POST EMERGENCY POLITICS OF WESTERN REGION OF NIGERIA (1963-1966)
THE ORIGIN OF WILD, WILD, WEST & HOW HON. MEMBERS SOMETIMES NEVER REMEMBERED TO COLLECT THEIR ALLOWANCES
In line with its policy of digging into the past for events that could guide the shaping of the future, TERRIFIC HEADLINES, this weekend, brings for your reading pleasure, an account of conduct of Government business in the post emergency Western Region of Nigeria; a period that bred the‘’WILD, WILD, WEST’’. In this report, Deputy Speaker of the Western Region House of Assembly, Chief S.T. Adelegan describes the House as the best ever, how the tag ‘’Wild, Wild West’’ and how Hon. Members sometimes worked and forgot they had allowances to collect in the Parliamentary democracy.
On 1st January, 1963, Chief S. L. Akintola formed the Government of Western Nigeria. There were major changes in the structure of the post-emergency government. One of such changes was the carving out of the Mid-West Region from the old Western Region. That is to say, the old Benin Province, which was part of the West, had been carved out. The West was purely West and the government was purely Yoruba. The effect of this was that, there had to be reduction in the number of the Members in the House. We now had 86 as against the former 120 members. Also, the cabinet was restructured. There was no longer a Minister for Mid-West Affairs. Alhaji D. S. Adegbenro, who had been Minister for Local Government in the previous government now became Leader of Opposition in the Western House of Assembly. The position of Deputy Premier was also created and Chief Remi Fani-Kayode became the Deputy Premier. The Governor was also replaced. Chief J. O. Fadahunsi became the new Governor in place of Oba AdesojiAderemi, the Ooni of Ife. The Governor performed ceremonial duties. On ceremonial days, he presided at functions. He also presided on occasions that cut across party consideration.
The Premier presided over cabinet meetings. He was the Head of Government. He had the responsibility of awarding portfolios to the Ministers and he led Government business in the House. All-important details of governance were handled by him on the floor of the House. In short, he had both Legislative and Executive powers in the Parliamentary form of Government. He himself was a representative and elected Member of the House. He was not elected directly by the people as Premier. He owed his appointment to the Members of the House, with due consultation with the Party. In view of this, he could be removed by majority of the House, either by asking him to resign or a Vote of No Confidence passed against him. That was exactly what happened in 1962, when the Premier was asked to resign, with the intention of replacing him with AlhajiDaudaSoroyeAdegbenro. The opposition, prior to the emergency period was not as serious as we had in the post-emergency time. The House now had a more constructive opposition, very peaceful, recording meaningful debates. It was the best House, ever.
GOVERNMENT OF WESTERN NIGERIA(Formed by Chief S. L. Akintola on 1st January, 1963)
WESTERN HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
LIST OF MEMBERS
SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE
DEPUTY SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE
Government Chief Whip – R. A. Lana, Esq., MHA
Government Whips – J. O. Kehinde Esq., MHA
– O. Fashola, Esq., MHA
LEADER OF OPPOSITION
Alhaji D. S. Adegbenro, MHA
OFFICERS OF HOUSES
Mr. J. M. Akinola – Clerk to the Regional Legislature
Mr. M. O. Onajide – Clerk Assistant
Mr. O. B. Okuboyejo – Clerk Assistant
Mr. E. O. A. Soyege – Hansard Editor
Mr. S. A. Onadele – Official Reporter, Grade I
Mrs. W. A. Akinwunmi – Official Reporter, Grade II
Mr. T. O. Famadeji – Executive Officer (Accounts)
