CHIEF SAMUEL LADOKE AKINTOLA: THE CELEBRATED YORUBA POLITICAL DEMAGOGUE AND PRIME MINISTER OF WESTERN NIGERIA
Samuel Ladoke Akintola, the premier of Western Nigeria
He held the highly revered title of Aare Ona Kakanfo XIII of Yorubaland. The powerful Yoruba politician was one of an early victim of the January 1966 military coup in Nigeria that took the life of Sardauna of Sokoto and premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Premier of federal and independent Nigeria Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.
Chief Akintola was born to Yoruba parents in Ògbómòsó on July 6, 1910. He had his basic school education in local area and proceeded to a Training College. In 1930 Akintola became a teacher and engaged in his career as teacher from 1930`s to early 1940s. He left teaching to study public administration and law in England and returned to Nigeria in 1950’s a qualified lawyer. Upon his return, he teamed up with other educated Nigerians from the Western Region to form the Action Group (AG) under the leadership of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. As the deputy leader of the AG party, he did not serve in the regional government headed by its premier Chief Awolowo, but served as the parliamentary leader of his party in the House of Representatives of Nigeria. At the federal level he served as Minister for Health and later Minister for Communications and Aviation.
Chief Samuel Akintola wearing traditional dress
In late 1959 in preparation for Nigeria’s independence, the Action Group party took a decision which affected the career of Akintola, the party and Nigeria when the party asked him to swap political positions with Awolowo by becoming the premier of the Western Region while Awolowo who also was the national leader of the AG, would became the party leader in the Federal House of Representatives as well as the Opposition leader in the House.
The division of roles in the Western Nigeria government led to a conflict between SLA and Awolowo; the AG party broke into two factions leading to several crises in the Western Region House of Assembly that led the central/federal government, headed by the Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa to declare State of Emergency rule in the Western region and an Administrator was appointed. After a lengthy court battle, SLA was restored to power as Premier in 1963 and won in general election of 1965 not as member of the Action Group party but as the leader of a newly formed party called Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) which was in an alliance with the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) the party that then controlled the federal government.
Along with many other leading politicians, Akintola was assassinated in Ibadan the capital of Western Region on January 15, 1966 during the first military coup. The coup also terminated Nigeria’s First Republic.
SLA was married to Chief Faderera Abeke Akintola. They had five children, two of whom were finance ministers in Nigeria’s Third Republic (Chief Yomi Akintola and Dr Bimbo Akintola). Chief Yomi Akintola served as Nigeria’s Ambassador to Hungary and SLA’s daughter-in-law, Mrs. Dupe Akintola is Nigeria’s High Commissioner in Jamaica. His fourth child, Chief Victor Ladipo Akintola, dedicated much of his life to ensuring the continued accurate accounting of SLA’s contributions to Nigeria’s position on the world stage. Chief S L Akintola’s youngest son, the late Tokunbo Akintola, was the first black schoolboy at Eton College, enrolling two terms prior to the arrival of Dilibe Onyeama (author of Nigger at Eton).
Chief S L Akintola Prime minister of western Nigeria in conversation with prime minister of Israel David Ben Gurion at Ben Gurion`s Office,Jerusalem. Circa 1961
Many institutions, including Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomosho were established in his home town and other Nigerian cities to remember him. Above all he practiced law.
SAMUEL LADOKE AKINTOLA AND HISTORY
By Remi Oyeyemi. email@example.com
One has been following the recent controversy on the legacy and the reported "vision" ascribed to Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola in the wake of the recent victory of PDP in the Southwest. One read the article by Dr. Wunmi Akintide on this subject. In spite of what one considered as minor misinterpretations of some actions of yore vis-a-vis the present political climate in regard to the former Premier of Western Region, Chief Akintola, one agreed with Dr. Akintide that there may be the need to try and heal some old wounds. But this should not be at the expense of historical facts. Rather it should be through the forgiveness of the heart.
Chief S L Akintola
Not very long after Dr. Akintide's article, Ambassador Yomi Akintola granted an interview published on Page 5 of the Guardian of Thursday, May 15, this year on the PDP victory in the Southwest having vindicated his late father. In the interview, Ambassador Akintola made so many general statements that this writer believed were deliberately made to obfuscate the true legacy of his late father. One Oluwole Kehinde had in an article also published by the Guardian on June 3 taken Ambassador Akintola to task for evasiveness in educating the people about his father's legacy and concluded that the only reason Ambassador Akintola could not be specific was because there was no tangible legacy or credible vision that could be attributed to the late Chief S.L. Akintola.
