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Government house, Ibadan and nostalgia

By Lekan Alabi
07 December 2017   |   1:32 am
Government House, Agodi, Ibadan, Oyo State, from colonial era, through independence, till date has been the official residence of governors, civilians and military, who headed governments of the now-defunct Western Region of Nigeria....

Abiola Ajimobi, Oyo State Governor

Government House, Agodi, Ibadan, Oyo State, from colonial era, through independence, till date has been the official residence of governors, civilians and military, who headed governments of the now-defunct Western Region of Nigeria, Western State, old Oyo State and present Oyo State. The two exceptions, though, were the late Premier Obafemi Awolowo (1952 – 1959) and the late Premier Samuel Ladoke Akintola (1959 – Jan 15, 1966). While Chief Awolowo lived in his private home at Oke-Bola, Ibadan, Chief Akintola lived at the former “Premier Lodge,” Iyaganku GRA, Ibadan.

Their famous colonial predecessor, the late Sir John Rankine, a British and successors all lived in Government House (GH), Ibadan. I had the good fortune of serving four (one civilian and three military) former governors of old Oyo State (that is the present Oyo and Osun states) from 1983 to 1989, save the three-month interregnum of 1st October – 31st December, 1983, when Dr. Victor Omololu Olunloyo of the now-defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) was governor.

The four governors whom I served as press secretary were the late Chief ’Bola Ige, retired Major-General Oladayo Popoola, retired Brigadier-General Adetunji Olurin and the late Brigadier-General Sasaenia Oresanya. Since my six-year sojourn, as it were, ended gloriously in 1989, I get invited to the Government House as a guest on OYSG Protocol List.

On Friday, 1st December this year, I was again in GHI, as the representative of the Olubadan of Ibadanland, His Imperial Majesty Oba Saliu Akanmu Adetunji, Aje Ogungunniso 1, at the 1439/2017 Mawlud Nabiyy celebration of the birth of the Holy Prophet Muhammed (SAW). The event which was held at the Remembrance Arcade of the GHI, was hosted by the Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi.

The pleasurable lot to represent Kabiyesi Olubadan Adetunji fell on me about an hour to the commencement of the ceremony (10:00 a.m.) due to two reasons. First, Oba Adetunji had travelled the previous day – Thursday, November 30, 2017, to Lagos and returned late in the night to Ibadan. Quite naturally, the 250+kilometre (to and fro Lagos) journey took a toll on His Imperial Majesty who, God willing, will be 90 years old, come 26th August, 2018.

Secondly, Kabiyesi the Olubadan did not get to know about the 1439/2017 Maloud Nabiyy celebration at the Government House, Ibadan until the morning of the celebration. Why? The Oyo State Government’s formal letter of invitation to Oba Adetunji was delivered to his palace in the afternoon of the day the royal father travelled to Lagos, making palace officials to brief the Olubadan – on Friday morning, as I said earlier, the very day of the event.

Nevertheless, I obeyed Olubadan’s royal directive to represent him, thereby finding my humble self at the GHI, with the nostalgia which my presence triggered off. While the solemn Islamic sermons/prayers and speeches lasted, my mind would, quite expectedly, relive the memorable eras of my four distinguished bosses, who governed the old Oyo State between 1983 and 1989.

For lack of space, I shall recall only two memorable events in this piece. After the 1983 General Elections were over, the defunct Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) declared the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the presidential candidate of the now-defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) a loser, and UPN’s governorship candidate in Oyo State, Chief ’Bola Ige, my boss and mentor, who was the incumbent state governor, a loser, as well.

Chief Awolowo, accepted his defeat with equanimity, while Chief Ige, challenged his defeat by filing his objection with the Election Petition Panel which sat at the Oyo State High Court, formerly located at Iyaganku, Ibadan.

One day in 1983, after attending the funeral service of the founding Vice-Chancellor of the former University of Ife, now called Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, State of Osun, which held at the University of Ibadan, Chief Awolowo came to the GHI for lunch and a scheduled address to selected UPN chieftains and followers.

Both the lunch and address, however, did not hold, as Chief Awolowo, in a very pensive mood, told the gathering, headed by Governor Ige and his colleagues from Ondo, Ogun, Lagos and Bendel States to “please go home peacefully and appeal to our people to remain calm”. He warned that nobody should cause trouble or riot in any form, as signs of their protests against the unfavourable election results declared by FEDECO.

Chief Awolowo, predicted on the GHI lawns that afternoon that “God will correct all the electoral ills of FEDECO”. He urged his agitated audience, and indeed all Nigerians, to “pray and fast for three days, starting from 28th December, 1983 and see the wonders that will follow”. True to Chief Awolowo’s prediction, the Nigerian military, led by the duo of retired General Muhamadu Buhari, now Nigeria’s sitting civilian President and the late Major-General Babatunde Idiagbon, toppled the civilian governments at Federal and States levels on 31st December, 1983, the end of the 3-day fast.

My second recall was the traditional visit of one of the five most –revered masquerades of Ibadan, “Alapannsanpa”, to one of the three military governors, at the GHI during that year’s “Egungun Festival”. It was the norm for “Alapannsanpa” to perform a mock whipping of the chief occupant of GHI. Mock or real, which masquerade will raise his whip against a soldier, or officer, talk-less a military governor!

But, since the ‘token’ traditional ‘beating’ must be done, I was selected, being the only Ibadan among the military governor’s personal staff, for the “Alapannsanpa’s” ‘gift’! Immediately I stepped out, the traditional drummers, on recognising me, started chanting “Iponriku, omo Tinuade, o s’Oloolu mo Gege. O s’Oloolu” Translated to mean “Iponriku, son of Tinuade, you tied Oloolu masquerade down at Gege. You tied Oloolu down.” True indeed, Iponriku masquerade had, in decades past, cast a spell on Oloolu which made the latter to remain on the same spot at Gege area of Ibadan. It took the intervention of the then reigning Olubadan before Iponriku freed Oloolu, after the former had completed his traditional tours of the city. Ibadans and anyone familiar with our history know that both the “Iponriku” masquerade, my Ekerin Ajengbe Family’s masquerade and Oloolu, the masquerade which females are forbidden to see, are two of the most dreaded Ibadan masquerades.

As a result, Alapannsanpa masquerade declined to whip/touch me, a descendant of the Ekerin Ajengbe Family, Ibadan, owners of “Iponriku” masquerade. “Nwon ki i fi omo Ore bo Ore (You don’t sacrifice a child of Ore (a deity) to it (Ore). The ADC to the Military Governor received the ceremonial whip instead of me.

As I wrote earlier, my representation of Kabiyesi Olubadan Adetunji, Aje Ogungunniso 1 at this year’s Maloud Nabiyy celebration hosted by Governor Ajimobi at the Government House, Agodi, GRA, Ibadan, Oyo State, certainly evoked some nostalgia in me.Alabi is Agba Akin Olubadan of Ibadanland and a former press secretary to four former governors of old Oyo State (1983 – 1989).