By Omololu Olunloyo ex-gov, old Oyo State
►Says, Awolowo, Akintola played
►Igbo not yet fully integrated
►Abacha organised best confab
By Femi Adeoti
I never booked any appointment with him and it was deliberate. I suspected the request could be easily turned down on phone. So? I fell back on the “crude” method I employed in 2009, the last time I interviewed him. I learnt the trick over the years of my interaction with him. And it has worked wonders.
So, that Wednesday afternoon, I just drove straight to Dr. Victor Omololu Olunloyo’s sprawling Molete, Ibadan, Oyo State residence unannounced. It nearly paid off. Even at 81, he did not complain of being barged on. He is forever reporter-friendly. He was going through the dailies without a pair of reading glasses. My mission had to be aborted because of his state of health. Six days later, I repeated the visit. Still, he told me he was not in a good frame of mind for a long talk. I suggested a conversation if interview would not work. He agreed and a convenient balance was struck. These random jottings are the results.
Olunloyo is a man of many parts. A mathematician, physicist, engineer, educationist, administrator, elder statesman, etc,
As commissioner for economic development, Western Region in 1962 at 27, he was the youngest in the cabinet of Dr. Majekodunmi’s seven-month administration. He was governor of the old Oyo State between October 1 and December 31, 1983. Any encounter with Olunloyo is usually uunsual and full of wits. So also this “informal” chat that lasted four hours. Olunloyo spoke his mind. He talked forth and back. He would jump from one issue to another and he would go back to it in the middle of a new topic. It was really a random talk because he chose what he talked about. In the process, he revealed how Chief Obafemi Awolowo, first premier of Western Region and his predecessor, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, played “primitive politics” in the crisis of 1962 that led to the “Wild, Wild, West.”
He equally insisted that the Igbo were not yet fully integrated into Nigeria after the 30-month civil war. That was between August 1967 and January 1970. He also touched on the vexed issue of restructuring, the controversial 1962 census, held while he was a commissioner in Western Region, the 1983 coup and many more. Enjoy the chat.
The 1962 controversial census
Chief Samuel Olatunbosun Shonibare was the only Action Group (AG) member who asked me about the 1962 census I ran as a commissioner in the Western Region. There were fewer people in the North than in the South, so, they cancelled it. The most thickly populated areas in the South were Ekiti and Owerri.
I do not know what motivated former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida. He is a very brilliant man, he is a friend of mine. He is my greatest philanthropist. Babangida asked every government that did census to send me a copy of the full report. I suspect he knew I knew a lot about census and how they were replaced with fake figures. The real 1962 census figures were never released. Former Cross River State governor, Lyel Imoke’s father and I were the ministers for census for Eastern and Western regions respectively. The federal minister of census was Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim, who was later the leader of the Great Nigerian Peoples Party (GNPP) in the Second Republic. It was a tug of war, East/West versus the North and contrived to be cancelled. Even though I was on Akintola’s side, eventually, I gave the figures to Chief Obafemi Awolowo, first premier of the old Western Region.
Restructuring of Nigeria
The questions to be asked are: What is the need for restructuring? Why is it necessary, particularly now?
There were three regions, Western, Eastern and Northern. Mid-west had not been created but there was Lagos Colony. Each region had its own constitution, logo, emblem and motto. There was a more flexible fiscal federalism. Each region also had its own ambassadors called agents-general.
The government had been de-structured. By the time the January 15, 1966 coup happened, there were four regions, West, East, Mid-west and North. Kashim Ibrahim was governor of the North; Sir Ibiam, East; Oba Adesoiji Aderemi, West and Osadebey, Mid-west. Lagos was a colony. Lagos then did not include Badagry, Ikeja, Epe, Mushin, Ajegunle, Agege and Somolu, which were then part of the Western Region. An Igbo, Ebubedike represented Ajegunle at the Western House of Parliament in Ibadan.
