Nigeria Matters

Ovie Kpor – The King is dead

One of the very few Princes in Akure who could have helped to douse the fire and to keep the tension down, and stop the situation from deteriorating into an absolute chaos or quagmire, at this point in time, is the late Prince Adewole Adesida. That, in part, explains why I think his death could not have occurred at a worse time for all our people, and even for the Government of Ondo State. As an administrator, I am scared to death about the fall out from this horrendous development in Akure.

The greatness of Prince Adewole Adesida is underscored by his principled stand for the truth at all times. Born as the first son of Prince J. S. Adegboye Adesida of blessed memory, he was cut out for greatness and privilege right from his child hood. He attended St David’s, the primadona of all Primary Schools in Akure before gaining admission to Kings College, Lagos, and passing his final examination with exception from London matriculation. He then proceeded to the United Kingdom where he attended the London School of Economics (LSE) where he had obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Economics. He returned to Nigeria to join the Western Nigeria Public Service where he was soon elevated to the position of General Manager of the Housing Corporation. Under his able leadership, the Housing Corporation has not only pioneered the Housing revolution in the old Western Region, he had raised and nurtured the Housing Corporation Football team into regional and national prominence lasting more than two decades.

On the creation of Ondo State, he had been named the first General manager of the Ondo State Housing Corporation where he performed the same magic under Governor Ita David Ikpeme, thus laying the infrastructure for the take-off of Ondo State. He again started the Ondo State Housing Corporation football team that has put Ondo State among the first national Football League league in Nigeria. He soon rose to become Permanent Secretary in the Ondo State Public Service, and was assigned as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works. He was an incorruptible public servant. He had carried himself with dignity befitting a Prince any where in the civilized world. He could easily have made his millions in all the positions of power he had served in Nigeria. He was clearly a breed apart, and evidently a “sui generis” one of a kind. Impeccably dressed, handsome, articulate, eloquent, intelligent and hardworking, always looking to be the best in everything he had done. His determination to always go for the best had seen him going to Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts on an in-service training to obtain his Master’s Degree in Public Administration and Management. He was a model of Royalty, and a true blue blood whose charisma was absolutely contagious.

As a married man, he was a role model of a husband, and he had a unique luck of marrying from one of the most illustrious families in Akure. His wife is the first daughter of that great Akure educationist in late Pa S. O Abiodun of blessed memory.. She was a retired Chief Matron and Chief Nursing Officer of the Akure General Hospital and one of the most responsible and loving wives Akure has ever known. They were like twin brother and sister. They are never too far apart. If you see one, you can be sure the other is just around the corner. They have been married for close to 50 years and the marriage has been richly blessed with first class children brought up in the Christian tradition and culture that has become the envy of other parents. My heart goes out to “mummy” as she is fondly called in our extended family, as we join her in mourning the painful but glorious transition of her wonderful husband and life partner.

He was a one time President of the Rotary Club of Akure and one of the pillars of St David’s Cathedral Church in Akure where he was honored with a Chieftaincy title. He was an active member of so many Organizations in Nigeria and Ondo State, and one of the Foundation members of the Harvard University Alumni Association in Nigeria and the London School of Economics (LSE).

He was a prime candidate for the position of Secretary to Government in Ondo State after juggernauts like Iwajomo and Emuleomo, by reason of his merit and professional ability and competence He got retired from the Service because he was never a “kiss my ass” type of Permanent Secretary. He got retired thru a carefully orchestrated plot by a scheming, impatient and diabolical younger colleague of his who had made sure that no less than three or four permanent Secretaries who were senior to him in order of seniority, merit and competence, were forced to retire early, to open the way for him to be named the Secretary to Government. Prince Adewole Adesida was one of the three. The other two were Mr. J. K. Kolawole who had gone on transfer as a commissioner to the Federal Civil Service Commission in Lagos, and the third was Chief Omiyale, another brilliant and competent Permanent Secretary from Iyin Ekiti . The Governor who was misled into becoming the hatchet man for the plot was Governor Okhai Mike Akhigbe, a personal friend of mine who had committed that atrocity, because he did not realize he was being used. The rest is history. What is important, however, is how Prince Adesida has quietly accepted the retirement and left the Service with his honor and integrity intact. He knew what was going on, but he was unflappable, and always willing to forgive and to move on.. He was just too sure of himself to be bothered by any attempt to pull him down…

He was soon invited back to Government and offered a position of a Commissioner at the Ondo State Civil Service Commission under Governor Bandele Olumilua, and with Olusola Akintayo, a personal friend and classmate of mine at Ife University as Chairman. Prince Adesida was described by Olusola Akintayo, as an embodiment of Honor, loyalty and Integrity who was far more qualified and far more experienced and seasoned than himself to be Chairman, but who nevertheless, offered him all the moral support, he had needed to succeed as Chairman. Olusola Akintayo talks of Prince Adewole in superlatives even before he came to know he was my uncle. Prince Adesida’s last position in Government was as a Commissioner of the Ondo State Electoral Commission. He had served honorably in several other positions, I cannot begin to enumerate in this tribute, because they are just too many.

