From Taiwo Oluwadare, Ibadan
Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola who was a former Premier in the old Western Nigeria between 1959 and 1962 is no doubt a legend considering his landmark achievements during the era of Western Nigeria before his demise.
It will be 55 years in January 2021 that the legend was assassinated precisely January 15, 1966.
SLA, as he was fondly called, a Nigerian politician, lawyer, aristocrat and orator, was born in Ogbomosho, in the present Oyo state. He is one of the founding fathers of modern Nigeria who was later elevated to the position of Oloye Aare Ona Kakanfo XIII in the Yorubaland.
Akintola began his political career after he was trained as a lawyer in the United Kingdom, and returned to Nigeria in 1949 to team up with other educated Nigerians from the Western Region to form the Action Group (AG) under the leadership of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. As the deputy leader of the AG party, he did not serve in the regional Western Government headed by the premier Awolowo but was the Action Group Parliamentary Leader/Leader of Opposition in the House of Representatives of Nigeria. At the federal level he served as Minister for Health and later Minister for Communications and Aviation.
Between Akintola and Awolowo
It was gathered that differing interests for strategic alliances in Action Group party led to a political crises between Akintola and his friend, Chief Awolowo. The battle for supremacy in the party led to disagreement between them as Akintola disagreed with Awolowo’s decision not to join the coalition government. Akintola felt the Yoruba people of the West were losing their pre-eminent position in business, university and administration in Nigeria to the Igbo people of the East simply because the Igbo-controlled NCNC had joined the government and the AG had not. He also opposed the party’s decision to adopt democratic socialism as its ideology, preferring a more conservative stance.
According to Wikipedia’s accounts, Chief Awolowo accused Akintola of trying to supplant him as leader of the party. In May 1962 with the Western House of Assembly set to remove Akintola after the party had earlier passed a vote of no confidence in the premier in a party meeting, crisis erupted on the floor of the house. The AG party broke into two factions leading to several crises in the Western Region House of Assembly that led the central/federal government, headed by the Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, to declare State of Emergency rule in the Western region. Chief (Dr.) M.A Majekodunmi, the Federal Minister of Health was then appointed as Administrator . Eventually Akintola was restored to power (even though he had lost the legal battle with the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council then Nigeria’s highest tribunal) as Premier in 1963. In the general election of 1965, Akintola won his position as Premier, not as member of the Action Group party, but as the leader of a newly formed Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP), which was in an alliance with the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) the party that then controlled the federal government.
In a Punch newspaper publication of November 30, 2013, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, quoted Dr. Omololu Olunloyo, (a great nationalist, a two-time former Commissioner of Education of the old Western Region, a former Governor of Oyo state, one of few remaining elder statesman and a major player in the First and Second Republics) as saying: “Chief S.L. Akintola was the supreme leader. Chief Obafemi Awolowo left (the Premiership of the Western Region) of his own volition without advice to contest the federal election. In the federal election he contested but he had no alliances.
“Stubborn, aggressive, very hardworking, visionary leader that Awolowo was, he never understood real politics at any time. In real politics you have to look at the figures, you have to have allies- there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies. You must have some allies. Nigeria is too fragmented for you not to have allies. If you are counting in the presence of someone with nine fingers, you don’t count in the person’s presence and say ‘so you have nine fingers’. We had a brilliant man called S.L. Akintola who understood real politics.
“Awolowo believed that book knowledge was so important but he (Akintola) knew better. A situation arose- Awolowo wanted to ally with the east and Akintola wanted to align with the north. So there was a crisis.
“These are interesting historical perspectives and insights from a man that was appointed as a Commissioner (or Regional Minister) for a region that comprised of no less than what are 7 states of the Federation today (Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Ondo, Ogun, Edo and Delta) at the tender age of 27”.
Akintola’s first son, Chief (Amb.) Abayomi Akintola while speaking about the feud between both families in the The Sun newspaper edition of December 20, 2015, said his father had nothing against the Awolowo family as it is widely believed.
His words: “I will say Akintola had nothing against the Awolowos. And anybody that have that impression should look back into history. Akintola was leader of Youth movement, and the movement was the one gave birth to politics in Nigeria. And when people were calling Akintola to lead the party, he conceded it to Awolowo, to show his loyalty to him”.
The one-time finance minister and Nigeria’s Ambassador to Hungary also stressed how cordial the relationship between Akintola and Awolowo’s family are. According to him, the families are so close that the son of late Obafemi Awolowo, Segun, who is also late, was his best friend adding that it was unfortunate that Segun died at the age of 22, though survived by a son also named Segun.
Recounting how he missed his dear friend, Olusegun Awolowo after his death, Chief Abayomi said “I went to England for a course, when I came back, I was informed that Olusegun Awolowo had died. For you to know how close Olusegun and I were, Segun, may his soul rest in peace, and I did spend our holidays together. Also, his immediate younger sister (Mrs. Tola Oyediran), was also very friendly, and did come to Dublin to also study, met her husband, Prof. Oyeniran in my house”.
“It was after his death that I was hospitalized for about nine months that doctors could not ascertain what was wrong with me but today we thank God. My illness started from the shock I got from Awolowo’s son demise. I was 22, 23 years then. We were like siamese twins that we went around together”, Chief Abayomi recounted.
The late sage’s demise
Akintola was assassinated in Ibadan, the capital of Western Region, on the day of Nigeria’s first military coup of 15 January 1966 which terminated the First Republic.
