Saturday, December 7, 2019 10:46 am
…The Man Who Drank from the Fish’s Mouth and Led The Wizards Of The Forest
On the 4th of April 1944 the people of Osogbo crowned a King, Ruler and Friend who in the words of the renowned Historian Ulli Beier in “Special Independence Issue of Nigeria Magazine. Nigeria 1960 described as
“this enlightened ruler is worth meeting … jovial, tolerant and extremely generous … He can contribute to a conversation on any subject under the sun … has a delightful sense of humor.”
‘Osogbo’ a small and very peaceful Yoruba town which literal translation in English Language Means ”The Wizards Of The Forest” Crowned Oba Adenle Samuel Adisa the ‘Ataoja’ which means ”The One Who Drinks Water From The Fish’s Mouth”. This write up is a little insight into the life of the man who reshaped the face of the Osogbo people.
Adetifewa a vibrant and disciplined young man grew up and took as wife Ayokunnu, popularly called ‘Kunnu of Ile Olubarin. The union however produced a son, Adeleye… Sadly, Adeleye died young but not before he and his wife, Awojumoke, sometimes called Olajumoke daughter of Adifa Ile Aleegun had in the early years of the 20th Century. Awojumoke’s mother was from Ile Aganna. The baby boy, born about January 1903, was named Adenrele (Adenle) Adisa Adeleye.
Adenrele’s father’s name, “Adeleye” became his middle name while his given name, “Adenrele” or Adenle, became his last name …
Ile Oluawo was not a Christian compound and Adenle would grow up before having “Samuel” added to his names when he became a Christian.”
Young Adenle went to elementary school, thanks to an uncle, Oni-Kuku (Mr. Oni who was a cook to a missionary) who used to have the little boy visit him at his work place where the missionary soon noticed how the boy was always picking up pieces of paper to look at. He would later attend St. Andrew’s College, Oyo, Nigeria’s pre-eminent tertiary institution where he graduated in 1923.
Teaching jobs took him to Ipetu-Ijesa, Ifaki in present-day Ekiti State and later, to Benin City where his brief included serving as a “Travelling Teacher” to as far as Onitsha.
It was at Benin that the beginning of what would be a lucrative business career took off. As noted earlier, his mother was poor and illiterate. When Adenle wrote that she should buy what turned out to be a lorry load of chickens – adie – rather than adire – tie-dyed textiles that Osogbo has always been so noted for, hence the sobriquet, Osogbo Ilu aro – town of dyes – Papa and his first wife back then, Deborah Adeyoyin believed they had lost all their life savings. Adenle said his mother was in tears thinking that he had gone mad sending so much money to buy chickens!
The truck load of chickens was very frightening but he and his wife fed the chickens that night after arrival and by morning when Papa went to work, his wife started running around so that they could get rid of the chickens before they would die. The chicken were all sold within days and the business of bringing chickens from Osogbo to Benin and around the Niger River for sale to re-sellers would be the seed money for his other businesses, especially becoming the sole distributor for salt at Osogbo which, by the 1930s, was already a thriving commercial center for towns and settlements up to Ekiti, Ondo, Owo, Ikare and Akure Divisions, major cities in present Ekiti & Ondo States.
