Thursday, 10 November 2016

SIR ANTHONY OLADIPO ADEGBITE (KJW) - A FORTHRIGHT NIGERIAN



By Ayo Osunloye

Not many people can be described as FORTHRIGHT but in the case of SIR ADEGBITE, forthrightness comes naturally. His third book published to mark his 92nd birthday left a legacy of his wealth of wisdom to benefit the young. The book entitled "Strategies For Success" is a blessing to all who will read it..

1. Blessed is the man
    That walketh not 
    In the counsel of the ungodly,
    Nor stand in the way of sinners,
    Nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

2. But his delight is 
    In the law of the Lord,
   And in His law doth he meditate
   Day and Night.

3. And he shall be 
   Like a tree planted
   By the rivers of waters,
  That bringeth forth
  His fruit in his season,
  His leaf also shall not wither,
 And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Sir Anthony Oladipo Adegbite is the personification of the Psalmist's thoughts while the above words were committed to writing.

This man of great humor and literary ability, claimed in his own words. 

"I was conceived in Lagos but delivered in Shagamu on November 13, 1924". *(Man, Know Thyself" Autobiography and other Reflection of Sir (Elder) A.O. Adegbite Page 2).

This astute gentle man grew up in the Oshodi – Epetedo Area of Lagos Island. Born of Moslem parents but grew up a Christian taking the first name Anthony meaning "Priceless, praise worthy". He is another Anthony that has embodied the meaning of the name with the attendant honour.

I had my first encounter with him, while observing at a meeting, of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Lagos State Chapter called, to deliberate on the burial programmes for its then Secretary – General, Revd. T. A. Ajayi. It was at this meeting that I observed his quintessential parliamentary attributes. He is a gifted orator, unrepentant democrat and master at debates for progress, be it in the church, community and all walks of life. You may have your way but he would have his say.

Sir Adegbite stands forthright and unshakeable on the side of the good and the right way to go on any issue. He deploys his vast arsenal of wit, wisdom and anecdotes in the pursuit of his cause. Like Nelson Mandela "A good teacher can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge the stronger. You don't have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial and uninformed".

Baba is humble,deep,knowledgeable,wise,experienced and of great understanding.

In the City Mission Church he was at various times the Senior Church Steward, Chairman Building Committee (for over 25 Years), Conference Treasurer of the Methodist Church Nigeria, Diocesan Officer, Circuit Officer, Senior Church Steward and Secretary of the Building Committee at Agbeni Methodist Cathedral Ibadan amongst several others. He is an accredited Lay Preacher of the Methodist Church Nigeria. Past National President, of the Men's Fellowship of the Methodist Church Nigeria, Officer of the order of Wesley (O.O.W.) and a Knight of John Wesley (KJW). He had represented the Methodist Church in various Ecumenical Associations. A recipient of various honours and awards; both in the church and ecumenical organisations.

He is one of the few people left in the Methodist Church that can speak the truth to authority. In his active days he fought many battles for the preservation of the Wesleyan heritage. The continuous and gradual erosion of the distinct Methodist flavour in our worship and liturgy has pitched him against many sloppy ministers who would rather import and impose the populist Nigerian Christ Apostolic Church doctrine or other Pentecostal fashion. Many a minster of the Methodist Church invoke the names of leaders of other denominations as if the leaders of the Methodist Church does not inspire them. This gradually tends to erode the confidence and faith of their parishioners in their church. Papa frowns at such indiscretion. 

Sir Adegbite is a strong and committed believer in Christ and in an undiluted Methodist doctrine which should be upheld, promoted and untainted by cross doctrinal affectations.

In the pre–Independence nationalist struggles, Sir Adegbite was a prominent political cadre who worked strenuously in the agitation and struggle for independence. He was in the vanguard of organising many political rallies and lectures through which the people were informed and enlightened on the need for independence and freedom. He was an associate of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola and Alhaji Ganiyu Dawodu. 

