The Awolowo – Akintola Leadership Tussle: A Reinterpretation

Emmanuel Oladipo Ojo


The underlying causes and consequences of the Awolowo–Akintola leadership tussle which began in the defunct Western Region and spilled to other parts of Nigeria have attracted quite a great deal of deliberate and inadvertent misinterpretations and falsehoods. While the principal actors and their disciples struggled to swing the pendulum of justification and ‘truth’ to their respective sides; most of the inferences, references, rebuttals and conclusions of scholars on the underlying causes of the rift are not consistent with facts. Ostensibly, the rift was the outcome of Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s reluctance to hand over to Ladoke Akintola as Premier of Western Nigeria following the former’s resolve to contest the 1959 federal elections into the Central Legislature; Akintola’s desire to be the de jure Premier of Western Nigeria; his pointed opposition to the Action Group’s adoption of a socialist ideology on the eve of independence, the so called ‘Coca-Cola War’ between the wives of the duo as well as Akintola’s interface with the Northern People’s Congress, NPC. The last was Akintola’s supposed gravest offence. While scholars have almost over-flogged the other causes of the Akintola–Awolowo leadership tussle, there is paucity of literature, or at best parried accounts, on the epicentre of the crisis – Akintola’s political interface with Northern Nigeria political leaders. This paper intends to fill this gap by attempting a reinterpretation of some of the factors that may have influenced the political rapport between Akintola and NPC leaders.  


Awolowo; Akintola; Nigeria; leadership; tussle; election; political parties.

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At its inaugural conference of 28-29 April 1951 at Owo, Ondo State, South-West Nigeria, Hon. Gaius Obaseki, Chief N.F. Mowarin, Chief M.A. Ajasin and Chief Arthur Prest were elected Vice Presidents; Bode Thomas became the General Secretary; Anthony Enahoro and S.O.

Sonibare were elected Assistant Secretaries while S.O. Ighodaro became Treasurer; S.T. Oredein Administrative Secretary and S.L. Akintola and M.E.R. Okorodudu became Legal Advisers. Daily Service 31 March 1951.

See, for example, Samuel Adegbite Tinubu, Akintola and the Eclipse of the First Republic (n.p, n.d.), pp. 72-73.

West African Pilot, 8 June 1962 and Daily Express, 30 May 1962. Afonja was a maternal prince nce of Oyo. He was installed the Aare Ona Kakanfo (War Field Marshal) in 1817 during the reign of laafin Aole who disliked him. Aole therefore planned to have Afonja killed by sending him to fight agaht against Iwere, a well-fortified town. However, with the connivance of some Oyo chiefs and in alli alliance with Mallam Alimi, a Fulani itinerant preacher, Afonja rebelled against Aole whoho er committed suicide but not before he cursed Afonja. Afonja’s ally, Alimi, thereafter turned against h

him and took over Ilorin. Tis is generally regarded as the story of the Yoruba loss of Ilorin to the Muslim North. See Bayo Omolola, “Culturally, Historically Communicating the Yorubas Traditional Concept of Military Heroism: Aare Ona Kakanfo”, International Journal of Pure Communication Inquiry, Vol. 1, Issue 2013, p. 81. See also Gabriel Sosanya “State of Emergency in Western Nigeria: Recounting the Experiences”, Historical Flashback, 11 February – 3 March 2015, p. 9.

Akinjide Osuntokun, Chief S. Ladoke Akintola His Life and Times (Ibadan: Mosuro Publishers, 2010), p. ix.

The Holy Bible, Matthew 26: 17-21; Mark 14:10 and John 6:71 (King James Version). See also V.A. Adesuyi, Awo: Immortal Eulogy for Awo the Titan (Ibadan: Shalom Publications, 2009), p. 31.

Adio Mosanya, Oloye Obafemi Awolowo (n.p; n.d.), p. 2. This author found a few copies of this 25-page pamphlet (written in Yoruba) at Sopolu Library, Awolowo Residence, Ikenne-Remo, Ogun State on 12 February, 2015.

Samuel Adegbite Tinubu, op. cit., pp. 74-80. On the whole, Akintola and the Eclipse of the First Republic is a thoroughly bias book. Throughout the text, the author depicts Akintola as hero and Awolowo as villain. This is not surprising given the fact that Tinubu was one of the twenty-six members of the Action Group who were expelled from that party on 7 July 1962 for what the AG described as “disloyal and subversive activities against the party”. The others were Chief S.L.

Durosaro, Chief O. Tobun, Chief E.O. Okunowo, Chief F.O. Awosika, A.F. Odulana, Oba C.D. Akran, Chief Abiodun Akerele, J.O. Adigun, A.O. Adedeji, S.O. Ogundipe, Chief A.O. Adeyi, Chief A.M.A. Akinloye, S.O. Fajimi, Duro Ogundiran, E.A. Lagunju, S. Hunponu Wusu, S.A. Sanni, Lasisi Ajimobi, L.O. Aniyi, D.O. Arowolo, N.A. Adibi, E.O. Oke, R.A. Lana, S.A. Adeniya and J.L. Tifase. See Historical Flashback, 11 February 2015, p. 7.

