HRH, Gabriel Bawa Akerejola
Bawa was born to Daudu Arubani Akerejola's family in 1915. His birth brought great joy to the family as Ofe had had a number of children previously, but who did not survive for more than a few months or years. It was around the time when Ogori people were descending from Okpowo hill to settle at the foot of Omoneyen, Agada and Odiyobo hills. When Ofe's child was born and named Bawa (Hausa for slave) as a reflection of his "mystically changeling behaviour.. a diagonal mark was inscribed on his left cheek to encourage him to stay as a member of the human community.
Education and Job Experience
After his primary education, Bawa got a job as a teacher at a time when the profession was dignifying. However, he developed himself through constant reading and writing. Bawa seemed to excel in everything. A colleague of his who was encountered accidentally narrated (15 years after his death) When the Nigerian independence was being negotiated, indigenous people were recruited to fill clerical positions in the colonial administration. Bawa succeeded in the selection exam and became the one appointed to fill the Northern quota of the vacancy that was open at the administrative headquarters in Lokoja. That was how he left teaching for clerical duties.
A ruler in the region was envious and attempted to use his position to block the employment. He kept the letter of appointment which was sent though him to the then young Mr. GB Akerejola. It was an open disgrace when the colonial administrator, in his wise fury compelled him to use his personal horse-driven cart to transport Bawa to Lokoja. Bawa made good progress acquiring administrative skills that were to be of invaluable benefit to him in his latter calling.
Installation to Ologori's Stool
Following the death of Ologori Fadipe, it was not surprising that Bawa became an obvious choice of the ruling dynasties. Potential contenders had to succumb to the will of the people as they received no such support that greeted this young promising man.
Gabriel Bawa Akerejola, Eminefo III, was appointed the Ologori of Ogori on 1st February 1946 and crowned on 31st August 1946 as the 6th ruler of the district.
He not only received immediate recognition, but also was accorded respect by all the surrounding rulers. With his charisma, he won the admiration of natural rulers far and near just as he increased in popularity. Many of them actually consulted him on serious issues and to some; he seemed to have the magic word for the solution to their problems. He exchanged visits with many of the neigbouring rulers some of whom were the rulers of Magongo, Ekpedo, Ebira, Okpe, Makeke, Ososo, Oja, Imoga and more than two dozens communities around that region.
His administration was marked by rapid socio-political progress of his domain as well as development in different areas.
|HRH G.B AKEREJOLA|
He provided for both his nucleus and extended family through his wages and maintenance of relatively large farms at Onemoba, Uten and Emayin. He cultivated the lands for both cash and food crops. While the cash crops except palm produce were for commercial purposes, the food crops were mainly grown for subsistence reasons.
He was fond of his children. he cared for their growth and all-round development. He never failed to discipline them when necessary.
He was loved by his immediate and distant relatives most of who simply called him Baba, in recognition of the father figure that he represented to them. He named all children born in the palace and placed everyone on the annual list of anko (uniform clothes) he made for all palace children and of his brothers and sisters every Christmas.
Whenever he was returning from a trip out of the town, children would flock and trail him to the palace at the sound of the vehicle that brought him back. Others at the sound of the chanting of "ooru Baba" (welcome father) rushed to the courtyard. Every one of them was sure to get a slice of the Kabba-baked bread which he brought with him unless s/he arrived after he had gone into his parlour. The number of children at the moment of arrival determined the size of what each child got.
No matter how hungry he was; no matter how delicious, no matter how small the food he was served at a meal, he never failed to leave some over, with pieces of meat, for the kids to finish up. Usually, we waited in a corner, sometimes humming a song, real or fake, to remind him that we were there, although that was not necessary. Once, Demiloye was naughty, but he happened to be the only one around at the conclusion of Baba's lunch. For his punishment, Baba deliberately asked that the table be cleared, not allowing him to have the "epere". The scream from Demi saw Ofe (Bawa's mother) running from her house with the shout "Idodo, wa ka wan mo ogben go"; meaning Idodo (Flower- the name she called Bawa) you will kill my child . And without wasting time, she smacked Baba at the back to appease the screaming child. It was great fun when Ofe and others, who saw her on that rare mood, discovered what actually transpired.
One thing we have never seen Baba do is complain about food. His best dishes were "ekpase-ofufuwa" and "ifo" (pounded yam) with okra soup. He also liked "igila-oogben" cooked without pealing it. His favourite yam for such meals is "osilokpo".
Baba ensured that every child of his received sound education. They were sent to school as soon as they reached school age. His aim and plan for them was that they should be given education to the highest level possible. No wonder his children thought that the greatest way to remember him was to train the younger siblings. The result of these efforts is that most of Bawa's children are highly educated and are professionals of different fields of endeavour.
