A ‘lawyer’ and a ‘warrior’ are two words that are seldom used to describe one person.
Lawyers, like any human, die all the time but the least expected way you would have thought a lawyer would die was to be gunned down after he ran out of ammo. It seemed like something out of a Schwarzenegger movie, not so? That was the way Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola went down and it was nothing out of a movie. It happened for real. January 15, 1966 was a radical turning point of some sort in the socio-political space of Nigeria. Chief Akintola was one of the gladiators of the era and of course a major casualty of that day.
Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola was many things before he passed on. Permit me to state once again that he was a lawyer.
Chief Akintola was trained in Britain as a lawyer and formed a partnership with some other British trained Nigerian lawyers of his time amongst who was Chief Bode Thomas.
Chief Akintola had a mind of his own and was never afraid to follow what he thought was the right path even if it was not a popular decision. In the ‘40s when he joined the Nigerian Youth Movement he supported Chief Earnest Ikoli to win a seat in Lagos in the legislative council defeating Samuel Akinsanya, who was supported by Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe. Chief Nnmadi Azikiwe was the politician to beat at that time in Lagos. In 1945, he also opposed the famous general strike led by Chief Azikiwe’s NCNC and Pa Michael Imoudu, a foremost labor union leader. The General strike was supported by majority of the populace.
He also had his disagreement with Chief Obafemi Awolowo on decisions over the direction and alliances of their political party, the Action Group, and the decision to join a coalition government. He was also against the political ideology of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and by extension the party’s of democratic socialism as he was more disposed to a conservative approach.
He was never a follower of the crowd.
When the Western Regional crisis of the first republic was at its height with Chief Akintola, the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba in the thick of it, there were rumors of a military coup and it was well stated that Chief Akintola met with the Premier of Northern Nigeria, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, a day before the coup to vent his concerns but the Sardauna thought little of such rumours. On his part, Chief Akintola was not going to dismiss the rumours with a wave of the hand. He had his machine gun well oiled and was prepared. He was not going to go down easily.
On that day, January 15, 1966, it was well recanted that Chief Akintola shot his machine gun until he ran out of ammo. He did not succeed in hitting any of the soldiers who came for him though. They got him in the end. His end, and the end of so many others that day across the country amongst who were the Sardauna of Sokoto and the Premier of the Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Prime Minister of Republic, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, Brig. Samuel Ademulegun, Brig. Zakariya Maimalari, Col. Ralph Shodeinde, Col. Kur Mohammed. It was a day that can never be forgotten in the history of Nigeria.
As I am writing this piece the nursery rhyme of Solomon Grundy kept coming to my mind. For whatever its worth, kindly indulge me in the adaptation of the rhyme to illustrate the transition of the lawyer warrior –
Chief Akintola was not born on a Monday
Perhaps, he was conceived on a Tuesday
Chief Akintola was born on a Wednesday
He must have been christened on a Wednesday
Perhaps, he got married on a Thursday
He met with the Sardauna on a Friday
He was killed on a Saturday
Perhaps, he was buried on a Sunday.
And that was the end of Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola.
Featured image by Israel Government Press Office – Israel National Photo Collection D788-033, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17881412
First image by Israeli Government Press Office photographer – National Photo Collection of Israel, Photography dept. Goverment Press ,Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17881368