Interview with Abayomi Akintola, 76, No. 1, Akintola Street, Ogbomoso, Oyo State, 13/04/2015. Abayomi is Ladoke Akintola’s eldest son. His submission was corroborated by Ibrahim Adelaja, 71, interviewed by this author on 22 October 2014 at his residence, No. 7, Ajena Street, Ikenne, Ogun State. Ibrahim served as Personal Secretary to the General Manager of Daily Times between 1970 and 1977.

Ladoke Akintola, “Awo: The Path-Finder”, Daily Service, 6 March 1959.

Obafemi Awolowo, Awo, the Autobiography of Chief Obafemi Awolowo (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1960), p. 259.

Akinjide Osuntokun, op. cit., also shares this view, p. 71.

Bode Thomas was Deputy Leader of the Action Group until 1953. He also served as Central Minister of Works. Akinjide Osuntokun describes Bode Thomas as “a brilliant but haughty lawyer, extremely self-confident and intolerant of other people’s views” who “was well-respected in party circles, but greatly disliked by British officials because of his arrogance”. Chief S. Ladoke Akintola His Life and Times, p. 51. .

Quoted from ibid, pp. 69-70.

Ibid, p. 53.


Quoted from K.W.J. Post & George Jenkins, The Price of Liberty: Personality and Politics in Colonial Nigeria (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973), p. 114.

This was why the Action Group advocated the destruction of the NPC before the attainment of independence in 1960. The party said “it would be a tragedy [for the AG] should the NPC control the Federal Government”. Daily Times, 2 May, 1958

Federal House of Representatives Debates, Tuesday, 29 November 1960.


Quoted from Daily Times, 13 October 1960.

Emmanuel O. Ojo, ““The Nigerian Democratic Process: Ethnicity and Alliances of Political Parties, 1951-1983”, Ph.D. Thesis, Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti, 2012, p. 123.

This may have influenced Osuntokun’s description of Ogbomoso as a town “located in the drier part of the rain forest belt and...a city in a transitional zone between the rain forest and savannah. Akinjide Osuntokun, Chief S. Ladoke Akintola His Life and Times, p. xv.

N.D. Oyerinde, History of Ogbomoso (n.p, n.d), p. 2.


Ibid. See also Jide Osuntokun and Tunde Oduwobi, The Merchant Prince and the Monarch, Oba Oladunni Oyewumi, the Soun of Ogbomosoland (Ibadan: Bookbuilders, n.d.), p. 3 and ‘Brief History of Ogbomoso’, Coronation Anniversary Celebration Brochure, January 2004, p. 12.

Akinjide Osuntokun, Chief S. Ladoke Akintola His Life and Times, p. 44.

Some of these are I.O. Albert, Urban Migrant Settlements in Nigeria: A Historical Comparison of ‘Sabon Garis’ in Kano and Ibadan 1893 – 1991. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Ibadan, 1994; A. Cohen, Customs and Politics in Urban Africa. A Study of Hausa Migrants in Yoruba Towns (London: Routeledge & Kogan Paul, 1969); P.K. Makinwa, Internal Migration and Rural Development in Nigeria (Ibadan: Heinemann, 1981); Adamu Mandi, The Hausa Factor in West African History (Zaria/Ibadan: OUP, 1978). A. Tijani, “Ethnic Conflicts in Nigeria: A Case Study of Sagamu/Kano Riots”, ELA Journal of African Studies, Nos. 5 and 6

May & October, 1999; A. Tijani, “A Historical Study of Nupe Migrants in Yorubaland”, in Dele Afolabi (ed.), Readings in the Humanities (Ilesha: Jola Publishers, 2002) and A. Tijani, Sabo Communities in Yorubaland, Nigeria (1916 – 1967). Ph.D. Thesis, University of Ilorin, 2003.

Abdulwahab Tijani, “Ethnic Relations: A Study of Hausa Community in Ogbomoso, Nigeria (1924-1967)”, Journal of Social Science, 17(3), 2008, p. 253.

Ibid, p. 258.

Ibid, p. 259.


Olu Obafemi, ‘Memories from Ladoke Akintola Memorial Lecture 1’, The Sun, 24 January 2015.

Daly Service, 22 November 1954.

Akinjide Osuntokun, op. cit, p. 66.

Morning Post, 5 February 1962

Quoted from Adegbite Tinubu, op. cit. p. 72.

Robert Collis, Nigeria in Conflict (Lagos: John West Publications Ltd., n.d.p), p. 129.

For example, the 1962 census figures which were later annulled because of widespread disagreement over them were: Northern Region 30.2m; Eastern Region 12.5m; Western Region 10m. The figures of the re-run census were: Northern Region 29,777,986; Eastern Region 12,388,646; Western Region 10,278,500; Mid-Western Region 2,533,337 and Lagos: 675,352. Both sets of figures indicate that the population of the North was more than that of the rest of the Federation combined.

