The evolution of leaderships in Ogbomoso
Invited Paper presented on January 15, 2010 at the Ogbomoso Stakeholders’ Forum Lecture in Remembrance of the Assassination of Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola on January 15, 1966.
I have had the privilege of access to three important historical sources on Ogbomoso. These are Iwe Itan Ogbomoso Oyerinde (1934), Ogbomoso: The Journey so Far (Adelowo, 2000) and a number of issues of Irawo Owuro Magazine (edited by the indefatigable Mogaji Adisa Adeleye—Omo Labosin-- since 1986!). While Irawo Owuro has been addressing historical and contemporary issues borrowing from Oyerinde (Ibid) and Johnson (op cit), Oyerinde borrowed from Johnson (Ibid) and other sources while Adelowo relied heavily on Oyerinde and many other sources.
Generally, the foregoing sources focused on unique individuals (Obas, Chiefs, professionals, businessmen and women, warriors etc.) and unique events. But unique individuals and events are often construed as the products of certain repetitive processes in human history. As Batra (1987: pp. 2) observed:
The two approaches as are not antithetical and unique events and individuals can be the triggering mechanisms that explode broad social forces or set them off in new directions.
Analysts and historians need herculean courage to write history or analyse contemporary events objectively especially when a society is in deep crisis as Nigeria is in today. Oyerinde (op cit) observed (pp. 5):
Ibaru ki je ki onitan fe so itan “A ko mo ohun ti yio gbehin re”! li ohun ti won nwi. Onpuro si po ju onpitan lo.
Beyond all of these, class predilections predispose historical analysis and interpretations to be selective about the significance of events and roll calls of heroines and heroes. In contrast, for example, to the attention given to Egbe Olorunda (established in 1922) in Ogbomoso, very limited attention was given to the heroism of ordinary people in their contemporaneous resistance against colonial administration on forced labour on the Ilorin-Ogbomoso Road (Ise Oju Ona) and the introduction of new currency (owo sile) which enabled the British authorities to impose and collect taxes and integrate Yorubaland into the British colonial economy. The question here is not about the desirability of “modernisation” but illegitimacy of British occupation and which interests this occupation served! This was the time of Resident S.M. Grier Esq. and Senior Resident Captain W.A. Ross. The heroes of the resistance against excessive tax in 1955 and 1956 remain unsung; neither were the farmers who were martyrs of the Agbekoya Uprisings of 1969 acknowledged. Many of them were Ogbomoso hanged unceremoniously by the military authorities at Ibadan. In this regard it was also significant that Falola’s account (2009) of Adelabu who became President of Ibadan Tax Payers’ Association (ITPA) about 1953 did not mention Tafa Adeoye and the martyrs of Agbekoya Uprisings--the mass movement against excessive taxation in Western Region in 1969!
Is the problem of leadership in Ogbomoso unique? Who are the leaders in a town or community? What do they do?
My answer to this question is that the problem of leadership in Ogbomoso is not unique. The same types of forces (political, social, economic, cultural, psychological and intellectual) are at play in Ogbomoso, Kano, Osogbo, Nnewi, Ibadan, Ijebu-Ode, Pategi, Ikenne, Oko, Ikirun and Gombe etc.
My evidence is theoretical and empirical. Given all the forces that are at play in an underdeveloped economy and the social bases of the mainstream of alleged leaders in such societies, individuals towns, cities and communities, they cannot rise above the general situation of the nations in which they are situated. This is because “leaderships” have class character rather than town, tribal or community character. Communities in which this theory and its empirical appurtenances do not hold will be very rare indeed! And this is why there is overwhelming and generalised identity of poverty and deprivation among the masses of the Nigerian people (arising from urban decay, unemployment, crumbling educational institutions, lack of recreational facilities, poor or non-existing water supply, etc.) and generalised and legendary affluence among those who call themselves leaders across Nigeria.
Do not misunderstand me. There are people who really love their country, their town, their communities. There are people who love Ogbomoso fanatically; full-time not part-time. I have met some of them such as Mogaji Adisa Adeleye, Prince J.S. Oyeniya Ayo Adelowo, Iyiola Olabisi, Ayanitayo Ayandele, L.A. Gbadamosi, S.T.Ojo, Dapo Atanda, John Akin Akintola, Afolabi Okewole and the late Gbadebo A. Alasoko, Christopher Laogun Adeoye and Chief Ladoke Akintola himself. One of those that had influenced me most is Christopher Agboola Ajao; I have never met him! Of course there are those that I have only read about including intellectual giants such as N.D. Oyerinde and Reverends J.O. Adediran and Emmanuel Oladele Agboola.
