Adebayo Oyewusi ‘Omiyaa’: Reminiscence on the life of a down-to-earth politician
By Adewuyi ADEGBITE
Our father, Chief James Adebayo Oyewusi popularly known as ‘Omiyaa’ (his campaign mantra when seeking the mandate of the people to serve as the chairman of Ogbomoso local government in his heydays), departed this terrestrial plain on April 13, 2021.
I had personal relationship with Chief James Adebayo Oyewusi spanning a whooping 24 years. Pa Oyewusi was my father and associate. Our paths crossed in 1997 when he wanted to contest for chairman of Ogbomoso North local government under the banner of the defunct Committee for National Consensus, one of the political parties of the Gen Abacha years, which my leader and benefactor, Chief Bola Ige (of blessed memory) termed “five fingers of a leprous hand.” He was an associate of my father of blessed memory. He came to our house to solicit for the support of my father who was a politician and community leader with influence at Apake, Taraa and Sawmill. My father told him that he had mellowed politically but should rather approach me, which he did. However, I was a stalwart of the equally defunct Grassroots Democratic Movement, GDM, and a leader at Sabo/Tara ward. I told him that Prince Timothy Beyioku was our candidate and I had no cause to abandon him. I advised him that in the future we can always work together because of his good standing in the society, but for that election, I was with Beyioku. As politicians do, he gave me ‘mobilization fee’ which I rejected o. In all honestly, he warmly accepted my position and integrity. After that, he took me as a son, associate and confidante.
As prophesized, in the Fourth Republic, I joined the Alliance for Democracy as a foundation member in 1998. He was a leader and with stalwarts like Basorun Yomi Akintola and a few others brought PDP to Ogbomoso zone. Later, with Chief Noah Adigun, I crossed to PDP in 2000 or thereabouts. As the leader in Ogbomoso zone, Chief Oyewusi welcomed me warmly and carried me along in all party activities. I could recollect that in the build up to 2003 election in Oyo state, he belonged to Adeojo faction of the PDP. Omiyaa facilitated my appointment as a zonal coordinator for Adeojo Campaign Organization, as well as a member of mobilization committee under the leadership of Dr. Jelili Amoloye (now late). That appointment brought me into close contact with Seriki Ayoade Adeojo and Amoloye. As a matter of fact, I was a member of Adeojo’s kitchen cabinet. Throughout that period he was always happy about the reports he got about my activities at Adeojo Campaign Organization. That further cemented our relationship. I would like to relate another instance of our relationship. About 2001, Chief Adebayo Alao Akala organized a remembrance ceremony for his late father, Pa Opadoyin Akala. Though Akala was in the PDP but not the mainstream, rather a breakaway faction led in Ogbomoso by Chief T. Beyioku and in Oyo state by Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu and Senator Rashidi Ladoja. The faction was called “Conso” by the mainstream that was led by Adeojo, a corrupt abbreviation for Consultative Forum.
Save Akala and Pa Akintunde, other juggernauts in Ogbomoso zone politics were on the Adeojo side led by Basorun Yomi Akintola and Oyewusi. These included Dr. Saka Balogun, Senator Yusuf Brimoh, Engr. Dayo Lawal among others. Unknown to many, these leaders were having rapport with Akala. It was during the remembrance ceremony organized by Chief Akala that we knew their romance with him. All leaders at Akintola residence PDP had gone to the ceremony held at Tara save Basorun Yomi Akintola and Bayo Oyewusi. All along, Otunba Akala and Pa Oyewusi were in a no love lost relationship. They were not in good terms. What caused their feud may not be known by me. Unfortunately, I did not ask Omiyaa. What I know is that the leadership at Okelerin Baptist Church tried to bring a truce between them to no avail. As a result of the feud, Otunba Akala could not decamp directly to PDP in 2001 but through his supporters because of the presence of Omiyaa, who equally nursed chairmanship ambition. Remarkably, it was during Pa Opadoyin Akala’s remembrance ceremony that God used me to bring the feud to an end. It happened that when I heard that Senator Brimmo, Dr. Saka Balogun among others were at the ceremony, I had to rush to the Caretaker residence of Pa Oyewusi to inform him, I equally advised him that many of those he was seeing as confidante and who were opposing Akala openly were romancing him secretly. I implored him to attend the ceremony since it was not a political gathering but a celebration of life which all of us would experience sooner or later. He agreed wholeheartedly and I led him with my Volkswagen Beetle to the ceremony. Akala was so surprised and overwhelmed to see him. He welcomed him warmly and sat together till when the occasion lasted. Nobody called a truce between them, the feud then died a natural death.
