Book Title: Serving My Fatherland (Two Volumes)
Author: Tunde Adeniran
Publisher: Bookcraft, Ibadan, Nigeria
In a two-volume compendium that details Professor Tunde Adeniran’s autobiography, he seems at his most eloquent – a must for anybody who chooses to share his life’s journey with the world at large from his point of view rather than through a biographer – in the portions where he recalls stories of himself before his political journey. The intrigues, under-handed dealings and backstabbing of politics, perhaps as they should be, are stories that need be told for posterity.
In my opinion, Adeniran, who is described in the dusk jacket of Serving My Fatherland as a political scientist, poet and politician – in that order – could have earned his Columbia PhD from the same Ivy League in English Language or any of the Modern Languages majoring in Poetry – if a route earlier chosen had been in Languages. I offer that information not because of several such vignettes in this massive work among which some do soar to heights that would qualify them for that literary genre by those in the know more than me, but because I’ve actually read quite a few of his poems, including a collection. The writing in the pre-politics portion of the books tells me Adeniran could have become a literary giant if he had so chosen with adequate preparations at high school and first degree levels.
Looking back at the start of his political career with students’ unionism at Nigeria’s premier university, the University of Ibadan (UI), Adeniran remembers how it took him much time before he decided to enter the [then] turbulent world of students’ politics in Nigeria which had become greatly enmeshed in Nigeria’s politics of that era. At UI, IT pitted the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Kenneth Dike against the Registrar, N.K. Adamolekun in an internecine “duel” that divided the entire university along ethnic lines into for-and-against either of the two titans. Ladipo Adamolekun – a younger brother to the Registrar – resigned as Secretary on principle because of the way the executive (led by a Dike supporter) had decided to take side while dragging the students’ body into a divisive position. Adeniran, a friend of Ladipo’s, made a move to run for Secretary in the election of 68/69 following his friend’s resignation but ended up running for Treasurer because one of his own friends, Sawyer, was running for the same position.
A life of social activism that had started from a very early age in his local community finally got a push, and the political fire was lit in the author. Since that first run for office in 1968/69, he has not looked back even though the autobiography does show quite a number of crossroads in his political journey when a less hardy soul might have thrown in the towel and bidden goodbye to the ugly game that Nigeria’s politics is.
While the two-volume tomes is a testimony to Adeniran’s doggedness in anything he has ventured into as far back as elementary school, the parts that fascinate me the most are when he lapses into his inherent literary capability.
As it is never too late, I offer Adeniran, whose moniker by me is “a poet, masquerading as a politician” this unsolicited advice:
Tunde, go back and write a whole book in which your political adventures would get mere mentions OR go out and work on a new collection of your poetry that would contain the earlier small collection plus all the different ones you’ve written. This should enable you not only the chance to edit the old ones but your fans may be lucky to see new creations.
That, of course, is if his days of running for office are over!
I’ve gone into all of the above not to detract from this autobiog but actually as my way of recommending the books as well as showing the author’s love affair with words that soar and touch emotions as poems are wont to be, and there are quite a few in the book, mostly penned by the author.
Close to the beginning of Serving My Fatherland, Adeniran opens Chapter Two with a 6-line quote that he attributes to late Oxonian, Historian H.A.L. Fisher in an advice to R.H Grossman. His excerpt informs readers that the Oxonian did not enter British politics till 1916 at the age of fifty-one which is fairly late in life as politicians and the political life generally goes.
It was in a chapter that shows all the mulling and thinking, consulting with friends, et cetera that he, a 21 year-old, had been doing about the idea of throwing his cap into the ring of students’politics at UI where he was just at the beginning of his second year, studying for his first degree. Fisher’s advice readily came to him and he decided the time was ripe for him to move on to a bigger stage roles he had always had fostered on him both in his Ọ̀rìn-Ekiti home town and at lower levels of his educational career:
I stayed in Oxford too long, and/I went to politics at the top/That was the cause of my failure/Go in now while you are young/Whether you succeed or fail does not matter/It is the life which matters
After UI where he studied Political Science, Adeniran would study at U.S. Ivy League college, Columbia, where he earned a doctorate, and rose to head the Department of Political Science at his alma mater.
It was this interest and commitment to writing, including editing The Way Magazine of the Ibadan Varsity Christian Union even while being involved in students’ unionism that got him noticed noticed by foreign students at Ibadan University and he became a member of the International Students’ Friendship Society of which he was elected as the General Secretary. From various social activism projects, Adeniran was able to visit many places, including the USA where he put in volunteerism, the UK, Denmark where he participated at an international youth and students’ gathering even before leaving attending Columbia.
His prolific political commentaries in newspapers in the run-up to the return to civil rule in the late 1970s got the already well-qualified university don noticed, and was soon well above the radar of the political class in Nigeria’s Southwest that would lead to tutelage within a group that learnt at the foot of the Master, Chief Obafemi Awolowo as political parties were being formed. It must be said, though, that while the independent-minded Adeniran did not have any falling out with the Awo Group, he ended up in the group always considered reactionary by majority in Southwestern Nigeria.
Adeniran remains to this day a member of that traditional opposition to Yorubaland but then, in Nigeria today, politics has become so muddled up that politicians are always crossing wherever they think the land is more fertile. Even THE so-considered party of Yorubaland, the APC – sort of born and bred there just as the NPP, which would become Iboland-party at the coming of civil rule was a party founded, funded and nurtured under Akanbi Onitiri; Adeniran Ogunsanya, Deinde Fernandez, Benjamin Adekunle – “the Black Scorpion … To Adeniran’s credit, he has remained within the same party since civil rule got under way in 1979.
It should be noted in line with the last paragraph that “progressive” APC now spews politics that are inimical to Yorubas’ traditional political leaning. In a way, therefore, Adeniran’s political home today is not any different from “progressive” APC’s which, to the Southwest’s dismay, has dismissed the idea or need for a National Confab which is the major way to find solutions to the problematic “federation” in a country that centralizes everything as in a unitary government.
Professor Tunde Adeniran served in several political positions from 1979 under the ruling governments of civilian presidency of retired General Obasanjo to Dr. Jonathan’s presidency, including Minister of Education and Ambassador to Germany.
Finally, while reading through the hundreds of pages of the two-volume autobiography readers may still pine to know more about Adeniran’s personal life more than Serving My Fatherland allows the reader to know more about this a social and political activist who is also a prolific writer.
THURSDAY, JULY 7, 2016. 6:45 p.m. [GMT]