Traditional Rulers and Party Politics, By Eric Teniola
The participation in party politics by traditional rulers in this country has never been new. One traditional ruler, however, deserves a special mention for his past role in party politics in Nigeria, and that is the late Oba of Badagry in the present Lagos, Oba Claudius Dosa Akran.
Sir Titus Martins Adesoji Gbenusola Tadeniawo Aderemi (1889-1980), the Ooni of Ife, succeeded Sir John Rankine as governor of Western Region and served in that office between 1960 and 1962. His sympathy for the Action Group was never in doubt. Sir Aderemi was appointed governor of Western Region on May 8, 1960 and was installed as the Ooni of Ife on July 8, 1960, thus becoming the first African governor of the region.
Oba Samuel Adetayo Akinsanya (1898-1985) was the Odemo of Ishara, Ogun State. A former trade union activist and journalist, he was a founding member of the Action Group in 1951 and was appointed minister without a portfolio in the Western Region between 1952 and 1955.
The eleventh Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi, whose tenure lasted from 1954 to 1963, did not hide his interest in politics. He hosted Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Kano in 1956. The power tussle between him and the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, his distant cousin, is believed to have led to his dethronement to Azari in Bauchi State in 1963. His grandson, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the former governor of the Central Bank, is the current Emir of Kano.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Sir Siddiq Abubakar III (1903-1988) and Alhaji Usman Nagogo (1905-1981), the late Emir of Katsina, were appointed ministers without portfolio by the late premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello (1909-1966). The Amanyanabo of Opobo, Chief Douglas Jaja (1915-1980) was a member of the two-chamber legislature of Eastern Nigeria, and from there became a minister of state.
Armed with parliament approval, Nigeria’s first and only prime minister, The Right Honourable Tafawa Balewa (1912-1966), on May 29, 1962 in Lagos, declared a three month state of emergency in the Western Region. The same day, he appointed his friend, Dr. Moses Adekoyejo Majekodunmi (1916-2012), a gynecologist and obstetrician, as administrator of the region.
Dr. Majekodunmi, who later built St. Nicolas Hospital in Lagos, not far from the seat of parliament, arrived in Ibadan two days later on May 31, 1962 with his new ADC, Lt. Col. Murtala Ramat Muhammed (1938-1976), who later became Nigeria’s Head of State in 1975.
On June 4, 1962, Dr. Majekodunmi appointed 16 commissioners to assist him in his government. The commissioners and their portfolios were: Prince Adeleke Ademiluyi, Agricultural and Resources; Chief S.O. Adedeji, Chieftaincy Affairs; Dr. Victor Omololu Olunloyo, Economic Planning and Community Development; Chief T.E.A. Salubi, Education; Mr. V. Owolabi Esan, Finance; Mr. A.M. Laosebikan, Home Affairs; Mr. A. Y. Eke, Information; Mr. W. G. Egbe, Justice; Mr. Olajide Esan, Labour; Chief J.O. Fagbemi, Lands and Housing; Chief E.A. Adeyemo, Local Government; Mr. B.O. Mark Uzorka, Midwest Affairs; Mr. Adeniyi Williams, Works and Transport; Mr. J.Oyegoke, Office of the Administrator; Chief Shafi Lawal Edu, Health and Social Welfare; Dr. J. A. Adegbite, Trade and Industry.
In addition, Dr. Majekodunmi appointed Mr. S.T. Rufai and Chief F. Lamina as commissioners without portfolios.
He also appointed the following traditional rulers as commissioners: Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, Ogbagba II, the Awujale of Ijebuland; Oba Abimbola Ogundapo II, the Oluwo of Iwo; Oba Rufus Adesokeji Aderele Tewogboye II,the Osemawe of Ondo; the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Isaac Akinyele; the Olu of Warri, Wilson Ayoronmitisi Gbesimi Emiko; and the Oba of Benin, the Omon’oba n’Edo, Oba Uku Akpolokpolo, Akenzua II.