These were all largely Ogbomoso of the nationalist epoch in Nigeria with the exception of two or three young ones of today’s generation. They were also people who love humanity and Nigeria; they are mostly intellectuals in their own rights. I am not implying that fanaticism about Ogbomoso is necessary a virtue. One can be fanatical about Ogbomoso without being a worthy human being as such individuals may want to defend Ogbomoso right or wrong. This is what those “leaders” who exploit Ogbomoso rely upon to feather their own nests and promote their private interests. They exploit Ogbomoso-ism to label groups and individuals as “enemies” in order to advance their private, class, group and individual interests. It is these same “they” and “us” that ethnic irredentists use across Nigeria and manipulate to divide ordinary people in order to sustain their group and class hegemonies In any case, there were many non-indigenes of Ogbomoso such as Professor Ita and Engr. Ben Faluyi who have contributed more to the progress of Ogbomoso than many of the vociferous indigenes will ever contribute (Adelowo, 2000)!
A good and worthy Ogbomoso person does not necessarily have to be an Ogbomoso “activist”. He simply needs to be a good example of a Nigerian patriot, humanist, honest and hard-working “omoluabi” wherever he is—a good human specimen who happens, by accident of birth to be Ogbmoso.
My suspicion is that authentic leadership (actual and potential) in various parts of our country has not coalesced into a critical quantum because it has not been able to break free from the traditional groupings, loyalties and mindsets that have kept our people divided and allowed opportunists and self-seekers to divide and exploit them. Effective, principled and faithful organisations need to be built on that quantum. Building such organisations has both local and national components because those who want to maintain the status quo also have local and national components. We talk so much about unity that “unity” per se had become a fetter to progress and purposive action. Unity is good for the pursuit of truth and good cause. But people also often unite to pursue shadows; to pursue anachronistic and base causes!
The Ladoke Akintola Phenomenon and the Nigerian Nationalist Movement.
We are not likely to have a firm grasp of the all-round deterioration of leadership at our local and national levels until we understand the milieu in which the political consciousness of Ladoke Akintola’s generation developed; the post-independence crisis in the political movements of that generation and military interventions which created the current buccaneer class whose virulence has escalated with current rampaging neo-liberal ideology of primitive private accumulation and individualism.
I will rely heavily on the hand-written Toast of Mr. S.L. Akintola at the Reception accorded him by Ogbomoso Community Lagos at the Glover Memorial Hall, Lagos on Saturday April 22, 1950 by Gabriel Adebayo Otunla (of blessed memory) for my understanding of Ladoke Akintola’s early life as a worker, nationalist, journalist, anti-colonial and anti-exploitation activist in London in the late 1940s. This document was kindly (jointly) made available to me by Baba Christopher Agboola Ajao and Mogaji Adisa Adeleye whose intellectual commitment to Nigerian people and Ogbomoso I must gratefully and fully acknowledge here.
Ladoke Akintola graduated from the Baptist College and Seminary as a trained teacher in 1930 and was posted to teach at Baptist Academy (Lagos) where he taught with dedication for all of a full decade. He joined the service of the Nigerian Railways in 1941 from where he was appointed Assistant Editor and, a year later, Editor of the nationalist newspaper—Daily Service. Ladoke Akintola knew very early as a student and teacher that the unfolding scenario in colonised territories would require intellectual galvanisation for those who would spearhead the nationalist struggle for liberation from colonialism. As a teacher, and later as a journalist, he invested substantial portions of his income in books on philosophy, logic, journalism, ethics, political science and history.
There were critical stories that the SLA toast at Glover Hall on April 22, 1950 may not have captured. For example, while at the Baptist Academy in the early 1930s, Ladoke Akintola was already at the centre of nationalist struggle and international anti-imperialist movement and agitation. He was a prominent member of the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM) which started as Lagos Youth Movement (LYM) in 1934 and renamed itself Nigerian Youth Movement in 1936. According to Arifalo (2001: p.38).
We must add that both Ikoli and Davies were also journalists and Ladoke Akintola succeeded Ernest Ikoli as Editor of Daily Service which SLA edited when he left the service of the Railways. We must also note that the Daily Service newspaper started as Service—a newsletter of the NYM.
In 1930, the NYM published its The Nigerian Youth Charter and it had branches all over the country—Ibadan, Warri, Benin City, Ijebu-Ode, Aba, Enugu, Port-Harcourt, Calabar, Jos, Kaduna, Zaria, Kano, Sapele, Ilesa, Uyo, Ejinrin, Makurdi and Yelwa (Arifalo, 2001: p. 43).