I think Akala had been elected by then as the deputy governorship candidate of the PDP. What followed the rapprochement was the Royal Crown Hotel meeting among political juggernauts in Ogbomoso zone organized by Akala towards the 2003 guber-election. Omiyaa was present at the parley among others.
The coming together of the Ogbomoso zone heavyweights at Royal Crown in 2003 sealed the fate of Lam Adesina’s government in Oyo during the 2003 guber election. I knew this because I was the secretary of the contact committee of Ladoja/Akala campaign organization then. My brother and friend, Hajj Razak Gbadegesin Kareem was the chairman. What I want to bring out is that since I brought truce between Otunba Akala and Pa Oyewusi, they remained confidantes. Akala handsomely rewarded Baba Omiyaa when God made him the governor of Oyo state since January 2006 until his death. Invariably, because of his association with Akala, Omiyaa jettisoned his principle, which forbade him from jumping from one party to the other. In all, his rapport with Alao Akala was a win-win situation for him. This is because, it was mutual respect and not master/servant, the way top politicians treat many followers or associates!
I don’t know if Chief Akala could remember the story of how peace was brokered between him and Omiyaa! However, if he reads this piece, may be, he could recollect it.
Omiyaa since I knew him took me as his son, associate and confidante. I thank God that he attended any event I invited him, for example, he attended my wedding ceremony, my son’s naming ceremony, my book launch for Rev’d. E. O. Fanibe in 2006, my father’s burial in 2011, my birthday and book launch in 2017. He would have attended my father’s 10th anniversary at Ori-oke Baptist Church, Tara, on Sunday, February 14, 2021 but for the ‘koro’ pandemic.
I thank God that the picture he took with another father and associate, Alayeluwa S. B. Amao, Aale of Okelerin, at my birthday on September 1, 2017 where he was at home (though sharing the podium with a monarch he was having a court case with) and laughing heartily with Aale became the picture used for his burial ceremony throughout. I posted the picture immediately his death was announced, it was not that he did not have other pictures, but that was how God wants it to be. This is a lesson for other people who people invited for occasions but turned down the invitation out of pride or feeling of being too high.
Oyewusi lived an impactful life as a top local government servant, politician, community leader, businessman and a Christian. Omiyaa came from a noble background. He hailed from the famed Ikolaba Ayoola chieftaincy family in Isale Laka, Ogbomoso. Ikolaba Ayoola is one of the many families that produce Ikolaba, one of the civic chiefs of Soun’s Council of Chiefs. In actual fact, many Ikolaba chieftaincy families were not known as that of Ikolaba Ayoola where Omiyaa hailed from. His great grandfather, Ikolaba Ayoola from whom the family got its name was a popular chief in his days. Oyerinde (ND) recorded the spectacular feats performed by Ikolaba Ayoola. According to him, when Baale Ojo Aburumaku was the Baale of Ogbomoso between 1865 and 1869 (he was also the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba empire), he appropriated all the gates leading to Ogbomoso, which hitherto were shared among the Ilus and leading Obas in Ogbomoso and Ijeru prior to the ascension of Aburumaku, from where they got revenue to run their own governments. After the death of Ojo Aburumaku in 1869, his heir, Otunla with the connivance of a leading slave of Ojo mounted the Soun’s throne. However, Soun’s family and leading Ilu chiefs including Ikolaba Ayoola and leading Obas like Olugbon, Iba Abogunde and Onpetu Oyeniya of Ijeru rejected the Otunla’s move. Gbagun, the great grandfather of the incumbent Soun, was at Ilesa battle front. It was the turn of Oluwusi ruling house to produce a Baale. Therefore, Gbagun, a man as fit as a fiddle was sent for to come home and become the Baale. That was during the Kiriji war. Oyewo, the son of Balogun Ibikunle of Ibadan sent Gbagun home accompanied by some of his leading lieutenants. Otunla, the usurper Baale had to flee to Ilorin upon hearing about the coming of Gbagun. Before Gbagun could mount the throne, Oyeniya, the Onpetu, it was recorded, sent his slaves to demolish all gates leading to Ogbomoso and those of Ijeru. These gates were shared among Ilu chiefs, Baale and leading Obas like Olugbon, who was then at Ogbomoso and the Onpetu. Gbagun democratized his administration thereafter. Remarkably, Ikolaba Ayoola, who was Otun Balogun then, was allotted Bode Ona Oyo (readers can read this further in Iwe Itan Ogbomoso by N.D. Oyerinde, Jos 1934). Another feat recorded for Ayoola was that when Rev’d. J.T. Bowen from the Southern Baptist Convention in the USA arrived Ogbomoso in 1855, the then Baale, Apaebu Odunaro, handed him over to Ikolaba Ayoola as his guest and to reside at his residence. This could not have been so but for the fact that Ayoola was a man of means, elderly and a trusted ally of the Baale.
