the international monetary and banking institutions in Washington and the departments of the United States government involved in aid to Nigeria. Thus the foundation of Nigeria’s relationship with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, both products of the Bretton Woods Conference at which the Allied powers made plans that they hoped would keep the post war world in monetary and financial stability was laid by this astute civil servant from Nigeria.”
LEARNING FROM THE PAST: If we don’t read the experiences of Singapore and the Asian Tigers, we must be able to read about how our foremost bureaucrats and technocrats conducted the affairs of State at three tiers. It would do us a lot of good if the federal government, the 36 State governments and the FCT bureaucracy, could make available to political appointees and top civil servants, books written on Simeon Adebo, Jerome Udoji and Kashim Imam and how they managed affairs in public interest. We could start from the federal level and dovetail to states and local governments. Prof. Epiphany Azinge, SAN and his wife – Valerie, SAN, are today running a Foundation involved in promoting Work Ethics. They are going around selling this agenda. This is a patriotic idea. But who will table this idea of reading about activities of the past? I read on Nasir el-Rufai’s wall an appeal for all who read the piece by Mallam Adamu Fika to circulate the 2011 lecture widely. I feel sure that the stormy petrel could do it. I am sure that millions of people would not know who these patriots were, not to talk about their immense contributions to national development. Someone once remarked, jokingly though, that it was the state of Nigeria that disappointed Simeon Adebo met after returning from the United Nations, that facilitated his relatively early exit from the world.
In line with Chief Simeon Adebo and Mallam Adamu Fika’s observations, TERRIFIC HEADLINES presents again, the state of affairs in the Western Region House of Assembly. THERE WERE ONLY FIVE COMMITTEES for 120 Members in the legislature. No deputy chairman; no official vehicle.
THE BEGINNING OF THE COLLAPSE OF THE FIRST REPUBLIC: The practice of civil democratic governance commenced in Nigeria through the 1922 constitution through which a handful of representatives to the Legislative Council were elected. Before the termination of the First Republic by the military coup of January 15, 1966, politicians that inherited the mantle had begun mastering the skills with increasing fervour. The politics of nationalism gave way to the politics of development that characterized self-rule in the different regions from 1957. What accounted for the disruptions? Since History, Civics, and Hygiene are no longer considered very important in schools curricular in the country, TERRIFIC HEADLINES has dug into the archives to bring out an account of the unfortunate political crises of 1962-1966, in the defunct Western Region; as recorded by late Chief S.T. Adelegan, Deputy-Speaker, Western Regional Legislature from 1960-1965. We also publish for your records the names of hon. Members of the Western Region House of Assembly, fondly addressed as MHAs, in those glorious years.
1962 DECLARATION OF STATE OF EMERGENCY AND SUSPENSION ORDER IN WESTERN REGION OF NIGERIA: Shortly after we passed the 1962 Budget, we heard there was going to be a conference of Action Group, to be held in Jos. I was surprised to hear this, same with other leaders of the party who were not informed of such a conference nor involved. That was very wrong. Who could have organized such a conference and who were the people to participate in such a conference if we did not do? It was a total surprise. We later found out that the younger members and the crops of new graduate members of the party, those members whom we did not know, attended the conference. We later heard on the Radio that the conference had resolved that Chief S. L. Akintola should resign as Premier of Western Region. We became more confused. This was never discussed in our meeting at Ikenne. It was also not discussed at the Parliamentary meeting. Those of us who had been working through the thick and thin to make Action Group Party great were never consulted. Delegates were not chosen from the constituencies, as it ought to be. The only thing we were told was that the ‘Party was supreme’. This time, I was still the Federal Secretary of Ijesha Action Group Party, with Canon Josiah Akinyemi as the Chairman.
