THE PART TO PLAY
“From grass to grace, and from the lowly heights to an astronomical level, Adelegan’s stars have shined, reflecting him as a brilliant and honest educationist, politician and community leader. His handling of the proceedings of the defunct post-emergency Western Region House of Assembly as Speaker Pro-tempore, were commended by the political party in power and the opposition who saw Adelegan as an impartial arbiter. Like every other person, Shadrach Adelegan has his ups and downs, which have been carefully chronicled in this account.” – Ven. Archdeacon Emmanuel Alayande OFR, LLD, JP. The Aare of Ibadan. 2004
“This is an interesting view of your life and Ipetu-Ijesha. The politics of Akintola era gives the best view of the Action Group crises that is not partisan, as between Awolowo and Akintola.” – Emeritus Prof. J.F. Ade-Ajayi.
“My motto: “Audere et Pati”, a Latin phrase which translates into “dare and endure” found a place in my way of life over the years. From my days as a teacher, headmaster and Education Secretary, through the period I served as a politician and community leader, I have always encouraged people to excel by helping others to succeed in life.” – AUTHOR – CHIEF S.T. ADELEGAN
1962 DECLARATION OF STATE OF EMERGENCY AND SUSPENSION ORDER IN WESTERN REGION OF NIGERIA
Shortly after we passed the 1962 Budget, we heard there was going to be a conference of Action Group, to be held in Jos. I was surprised to hear this, same with other leaders of the party who were not informed of such a conference nor involved. That was very wrong. Who could have organized such a conference and who were the people to participate in such a conference if we did not do? It was a total surprise. We later found out that the younger members and the crops of new graduate members of the party, those members whom we did not know, attended the conference. We later heard on the Radio that the conference had resolved that Chief S. L. Akintola should resign as Premier of Western Region. We became more confused. This was never discussed in our meeting at Ikenne. It was also not discussed at the Parliamentary meeting. Those of us who had been working through the thick and thin to make Action Group Party great were never consulted. Delegates were not chosen from the constituencies, as it ought to be. The only thing we were told was that the ‘Party was supreme’. This time, I was still the Federal Secretary of Ijesha Action Group Party.
At this point, I was called upon, as the Deputy Speaker, to go with some people to Ikeja where a meeting had been slated to take place at Late Chief Sonibare’s house. At that ime, Ikeja was part of the Western Region. At the close of school on that day, I left Ipetu Jesa and proceeded to Ikeja. It was not really a difficult task because I had a very good driver, very hardworking Tayo Seweje. The meeting was to sort things out and resolve the differences. But it was a failure, as it could not bring solution to the existing problem. Another meeting was therefore called at A.G. Secretariat, Oke-Bola, Ibadan. After the meeting, we held our Parliamentary meeting where majority of us agreed to toe the party line in support of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. We agreed with him that the Premier should resign, or be removed. 62 members out of 102 members that were present in the House on that fateful morning had signed for the removal of the Premier if he failed to resign. The Speaker was already on chair; He said the prayer and was about reading the order of the day. Just like a volcano waiting to erupt, or a time bomb waiting to explode, the disgruntled members who were not satisfied with the parliamentary decision, showed their discontentment. Most of them were Yorubas who believed in ‘West for West’, the set of people Awolowo always referred to as ‘Omo Okeles’. Hon. Oke E. O., representing Ogbomoso South West, stood on the table, and exploded: “Fire on the Mountain”! The Honourable member representing Badagry West, Hon. F. Ebubedike, took up the Mace, the official symbol of authority and smashed it on the Speaker’s table. The mace broke into two. There was commotion all over the place. Chairs began to fly in different directions. One located Chief Awolowo but was quickly intercepted by Chief Alfred Rewane. There was free-for-all fight, a situation which attracted tear gas from the security men. As soon as the tear gas was thrown, the whole place became deserted as the honourable men fled.
The Speaker, myself, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Jonathan Odebiyi managed to find our ways to the Speaker’s Office. There, Chief Awolowo telephoned the Prime Minister, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa to inform him of the rascality displayed by the people on the floor of the House. Mutually, we should agree to keep decency in the House. The opposition should learn not to be violent and ought to know that nobody had monopoly of violence. But Tafawa Balewa urged us to be calmed, promising, he would call the people to order and that the police would only keep vigil but would not throw tear gas on us. We were to meet again on that same day by 2.00 p.m. We actually met. But it was a continuation of pandemonium that started in the morning. In flagrant disrespect to an earlier promise, the police went on, tear-gassing us. After this, we proceeded to the High Court Premises to swear to affidavit supporting the result of the voting which the opposing members disrupted. We took the case to the court and later to the Privy Council. But before any judgement or hearing, a state of emergency had been declared, and the House was suspended and the cabinet forthwith dissolved.