This was the “Young Majors Coup” or the “coup of the January boys”, which resulted in the assassination of many leading politicians, mostly members of the Northern People’s Congress.
The son of the deceased gave a vivid account of how the late Icon was assassinated in Premier Hotel lounge in Ibadan, Oyo state.
He said: “I was at the premier lounge with my father but in different sections, one for the children and other for the premier and his wife. Suddenly, I heard a phone call rang and it was Mrs. Fani-Kayode around 2 and 3pm. She started shouting on phone saying “some strange people have kidnapped my husband, where is baba (Chief Akintola)”. “I went straight to my father’s room who came to pick the call and assured her that nothing would happen to her husband and she should keep calm”.
“After speaking with her on phone, he called security people. As he dashed out to call security people, shooting ensued. This time, I was at my section and suddenly, a wardrobe blocked me, my younger sibling, wife and my son from going outside the room”.
He continued “The shooting ensued for about 2 hours. Later when Baba Akintola went out, the shooting subside but by the time we went out, we had saw him in the pull of his own blood being killed on the floor. We had no option than for my wife to cover him with her clothe”.
“I was not a toddler and not that old when all these happened. I was there with my father when he was killed and its so unfortunate that I didn’t know how to live my life afterward but God kept me and my other siblings to survive the negative experience. I am grateful that I am also able to guide my siblings to become what we are today”, he added.
Meanwhile, an account on how Captain Emmanuel Nwobosi murdered the Premier in 1966 gave a clearer picture of what transpired on the day Akintola was murdered.
The report reads;
“Akintola, come down; you are for lawful arrest by the army on orders from HQ 2 Brigade,” Nwobosi shouted.
“Under arrest ke?” Akintola said to himself, “Oya, come and greet your mother’s husband,” as he cocked his gun.
When Nwobosi hit the door in an attempt to force it open, the Premier opened fire from inside his bedroom with a submachine gun, shooting contiguously and continuously through the closed door.
“Return fire,” Captain Nwobosi ordered his men, which they did, enormously.
“Please sir, surrender sir. Stop shooting, please. They only came to take us to Lagos,” Fani-Kayode pleaded and shouted from the landrover urging the Premier to cease firing and surrender. But the Premier kept on firing until he ran out of ammunition.
Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola was the 13th Aare Ona Kakanfo (Field Marshal General) of Yorubaland. A title, whose holder, according to a widely believed myth, was not expected to live long nor experience a calm death.
“Krrr, krrr,” the gun sounded. The Premier had run out of ammunition but the captain and his soldiers did not know this, they thought he was reloading and waiting for them. Akintola, now powerless, held out a white handkerchief in a sign of surrender and proceeded to the verandah. Ajao and Uloh who had been hiding in one of the other rooms grabbed him by his arms and dragged him downstairs.
“Bring him out, bring him out,” Nwobosi shouted repeatedly after the firing had ceased and he sighted his soldiers with the Premier downstairs.
“Now, now, boys. Be gentle. We are friends here,” Akintola said resignedly.
“You shot at us. You resisted arrest. It was a direct order from the HQ,” Nwobosi thundered, “we are to eliminate anyone who resisted arrest.”
“Boys, it is for the good of the country. Why don’t we negotiate? I will see to it that you treated well. I have the Prime Minister’s ears,” Akintola cajoled.
“We are soldiers, sir. We obey direct orders. Egbikor, Chukwu,” Nwobosi called his soldiers and signalled to the two men to open fire on the Premier. Fani-Kayode stared in horror as the Premier endured a deluge of bullets as he fell to his knees still gasping for breath. Nwobosi then joined them in firing at the Premier as he fell backward with a thud as life hurriedly escaped from him.
The Captain and his men then released the policemen and proceeded with Fani-Kayode in the landrover to Lagos as the 3-Ton truck headed towards Abeokuta. They all left Akintola’s mutilated body, riddled with bullets, surrounded by empty shell casings soaked in blood, lying there on the bare ground in his courtyard. The Aare Ona Kakanfo had fallen to his death. The curse persists”, HistoryVille recounted.
S.L Akintola was described as dignified orator and was responsible for completing the founding of University of Ife (Awolowo’s brainchild and currently Obafemi Awolowo University) in 1962 while still a premier in Western Region. He was also involved in development of Premier Hotel and other monuments.
Akintola was married to Chief (Mrs) Faderera Akintola and had five children, two of whom (Chief Yomi Akintola and Chief (Dr.) Bimbo Akintola), later became finance ministers in Nigeria’s Third Republic Chief Yomi Akintola also served as Nigeria’s Ambassador to Hungary and Samuel Akinola’s daughter-in-law, Mrs. Dupe Akintola was Nigeria’s High Commissioner in Jamaica. His fourth child, Chief Victor Ladipo Akintola, dedicated much of his life to ensuring the continued accurate accounting of Samuel Akintola’s contributions to Nigeria’s position on the world stage. He published many works including a biography that highlighted his father’s love for his country and lifelong commitment to its progression.
The book is titled: Akintola: The Man and the Legend.
His youngest child, Tokunbo Akintola was the first black boy at Eton college and features prominently in the bestselling book by Dilibe Onyeama, Niggar at Eton.
A number of institutions, including Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomosho, were established in both the Oloye’s home town and other Nigerian cities as a means of honouring him posthumously.