Dr. Wumi AkintideWednesday, May 21, 2003
[email protected]
New York, NY, USA


hat a diehard Awoist like me would be giving testimonies on our late Premier, who was viewed as the Judas of the Yoruba cause, at one period in our history, is in of itself, a miracle. Those who say the only thing constant in life is change are damn right - your enemy of today could turn out to be your greatest friend tomorrow, because nature and time the great healer, have a way of turning things around, and changing our perception. Life itself is all about the choices we make at every given point, based on information available to us. So the statement "Never again" is one that every human being should think twice before making.

I just think it is about time to begin to refurbish the image of the second Premier of the old Western Region. As far as I am concerned, and you don't have to agree with me, the only sin Ladoke Akintola had committed in his political life is having to openly disagree with his Party leader, Obafemi Awolowo on whether or not it was time for the Yorubas to make peace and to join forces with the North. there could be some other explanations or rationalizations, the central issue is the point I have just mentioned. Akintola had had cause to disagree with Awo on how soon and on what terms such a constructive engagement with the North must take. If you know of any more cogent reason why the two leaders had to fall apart, please educate me, as I am very eager to know, and to learn from anyone who is better informed on this subject.

Ladoke Akintola had become a Deputy to Awo following the death of Bode Thomas, the young ideologue lawyer from Oyo who had to be put to sleep, in very mysterious circumstance, following a feud with the late Alafin Adeyemi, the father of the present Alafin of Oyo, Iku Baba Yeye Lamidi Adeyemi the 3rd.

Left to Obafemi Awolowo alone, he most probably, would have preferred Chief Akin Deko of Idanre or Alhaji Soroye Adegbenro to succeed him instead of Akintola. That scenario had only added more fuel to the growing subterfuge between Awolowo and Akintola in their life time. The other point that was frequently mentioned in the rumor mill at the time, was the allegation that the late Faderera, Akintola's wife had resented the fact that Awolowo the Action Group Leader, as Leader of Opposition at the Federal level, was not giving her husband enough latitude and freedom to perform his duties as Premier, without micromanaging him every step of the way. The two "mata griki-" Dideolu and Faderera had gotten so terribly involved in the feud and rivalry between their two husbands that they hated each other's guts like poison. It was rumored that all attempts made by well meaning front-line Yoruba leaders, at the time, to quickly reconcile the two leaders before their disagreement had gotten out of control, were thwarted by their wives.

The mistake that the two leaders had made was not to realize that any information processed through the rumor mill, and passed along through the grapevine, is not always reliable. It is often based on fiction and innuendoes, and it is often slanted to serve the interest of a second, third, or fourth party. It could even be malicious. For those reasons the rumor mill which should have been viewed by the two leaders with considerable caution, were allowed to fester, thus increasing the level of distrust between the two leaders, at a time it should have been nipped in the bud. Accepting rumors as the truth had eventually caused the two leaders to drift further and further apart, until it got to a point of no return, irredeemably damaging the two leaders' relationship beyond repair, and forcing the rest of us to side with one or the other as time goes by. "Confidence triangle" soon set in making reconciliation totally unattainable. Confidence triangle is the way a confidential comment can be transmitted to a third party in a way that makes reconciliation between two people totally unworkable.

I'd rather not get into the gory details on how Awolowo and Akintola had become so embittered that Awolowo had tried to use the Party machinery to remove Akintola as Premier while putting in Alhaji Adegbenro. There was also the decision of Akintola to fight back by joining forces with the NPC led Federal Government in order to neutralize Awolowo's plan to impeach and have him disgraced out of office. When the whole situation had deteriorated into uncontrollable violence, the then Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa had decided to declare a state of emergency in the West, by nominating his personal physician, Dr Majekodunmi to go administer the West for a little while. One crisis led to another, culminating in the 1964 Elections which were so badly rigged, not to talk of the mayhem that had followed it. There was also the treasonable felony charge against Obafemi Awolowo and "Operation Wet e" in the old Western Region. The totality of the events had finally culminated in the January 15th, 1966 coup of the Majors led by Chukwuma Nzeogwu, but snatched from the Majors by General Ironsi and his group who, for some time, did not know what to do with the power they had just commandeered.