THE 1962 LEGISLATIVE DISTURBANCES:
THE HIGH POINTS
Western Region was clearly ahead of other Regions in terms of physical and socio-economic development. This could be attributed to the foresight, vision and commitment of the Action-Group Party led by Obafemi Awolowo. The first television station in black Africa, Liberty-Stadium, Cocoa-House, a 25-storey building, the first University and a host of other meaningful advancements had been recorded in the West. The Region also boasted of a large concentration of enlightened people who acted as torchbearers and opinion leaders.
Ikeja, then in Western-Region but in today’s Lagos State was fast developing into a blossoming industrial centre. The intelligentsia and political class were fast imbibing the culture of democratic governance. The political crisis which developed within the Action Group, following a crisis within the National Executive of the Party, and the attendant deposition of Chief S. L. Akintola as Deputy Leader and asked him to resign his appointment as Premier of Western-Region caused a lot of stir. He refused. Attempts were made to recognize Alhaji Dauda Soroye Adegbenro as the new Premier. This did not materialize.
Chief Akintola on his part called for the dissolution of the Action-Group and the redistribution of its assets. He and Chief Ayo Rosiji (Federal Secretary of the Action Group) had been expelled from the Action Group. Chief Akintola however argued that he had also contributed to the Party in energy, time and money and so could not be dealt with that way. On the 20th of May 1962, the Premier advised the Governor of Western Region that in view of the political crisis that had been developing in the Region and counter-claims by the two factions for a majority support of the electorate, the Governor should exercise his constitutional powers to dissolve the Legislative House of the Region. The Governor, Sir Adesoji Aderemi refused.
At the same time, the Premier requested the Hon. Speaker to convene the Western House of Assembly for May 23, 1962 to consider and pass the Motion for a vote of confidence in the Government of Western-Nigeria. The Speaker also refused. The Governor moved thereafter, invoking the relevant section of the constitution to remove Chief Akintola as Premier with effect from May 21, 1962. Chief Akintola went to court to challenge his removal. A meeting of the House was eventually summoned for the 25th of May. Two unsuccessful attempts were made that day to hold meetings of the Western-House of Assembly. It was a red-letter day. The problems of a stable, political society in Nigeria could be said to have commenced that sad day. The mace, symbol of authority was broken into pieces, and the Hon. Speaker, Prince Adeleke Adedoyin, narrowly escaped being battered. He ducked when a member grabbed the mace and swung it at him. A Minister in the crisis Cabinet, Hon. Kessington Momoh – was treated in hospital for a head injury.
The confusion began when the leader of the House and Minister of Finance, Chief J. A. Odebiyi, rose to outline the day’s business. He had hardly started speaking when a member from the Government side jumped on the desk and raised a war cry. In the confusion, that followed, members threw chairs at one another. And immediately the place was turned into a bedlam – chairs were broken and the fences were pulled down. A legislator is Mr. A. Abioshun (NCNC, Iwo) was seriously beaten up by the police. Mr. Abioshun was later dragged to the police post of the House and detained. A police officer said he had been detained for rioting on the floor of the House. NCNC leaders headed by Mr. F. S. McEwen immediately protested on the floor of the House. One other legislator, Mr. Ebubedike (NCNC, Badagry North) was also detained. It was he who took the mace.
Riot No. 2 started about 11.45 a.m. when the Speaker attempted to reconvene the House after receiving a message from the Prime Minister through the Commissioner of Police. Although there was a policeman behind each legislator, there was no order from the word go. The Commissioner of Police, Western Region, was himself in the chamber near the Speaker. And as if from nowhere a chair hit the head of the Speaker. This appeared to be the signal for the riot, which was certainly fiercer than the first one.
Legislators went into blows and chairs and every handy object were used. Legislators under heavy pall of teargas fled through windows and every opening, leaving behind shoes and hats and brief cases. I was fortunate to have escaped unhurt. Outside the House, several members fainted from exhaustion. The House was later cleared and Ministers were lead away under police protection. The new Premier, Alhaji Adegbenro was not seen but his rival Chief Akintola later drove away under police guard followed by a motorcade of his supporters.