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Ago-Iwoye And I At 70: A Birthday Tribute By Tola Adeniyi

It longer matters whether I go by the date two of my uncles gave as my date of birth or by the date my great mother gave. I can confirm that I am now a Septuagenarian. My uncles the late Chief Ade Osunneye and the late Mr Mojeed Mago Ogunjobi were both insistent that I was born May 29 1943 before they both left Ago-Iwoye for Lagos January 1944. My illiterate but extremely brilliant mother said she was delivered of a baby boy by the Olori of Oba Osiyemi, who was a staff nurse and pregnant, after the Ebumawe had ascended the throne in 1944, and by her authenticated calculation, I was born May 29 1945!

As Nigerians celebrate Nigeria’s so-called Democracy Day this May 29, and the man of the hour takes over the baton from Jonathan, I will be celebrating Ago-Iwoye the city that nurtured me from cradle to adolescence, hence this piece in commemoration of my official 70th birthday is dedicated to Olodumare, my incomparable parents and the city of my birth.

The article written in 2009 is hereby reproduced fort your reading pleasure.

AGO-IWOYE beckoned to me that she must show herself to the world through my pen. It was a result of the ‘swellings’ which my head received last Thursday at the public presentation of ABA SAHEED a Literary Portrait of Tola Adeniyi which Eddie Ayo-Ojo authored. Speaker after speaker spoke of courage, of boldness, of one being outspoken, fearless and daring. As they poured those encomiums on me being the subject of the gathering, Ago-Iwoye whispered to me that I should tell the world that those attributes were not original to Aba Saheed, but that they indeed belonged to her, being the town that raised Saheed. Ago-Iwoye, for those who may not know that it is the first University town in Ogun State, is the town with the largest expanse of land in Ogun State, and perhaps one of the largest territories in Nigeria. For example, Isamuro, one of the eight towns that make up Ago Iwoye metropolis has over 40 villages with 40 Baales.

Ago-Iwoye shares boundaries with Remo kingdom to the South West and North West, while it also shares the border in the North with Oyo State beyond Mamu,which is another Ago-Iwoye settlement. A warrior town with a lot of history behind its exploits, Ago Iwoye boasts the unparalleled role it played in the Ijebu wars against the British invaders up till 1893.

It is a town reputed for its great courage and fearlessness. It is little wonder that Ago-Iwoye featured prominently in the Action Group days of the immortal Awo. In fact, the chief personal security commander for the late sage, Dauda Odumuyiwa, alias Dauda Tinko was an Ago-Iwoye indigene. So also was his successor Bros Oroyinyin.

Ogberegede and the man known as EJONTO a corruption of AG-ON-TOP were both stalwarts of Ago Iwoye origin. These were men who could defend whatever cause they strongly believed in even with their lives. The beauty in these persons’ doggedness was that an average Ago-Iwoye indigene would defend whatever need be defended, not on the basis of pecuniary considerations; highly principled people, they would go extra mile in defence of justice, fairness and equity.

If an Ago-Iwoye indigene ran into a situation where an underdog is being trampled upon, he will instantly make the fight his own fight. So, while encomiums were being heaped on the celebrant last Thursday, Ago-Iwoye was quick to draw attention to Justice Dolapo Akinsanya, who was one of the great children of hers physically present at the occasion. Justice Dolapo Akinsanya was the awesomely fearless woman who, against all odds, and at the credible threat to her life put her entire family in the way of danger by declaring without mincing words that the Ernest Shonekan’s Interim Government was illegal. So final was her judgment that the case was never appealed before General Sard Abacha gave the administration a jackboot! And of course Akinsanya was merely acting true to character; for her father the late Professor Emeritus Sanya Onabamiro had waged a similar one-man-suicide squad war against Guineworm.

Before Onabamiro’s time, Guinea worm had ravaged the entire South West landscape with heaviest casualities drawn from Ijebuland.

Onabamiro came, saw, and conquered. Ago-Iwoye also boasts early exposure to western education producing teachers before the close of the 19th century who would travel as far afield as Ekitiland and Ondoland to spread the gospel of ABC. Ago-Iwoye also embraced the Arabic education such that as early as 1880’s, indigenes of Ago-Iwoye had kissed the peak of Mount Arafat and returned to nurse beards that could compete favourably with my friend Yemi Farounbi’s. In character and learning therefore, Ago-Iwoye did not lag behind, such that by 1954, the community had mobilised resources to found a secondary school, and years later several other high schools emerged. It was the monarch of Ago-Iwoye, the Ebumawe, Oba David Maloniti Osiyemi as Secretary of Western Region House of Obas and Chiefs who wrote the letter of recommendation that gave the Orimolusi of Ijebu-Igbo the town’s right to a beaded crown! Ago-Iwoye has historically been an agrarian community, but going in-hand-in-hand with farming had such preoccupations as blacksmithing, masonry, goldsmithing, and manufacturing of light arms and weaponry.

They first African Methodist bishop, the Very Reverend M.O. Dada came from the womb of Ago-Iwoye, while the first Chair of the first Television Broadcasting station in Africa, the Reverend T.T. Solar was fed from the milk of Ago-Iwoye woman. There was a generation that requires celebrating if and whenever Ago-Iwoye is being discussed; that is the legendary Oban bade Age Group, what is known in Ijebu as Regberegbe. That was the group Kiniwun Onibudo Agbolaya bi aara Chief Obafemi Awolowo belonged to. The last of them should be knocking at the gate of 100 now. Chief S Akin Osuntoye, Chief JG Kuye, Chief Ashiru Oshinuga, and others whose names I cannot easily recall, gave Ago-Iwoye her study in courage and fearlessness.

These individuals were very sociable, extremely industrious, very hardworking, very forthright, and hugely successful in their various fields of human endeavour. They were the shinning stars in Ago-Iwoye at the time Aba Saheed was being moulded into a teenager and later into early manhood.

If therefore any Ago-Iwoye child exhibited heroism, commitment to industry, fearlessness and outspokenness, the credit for these laudable attributes should go to the Ago-Iwoye fertile grounds which incubated and nurtured those traits.; Senator Jubril Martins-Kuye a direct beneficiary of the Obangbade age group because his father, my Dad’s uncle belonged in that age grade, my aburo Otunba, Alex Olugbenga Onabanjo, Dr Bayo Yusuf, the Olori Omooba, the ever white Soyewo, the Banjokos, the Sipes, the Bakares, the Olootos, the Osunneyes, the Obajimis, the Ogungbes, the Odugboses, the Fagbamilas, the Odumosus, the Aroworamimos, the Parakoyis and the entire Onihale clan, the Odufotes, the Taiwos, the Magos, the Adeseguns, the Olowojoyemeji clan and Omooba Adekoya otherwise known as Attacker, the Epoyuns and an inexhaustible list of achievers in that town all owe whatever they are today to the soil of Ago-Iwoye.

Luckily the tradition is being maintained and upgraded. And with the advent of a tantalisingly handsome Monarch, urbane, stylish, well educated, very sociable and immensely popular and extremely courageous and bold, the city of Ago-Iwoye can assure herself of more celebrations of her children as the LTV 8 premises hosted last Thursday.

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