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Opposition displays flagrant ignorance of the penkelemesi phenomenon.

Mesmerized by the Oyo All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in the 2019 general election, Chief Adebayo Adelabu’s immense personal profile which is buoyed further by the towering reputation of his grandfather, Alhaji Chief Adegoke Adelabu, the most reputable regional Opposition Leader known to Nigeria history,  opposition political parties in the state particularly the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are putting the wrong foot forward, waging a war that would boomerang and put them at loggerhead with Ibadan and all those other towns  the NCNC held sway in the in the First republic. They will have the Olubadan, the Alaafin and the Soun to mention three frontline traditional rulers in the state to contend with. This is because the roles and attitude of the late Leader of Opposition in the defunct Western House of Assembly were conditioned and determined by the wishes of his people and party loyalists across Ibadan, Oyo, Ogbomoso and far away Ilesa which is now outside Oyo State.

An article has continued to trend on the social media ostensibly by the PDP media machine which seeks to present out of context roles of Papa Adegoke Adelabu as the Leader of Opposition in the Western Region House of Assembly. The article came as a charade  and betrayed the extreme ignorance of the writers concerning parliamentary democracy Nigeria operated in the period before and during the First Republic but which is still the proud vogue in Britain, Canada and Australia among other Commonwealth countries which a section of the Nigerian political class are nostalgic about and called for its return.

It is dastardly act of self destruct for some misguided politicians whose fathers were incognito in the first republic to encourage campaigns of calumny which seeks to take the desecrate the glowing memory of one of the most important figures who fought for the regional self rule for the West and the eventual independence of Nigeria by presenting him as opponent of the free education policy and personal enemy of the late Premier, Chief Obafemi Awolowo in that the people will ask them the critical question what their fathers or grandfathers were doing at the time the APC governorship candidate’s grandfather held sway as foremost politician in the West and in fact Nigeria, having been the nation’s first Federal Minister of Social Services and Natural Resources. Such politicians may be inadvertently inviting inquiry into their backgrounds which may turn out unpalatable. Whatever transpired between Chief Awolowo and Adelabu were in tandem with the character of parliamentary democracy where the Shadow Cabinet had responsibility to scrutinize the policies and actions of the government, as well as offer an alternative program.

The best the PDP and the rest of the opposition parties need to do in the circumstance, without beating the honest nest, is to push their candidates and let the people of Oyo state do a comparative analyses and decide on the best person for the job instead of chasing the ghost of the late Shadow Premier, lest his ghost chases them.

One flaw in the poorly penned narrative is that it portrayed glaring ignorance of  the workings of the parliamentary system of government practiced that time and certainly confused it with the presidential system of government which obtains now. There is therefore the need to put the record straight and educate these writers who may not have been born in that dispensation or have knowledge of history or are rather too lazy for historical investigations.
Constitutionally, two governments are apparent in parliamentary democracy; the Government and the opposition Shadow Government. The leader of the largest opposition party is the Leader of the Official Opposition, which that time was the NCNC with Rt. Hon Adegoke Adelabu the Leader of the Official Opposition. This role commanded an added remuneration to the parliamentary salary received as an MP. The Leader of the Official Opposition picks a ‘Shadow Cabinet’ to follow the work of government departments. It is doubtful if the apologists of the PDP and other opposition political parties knew that the two governments obtained that time were only contrary and not in any way contradictory.

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The device is intended to encourage robust parliamentary debate, deepen and broaden the exploration of all possible sides to policies and programmes, such as the free education so as to maximize the utilitarian value to the people. The parliamentary shadow cabinet system is not the winner takes all kind of arrangement and seeks to involve all stakeholders in the decision making process. Government ministers and Opposition spokespersons all work in the House of Assembly. While the Government Cabinet consists of ministers chosen by the Premier at regional level or the Prime Minister at the federal level, the Shadow Cabinet, a notional cabinet, consists of members from the main opposition party appointed by the Leader of Opposition. While the Cabinet ministers develop government policies and head the ministries, the Shadow Cabinet ministers examine the work of each government department and develop policies in their specific areas. That way the Opposition is able to subject the policies and actions of the government to constant criticism effectively through general debates on legislations, discussion of the general budget and motions of censure.

That is the reason the parliamentary form of government is also called Responsible Government because it is answerable to the entire parliament, and not only to the majority. This made whole sense in the first republic because of the absence of Separation of Powers with the three departments of government working in close, intimate contact, sharing some of the powers and functions of one another. However, structured opposition is not an institutional aspect of the winner takes all presidential system of government and the opposition has had to adorn the garb of gangster or villain by taking to press conferences and press releases in damaging criticism of government and its programmes and policies.

There probably lies the error of those who seek to view Penkelemesi in the light of today’s opposition whose approach is antagonistic rather than being constructive. It is instructive therefore that the PDP and other teams note that the function of the opposition in the parliamentary system is to encourage constructive criticism,  accountability, meaningful debate and exhaustive review of all possibilities to policies and programmes right on the floor of the Parliament and not antagonism as they seek to portray.

