Oba Adesoji Aderemi and the incivility that haunts Nigeria

YESTERDAY, specifically on July 4, 2020, Oba Sir Titus Martins Adesoji Tadeniawo Aderemi, the 49th Ooni of Ife, the spiritual head of the Yoruba, is the Oba of a town, Ile-Ife, considered to be the ancestral home of the Yoruba, and  Western Nigeria‘s Governor from 1960 to 1962, marked his 40th year in the land of the ancestors. He passed on in  1980 at a ripe age of 90, having been born November 15, 1889.

A lot has been written about how Oba Aderemi brought education to the then little-known town of Ile-Ife through championing education during his reign, how he laid the foundation for the founding of the famous and model secondary school, Oduduwa College, in January 1932 and how his closeness to the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo ensured the location of the then the University of Ife in his domain.

His modernisation philosophy was also said to have been hinged on the truism that the surest route to facilitating and sustaining a modern society was through education. What I, however, feel that remembrancers have not adequately memorialised about Sir Aderemi was his role in soldering together the fissiparous tendencies among Yoruba people before 1940s, as well as his contributions, as Governor of the Western Region from 1960 to 1962, to a great  Yorubaland, a period I dub the fiercest and the most acrimonious of Western Region’s national development.

Remembrancers will also not forget the spat between the Governor and a leading Ife son, Victor Babaremilekun detokunbo Fani-Kayode, Q.C., SAN, CON (1921–1995) also known as Fani Power, who was Leader of the Opposition and later, Deputy Premier. An event happened in March 1961 which underscored the reverence for Sir Aderemi and which got scurrilous attacks for Fani-Kayode. It was at the tenth session of the Western House of Assembly. On this day,  some of the Region’s considered VIPs were slated to be presented to the Governor, Oba Adesoji Aderemi. At the approach of the Governor, however, Fani-Kayode excused himself for the restroom and all efforts to get him stay on failed.

This particular action became an issue for debate in the whole of the region. It was the lead story of the Tribune under the title, Fani disappears as Gov approaches (March 23, 1961) and various commentators expressed their disgusts at this rudeness of Fani Kayode, one of the subjects of the monarch. The Action Group Member for  Remo North, Mr J. Olu  Awopeju, in the report, had said that the action of the Leader of Opposition was an assault on, not only the  Governor but the whole House of Assembly.

Chief J. A. O. Odebiyi, Leader of the House and Finance Minister, on his own, said the behaviour of Fani Kayode was a  challenge to the constitution as the Governor was a representative of the Queen and “everybody is in honour bound to  give him his due respect.” Akintola, the Premier himself lampooned this ‘disrespectfulness’ of the Opposition Leader (a   man he was to later work with). Akintola said he was “disturbed to observe at this historic session, the unfortunate  insult passed on our Governor.”

This “rudeness” later attracted a front-page editorial comment by the Tribune edition of the same day entitled, Political  incivility where the newspaper called for a “very strong censure” for this “act of discourtesy” which it said was  symptomatic of “an ominous future for parliamentary democracy in the country.” It continued: “In addition, Sir Adesoji is the Queen’s representative in Western Nigeria. Mr Fani-Kayode is a Queen’s Counsel. And it is hard to believe that  Mr. Fani-Kayode did not know the full implications of his behaviour. At least, he should know that any disrespect shown to the Governor is also reflected on the Queen who is the Head of the Commonwealth.

Indeed, Sir Adesoji did not deserve to be disrespected… But by his action, the legislator has committed an unpardonable rape on the traditions of the people.”

Six days after, however, the barrage of media hype of his ‘incivility’ to the Governor forced Fani-Kayode to explain his role in the saga. He claimed that the Western Region Government had not “the slightest courtesy” to invite him to the function and the opposition, which he headed, felt slighted by this governmental behaviour. As such, he had to excuse himself from meeting the VIPs and the Governor.

The Tribune could not be placated by this explanation and went to town with another editorial comment with the title,  Fairy tale, vilifying this reply by the NCNC Opposition Leader, a rationalisation which it called a “concocted afterthought” and a “puerile defence of a serious charge,” reasoning that Fani-Kayode “deliberately snubbed the Governor” and as such, deserved “serious strictures.”

Oba Aderemi, the Governor, in the early hours of May 29, 1962, was, however, unceremoniously and humiliatingly forced to evacuate his belongings and vacate his official residence as a result of the State of Emergency Orders by the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) government, in apparent collusion with the Akintola government of the Western  Region. Some people reasoned that this incivility of the powers-that-be against the spiritual head of the Yoruba people, forcing him to leave his abode that unceremoniously, was responsible  for the calamity that befell Nigeria in January,  966, a calamity from which Nigeria has since not recovered.

 

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