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Ladoke Akintola: Reminiscence of a quintessential politician, statesman

By Akinremi Oladapo Akintola
10 July 2015   |   12:52 am
In the forefront was the Late Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, born on July 10, 1910 at Ogbomoso, in the old Western Region of Nigeria to a prominent Yoruba prince and trader. When he was four years old, his father took him to Minna in the Northern part of Nigeria, where he learnt Hausa and Nupe languages.
Akintola

Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola,

MODERN history in Nigeria begins with the outstanding contributions of many notable nationalists, politicians and statesmen, who were beacons of light in their generation.

In the forefront was the Late Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, born on July 10, 1910 at Ogbomoso, in the old Western Region of Nigeria to a prominent Yoruba prince and trader. When he was four years old, his father took him to Minna in the Northern part of Nigeria, where he learnt Hausa and Nupe languages.

But in 1922, they returned back to Ogbomoso, and continued his education at the Baptist Day School. He later went to the Baptist College (Teacher Training) in 1926 and left in 1930. The cerebral Ladoke Akintola taught at the Baptist Academy in Lagos for 12 years. During this period, an event occurred, which ended his quiet life as a teacher and he resigned in protest after the dismissal of two of his colleagues, namely Mr. E.E. Esua, Akintola Ogunjumo and Mr. Okanla.

He gave up his teaching career to become a clerk in the Railway Corporation at half the salary. Like many Nigerian politicians, SLA, (as he was fondly called) became prominent as an organiser of one of the ‘Progressive Unions’ (Ogbomoso Progressive Union), which aimed at reforms in various areas. In 1943, he became the Editor of the ‘Daily Service’ Newspaper.

As a professional journalist, the pungency of his editorial writings had a profound effect and influence on the entire nation, media and the intelligentsia in the 1940s, and 1950s. He dissected national issues and offered new perspectives on public debates and discourse. SLA was the only one who had ever held the great and erudite Zik of Africa at bay in the journalistic contests of the 1940’s and 1950s.

He sounded the clarion call for Nigerian freedom with force and clarity in his editorials written in the ‘Daily Service’. In 1946 he left the ‘Daily Service’ on a British council scholarship to study Public Administration at Oxford, but he later changed to Law. In 1950 he returned to Lagos, and became successful in the courts-and in the newly formed Action Group.

As a Minister, SLA showed himself painstaking and conciliatory which surprised some people who knew him only as a master of invectives both on the podium and in the press. In the hallowed chamber in the House of Representatives as Leader of the opposition, he proved himself as an asset to the government not only because of his quantitative reasoning and forensic skills, but also because a joke in that slow, distinct high-pitched voice, accompanied by the bright, twinkling eyes went over so well.

In 1953, he was made Minister of Health, and he was principally responsible for the establishment of the University College Teaching Hospital (UCH) in Ibadan. Distinctly, SLA scored many firsts, he was the first Chancellor of the then University of Ife (Obafemi Awolowo University), the first Leader of the Opposition in Federal Parliament, the first Minister of Labour in Nigeria, the first and only Aare Ona Kakanfo (the Supreme Commander of the Yoruba Army) in history to combine the office with that of the Premier.

Beyond this, he was the first Premier of the defunct Western Region in the Post-Independence Nigeria (Chief Awolowo’s Premiership was during the colonial era). Chief Akintola was the first Nigerian ever to negotiate and International Agreement with representatives of a foreign government, i.e. Spanish Officials in Fernando Po in 1953.

Similarly he was responsible for praying Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of England to provide the House of Representatives (then the only Legislative Chamber in Nigeria) with a Mace (the symbol of Legislative Authority in the Chamber) when the Queen and Prince Phillip visited Nigeria in 1956 (Daily Service, February 27, 1956).

SLA was also made responsible for legal matters in the House of Representatives and he introduced the Bill that enabled Nigerians to be appointed Queen’s Counsel (Q.C) now Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and later set up the Unsworth Committee which was responsible for the establishment of the Nigerian Law School in Lagos.

He was appointed Minister of Communications and Aviation in Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa’s ‘National Government’ in 1957. In that capacity, he established the Nigerian Airways in 1958. Akintola later visited Britain and the United States of America to study postal and telecommunications services, which produced impactful result.

In the various Ministries that he served and most importantly under his watch as the Premier, his administration became the center of landmark achievements, not only in Nigeria, but in the entire black race.

SLA, the orator, the humorist, the forceful campaigner, the crowd-puller, the frontline politician lived his name, OLADOKE, he rose through the ranks to the summit of his callings and excelled with distinction in each field he ventured. He reached the topmost heights of being the National President of the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM), the first ever nation-wide political party in Nigeria even before the formation of the old Action Group (AG) in 1951.

SLA as a model Parliamentarian was credited to be running the national government from the Opposition bench in Lagos. He was the Chief Architect of the ‘Politics’ of Cooperation’ in Nigeria and the martyr for the unity of the country. His winning streak was his mastery of the goe-political consensus game and ‘Politics’ without Bitterness’ in the first Republic Parliament. In fact, this pattern led to the crowning of his parliamentary career as the Leader of the Opposition when he successfully moved the historic Independence Motion on March 26, 1957 (House of Representatives Hansard, 1957 Vol. II, P.1407).

Remarkably he is widely acknowledged to have passed more epoch-making Bills and moved more Motions more than any parliamentarian living or dead in Nigeria. It is not for nothing that one authoritative compendium “Makers of Modern Africa” described him as “…the most astute politician of his time…” Chief Akintola’s 55years on earth was like a living book- a good mix of both travails and triumphs, akin to a three- volume magnum opus, the first being valiantly deplored to bring down the high walls of colonialism in Nigeria.

Secondly, and most profound among the pack, was to bring to the realisation of his people (the Yorubas) that the Western Region was not an Island unto itself, being an astute political mechanic, he pointed out again, and again that the region must be strategically positioned into the national power grid by aligning with the mainstream political front in order for it to safely arrive at the el dorado.

The third was dedicated to the advancement of his people via his ‘Politics of Cooperation’ mantra. Having courageously brought down the foundation pillars of ‘Democratic Socialism’ philosophy-an amorphous thesis and theory being propagated by his arch political opponents as an alternatives ethos.

Again, Akintola’s doctrine of ‘fair share’ philosophy touched on some sensitive issues of equitable distribution of our national commonwealth. A vast number of Nigerians-especially the younger generation knows very little or absolutely nothing about this great man.

For some obvious reasons, his political enemies manipulated the media against him and suppressed his works and achievements after his demise and often credited them to others or to themselves in their morbid bid to obliterate his memory and short-change history. Although Chief Akintola was already gone by the time a grand alliance between the north and south became a reality; his vision and mission were critical catalysts for its reality 50years later.

 

SLA rightly believed that Yorubas have the fundamental right to contribute to the building of the national edifice, the architecture of which they have contributed in designing many years back. The electoral victory of President Muhammadu Buhari cum Professor Yemi Osinbajo’s All Progressives Congress (APC) has more than confirmed that the late Chief Akintola’s thesis is not only timelessly valid, but that he has been right all the time.

The summary of his purposeful but rather short life could be summed up with this Italian word, ‘Venivici’ – simply because the 13th Field Marshal of the Yoruba Army came to the world and conquered. SLA was a political icon that will be celebrated again and again. • Dr. Akintola is a lawyer and Director in the Pan African Center, Abuja.