But there was a particular one I cannot fail to mention in this tribute. He was the second Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Sergeant Akintide Educational Endowment Foundation based in New York, and in Akure in Ondo State. He had taken over from Dr. Olusola Omobomi, one time Chairman of the Wema Bank in Nigeria. While the Prince was Chairman, the late Chief Samuel Akinola Osatuyi, the Asaju of St Thomas’s Church was Deputy Managing Director of the Foundation. The two of them, as I proudly recall, had managed the finances of the Foundation with absolute honesty and integrity that are very rare to find in our country. I would forever remain grateful to the late Prince and late Chief Osatuyi for making sure that our first batch of scholarship winners did manage to complete their programs without any hitch.

I must end this tribute by explaining why I call him” the Deji of Akure we have never had” In 1975, following the transition of Oba Agunsoye, Prince Adewole Adesida who was then the General manager of the Western Nigeria Housing Corporation had shown interest in becoming the next Deji as a descendant of the Asodeboyede Ruling House. There were 15 surviving King makers, at the time, out of the 21 statutory king makers in Akure. 9 out of the 15 King makers had supported his candidature. I knew it, because I was the Secretary to the Asodeboyede Ruling House as one of the Descendants of the 44 Dejis in Akure. Chief Asuwamo Adegbulu, an Oba Osuan descendant, was the Family Head at the time, and late Mr. Ige of Isinkan, was the Secretary to the Akure Local Government that observed the nomination exercise. The entire ruling House had held the nomination of potential candidates to be sent to the king makers at the Akure Youth Center. Prince Adewole Adesida was one of the grand children of a reigning Deji that had shown interest in the vacancy. So was late Prince Adedeji Adegoroye, and Prince Jaiyeola Faloye, plus seven direct children of Oba Afunbiowo. Because the “Omo Ori Ite” “born to a reigning Deji” provision was still very much in force in the 1958 Deji’s Declaration, the family was not allowed to send to the king makers, the names of Prince Adewole, Prince Adegoroye and Prince Faloye.

We can all clearly see from this analysis that there is only one ruling House in Akure. Now that the “Omo ori ite” clause no longer debars any grand children from the throne, Prince Adewole and other grand children from the male or female line, like him, from any of the remaining descendants of a Deji in Akure can be a Deji tomorrow. It does not have to be an Adesida per se, but the final choice is all up to the king makers, the custodians of our tradition in that regard. Agagu has no business telling the king makers what to do. Whoever emerges from such a selection exercise whether he is an Adesida or an Adegboro or an Aladetoyinbo, or Aladejana or Adegbulu, would be warmly accepted by the rest of us and the generality of Akure people the world over. We are all descendants of Asodeboyede. We all know ourselves and the strangers among us.

All the “Mutumu Banzas” running around today wanting to be crowned a Deji would be shown the way out, as they are only interested in taking undue advantage of the confusion that has arisen from asking descendants of 2 out of the 44 Dejis to now present a candidate, as late lawyer Bello clearly wanted to do in 1999 following the transition of Oba Ataiyese. The seven names that were sent to the king makers in 1975 were those of direct children which included late Prince Adeusi Adesida, the Akota of Ikota, late Prince Adelegan Adesida, Prince Adedeji Adesida, Prince Adelanke Adesida, late Prince Adebobajo Adesida, Prince Moradeyo Adesida, and late Prince Adeteye Adesida.

It turned out that 9 out of the 15 king makers had already sworn on oath to give their support to Prince Adewole. When they were told his name was not on the list for the reasons stated above, there was disappointment and panic among the majority of the king makers. Rather than shift their loyalty to just any body, they unanimously asked Prince Adewole to name whoever he wanted them to support. Prince Adewole had named Prince Adelegan, because of the feud between him and Prince Adebobajo at the time. The nine king makers had voted en mass for Prince Adelegan who would not have received a single vote, left to him alone. Prince Adelegan therefore received 9 votes, Prince Adebobajo received 5 while Prince Adedeji received only 1 vote. That in a nutshell, was how Prince Adelegan had become the 43rd Deji, as Oba Otitubiosun in 1975 by sheer destiny and luck. Prince Adewole was always a heartbeat from the Dejis’ throne, and he remained that way till the very end because he was clearly an “Atobatele” .

Prince Adewole could possibly have run again in 1991, following the transition of Oba Otutubiosun. He could not do it, because he had exhausted his wallet, because if you miss a chance to be king at your first attempt, you run the risk of putting your self in endless financial liquidation, like had happened to Oba Afunbiowo in 1882 when he first ran against Oba Odundun, and like he did again, when he ran against Oba Arosoye in1890. Oba Afunbiowo was conceivably willing to risk another financial liquidation in 1897 when he finally got the support of the majority of the kingmakers at the very first ballot

I put the question again to Agagu and his docile Deputy. If Asodeboyede was not the only ruling House in Akure, how come Oba Afunbiowo was able to contest on three consecutive occasions? How come Oba Ataiyese was able to contest on two consecutive occasions before getting the nod in 1991. The only way out for Akure king makers to pick a new Deji our people can accept, is to go back to the same Asodeboyede Ruling House and starting the whole process all over again like I have always suggested.

Doing this should permanently immortalize and honor the memory of the best Deji Akure has never had in “Dan Saki” (Prince) Adewole Adesida. May his soul rest in perfect peace? Amen.

I rest my case.

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