A friend of mine who hails from the South-West asked me if I knew who Penkelemesi is, and my response was that I did not and he burst out in laughter and it left confused as to who Penkelemesi was that I did not know him and who was he that I ought to know him? Of what importance would he be to me? But then on a further research I got to realize that the person of whom my friend Tunji referred to as Penkelemesi was actually a great man from the Yoruba race who is actually named Adegoke Adelabu and was from Ibadan, specifically Olu-Oluokon. Penkelesmesi is reputed to have referred to the Western House of Assembly as “a peculiar mess”. The man was such a personality and that got the literary icon, Wole Soyinka to write a book about him titled “IBADAN- the Penkelemesi Years”.
For those who hail from the South-Western part of the nation, the very mention of the name Penkelemesi carries weight and is quite a household name regarding to the politics of the then western region of Nigeria. Several words describe Adegoke Adelabu, and those words include an enigma, witty, intellectual, smart, and courageous. He had the fluency of oration, high level of intellectual reasoning and his mastery of politics has been quoted as being “first class”. He was born in 1915, into the prominent Adelabu family of Oke-Oluokon in Ibadan, Oyo state. History says his mother hailed from the ruling house of Alaafin of Oyo. His father, Pa Sanusi Adelabu was a renowned textile merchant and he made history as being one of the first people to put up a 2-storey house in the whole of Ibadan. He attended Government College, Ibadan in 1931, same school attended by Wole Soyinka and left in 1935.
Penkelemesi is reputed to have been a very intelligent boy. And later he attended Higher College, Yaba for one year in 1936. Then he worked for the United African Company Limited and then joined the Civil Service in 1938. Adegoke joined the NCNC, the party formed by Nnamdi Azikiwe And he got to serve in 1951 as interpreter to Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe in Ibadan. And puff! In 12 months, Penkelemesi rose from Assistant General Secretary of the Ibadan Branch to General Secretary, Ibadan Grand Alliance; and then General Secretary, Western Working Committee.
Adelabu was reportedly a Nigerian to the core. He is quoted as having said “My Yoruba birth is an accident. I shall always love the Igbos, the Ibibios, the Hausas, the Ijaws, the Kanuris, the Jukuns, the Nupes, the Bakweris, the Edos… as much as I love the Yorubas, the Eguns, the Ibarapas, the Aworis and all other kinsmen nearer home. I shall never be a party to laying claims to special privileges, exploiting circumstantial advantages or enjoying preferential treatment on the part of my tribe. That will be unfair, unjust, immoral and in the end suicidal and prejudicial.” This speech shows his hatred for ethnic and religious favoritism. Now I have discovered who Penekelemesi was and hopefully, I won’t be ashamed next time.
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