Adenle the founded Osogbo Grammar School in 1934– not to be confused with today’s Osogbo Grammar School, a community high school founded in 1950. It was a private secondary school over which he served as Principal but the school would fail, and he told us it was the despondency of losing what he had labored so much for that made him write the two Yoruba narrative poems. Here’s part of the commentary on the books:
”… S.A. Adenle was a provincial schoolmaster and Trader in Osogbo Western Nigeria in the 1920’s and 30’s he was also an inventor, who designed and built a mechanical loom using a bicycle wheel. Among his most notable inventions were two pamphlets written in Yoruba in a poetic form of his own devising. The second and longer pamphlet, in particular, seems to have no precedent and no sequel in Yoruba literary history. It is a 124-page didactic narrative poem which is rigorously metrical in the sense that every stanza is composed of lines containing exactly the same number of syllables – a strange feat when one considers that Yoruba is an unstressed tonal language and its orature is based on free and variable breath-groups rather than any form of metre. …”
So, a door closed, and another opened although it would not last but it’s a joyful thing that he was able not only to complete the two volumes before becoming the Ataoja of Osogbo but he still had enough time during the early part of his reign that he issued another edition soon after ascending the throne of his forefathers. As the Oba, Papa brought far-reaching changes to the face of Osogbo: roads, modern local administration to the running of the town both during colonial days and after independence; he would reign for only 15 years after independence before answering the Home Call. As would be expected from an Andrian – products of the old St. Andrew’s College, Oyo, education was of particular interest to him. Every land back then was crown land which means that his say-so transferred properties to individuals and institutions.
Unlike many in his positions as First Class Oba, Papa did not use his position to sign over huge land holdings to himself or his children and as Late Archdeacon Omigbodun who was Principal of [the new] Osogbo Grammar School for decades told it when interviewed for Papa’s biography, he only had to give a bottle of whisky or gin, a bottle that Papa had him open right there and shared with all the visitors to the Palace. Schools like Baptist Girls’ High School and others received huge pieces of land on which to build their schools and Papa was always a regular sight in those difficult early days, as narrated by an old student. The old student, Mrs. Omolara Kayode-Adedeji donated the two photographs on pages 87 & 88 of “Portrait of a Yoruba Oba” AND a special edition of the Window Pane that had been issued for the 50th anniversary of the school when she learnt a biography of Papa was being written. Here’s an excerpt from the pamphlet:
“… The land on which the school stands was donated to the Nigerian Baptist Convention by our late Royal Father, that great visionary, intelligent, sagacious, eventful, enlightened and progressive leader, Oba Samuel Adeleye Adenle, the then Ataoja of Osogboland … This your unique deed has gone into the annals of The Baptists’ History in Nigeria …”
At the Golden Anniversary celebrations, one of the founding students recalled how Papa used to vist the school twice weekly to check on how things were progressing and how students were doing. … The Window Pane referred to “the menace of snakes … thick woodlands and nearness to the Osun River … Such were his interest in those early educational institutions”. [Pages 86 & 87, “Portrait of a Yoruba Oba”.]
After spending 31 years on the throne of his ancestors, Oba wa ja – the Yoruba do not say a king is dead and was buried on All Saints’ Day 197
If the success of a monarch is measured by the progress his town records during his reign, then Papa can best be described as the Oba who took Osogbo into the modern era. Add to that his contributions in the fields of education, arts and culture, and you have a selless and forward-looking Oba who was well ahead of his time…
…What did Oba Adenle Samuel Adisa achieve for Osogbo? … What was the difference between the town that he inherited in 1944 and the one he left in 1975? To know how his achievements are perceived by those outside his immediate family, and what people believe his contributions to Osogbo were … among others, Venerable J.L. Omigbodun for whom :”two incidents will always stand vivid in his memory”::
“Kabiyesi’s selflessness was legendary but I will recall only two that keep recurring even after all these years. We wanted to grade the field for Osogbo Grammar School and somebody had informed me of the presence of a bulldozer at Gbongan. I arrived at the Palace as Kabiyesi was having ogi for breakfast. He left the food and got dressed. We drove in his car along Ede-Gbongan Road but the bulldozer was not there; neither was it at Gbongan nor Ife. We finally found it between Ife and Ilesa, anyway, and led it back to the school. Kabiyesi did not leave till the job was completely done and he got back to the Palace at 6.00 p.m. That was when he ate.
The second incident was when I went to Kabiyesi to submit the plan for this very house. You know that Obas used to approve plans in those days. I had taken along the customary one guinea (one pound and one shilling) and a bottle of Schnapps. Kabiyesi opened the Schnapps straight aay and asked for cups. It was amazing that what was meant for him as gift he shared straight aay.
Such selflessness! Osogbo was blessed to have him.