The challenge made by Mr. Oluwole Kehinde prompted another son of the late Premier, Mr. Ladipo Akintola to respond on June 11, 2003 . He tried obviously very laboriously, to itemize what he regarded as his father's legacy. This writer considered his article very preposterous and a challenge to the memory and facts of history. We, the people were the ones who wore the shoes during the era of Chief S. L. Akintola's leadership in the Western region, and we still remember where and how badly the shoes pinched. But before we deal with some of Ladipo Akintola's misrepresentations, let us try and examine some of the claims of his brother Ambassador Akintola who for example, was reported as follows:
"Describing the victory of the AG over the NCNC in the elections of 1952, 1956, and 1959 as narrow, he (Yomi Akintola) admitted that it was only in the 1961 elections during his father's government that the AG 'beat NCNC hollow."
The impression Ambassador Akintola was trying to convey here was that the AG beat NCNC "hollow" because of the popularity of his father., Chief S.L. Akintola. While there is nothing wrong in trying to have a fond memory of one's father, it is a gratuitous insult to history and the intelligence of the Yoruba people in particular and Nigerians in general for him to sell half truth to the press. He failed to tell the readers that the AG was able to achieve that "feat" because of its achievement under the leadership of Chief Obafemi Awolowo before he moved to the center as the Leader of Opposition less than two years earlier in the Federal Parliament. And as at that time the face, the voice and the leader of the AG was Chief Awolowo. Ambassador Akintola did not tell us what his father did in less than two years in office before the said elections to have warranted crediting his late father with the "feat." The fact of the matter is that the people voted for AG for its previous achievements.
The crisis that occurred in 1962 was at this time of 1961 elections still unknown to the public and when it did, and the people were asked to pass their judgement, we all knew where the people placed their confidence, but certainly not in the leadership of Chief Ladoke Akintola. The events that followed the 1964 elections because of the perceived power grabbing propensity of the NNDP with the collaboration of Ahmadu Bello led NPC and the Nnamdi Azikwe's NCNC unapproved by the people had a devastating effect on Nigeria, the consequences of which the country is still trying to extricate itself.
Ambassador Akintola also reportedly said inter alia:
"What he (Ladoke Akintola) wanted was for the Yoruba, in conjunction with the Igbo, Hausa, Ijaw, Itsekiri, the Ibiobio to join hands and form a united government or have a programme in which everyone will participate in. Happily now the Yoruba have fallen in and they are now going to participate, which is what my late father advocated."
What history told us was that his father detested the Igbo. Chief Ladoke Akintola repeatedly made jokes about them and never hid his disdain for them. Dr. Akintide gave an example of this in his article. This kind of attitude could not have been a reflection of the kind of man that Ambassador Akintola was trying to sell to the rest of us in the above quote. Chief Ladoke Akintola had his "vision" of working with the Ahmadu Bello but on a basis that was not principled and against the philosophical stand of the party that brought him to power.
One of the reasons the Yoruba rejected his NNDP in 1964 was a perceived perfidious role (rightly or wrongly) of Chief Akintola in the persecution of Chief Awolowo in the cooked up treasonable felony trials. The Yoruba summed it up that the 1964 attempt was to impose a government that has no legitimacy on them and that the said kangaroo trials was a treacherous attempt to get Awolowo out of the way politically.
This being the case, the 2003 election results are more in tune with what Awolowo wanted as opposed to what Akintola wanted. For students of history who remember the alliances of the first Republic, the NPC, NNDP and NCNC worked together for the 1964 election while the Awolowo's AG worked with Joseph Tarka's Middlebelt Union, Aminu Kano's Northern Elements Progressive Union and some Southern minority groups in UPGA, his being behind bars not withstanding. The PPA attempt in the second Republic to fight off the notorious NPN is also another example. The 2003 elections did not see the Ahmadu Bello's base of Northwest or Far North voting with the rest of Nigeria to elect Olusegun Obasanjo as Akintola's "vision" would have suggested. Chief Akintola's "vision" was to have Yoruba work with the Far North by all means, even if they have to cringe and regardless of if there is no correlation between their political philosophies. Awolowo's contention which the majority of the AG happened to buy was that on what philosophical basis, should there be an alliance with the ruling NPC at the federal level? Should the AG join the NPC because it controlled the Federal government for the sake of getting political appointments? What would be the purpose of that "joint relationship"? Is it to further prop the philosophy of feudalism or what? Or should it be for a more progressive agenda in the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians?