Mr. R. S. A. Akinrinmade – First Sergeant-at-Arms
MEMBERS OF THE REGIONAL EXECUTIVE COUNCIL
REGIONAL MINISTERS AND DEPARTMENTS
Premier – The Honourable Chief S. L. Akintola, MHA
The Ministers of State- The Honourable Chief J. L. Tifase, MHA
– The Honourable S. S. A. Adeniya, MHA
The Ministers without Portfolio – The Honourable Sir OlateruOlagbegi, TheOlowo of Owo, MHC
– The Honourable Oba S. O. Abimbola, TheOluwo of Iwo, MHC
– The Honourable Oba A. GbadeboII, The Alake of Abeokuta, MHC
– The Honourable Oba S. A. Adenle, TheAtaoja of Oshogbo, MHC
– The Honourable Oba A. AdeleyeII, TheElekole of Ikole Ekiti, MHC
– The Honourable Oba S. Aminu, The Olubadan of Ibadan, MHC
Parliamentary Secretaries- Mr. E. O. Oke, MHA
– Mr. C. O. Olamigoke, MHA
MINISTRY OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Deputy Premier and Minister of Local Government-The Honourable Chief R. A. Fani-Kayode, MHA
Minister of State – The Honourable N. A. B. Kotoye, MHA
Parliamentary Secretary – Mr. J. L. Lawal, MHA
MINISTRY OF FINANCE
Minister of Finance – The Honourable Oba C. D. Akran, MHA
Parliamentary Secretary – Mr. O. A. Akingboye, MHA
MINISTRY OF JUSTICE
Minister of Justice and Attorney-General – The Honourable B. Olowofoyeku, MHA
Parliamentary Secretary – Mr. K. O. Owonikoko, MHA
MINISTRY OF EDUCATION
Minister of Education – The Honourable D. K. Olumofin, MHA
Minister of State – The Honourable Ayo Ajibola, MHA
Parliamentary Secretaries – Mr. J. O. Abiosun, MHA
– Mr. J. A. Ajuwon, MHA
MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES
Minister of Agriculture and
Natural Resources – The Honourable Dr. S. D. Onabamiro, MHA
Minister of State – The HonourableAlhadji Z. A. Opaleye, MHA
Parliamentary Secretary – Mr. A. S. Sanni, MHA
MINISTRY OF LANDS AND HOUSING
Minister of Lands and Housing – The HonourableDuroOgundiran, MHA
Minister of State – The Honourable C. O. John, MHA
Parliamentary Secretary – Mr. C. A. Williams, MHA
MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS
Minister of Home Affairs – The Honourable S. L. A. Fajimi, MHA
Parliamentary Secretary – Mr. S. O. Akerele, MHA
MINISTRY OF INFORMATION
Minister of Information – The Honourable O. Adebayo, MHA
Parliamentary Secretary – Chief A. Borokinni, MHA
MINISTRY OF LABOUR AND SOCIAL WELFARE
Minister of Labour and Social Welfare – The Honourable J. O. Adigun, MHA
Parliamentary Secretary – Mr. I. O. Aniyi, MHA
MINISTRY OF CHIEFTAINCY AFFAIRS
Minister of Chieftaincy Affairs – The Honourable S. A. Layonu, MHA
Parliamentary Secretary – Mr. I. O. Aniyi, MHA
MINISTRY OF HEALTH
Minister of Health – The Honourable Dr. J. O. Omitowoju, MHA
Minister of State – The Honourable Chief O. Olaitan, MHA
Parliamentary Secretary – Mr. I. A. Adelodun, MHA
MINISTRY OF WORKS AND TRANSPORT
Minister of Works and Transport – The Honourable Chief A. O. Adeyi, MHA
Minister of State – The Honourable Chief E. B. Arowojolu, MHA
Parliamentary Secretary – Mr.M. A. Adewunmi, MHA
MINISTRY OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY
Minister of Trade and Industry – The Honourable A. B. Bello, MHA
Minister of State – The Honourable Chief S. A. Tinubu, MHA
MINISTRY OF ECONOMIC PLANNING AND
Minister of Economic Planning and
Community Development – The Honourable Chief J. O. Oshuntokun, MHA
Minister of State – The Honourable K. S. Adebesin, MHA
Parliamentary Secretary -Mr. J. O. Adeyemo, MHA
The Speaker of the House Mr. T. E. Elusade, representing Ife Town South soon took ill and the bulk of the duty rested on my shoulders. I was Acting Speaker through a major period of the post emergency West. I discharged the duty of the Hon. Speaker remarkably, without any bias or prejudice. Both sides of the House were really satisfied. This could be seen in the tribute, the Premier and Leader of Opposition gave on 6th April, 1965.
