by admin | June 16, 2016 4:18 pm
The popular Adeniran Ogunsanya Street commemorates the life and pioneering achievements of the nationalist, lawyer and politician. It ought to. He played a decisive role in its conception and evolution and was a key player in the agitation for the creation of what is now known as Lagos State.
With its shopping centre now overshadowed by the South African retail chain, Shoprite, the street has long been an iconic landmark and major artery connecting the traffic flow in Surulere, even though it was originally designed as a residential area. This is odd for it ought to have been designated as a high street from conception.
Nevertheless, it is a befitting testimonial. The man himself was Federal Minister of Housing when what was then christened ’New Lagos’ in the official gazette was being constructed to decongest the slums of central Lagos. Ironically, it was his party leader and mentor, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, who coined the phrase Surulere in response to the agitation by those about to be relocated to what they considered an inhospitable suburb, cut off from their cultural and communal roots. The wily old fox pacified them with the slogan, ’Patience has its virtues’, thereby replacing the drab ’New Lagos’.
Scion of the Ikorodu aristocracy where he was born (and where the Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education is located), his father held the high chieftaincy title of Odofin of Ikorodu. His pan-Nigeria outlook might have been induced when he went to complete his primary education at the foremost Hope Waddel Training Institute in Calabar, founded by the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland in 1895, under the guardianship of his uncle, who was a civil servant. Brilliant and fastidious in his application, he scored the highest mark at the 1937 Standard VI examinations, thus earning him a government scholarship to King’s College, Lagos. He also attended the Government School, Lagos.
He read law at the University of Manchester and was called to the Bar at Grey’s Inn. After his pupillage in the chambers of the already established nationalist and politician, T.O.S Benson, in 1956, he teamed up with his brother, Adebayo Ogunsanya, to establish the highly successful Ogunsanya and Ogunsanya Chambers. He quickly established a reputation for integrity and for paying close attention to detail. Not surprisingly, he took silk as a Queens Counsel (QC) at an early age.
Dedicated to the nationalist cause, to which he had already become attached as a student, he immediately immersed himself into politics. He bucked the trend in Yoruba land by jettisoning the regional-based Action Group under Awolowo and instead joined Zik’s pan-Nigerian National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons. It was a clear signal that he embraced the all-encompassing ’party of independence’ against the regionalism championed, most famously, by Bode Thomas, whom we featured in the last issue.
He was a member of the party’s National Executive Council and president of its youth wing. At a time he was opposition leader in the Lagos Town Council which, in reality, was more powerful than today’s State House of Assembly. He served as the president of the Zikist National Vanguard, an organisation founded around 1955 as a response to the turmoil caused by a commission of enquiry, the Foster- Sutton Judicial Commission, into the finances of the NCNC-controlled government of the then Eastern Region. The enquiry was interpreted by the party as an attempt to break its backbone, hence the need for a vanguard.
Adeniran Ogunsanya’s support for his party’s leader never flagged. From pre-independence into two tumultuous republics, they fought it out together. Their closeness appeared to transcend normal political affiliations. Ogunsanya was more like a beloved younger brother. In the often shifting quicksands of politics then and now, this was commendable.
Politics was his all-consuming passion. His daughter, Adenrele, a former secretary to the Lagos State Government, recalls growing up in a household in which politics was the main topic of discussion at dinner. She noticed from an early age the constant inflow of all the notable political figures of the era, an experience which put her off the machinations of politics for life.
Elected into the Federal House of Representatives in the pivotal 1959 pre-independence election, he served as Federal Minister responsible for Housing and Surveys in the latter part of the post-independent coalition government. He was the first Attorney-General of the newly created Lagos State, the creation of which he championed and later served as commissioner for education. In preparation for the Second Republic, he was the leader of the Lagos Progressives which merged with three other groups to form the Nigerian People’s Party.
He ran unsuccessfully for the governorship of Lagos State. He later succeeded the notable first republic politician, Chief Olu Akinfosile, as the party leader.
Adeniran Ogunsanya will always be remembered for his brilliant mind, his tenacity and his unwavering dedication to Zikism and the nationalist cause. There was never a whiff of scandal about him. He maintained his integrity to the end.
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