Samuel Ladoke Akintola and his newly found allies from the North including Tafawa Balewa and Sardauna Bello all had to lose their life in the very first coup in Nigeria. Seen from that perspective, it could be said that Ladoke Akintola and all those in his camp had temporarily lost out to the Awolowo Camp leaving so much bitterness in its wake up for over forty years now. In the process Akintola's name has become a synonym for treachery and betrayal in the nook and corners of Yoruba Land except in Oyo and Ogbomosho his ancestral home. Not even the title of a War hero in Are Onakankanfo that Akintola had taken from the then Alafin in the peak of the crisis with Awolowo was able to save Akintola. There was celebration and rejoicing in most parts of the Western Region on January 15th 1966 when the coup plotters had bombarded the Iyaganku Residence of the late Premier, killing him in cold blood in a blizzard of bullets. As the news went, we were told Akintola the great Are Onakankanfo of Yoruba Land, did not go quietly. He had given the coup plotters a fight of their life, killing as many of his assailants as he could lay his hands upon, before he was overpowered, and mercilessly executed.

Those who had visited the Premier's lodge immediately after the coup would never forget what they saw. Akintola fought them till the last drop of his blood, proving to them the Are Onakankanfo of Yoruba land was not just an empty title. His battered corpse brought to the University college Hospital, Ibadan, for sight seeing by detractors who hated him so much, never gave up the ghost until certain amulets had to be removed from his mutilated body. Before then Akintola was only famous for his oratorical wizardry and uncanny ability to play upon words in Yoruba Language in much the same way, if not better than Winston Churchill used to do with the English Language. Samuel Ladoke Akintola was one of a kind, a leader among leaders, and one of the best politicians our country would ever know. But compared to Awo, he was a terribly misunderstood leader probably because his personality was drastically different from that of Awo, even though his commitment to the Yoruba cause was clearly not in doubt, all things considered.

I honestly believe the time has come for somebody to revisit the life of this great Yoruba Leader for whatever it may be worth, and for the benefit of young Nigerians who may have heard of him and his political struggle in the old Western Region of Nigeria. I have to believe hat History will be kinder to Akintola when all is said and done. My point here is that Akintola is not such a terrible man as we have all been made to believe. He too was a man of principle who also believed like Awolowo that if you would not stand for something, you could stand for anything. Akintola had believed that anything worth dying for is worth fighting for. Born in Ogbomosho, he was one of the foundation members of the great Egbe Omo Oduduwa which had metamorphosed in the defunct Action Group led by the late Obafemi Awolowo. He later became the Deputy Leader of the Action Group, and ended up taking over from Awolowo when Awo had moved on to the Federal to become the Leader of Opposition to the Tafawa Balewa led NPC/NCNC coalition Government in Lagos. An erudite lawyer by profession Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola was one of the best politicians of our time who had understood perhaps better than any of his peers, dead or alive, that the pivotal factor between being positive or negative in life is often your sense of humor, and how you are able to mobilize to good effect.

The more you develop your sense of humor, the more positive you will become. The more positive you become, the better your sense of humor will be. In those days when Akintola was fighting his battle with Awolowo, it was a very lonely days for him, as he was only supported by a very few loyalists. The great majority of our people, had not only rejected his leadership, he had been labeled a traitor to the Yoruba cause in much the same way as Judas was for ever labeled as the one who had betrayed Jesus. The hatred was so much that many Yorubas bearing the name "Akintola" were often forced to go change their names, for fear of being linked to the Premier. It was that bad. As a matter of fact some stubborn grass that grow in many parts of Yoruba land, and most especially in Ondo State where I come from, were named Akintola out of hatred for the late Premier even before his death on January 15th 1966.

In spite of al that hatred, Akintola the greatest humorist that ever lived in our own part of the world never for one moment lost his sense of humor. Akintola was a genius at using what is known in Human Relations parlance as the "flipside technique". When a negative enters Akintola's life, he had a way of turning it around by immediately flipping the problem over (as you would flip a phonograph record), and to look for whatever humor may exist on the other side. He always did that, just to minimize the negative impact the problem could possibly have had on his positive attitude as a leader. Nobody does it better than Akintola who had effectively used humor to restore his positive attitude, and to help him maintain a more balanced perspective on life in general.