This was why, given the pre-independence credentials of Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, Awolowo concluded that the philosophical basis of the NCNC was not too far flung from that of the AG and that a progressive cord could still be stricken in the interest of Nigeria rather than working with a party with a diametrically opposed philosophy. Hence, Awolowo offered to work under him (Azikwe) in the interest of Nigeria as the Finance Minister while Zik would lead the government bussiness. Ladipo Akintola in his rebuttal to Oluwole Kehinde quoted from Senator Lai Joseph's book - Nigeria's Elections: The Bitter Truth - to support this position that we all have known before now. The argument of Chief S. L. Akintola, as projected by Senator Lai Joseph is that if Azikwe whose leadership Chief Awolowo was willing to accept, could himself work under the untutored Tafawa Balewa, at the federal level, why not Awolowo himself!
This, more than anything, taxonomise these three politicians (Awolowo, Azikwe and Akintola) in terms of their political character, philosophical principles and ideological commitment in the services of their people and country. It marked the difference between politics for its sake and politics for the progress of the people. It shed light on the difference between politics for personal aggrandizement and politics for the glory of country. Awolowo put a bet in the philosophy and principle that Azikwe enunciated repeatedly for several years leading to Nigeria's independence and lost. Azikwe abandoned the tenets of progressivism that he championed and sold across the land before independence and opted for redundancy of Presidency in a Parliamentary arrangement as opposed to what Awolowo offered him on a platter of gold. This amoebic approach to politics of Azikwe was what Akintola wanted Awolowo to practice and which the latter resisted, based on principle and ideology.
But that Dr. Azikwe, despite his seminal intellectual prowess, did not even recognize his own worth within the Nigeria political milieu was not the fault of Awolowo and neither did it confer any wisdom on Chief S.L. Akintola. That Azikwe could not appreciate a golden opportunity and seize it in the interest of the Igbo and by extension, Nigeria could not be Awolowo's fault, neither did it or does it convey any vision on the part of Chief Akintola (as Ladipo would want us to believe). What is inexplicable is why a distinguished journalist, renown activist, indefatigable freedom fighter, charismatic Pan Africanist (at least up to the time he reduced himself to the barest minimum from "Zik of Africa" to "Zik of Onitsha") gifted orator and an erudite doctorate degree holder in Nnamdi Azikwe would give up leadership to a reluctant, untutored, undistinguished, inane, inept, obviously limited Teacher Training College graduate in Tafawa Balewa. It is one mystery in Nigerian political history that needs to be unraveled.
If the old friends of Akintola in the Northwest voted in the manner they did in 2003, how could this be a vindication of SLA's vision? Samuel Ladoke Akintola's "vision" would become a reality the day the Yoruba and the Hausa-Fulani of the Northwest or the Far North vote one way, to elect a Nigerian leader. We have not had that yet. What happened in 2003 was a realization of Awolowo's vision of a progressive (?) coalition for the political leadership of Nigeria as he attempted to do in 1964. He had wanted the Yoruba, the Igbo, the Middlebelt and the Southern miorities to unite and liberate Nigeria from the feudalistic tendencies of the Northwest. The election map of 2003, despite its imperfections is a reflection of this view. What remains to be seen is whether the present crop of flag bearers from all the identified groups are as progressive, visionary, principled, dedicated, honest, hardworking and worthy of the "trust" reposed in them the way Awolowo would have wanted it.
Ladipo Akintola's effort to remake the memory of his father in a positive light is a good thing. But to suggest that it was an achievement for his late father not to have cancelled the Free Education programme instituted before his father came to the office is to be less than straight forward and an insult to the rest of us. The fact is that his father did not have the power or the clout to do that. If he had done that, he would not have lasted in office till 1964 elections when he tried to put his imprints on the political landscape of Yorubaland and which was roundly rejected by the Yoruba people. To also attribute the founding of the University of Ife to his late father is disingenuous and misleading. Those who know the history of that revered institution knew how it came about. They also know who laid the first block for its foundation as attested to by the plaque embossed on the wall of the University's administrative building.