All palace children, in fact, benefited from his educational policy directly or indirectly.
Cultural Revival and Beliefs
Bawa came to the scene when Western civilization was taking roots in Ogori. Traditional festivals and practices were being eroded. One agent of this was the CMS church, which rejected all forms of cultural and traditional practices. Bawa's advocacy for a balance caused no small friction between him and the CMS church. While he was against aspects of the tradition which were offensive or harmful, Bawa thought that a people should not lose what defined them as a unique social entity. His diaries and files speak of the battle of words with the Anglican priests over his attempt to revive the socially esteeming (or sanctioning) Oke, Ekon-orire, Emma, etc festivals. He was threatened with excommunication in writing by the priest, but he insisted that the virtues in Owia-osese should be retained. To underscore his persuasion, he "defiantly" took his own daughter to the arena, decked with "iburu", "ebele" and "isu". It was a great drama when Ogori people, who were earlier frightened to submission, then followed suit. And thus the festival that was halted for some years began to come to life again.
Bawa's struggle with CMS over "oke" became the greatest irony in Ogori, although very few people ever remember this. When the community saw the wisdom in (or rather began to enjoy) the fruits of his struggle, they were no more ashamed to allow their daughters to undergo the traditional moral education which Owia-osese symbolised. The church reading this, took over the ceremony by requesting parents of potential "ivias" to register them through the church for the traditional festival; and till date, the thanksgiving that follows the celebration has become the main source of the church's revenue. Rather than lose his position in the church, the Ologori maintained a seat nearest to the pulpit. It is also ironic that the festival has remained the only cultural activity for which the land is nationally known today. Yet, the one who weathered the storm to bring this about is never acknowledged, if remembered for it.
The reign of G. Bawa Akerejola, Eminefo III marked the most progressive reign of any ruler in the land. His fame and achievements helped put Ogori in the map of Nigeria. During his administration, he got the government to construct the road through Abese-uuku to Ageva which saved the people 4-5 kilimeters of treck through Magongo. The negotiation with the government to get this done was not easy, but he won the battle at last.
Pressure was put on the goevernment when the General Manager of Nigerian Postal services began to cite the lack of access road as a reason why they thought it was economically wasteful to the government to have a postal agency in Ogori. Bawa exchanged harsh words with the GM who thought that Ogori people should use Ibillo Post office for their services. His petition to the regional government over this issue almost cost the GM his job, in addition to bringing him to his knees. Again, Bawa won, but nobody ever remembers him for this. A postal agency was established in addition to a dispensary.
In his time, wells were dug at strategic places in the village. Although the people still preferred spring water, with the excuse that well water was not "sweet", it was useful to them for cooking and washing.
Bawa contributed practically to the economy of Ogori and the country at large. Apart from duties at his divisional administrative office at Okene and traditional court activities, the Ologori went to farm occasionally, to supervise his workers. It was like festival when Emayin and Onemoba were being cultivated. When work was going on, children ran and hopped about, hunting crabs, rodents and crickets at the "afote".
Bawa was one of the first to try rice on Ogori land, just as he was the pioneer of mechanized farming.
He also produced cocoa and coffee from his plantations while he encouraged others to do the same. He brought about the use of insecticides, which were made available to cocoa farmers. He initiated the Ogori Cooperative Society, where cash crops were bagged and exported. The experience he gained there was helpful to him later when he was appointed the Chairman of Igbirra Division Cooperative Union in 1967.
Akerejola's palace was always bubbling with life. Poetic praise-singers were always in the court to chant about the historic deeds of the King and his ancestors. on special ocassions, Alubiagba, his chief drummer was always around to drum his praise with the talking drum, while "agidigbo" responded with phrases like "Ose oko Ekiti, se oko Akoko", all of which are transcribable into words. His praises were sung in a mixture of codes involving Oko, Yoruba (mainly) and sometimes other languages. The codemixing may signal the historical affiliation of Ogori to Yoruba. Some go thus:
Akerejola, Kabiyessi Aiedero
Okurin lafia lafia, oko onile baba alejo
Ose gegege bi baba agbalagba
Ajagajugu, akin kurukuru ba oloko
Daudu Eminefo ba oyibo, Okoko wo oju, omo oba okurin laja
Omo a ja ma je ebi, omo a du duu me
A gun Oke Egbirra ri idi eke,
Awo keere ba won de ohun, O da gbogbo won si omi
Ugbogbo ne e me to oro a dake kare ya na
Ededa oboro oogben, Ajagajaga atu,
Oshe oko ekiti se Oko Akoko, Oko onile baba alejo
A joko ni ile ta ofa ni ilu Oyinbo
The Ologori was a friend of everybody's. Social status was not an issue in relating to anybody. His aids wherther in the court or those who accopanied him to office received the same treatment as his relatives.