In the November 1951 election, Oba C. D. Akran contested the election as an Oba into the Western Region House of Assembly. He contested along with others. In a statement on the election, the returning officer, Mr. Harrod Cooper listed in full the names of all the contestants at that time. They were Ijebu Remo Division – Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief M.S. Sowole; Ijebu Ode Divisionn – S.O. Awokoya, Rev. S. A. Banjo and V.D. Phillips; Oyo Division – Chief Bode Thomas, Abiodun Akerele, A.B.P. Martins, T.A. Amao and S.B. Eyitayo; Osun Division – S.L. Akintola, J.O. Adigun, J.O. Oroge, S.I. Ogunwale, I.A. Adejare, J.A. Ogunmuyiwa and S.O. Ola; Ondo Division – P.A. Ladapo and Chief Gabriel Akinola Deko, the late Lisa of Idanre; Okitipupa Division – Dr. L.B. Lebi, C.A. Tewe and S.O. Tubo; Epe Division – S.L. Edu, A.B. Gbajumo, Obafemi Ajayi and C.A. Williams; Ikeja Division – O. Akeredolu-Ale, S.O. Gbadamosi and F.O. Okuntola; Badagry Division – Oba C. D. Akran, Akinyem Amosu and Rev. G.M. Fisher.
For the Egba Division – J.F. Odunjo, Alhaji A.T. Ahmed, C.P.A. Cole, Rev. S.A. Daramola, Akintoye Tejuoso, S.B. Sobande, I.O. Delano and A. Adedamola. The others were, as follows: Egbado Division – Jonathan Akinremi Olawale Odebiyi, D.A. Fafunmi, Adebiyi Adejumo, A. Akin Illo and P.O. Otegbaye; Ife Division – Rev. S. A. Adeyefa, D. A. Ademiluyi, J.O. Opadina, and S.O. Olagbaju; Ekiti Division – E. A. Babalola, Rev. J. Ade Ajayi, S.K. Familoni, S.A. Okeya and D. Atolagbe; Owo Division – Michael Adekunle Ajasin, A. O. Ogedengbe, J.A. Agunloye, L.O. Omojola and R.A. Olusa; Western Ijaw Division – Pere E.H. Sapre-Obi and M.F. Agidee; Ishan Division – Anthony Enahoro; Urhobo Division – W.E. Mowarin, J.B. Ohwinbiri and J.D. Ifode; Warri Division – Arthur Prest and O. Otere and Kukuruku Division – D.J.I. Igenuma.
Others who contested were Chief Timothy Adeola Odutola, Chief F. O. Awosika, Alhaji Dauda Adegbenro, S. A. Daramola, Chief D.K. Olumofin, Chief Augustus Meredith Adisa Akinloye, Chief J.O. Osuntokun, Mr. S. O. Hassan, Mr. Akereledolu Ale, Chief S. L. Edu, Chief S.O. Ighodaro, Chief Humphrey Omo-Osagie, Chief Chike Ekwuyesi, Chief S.A. Ajuwon, Chief Samuel Owoola Lanlehin, Chief D.T. Akinbiyi, Chief S. Aderonmu, Chief S. Baoku, Chief Akin Allen, Chief Adegoke Oduola Akande Adelabu, Chief Hezekiah Oladapo Davies, Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya, Chief Kolawole Balogun, Chief Theophilus Owolabi Shobowale Benson, Chief Akiniyi Olunloyo, Chief Akin Allen, Chief Moyosore Aboderin, Chief S. A. Aderonmu, Chief R.S. Baoku and Chief S. Ajuwon.
P.A. Ladapo, mentioned above, who contested for the Ondo Division was Chief Phillip Akingunola Ladapo, brother to Chief Samuel Akinbolaji Oladapo (1910-1991), a close friend of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who later became the Lisa of Ondo. He owned the Pilot Sawmill at Aponmu, near Akure, where Chief Atiku Bamidele Mimiko worked with his wife, Iye-Ruka as manager along with some Germans. Chief Mimiko was the father of the former governor of Ondo state, Dr. Rahman Mimiko.
In the election, Oba C. D. Akran won on the platform of Action Group and was eventually appointed minster of Finance and Local Government in Western Region.
The pertinent question is should the traditional rulers keep their thrones if they take part in party politics?
Eric Teniola, a former Director in the Presidency, Writes from Lagos.