Contrary to the wrong impression the PDP and other opposition candidates seek to enlist, Chief Awolowo and Alhaji Adelabu were not diametrically opposed on policies and programmes which added to peoples welfare; and evidence abound that they met privately and regularly to discuss grey areas in issues and actually socialized. Rare visuals are available which showed the West Opposition Leader, Alhaji Chief Adelabu personally welcoming the Premier, Chief Awolowo to London for the many talks that facilitated Nigeria’s independence. It is not wise of any politician today to want to create a wedge between Awo and Penkelemesi when their biological offspring and families would not see it as such; but only believed that both patriarchs were justifiably involved in nation building and that both had played their roles well in tandem with standard parliamentary practices as obtained in the UK, Australia, Canada and others.  It should be agreed however that India is a parliamentary democracy which does not employ shadow government.

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It is obvious that Papa Adelabu is not the kind of politician dead or alive that can be bad mouthed by whoever new politician. Here is a man celebrated in death by the likes of Prof Sabiru Biobaku who was his classmate. The former Minister of Works and Transport and uncle of present Governor Ajimobi and even the governor’s father who was a member of the Western House though on the platform of the Action Group venerated him. As Reuben Abati recalled in a recent article, the Western Region Opposition Leader and Shadow Premier was a “brilliant orator and intellectually gifted personality who authored the book Africa in the Ebullition.” The book in itself was a massive intellectual exercise; just as the genius orator who once came first in a UAC scholarship examination that earned him a scholarship to higher institution was renowned for his “deep knowledge of English”.

It should be of concern to critics of the Penkelemesi legacy that Ibadan is attached to his memory and celebrated the Centenary of his birth recently on September 3, 2015. Though Senator Lanlehin’s father was an actor in the Western politics of the first republic, and so also Chief Akinpelu Obisesan, they were not in any way in the bracket of Papa Adelabu. It is pretty difficult if not impossible to notice the Makinde’s father not to talk of his roles in those formative years Papa Adelabu led Ibadan to cut own political persuasion. So today’s children whose fathers were incognito in the first republic don’t have what it takes to cast aspersion on Penkelemesi whose legacy remains one leg the West stands on till date.

There was no way he would have been opposed to free education in that he himself was quite brilliant and soundly educated. He had severally declared that he had insatiable thirst for knowledge. As Chief Lekan Alabi disclosed in a newspaper article, the enigma attended St David’s CMS, Kudeti, Ibadan from 1925 to 1929, the CMS Central School, Mapo area, Ibadan in 1930, the Government College Ibadan, 1931 to 1935 and Higher College, Yaba, Lagos in the year 1936. Adelabu earned accelerated (double) promotions on three occasions at Elementary, Primary and Secondary School levels, yet he never came second in any examination, but first at all times. He was extremely brilliant!

Also, he could not have been opposed to other egalitarian programmes of the regime such as free healthcare, rural development and mass employment pursed by the government at that time because though he was born into a poor family he had managed to scale the odds to become the first African manager of the United Africa Company (UAC) at age 21 in 1936, Nigeria’s first federal minister of social services and natural resources at age 39 in 1954, first chairman the old of Ibadan district council (now comprising II LGAS) in 1954, former first national vice, later the president of the now defunct NCNC political party, former leader of opposition in the old Western Region house of assembly and leader of the NCNC western delegation to the 1957 constitutional conference in London, UK.

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It is erroneous to think that Ibadan could throw away its loyalty to Adelabu on the account of cheap misrepresentation of facts. He was sufficiently a man of the people. When he became the minister of labour, he immediately drove his official car, an American limousine all the way to Ibadan and asked all his teeming supporters to share the car with him. He boldly announced to them that the car belonged to them and not him. Ibadan is in not in a hurry to forget the Adelabu spirit of accommodation and public inclusion, the kind that was not common in the first republic and no longer found among today’s politicians.

Similarly, when he was provided with a government house as his official residence in Ikoyi, the most exclusive part of Lagos, he turned up with drummers from Ibadan much to the discomfiture of the largely expatriate residents of Ikoyi. They protested vigorously about the noise but Adelabu would not relent. He called a press conference and stoutly declared: “If they do not like noise and drumming, they are free to go back to their own country.”

He built his famous catchphrase “a peculiar mess” on his penchant for quality both in leadership delivery and conduct of government business. It became well known that time that Adelabu did not stand for any mess rather he abhorred mess. Avert to shoddy performances, he had variously declared publicly that the government of Western Nigeria was in “a peculiar mess” over the management of its affairs. He had also tongue lashed the colonial officials with same vitriol: “stop your peculiar mess”, which he chorused as the occasion demanded. So whoever seeks to push the notion that penkelemesi suggests poor, mediocre performance is gravely missing the point.

The brilliance Adegoke brought to governance in the first republic robbed on the grandson as he also has always lived up to expectation in all corporate and public offices he held. Hence, the people of the state repose implicit confidence in him to make a brilliant success of the governorship on his election. He has exhibited that in the way he has handled the state Security Trust Fund as chairman. The innovation he has brought to surveillance, prevention and containment of criminalities has strengthened the security of the state. This becomes very appreciable considering the fact that security is the greatest challenge facing any society in the world. As it were, only he among the many contenders, except former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala, has been entrusted with the very critical aspect of the state. No one is in doubt that he has proved appropriately equipped for the assignment as he has made the best use of the opportunity to impact on the peace agenda that has been flagship of the numerous achievements of the Ajimobi administration in the last seven years.

If the PDP candidate and his cohorts would offer themselves the benefit of hindsight, they will realize that egan wa ko ye yin! E wa oro mi so!