DEPUTY SPEAKER – TRIBUTE
Excerpt from the Hansard – Official Bulletin of 6th April, 1965
Chief S.L. Akintola:Perhaps I may express the sentiments of both Sides of the House. We pay you, Sir, the commendation that is due to you for the efficient manner in which you have been able to carry on and discharge the duties of the Speaker of this honourable House. (Cheers). It is unfortunate that ill-health prevented the Hon. Speaker of this House from attending this important Budget Meeting but, in spite of the short notice, you came to our rescue as an experienced Deputy Speaker who has been able to assimilate and acquire a great deal of practical knowledge. For this, we are very much indebted to you for the successful completion of this Budget Meeting and I think that your performance on this occasion augurs well for the future because you have discharged your duties remarkably well, so efficiently and so charmingly, that the Members of the Opposition will always like to see you on the Chair.
AlhajiD.S. Adegbenro:Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I like to associate myself with the views and sentiments expressed by the hon. Premier. When the appointment of Mr. Speaker was proposed, I was consulted, and I argued that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, ought to have been promoted to the post of the substantive Speaker. I was informed that there were some difficulties in the rank and file of the NNDP and I had to agree that you still hold your post as Deputy Speaker and in spite of the fact that you happen to be the Deputy Speaker, you have discharged your duties impartially and you deserve our commendation as well.
There is only one request I will like to make and I wish that you give this your serious consideration. I hope you will not fall into the trap of preventing Hansard to be distributed to hon. Members as was done during the closing days of your predecessor in office. This is very important and I will wish that you do not allow yourself to be used for that type of funny business. Sir, we congratulate you for being an efficient and impartial Speaker.
Mr. Deputy Speaker:I thank the hon. Premier and the hon. Leader of Opposition for their compliments and I wish fervently that the hon. Speaker (Mr. Elusade) will be well in time to take up his duties.Thank you very much.
WESTERN REGION LEGISLATURE WAS THE BEST HOUSE EVER
ATTENDANCE& DISCIPLINE:In spite of the distance, we covered from our constituencies to the Assembly, attendance were very good. During this period, there was no official accommodation for the members. We normally stayed in hotels or with our relatives in Ibadan when we came to attend sittings. Besides, we could choose to leave our constituencies very early, around 2.00 a.m. There were no heavy traffics then and the roads were safe. Armed robbery cases were not rampant. Lives were relatively safe. Besides, there was party discipline and self discipline. Members faced expulsion from the party if we failed to attend meetings and sittings. And so, the Parliamentary meetings and the normal sittings were always lively and interesting.
I want to mention here that in my own perception, the House was the best ever put in place in this country. The composition, stuff, presentation and even defence of one’s constituency’s interest made the House unique. The standard of debates and the ways and manners by which members advanced the needs of their constituencies were remarkably better than what obtained after us. It is important to note that, inspite of the poor allowances of the hon.Members and lack of provision of accommodation for members; we still performed so wonderfully well. I was not provided with accommodation despite my position as Deputy Speaker. It was only when I became Speaker protempore that I was allocated an official accommodation.