Ikolaba Ayoola’s paternal root was not recorded. However, he was a daughter of Onpetu Oyeniya, as I think part of the land at Arinkinkin, which later became a subject of litigation between the incumbent Onpetu and Chief Oyewusi might have been given Ayoola by the Onpetu family. May be that was why Omiyaa laid claim to it after the government released part of the land to Onpetu dynasty from whom the government of the then Western Region sourced it for agricultural purposes, precisely farm settlement programme in the 1950s. The case went to the Supreme Court, where Onpetu family was victorious. Until his death, I did not know the orile (code of identification of lineage in Yorubaland) of Omiyaa to be Erin (elephant). Erin is the orile of the Alaafin of Oyo dynasty or lineage. Elephant signifies power or authority. This is exemplified by the power and authority of Alaafin till today. What it means is that James Adebayo Oyewusi hailed from the lineage of Alaafin of Oyo paternally and from the Onpetu and Oluoje lineage maternally. His larger than life personality, bravery, candour, suavity, truculence among other noble qualities could be traced to his background. Unfortunately today, many have neglected their orile and oriki. Even Yoruba names, which according to the Yoruba were given based upon the family background have been jettisoned for western and biblical or just any name. Today, we have Yoruba children bearing Marvelous, Faith, Precious and all sorts of names having no meaning to Yoruba people. Illiteracy, inferiority complex, under education are some of the reasons for this anomaly.
Parents’ identification with Christian names is also responsible for the turn of events as regards anyhow names given to children in Yorubaland. Moslems can be pardoned because since the advent of Islam, most Moslems have jettisoned Yoruba names for Islamic names. According to Ibn Kaldin, an Islamic philosopher of the 16th century, “The vanquished are always fond of immortalizing the conquerors’ motto, attire, creed and other positions and customs.”
Chief Oyewusi was a politician or note in Oyo state, he was a conservative and belonged to the left of the Nigerian political divide from day one and remained so till the end. He never changed political party as many unprincipled and political merchants in Nigeria’s political parties of today. He learnt politics at the feat of the legendary SL Akintola. He, late Chief Sunday Popoola and Dr. Saka Balogun were followers of the late Premier of the old Western Region. He was a stalwart of the defunct National Party of Nigeria in the 2nd Republic. In the aborted 3rd Republic, he was a stalwart of the National Republican Convention and chairman in Ogbomoso local government. During the Abacha years, he was a leader of the Committee for National Consensus led by Senator Sola Saraki (of blessed memory). As a matter of fact, he contested for the chairmanship of Ogbomoso North local government but lost to Hon Noah Adigun of the United Nigeria Congress Party in 1997. Before that time however he had won the same seat in 1996 under zero party. He defeated the likes of Otunba Bayo Alao Akala who was just debuting politically. He later contested for the chairmanship under the PDP in 1998 but lost to Otunba Bayo Alao Akala of All People’s Party (APP). He actually wanted to vie for the same election in 2003 but the PDP which he led was invaded by many ambitious politicians and at the end of the day the party was hijacked from him and Yomi Akintola. Since then, the centre could not hold. The rest as they say is now history.
