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Self Government: Remembering Ladoke Akintola



The political associates of late Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola recently organised a memorial lecture for the late statesman during which his motion for self-government of 1957 was brought back to life. ADEBAYO WAHEED in Ibadan reports.

“Mr.  Speaker Sir, I rise to move the motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. The motion reads as follow: That this House instructs the delegates specifically added to the Federal delegation on the forthcsssoming constitutional conference to express the views of this House to do all in their power to secure the grant of self government to the Federation of Nigeria in 1957.

“I start by assuring the House that, in moving this motion, we are animated with the best intention in the world. The motion, as it proceed, will show that there will be no recrimination whatsoever and, in moving it as best I can, I would express what I believe to be the legitimate desire not of just one party or one section but of whole federation of Nigeria.”

This is an excerpt from the motion that gave Nigeria her independence in 1960 as moved by former Premier of Western Region, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola popularly called SLA by his associates and admirers.

Recently, some of his political associates, political leaders, serving and former governors, prominent Nigerians and family members stormed Ibadan, the political headquarters of the South West to examine the essence of this motion and to enable Nigerians feel the pulse.

The motion for self government moved in 1957 by late Akintola was a declaration of the intention of Nigerians to be granted independence. It was a notice to the Britons to start getting ready to go.

The 1957 motion was the second and final of such motion. The first motion for self-government was by Chief Anthony Enahoro on March 31, 1953, proposing independence in 1956 but did not work.

Self-government spelt the withdrawal of colonialism, dismantling of colonial government and the handover of the helms of Nigeria’s national affairs from colonial overlords to Nigerian leaders.

It spelt freedom and independence. It also had in its womb, the reduction of the economic interest and dividends harvestable by the British metropole. It meant Nigerians taking over the management of their destiny.

In those days, when the fruits of imperialism and colonialism were so sweet to the European powers, it was a very dangerous idea to them for anybody to be talking of self-government. All talks against imperialism and colonialism also constitute anathema, a form of abomination to colonial exploiters and oppressors.

As a result any African espousing ideas about self-government and anti imperialism or anti colonialism was seen as a very dangerous person. The idea itself was also very dangerous to the imperialists.

It took only men and women of courage to voice idea about independence, and sacking colonial and imperial governments. It is in this light that the courage of Chief S.L. Akintola in moving the self-government motion.

In his forward to the lecture delivered at the remembrance day and the public opening of the motion, Ambassador Yomi Akintola noted that the 2018 memorial lecture has a different and peculiar focus. Titled: “Akintola and Self Government”, he said the piece not only examines “my father’s motion and other contributions towards Nigeria’s independence, it went further to link the past and the present and future by asking government for who and for what?”

Most of the governor’s from the South West represented by their deputies and Secretary to the State Government commended the courage of late Akintola for moving the motion for self government.

To them, the singular act eventually led to the country’s independence in 1960 and they all emphasised the need for the country to embrace true federalism and restructure the country for effective and purposeful governance.
The lecturer, Professor OBC Nwolise, a political scientist from the University of Ibadan suggested the organisation of a conference in which well researched papers would be presented and discussed on various aspects of the life, times, works, roles, philosophies and pan-Nigerianism of Chief Akintola.

From these papers, the University don said a comprehensive book will be published to serve as strategic reference material and reference point for ages.

According to him, “The honour we do him will never be complete without these two rich work.
“I am therefore still looking forward to the convocation of this strategic conference and publication of this strategic compendium on Chief S.L. Akintola,” he said.

According to him, those are the two events that will make the palm kernel the great man ate to be clearly seen by all.

In his speech in the House of Representatives on May 26, 1957, Akintola said “we can afford the luxury of dissension and we can make a mountain of a mole hill at the moment, because we are not masters of ourselves, but immediately the responsibility passes to our hands, you will observe that the North will come nearer to the East, the East will come nearer to the West and all will come nearer to the Cameroons and we will admit that this country is our own.

“It’s future is our own and we can make or mar it, but I am quite sure that it is the desire of every section of this House to make Nigeria and not to mar it.

“We are united not because we believe in our country; we all want to create a new era, in which our children and children’s children will live as citizens of a common country.”

Again, in his speech as Premier of Western Region in the joint sitting of the Western Nigeria House of Chiefs in 1963, Chief Akintola said “I will never let down the Yoruba or any other region. I believe in the unity of the federation. To me it is sacred. In it lies the future of Western Nigeria.”

In his lecture entitled: “Akintola and Self Government”, Nwolise asked how many Nigerian political leaders can stand and make such a categorical statement about their belief in Nigeria’s unity, with all the quit notices, nepotism, militancy, separatist agitation, hate speeches, hate silence and hate appointments starring all of us in the face today?

While noting that the task was to brainstorming about Akintola and Self Government, first, it helps to keep historical events and their relevance in view, especially these days when some people think history is not an important subject for the children.

The lecturer who lamented that the more abundant life promised during the nationalist struggles was yet to be delivered 58 years after independence, said it had remained in the pipeline which some of “our angry, disappointed, hungry, jobless, cashless and hopeless youths have been bursting in the endless search for the life more abundant.

“This life more abundant must be found soonest and delivered to Nigerians before (violent) revolution overtakes the nation,” he said.

“The situation keeps getting worse daily since 1960, instead of getting better. Our founding fathers kept emphasising national unity, but those who inherited power seem bent on national suicide and disintegration.”
He said the essence of reproducing the motion and in his own words is to enable Nigerians feel the pulse at the time, and witness his choice of words.

“His association of imperialism with evil that turns a man into a wolf against another, for example shows his hatred against inhuman system and portrays him as a radical patriot. His reference to “establishment of universal peace” takes him beyond Nigeria and Africa, and places him on humanity’s widest platform,” Nwolise said.

While noting that self-government did not come in 1957, he said it came in 1960, three years after.
Unfortunately, he said since 1960, Nigerians have not seen the promises and dividends of independence, apart from the sacking of the Whiteman from political power.

He lamented that government cannot pay salaries and allowances or even gratuity and pension of senior citizens who served the nation in their youth and adult years, saying: “The nation now starve them to death, sentencing them to years of devastation by diseases.

“Roads have collapsed in the country, hospitals are no more consulting units, as many have become mere buildings. There are no jobs, there is no electricity, no water and no new houses constructed for people.”

The problem with the nation, he said was that having wasted the resources since self government in 1960, the political class lack the moral integrity to now suddenly turn on the long suffering Nigerians for taxes, much of whose revenue were also stolen in a nation where the political class have refused to be statesmen and accountable to the people.

“This is not the route to the life more abundant promised Nigerians during the nationalist struggle. These are not dividends expected by Nigerians from their country’s independence.
“Pa Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Samuel Akintola, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Ahmadu Hello, Sir Abubakar Balewa or Mallam Aminu Kano would never have gone that way. Our nation has missed the road,” the speaker declared.