1965 REGIONAL ASSEMBLY ELECTION
The Western Nigerian government was restored on 1st of January, 1963. The leader of Action Group and some other strong members of the party had been imprisoned on charges of treasonable felony, having been found guilty by a High Court, presided over by Justice Sowemimo, another Egba man. In his judgement, he submitted that his hands were tied. What tied his hands? Some people erroneously took this to be as a result of undue interference or influence of the Federal Government. But it was not really so. His hands were tied because of the evidence on ground. Some of his very close associates, especially, Dr. S. D. Onabamiro, a former member of his cabinet, representing Ijebu North II Constituency, testified that he had the knowledge that Awolowo was training some people in an undisclosed place to execute plans to oust the government of Tafawa Balewa. Since this period, political activity was on the low ebb. The Action Group Party had been weakened and there were ramblings all over. The party could no longer stand any future election successfully. Then came alignment and re-alignment of parties. Some of the erstwhile supporters of Chief Awolowo now pitched in the camp of Chief S. L. Akintola. I remember when I visited Chief Awolowo at Lekki, he lamented that even my Speaker, Prince AdelekeAdedoyin, had deserted him when he needed him most; same with Onabamiro, all of whom were his kinsmen.
Akintola had now shown up in a new party called NNDP. Members were drawn from NCNC, A.G. and DPP. The loyalists of Awolowo too in Action Group and some factional members of NCNC formed what was called United Political Grand Alliance (UPGA) under the leadership of Chief Michael Okpara. Chief Okpara was the Premier of Eastern Region, controlled by NCNC. With this, the political climate of the country changed. Chief (Mrs.) H.I.D. Awolowo, towards the tail end of 1963, started campaign in company of Adegbenro who was now the leader of Opposition in the House. Everything went on peacefully. Some of us were still fond of Chief Awolowo. But around this time, I chose to be inactive because of the duty I was discharging in the Western House of Assembly. At that time, Elusade, my Speaker had been ill and I was Speaker Protempore for most of the post emergency period. I did not want to be too partisan but function as unbiased referee. Chief S. L. Akintola too brought his campaign to my constituency in November 1964. My people had learnt to eschew bitterness in politics. We received every political party that came to us with open arms. This had helped us a great deal. Hon. C. O. Komolafe, another great politician from IpetuIjesa was a candidate for Federal House at that period. He represented Ilesa Rural North and South in the Federal Constituency in the Federal House between 1954 and 1959, but he lost to Canon Josiah Akinyemi in the 1959 Federal election.In 1964, Chief Komolafe regained his seat in the Federal House. Chief Akintola’s visit to our town was very peaceful, but it was not so in Ilesa that same day. He left IpetuenrouteIlesa to Ifewara, Ile-Ife and finally Ibadan. At Ilesa, there was little disruption that made the Premier shut down Ilesa Grammar School. The school was however soon re-opened due to my intervention and that of other prominent cabinet members of his, such as Attorney General and Minister of Justice Chief Olowofoyeku and the Governor, Sir OdeleyeFadahunsi.
This period, the UPGA had started to unleash terror on the West. That was what really happened at Ilesa. They had been on the run for NNDP members. On two occasions, they failed in their bid to target me. The first occasion, they missed the road when they were trailing me. I had taken Osogbo-Iwo Road to Ibadan, and unknown to them, they pursued me through OsogboGbongan Road. We were in this State when the 1965 election to the Western Region Assembly was conducted. Chief Dele Ige came out again as the flag bearer for UPGA while Awogboro, an Ibokun man made himself the flag bearer of NNDP. To the best of my knowledge, there were no shadow elections before this time. The NNDP hierarchy wanted me back in the House, not minding Awogboro’s candidacy. He too could go ahead as flag bearer for NNDP with the understanding of the leaders that another constituency would be created for me.
