Col Adeniran: A war hero unsung, uncelebrated but who’s a core patriot of Ogbomoso (II)
By the time he finished secondary school, he had become obsessed with a career in the army. But he worked briefly in the Government Press at Ibadan before joining the Nigerian Army in December 1961.
In a telephone interview with The Insight, he said it was easier to enlist in the army at the time mentioning Oluwole Rotimi as the only other Yoruba man who was recruited into the army along with him at the time. He undertook training at the military depot in Zaria. He was also at the Nigerian Military Training School in Kaduna and underwent Officer Cadet training overseas. He was exceptional and had an unusual knack for the profession and from this time began to show flashes of the military talents that would mark him out in later life especially during the civil war. He so impressed his superiors during training that he was immediately retained as an instructor. To be appointed an instructor in an army training school indicates an officer is above ordinary and tells of his keen insight on strategy and tactics. The army value men who are endowed with strategic thinking and deployment. Thus, from inception, Col Adeniran zoomed into the notice of the army authorities.
During the Democratic Republic of Congo crisis of 1961 to 1965, Col Adeniran tasted action as a combatant in the peace-keeping mission of the United Nations. He was a distinguished soldier in the mission. His star continued to rise. He was later redeployed from the Army Training School as an instructor to Ibadan.
The Nigerian Civil War
At the 2 Mechanized Division, Ibadan, which had then Lt. Col. Olusegun Obasanjo as GOC, he continued as a training officer. At the onset of the civil war in May 1967, his GOC asked that he be posted to Akure. He served in the war in the 2nd Infantry Division on the federal side. His talents were recognized and he became a sector commander, he was directly under then Col. Alani Akinrinade. When Akinrinade was redeployed, Col. Adeniran took over as Brigade Commander. As commander of the Brigade, he reorganized his men and breathed a new zeal of fighting, swiftness and efficiency into them. The brigade was turned into a more ruthless fighting force and became more clinical.
Adeniran led his men from the front (a frontline officer) and was always in the hottest part of battle. He fought in many theatres of war that a mere mention of his name struck terror into the Biafran soldiers. The war though was a brutal episode in Nigeria’s history was a reenactment of Ogbomoso’s military heritage because soldiers of Ogbomoso stock attained renown in the war more than of any other bloc. Col. Benjamin Maja Adekunle who became known as “Black Scorpion” during the war as a result of his gallantry led the 3rd Marine Commando the third leg of the triumvirate division by which Nigeria prosecuted the war. Adekunle, an Ogbomoso indigene like Adeniran built the division from the scratch, gave it its terror-inspiring name as he wanted a division whose mention of its name would strike horror into its opponents, built and fashioned the division into the idea he formed of what a fighting troop should be, , a lethal unit. He was the brightest, brilliant, most audacious and fearless and most famous military genius of the civil war probably on both the federal and Biafran sides.
Another Ogbomoso hero in the war was Col. Shittu Alao; he served as Nigeria’s Chief of Air Staff between 1967 and 1969. He was the fourth Commander of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) and the second Nigerian to lead the NAF. He died in an air crash on October 15, 1969 at the age of 32 at Uzebba, near Benin (present capital of Edo state). He was alone in the military plane when the crash occurred. There are several others like Late Col. Akinfenwa, Commodore Adewuyi but the contributions of these three – Adeniran, Adekunle and Alao – were unequalled, they were great heroes who helped to keep the valour by which Ogbomoso is known during the civil war.
Some of the men who served under the command of Adeniran who rose later to prominence in the Nigerian project were General (then Major) Abdusialami Abubakar who became Nigeria’s Head of State (1998-1999); General Sheu Musa Yar’Adua, who served as the de facto second-in-command as Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters from 1976 to 1979 during Gneral Olusegun Obasanjo military regime; General David Medayese Jemibewon, who became the Military Governor of the defunct Western State (1975-1976) and of Oyo State (1976-1978) and later Minister of Police Affairs during the civilian regime of former President Olusegun Obasanjo; Adenihun among others.
Adeniran was a man of conquest, fearless and daring; he led his troops to capture some Biafran dominions such as Orji River basin near Awka, Enugu, Awka, Benin City, Odili and part of Onitsha, Ogbulafor and Abagana. After the Biafrans surrendered in January 1970, Adeniran was appointed garrison commander with garrison headquarters at Uromi to mop up arms in the area and flush out disgruntled soldiers who continued to fight against the federal side out of patriotism for Biafra. Only top commanders with excellent tactical ability are deployed for such operations. However, his military adventure ended in February 1971, a little over a year after the civil war, his leaving the army was another episode of ethnic cleansing but the story would be told in more details in the future.
Post-army years and legacies
After he quit the army, he devoted the next phase of his life to serving himself, humanity and his Ogbomoso on a wider magnitude. He immediately returned home to found a mechanized farm, which became the first private farm of that scale in Ogbomoso. His farm behind the former Ogbomoso Girls’ High School, on the location LAUTECH is today, he named Adegolu Farms after his great grandfather. It was the largest private farm in Ogbomoso at the time, which encompassed crop and livestock productions, employing quite a number of staff. His love for Ogbomoso from this time began to manifest more obviously.
