Saturday, March 6, 2021
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One striking occurrence in the society in modern times is the lack of knowledge of the contributions of eminent Nigerians to national development. Several decades ago, such subjects as Civics and History were taught even in elementary schools. Secondary school students of those days had knowledge of occurrences all over the world, as they were informed about developments like going on the moon, and technological advancements. What happens today? The younger ones are more interested in ‘’rappings’’ that convey no specific messages; and are largely unaware of historical developments, particularly political developments that could shape their knowledge of how they could be useful citizens in the quest to build a greater Nigeria. In this account, TERRIFIC HEADLINEStreats the issue of party supremacy, that was prevalent even until the demise of the Second Republic in 1983.

As recorded his autobiography: ‘The Part To Play,’ Hon. S.T. Adelegan, Deputy Speaker, Western Region House of Assembly disclosed that: ‘’In the First Republic, there was party discipline and self-discipline.  Members faced expulsion from the party if they failed to attend meetings and sittings. ‘’Therefore, Parliamentary sessions 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.’’

Apparently, it was possible for political parties in those days to enforce discipline because members themselves were disciplined and had respect for constituted authorities. It was possible because political party functionaries were not installed by entrenched interests and the wealthy on account of influence. No Premier or Head of Government got his Certificate of Return from the Electoral body and handed it over to his or her sponsor as agreed before elections took place. It was unlikely that people likeDaudaSoroyeAdegbenro, Jonathan Odebiyi,Abraham Adesanya, Remi Fani Kayode, J.O Osuntokun, BabajideOlowofoyeku,J.E. Babatola,and other brilliant minds would have agreed to be teleguided against their conscience by any leader. They acted on principle.And they were very bold because they had ‘’second addresses’’ or professions and jobs to which they could return should they fail to be reelected to the Legislature.

Available records also indicate that most of those politicians were bold, courageous, patriotic, and were always prepared to voice out their sentiments, without being branded rebels by their political leaders. In fact, their boldness and approach earned them the respect and admiration of their political leaders, who relied very much on their inputs.Additionally, there was no imposition. Up till 1979, Chief Obafemi Awolowo had the power and authority to direct late Chief Bola Ige to stand down for late Archdeacon Emmanuel Alayande (Pa Awolowo’s friend for several decades) who was also interested in becoming the governor of the old Western State. Bola Ige dared not refuse Awolowo’s directive.  But Awolowo allowed the candidate of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria, Bola Ige to emerge through the democratic process, indicating that Awolowo was not a dictator.Manipulation of party activities was very difficult. And participatory democracy was more meaningful with immense activities at the grassroots. No candidate could emerge without going through the local party primaries where the most popular candidates emerged. It was not until 1983 that the bug of changing political parties in order to contest elections and benefit from politics took the political scene by storm.

It would appear that there is the need for the younger generation to read about the patriotic contributions of notable personalities to societal development in order to create the feelings of empathy. In this account, read about how the ACTION GROUP reduced the emoluments of political functionaries through party supremacy, how Dennis Osadebey aided the creation of the defunct MidWest Region, and how Nathaniel Ayo Ajibola served his constituency selflessly. Up till the Second Republic, parties were relatively more respected and supreme than what we have today. But it must also be stated that politicians of those periods were very independent minded, and very cosmopolitan.

This is an account recorded by late Hon. S.T. Adelegan: Oba C.D. Akran represented Badagry West.  He was one of the strongest leaders of the Action Group until he crossed to NNDP.  In the days of Action Group, he was Minister of Economic Planning and Community Development.  We were not really friends then; even though we were in the House together. He was serving the second term; but he was not in good tune with me.  I remember an occasion when members who had big cars wanted to change their cars for smaller ones.  All we needed to do was to sell the cars to the Government.  I wanted to change my Pontiac to Mercedes Benz.  I did not know the system was not as easy as it used to be.  Rufus Oyinlola, who was the Transport Officer, valued my car and I took the report to Jonathan Odebiyi, the then Minister of Finance. He told me to take it to Oba Akran, Minister for Economic Planning and because he was not disposed to me; he referred me to the Premier.  The Premier who knew what this meant, also directed me back to Oba Akran to continue in a circle.  That was a price I paid for being scrupulously inclined to Action Group.  But then I thought we all were still disposed to Awolowo.  Before long, I could see things have changed.  Most of Awo’s erstwhile Ministers in Chief S. L. Akintola’s Cabinet were not happy because their allowances were cut when Awolowo declared austerity measure in the West; even though he was not the Premier.  But then, he was the Leader of the Party and the Party was supreme.

