Col Adeniran: A war hero unsung, uncelebrated but who’s a core patriot of Ogbomoso
“…Jogun o mi, jogun o sinmi, iwo nikan kokunrin…”
True warriors are born. They only garner a few more finesse from sophisticated training and experience. They are priceless jewels in times of consuming crisis; they are the heroes that save the day and obviate threats when their nation faces perilous situations. Difficult times make tough individuals. Without danger men of valour will not appear. The Civil War of 1967 to 1970 remains the darkest period in the history of Nigeria taking cognizance of the thousands of people that were gruesomely exterminated and the millions that were displaced and who were never able to recoup the ruins they suffered. The effects are still rankling more than 50 years after the guns had ceased to boom. Had the designs of the adventurous people of the then Eastern Nigeria succeeded, a new nation of Biafra would have been birthed with Nigeria eternally balkanized, possibly with many more nations arising from the goddamned country. But the grim ambition was crushed emphatically, thanks to the bravery and exploits of a few commanders of the Nigerian Army (However the propriety of this is still being debated). Anytime the story of the Nigerian Civil War is told, names such as that of Brigadier (then Col.) Benjamin Adekunle springs to mind; and when it is discussed in another breath such figure as of Col. Adegboyega Adedokun Adeniran (retd.) also certainly pops up. Time produces heroes, Col. Adegboyega Adeniran was a hero produced by the Biafra War.
He fought on the federal (Nigeria’s) side with remarkable record of gallantry; he was described by colleagues as a fine officer whose contributions during the war in terms of territories conquered, deployment of tactics, organizational abilities and leadership qualities would rival any of the other commanders’ on either side. He was a frontline commander, who was consistently in the thick of battle, in the hottest theatres of war; he was never one to give command from the rear. Brilliant and daring, he was a soldiers’ soldier, another scourge of the rebels. In the tales of the civil war, several accounts of valour and legends are woven round him; his appearance at any battlefront sent terror wave down the spine of the secessionists. A legend says that during a battle he found himself hemmed in on all sides but in the nick of time, he (metaphysically) vanished from view and upon re-appearing, his mien had changed, his face burnished like that of a spirit and was dashing forward menacingly with a masquerade (his family masquerade – Oya Oriiri) in tow, which also darted ferociously hither thither. The approaching spectacle struck awe and fear into the enemy, who purportedly lamented in hazardous pitch, “this na ojuju,” therefore fleeing precipitately in different directions. Such were the myths surrounding Col. Adekunle.
More interestingly, his love for his town of origin, Ogbomoso, is unsullied, and this he has amply demonstrated. As evidence, he founded the first private nursery and primary school, which transformed into a private secondary school he later donated to Ogbomoso community and ultimately taken over by the state government; he established the first private mechanized farm with interests in crop and livestock productions; he did many other things that cemented his legacy as a great son of the land. He recently celebrated his 80th birthday in the United States of America, where he has been domiciled with one of his wives, Mrs. Mosun Adeniran, of Otun Balogun compound, Osupa, and who was a former chairperson of Ogbomoso North local government, since some 8 years ago. The Insight spoke with him on phone courtesy of his brother in-law, Mr. Ayo Aremu (Otun Balogun compound, Osupa) during which some of the accounts that shaped his eventful life was unfurled. This voyage of expository on the life of this inimical mighty man of valour meanwhile was sequel to the efforts of a few Ogbomoso patriots chief of whom was Hon Olanlokun Olakanmi, who expressed constant concern that the protagonist deserves investiture in the Hall of Fame of Ogbomoso and is worthy of being celebrated. Hon Olanlokun posits, “Why must we always wait till the passage of someone who impacted us with sustainable glory before rolling out the drums in his honour? Going forward, we need to learn to celebrate our heroes while they are with us.” His persistence became the oil that lubricates the compilation of this piece; in addition, a reception is in the pipeline to honour the man who captured not less than four Biafran towns during the civil war. He no doubt has an undeniable claim to greatness.