The trouble arose after the coup. The regions went from four to 12 states. That was the re-structuring got wrong. They also introduced through F.C Nwokede, a unitary government. On July 29, 1966, there was a counter coup led by Murtala Muhammed and T.Y. Danjuma. They kidnapped Maj-Gen Johnson Thomas Aguyi-Ironsi, the Head of State and Col. Adekunle Fajuyi, Governor of Western Region.
From 12 states they went to 19, which led to that 12 2/3 debacle during the 1979 presidential eletion between Alhaji Shehu Shagari and Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
From 19 states to 21 states. Osun State was carved out of the old Oyo State to separate Ooni and Alaafin who were fighting for supremacy. Some of those states were created for selfish interest. From 21 to 30 and then to 36 states.
The old Western Region now has eight states, Eastern Region has nine states. When Awolowo was premier of Western Region, there was no deputy, no first lady. There was no entourage of jeeps, when he moved around. He was riding just one vehicle.
Abacha organized the best national conference
The best ever conference was the one organized by General Sani Abacha. But because it was Abacha, it was cancelled. Babangida had earlier organized his own, it was also cancelled. All the questions being asked now were solved by the Abacha confab including re-structuring.
Politics is about development of the country. It is also about the sharing of national cake. We have to examine ourselves, where did we go wrong? All the conferences held were never made use of.
There was a problem I solved. The problem is, when a president dies, there should be an acting president. There was nothing like that in the constitution.
(Dr. Goodluck) Jonathan became acting president because of me. He phoned and thanked me. I worked that formula that made him acting president. Obasanjo ran to me and said he thinks I am the only one who can solve the problem. Obasanjo and Lady Kofo Ademola said I was the most brilliant young man in Nigeria. He said Prof. Jibril Aminu is the next man to me.
When there is a confab, it is not the final report that is important. The more important documents are the debates. The question being raised, somebody raised it 37 years earlier. The question is, should there be a provision for an acting president?
Chief Rotimi Williams raised that question 37 years ago, and he drafted what should be there. Williams was the chairman of the 49 wise men raised by Obasanjo to draft the 1979 Constitution. Awolowo rejected his membership of the committee. The Federal Government has excess money at its disposal. At independence, the Western Region got 57 million pounds, the Northern Region 11 million pounds and Eastern Region seven million pounds. Awolowo deployed his own in education, agriculture (farm settlements)
The responsibility must conform to the amount of money. There is too much waste in government. We have to go back to regionalism and park all these cars used by governors and government officials. All these first lady offices, security votes, huge salaries for political office holders should be cancelled. Some of us have benefited from it. The country should be divided into six zones.
Igbo not fully integrated
There are some bottlenecks in the country. The country is divided among some rich Nigerians. There must be the forcing down of tribalism. I do not personally believe that the Igbo have been fully integrated. It took a long time before any of them could be made head of any of the Nigerian Armed Forces, and that was Alison Maduekwe for the Navy.
I was a foundation member of the Institute of Policy and Strategic studies, Kuru, Jos. The first paper we took was about Bakassi. That place belongs to Nigeria. The Queen is aware of this, only that we cannot call her as a witness.
What is called Nigeria or Togo or Ghana, or any of these colonies? They were all determined during the scramble for Africa in the 19th century. There are documents on Bakassi. We know where the documents are and we told those who were handling the case. That Bakassi case was not properly handled. That was why we lost out. It was poorly handled.
There are two copies of a very vital document. One is with the Queen and the other is somewhere else. Nigeria and Cameroon were delineated. The problem is that those who are in government are only committed to their terms, a maximum, of eight-year view. They do not see a long-term view of the country. If they see a long-term view, they will not be selfish and self-centered in their actions.
The most valuable land in this country is in Lokoja, followed by Banana Island, Victoria Island, Abuja, etc. The most costly land is where Lugard first administered Nigeria, on the hill in Lokoja.
The Western Region crisis: How Awolowo, Akintola played primitive politics.
