Politics

Ajasin’s daughter: Awolowo brought first meeting of AG to Owo due to my dad’s efforts

…says Buhari needs to apologise for brutalising Second Republic govs giving what they do under him

Late Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin was a foremost nationalist, educationist, politician, who was a federal parliamentarian in the First Republic. He became the first Executive Governor of old Ondo (now Ondo and Ekiti States). In this interview with OLAOLU OLADIPO, his daughter, Mrs Jumoke Anifowose, takes us into his private life as well as his political and advocacy campaigns. Excerpts:

People knew your late father as a politician and public administrator of note, as a daughter, who was late Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin?

How do I describe my father? My father was my father. He was a quiet person and a homely man. He was a good husband to his wife. His relationship with my mother was like a marriage made in heaven. They suited and complemented each other. He tried so much to live according to the dictates of Christian ethics. That is one man, one woman. He tried to bring up his children in that (Christian ethical) line too. On our part, we tried to key into his austere lifestyle. As a father, he was there for all of us. I don’t think any one of us lacked anything financially or otherwise. My father lived up to expectations as a family man. We all enjoyed him as a father and we keep reminiscing about our relationship with him.

Did you ever find out from your father what was the secret of his successful marriage or what do you think got them going as husband and wife?

I think it is genuine love between the two of them. In fact, their love kept waxing stronger. It’s like they became Siamese twins. Nowadays, a lot of factors are usually considered before people are joined together in marriage, most especially in elite relationships.

Your father must have been a disciplinarian as a professional teacher, what would you remember about him while growing up in the house? Well!

I won’t say he wasn’t a disciplinarian but then, he wasn’t the type that shouted at his children because we knew our limits. He had that situation where we could talk to one another like friends. We could make him see reasons with us and he too usually persuaded us to see things from his light. We never went outside the things he didn’t like.

What were the things he didn’t like?

We knew what he didn’t like. For instance, whenever all these theatre practitioners came to town, usually in the night, we as children would love to attend but we won’t be able to go because he frowned at his children going out at night. This is one of the limits that he set for us.

Your father was an accomplished teacher and administrator. What was his usual day like?

We all wake up in the morning to say our early morning prayer together. My mother usually led the early morning devotion. After that, everyone will clean up and be ready to go to school and he too would have dressed up to go to work. Usually, he walked to work from his residence at the Principal’s Quarters. Most times he walked to work instead of driving his car since it is in the same compound. He used to wear white shirts and shots. In the early days, he used to put on the District Head helmet. He discarded the helmet later. He would come back home after school hours, we all came home to eat lunch and dinner together. That was where we were taught table manners.

Your father is credited to be one of the earliest educators in the country, records show that he was the founder of Imade College in Owo. What role did he play in the establishment of the school?

I don’t know much about the role he played in the setting up of the school because I was very young when the school was founded but his autobiography said it all. He got a scholarship from the community to proceed overseas after his secondary school education at St. Andrew College in Oyo, the Owo community was trying to set up their secondary school because other adjourning towns had been establishing their schools.

Which year did he win the scholarship?

I can’t say but I think it was in the late 1940s.

So, the agreement was for him to return and manage the school?

Yes! But I think the school was already running before his return, so it was his idea because the school had started before he returned from the UK. What I know was that while abroad, he was passing vital information on how to run a proper school home. The school took off effectively when he came back.

Could you tell us how his political career was and how he met late Chief Obafemi Awolowo?

I think he met Chief Awolowo through Olukoya who was working at Owo. The said Chief Olukoya was a mutual friend to my father and late Chief Awolowo. By then, Chief Awolowo eventually met my father during one of his numerous visits to Chief Olukoya. Before their meeting, the two of them had heard so much about each other before their eventual meeting. This fact is contained in his autobiography.

Your father is credited with being one of the founding fathers of Egbe Omo Oduduwa and that the group started in Owo… No!

It was the Action Group that took off in Owo and not Egbe Omo Oduduwa. Egbe Omo Oduduwa was founded in the UK and not in Owo.

What role did your father play in the founding of the Action Group?

The reason for bringing the first meeting of the Action Group to Owo was because of my late father’s inputs at a particular meeting. Chief Awolowo has been calling meetings with very little attendance. At the time Chief Awolowo wanted to give up but my father kept encouraging him. My father used to tell him that good things usually start like that and that Chief Awolowo shouldn’t give up. This was what propelled Chief Awolowo to honour my father by bringing the inaugural meeting of the Action Group to Owo.

Your father became a prominent and respected member of the Action Group, what office did he eventually hold in government when it (the government) was formed?

He was elected into the Federal House of Representatives in Lagos. Others went to the regional assembly in Ibadan.

Why did he opt to go to the Federal and not the regional Assembly?

It was a political arrangement of that period between Owo and Akoko. The arrangement was such that an Akoko man represented the district in the region while my father from Owo was the representative in the Federal House of Representatives.

How true is it that people credit your father for coming up with the concept of free primary education?

Very true because my father told me that the idea came to him while he was in England for his post graduate studies in education when the British Government started the idea of a modern school. When they wanted to form the Action Group, they were thinking of what could be used to woo Western Region voters to vote for the party. Each of the chieftains was asked to come up with a concept relating to his field of expertise that would be sold to the people to attract their votes. My father now wrote on the concept of free primary education. He got the concept while schooling in England for his post graduate studies.

Did you ever engage him to find out how he thought the idea could be implemented?

At that time, the AG members were thinking about adult taxation to be able to fund the government’s programmes and policies. It was at that time that they (Action Group members) saw that it was implementable.

But people credit late Chief Awolowo with bringing the idea while giving less credit to your father…

They do because he (Awolowo) was the leader.

How did you father feel about that?

He didn’t feel anything because my father was a man of humility. Everyone knows that my father was the undeniable architect of free education.

How did he feel considering the success of the programme in the Western part of the country?

As a human being, he was obviously very happy. That is what they later had to do again in their days in the UPN when they had to replicate it when they served as governors of the six states of the region.

What was the relationship between your father and late Olowo of Owo, Sir Olateru Olagbegi?

They were friends. Very good friends, usually close friends do have their period of disagreements. Misunderstanding and disagreement set in.

Did they make up before they both passed on?

I wouldn’t say so but their children are on best speaking terms.

What role did your father play in resolving the Western Regional crisis?

I don’t really know but all I know is that my father was with the late Chief Awolowo throughout the period.

Your father was the first elected chief executive of Ondo State; where were you then and how was the electioneering of the time?

I was already a professional (lawyer) living with my husband. I can count the number of times I entered the Government House when he was there.

Did his status as the governor confer any kind of privilege on you?

People could point to you as the daughter to the governor but that didn’t stop you from being yourself and doing your things. I was engrossed with my job at that time. It was a period that we were coming out of military rule, so we were not used to the kind of opulent lifestyle that current governors are now displaying. That was before General Muhammadu Buhari came along to start doing these funny things to the governors of that era. Buhari needs to apologise to the families of those governors when you consider what governors under him are doing now. We went through a lot of psychological trauma during the period of detention.

 

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