The subsequent bickering in the nationalist movement and the schism between NNDP led by Macaulay and Azikiwe on one hand and the NYM on the other fractured the nationalist movement and paved the way for the emergence and/or strengthening of ethnic=nationalist (tribal) organisations like Egbe Omo Oduduwa, Igbo State Union, etc. around 1945. Various excuses had been canvassed for the alleged inevitability of these break-ups (Arifalo, 2001; Ajasin, 2003). What is undisputable, in my view, are the problems, among the main actors, of personal political ambitions, megalomania, careless and disruptive public statements, indecent commitments to political short-cuts and lack of fundamental faith in the possible emergence of a pan-Nigerian vision. These problems afflicted not only practising politicians but the intellectuals that were associated with them. This problem is, of course, compounded by the ambivalence of the main actors of the passion to lead this same Nigeria which they constantly claim to be unviable. These problems have remained with us because the pivotal interests of ordinary working people who bear the brunt of exploitation and degradation from 1851 have been peripheral in most political calculations of the ruling circles.
Ladoke Akintola secured a British Council Scholarship in 1946 to study in England. Between 1945 and 1950, he studied administration, journalism and law. He was called to bar in 1950. Ladoke Akintola was in the mainstream of the crisis among the nationalists and he came to play foundational roles in both Egbe Omo Oduduwa and the Action Group, the later being a largely Yoruba political party. While in London, Ladoke Akintola was not only deeply immersed in the agitation for better cocoa price (constantly harassing the Colonial Office in London), he was pivotal to the revival of Egbe Omo Oduduwa when Obafemi Awolowo left London and the Egbe was going to “die”. Arifalo observed (2001: p.87):
Almost exactly one year after Ladoke Akintola returned from England as a lawyer i.e. on April 25, 1951 Action Group (Egbe Aferinfere) started its inauguration conference at the Olowo’s Royal Palace, Owo. The inauguration conference last from 25th to 29th April, 1951 (Ajasin, 2003: p.100). On 28th April 1951, the very first Executive Committee of the party was elected as follows: Chief Obafemi Awolowo (President), Hon. Gaius Obaseki (Vice President), Chief W. Mowarin (Vice President) Chief Arthur Prest (Vice-President), Mr. M.A. Ajasin (Vice President) and Chief Bode Thomas (General Secretary); there were two Assistant Secretaries (Chief Anthony Enahoro and Chief S.O. Sonibare), a Treasurer (Chief S.O. Ighodaro) and a Publicity and Propaganda Secretary (M.A. Ogun); there were three legal advisers (S.L. Akintola, M.E.R. Okorodudu and S.T. Oredein).
Chief Adekunle Ajasin’s account of the Western Region crisis of 1962 is one of the most sedate that I have read (Ajasin, 2003: 126-138). In that account, Ajasin identified the vacation of the Western Region premiership (with retention of the Presidency of Action Group) in 1960 while SLA became Premier of Western Region, and the invitation from Tafawa Balewa to AG and NCNC to participate in a coalition government with NPC. Awo rejected Balewa’s invitation while Awolowo’s Deputy President of AG (SLA) “felt differently”. Ajasin observed (p. 127):
The attitudes of the two leaders were influenced by ideology and strategy. Ideologically, AG was socialist while NPC was feudalistic.
What followed from the foregoing was the gradual development of mutual suspicion between the two leaders… the conflict spread to the rank and file of the party and the Government of Western Region.
The crisis led to the walk-out of SLA (Deputy Leader) and Ayo Rosiji (Gen Secretary) of AG at the 1962 Jos Annual Convention. SLA and Ayo Rosiji were expelled from AG. Although the rest of the story is familiar, the debate as to whether the split-up of AG was more about personality clash between Awo and SLA or purely disagreements concerning ideology and strategy will remain alive for a long time. The argument about ideological differences on socialism and feudalism between Awolowo and SLA are neither here nor there. The feudalistic and atavistic tendencies between Yoruba Obas and northern emirs today remain tendencies of degree rather than kind while, interestingly, the Igbo elite are re-inventing feudalism across the Niger.
We must take particular note of the continuing debates and disagreements in the various ethno-nationalist enclaves of Nigeria’s ruling circles concerning the strategies of inter-regional and inter-ethnic alliances. Because the Nigerian ruling circles have been unable to conceive power and governance outside ruling class preoccupation with primitive private accumulation, the crisis is as rife now as it was in 1960. Ajasin (2003: p.127) posed this question sharply in the context of the Awolowo-Akintola conflict:
In these contexts, what created the Aare Onakakanfo MKO phenomenon in 1993? Why did Falae end up in ANPP in 1999? Why did Bola Ige end up as Obasajo’s Minister? What was the nature of AD’s agreements with Obasanjo towards the 2003 General Elections? In terms of the two strategies as articulated by Ajasin above, what is the currently touted mega-party all about? The more you look at Nigeria’s unfolding ruling class horse-trade politics the less you see!