I was very much attached to Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, premier of the old Western Region after Awolowo. People have been very unfair to Akintola.
Awolowo and Akintola played primitive politics. During that crisis that tore them apart, each had a register in his house. They did not want to go to the House of Parliament to take a vote of no confidence.
As members of the legislature came to declare their loyalty by registering their names, each was given certain amount for doing so. The two of them did it. Once you signed in support, you would be given money. The cause of the crisis was Awolowo’s miscalculation by leaving Western Region as premier for being Leader of Opposition at the federal level. He had some platonic notions. He felt there must be a strong opposition at the federal level. Maybe, it was a government of consensus we needed at that time, not opposition.
Sir Ahmadu Bello, premier of the Northern Region and Sardauna of Sokoto, who was the most powerful politician at that time in terms of numbers, did not leave the North. He left his second-in command, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, to be Prime Minister in Lagos. Was he a fool?
You knew you were going into opposition, he wanted to pick Rotimi Williams who had no constituency or Anthony Enahoro, his favourite to be Premier of Western Region. But Akintola and some other party members kicked.
You won election in your own territory, and you were running a government, which by common consent was regarded as the best government. Even we his (Awo) followers, we benefited from it. When that trouble arose, the registers they kept in their houses were useless. There were some people who signed in both places and collected money in both places. I was there when Akintola was enacting a mischief, very amazing.
He sent one Ogundiran to Awolowo’s house to spy on how far the number of those who had signed, to know what next to do. Each one did not know how far the other had gone. He told him: “What you collect from there, we will have to share it.”
He went there and signed against Akintola. When he came back, he delivered. He told Akintola that they had reached 37 in number: We are only 29, we need to do something urgently to increase the number.” They were doing this with the intention of having a motion of no confidence in the Parliament.
This is what the British did that annoyed me. Section 30, 4a, stated that, “if it appears to the Governor that the Premier no longer enjoys a majority, then a vote of confidence will be taken in the Parliament.” This was grossly faulty, how is it going to appear to him? It is not like that in England. The British did it deliberately to cause chaos. There are only two things. You either go to the House, you move a vote of no confidence in the premier and you debate it. He has the opportunity to counter the motion, and take a motion of confidence straight. Ooni Aderemi (the governor) was persuaded and he refused to sign that the House should meet. They did not allow Akintola to test his confidence and that was undemocratic.
The alternative was that if they did not allow him, they should dissolve the House and go for a fresh election. These are the two ingredients. They denied Akintola both, and I became an Akintola advocate.
How we ‘reinstated’ Akintola as Premier
I felt the man (Akintola) should be given the chance to prove his popularity or the House dissolved. But they denied him both and he was removed. When the case got to the Privy Council, London, from the Supreme Court in Lagos, they said the Governor (Oba Aderemi) was right in removing Akintola.
We held a hurried meeting and turned the country into a Republic. So, the Queen was no longer the Head of State. The country then became Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1963, when Dauda Adegbenro was at the Privy Council to be Premier of Western Region.
They wanted to hold a meeting on May 26, 1962, to make Adegbenro Premier. That did not happen. Lekan Salami and I, as well as a few others went to the Premier’s Office and tore the door open. The police were instructed not to tamper with us, but just to take photographs.
We did not take any document. Akinola just went in and sat own on the chair in he Premier’s Office. He left after two hours. They then went to the Parliament and there was shout of “fire on the mountain.” There was a serious free-for-all in the Parliament. They were throwing chairs and upturning tables. People were trying to flee through the windows. That was the beginning of the “Wild, Wild West.”
Wines Awolowo, Akintola liked
I had a liking for Awolowo, a very optimistic man. He had a very hard life. His father died just when he would go to secondary school. He didn’t attend any secondary or teachers’ training school. He was only a clerk at Wesley College, Ibadan.
But at home, he read. My father had a very huge library at Mapo, Ibadan in the house he rented there, before he built this house. (Molete, Ibadan). He spent one night here and died.