In all honesty, I did not want to stand for any election. I was satisfied somehow, even though I had my constraints. But then, the premier promised an additional constituency that would give Ijesa five seats instead of four. So, I did not campaign at all. Meanwhile I was very busy in the House. Chief C. O. Komolafe too. Awogboro was handling the campaign in such a careless and dangerous manner. He was not a native of Ipetu-Ijesa, but he had the effrontery to come to Ipetu in the guise of politics to forment trouble. He instructed his thugs to cut down the Action Group flags in IpetuIjesa. I had to challenge him in order to check his excesses. I told him it was wrong to do so. He had rather carried on peacefully with his own campaign rather than trampling on the inalienable rights of others. As he heard this, he started accusing me of taking side with Action Group. He went to Ibadan to report me to Akintola of antiparty activities in Ipetu-Ijesa. The latter, who knew my worth and disposition to matters warned him of his high handedness. He told him this would not profit anyone any good and that he should not do anything without informing me, after all I was his leader. In the night of the day, his boys cut A.G.’s flag; I learnt he was in a meeting with some people in Ipetu-Ijesa. I did not know the reason why he had chosen IpetuIjesa as his capital base to unleash terror. I did not know that they were holding meetings against me, in my hometown. I did not know it was a cult meeting. One of their scribes came out and pointed a knife at me. If not because of the prompt intervention of TayoSeweje, my faithful driver, he would have stabbed me. Awogboro immediately called him to order. Anyway, that showed the internal disharmony and lack of organization of NNDP at about the time the 1965 election was to be conducted.
This permeated through the period of voting and counting of votes. Normally the counting should take place at Ilesa. They did not allow this to happen; rather they took ballot boxes forcefully. The election was characterized by rigging, fraudulence and other malpractices. At gun points ballot boxes were stolen, the polling stations were taken over by thugs and electoral officers wounded. That was the situation throughout the whole West, mostly rampant in Ijesaland especially Ilesa. NNDP candidates were declared winners of all the seats in the West. This called for violent reactions from UPGA, that had trained special thugs and fighters to face the onslaught of NNDP. These specialists in the art of putting houses and human beings on fire erupted with the slogan ‘Operation wet e’. As a result of this, many houses were burnt in Ilesa, particularly, more than in any part of the West. There were reports of such burning in Ikire, Akure, Ekiti and so on. The police could not stop them. Military men were therefore drafted to these areas. This was the period people commonly referred to as ‘Wild Wild West’. I lost two lorries, that I was using for commercial transportation of people and farm produce.
THE FIRST MILITARY COUP OF 1966
All these were going on till the end of 1965. While this was going on in the West, the other parts of the country were relatively peaceful. Tafawa Balewa, the Prime Minister was claiming that all was well in the country. Meanwhile, so many lives and properties were being lost in the West. No wonder, some people in the West were suspected to have influenced the military to take over. But then, Tafawa Balewa could have declared another State of Emergency in the West. After all, it was only in the West that there was violence. Perhaps the military could not have had any excuse. Nevertheless, the situation was like that, when the military struck for the first time in Nigeria, on January 15th 1966. I got hint of this from some of my old boys who were now senior officers in the Army. One of them came to give me an escort to Ibadan, in the heat of the trouble but I told him he should not bother. He told me of the plans of the military boys to strike, but I told him to keep his peace, nothing would happen to me. Moreover, my father, a deeply religious person, who was also at Ipetu then, insisted, nothing would happen, so I should remain in Ipetu to observe things. In the evening of January 15, 1966, the military struck in Lagos and killed the Prime Minister, who was breaking his fast; during the period of Muslim holy month of penitence and fasting. Chief Festus Okotieboh, the Minister of Finance too was killed. That same night, some top military brass like Ademulegun and Maimalari were also killed.
Midnight in Kaduna, Ahmadu Bello, and Premier of the Northern Region was killed. In the West, S. L. Akintola was killed but the Premiers of Mid West and East, Dennis Osadebey and Michael Okpara were spared. That was how we lost our democracy and opened the eyes of the military to the governance of Nigeria. The ceremonial president, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe was abroad. The Prime Minister, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa had been killed. Power then devolved, according to the 1963 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to the President of the Senate Dr. NwaforOrizu. It was Dr. Orizu who unconditionally signed away the fledgling democracy to the military. It was evident that the Senate President had no choice other than to comply with what the military wanted.
From: The Part To Play: An Autobiography of Chief S.T. Adelegan