FIFTY YEARS AFTER: REMEMBERING PA. ALHAJI AMINU OLATUNJI AREMU AMODU (a.k.a Baba Chairman) 1892 – 21ST JULY, 1971
By ADEKUNLE AGBOLUAJE
With the consent of his only surviving child, Mrs Rafatu Bolanle Abeke Adeleke, I have the honor and privilege to pay tribute to the memory of our late grandfather, Alhaji Aminu Olatunji Aremu Amodu (a.k.a Baba Chairman) who exactly fifty years ago today, translated into eternity at Ibadan.
Who was Alhaji Aminu Olatunji Aremu Amodu, alias Baba Chairman?. For clarity’s sake, the nickname Baba Chairman stuck because, in later life, he took part in the politics of Nigeria’s First Republic, and was recurringly elected Ibadan Ward North 2 Chairman of the Action Group, the party led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Many people in his neighbourhood grew up knowing him as Baba Chairman.
Baba was born in 1892 to Sangorayi Amodu, whose ancestors were of Ikereku – Idan sector of Abeokuta, but who migrated to Ibadan and made it home at the town’s early beginnings in the 1830’s. They found settlement at the Odoiye Adeoyo area of Ibadan, identified as Ajigbayin’s Compound. His mother, Ramotu Adunni was from the Opopo-Labiran area of Ibadan and her ancestors were also of Abeokuta origin. Baba was married to Mama Ashiat Ajile, a native of Ede, in Osun State.
Baba Chairman had the privilege of primary education. With that, he started a clerical career in the service of some prominent Ibadan produce merchants who made Ile-Ife their base, trading in cocoa. Therefore, a considerable part of Baba’s early life was spent at Ile-Ife. As was common in those days, he was from a polygamous home, with a network of brothers, sisters and half-brothers. But his only surviving uterine brother was Pa Alli Owolabi Amodu (a.k.a Baba Balogun), a trained carpenter who made fame in his chosen career.
Having passed tutelage under one or two masters in Ile-Ife, Alhaji Aminu Amodu began his own produce merchant business, even though on a smaller scale than his former bosses. But his relatively “high” literacy level made it possible for him to rub shoulders with the then elite of Ile-Ife and Ibadan. In later years, he built two modest homes, one located at N2/345 Shittu Street, Odoiye Adeoyo, Ibadan (Ajigbayin’s Compound), and a smaller, house and cocoa store, at Idi-Omo Village, located between Egbeda and Asejire in today’s Egbeda Local Government Area of Ibadan. At the latter place, he had a big weighing scale which came in handy for his produce business.
Much later in life, Baba Chairman fully relocated to the Ibadan city-centre, although he still visited his house/store at Idi-Omo. Thereafter, he changed his line of business from produce-merchandise (which generally later fell into bad times) to buying used bottles, which he supplied to the Manufacturers Distribution Service (MDS), a unit of the United African Company (UAC), located at Jericho, Ibadan.
Settling down at the city-centre gave him wider opportunities to engage in several other activities for fulfillment. He was one of the founding members of the Islamic Mission Society, a religious association formed to foster the growth of Islam and western education in Ibadan and environs. The Society established the first Muslim Primary School in Ibadan at Odoiye, Adeoyo, very close to Baba’s house. The school became the “nursery” for several muslim children (boys and girls) in the Ibadan. Subsequently, the Society established other primary schools at Bode and Oja-Igbo, within the city, and in a few outlying villages. It also established the Islamic Secondary Modern School, Agugu and the Islamic High School, Orita-Bashorun, both in Ibadan. Indeed, it was at Baba’s instance that the Society established the Islamic Mission Primary School, Idi-Omo, Baba’s village base.
However, Baba subsequently pulled out of the Society in later years, around the early 60’s. For a highly principled man, this was not strange. He might have found something disagreeable in the policies of the Society at the time he exited.
Alhaji Amodu was a muslim scholar in his own right, highly versed in the study and knowledge of the Quran and its interpretation. Infact, he tutored a few elderly people in his neighbourhood. He was also the Imam of the mosque within the compound.
Baba Chairman placed a high value on western education. This writer lived under his patriarchal care from age 3 in 1955 to 19 in 1971. He and his wife, my maternal grandmother, Ashiat Ajile, would insist that no-one in the house or neighbourhood, could send any of us, including his daughter Bolanle, any errand whatsoever, whenever we were busy with our studies or school home work. Baba was himself an avid reader, who never missed reading the Nigerian Tribune (from cover to cover!) and any other available book worth his while.
In this regard, he found reading company in his friend, Pa Akinola Allen (the first editor of the Nigerian Tribune) of Itutaba-Oje, Ibadan. I had the privilege of bearing messages of book – exchanges between them, recalling especially the History of the Yorubas, by Rev. Samuel Johnson, Iwe Itan Ibadan by Isaac Babalola Akinyele, among other works of literature.
All said, it was as a politician that Baba Chairman made name, fame. In the early 1950’s, it was initially Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) that held sway in Ibadan. And their strongman was the late Adegoke Adelabu, also called the Lion of the West. The NCNC was also at the initial stage in control of the Ibadan District Council. The news of Adelabu’s tragic death in a motor accident in 1958 was to lead to sorrow in Ibadan, due to his immense popularity. As a mark of expressing solidarity with him even in death, Ibadan people were enjoined to place some kind of leaves on their houses for some days.
