By Ola Ajayi
IBADAN – 100 years after, Ibadan indigenes and some notable sons and daughters still remember Adegoke Adelabu, popularly called “Penkelemeesi”. As they marked the post-humus centenary birthday yesterday in remembrance of the pre-independence politician for his various heroic works. Despite his giant political strides, none of his children is a politician. An Ibadan high chief, Aare Alaasa Olubadan, Oloye Lekan Alabi speaks with Vanguard why ‘penkelemeesi’ is still being remembered a century after.
Who was Adegoke Adelabu, aka penkelemeesi?
He was a precocious child and student. He was a prodigy and a man of deep intellect, an orator and a man who always pulled crowd. He attended C M S Elementary School, Kudeti, Ibadan and he had double promotion. He proceeded to the primary school in Mapo and he also had double promotion.
From there, he went to the famous Government College Ibadan in Apata-Ganga. He also had double promotion, and all on scholarship.
Anytime he had double promotion, he would lead his former seniors of two years by a wide margin. He never came second throughout his academic career; he always came first. The person that would come next to him would be a distant second position.
In 1935, he wrote entrance examination to Nigeria’s highest institution then, Higher College, Yaba in Lagos, not Yaba College of Technology. The University of Ibadan, which started as a College of University of London, was established in 1948, which was 12 years after Adelabu had left the Higher College.
So, he wrote entrance examination to Higher College, Yaba in 1935. He came first and then got a scholarship from the United African Company (UAC). But UAC stopped him in the second year from proceeding further. He was the grandfather of the current deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in charge of Financial System Stability, Mr. Bayo Adelabu. The pre-independence politician, who hailed from Kudeti in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital was Nigeria’s first Federal Minister of Social Services and Natural Resources cum former opposition leader in the old Western Region House of Assembly.
How peculiar mess became ‘penkelemeesi’
In places that we have visited particularly in the media houses, after our briefings, innocent editors, who are under 40 years of age would ask ‘with all the encomiums you have poured on Adegoke Adelabu, with all the testimonies you have shown us in his academic prowess, how come the man was called ‘penkelemesi’ instead of peculiar mess.’ Then, we have explained on several occasions that it was not Adegoke Adelabu, who said ‘penkelemesi’.
Adegoke Adelabu, in his oration, was talking about peculiar mess of that time. Anywhere Adelabu went, he had large followers and supporters, singers, and drummers. When they heard him utter the word peculiar mess, the drummers threw up their drums, singing he had knocked them off with another vocabulary. They sang and also used their drums to say: Penkelemeesi, Adegoke Adelabu, penkelemeesi.
Died in motor accident
He was such a shining star, bright intellectual, great orator and mass mobiliser. But he suddenly met his death in a road accident at Ogere Remo in the present day Ogun State on March 25, 1958, and died at the age of 43. If Adelabu did not die on March 25, 1958, at the age of 43 due to a ghastly road accident, he would have been 100 years old on Thursday September 3, 2015, having been born on September 3, 1915.
Meanwhile, Adegoke Adelabu Post-Humous Centenary Birthday Celebration Planning Committee, chaired by Oloye ‘Lekan Alabi, the Aare Alasa Olubadan of Ibadanland, has been set up.
What Nigeria missed about him: It was on record that Adegoke Adelabu provided an effective leadership for the opposition in the Western Region House of Assembly during his lifetime, but what has Nigeria missed about him as far as opposition is concerned in the political arena in the country today?
Those who went into politics like Adegoke Adelabu, purely for public service, are being missed because they had conscience and they could not be bought. Despite being the leader of opposition, the leader and later Premier of the Western Region, who was the leader of the Action Group (AG), Chief Obafemi Awolowo, invited Adegoke Adelabu to join the team from Western Region to the constitutional talks because they needed Adelabu’s input.
When Adelabu died, the Premier, Obafemi Awolowo and the Minister of Information, and later Local Government, Chief Anthony Enahoro, in their tributes, said they would miss a brilliant patriot and comrade because the Action Group, which was controlling the government of the Western Region must sit down and re-examine their memos or bills to the house for fear, if I may use that word, of Adegoke Adelabu’s scrutiny.
His Children avoiding politics
In philosophy esoteric, philosophers believe that God does not duplicate any individual in the world. This is why you cannot say where the sons of Winston Churchill or the sons of Abraham Lincoln are. They may have their own profession and excel. God does not duplicate. You are here with your star, you fulfil your role and you will go.
So, the same applies to Adegoke Adelabu’s family. The sons and daughters of Adelabu are not cut for politics. But they have excelled and will continue to excel in their chosen professions. For example, one of the deputy governors of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Chief Adebayo Adelabu, is a grandson of Adegoke Adelabu; the secretary of the planning committee, which I chair, Mr. Yinka Adelabu, is a Mass Communication graduate of University of Lagos (Unilag), and currently the Director of Simeon Adebo Human Development Centre of the Oyo State Government.
Their father, the late Aderibigbe Adelabu was a banker. His younger brother, the late Aderemi Adelabu was principal, Government College Ibadan and later Executive Secretary of State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), in Oyo State and so on.
Early politicians had conscience
The early politicians had conscience and loyalty to their parties. There was party supremacy in the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Social Democratic Party (SDP), and early Alliance for Democracy (AD) period. I know this because I was the Chief Press Secretary to Chief Bola Ige, former governor of the old Oyo State.
In 1983, based on the UPN constitution, States governors were the chairmen of the parties and their leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was the national president and the presidential candidate. Uncle Bola (that’s Chief Bola Ige) allowed us to sit in at their party executive meetings.
You would see law and order, obedience to party constitution, which they inherited from Adelabu, Ahmadu Bello (the late Sarduana of Sokoto), Tafawa Balewa, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Akanu Ibiam, Dennis Osadebe, Obafemi Awolowo, Anthony Enahoro, FRA Williams, Mbonu Ojike, Dr. Eyor Ita, Dr. Mike Okpara. They all had ideologies.
They did not change parties like they do now. They change parties the way mothers change babies napkins. What do we have today? People cross the camp when they are denied certain positions. They defect when their parties lose elections.
Preparations on centenary birthday celebration
I have led the Adegoke Adelabu family and centenary birthday planning committee to the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, in Abeokuta, Ogun State. Chief Obasanjo said Adegoke Adelabu was his political role model. So, he embraced my plea and the plea of Adegoke Adelabu to be the grand patron of the planning committee and the foundation.