It is not also true that the only offence committed by SLA was to openly disagree with Obafemi Awolowo. What about the malicious reduction of the cocoa price that affected farmers across Yorubaland? What about the vindictive reduction of Odemo of Ishara, Oba Samuel Akinsaya's salary to a penny because he would not renounce allegiance to Chief Awolowo? Is Ladipo suggesting that the people of Ishara and its environs liked that? What about the use of the police to harass opponents and others who refused to toe his line? His very popular (or is it notorious) but very sarcastic joke about his not "eating money" as being alleged but "spending it" and asking his wife if she ever "cooked money" for him to eat could not have been for endearment? A serious leader who was interested about his place in history or had genuine concern for the feelings and sensitivities of his people would not have condescended to that level in the name of humour!
Even if we all decide to ignore all the observations above, there is no doubt about the fact that Chief Ladoke Akintola during his heydays lacked the capability to "rally" the Yoruba people about whatever his "vision" was. He failed woefully to inspire trust and confidence. Rather than commanding respect from the people, Chief Akintola induced contempt. Rather than planting love, he instilled fear. Rather than sowing hope, he pushed the people to desperation. In contrast, Chief Awolowo was able to clearly define the "common purpose" and seminally demonstrated an unassailable capacity and iron cast will to rally men, women and children towards its relentless pursuit, excellently. Chief Awolowo's character more than inspired confidence, discipline, integrity, hard work and dignity. To those in despair, he gave hope. To those in want, he met their needs. To those with ability, he gave opportunities. With love, he cured hatred. And with his vision, he shed a glowing light on the path to tread.
It is understandable that brothers Ladipo and Yomi Akintola would want history to show mercy to the memory of their father. They probably have felt burdened by the name bequeathed to them. But it is not their fault that what happened is history today. There is nothing they could do to change the facts of history as related to their father. But they could help the process of forgiveness by not trying to insult our intelligence or indirectly suggesting that we all have collective amnesia.
Western Region crisis: How Awolowo, Akintola parted waysby FRANCIS FAMOROTI on Oct 8, 2012
Fifty years ago,the leadership of defunct Action Group (AG) was embroiled in a political crisis that culminated in the removal of Chief Ladoke Akintola, as the Premier of the Western Region. This resulted in fierce legal duel among the prominent AG leaders at the law court and later, the Privy Council. FRANCIS FAMOROTI, Ag. Head, Judiciary, reports.
Action Group Chieftains in 1953. (L-R) Chief Bode Thomas, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola.
Many of the standard biographies of Nigerian leaders and journalistic accounts have never minced words that Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola were close allies and promoters of the AG. Shortly after the country’s independence, the AG’s control of the Western Region was weakened and there was an imminent collapse of the party structure because of divisions within the party that reflected cleavages within the Yoruba society.
The leadership of the AG , which formed the official opposition in the federal parliament, split in May 1962 as a result of a rift between the party’s leader, Chief Awolowo and his erstwhile deputy and Premier of Western Nigeria, Chief Akintola. Various historical accounts abound on the circumstances that led to the rift between the two political leaders. While some historians claimed that the genesis of the political crisis in Western Nigeria began with the sacking of Chief J.F Odunjo as the Chairman, Western Region Marketing Board by Akintola over interfamily squabbles, others attributed the offshoot of the crisis to hard line stance of the AG leaders over differences that could have been amicably be resolved within the party.
According to a publication of The Human Rights Law Service (HURILAWS) “Managing Election Conflicts in Nigeria”, the AG crisis of 1962 arose primarily from disagreement over matters of ideology between Chief Awolowo, the party’s leader and Chief S.L Akintola, his deputy. Akintola was expelled for anti-party activities, among other reasons, and he went on to form the United Peoples Party (UPP). “The UPP and some members of NCNC and the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) formed an alliance, which controlled the government of the Western Region until the Western Regional elections of 1965.”
Prof. John.N. Paden in his book “Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto- Values and Leadership in Nigeria, said ‘’the key leaders of Northern Peoples’ Congress (NPC) held secret talks with the Yoruba. Some of these meetings had actually begun in 1961- 62, and Awolowo and the Sarduana met casually on a few occasions and agreed to hold meetings. But Awolowo seemed more interested in documenting the discussions and the agreements for future use.