Awolowo was my father’s friend. There were six of them like that. Akintola, Sowole, Owolade Esan etc. They would wait for the newspapers, which would come in the evening by train from Lagos. They would read the editorials before they go for their various drinks.
Awolowo used to drink Whiskey, and I used to buy the whiskey, his favourite one was “Dimple.” Akintola was for Brandy, while Esan drank Gin with Horatio Olunloyo, my father. They were also women hunters, Olunloyo and Esan, they were quite notorious.
Awolowo had four dresses of the same type, all spotlessly clean. My mother asked one day: “Is this man sane, he wears the same dress everyday?” We found out that he had four copies of the same dress; at least, two laundered at any given time. Chief Adekunle Ajasin was a man like that too.
How Awolowo became bankrupt
Awolowo graduated at 38. He did many things including National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) as its secretary. He was a typist. He was a cocoa produce merchant.
One of the things he did that turned out terrible for him was that he got a war contract from the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF) to supply elubo and gbodo (foodstuffs). He was to transfer it as far as Turkey and Burma during the second world war. He got these foodstuffs from Oke-Ogun in present Oyo State. He borrowed money from the bank and also scooped money. He got all the gbodo and elubo in Oke-Ogun, which is Alaafin’s territory. The Alaafin seized all the foodstuffs bought by Awolowo without compensation. That was in 1944 That was how Awolowo went bankrupt. His things were auctioned. He was present where they were auctioned as you see in his biography.
Some contributed to assist him to buy his personal effects like certificates. But Awolowo said they should not borrow him money. In 1944, he traveled with Abdulazeez Attah, former Secretary to Government, a prince of Ebiraland (in present day Kogi State), out of the country.
My father was a genius
My father was the chief executive officer of the Native Administration. He was the president of all local government staff throughout Nigeria, Horatio Vincent Soremekun Olunloyo. He was doubly promoted twice in Ibadan Grammar School.
On the first day he got to the school, he played devotional hymn, for the first service. Bishop Akinyele had been teaching him how to play the organ. His immemorial was the first to be published by Nigerian Tribune in 1949. He was a genius. My father was first in his entrance exams to IGS in 1918. He played the IGS anthem as a form one boy using Psalm 46. Everybody was looking at him. He was promoted to Form Three, and from Form Three to Form Five. He came first in five and went to six. He was made a member of staff the next January. His records put us under a lot of strain. That worried us a lot in primary school. I did not start very well. I was last, second to the last in class in Lagos. They brought me to Aremo, Ibadan, where I was made to do only reading. My father was the first to pass Inter LLB London Matriculation in Nigeria.
Awolowo wrote me that he did not know where my father came from. He was only three years senior to him, but he taught him Latin as if he was Roman. I used to carry books from Mapo to Awolowo’s house at Oke-Bola, Ibadan. Sometimes, he would give me six pence, which was a lot of money. When my father died at 42, his mother and father were both alive, and my mother died at 102. My father was bragging in the hospital where hypertension was going to kill him. He had the best medical hand in the country, Sir Samuel Manuwa. He was the head of Adeoyo Teaching Hospital used for the first university, University of Ibadan. Both the university and the hospital were at Eleyele then.
They built the University Teaching Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, in eight years. The Queen had to come down from England to open it. She came in 1956 to open it. She did not come during independence on October 1, 1960, but she came for UCH. That road that leads to UCH was called Queen Elizabeth Road, stretching from Mokola to Agodi.
That road was the boundary between the traditional part of Ibadan and the new area (Government Reservation Area). After 6pm, you were not allowed to cross from Agodi to Mokola, that Queen Elizabeth Road. All the areas were quarters. Awolowo had not built Bodija Housing Estate then.
I knew there would be coup in 1983 three weeks before
When I became governor of old Oyo State in October 1983, the former governor, the late Chief Bola Ige, was owing seven months salaries of the civil servants, five months to the corporations, waste disposal workers three months. The first thing I did, I put an embargo on new contracts, a second embargo on payment of any contract, whether fully or partly executed.