Col. Adeniran hails from Onigba Compound at Osupa Area of Ogbomoso. His progenitors grew calabash (igba) plant in those days at a village in Alako in today’s Oriire local government, hence the Onigba (calabash owner) nomenclature.
The Insight spoke with a paternal cousin of Col. Adeniran, Pa Ajayi Odeyemi, who is in his late 60s, and one Mr. Adelowo of Oginni Compound also in Osupa to trace the origins of Col Adeniran. Pa Odeyemi, a traditional security guard and medicine man, reveals that the progenitor of the Onigba family sired two female children, these two women he said, became the great matriarchs of the two lineages of Onigba today. The elder of the two got married to an Ife prince while the younger one was married to an Oyo man. Two healthy boys, one apiece, were the products of these marriages to the joy of all. Soon, each was heavy with babies again, however, worried that his line might go into extinction without male children, their father came up with a stratagem to get custody of his grandsons. He hastened to Ile-Ife, to patronize his in-laws. He declared in an emotion-laden voice: “Since I gave you my child as wife, my household has declined in number whereas yours is increasing, so, what shall you do? Whom will you release to me, my daughter or her son?” His words were valid and incontrovertible, and perhaps due to an overwhelming ecstasy over expectation of another baby, his in-laws acceded to his request and released the son to him. The descendants of that Ife prince constitute the lineage of Col. Adegboyega Adeniran today. Thereafter, this great progenitor departed for Oyo as well to confront his in-laws with the same poser, and so, he gained another son, that gave rise to the second Onigba lineage that is identified by its abaja tribal mark. Odeyemi added that an Onigba compound is in Oyo till today.
The Onigbas were prominent warriors and were marked by their courage. In one of their war expeditions in the distant past, their forebears, during a battle at the bank of River Niger (called Odo Oya by the Yoruba people), were said to have retrieved a deity from the river, which transformed into Oya Oriiri masquerade which is resident in the family till today. This is just as a son of Col. Adeniran, Adefemi, is a senior officer in the US Army. Valour runs in their vein. Therefore, the heroism that reflected in the war conduct of Col Adeniran is nothing but a trait he inherited from his ancestors. Part of the family’s cognomen is: “Jogun o mi, jogun o sinmi, iwo nikan kokunrin” (Jettison war, rest from battle, you are not the only brave man). This indubitably underscores their insatiable propensity for war.
The great grandfather of Col Adeniran was Adegolu. His grandfather was Adeniran whose name is adopted as the family’s surname today. Adegunlola Adeniran was his father, an educated man in his own right, who was on the staff of the P&T (Post Office). Adegunlola worked for years in Lagos, ensuring his children began their lives on a fairly good pedestal. He also was posted to his hometown at Takie Post Office (and was similarly at Idi-Araba, Masifa Post Office in Ogbomoso) as post master.
His mother, Ayoka Adebayo (after whom he named his nursery and primary school), and who hailed from Oke Rado Labiran in Ibadan, was betrothed to Col. Adeniran’s father in the wake of the death of his (Adegunlola’s) first wife who gave him two children. Mama Ayoka, a seamstress, was however born of Ogbomoso parentage. Col Adeniran, who had two siblings from his mother, Aderele and Adeniyi, was the first of his mother.
From a young age, Adegboyega had been attracted to the army because of its strict discipline and immaculate uniform of its men; perhaps, he was only being propelled by the spirit that runs in his family. Pa Ajayi Odeyemi recalls that his illustrious cousin exhibited uncommon pluck from a very young age though a man of calm disposition. It is therefore no wonder he enlisted in the army when he turned 21. Earlier he attended the premier primary school in Ogbomoso, Osupa Baptist Day School, for his elementary education before proceeding to the Baptist Academy in Lagos. But upon his father’s return to Ogbomoso, he switched to yet another premier school (secondary axis) in the town – Ogbomoso Grammar School. A brilliant student, he took to athletics and was particularly fond of football, excelling in goalkeeping aspect. All this no doubt instilled in him the discipline and toughness the challenging life of a soldier demands. (To be continued)