Posted by News Express | 27 August 2015 | 3,962 times
Gbadamosi Adegoke Adelabu was born on September 3, 1915, incidentally my birth date. Due to his brilliance, he obtained UAC’s scholarship to study in a higher institution. He later became the first African to rise to the position of manager in UAC.
He delved into politics and represented his constituency in political positions. He and Chief Adisa Akinloye co-founded a political party, named Ibadan People’s Party, which later formed alliance with the defunct National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC), headed by Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe.
Gbadamosi Adegoke Adelabu got elected into the Western Region parliament in 1954. While his colleagues in NCNC cross-carpeted to former Action Group (AG), Adelabu stayed back in NCNC, and became leader of opposition in the Western House. Chief Adelabu was later appointed a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Unfortunately, he died in a ghastly motor accident in 1958, at the age of 43.
Chief Adelabu was a renowned grassroots politician. He would enter bukateria (local restaurant) and eat amala and gbegiri (Ibadan’s delicacy) with the commoners and pay the bill of all in the restaurant. Either invited or not, he joined commoners in their celebration of events. In fact, Chief Adelabu was always found in the social gathering of the commoners than the gathering of the elite. There was a story of him that when he was appointed a federal minister, and was allocated a Cadillac as official car, he drove the vehicle to a market in Ibadan. And when people gathered in admiration of the limousine, he asked them whether to accept the vehicle from the Federal Government or reject it. People around unanimously asked him to accept the vehicle. He asked them to enter the vehicle and he drove them around in batches.
Adelabu’s name will not be complete without including penkelemess. He was a great public speaker. His reference of an issue as peculiar mess earned him the name penkelemess from the people. Immediately he mentioned peculiar mess, the drummers orchestrated it and people started singing ‘Adelabu penkelemess, penkelemess.’
Former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, is an Owu-Egba man from the same western part of Nigeria. His world of mendacity started from his early life, when he was preparing to seek admission into secondary school. Some of his friends told him he would not be admitted into secondary school since he was above the age of 12 and above certain height; that certainly he was above. Because of his desperation for admission into secondary school, he had to falsely declare his birth date as March 5, 1937 and had to feign bow-leg in order to get admission to Baptist Secondary School, Abeokuta. One lie leads to the other, and to the other, until one is enmeshed in the world of lies.
While in the Nigerian Army, Obasanjo was a close friend of Major Kaduna Nzeogwu, leader of the first coup in Nigeria. Though then Major Olusegun Obasanjo had arrived from a foreign course when the planning of the coup was at advanced stage, however, Nzeogwu would have intimated his cordial friend about the coup, if he had had that weighty trust in him. However, Obasanjo learnt about the coup like every other officer in the Army then. What a friend not needed.
When General Muritala Muhammed was assassinated in the 1976 coup, as the next in command to the late head of state, who was supposed to take over the mantle of leadership of the country, Obasanjo was jittery and wanted to retire. But he was persuaded, encouraged and assured of support by Major General T.Y. Danjuma, before he could get out of his cowardice and made national broadcast as the military head of state. In a newspaper interview, a Yoruba retired General said he had gone to the then Head of State, General Obasanjo to advise him on the policies of his government that could lead to marginalisation of Yoruba army officers and people in general. And Obasanjo responded by calling his second in command, Major-General Musa Yar’Adua, a Hausa man, and asked him to repeat what he told him to Yar’Adua. The Yoruba general became livid and left Obasanjo’s office, the following day, the retirement of the Yoruba army General was announced.
During the 1979 electioneering, while General Obasanjo was the head of state brokering the transitional programme, he made a public statement that the best candidate may not be the winner of the election, thus giving impression of bias. The election was conducted and Alhaji Shehu Shagari was declared winner. While the petition of Chief Obafemi Awolowo was still in court, General Obasanjo had invited Shagari to the State House for handing over process.
Meanwhile, under the leadership of General Obasanjo, as military head of state, the Supreme Court delivered a judgment that they could not be proud of, as their judgment on the infamous 12.2/3rd of 19 was declared a judgment not to be referred to as legal authority. The judgment was in favour of Alhaji Shehu Shagari against Chief Obafemi Awolowo. While I am not canvassing favouritism for Awolowo, I am suspecting presidential influence in the victory of Alhaji Shagari in the entire process of the 1979 transition.
After the annulment of June 12, 1993 election, there was internal and foreign agitation for de-annulment of the election that was believed to have been won by Alhaji Moshood Abiola, Obasanjo, in a forum at South Africa, declared that Abiola was not the messiah of Nigerian politics. Many saw the statement as discouraging to the struggle for de-annulment.
In the 1999 transitional process, the Northern caucus believed the South-west should be compensated with the president of the nation. However, they were much concerned about the personality that would be of benefit to their regional interest. They found their candidate in Chief Obasanjo, and were able to persuade him to contest for president of Nigeria, against his earlier expression: “I don’t know how many presidents they want to make of me.”
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo contested the 1999 presidential election. His lovers, northerners voted for him, while his kinsmen, the Yoruba voted against him. Against the foregoing backdrop, Obasanjo’s reference to Adegoke Adelabu as his hero is a mis-judgment, misdirection and defamation of character. A hero is a person you admire and aspire to walk in his ways. Obasanjo’s way is parallel to Adelabu’s way. Adelabu was a man of the people. He loved Ibadan people and Ibadan people loved him. Yes, Adelabu believed in pan Africanism, but he did not give impression that he could sacrifice the steady progress, priorities and values of his own kinsmen for national absurdity and structural awkwardness.
I will like Obasanjo to realise that being a former head of state does not confer charismatic power on a person. It is the value you have added to people’s life that accords indelible respect. He should also realise that being a connoisseur of wine with self-respect is better than being an everlasting rabble-rouser.
•Oyeleye is an Ibadan-based poet and novelist. Photo shows Obasanjo.
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