I wanted all the salaries to be paid and I to be paid last. But my commissioner for finance, Saka Balogun, said he preferred to be paid last. I said, “I am a security informant. I got information that there would be coup in five days time, so take your salary. Moreover, we need government money to buy ticket to London. I have five (tickets) with which I can run away.”
When Akinloye was going, he came to me, he said those stubborn people would soon strike. He dressed up like a woman. He took secret routes to escape from the country. When he got to River Okpara, he was ferried across. He got to Cotonou in Benin Republic, from there to France and then to UK.
I knew two weeks before that there would be a coup. My Commissioner of Police was very good, he kept me well informed. That CP is no other man than Senator Nuhu Aliyu. He was the one who said he was not comfortable with the backgrounds of some of his colleague senators. He was very loyal. I even made a broadcast that morning of December 31, 1983, that there was no coup, to deter those who were burning houses like 1966.
I was in my house when the coup happened, because I had prepared for it. My battle plan was to carry all the keys of my cars. Unfortunately when the coup plotters came they stole one Range Rover.
They came to arrest me, but they did not find me. In the morning by 6.30, I got one boy (now dead), my first cousin to wheel Dayo (his son) down. They brought us to Layi Balogun’s house. I put my money where they were inaccessible.
After that broadcast, I went to the Government House. Jibola Ogunshola was there with me and we were cracking jokes. If you are at the top of Government House, you will see Agodi Prisons. I said it is a short distance between here and there.
I was never in prison. I was arrested and taken to Officers Mess, Ikolaba, Ibadan. They took us round, I thought they were going to shoot us. They took us to Polo Ground, Bola Ige and I. Ige said I should enter the jeep first I, said: “How can I enter the jeep first? You were governor before me, go in front.” He said: “Your Excellency go in front.” I replied: “Your Excellency go in front.”
I told him: “The number of years you spent, exceeded the number of months I spent. You spent four years, I spent three months. If I see they shoot you, I will die the moment you are dying.”
They took us to a house. (Alhaji) Arisekola (Alao) tried to smuggle us out of that house to escape. He came in the night, he asked some assistants, but he himself was arrested and put where we were. He was able to send messages for some bags of money. We were taken to Lagos. They interviewed us and I upturned them with my control of numbers.
In each file, the balance of money in Accountant General’s office, Ministry of Finance, Governor’s Office, I knew them off hand. And how much they were owing Exim Bank, security vote.
My election was never rigged
I beat Bola Ige hands down. I went through 260 towns and villages campaigning, but they took things for granted. They thought they would win without doing anything. They depended on propaganda. They could not reach Ogbomoso a second time, because they threatened to kill Awolowo. They could also not get to Modakeke, seven of them were roasted.
Ige insisted in challenging my election in the court and messed up the case. The electoral law at that time allowed him only one or two prayers. You either say the election was rough and it should be cancelled. Or that it was not rough and you actually won. Once it is rough, you cannot win. If you are to win, it must not be rough.
He claimed in his prayers that it was not rough and that he won. Two days to the judgment, he then changed his plea that they should either say he won. Or if they cannot say he won, on the alternative, they should say that the election should be cancelled.
The five judges met and took a decision, and the decision was in our favour, unanimously, 5-0. They ruled that he cannot make such an amendment. When it came to the substantive judgment. Three voted for me, none for him and two abstained. I won it 3-0, two abstained. It went to the Court of Appeal, and it became 5-0. At the Supreme Court it was 7-0. But then the government had fallen by the time they concluded the case.
Pranks we played at the Government College, Ibadan
At the Government College, Ibadan (GCI), Oyo State, there was a room reserved for suggestions and constructive criticisms of staff, their works and the syllabus.
There were some students who were more brilliant than their seniors and in some cases more brilliant than the teachers.