PEACE MOVES: At this point, I was called upon, as the Deputy Speaker, to go with some people to Ikeja where a meeting had been slated to take place at late Chief Sonibare’s house. At that time, Ikeja was part of the Western Region. At the close of school on that day, I left Ipetu-Jesa and proceeded to Ikeja. The meeting was to sort things out and resolve the differences. But it was a failure, as it could not bring solution to the existing problem. Another meeting was therefore called at Action Group Secretariat, Oke-Bola, Ibadan. After the meeting, we held our Parliamentary meeting where majority of us agreed to toe the party line in support of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. We agreed with him that the Premier should resign, or be removed. 62 members out of 102 members that were present in the House on that fateful morning had signed for the removal of the Premier if he failed to resign. The Speaker was already on chair; He said the prayer and was about reading the Order for the day’s Business. Just like a volcano waiting to erupt, or a time bomb waiting to explode, the disgruntled members who were not satisfied with the parliamentary decision showed their discontentment.
Most of them were Yorubas who believed in ‘West for West’, the set of people Awolowo always referred to as ‘Omo Okeles’. Hon. Oke E. O., representing Ogbomoso South West, stood on the table, and exploded: “Fire on the Mountain”! The Honourable member representing Badagry West, Hon. F. Ebubedike, took up the Mace, the official symbol of authority and smashed it on the Speaker’s table. The mace broke into two. There was commotion all over the place. Chairs began to fly in different directions. One located Chief Awolowo, but was quickly intercepted by Chief Alfred Rewane. There was free-for-all fight, a situation which attracted tear gas from the security men. As soon as tear gas was thrown, the whole place became deserted as honourable Members fled.
PROTEST TO THE PRIME MINISTER: The Speaker, myself, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Jonathan Odebiyi managed to find our ways to the Speaker’s Office. There, Chief Awolowo telephoned the Prime Minister, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa to inform him of the rascality displayed on the floor of the House. Mutually, we should agree to keep decency in the House. The opposition should learn not to be violent and ought to know that nobody had monopoly of violence. But Tafawa Balewa urged us to be calm, promising, he would call the people to order and that the police would only keep vigil but would not throw tear gas on us. We were to meet again on that same day by 2.00 p.m. We actually met. But it was a continuation of the pandemonium that started in the morning. In flagrant disrespect to an earlier promise, the police went on, tear-gassing us. After this, we proceeded to the High Court Premises to swear to an Affidavit supporting the result of the voting which the opposing members disrupted. We took the case to the court and later to the Privy Council. But before any judgement or hearing, a state of emergency had been declared, and the House was suspended and the cabinet dissolved.
THE 1962 LEGISLATIVE DISTURBANCES: THE HIGH POINTS: Western Region was clearly ahead of other Regions in terms of physical and socio-economic development. This could be attributed to the foresight, vision and commitment of the Action-Group Party led by Obafemi Awolowo. The first television station in black Africa, Liberty-Stadium, Cocoa-House, a 25-storey building, the first University and a host of other meaningful advancements had been recorded in the West. The Region also boasted of a large concentration of enlightened people who acted as torchbearers and opinion leaders. Ikeja, then in Western-Region but in today’s Lagos State was fast developing into a blossoming industrial centre. The intelligentsia and political class were fast imbibing the culture of democratic governance. The political crisis which developed within the Action Group, following a crisis within the National Executive of the Party, and the attendant deposition of Chief S. L. Akintola, Deputy Leader who was asked to resign his appointment as Premier of Western-Region caused a lot of stir. He refused. Attempts were made to recognize Alhaji Dauda Soroye Adegbenro as the new Premier. This did not materialize.