The relationship between Oba Akran and I became kindled during the second half of our term in the House.  That was the time I became acting Speaker for a long period, due to the ill health of Eluyemi, my Speaker.  Oba Akran called me ‘Darling Speaker’ and would want me to become substantive Speaker.  He kept pouring encomium on me in such words like ‘who else could be Speaker other than Adelegan?’  I intimated Oba Akran about some opposition at home.  I told him I have decided not to go for another term, because I did not believe in politics of bitterness and violence, the type, which was already in motion at home.  But Oba Akran kept asking, who would be the Speaker?’  He believed I would do it better than anybody else.  The way I was leading the House as presiding officer at that time really pleased him and other members of the House, including the opposition members.  Oba Akran was very serious about this; he told me of the plan to delineate my constituency to carve out a new one for me.  This was with the intention of returning me as Mr. Speaker in December 1965.  But at this time, I had made up my mind to quit politics because of the manner in which politics was being practiced with violence.  I was not favourably disposed to all the hooliganism and violence.

I could not forget the contribution of Oba Akran towards the completion of the water project at IpetuIjesa.  The project was initially budgeted at £60,000.  There was need for the project to be expanded to other areas outside Ipetu-Ijesa.  The expansion shot up the project to over two hundred and fifty thousand pounds (£250,000). He was the person who helped us to push forth the difference.   Oba Akran explained to me, the silence of S. L. Akintola when we took to him, the decision of Ijesa North to join him, in forming his Government in 1963.  Oba Akran told me that Akintola was silent because, he wanted to take my matter to his Cabinet members and to take a joint decision concerning me. That time, I was not going to ask for any position; neither did I think of retaining my position as Deputy Speaker.  But then I knew I would still maintain my seat, after all my entire constituency would not be scrapped.  I later found out the contribution of Oba Akran in the Cabinet meeting in respect of this subject.  I was told he presented me well before the Cabinet and he recommended that I should remain the Deputy Speaker.  All this made me to forget about his earlier hostile disposition when he did not allow me to sell my Pontiac car to the Government.  We later became good friends.

In the course of discharging my duty as an Electoral Officer, I had become close to some notable politicians and I met quite a number of them.  Among them was Chief Dennis Osadebey, who later became the first Premier of the Mid West Region that was created in 1963.  He was the Leader of Opposition in the Western Region House and member of the NCNC.  By the time I came to the House, I had further direct contact with him.  That time, he was re-elected to the Western House and represented Asaba Constituency.  He was such a humourous and thorough gentleman.  I remember in one of our Parliamentary meetings, he moved to cut the vote of the then Minister of Works by one shilling.  He stated humorously that “I went to his house one day, and he entertained me with half bottle of Heineken beer”.  Everybody burst to laughter.  He was never known to be boisterous in the House.  He spoke gently and his manner was gentle and truly honourable. He knew what he wanted and how to get it.  He cooperated with Chief S. L. Akintola and later succeeded in carving out Mid-West from the West, and eventually became the Premier.  He was a poet and lawyer who served his people relentlessly.  We enjoyed reading his article in the Pilot.

He was Minister of State for Education in the Western Region. Ayo Ajibola was my personal friend since 1941, when we entered St. Andrews College, Oyo.  We worked together at the Ibadan District Council Education Department.  He was Travelling Teacher in charge of Ibadan North while I was Chief Education Officer for the whole Division.  We were also related by marriage. His junior brother, OlatinwoAjibola married my wife’s junior sister, Mope.  Ayo Ajibola was so ardent against S. L. Akintola, when Action Group became factionalized in 1962.  We were in the Western House together.  He represented Ibadan Rural North Rural.  Incidentally, he was also a former Chairman of Ibadan District Council, Mapo.

When the restriction order was slammed on him in 1962, he was restricted to Oleh in MidWest.  The day he was going to Oleh, we received him in Ipetu-Ijesa in order to encourage him and cheer him up and followed him to Igbara-Oke.  At the open market place in Igbara-Oke, we made a show to encourage support for Action Group.  Ironically, however, he came back from Oleh early in 1963, to join the Akintola Group.  He informed me that Akintola had formed the government, because, he would have the majority.  He had been named Minister of State for Education and Dr. SanyaOnabamiro too has been named the Minister for Education.  He intimated me with plans being worked out that if I failed to support Akintola’s group, my school would not stay, and my constituency would be merged with Ilesa Urban Rural.  I became convinced and I realized that if I really wanted to edify my community and my school, I could not stay in opposition.  Ajibola was an Educationist, kind hearted, humorous, and a faithful friend.  We remained good friends till his death.  He founded Iroko Community Grammar School, and made S. A. Akinyemi, another classmate of ours, the Principal.

(Culled From: The Part to Play: An Autobiography of Chief S.T. Adelegan  Deputy Speaker, Western Region House of Assembly)

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