There were some extremely brilliant teachers like Saburi Biobaku, Bakare and J.B.O Ojo who were trained in the school. There were others who were posted there by the colonial office because their husbands were also posted to Nigeria. So, you had wives of members of staff in some cases.
In our own period, the person we unanimously chose to collate these criticisms was Wole Soyinka.
There was one he wrote, which the principal was very angry about. The principal was angry because it was too stiff and critical, not that it was false or rude. But that it got beyond bounds.
The identity of the person would collated was not actually made known. But the principal told us he knew the identity of this particular one. He said from the lexis, vocabulary structure, sentences and the tone of the essay, he was not in doubt that it could only have been the work of Wole Soyinka. And he was right. I don’t remember what he wrote. He collated criticisms on the teaching of various subjects.
How Soyinka got his name
The interesting thing about Olawole Soyinka was that the boys changed his name from Olawole Soyinka to Wole Soyinka. And Wole Soyinka means WS, which was GCI’s equivalent of William Shakespeare.
I was two years behind him. He entered the school in 1946, and I entered in 1948. The school had a library, each house also had a library. Only 24 students were admitted every year. There were as many staff of the same number or more.
Oluwasanmi who later became a plastic surgeon and Soyinka were the fastest readers. This is how we discovered. We first identified readers who were borrowing books in English, Literature. In the entry book, Oluwasanmi and Soyinka were borrowing about four times the other boys were borrowing. I first noticed that and we agreed to find out whether Soyinka and Oluwasanmi were actually reading those books they claimed to borrow.
Four of us, we took four of the books Soyinka said he read. We asked him and he said he read them. We distributed the four books to four boys in our class- myself, Olatunbosun, Adegoroye and Adubifa. We crammed some parts; we then called Soyinka to test him. He proved beyond every shadow of doubt that he had read the books inside out. He understood the themes, ideas and some of the vocabularies.
Somebody who was reading at the same speed at Ibadan Grammar School (IGS) was Bola Ige. He had the same reading speed. Ige paid a lot of attention to the pronunciations. We didn’t know that the pronunciation and phonetics of every word is put in the dictionary. His proficiency ability was derived from the fact that he was the Head Boy of IGS.
Everybody in GCI was bright. We had weird people, we had Owosina who became the Chairman of Total, he was my classmate. He died six months ago. He was Chief Medical Director Igbobi Orthopedic Hospital, Lagos. We had Ademola Idowu, brother of Soyinka’s wife, Laide.
Soyinka’s class inspired us a lot. There were many brilliant and colourful people in that class.
Among the class of 24 were Abel Guobadia of INEC, he had Ph.D in Physics, very honest. Christopher Kolade, former director-general, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Managing Director, Cadbury Plc and Ambassador to Britain. The late Prof. Muyiwa Awe, the great physicist, he had double first class degrees. Then, Oni who was probably the brightest of them from Otapete, Ilesa in present Osun State.
Ladipo Akinkugbe, who entered by chance, was number 25 on the entrance examination list, and they needed only 24. But no 24 could not make it, Akinkugbe came in. From the day he came in, he never went beyond the second position.
He was the greatest politician in the class, very crafty politician. We did not know that Latin was important. He led a delegation of the class to protest against Latin. If you don’t have Latin you cannot enter St. Andrew’s (the oldest university in Scotland), Oxford, Cambridge, Dublin (oldest in Ireland).
He was also the brain behind clay modeling. I was a witness of the procession Akinkugbe led. He was in the front at the beginning of the precession. When they got to the principal’s office, he was the last to go in of the 24 students. When the principal was roaring, he was at the back peeping.
There was a teacher who was to teach us Physics, but was teaching us Civics. He was pro-Awolowo, but many of us were pro-Zik. We liked Zik and crammed Zik’s and Adelabu’s speeches. One day, the principal came and he did not know.
We were to do Physics, but he was teaching Civics. He was in a middle of a sentence when he saw the principal, he changed: “As I have been telling you, Awolowo is a good conductor of heat.” The man was from Ogoja in present Cross River State.