Countless incidents occur in our life, and more so in the life of politicians around the world every day. We all need a sense of humor to get through it. Humor, in that unique sense, is therefore an attitudinal quality (mental focus) that encourages an individual to discover some inherent humor that others may not see in the same situation It is a philosophy that says "if you take life too seriously, it may pull you down. Force yourself to pull back and laugh at the human predicament. Premier Akintola was always good company on the Campaign trail around the country in those days, because he had the unique capacity to find humor in every situation, no matter how serious. Akintola was a genius at it because he knew better than most of his contemporaries in Politics that Laughter is therapeutic Just as negative emotions such as tension, anger or stress can produce ulcers, headaches, and high blood pressure, positive emotions, simple laughter can relax nerves, improve digestion and blood circulation, and otherwise contribute to physical health and emotional wellness.

Dr William Fry Jr, a psychiatrist and associate clinical professor at Stanford University Medical School once wrote that: "Laughter gets the endocrine system going." Of course Akintola knew he couldn't, possibly, laugh away all his problems, but he knew how to use laughter to help him cope with serious political adversity in a country like Nigeria where Politics can be a dead serious business even by the standards of those days, not to talk of now. Please come along with me as I share a few of Ladoke Akintola's humor in Yoruba language that could easily have won an Oscar, any day, in societies like America where the ability to make people laugh and lighten up, is considered a multi million dollar money making business. Bill Cosby, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Bob Hope are some of the best national idols in that area of specialization. If you are thinking of American politicians, you have to think of the world acclaimed politician/orator like the great Mario Cuomo of New York who know how to capture their audience by a mixture of serious talk laced with amazing humor. Akintola belonged to that category of wonderful orators.

Informed that that Alhaji Adegbenro had been picked to succeed him as Premier in the West, Akintola simply burst into one hell of a laughter shaking his head and telling the audience that he was not overtly concerned about Adegbenro taking over his job because Adegbenro's first name is "Soroye" translated in Yoruba to mean someone who peeps in to see what may be happening in the corridor of power, but who will never be invited in, talk less of being crowned the king any time soon. What a humorous play upon words. Only Akintola was capable of pulling such a hat trick in a heartbeat. The whole crowd could not help rocking with laughter. It was his last word at a campaign rally, and that statement had become the talk of the town till tomorrow in hamlets and major cities of Yoruba land. As predicted by Akintola, it had become a self fulfilling prophesy that Soroye Adegbenro never became Premier in the West because Akintola had quickly gone to Court to have Adegbenro's claim nullified for good.

Here comes another play upon words by the same Akintola. Somebody had asked him at another political rally why the stalwarts in the Action Group fighting his Government are not having any traction in their struggle against him. Akintola had burst out laughing again and telling his questioner his enemies would never have traction because they are fighting against God. He reminded the questioner to just reflect, for a moment, on the names of all his detractors to get a clue as to why they were not getting any traction. One of them is "Oredein," another is "Lanlehin" another one is "Sogbehin" They are all backward looking people as their names have confirmed. Another burst of prolonged laughter followed his explanation because the man was simply the best in using humor to neutralize or disarm an opponent.

Hear yet another humor improvised by Akintola to pull a fast one on the Igbos of Nigeria. Akintola had never failed to see something uniquely funny in Ndigbo names. Once upon a time Akintola had blasted the Igbos as being too greedy because the Igbos never like to share the largesse of Government with any of the other predominant tribes of Nigeria. according to Akintola, the Igbos only think of themselves and no one else. The name he had chosen to drive home his point on that occasion was "Ikejiani" which means in Yoruba the second person must take his share. But then Akintola went ahead to add "Iketaani" and "Ikerinani. If one, two, three and four Igbos must take their share before a Yoruba man could take his own share, what is going to be left for the Yorubas and the Hausas to then take home? Akintola had simply used that allegory to prove his point that the Yorubas by refusing to work with the NPC are the ones giving Ndigbo a chance to totally dominate Nigeria.

He argued that he had therefore rejected the Awolowo's hypothesis that the Yorubas must never work with an Hausa dominated Party like the defunct NPC (Northern Peoples Congress} He had argued that it was foolhardy for the Yorubas to continue to dismiss the Northerners as unfit to lead any Government in which the Yoruba people would participate in. He had berated such a notion as an Awolowo frame of mind which he argued, should be rejected by the rank and file of the Yorubas, because democracy is a game of numbers, and it did not make sense at all for the Yorubas to allow the Igbos to continue to dominate Nigeria. The Hausas may be stark illiterates, according to Akintola, but they appeared to hold the trump card to the governance of Nigeria. Therefore the Yorubas must find some ways to reach out to them, and to join them if they could not beat them. That was Akintola's logic or reasoning at the time. If we critically examine where Nigeria is today, more than forty years later, you can still see a lot of sense in Akintola's position. Today for the first time in our history a Northern-led Party has taken over the entire Awolowo country, and a Yoruba man is right at the top of the pyramid leading the same Party and the whole nation. We all have to concede that Ladoke Akintola surely had a point from the "get go", if the truth must be told.