Baba Chairman was a member of the opposition Action Group, which was the party in power at the regional level. Baba was reportedly away at Ile-Ife when the death of Adelabu occurred. Returning home, he had met his house decorated with the said leaves, at the instance of his elder-brother, Pa Alli Owolabi Amodu. Although he was quite appreciative of his brother’s love (houses not so decorated were marked for arson!), he considered the decoration an act of hypocrisy on his own part, considering that he was an Action Group person, although he felt sorry for Adelabu’s sudden death. He was as courageous as they come!.
Following the split in the Action Group which led to some members joining Ladoke Akintola (Awolowo’s Deputy) in his new found party, Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP), Baba remained constant and steadfast with the Action Group. He was known to have resisted all kinds of threats, blandishments and cajolery to make him change camp. For his loyalty, he was to suffer harassment, threats and abuse. It was not uncommon especially, after Akintola’s party formed the Western Regional government, to have local government policemen storm our house on “orders from above” requesting to sight Baba’s back-clog of ten, twenty years tax receipts, failing which he was to face dire consequences. As an organised man who kept records, he was never found wanting. He offered them no room to execute any sinister acts against him and his household.
Baba’s labour of love for his beloved Action Group did not go un-noticed or un-appreciated by the party. In 1964, the Action Group granted him an all-expenses paid trip to Mecca and Medina. In addition, the regional Government led by the Action Group, at his instance, built and installed a hand-pump well at his Idi-omo village, where he had a house and store, for the benefit of the whole community to access clean, potable water, hence the reference to the well as “Karaba Omi Baba”, Baba of course being Pa Aminu Olatunji Aremu Amodu!.
In 1965, the Samuel Ladoke Akintola-led regional government placed a ban on the publication of the opposition Newspaper, the Nigerian Tribune. By the ban, it meant that it was a criminal offence for anyone to be found with a copy of the newspaper. Before the ban, a copy or two of the paper was customarily sent to Baba’s house, as complimentary copies which Baba and party members found pleasure reading everyday. What is more, Party Ward meetings were always held every Thursday at the Chairman’s house, and the Tribune was the party’s reference tabloid on party policies and programme.
Although the newspaper was banned by law , the publishers, in defiance, went underground and still produced the papers daily, but circulated and sold them clandestinely. The publishers and the party-faithfuls, including their Ward Chairman, believed that a ban-order from a government they considered illegitimate (the 1965 regional elections were considered rigged by Akintola’s Party) was in itself, an illegitimate act!
An arrangement was hatched whereby daily copies of the “contraband” found its way to the Chairman’s house for the reading pleasure of the Chairman and his followers.
As an educated man, Baba Chairman moved in enlightened circles. He had important friends and associates including Late Alhaji Busari Obisesan (lawyer), Chief Samuel O. Lanlehin (Late High Chief of Ibadanland), Councillor Lateef Omotosho (Late Otun-Olubadan of Ibadanland), late Alhaji Sanni Bashorun, politician and renowned intra-city bus transport magnate in the 50’s and 60’s, Late Pa S. Aduroja (politician), Late Pa Arogundade (businessman/politicians) etc. His other important friends include three prominent Yoruba Obas – Late Sir Adesoji Tadeniawo Aderemi (Ooni of Ife 1930-1980), late Oba Salawu Akanni Aminu (Olubadan of Ibadanland 1965-1971) and late Oba Samuel Omotosho Abimbola (Oluwo of Iwo).
Alhaji Aminu Olatunji Aremu Amodu (Baba Chairman) died after a brief illness on Monday, the 21st of July 1971, aged 79. He was survived by the following children;
Amusa Alao Amodu – Ex-soldier and World War 2 veteran
Nusirat Ibilola Agbeke Madehin-Agboluaje- Businesswoman
Simbiat Amope Mustapha – Ceramics dealer in Lagos
Zakariyau Akanni Amodu – Tailor
Mudasheer Abimbola Akangbe Amodu – Teacher and Retired Police Officer
Olalekan Ajagbe Amodu – – Retired Insurance Executive
Rafatu Bolanle Abeke Adeleke – Retired PZ Industries staffer and the only surviving child.
His grandchildren, include amongst others, the following:
Mr. Aderemi Agboluaje – Retired Oyo State Water Corporation executive
Mr. Adewale Agboluaje – Retired UBA executive
Alhaja Iyabode Olabisi Akinola – Retired Principal Data Officer, Oyo State Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Mr. Mojeed Amodu – Printer
Mrs. Folashade Oyewunmi – Retired Chief Matron, Olikoye Ransome-Kuti Memorial Hospital, Abéòkúta
Mr. Tubosun Amodu – Car dealer
Alhaja Kofoworola Sanusi – UK – based Nurse
Pastor (Mrs) Modupe Oyedele – C.E.O, Divine Connections Christian Resource Services, Benin, Edo State.
Mr. Abass Adumadehin – Senior Registrar (Law Reporting Section), High Court of Justice, Ring Road, Ibadan
Deaconess Funmilayo Benson – C.E.O, Excel Ventures Limited, Ilorin, Kwara State
Babatunde Madehin – Advertising Practitioner, Social Media influencer
Alhaji Nureni Taiwo Amodu – Senior Deputy Editor, Nigerian Tribune
Mrs. Ronke Olowokere – Proprietress, La Grace de Seigneur Academy, Ikorodu, Lagos
Mrs. Bukola Alabi – A Lagos-based fashion designer
Plus this writer.
May his soul rest in peace. Aameen.
Advertising Practitioner, Public Affairs Commentator and Author.
Wednesday, 21st July, 2021