Besides his ruler-friends, Bawa was also a friend of politicians, especially at Okene where his administrative office was. Some of these include Saliu Maji, Amoka, Amokoni, Abu ini Hire etc. Among his admirers were regional premiers such as Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello, the Saudana of Sokoto.
One incident that brought him and one of the regional leaders very close was the latter's visit to the division. On that occassion, every other ruler was expected to stoop three times before the leader, with shoes removed and crown doffed. When it was the Ologori's time to be introduced, he adamantly refused to obey that tradition, even after much threats and persuation from the leader's protocol officers, one of whom was intending to give Akerejola a special introduction. The regional leader noticed some argument between the people and demanded to know what the problem was. To the consternation of the people, he asked that the Ologori be allowed to come as he wished, restraining some of the overzealous officers. He was stupified by Bawa's answer to his querries that he (Akerejola) knew who he was, how he expected to be greeted, but that in his own tradition, all rulers were considered equal no matter the size of their domain and it was forbidden for Ogori ruler to remove shoes or part of their regalia in honour of any other ruler.
People were surprised when the demi-god of a leader, shook the Ologori's hand with the comment that he had never met with such audacity all his life. And that was the commencement of a strong relatioship that lasted until the demise of the latter. Another direct consequence of this was that the Ologori became respected in the whole region.
The Ologori was the friend of the Ohinoyi of Ebira, Mal.Sani Omolori
G. Bawa ruled with a vision and his mission was to make Ogoriland a model and to encourage his people to hold an enviable place in the Nigerian society. His own ingenuity made him to rub shoulders with national politicians. In 1963, he headed the Northern Nigerian Members of Parliament team that visited the UK. Photographs and documents show his meeting with Lords and Nobles as well as Mayors, among whom were the "Mayoress of Liverpool who admired his royal regalia"- as he wrote at the back of the photograph. His return to the country was greeted with a heroic welcome by Ogori people.
1. Ologori Bawa Akerejola was once asked to speak at a function in House of Chiefs on behalf of the region because the head of the delegation could not speak English, and he was the Paramount ruler from the region with the highest educational background.
2. The very first transistor radio to enter the land was brought by Baba Bawa.
3. On his return to Nigeria from the UK visit in 1963, Ebira masquerade and many other neighborhood towns trooped out to welcome him.
4. The Okun people show respect to Ogori people till today because of the charisma of Baba Eminefo ll at that time.
5. It was Ologori Bawa Akerejola that first engaged the service of the late Chief Awolowo as a lawyer and brought him to Ogoriland.
From the archives of the federal ministry of information at Lord Lugard house Kaduna
Bawa was a self-made scholar. Within the constraints of his administrative duties, he managed to conduct an anthropological research with a visiting British anthropologist, Ms Eva Askaris. The latter provided him with the state of the art technology - a real audio tape recording instrument with which he documented many aspects of the culture. The product of that research is his compilation of The History of Ogori which was posthumously published in 1970, a year after his death. A comment on the book by a reviewer filed in the School of Oriental and African Studies London library states that the work he did was enough to award him a Doctoral degree (PhD)
Bawa Akerejola spoke and wrote an impeccable English. His library of files and documents is a rich resource for anyone who, among other things is interested in the study of English for Academic Purposes (ESP). When he wrote to a lawyer, he wrote like a lawyer; when he spoke to a health officer, he used their jargons too. What you read in each official document he wrote was one of legalese, bureaucratese, journalese, etc. in summary he was a good communicator and of a rare kind.
He encouraged parents to send their children to school and assisted some with school bills. Letters of appreciation from some of such beneficiaries in his files attest to this. Ironically, his insistence that parents stop elaborate, prolonged and expensive burial ceremonies to send their children to school instead, was one of the reasons for his collusion with the community.
G. Bawa's reign was not always on the bed of roses. He had opposition from both outside and within. At home, his vision was misinterpreted and misunderstood. He encouraged his relatives in diaspora to come and settle in Ogori as a way of pursuing his demographic vision. That was misinterpreted. The same happened with the structures he tried to put in place to compel the people to sacrifice funeral ceremonies for the education of their children. As he hosted important visitors from all over the country, he thought it wise to build a more decent, befitting but relatively humble home through the housing loan obtained from the government. That was erroneously mistaken for tax money, which he neither collected not had control over. His crime was that the government's new tax policy was communicated through him. As an aside, the said loan was settled posthumously up till 1979.