Lessons of history for Oba Akiolu
LAGOS or Eko, apart from being cosmopolitan, is the largest city in Sub-Saharan Africa, with population as large as Ghana’s. Apart from being the business hub of Nigeria, it is the second fastest growing city in Africa and the seventh in the world.
At the Legislative Council of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, an Igbo man was the member representing Lagos between 1947 and 1951 and Zik later became the leader of the opposition in the Western Region House of Assembly between 1952 and 1953, before becoming member for Onitsha in the Eastern House of Assembly and later Premier of the Eastern Region House of Assembly between 1954 and 1960, after he had dislodged Professor Eyo Ita, the then Premier of the Eastern Region.
It is a common historical fact that Dr. Azikiwe, an Igbo man, would have become the first Premier and Leader of the government business of the Western Region in 1952 but for the deft political moves and sagacity of members of the Ibadan People’s Party (IPP), who won all the six parliamentary seats in Ibadan. Of the six elected IPP members, only Chief Adegoke Adelabu, the stormy petrel of the Western Region politics joined the NCNC and the rest of the members – A.M.A Akinloye, Chief Daniel T. Akinbiyi (who later became the Olubadan of Ibadan), Chief S. Owoole Lanlehin, Moyosore Aboderin, S.A Akinyemi opted for the Action Group to swell the ranks of the 38 elected members, to enable the Action Group form the government of the Western Region to the deep dismay, bewilderment and consternation of the NCNC who had thought that their leader would lead the first regional government and become the first Premier of the Western Region.
The NCNC/Independent had 25 members, IPP, six (6); Ondo Improvement League, two (2); Out Edo candidates won the three (3) Benin seats, namely Chief S.O. Ighodalo, Chief Humphrey Omo-Osagie, Chief Chike Ekwuyasi. Ighodalo opted for the AG while the latter two went to the NCNC.
The three AG secretaries, who had run as independents, were Chief M.O. Awosika from Ondo Improvement League and Chief Timothy Adeola Odutola (Independent, Ijebu-Ode) and Chief Osuntokun from Oke-Imesi Ekiti had swelled the number of the AG elected members.
All these transactions had taken place before the inauguration of the Regional Parliament in 1952, unknown to the NCNC. The AG had successfully lured 20 victorious candidates of the smaller rival parties to form the Regional Government of the Western Region from its 38 members, thus truncating the ambition of Dr. Azikiwe in the region. It was a masterstroke and Dr. Azikwe, till death, could not get out of this shock.
The AG-led government, by way of compensation, appointed Chief A.M.A Akinloye as the Minister of Agricultural Resources. The battle line had been drawn and Dr. Azikwe – the Owele of Onitsha, had no choice than to go back home, that is to the Eastern Region.
Professor Eyo Ita, though from the minority group of the COR (Cross River, Ogoja River axis), was at this time of Dr. Azikwe’s travails in the Western Region, Leader of Government Business, Eastern Region of Nigeria and was in office from 1951-1953 when he was supplanted through intrigues, manipulations and subterfuge by Dr. Azikwe who was the leader of opposition in the Western Regional Assembly to become the Leader, Government Business of the Eastern Region in 1953.
The NCNC was then majorly referred to as the Igbo Party, whilst the AG was usually referred to also as Yoruba Party.
In the heat of the Regional crisis in 1962, the member representing Ajeromi/ Ifelodun/Badagry in Lagos was an Igbo – Hon. E. Ebubedike, from Ozubulu in present-day Anambra State. Ebubedike on May 25, 1962 was the honourable member who broke the maze – the insignia of authority of the Parliament and threw it at the Speaker of the Parliament – Prince Adeleke Adedoyin, which ignited the fracas that eventually led to the closure of the Parliament and the eventual declaration of the State of Emergency in the Western Region on May 29, 1962. This incidence later snowballed into military take-over of January 15, 1966.
It is a funny coincidence that the same seat held by Hon. Ebubedike, an Igbo man, in Ajeromi/Ifelodun/Badagry Constituency in the First Republic, has now gone back to Mr. Oghene Egbo, who recently won the Amuwo-Odofin Federal Constituency of Lagos on the platform of PDP in the March 28, 2015 federal elections.
In the politics of Lagos and its environs, the Igbos and its acolytes have always held sway. Alhaji Adegoke Adelabu (Pekelemesi), Chief Theophilus O.S Benson, Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya, Chief Olu Akinfosile were distinguished and notable Yoruba politicians in their life-time and were equally close confidants of the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe. T.O.S Benson (Nigeria’s first Minister of Information) had earlier won the Yaba Federal seat for the NCNC and in 1964 ran again as Independent Candidate to defeat his former Constituency Secretary, Maduagwu Moronu, an Oba man of the Igbo clan; as a candidate for Yaba Federal seat.
Oba Adeyinka Oyekan II (February 1965 – March 2003) was the immediate predecessor of Oba Rilwan Akiolu, who was member of the Western House of Chiefs, during the Western Regional crisis which resulted in the loss of lives. He was regarded as a pacifist and a bridge- builder during his reign as Oba of Lagos. He was amiable and easy-going and was one of Nigeria’s early pharmacists, having read Pharmacy at Yaba College of Higher Education, Yaba Lagos.
His immediate predecessor, Oba Musendiku Buraimo Adeniji Adele, Oba of Lagos, Vice-President of the Nigerian Senate, the Federal Upper House in 1960 and President, Lagos Town Council was awarded CBE (Commander of the British Empire) and KBE (Knight of the British Empire) in 1956 and 1962 respectively by the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II. He was a completely detribalized Oba, having worked as Provincial Treasurer in Kano.
Oba Rilwan Akiolu II, the current Lagos monarch, has a lot to learn from these two distinguished forebears and rulers, who in their lifetime, were noble, humble, resourceful, amiable, charismatic but not autocratic.
Perhaps, we need to remind his imperial majesty of the immortal words of George Santayana, “those who do not know history are doomed to repeat its failures.”
It is against this backdrop that the diatribe of the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, the other day against the Igbo in Lagos really calls for wide condemnation and public reproach by peace-loving Nigerians. The hate speech apparently shows a complete lack of understanding of the history of Lagos by the Lagos Potentate.
•Kehinde is a lawyer and former member of the House of Representatives.