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Majekodunmi’s political masterstrokes

BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, Deputy Political Editor
NO doubt, the late Dr Moses Adekoyejo Majekodunmi, who died on Wednesday at age 95, was an accomplished medical practitioner. Although, he devoted about 89 years of his life to medicine, his six- year stint in politics appeared to have entrenched him more in the consciouness of Nigerians.

His courageous decisions when he superintended the affairs of the defunct Western Region as sole administrator for six months in the heady days of the First Republic helped to shape the history of the country.

Late Dr. Adekoyejo Moses Majekodunmi

Born on August 17, 1916 in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Majekodunmi, by 1942 had completed his primary, secondary and tertiary education both in Nigeria and abroad and graduated as a medical doctor.

He returned to the country from Dublin in 1943 and became a medical officer in the Nigerian Medical service. From 1949 to 1960, he served under Nigerian and Federal Medical Services as a gynaecologist obstetrician and consulting doctor with Massey Street Maternity Hospital, Lagos, General Hospital, Lagos and Creek Hospital, Lagos.

The medical icon later became personal physician to Nigeria’s first and only Prime Minister, late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. He was to join  partisan politics shortly and was elected to the Senate and served as Health Minister between 1960 to 1966.

His major role in the political arena came when he was appointed the sole administrator of Western region at the peak of the crisis between late Chief SLA Akintola and Chief Obafemi Awolowo over the battle for control of the political soul of the  region in 1962.

Genesis of Awolowo, Akintola face-off

The genesis of the rift between Akintola and Awolowo started in1959 before the events at the Action Group conference in Jos in 1961 when the matter came to its head.

In1959, while Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo were reportedly ironing out terms of coalition at Onitsha a call to Azikiwe came from the Northern Premier, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello that Akintola and Chief Ayo Rosiji were with him discussing a broad-based coalition, should still be fresh in the memory of any student of Nigeria politics. Awolowo had taken the receiver from Azikiwe to ask Akintola his mission in Kaduna and then Western Premier had said that he was sent by the fathers of the party. And the seed of discord between Akintola and Awolowo was firmly sowed.

The unresolvable dispute between Awolowo and Akintola reached a high dimension at the National Congress of the defunct Action Group, AG, held in Jos. Akintola was accused of entering into a pact with Sir Ahmadu Bello, “to trade away the Western Region.” Some Akintola’s supporters like the late Chief Ayo Rosiji, were equally criticised and he had to resign as General Secretary of the AG.

He was instantly replaced with Chief S.G Ikoku. However, events reached a crescendo on Sunday May 20, 1962, when the Federal Executive Committee of the then AG unanimously voted for the immediate removal of Akintola as the deputy leader of the party and the Premier of the Western Region, for alleged “anti-party activities, mal-administration and gross indiscipline.”

In like manner, majority of AG legislators in the Western Regional House of Assembly voted for Akintola’ dismissal from office on the grounds of alleged “anti-party activities and gross indiscipline. Acting on these declarations, the then Governor of the Region, Sir Adesoji Aderemi, the then Ooni of Ife, accordingly dismissed Akintola as “he was convinced that he (Akintola) no longer enjoyed the support of the members of the House of Assembly.” Alhaji Dauda Soroye Adegbenro, a former Minister for Local Government Affairs, was named to replace the purportedly sacked Akintola.

Akintola was to challenge the decision.On Tuesday May 22, a day after the announcement, Akintola, accompanied by Oba Akran, Chief Ayo Rosiji, Chief Agbaje, Chief Akinloye, Mr. J. O. Adigun, Mr. S. Salami, gained entry to the Premier’s office and restated that Akintola was still the legally recognised Premier of Western Nigeria.

Meanwhile, Adegbenro, acting on the backing of Awolowo and the then governor of the region, Sir Adesoji Aderemi, assumed the responsibilities of office as Premier, thus setting the stage for an epic. On Friday May 25, when the then Western House of Assembly met to deliberate on the motion of confidence on the new Premier, crisis broke and lawmakers engaged themselves in s free-for-all.

State of emergency

The Federal Government responded swiftly with a declaration of state of emergency and the appointment of Dr. Majekodunmi, a personal physician to Prime Minister, Sir, Tafawa Balewa, as sole administrator of the Western Region.

Majekodunmi takes over

Majekondunmi promptly assumed office on May 31, 1962 in Ibadan and took charge of proceedings to restore order and stability. His sincerity of purpose and decision not to take sides helped to calm the situation. One of his first acts was to sign restriction orders to detain leaders of both factions. After the situation had stabilized, Akintola resumed office on January 1, 1963.


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