See West African Pilot, 7 and 21 February, 1963 & Daily Times and West African Pilot, 24 February, 1964

Morning Post, 22 September, 1965.

Western Nigeria White Paper (1964), p. 4.

Eghosa Osaghae “Federal Society and Federal Character: The Politics of Plural Accommodation in Nigeria Since Independence” in Uma Eleazu (ed.) Nigeria: The First 25 Years (Lagos & Ibadan: Infodata Ltd. & Heinemann Educational Books, 1988), p. 26.



Bayo Omolola, “Culturally, Historically Communicating the Yorubas Traditional Concept of Military Heroism: Aare Ona Kakanfo”, International Journal of Pure Communication Inquiry, op. cit. p. 85.


West African Pilot, 15 October, 1964.

Wumi Akintide, “Samuel Ladoke Akintola”, The Recorder, 12 October 2003.

See West African Pilot, 11 May 1962; Daily Express, 26 May 1962 and West Africa, 10 February 1962.

West Africa, 19 May 1962.

Akinjide Osuntokun, Chief S. Ladoke Akintola His Life and Times, pp. 76, 90-91.

This was one of the 24 charges that were levelled against Chief Akintola. See West African Pilot, 21 May 1962. The Action Group accused him of ‘squandermania and self-aggrandizement’. Other offences were that Cjief Akintola pressed for a Premier’s Lodge to be built for him at the cost £180,000 and the maintenance of a fleet of five luxury cars – 2 Cardillacs, 1 Do Soto, 2 Mercedes Benz 300 – with a sixth, a Rolls–Royce, on order. See ibid, 15 May 1962.

Ibid, 25 May 1962.

Some of these are J.B. Odubela, c.70 years, No. 44, Maberu Street, Ikenne, Ogun State: 22/10/2014; Taiwo Oregun, 72, No. 19, Maberu Street, Ikenne; Chief Isaac Adelola Olabiran, 93, No. 1, Adetola Olabiran Street, Ikenne; Chief Francis Oluseyi Adelesi, 76, No. 22, Mapada Street, Ikenne; Ibrahim Mufthau Adelaja, 71, No. 7, Ajena Street, Ikenne; Aderogba Babatunde Busari, 78, No. 7, Saja, Ogbomoso, Oyo State: 13/04/2015; Elder Olayinka George 73, Okun Akinola Compound, Isale Laka, Ogbomoso; Chief Arobga Julius, 70, No. 15, Sakari, Ogbomoso; Adeeko Janet, 77, No. 10, Bilala, Ogbomoso; Alhaji Agboola Kadri, 72, No. 6, Oke-Ado, Ibadan, Oyo State: 26/4/2015; Chief Araoye Olape Gilbert, 77, No. 12, Bodija, Ibadan and Agbede Ilesanmi Samuel, 71, No. 22, Oke-Ado, Ibadan.

Interview with Agbede Ilesanmi Samuel, op. cit.

Interview with J.B. Odubela, op. cit.

Interview with Chief Isaac Adelola Olabiran, op. cit.

See this author’s M.A. Thesis, “The 1959 Federal Elections, Party Politics and the Fall of the Nigerian First Republic”, University of Ibadan, 2002, passim.

Interview with Olugbade Isola Eso, 75, No. 22, Elewure, Ibadan, Oyo State: 26/4/2015

West African Pilot, 24 May 1962.

Morning Post, 5 February 1962.

Ibid, 6 February 1962.

Interview with Yomi Akintola, op. cit.

For details, see Emmanuel O. Ojo “The Nigerian Democratic Process: Ethnicity and Alliances of Political Parties, 1951-1983”, op. cit. Particularly chapter four: ‘Disintegration and Reconstitution of Alliances, 1964-65’, pp. 162– 214.

Daily Express & Daily Times, 12 January 1966.

D.J.M. Muffett, Let the Truth Be Told. The Coups D’Etat of 1966 (Zaria: Hudahuda Publishing Company, 1982), p. 11. The United Progressive Grand Alliance, UPGA, was formed by the NCNC and the faction of the Action Group that opposed Akintola following the collapse of the NPC–NCNC alliance at the central.

National Archives, Ibadan: “NAI: CWC2/1/1: Nigerian Crisis, 1966”, p. 4.

Daily Times and Morning Post, 17 November, 1965.

Siyan Oyeweso, “Causal Factors in the Nigerian Civil War: A Critical and Comparative Analysis of Some Nigerian Accounts”, M.A. thesis, Department of History, University of Ife, Ile Ife, 1986, 55.

See The First 10 Years: Independent Nigeria (Lagos: Daily Times of Nigeria Limited, 1970), p. 33.

Remi Anifowose, Violence and Politics in Nigeria. The Tiv and Yoruba Experience (New York & Enugu: Nok Publishers International, 1982), p. 65.

Nigerian Citizen & Nigerian Tribune, 15 January, 1966.

Daily Service, 2 December 1959.

West African Pilot, 24 May 1962.

Daily Express, 30 May 1962.

Wumi Akintide, op. cit.



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