Adegoke Adelabu, by far one of Ibadan’s most colourful yet under-celebrated politicians of all time, popularized the word ‘Penkelemesi’. The term was said to be Ibadan locals’ corrupt version of the phrase “peculiar mess”, which Adelabu, known for his fascinating use of English, once used to describe the opposition in the Western Region House of Assembly.
Legend has it that the non-literate section of Ibadan people, among whom Adelabu was immensely popular, translated the phrase into Yoruba to mean “penkelemesi”. And that phrase has remained for decades.
Adelabu died in 1958 on, according to some accounts, mile 51 of the Lagos–Ibadan Expressway, close to Shagamu. He was returning from Lagos along with a Syrian businessman when their car hit an oncoming vehicle, reports said. Expectedly, as a politician considered one of the fiercest critics of the late Obafemi Awolowo, the circumstances surrounding his death were clouded by myths and conspiracy theories.
Interestingly, exactly six decades after his death, the spectre of the late Ibadan politician seems hovering over Oyo state–––in two unrelated yet interesting areas.
One, a scion of the Adelabu dynasty, ‘Bayo Adelabu, is widely considered a shoo-in in the coming guber race. He has picked the ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and currently enjoys the support of the incumbent governor and party faithfuls. He is said to be in his 40s. His closest rival, Seyi Makinde of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, is a little older.
Given that Oyo state has always had the misfortune of having its political space dominated by geriatric politicians, the emergence of both men signals a breath of fresh air in the governance space of the state.
But for now, that’s where it ends. Both men––who undoubtedly are the major contenders––have very little records, if any, in public administration against which one can subject their rhetorics. If we go by public pronouncements, none has really inspired much hope thus far, even though one hopes they will unravel when debates begin proper.
On the flipside, however, is Adelabu’s ‘Penkelemesi’ curse: a socio-historical plague that has haunted the state’s governance and political space for long which manifests in how, in many instances, the state acts as ‘Pace-setter’ in peculiar cases of absurdities. It was evident during the Busari Eru-Obodo years just as it was in the Lamidi Adedibu years when pronouncements made in Molete came with far more recognition than those made at the Agodi government house.
Although the absurdities may not be pronounced in this dispensation, it is also evident in the political choices of three major politicians whose presence has defined Oyo politics in the last two decades: from incumbent Governor Abiola Ajimobi through to former governors Rashidi Ladoja and Adebayo Alao-Akala.
Governor Ajimobi’s reign as governor, for one, would most likely be defined by his quick descent into megalomania than any significant re-engineering of the state of affairs in Oyo. The governor, no doubt, brought some form of decency to the governance system in Oyo, especially in the wake of the departure of the indecorous Alao-Akala.
But that gain, and others realized in a few sectors like security, would pale into nothingness if placed side-by-side with his reckless utterances and exaggerated conception of “constituted authority”. He would crown it all by picking the senatorial ticket of his party, against public statements that he might not vie for any public office again after completing his second tenure as governor, having served earlier in 2003 as senator. What exactly do this people want?
Alao-Akala, on his part, is yet again vying for the governorship seat on the platform of the ADP after losing out in the APC chess game that saw Adelabu emerge as candidate. His movement perhaps represent the most amusing political gymnastic by any major Oyo politician in recent time: After he lost his re-election bid in 2011, he defected to the Labour Party in 2015 and contested the governorship.
He lost out and joined APC from where he was schemed out and moved to ADP, a party that may fetch some local lawmakers their respective seats but, by electoral reality, stands very little chance in the governorship. Akala would have been a shoo-in if the election will be determined only by votes from his native Ogbomosho land. He’s another joker who, rather than retire and allow young blood access, would not want to yield the space for other thinking heads.
Rashidi Ladoja’s case is the most laughable––if not utterly pathetic––of the trio: a man who enjoyed support from his predominantly Ibadan followers but allowed avarice and inability to yield spaces demystify his persona. Between 2007 when he left office and 2018, he has traversed almost all the major parties in the state, whether directly or by proxy.
In 2007, he was reputed to have created confusion among anti-PDP supporters when he could not emphatically state whether his followers’ votes should go to Apampa of Labour Party, Adedoja of AC or Ajimobi of the defunct ANPP.
In recent time, he has defected from the PDP, first, to ACCORD party; returned to the PDP and lately jumped ship to join the ADC where he is now rumored to have left to embrace the ZLP. What a peculiar mess. Meanwhile, in all of these movements, many followers have been thrown into confusion and disappointments.
But beneath the politicking, which should be of little concern to any development-minded indigene anyway, lies decades of waste and maladministration. Frankly, it would have been better if all of these years translated to better life for the people of the state, which makes it curious that these men are still struggling to either come back or maintain their grip in the next election.
Between 2003 and 2018, the fate of Oyo has been decided by the trio, now in their 60s and 70s. Sadly, except in few cases of slightly commendable developments, it’s been a sorry state of wretchedness made more dangerous by mass illiteracy, thuggery, brigandage and decay of public infrastructure. And lately, where there should be quality thinking, there is reckless grandstanding fueled by exaggerated sense of importance. Penkelemesi!
Ultimately, the emergence of fresh faces in the governance space of Oyo sends good signal to every young person in the state and SATIRE SATURDAY expects that these new individuals would show, quite indeed, in thoughts and actions, that they are a different species. SATIRE SATURDAY would really be interested in how they hope to maintain their independence in the face of these old men’s meddlesome presence.
As per the old laggards who would not yield space to young energetic minds, Adegoke Adelabu himself may have no word to capture their actions if he was alive. ‘Penkelemesi’? That will be too generous a phrase.