Let me give you another story that illustrates Akintola's unbeatable sense of humor before I wind up this article. Akintola had gone out to Owo town to campaign. once upon a time As soon as he climbed the podium, Akintola had thrown up his arms as if to acknowledge the peoples' standing ovation. As soon as the ovation had died down, Akintola had told the crowd in flawless Yoruba language. "Myself the son of Akintola, I am praying to God today to let my children be the ones to survive me, after I am dead and gone." "Emi Ladoke omo Akintola, l'gbara Olorun, omo ni o sin mi" to which each person in the crowd had also replied to him in unison that "We too share in your prayer that God would let our children be the one to survive us after our transition to the "Great Beyond" " "Omo na ni o sin gbogbo wa, lagbara Olorun." Akintola did not let them finish their sentence when he cut in and told the crowd. "No, you people cannot say that, isn't your name "Ajasin" meaning (the one that is buried by a dog) "Rara o, omo ko ni o si yin, me bi, eyin le nje Ajasin." All Akintola was doing, was making a humor out of the name of the most prominent Action Group politician at Owo who we all know to be Adekunle "Ajasin" who was later to become the first Executive Governor of Ondo State. The whole crowd of supporters rather than getting angry, could only burst into laughter because that play upon words by Akintola, was a classic that would be hard to beat any where in Yoruba Land. Akintola was easily the best in his game, and would for ever live in the adulation of our people around the world as a real genius in the Yoruba Language..

Akintola and few Yoruba leaders like Richard Akinjide, Chief M.A. Akinloye were the very first to question the conventional wisdom that the Yorubas must never have anything to do with the Northerners as a group which was the central focus of Awolowo's who had believed he could become President of Nigeria with or without the cooperation of the North as a power bloc. And if the result of the recently concluded Election in Nigeria is anything to go by, I submit that Akintola and Akinjide's position would appear to have been vindicated at long last, if we really think about it. An Hausa/Fulani dominated Party the PDP will, less than ten days from today, be the ruling party in the old West, regardless of the irregularities some people have alleged on the conduct of those elections. That has become a "fait accompli" for once in our history.

Abiola the only Yoruba man and southerner to ever win a national election in Nigeria, had equally done so by rejecting the Awolowo's creed. I guess you could say the same thing of Obasanjo who has today become the enigma of Nigerian Politics by towing much the same line that Akintola and his cohorts had predicted more forty years ago. It was a very unpopularl move at the time. But it has, in the fullness of time, become the conventional wisdom and the cornerstone of Politics in today's Nigeria. No condition is indeed permanent. I say the time has come for us to now begin to acknowledge Akintola's vision. It is also time for us to begin to refurbish his name and reputation which had been dragged in the mud for so long. I would argue that time and space may have proved him right, after all is said and done.

Just like Awolowo has earned his right to remain one of our best and benevolent leaders. I think the time has come for us to start recognizing Akintola not as a traitor or a Judas to the Yoruba cause anymore. It is true that Ladoke Akintola may never attain the same stature of Awolowo in the way and manner we honor our leaders, but he, sure, deserves a lot more respect and understanding, than he has been accorded, hitherto, by the rank and file of our people. It is the right thing to do. I definitely tip him as one of our great Yorubas leaders of all times, and he should be so honored. I am confident that our spiritual father Kabiyesi Arole Oodua, Oluaiye, the Oni of Ife must be seriously thinking of ways and means to honor Ladoke Akintola as well as giving legitimacy to the touch of leadership that has now been passed to our new leader of the Yorubas by acclamation.

I am talking about Akika Olusegun Obasanjo who must now step up to the plate to formally claim the title that fate and destiny have bestowed on him as the undisputed Yoruba Leader of the 21st century. The ball is in your court, Kabiyesi, the Oni of Ife. We are all waiting.

I rest my case.