Friday, 2nd June 2023

The Adegoke ‘Penkelemeesi’ Adelabu Phenomenon

By Lekan Alabi
26 March 2023   |   2:22 am
On March 25,1958, 65 years ago, the bundle of academic, political and traditional wizardry, Alhaji Adegoke Adelabu, alias 'Penkelemeesi', died in a motor accident at Remo area on the old Lagos-Ibadan Road, aged 43.


On March 25,1958, 65 years ago, the bundle of academic, political and traditional wizardry, Alhaji Adegoke Adelabu, alias ‘Penkelemeesi’, died in a motor accident at Remo area on the old Lagos-Ibadan Road, aged 43.

Yesterday, March 25, the five traditional councils in the local councils that make up the Ibadan Municipality: Ibadan South East, Ibadan South West, Ibadan North, Ibadan North West and Ibadan North East hosted the 65th Adegoke Adelabu Memorial Lecture. Venue was the historic Mapo Hall, Oja Iba, Ibadan from where Adelabu ran the affairs of the now-defunct Ibadan District Council (IDC) as Chairman in the early 1950s

He had been a Federal Minister, Leader of Opposition in the defunct Western Region House of Assembly. Adelabu was poised to contest for the premiership of the Western Region in the 1959 General Elections, and had travelled to Lagos to negotiate the rising interests on a bank loan he and the Syrian textile importer had taken for the election campaign clothing material, when the motor accident occurred. It was during that year’s (1958) Ramadan.

A former Governor of old Oyo State, a sterling mathematician, engineer, essayist and politician, Dr. Victor Omololu Olunloyo, delivered the lecture. In his ideological book, Africa In Ebullition, published in 1952, with the foreword written by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Adelabu enunciated deep theories to set the blackman free from political and economic slavery chains hanged on his neck by the imperialists.
I quote Adelabu’s stand on merit, as published on page 49 of his book:

“I want a career open to talent. I want opportunities based on merit. I want the son of the Junkun farmer in Benue province, the son of the Fulani herdsman in Sokoto, the son of a cocoa plantation labourer in Ibadan, the son of a railway porter at Enugu, as well as the second sons of their Highnesses the Emir of Katsina, the Ooni of Ife and the Obi of Onitsha to stand an equal chance of succeeding Dr. Kenneth Mellanby as the next Principal of Ibadan University College. Such a career is open to talent in America. Such a career is open to talent in England. Such a career is open to talent in Germany. We shall labour without respite until such a career is open to talent in our own Nigeria.”

Such was the egalitarian mindset of Adelabu, over 71 years ago! He was centuries ahead of his time.
As a student from kindergarten, primary classes, through secondary school to Nigeria’s highest institution then, the Yaba Higher College, Adelabu never took second position. He was always the first in all examinations. Hear him again.

“I attended the Saint David’s C.M. S Elementary School, Kudeti, the C.M.S Central School, Mapo, the Government College, all of Ibadan, and the old Higher College at Yaba. I had a brilliant scholastic career, earning accelerated promotions on three occasions in the elementary, primary and secondary schools respectively. Despite this, I never took second position throughout my school days. Instead, I was always several laps ahead of my runner-up, and, not infrequently, saved tutors from tight holes.”

His classmate at GCI, the late Professor Saburi Biobaku, in his autobiography, corroborated Adelabu’s educational claims, when he (Biobaku) opined that rather than go into politics, Adelabu should have headed for the academics, where his star would have shone brighter than that of a mirror placed in the sun.
But, as it happens in history, meteors like Adelabu shine for short times, but their incredible achievements linger forever.

My humble self as the founding Chairman of the Adegoke Adelabu Foundation, and the eldest grandchild of Mama Asma’u Odunola Alabi, the late Woman Leader of the NCNC in Ibadan in the 1950s under Adegoke Adelabu, one still hears the echoes of the avatar whenever he paid his party’s Woman Leader a visit at our Ekerin Ajengbe Family home at SW1/131,Isale-Osi Area, Ibadan.
Oloye Alabi, Ekefa Olubadan of Ibadanland

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