The NPC decided to try Akintola. “The NPC came to regard Awolowo as the stumbling block to a union between the Yoruba and the north. Akintola was more trustworthy than Awolowo. The thinking was that later they might form one single party with Akintola.” Another account in an article titled “Nigeria Politics in the Crisis Years” obtained from the website of the Library of Congress Country Studies, states that “Awolowo favoured the adoption of democratic socialism as party policy, following the lead of Kwame Nkrumah’s regime in Ghana. This radical ideology that Awolowo expressed was seen as a bid to make the AG an interregional party that drew support across the country from educated younger voters. ‘‘Akintola, in reaction, attempted to retain the support of conservative party elements. He called for better relations with the Northern Peoples’ Congress (NPC) and an all party federal coalition that would remove the AG from opposition and give its leaders greater access to power’’. Awolowo’s majority expelled Akintola from the party. The then Governor of the Western Region, the Ooni of Ife, Sir Adesoji Aderemi demanded Akintola’s resignation as Premier and named Alhaji Dauda Adegbenro as his successor. Crisis erupted in the Western Nigeria and this earned the region the appellation “Wild Wild West.”
This action resulted in some legal battles as Akintola challenged his removal as the Premier of the region. The series of cases became popularly known and cited as Akintola-vs- Aderemi & Adegbenro (1962) 1 All. NLR. 442, Adegbenro –vs- Akintola & Aderemi (1962) 1 All NLR 465 and Adegbenro-vs- Akintola (1963) All NLR 305. In Adegbenro- vs- Akintola in May 1962, for instance, the issue tried by the court was the removal of Akintola as the Premier of Western Nigeria.
Specifically, Sir Aderemi had removed Chief Akintola from the office of Premier, and appointed Alhaji Dauda Adegbenro to the position.
Akintola’s supporters allegedly went wild and unleashed violence in the region while supporters of Awolowo reportedly retaliated. Akintola sued Adegbenro and the AG leadership, and the Federal Supreme Court decided that he had been wrongly removed.
Exercising a right conferred by Section 114 of the then Constitution of Western Nigeria, Adegbenro appealed to the Privy Council, where the judgement was upturned in his favour on the interpretation of S. 33 (10) (a) of the constitution.
According to A.D Badaiki (1996) Interpretation of Statutes ‘’This proviso was later amended by the Constitution of Western Nigeria (Amendment) Law, 1963 retroactively in a manner which settled the question of the Premiership in Akintola’s favour, but without mention of the court suit or of the costs awarded by the Privy Council to Alhaji Adegbenro.”
On the question of whether Adegbenro was entitled to recover costs awarded to him, it was held that it is presumed that the legislature does not desire to confiscate the property or to encroach upon the right of persons, and, as there was no clear implication that the legislature intended not only to settle a political question, but also to deprive Adegbenro of his costs by the Constitution of Western Nigeria (Amendment) Law, 1963, his right to costs remained unaffected.
Akintola then organised the UPP, which pursued a policy of collaboration with the NPC –National Council of Nigeria and Cameroun (NCNC) government in the federal parliament. Akintola’s removal in May 1962 sparked a bloody riot in the Western Region and brought effective government to an end as rival legislators, following the example in the streets, introduced violence to the floor of the regional legislature. The Federal Government declared a state of emergency, dissolved the legislature, and appointed a medical practitioner, Dr. Adekoyejo Majekodunmi as an administrator for the Western Region. One of his first acts was to place many AG leaders under house arrest. Later, the Police uncovered evidence linking Awolowo with a conspiracy to overthrow the government. With a number of other AG leaders, he was arrested and tried for treason. Authorities claimed that 200 activists had received military training in Ghana and had smuggled arms into Nigeria in preparation for a coup d’état. Awolowo was found guilty, along with 17 others, and was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.
Chief Anthony Enahoro, Awolowo’s close ally, who had been abroad at the time of the coup, was extradited from Britain and was also convicted of treason and imprisoned. In the meantime, the state of emergency was lifted and Balewa, obtained Akintola’s reinstatement as Premier of the Western Region at the head of a coalition between the NCNC and the UPP. The AG successfully contested the legality of this action in the courts, but a retroactive amendment to the Western Region’s constitution that validated Akintola’s reappointment was quickly enacted. As Tafawa Balewa told parliament, the legality of the case “had been overtaken by events.” Later in 1963, Nigeria became a republic within the Commonwealth. The change in status called for no practical alteration of the constitutional system. The president, elected to a five-year term by a joint session of the parliament, replaced the crown as the symbol of national sovereignty and the British monarchy as head of state, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, who had been Governor-General, became the republic’s first president.