Nothing lasts forever, SL Akintola’s residence overgrown with weeds, frontage taken over by refuse

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Nothing lasts forever, SL Akintola’s residence overgrown with weeds, frontage taken over by refuse

Femi OGUNLANA

Abandoned after two generations this is the sordid condition of the mansion left behind by Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola GCON, the last Premier of Western Region, and after whom the prestigious Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, LAUTECH is named, in his hometown, Ogbomoso, Oyo state, Nigeria.  

Nothing in life lasts forever is a common aphorism; every power, every empire, everything is imbued with an expiry date. What is of great importance and of significance therefore is cocooned in the legacy we bequeath, the way we will be remembered. This is what will outlast us and it comes through positive impact and auspicious impressions we create in the hearts of the people we come across, that prance solicitously within our sphere or shadow of influence and the society in general. It is by what we do that we will be remembered till eternity.

Ambassador Yomi Akintola at a function in Ogbomoso on January 11, 2015

Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola (SLA) GCON, held forte as Premier of the (defunct) Western Region (now the eight states of Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Delta, Edo and Ogun part of Lagos) and as Aare Ona Kakanfo (Generalissimo) of Yorubaland. He also held several other top positions at the federal level serving at various times as Federal Minister in different Ministries and was once Opposition Leader in the Federal Parliament reputed for leading Nigeria from the opposition bench, in view of the views he expounded in the House that became benchmark for governance. He was a polyglot, an excellent orator, crowd puller and a brilliant mind that meant many things to many people; he was fancied for his dexterity in defending or supporting two opposing positions with equal virulence and efficiency at the same time that he was regarded as the master of ambiguity, he caught the imagination of his era. His achievements in offices are numerous that giant steles would have to be erected to file them. The ripples of his fallout with his former boss, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, on the basis of irreconcilable political differences, are still reverberating across the nation.

In his Ogbomoso, he passed as a great hero that embodies the ideal of bravery that typifies the city but more than that his strides and footprints are of colossal stature, ineffaceable, refusing to ebb away – from drinkable water provision, wide networks of roads ebulliently tarred, electricity extension to provision of political inspiration and path finding roles, he made life fuller for his people. Affable, approachable, quiet, accommodating, unassuming, his giant figure still looms large in the firmament of Ogbomoso and of Nigeria as a whole. His passage in the first military putsch of January 15, 1966, was a turning point and created a vacuum that would never be filled.

A lull in political activities came after his exit as a result of the inglorious military rule (1966 to 1979) however the return of civilian rule in 1979 reintegrated and re-entrenched him through his son Chief Abayomi Akintola, who likewise plunged headlong into politics. He became an instant success drawing excessively from the goodwill of his father. He won election into the House of Representatives on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN); he also served as a Federal Minister along with his sister, Dr. Bimbo Akintola. He became the undisputable leader of the conservatives in Ogbomoso, the political ideology his late father propounded in his last years, and the residence of his father at Oke-Ado, Ogbomoso, an imposing storied mansion, with features that remain modern today, became the headquarters of his political empire and by extension of Ogbomoso. The house sitting on an expansive compound, about four acres, boasting a swimming pool and other facilities was flocked, by politicians of different hues and cries, and from across Nigeria.

The residence was the crucible out of which political patronages were disbursed and that grilled men and women who became political juggernauts among whom was former governor of Oyo state, Chief Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala. At the commencement of his political voyage that ended a glorious one, Alao-Akala (d. January 12, 2022) paid homage at the grave of the late patriarch, the Great SLA. Yomi Akintola also turned out a very successful, flamboyant and frontline politician, mingling with panache with the movers and shakers of Nigeria during his heydays. In his strides he was appointed Nigeria’s Ambassador to Hungary during the regime of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (1999 – 2007). Anytime he came around to Ogbomoso from his base in Lagos, the house were always beehives of activities. He saw no reason and chose not to build a house of his own. Truly there was no need; his father left a massive estate. His siblings too made the manor their bunking place anytime they were around in Ogbomoso; so it was always kept exquisite, neat, the flora well trimmed, and the building renovated from time to time. The floating of an annual SLA Memorial Lecture by a coalition of youths under the coordination of Mr. Yemi Adedokun, once a journalist with Ogbomoso Insight, held at some point at the mansion’s ground, was another crowd puller to the dwelling. Plethora of servants round the clock maintained the property to ensure its sparkle and glory never dimmed.

But today, at the eclipse of the generation following the Great SLA’s bad times have caught up with the residence as Patriarch Yomi Akintola who became Basorun of Ogbomosoland is now caught irredeemably in the web of old age, in his eighties, and now incapacitated by a debilitating old age related sickness, which has kept him away from Ogbomoso in the last few years. He now resides permanently in Lagos, where he is being cared for, in another of his father’s house. His mother, the no-nonsense Chief Mrs. Faderera Akintola, died years ago too. His brother Mr. Ladi Akintola also passed on years ago, leaving him alone with his sister Dr Bimbo Akintola. Their children, that is, the SLA’s grandchildren, are scattered all over the world with none pulled by the allure of the beautiful city of Ogbomoso. Political participation holds no attraction to them.

When ogbomosoinsightonline.com visited the estate Tuesday the sordid condition the house has fallen into, reeks – hard to believe it belonged to the once powerful Premier of the Western Region and subsequently occupied by his equally highly successful son, a former Nigeria’s foreign diplomat. It is a vivid paradox of life! The simple rusted gate to the property (which obviously bellies the greatness of the owners), is held by a single cheap padlock, the compound is in tatters, overgrown with bushes (the hard surface of the ground arising from years of stomping by human soles that had deprived it of fertility actually keeps the bushes at bay), fallen leaves from the numerous trees and shrubs now growing wildly in the compound liter the whole place, paints have fallen off, it is now a haven of reptiles which struts cheerily and impudently all about, the setbacks across the front fence is gradually being turned into a dumpsite as deposits of waste papers are appallingly mounting. The estate is generally unkempt, no servants, no leaving soul was sighted. The building next to it which was also occupied in the past by some of the associates of Ambassador Yomi and probably by his father’s has also been abandoned, overrun by more vicious but luscious growths that reach menacingly to the rooflines.

Ambassador Akintola receiving a posthumous award on behalf of his father

Nevertheless, still sticking out adorably from the compound near the front fence are the two separate busts of Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola and his wife, Chief Faderera; though overgrown weeds constitute nuisance too the glory that radiates from them dwarfs the stench, fluttering high than the shorn that the estate has been reduced to. Really, nothing lasts forever. Except our reputation and legacy!

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