He held many political appointments at the state and federal levels aside being a local government chairman and facilitated the appointments of many followers, we should recollect that he was appointed as the chairman of defunct Ogbomoso Central local government council in November 1983 by Olunloyo government in Oyo state. In 1987, he contested the Ogbomoso local government chairman election with Chief Ayantayo Ayandele but lost. However, he went to court and won at Appeal Court in Ibadan. In addition, he was appointed by Obasanjo government as the deputy coordinator of NAPEP in Oyo state in 2001. When Chief Bayo Akala became the governor of Oyo state he appointed him as the chairman Oyo State Hospital Management Board. These are just to mention but a few.
What is remarkable about all the appointments Omiyaa had is that he served the nation with the fear of God. He did not use the position to feather his own nest.
Religiously, Omiyaa was a Christian by birth and belonged to Baptist denomination. As a matter of fact, he was a member of the First Baptist Church, Okeelerin, Ogbomoso. He was one of the bridges between the old order in the Baptist circle and the new order. He held tenaciously to the democratic principle of the Baptist. Having worshipped in the church for years and witnessed the pastor/worshippers relationship, he was a protector of the old order, which was based on accountability, freedom of expression by all Baptists, supremacy of the Church-in-Conference etc.
His strict adherence to these principles, which are no longer fashionable among the modern Baptist pastors, indeed brought him in collision course with some Baptist pastors at the First Baptist Church, Okeelerin, Ogbomoso. He was a staunch member of Concerned Group at Okeelerin, who were bent on protecting the old order. The crisis the church witnessed few years ago during the tenure of Rev’d. Dr. J. A. Aworinde resulted partly because of the collision between the old and new orders in the Baptist church. Omiyaa and few others are at the centre of the crisis while it lasted.
He was a father figure at the church and his experience helped the church greatly but may not go down well with the under-shepherd. An instance was when the MTN wanted to install mast inside the church premises. The church had actually agreed since the MTN would pay handsomely for the space. However, it was Omiyaa who spearheaded the opposition to the move based on the fact that if a Fulani man was hired as a guard for the mast and started to worship according to his faith inside the church premises, could the church raise an eyebrow? That was how the move was rejected and MTN looked for space elsewhere. There is no doubt that Omiyaa saw into the future in view of the herdsmen menace in the country today. Equally, one should not forget the role of Omiyaa and other concerned Baptist members when the Baptist Hospital land was sold to the then Cooperative Bank by the management of the hospital in the early 1990s. The concerned stood up to the management and the land was taken back. The building built by the bank houses Bowen Teaching Hospital computer centre today. Unfortunately, that was not included in his biography (put together in the programme for his burial service). However, a member of the Concerned Group, Pa O. F. Oroniran emphasizes in his tribute, “I am not sure many people know that late Mr. Oyewusi and I were close. Yes, we were very close in Baptist circles. Our common interest was fighting corruption, injustice, untrustworthiness – all in high places in our Baptist denomination. To the glory of God, in all our struggles together on the above, I found late Mr. Oyewusi to be absolutely dependable, trustworthy, generous, very brave, very sincere, very committed, very loyal and very courageous. When a highly placed person using a brilliant lawyer threatened to take both of us to court in the 90s, if we did not withdraw what we wrote and published about him within seven days and apologize for same, we should be ready to pay him 10million naira each in court, we both kept quiet, expecting his summons, which will probably come in the next millennium!”
It is an irony that his activities as a member of Concerned Group at the First Baptist Church, Okeelerin, Ogbomoso was not included in his biography. I knew if he looks back he will not be happy with that. Why the family did this is a conjecture. God bless Baba Oroniran for presenting Pa Oyewusi’s role in sanitizing Baptist denomination of the dogma of Papa’s infallibility. In Nigeria and Ogbomoso in particular, Omiyaa would have loved to crown his earthly activities by being installed the Ikolaba of the Soun of Ogbomosoland. Unfortunately, this was a mirage. Instead of installing him, the prescribed authority over the chieftaincy, His Majesty Alayeluwa Oba Jimoh Oladunni Oyewumi thought otherwise and instead looked elsewhere for his Ikolaba. Trust Oyewusi, he never suffered fools gladly. He went to court over the issue and actually won at the State High Court, though the defendants have appealed the victory; maybe for his death, he would have been victorious and won moral victory if he eventually lost the race.