He was also a great purveyor of education, this much he affirmed during the telephone interview with The Insight, emphasizing that this was what ignited his founding of schools. As mentioned earlier, he established the first individual private nursery and primary school in the city – Ayoka Nursery and Primary School (named after his mother) and then the first private secondary school – Adeniran Memorial Grammar School. The primary school also scored a first when it acquired a bus, which conveyed pupils. The school attained acclaims within and without Ogbomoso, the same fashion the secondary school (named in memory of his grandfather) founded on October 16, 1978, also zoomed within a short time into prominence and became a school for the children of the elite. It can be gleaned that he has a penchant for honouring the memory of his ancestors, the spirit of those he inherited and which was the sparkle for the eminent position he reached in life. This will not be in vain for whomever honours others have honours lying in wait for him too.
Another of his amazing deeds towards the economic emancipation of Ogbomoso was the selflessness he evinced to have the Union Bank got entrenched in the town. The Union Bank Plc had approved a branch for Ogbomoso which then had only the defunct National Bank and First Bank Plc. Nevertheless, the supposed new entrant was on the verge of retreating for inability to secure a standard building in the central business district of the town. This dilemma filtered into the ears of Col. Adeniran, a great man he is, he vacated his then house opposite the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary for the use of the bank. That is what drove him to the A.M.G.S premises. The bank only checked out of the building only last year to its own structure. That is Col. Adeniran for you!
Furthermore, having established his predilection for repaying good turns, it is no wonder that he built an extensive block of classrooms with underground classrooms in his alma mater – Ogbomoso Grammar School (OGS), tagged “HSC Block,” and found use today as administrative block, teachers’ offices, stores and students’ classrooms in one of the new schools – Millennium Model Secondary School – that evolved out of OGS. In like manner, he started the construction of a hall for Ogbomoso Girls’ High School at its previous location, only because his farm shared boundaries with the school. It was nearing completion when the school was converted to LAUTECH; the hall was completed and named M.K.O. Abiola Hall, which was of great use to the institution at inception and held the record of being the most popular hall for several years.
He is also a man that promotes Yoruba culture and tradition. After the war, he had no qualms taking the mantle of the oloko (alter ego) of his family masquerade – Oya Oriiri. The sight of a war hero of the rank of a colonel accompanying a fierce, surging egungun that is on parade enormously flared up public interest; his only explanation when asked was that he loves the tradition of his people. However, there are those who hold that his intriguing action stemmed from his resolve to pay up his “debt” to the masquerade for its old invaluable service when he found himself in a precarious situation during the war.
Col Adeniran is also described as a fine man just as he is a fine soldier, very simple, friendly and accommodating. His cousin, Pa Odeyemi portrays him thus: “He is very accommodating, this is a trait he picked from his father. He would request family members to bring their children to him to train them up to higher institutions of learning. He sponsored many in our extended family. In the same vein, he trained his children adequately.
“He is good to his family and highly respected for his large heart. He is in addition a great lover of Ogbomoso, had this not been so, he would have established his nursery and primary school in Ibadan, his mother’s hometown.”
In the same vein, Chief Jacob Alade, a one-time principal of Baptist Nursing School, Ogbomoso, says of Col. Adeniran, “He is a patriot of Ogbomoso; it is unfortunate however that Ogbomoso does not celebrate her heroes, he flew the flag of valour that is the hallmark of Ogbomoso.
“His building that Union Bank used for years bore eloquent testimony to his love for Ogbomoso. The management of Union Bank was seriously looking for a building to rent but they couldn’t find. Someone informed Col (Adeniran), and because of the interest he has for this town, he asked that his belongings be removed to the premises of Adeniran Memorial Grammar School. Also, all the boys that were living in the house were there without paying a dime just as he had the first private farm in Ogbomoso – Adegolu Farm.”
Mr. Olufemi Lala, who was his Personal Assistant during the war between 1969 and 1970 sums up Adeniran’s persona: “He was like a brother to me, he inspired me to join the army through his conduct. I was in the First Bank before he inspired me to join the force. After the war, he was the one that encouraged me to go for further studies and so I proceeded to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
“And after my training, I was assigned to him as Personal Assistant. He inspired we young officers under him, he was a model to us. After Adekunle, there was no other exceptional Yoruba officer like Adeniran and everyone knew this.
“He was a very brilliant officer, he was exceptionally brave. His exploits made him to be made the garrison commander at Uromi after the war, you know what that means. As a soldier, as a fine officer, he was exceptionally good. He was very disciplined and taught us a lot of virtues, when you are with him he wants you to be honest. He is fearless, that is one thing I know about him, he is very fearless. It is a personal trait.
“To be made an instructor, that shows he was exceptionally good, let me tell you, the army ferrets out good officers, somebody that is not tactically good cannot be picked as an instructor. In army strategy he was very good, and he joined us in military drills, he wouldn’t sit back saying he was the commander, he joined in everything. In fact, if you see him among his men, you wouldn’t know the difference, he was very good. Yet he maintained discipline. He taught me how to concentrate and how to be committed and diligent.”
Femi Lala, of Lala Compound, Taraa, Ogbomoso, and who is now basedin Osogbo, however regretted thiat Adeniran has not been accorded due honour in his hometown despite lifting the name of the town and making priceless contributions to the development of the town.
“He loves Ogbomoso greatly and that is why after the war he returned to Ogbomoso. He loves Ogbomoso but I am sorry our town has not deemed it fit to honour him, it pains me.”
Meanwhile, honour or no honour, Col. Adeniran is currently in the United States of America spending peacefully the remaining days of his life assured of a place in the pantheon of great Ogbomoso nay Nigerian heroes.
His strides which are harnessed into his legacy will be to his eternal memory in Nigeria and in his hometown.