…A compilation of Segun Omoworare
Oba Adesoji Tadenikawo Aderemi (1889-1980), the Ooni of Ife (1930-1980) joined his fore-fathers thirty-five years ago. Ooni Aderemi was a core protagonist of the Yoruba renaissance and a hero of the Nigerian nationalism. Below are some of the positions and responsibilities he assumed between 1930 and 1980.
•Ooni of Ife – 1930-1980
•Permanent Chairman, Yoruba Council of Obas 1937-1951
•Member, Legislative Council of Nigeria 1946- 1951
•Delegate to African Conference, London – 1948
•Member of the Nigerian Federal House of Representatives 1952-1954
•Minister in the Central Government- 1952- 1954
•President, Western House of Chiefs – 1952- 1960
•Head of the Nigerian Delegation to the Coronation of the Queen – 1953
•Delegate to Various Nigeria Constitutional Conferences- 1953-1958
•First Black African Governor (Western Region of Nigeria) – 1960-1962
•& Permanent Chairman Western/Oyo State Council of Obas- 1966-1980
I have always been astonished at how he managed to keep his large home of a harem of 13 wives, 63 children and numerous related dependents on one hand, the institution of the seat of Oduduwa which is the most revered position in Yoruba land for fifty glorious years that could be said to be the apogee of development of Ife land. More intriguing was his ability to be a friend of the colonial masters, represent them on a side and on another hand be at the fore-front of nationalism and leading other active politicians without losing focus or losing dignity.
I got a good insight into his personae when I discovered the Eulogy of Chief Obafemi Awolowo who related with him actively for close to forty years. Ooni Aderemi and Chief Awolowo are both on the star list of the fifty eminent Nigerians that were honored at the fiftieth Independence anniversary of Nigeria in October 2010.
This Eulogy ‘A Rare Breed of Monarch’ which was delivered by Chief Obafemi Awolowo at an open-air memorial service for the late Ooni at Enuwa Square in Ile-Ife on Saturday, July 11, 1980 aptly describes the legend.
A RARE BREED OF MONARCH
Some people demand honour from their fellowmen and sometimes, by sundry devices, succeed in forcing and enforcing it. Others, who are very rare in their breed and number, command honour: they evoke it, they deserve it; and they do so because of their profound, worthy and abiding contributions to the welfare and happiness of their fellowmen, and the greatness of their fatherland. Oba Adesoji Aderemi became the Oni of Ife in 1930. At that time, 50 years ago, the only reputation Ile-Ife had was that it is the cradle of Yoruba people. But within 10 years of this rule, Aderemi had transformed Ile-Ife, by Nigerian standards, into a modern town a virile business centre and a haven for the acquisition of secondary education which was a very rare facility in those days.
As a natural ruler, Oba Adesoji Aderemi can be described as a radical traditionalist in the same illustrious brackets as Oba Ladapo Ademola, the late Alake of Egbaland. Reformation especially radical reformation and traditionalism go ill together. But Oba Adesoji Aderemi, the occupant of the throne of Oduduwa, was always one of those in the forefront of every radical socio-political change that occurred in Nigeria throughout his time.
He advanced the cause of education, in all facets, in Ile-Ife. Without his unrelenting efforts and his tremendous weight, the Local Government Reform introduced in the Western Region in 1953 would never have passed through the House of Chiefs. The Education and Health Levy, introduced in the same year, would have had a much tougher and more turbulent reception without the resolute backing of Oba Aderemi and Oba Ademola. The motion for the creation of a Midwest Region out of the then Western Region received his blessing. There was scarcely any innovation or major measure in the Western Region which I did not clear with the late Oni (and of course the late Alake) before embarking upon it. To me, as leader of the party in power, and as Premier, the late Oni of Ife was indeed a pillar of strength; he was a guide, philosopher and friend. Sometimes, it did take time for us to reach a consensus. But once an agreement was reached, Oba Aderemi could be absolutely depended upon to fulfill his part.
He was a frontline nationalist. If he had not been Oba, he would, in my judgement, have occupied a position of leadership in the affairs of the country as from the late thirties such as some of us have occupied since the early fifties. The progress of Nigeria towards independence was greatly accelerated by the motion for self-government in 1956 filed by Tony Enahoro in 1953 at the instance of the Action Group of Nigeria. Without the mighty backing of the late Oni and the late Alake, the motion would not have even reached the Order Paper. Late Sir John Macpherson had left no stone unturned in trying to get Oba Aderemi and Oba Ademola to dissuade us from pursuing the motion. In the alternative, he had urged them to mobilize all Western Region Obas and Chiefs to oppose the move. But the late Oni and the late Alake immovably stood their ground. The mancipation of their country was of greater concern to them than any material thing or official honour that could be gained, or any inconvenience that could befall them. When the motion for Independence was killed in the House of Representatives by the NPC’s dilatory tactics, the Action Group and NCNC members walked out of the House. Oba Aderemi and Oba Ademola also walked out with us. Immediately after the walkout, the Oni proceeded to the Government House to tender his resignation from the Council of Ministers. And thereafter, throughout the contest unto final victory, the late Oba Aderemi did not waver even for a fleeting moment. When the big test came that is, when Sir John (Macpherson) tried to divide our ranks by ominating the late Oni to the Council of Ministers to the exclusion of Bode Thomas and others, the late Oba Aderemi voted against himself with the same determination and defiance as all of us in the Joint Session of the Houses of Chiefs and Assembly did. In the end, thanks to his steadfastness, we had our way.
The late Oni of Ife was a valuable member of all the Constitutional Conferences which ushered in both the Macpherson Constitution in 1952 and the Independence Constitution in 1960. Strictly speaking, Oba Aderemi could be described as a socialist proselyte of the gate. He abhorred violence no matter the merit of its objective. He held the view that anything obtained through violence or bloodshed would not endure. He detested the term socialism. But he passionately believed in equal opportunity for all; and never lost a chance in participating actively in anything that would bring this about, for the people of Ife, of the Western Region, and of Nigeria. Sometime in 1954 or so, the late Oni and I had a discussion. Pandit Nehru of India had declared that at the end of this century, there would only be five surviving monarchs: the king of hearts; the king of clubs; the king of diamonds; the king of spades; and the King of Britain! The late Oni had no hesitation in agreeing with Nehru. He did state clearly, however, that if and when this occurred in Nigeria, be it in his lifetime or after, his aspiration was that his children should be among those who would manage the
affairs of the country. He must have felt gratified that though the administrative power of traditional rulers in Nigeria had been much curtailed, his own children are among those who now manage the affairs of the country.
Oba Adesoji Aderemi and I met about 39 years ago (1941)… From our first meeting, a father-son relationship commenced between him and me. In due course, we became very deep friends.
As a friend, he was the very embodiment of loyalty and devotion. As a man, he was the symbol of tolerance and mirth. As an Oba, he was the epitome of a humane and liberal ruler. Wherever he was, he diffused geniality and peace. I never knew him in all 40 years together to be angry even once, or to speak one harsh or offensive word to any man. During all our innumerable meetings, discussions and conversations, the late Oni did not, even on a single occasion, raise any issue of personal benefit to himself. His sole concern at all times was the welfare of his dear people in Ile-Ife, and in Nigeria as a whole.
(Segun Omoworare; a grandson of Oba Adesoji Aderemi and an Integrated Management Communications Consultant lives in Lagos)