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Adeyinka Adebayo: I did my best

Former governor of the defunct Western Region, General Adeyinka Adebayo passed away quietly last Wednesday on the eve of his 89th birthday. The news jolted me, because I had interviewed the elder statesman about two months ago.

January 15, this year was the 51st anniversary of the nation’s first coup and we felt Gen. Adebayo, the oldest and most senior surviving ex-military officer would be the best interview source to commemorate the incident.

His son and former governor of Ekiti State, Otunba Niyi Adebayo facilitated the interview appointment for January 10. Gen. Adebayo’s personal assistant would turn down any request that he felt would disturb the  boss.  A few minutes to 11 am, my reporter, Charles Adegbite and I turned up at the gate of the General’s Ikeja GRA home. A soldier guard came out of the gatehouse to whom we introduced ourselves and mission. He left for confirmation and returned a few moments later to usher us into the modest residence.

The General was seated on a chair in the paved area adjoining the main building. He was clothed in an all-white lace buba and sokoto, looking relaxed and happy. A copy of Daily Sun lay on the table in front of him and a transistor radio by his side. He responded to our greeting and motioned us to the chairs facing the table. “I just had my breakfast and I’ve been waiting for you,” he said, as we sat down drawing our chairs close to him.

We asked if we could proceed and he said, “great.”

At that point, the personal assistant appeared, obviously displeased, but he couldn’t stop the interview. He sat with us throughout and intervened at some point to protect his boss.

The session lasted about 25 minutes. I told Charles on our way back to the office that we were lucky to have spoken to the old man and that ours might be the last interview he would grant. The General was still mentally alert.

He answered questions appropriately and didn’t give a wrong answer to any question. And as with many old men of his age, he didn’t dose off as he fielded questions from us. But it was obvious the old man had advanced in age.

Asked to recall names of his secondary schoolmates and pranks they played together, he just smiled and answered, “It’s been very long. I can’t.”

At that point, the P.A. passed on a note to me. On it was scribbled, “he’s very old. Please he can’t answer tough questions.”

And the General also ended some of his answers with the statement, “I did my best.” Indeed, he did his best.

He had a distinguished military career from the moment he enlisted in 1948 till he retired as Major General in 1975.  He was the 7th commissioned Nigerian military officer and the Aide-de-camp to the last British governor general in Nigeria, Sir James Robertson. Adebayo was also the first indigenous chief of staff, Nigerian Army in 1964; chairman of the Defence Committee of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) between 1963 and 1965 and head of Nigerian delegation to the OAU summit in Ethiopia in 1966.

When the military governor of Western Region, Col. Adekunle Fajuyi was assassinated along with the head of state, Major General Aguiyi Ironsi in the counter coup of 1966, Gen. Abebayo was persuaded to take up the appointment as Western Region governor. He held  several other military appointments.

Gen. Adebayo also participated in politics after his retirement. He was one of the founders of the defunct National Party of Nigeria in the Second Republic and also joined the Alliance for Democracy in 1999. He was also president of the Yoruba Council of Elders till death and one of the most respected Yoruba voices.

He belonged to the first generation of Nigeria’s leaders. Another of his ilk was Chief Samuel Ogbemudia who passed on early last Friday.

They were credible, selfless and honest. Reasons they remained relevant and revered till the end. They were also nice and caring.

As we got up after the interview with Adebayo, the old man brought out his wallet, counted a few naira notes and gave to Charles. The gesture gave me the impression he was generous. I didn’t ask the reporter how much until yesterday. He told me it was N3,000. It was not the money, but the good spirit.  Unfortunately, same cannot be said about the successors of the old generation of our leaders. Ex-military officers and politicians whose omission and commission left the country and the citizenry grappling with poverty, insecurity and disunity, while they live in mansions and opulence.

The worst is that the country is rewarding them with pension for mismanaging its affairs.


Re: Kudos to our nightwatchmen

Good day sir. In fact, kudos indeed to your night watchmen. To God be the highest glory.

–Innoma from Onitsha Anambra State.

Good afternoon editor, I am glad God is with you and has been with you. I pray He continues to guide, protect and provide for you in Jesus name. Amen.

–Odogwu Emeka Odogwu, Editor Authority Newspapers, South East.

It’s only the unwise that will dispute the importance of nightwatchmen. In our clime, we do everything for ourselves, provide our security (maiguards), boreholes for water, through community development erect electric poles and wire them (of course every household has a generator) and even with no light, we pay bills, build roads and even hospitals as well as  schools. Governments take the blessing and we also pay. This is the dilemma of our system. You said it all, do our leaders, our representatives read your column? Never! They are in government to serve their selfish interests.

–Tony Enyinta, Isuikwuato Abia State.

Abdulfatah, let me join you in thanking God for protecting your life at a time you needed Him most. Such protection is offered by Him to those who do His will. That was a call on you to serve God more and always. In spite of your being spiritually piloted away from the armed robbery on your way home, one of the robbers still scaled the fence into your house. One could imagine what could have happened without intervention of the nightwatchman on parade, at just the right moment. One must commend your nightwatchmen for justifying their title. In most places, many of them go to bed as soon as they figure that most residents are in bed already. The way criminals are operating unchecked by security agencies proves how porous the country is.

One wonders what these agencies do with the magnitude of security equipment donated to them by many state governors and successful business outfits. Could anyone have imagined that in Nigeria, ravaging Fulani herdsmen would kill everywhere with relish and to date, not one of them has been caught and charged to court? Instead, media reports had it that Governor El-Rufai paid them compensation to assuage their attack on Southern Kaduna residents; who were reported to be predominantly Christians. Where does one pitch that in the realm of justice? The way these criminals are being handled, it would not be out of place to suspect that most of them are errand men to prominent Nigerians in high places. The increasing number of unemployed Nigerians also helps as recruitment channel to criminals. You are not alone in your consternation over refusal of leadership to approve state policing which, apart from opening a channel for employment, would enhance security at local government level across the country, and by extension, reduce insecurity broadly. May God save Nigeria.

–Lai Ashadele

Dear Abdulfatah, I most sincerely thank God for sparing your precious life. God forbid, that is how it could have ended and condolences would have poured in, in torrents even from those whose duty it was to protect that life and the matter would have ended. Dependants would have been left alone to carry the can and life goes on. Let one thing be done in Nigeria today and you see that majority of the problems confronting us as a nation would have been solved. And that thing is the restructuring of the country.

Calculate all the monies various state governments are spending equipping their police commands and you realize that it is actually the states that equip the force and not the Federal Government. Yet, the state governors have no control over the police in their domains. State and local governments should be allowed to establish and manage their own police forces for the policing of our country to be effective. If the fear is that the authorities at those levels may use them against their opponents, is it not what the Federal Government is doing at present with the security forces under its control? We are backward in all aspects of our national life today, because some people are afraid of finding themselves in a position where they are not in control of everything in the nation even if such a situation will move the nation forward. The earlier, the better. Thanks.

–Emma Okoukwu.

Sir, l would advise you to rent a place in Lagos then let out your home in Sango Ota. l do spend three hours on the road just from Oshodi to Abesan Estate Ipaja. I then begin to wonder how many hours you may spend on daily basis commuting.

On security, our guns are used by policemen to collect N100 from danfo drivers and not to protect the citizens. Robbery and kidnapping are going on daily. Please sir, help yourself from stress and an unsecured area. You’re our man.

–L.O lhedinihu.

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