As an illustration, Chief S.L.A. Akintola was ushered back in to the political circuits of Lagos when he returned to Nigeria after completing his law studies in England at the instance of Sir Adegbite. He convinced him to deliver a lecture at the Glover Memorial Hall at Customs Street in Lagos. Papa in collaboration with his associates mobilized a huge crowd to the hall to herald the entrance of Nigerias greatest polemicist and political maverick to the country. Severally years later, when SLA was the Federal Minister of Labour, he was assigned to relieve the Minister of Communications who was out of office for a while. While familiarizing himself with the officials of the Ministry of Communication, he got to the desk of Sir Adegbite who he never knew was a civil servant! Chief Akintola exclaimed in his unique soprano voice "Mr. Adegbite, so you are here?!" It was said with such cadence that only the two nationalists understood the full import of the conversation while the colonial officer conducting him round was outflanked.

The political interventions and participations of Sir Adegbite were on the basis of the "Good of the People". He never sought to and did not benefit materially from politics. In contrast he used his affinity to uplift total strangers and people in genuine need of assistance. His greatest joy is to see the welfare of the people as the very aim of government and governance. 

He believes that the people must be organised for self and communal development. To him, “the glory of the king must be the welfare of the people".

While living in Lagos, he was a notable figure in the Adeniran Ogunsanya Community Development Association where he was the Chairman for several years. He was an opinion leader in Surulere Local Government and Lagos State.

Sir Adegbite was a victim of the military intervention in the polity. He was prematurely retired while on the Directorate Cadre of the Department of Posts and Telecommunication by the Murtala/ Obasanjo regime in 1975. The dislocation and regression foisted on the polity and the people by the military interregnum in Nigeria can only be imagined when Nigeria and its people are compared to countries of the same epoch and with their positions in world development. 

Baba was to weather the storm like the tree planted by the rivers of water that bringeth forth his fruit in his seasons, his leaf did not wither, and he prospered in his business undertakings even though he was not trained or prepared for the intrigues, hustle and bustle of business life.

Baba Adegbite's life had been like an oak in the desert providing shade, rest and succour to all whose path crossed his way. He is a man never wanting in words of comfort, advice, encouragement, reprimand or humour as the occasion demands. His oratory is bereft of guile, he does not call a spade by any other name, forthright, blunt, jovial with a command of English that takes the pain from the prick of a pin.

The various literary offerings of Sir Adegbite reveals his penetrating insight of the society by his revealing anecdotes, historical recalls, political tit – bits, cultural life of the various communities in which he socialised and the common place fables of his life and times.

This self made man passed the junior and senior Cambridge examinations as an external candidate taking tuition at two extra mural evening classes. The focus and hard work germinated at this early stage in life and the special grace of God saw him advancing both at work, church and community to a man of stature and reckoning.

Papa found his missing rib in Miss Elizabeth Roberts and they got married on February 9, 1950. The marriage was blessed with six children of three males and three ladies. Mama passed on in February 1997. Papa is a family man par-excellence who doted on his family. The vacuum created by mama's demise can only be imagined than felt. The abundant grace of God has continued to sustain Papa these last twenty years. Papa is blessed with daughters and sons by marriage and many grandchildren residing in different countries of the world.

In all said and done, Sir Adegbite comes out to me as an all rounder in all the callings of life. A good child, a dutiful student, a diligent worker, patriotic, responsible and compassionate citizen, a servant of the most high God both in the sanctuary and at the City Gate. He truly belongs to the pantheon of our heroes!

When Papa was ninety, I was penciled to propose the toast, but like everything written in pencil, it was smudged and the toast was proposed by another eminent 'son' of papa. When the event was reviewed with Papa, I held the view that God was preparing me to propose his toast at 95 or 100 years. Papa in his humility and jovial self requested me to lower my sight to an earlier milestone. I believe this is not the last toast to our illustrious and eminent father as the Lord will keep him beyond the century mark!


Ayo Osunloye an Architect and a former Church Steward at City Mission Methodist Church writes in from Lagos. He is also a Politician and he is the Lagos State Chairman of Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG)
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