Akogun Tola Adeniyi…The Missing Part Please!

Akogun Tola Adeniyi

Akogun Tola Adeniyi

THE discovery of the body of the highly revered Professor Albert Ilemobade in a store in his compound that early Sunday morning of June 28, 2015, after we all had thought he was a victim of kidnap, made me to initially miss Ajibola Amzat’s piece in The Guardian of that day.

That piece titled, ‘Akogun Tola Adeniyi: Celebrating The Septuagenarian Pen General’, brought back to me fond memories of a one-time Pen General. I say ‘fond’ because at a certain point in my adolescence, friends nicknamed me ‘Aba Saheed’, mainly because Akogun Tola Adeniyi’s ‘Aba Saheed’ column was a staple that I devoured with utmost relish as they were churned out. And unlike those nicknames that were bestowed on you in secondary school that made you want to fight whoever called you so, at least those you can easily outmuscle, I wore mine like an epaulet of a senior military officer. I tried to live it too. And Aba Saheed was ruthlessly fearless, at least, in his published articles

I actually met Aba Saheed on the pages of the Tribune of post-1979 presidential elections. That election, just like the recently concluded presidential elections of March 2015, got everybody’s attention. It commanded attention for various reasons but chiefly because the then military rulers, led by Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, were on course to achieve a first in Africa by peacefully transferring power to civilians. The election was actually a straight fight between two of the five political parties of the era, with Alhaji Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in one corner and Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) in the other.

When Alhaji Shehu Shagari was declared the winner on the basis of the ‘12 2/3’ theory postulated by the NPN legal team, a decision that was upheld via a simple majority at the Supreme Court, the nation’s political turf, expectedly, was fouled up, especially for those who held the belief that 2/3 of 19 States could only be 13 whole states and not a fraction thereof.

The Tribune titles of that era shared the socialist and other beliefs of its founder, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, so it was not a surprise that it served without shame the role of the official mouthpiece of the UPN. And did the newspapers play the role to the hilt? With its array of fiery writers, led by Tola Adeniyi/‘Aba Saheed’, the Tribune peppered the NPN administration and its leading lights so relentlessly that Chief MKO Abiola, the same Bashorun MKO Abiola, a prominent member of the NPN then, had to dip his hands into his deep pockets to establish the Concord group of newspapers to tackle the Tribune group.

Fast forward to the early 90s, the era of Nigeria’s only military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, who willfully but oftentimes surreptitiously built all manner of barricades against transferring power to civilians, in spite of his numerous public pronouncements. Suddenly, Akogun Tola Adeniyi popped up as a Director General, the equivalent of the present day Permanent Secretary, in The Presidency. This appointment, which was, in truth, quite like the proverbial bolt from the blues, raised more than an eyebrow, especially in light of Tola Adeniyi’s antecedents and within the context of an administration that was fast losing credibility with the generality of Nigerians. The fact that his roles and functions as a DG in The Presidency were opaque made the appointment even much more intriguing.

Around this same period, too, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, then one of the Executive Directors at The Guardian, had been recruited to become the Chief Executive of Daily Times of Nigeria by the same Babangida administration. Ogunbiyi saw his appointment as an opportunity for Daily Times to contest for the accolade of ‘the flagship of the Nigerian press’, an appellation that The Guardian had appropriated for itself. Everything The Guardian did, he sought to do better successfully. People like us grew up to read about the wonderful accomplishments of the Daily Times of Nigeria group under Alhaji Babatunde Jose. It was apparent to all at that time that The Daily Times under Ogunbiyi was clearly headed for the same direction. And then it happened.

The Babangida administration, whose duplicity had turned it into a nervous wreck, even in the face of the most innocuous of criticisms, got set to present the 1991 national budget. The Daily Times got a scoop of the document and did an editorial, which the administration felt was not complimentary. Same day, Ogunbiyi was summarily dismissed via Radio Nigeria’s 4pm network news bulletin. And from his position as a D.G in The Presidency, Akogun Tola Adeniyi was appointed as the new Chief Executive of the Daily Times Group. That appointment led the Daily Times on a road from which it never recovered.

Today, every time I drive on Agindigbi Road, Ikeja, Lagos and I behold the Daily Times premises, my mind always goes to my hero’s role in turning a vibrant, bustling little town into a cemetery. As his 70th birthday anniversary was colourfully captured in words in the article I had just read, Akogun Tola Adeniyi should kindly deploy his vast writing skills to fill in the missing part of his story that was voluminously dished to readers in Ajibola Hamzat’s article. This generation and the ones to come need to know what happened to the Daily Times under his watch; how it happened and why it happened. We want to know among others, why and how a Daily Times delivery van was said to have been burnt down around Ijebu Ode one early morning while doing the normal rounds that newspaper delivery vans do each day. Akogun Tola Adeniyi owes us an account of his stewardship as the helmsman at Daily Times. Ajibola Hamzat’s piece is still incomplete; we would be most glad to read the missing part.

Seriki is a business executive

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