Thursday, 23 January 2020

19th and 20th Centuries Ijesa Society: Ijesa Icons and the Making of Modern Nigeria in Entrepreneurship, Governance and Politics; Discussion on Influences of Ajanaku, Omole and Fadahunsi

This publication examines side by side the business exploits of Late Chief Isaac Ajanaku, Late Lawrence Omole and Late Joseph Odeleye Fadahunsi, the richest business magnates in Ijesaland in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

This work is divided into three (3) sections. The first section is the analysis of their earlier business activities in produce buying, the second discusses their venture and exploits in the transport business, while the third part analyses their involvement in politics.

These trio influenced the economy and politics of Ijesa society, the Western Region and Nigeria as a country. At the time (1940-1960), Ijesaland was particularly identified with cocoa production and sales and so. a number of commercial traders emerged in the trading sector. They, among others such as, J. F. Longe, James Oginni, J. A. Fadugba and J. D. E. Abiola belonged to the 20th century produce traders in Ijesaland. Generally, they started as produce clerks and became independent produce buyers as agents of multinationals and were given advances to purchase goods, mostly cocoa and also got involved in the distribution of imported goods mostly clothing materials.

The Ijesa society of !9th and 20th centuries produced a number of great business magnates and entrepreneurs who influenced the course of history of Nigeria at the time when the economy of the land is more of cash crop production and distribution. The Ijesa featured prominently  in the area of distribution, exchange and transportation. this resulted in the emergence of the class of rich and affluent Ijesa men.

The importance of transportation was enhanced when a trunk 'A' road was constructed linking Ilesa to Akure to Benin and Ilesa to Ife and Ibadan and these great Ijesa business magnates saw a link between transport and produce buying. Isaac Ajanaku moved from the base of produce buying into transportation in 1944 for his fleet of twenty-four (24) lorries.

The turning point in Lawrence Omole's business career came in 1947, when he successfully stockpiled cocoa against rising prices and all other contrary speculations and made huge profit. He purchased his firs lorry. In 1951, he floated the Omole Transport Service whose routes of operation covered Ilesa, Ile-Ife, Ibadan and Lagos.

Joseph Odeleye Fadahunsi in 1948, having worked under different firms for twenty-one (21) years, also ventured into the transport sector of the colonial economy, He started his Ijesa United Training and Transport  Company Limited. he was the first Managing Director of this company and had tens of transport vehicles under his management.

Economic power is a factor of political relevance, these business muguls ventured into politics and political situation of their time either by direct participation and involvement like Late J. O. Fadahunsi or by associating and supporting certaing political parties like Late Chief Isaac Ajanaku and Late Dr. Lawrence Omole.

Although late Isaac O. Ajanaku was noted for his business exploits, it is important to stress that he participated in the politics of Ijesaland in the last decades of colonialism. The politics of Ijesaland in the 1940s and 1960s were dominated by the National Convention of Nigeria Citizens (NCNC) led by Late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe because the NCNC had been established in Ijesaland before 1951 when the Action Group (AG) of Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was founded, but in spite of this Late Chief O. Ajanaku identified with the AG and with others like Late S. O. Thompson in Iloro Street of Ilesa, D. O. Ogunmokun of Imesi-Ile and Late Lawrence Omole worked for the success of the AG.

Late Dr. Lawrence Omole's little stint with politics was based on his vision for the industrialization of Ijesaland. He tried unsuccessfully to get the Action Group government in Western Region to bring industries to Ijesaland but was frustrated by the lack of enough political and electoral support for the the party in Ijesa zone. He contested and lost elections under the platform of the party in 1956 and 1959. During the 1960s, he founded the Ijesa Planning Council, an association that was interested in promoting industrial development in Ijesaland.

Sir Odeleye Fadahunsi by dint of hard work and determination rose from a mere school teacher to a business mongul and ultimately to the position of the Governor of Western Region of Nigeria shortly after the nation's independence becoming the first Ijesa indigene to attain the viable position of a governor.

"In election was conducted through Electoral College system into the Western Region House of Parliament at the frontage of the Obokungbusi Town Hall, on a non-party basis. ...,.It was said of Mr. Lawrence Omole, Alhaji Saliu Famuyide and Mr. sajuyigbe a prominent Ijesa patriot from Ibokun actively participated in the electoral campaign and horse trading during that election to sensitise the Ijesa people."- Adeoye Agunlejika in his book titled " Ijesa Chronicles".

Dr. Lawrence Omole, Chief Isaac O. Ajanaku and Sir Odeleye Fadahunsi  still stand out as  beacons to this present generation. With the persistence and persuasion of Dr. Lawrence Omole on his undaunted and unwavered believe on industrialising Ijesaland, along with a few Ijesha businesspeople they funded the establishment of the International Brewery  in Ilesha.

Adeoye Agunlejika wrote in his book, "Ijesa Chronicles: An Histriographic Tribute"; "His (Dr. Lawrence Omole), dream of industrializing Ijesaland also came to pass during his (Oba Peter Agunlejika) reign. He mobilized his people towards this development and encouraged those of them that shared in his dreams and aspirations towards putting Ijesaland on the Industrial Map of Nigeria which was successful in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Dr. Lawrence Omole through his encouragement, championed the course of industrializing Ijesaland with other compatriots like: Dr. E. A. Ifaturoti, Chief J. A. Adebayo, Chief J. W. Olatunbosun, Chief I. O. Ayeni, Mr. Obi Obembe, Chief T. A. Oni, Mr. G. O. Aduroja, Mr. J. O. Odeyemi and other private investors like: Mr. I. O. Ajanaku, Mr. R. A. Igbekoyi, Mr. J. O. Fagboyegun, Mrs. H. A. Eso, Dr. J. A. Fajemisin, Chief S. O. Fadahunsi, O. Esan and Prince Adedokun Haastrup".

Chief I. O. Ajanaku died on the 27th April, 1982, aged 70, Sir S. O. Fadahunsi died at the age of 85 on the 12th of May 1986 and Dr. Lawrence Omole died on the November 14, 2008 aged 93.

The purpose of this publication is to insipire and re-orientate the present generation of Nigerian youths on the advantages inherent in becoming self employed and employers of labour rather than seekers of white collar job.

Materials for this publication were culled from "Ijesa Icons and Making of Modern Nigeria, Essays in honour of Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola". Edited by ; Siyan Oyeweso and rearranged for this publication by Ogbeni Oladimeji Lasore

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