Chief Akintola on his part called for the dissolution of the Action-Group and the redistribution of its assets. He and Chief Ayo Rosiji (Federal Secretary of the Action Group) had been expelled from the Action Group. Chief Akintola however argued that he had also contributed to the Party in energy, time and money and so could not be dealt with that way. On the 20th of May 1962, the Premier advised the Governor of Western Region that in view of the political crisis that had been developing in the Region, and counter-claims by the two factions for a majority support of the electorate, the Governor should exercise his constitutional powers to dissolve the Legislative House of the Region. The Governor, Sir Adesoji Aderemi refused. At the same time, the Premier requested the Hon. Speaker to convene the Western House of Assembly for May 23,1962, to consider and pass the Motion for a vote of confidence in the Government of Western-Nigeria. The Speaker also refused. The Governor moved, thereafter, invoking the relevant section of the constitution to remove Chief Akintola as Premier with effect from May, 1962. Chief Akintola went to court to challenge his removal. A meeting of the House was eventually summoned for the 25th of May. Two unsuccessful attempts were made that day to hold meetings of the Western-House of Assembly. It was a red-letter day. The problems of a stable, political society in Nigeria could be said to have commenced that sad day. The mace, symbol of authority was broken into pieces, and the Hon. Speaker, Prince Adeleke Adedoyin, narrowly escaped being battered. He ducked when a member grabbed the mace and swung it at him. A Minister in the crisis Cabinet, Hon. Kessington Momoh – was treated in the hospital for a head injury.
ANOTHER BEDLAM: The confusion began when the leader of the House and Minister of Finance, Chief J. A. Odebiyi, rose to outline the day’s business. He had hardly started speaking when a member from the Government side jumped on the desk and raised a war cry. In the confusion, that followed, hon. Members threw chairs at one another. And immediately, the place was turned into a bedlam – chairs were broken and the fences were pulled down. A legislator is Hon. A. Abioshun (NCNC, Iwo) was seriously beaten up by the police. Mr. Abioshun was later dragged to the police post of the House and detained. A police officer said he had been detained for rioting on the floor of the House. NCNC leaders headed by Mr. F. S. McEwen immediately protested on the floor of the House. One other legislator, Mr. Ebubedike (NCNC, Badagry North) was also detained. It was he who took the mace. Riot No. 2 started about 11.45 a.m. when the Speaker attempted to reconvene the House after receiving a message from the Prime Minister through the Commissioner of Police. Although there was a policeman behind each legislator, there was no order from the word go. The Commissioner of Police, Western Region, was himself in the chamber near the Speaker. And as if from nowhere a chair hit the head of the Speaker. This appeared to be the signal for the riot, which was certainly fiercer than the first one.
Legislators went into blows and chairs and every handy object were used. Legislators under heavy pall of teargas fled through windows and every opening, leaving behind shoes and hats and brief cases. I was fortunate to have escaped unhurt. Outside the House, several members fainted from exhaustion. The House was later cleared and Ministers were lead away under police protection. The new Premier, Alhaji Adegbenro was not seen; but Chief Akintola later drove away under police guard followed by a motorcade of his supporters.
FOR THE RECORDS – MEMBERS OF WESTERN HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY – 1960
INTRIGUING: HOW DID THEY COPE! THERE WERE ONLY FIVE (5) COMMITTEES IN A HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY WITH 120 MEMBERS. THERE WAS NO PROVISION FOR DEPUTY CHAIRMEN
SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE Adeleke Adedoyin, Esq.
DEPUTY SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: S.T. Adelegan, Esq
HON. MEMBERS OF THE WESTERN REGION HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY DRAWN FROM TODAY’S LAGOS, OGUN, OYO, OSUN, ONDO, EKITI, EDO & DELTA STATES
Abiosun Mr. J. O. – Iwo South Sub urban
COMMITTEE OF SELECTION
STANDING ORDERS COMMITTEE
PUBLIC PETITIONS COMMITTEE
PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE
OFFICERS OF HOUSES
Mr. J. M. Akinola – First Clerk to the Regional Legislature
Mr. D. E. O. Oriola – Second Clerk to the Regional Legislature
Mr. M. O. Maduemezia – Acting Official Reporter, Grade I
Mr. E. O. A. Soyege – Acting Hansard Editor
Mr. D. O. Ajulu – Official Reporter, Grade II
Mr. A. O. Bamishe – Official Reporter, Grade II
Mr. S. A. Onadele – Official Reporter, Grade II
Mr. A. O. Idowu – Official Reporter, Grade II
Mr. W. Akinwunmi – Official Reporter, Grade II
Mr. J. A. Darlington – First Sergeant-at-Arms
Mr. R. S. A. Akinrinmade – Second Sergeant-at-Arms