Many knew him as the “Owambe” governor, a complimentary or derisive epithet to underscore his epicurean taste and love for social partying, depending on the orientation or relationship of whoever was making the remark with the former Military Governor of the defunct Western State, late Major General Adeyinka Adebayo (retd).
But, popular Juju musician and a close associate of the deceased General, whose rites of passage winds up today, Rev. Idowu Animasawun, says Adebayo’s love for social life did not detract from his military discipline and administrative acumen.
In an interview with YINKA OLUDAYISI Fabowale, Animasawun (aka ‘Apola King’),now a missionary and General Superintendent of World Hope Ministries, recalls his times with the old man, saying he achieved a lot, while he held sway as governor in the old West.
How did you meet the late General Adebayo?
I knew him as far back as 1966. He was the Chief of Army Staff, while I was the Band trainer for the 2nd Battalion Dance Band. The band was different from the Army band and was essentially to entertain officers when they wanted to relax or had social functions. Whenever we were needed, a signal would come from the office of the COAS. But we didn’t meet personally, because instructions only came from his office for us to come and play, like when a send forth party was held for the then Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu, when he was posted from Apapa to Kano. And he won’t force you to do anything. For example when he was told I refused to come and play at General Maimalari’s party on the eve of the Jauary 1966 coup, because we had closed for the day he merely said “leave the man, he is a civilian. After the July 1966 counter coup, I was still at the Ikeja Cantonment.” I think he was a Colonel then, there were only two Colonels then, he and Colonel Pam.
The Ikeja Cantonment was a hot centre of operation of the coupists. The northern soldiers were killing the southerners, especially the Igbo soldiers, they were slaughtering them. In the process, tribal animosity crept in and they began to kill the Yorubas too. General Adebayo, was visiting the cantonment in company with General Gowon and Major General Ogundipe, as some soldiers were being marched to the place of execution. They saw a man with Egbado tribal marks and General Adebayo stopped and querried them. That was how the slaughtering stopped.
We became closer in 1971, when I was still recording my records with TYC (Take Your Choice). He was a friend to the late Bolarinwa Abioro, the owner of the record label, as well as Lekan Salami. He was also the Patron of the Awawa Men’s Society for which Sunny and I waxed records.
My band was often invited to entertain at government functions, where General Adebayo performed some ceremonies, such as cutting the tape of projects, etc. There was a time his counterpart in Kano, Audu Bako, came on a state visit, I was called to perform and when he did his own return visit, he said I must go with him and I followed him. The relationship was that deep. It was a memorable trip because we, my band and I, stayed with him for a whole week. We were treated like kings and I remember that the money I made on that trip was what I used to buy my first brand -new Kombi (Volkswagen) bus, for 80 pounds. We also played when Samuel Ogbemudia visited. Through him, we also got close to David Bamigboye of Kwara Stare then.
He did something I can never forget. When we went to play at Eye Mote Hotel in his home town, Iyin Ekiti, which belonged to his sister, one of my band boys suddenly fell ill. Baba ensured he was rushed to Ado Ekiti General Hospital, where he was treated. Whenever he was in Lagos, I used to visit him at the Government Rest House, Ikeja, because he had developed an interest in me. Everybody knew him as a socialite, he was loved by the ordinary men- young and old, because he had good human relations.
His passion for socials was probably why some people felt he was a weak administrator and not much of a good military man.
He was a good mixer, no doubt, but that did not make him less a military man. And in terms of his duties as governor, he achieved a lot. As governor of the then Western State, he made sure that development was spread round every nook and cranny of the area, He was the one who developed Ota, Ipokia, Ado Ekiti and many others.
As to his love for social life, what people don’t know is that, when you want to know what’s going on in the society, you go to the beer parlors. That’s where you get to hear and gauge the feeling and mood of the people about government and its policies. In 1967, when he came to assume duties, the West was boiling. He inherited the Agbekoya uprising, a revolt and agitation by peasants against taxation. But, under him, the government was able to quell the revolt. He effected the arrest of their leader, Tafa Adeoye, which was thought to be impossible, because of the myth of invincibility surrounding the man.
At a personal level, what sort of man was he?
He was a very humane man. I remember an occasion when we went to play when he was being hosted by the military at Abeokuta. At a point, while he was on the microphone speaking, there was a sudden power cut. This angered the soldiers and they went to bring the NEPA manager and shaved off the hair on his head. He was very annoyed, he didn’t like it at all and he expressed his disapproval at the soldiers’ conduct, although I don’t know what he did afterwards to sanction the erring soldiers. Also, there was a time I overheard him persuading a man, who swore to take revenge of an ill action done him. I didn’t know if he was a Christian, I wasn’t then, anyway. But, he spoke to the man to overlook the evil done him, as if he was one.
I’m not surprised that he lived so long, longer than most of his peers, because he took life so easy and in his strides. He enjoyed life, no stress at all. When we spoke last about two years ago, his voice still sounded strong. He was very chatty and his humorous old self. When he was retired after the Murtala/Obasanjo 1975 coup, he took it so lightly when I visited him. He just said: “There’s no problem. They are all my boys”. He was not fussy at all. That’s why even as the leader of the Yoruba Council of Elders, (YCE), he remained a pacifist, always persuading people, when other notable groups would be sounding militant.
And he was very friendly and accessible. You didn’t have to be an officer to be his friend. I mean who was a person like me to enjoy such closeness I had with him? We were just coming into the limelight as musician yet, I was welcomed into his home and office any time. He was a grassroots person. I think it is his style that Governor Ayodele Fayose is using now and that’s why he succeeded.