I saw Dr. S. A. Balogun as a trusted friend and dependable confidante of Oyewusi, but I also saw him as his nemesis politically. However, my opinion about him changed when I saw his tribute to his childhood friend as related to his race for Ikolaba stool and the refusal of Oba Ajagungbade III to install him. According to Dr. S. A. Balogun, “In his practice of politics, Adebayo Aremu Oyewusi was never influenced by pecuniary considerations. He was sometimes prevailed upon to invest his personal resources in politics to score a political point. Sometimes, his loyalty to a political cause could be utterly blind. I mean loyalty for a wrong or no reason at all. In our practice of politics, or in defense of what we considered as the interest of the community, some of the individuals supported by my friend, late Adebayo Oyewusi paid him back in bad coins. The failure of late Adebayo Oyewusi to be installed as the Ikolaba of Ogbomosoland can be seen as being paid back in bad coins not just by the Soun of Ogbomosoland, but also by others who could have rallied support for him but refused to do so, whereas, Adebayo Oyewusi had assisted some of them in similar circumstances in the past. In fact, Adebayo Oyewusi continued to serve some of them who remained in partisan politics until the end of his life for reason best known to him but not clear to me. It may be relevant to recall here some apparently intangible but very significant roles which Adebayo Oyewusi, in joint efforts with late Adigun Akintola, late Sunday Popoola, late Leke Ajagbe and my humble self played, which contributed to the installation of Prince (as he was called then) Jimoh Oladunni Oyewumi, the Soun in 1973. Prince Lamidi Lawuyi Itabiyi and myself are living witnesses – it is a fact that such roles were played in conformity with the general wish and desires of the majority of Ogbomoso citizens of the community. Apart from the outstanding qualities of Prince Jimoh Oladunni Oyewumi, such as his strong family support base, his abundant wealth and popularity, the political consideration also counted. That he was seen as belonging to the group of the late Premier of Western Region of Nigeria, Chief SLA Akintola, as opposed to the other group seen as sympathizers of the Awolowo’s Action Group tendency seriously determined the position of Ogbomoso community. Therefore, it appears to be an irony of a disturbing twist of historical experience that Kabiyesi, Oba Oladunni Oyewumi, Ajagungbade III, refused to install Mr. James Adebayo Oyewusi as the rightful Chief Ikolaba of Ogbomosoland. Although, Mr. Oyewusi went of court to establish his claim, obtaining judgment against the wrong installation of another candidate by the Soun, he remained entangled in the court case by the time he died as the other party went on appeal. In my opinion, he did not need to go to court to establish his claim because he enjoyed the overwhelming support of the Ikolaba family but the Soun of Ogbomosoland refused to install him.” God bless Dr. Saka Balogun for his honest position here.
Although, he was not installed as Ikolaba, that never diminished his status in the society because that could have been an addition to hundreds of laurels won in his earthy sojourn. Adebayo Oyewusi blazed into glory at a well attended funeral service at First Baptist Church, Okeelerin, Ogbomoso on July 3rd 2021. The service which was attended by all segments of Ogbomoso community and beyond had all political juggernauts in the land in attendance, ditto for traditional rulers, captains of industries, clergymen and the hoi-polloi that Oyewusi served all his life. The weather of the day was warm with no rain until his body was lowered into the ground. Rev. Dr. E. K. Alabi of Molete Baptist Church, Ibadan, a close associate of Pa Oyewusi delivered the sermon on the ceremony. The topic was “What legally would you bequeath the humanity?” “Kila fi sile saye lo?” He read from 1 Kings 2:1-20 and 2 Samuel 16. It was the story of King David when he was about to die and his words for Solomon after he had succeeded him.
The sermon from the experienced man of God was devoid of apportioning of blame, condemnation of the deceased, threat of hell for the living or forceful confession. It was a really celebration of life which the transition of J. A. Oyewusi deserves!
A song composed by Horatius Burner in February 1891 and sang by Ira D. Sankey at the funeral of Charles Spurgeon, a great London Baptist preacher on December 31, 1891 was titled “We shall be remembered by what we have done,” Oyewusi is being remembered by what he had done. So also every mortal after our sojourn in this side of the world divide. Omiyaa served his community, God and humanity. He left a legacy of integrity, principled stand on causes he believed in, tenacity of purpose, truculence and contentment. He was loyal to friendship and was not a betrayer. For these, he would be remembered. Adieu.