CHIEF Akinwole Michael Omoboriowo, the Deputy Governor of old Ondo State during Nigeria’s Second Republic from 1979 to 1982, and publisher of the militant advocacy newspaper, Premier, died on Tuesday at the age of 81.
Omoboriowo, who until his epic political face-off with the late Chief Adekunle Ajasin, with whom he won the gubernatorial ticket in 1979, was one of the foremost ideologues of Awoism, the progressive welfarist-socialism formulated on the basis of the four cardinal programs of the old Action Group of the First Republic and later by the successor, the Unity Party of Nigeria, established in 1978.
The popular demand of the Youth Wing of the UPN – inspired by the appearance of an incessantly frail and aging Governor Ajasin – that Omoboriowo should be given full executive powers anytime the principal traveled abroad for medical care, led to serious political division in the party.
The feuding leaders of the party went for a decisive popularity contest at the Ideal Guest House in Oshinle, Akure, where Omoboriowo allegedly defeated Ajasin in the shadow election. However, the leadership of the UPN allegedly got the party’s National Director of Organization, Mr. Ebenezer Babatope (Ebeno Topsy), to swap results and announce Chief Adekunle Ajasin as the candidate of the party. Ebenezer Babatope would later issue a pamphlet in which he portrayed Akin Omoboriowo as a ‘fake Awoist’, although the late Chief Omoboriowo always pointed out that none of those who portrayed him as such were true disciples of the Awo philosophy themselves.
Omoboriwo later claimed that he was “robbed in broad daylight” and decided to decamp with some of his supporters to pitch tent with the party that was ruling at the center, the National Party of Nigeria, NPN. The campaign that followed his exit from the UPN had signaled a possible blood-bath in the elections of August 1983.
He told the publisher of sharpedgenews.com in an exclusive 1999 interview that the campaign was strong, and that he “won the popular vote, but not the heart of the people, which was why they said he rigged (the election)”.
Following his declaration as the winning candidate in the election by the now-defunct Federal Electoral Commission, FEDECO, his leading backers and financiers like famous and Africa’s first indigenous publisher, Mr. Olaiya Fagbamigbe, Mr. Tunde Agunbiade, and Chief Herbert Agbayewa, who was the Sasere of Akure, among others, were murdered by Awolowo and Ajasin supporters. Arson and destruction of lives and property thereafter threw Ondo State into martial rule.
The Appeal Court in Benin and later the Supreme Court declared Adekunle Ajasin the ultimate winner. However Omoboriowo maintained that he knew, as a lawyer, that judicial victory was not same as electoral victory, which he maintained he won. He said that he decided to accept the court ruling because “they killed all of my supporters. I felt stripped and no longer had the strength to fight.” He said that his flaw was in the fact that he dared to take Yoruba people, whose had been deceived by their leaders into playing outside the loop, into the mainstream.
The turbulence of that period is widely believed to have influenced the military coup of December 31, 1983, which saw the duo of Generals Muhammadu Buhari and Tunde Idiagbon rising as military henchmen of the period, following which all political parties and activities were proscribed by their regime.
The late politician and lawyer revealed later in life that the experience of that period led him to find a path to peace in God as a stronger Christian, as he renounced all previous associations to which he had been introduced as a politician, including ones to which he was introduced by the later progressive patriarch, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
As he fought and ran away, he had the chance of living again to fight and win another day. He stayed away from local politics and his romance with the military administration of the late General Sanni Abacha contributed to the creation of Ekiti State. The other person Abacha respected in granting the wish of Ekiti people for autonomy was former Governor Bamidele Olumilua.
Remaining in active politics for the rest of his life, Omoboriowo also served in the National Reconciliation Commission during the Abacha regime. He always claimed that he preferred a consistent membership of the ruling administrators in Nigeria because he had “seen the light.”
He later became the chairman of an Abuja-based electric company and an active player in the politics of oil.
He earned a degree in law from the University of Ife, Nigeria, now Obafemi Awolowo University. An eloquent testimony to his political sagacity and astuteness was the fact that whichever party he joined always won in his Ijero-Ekiti hometown.
Prominent Nigerians have been offering their condolences on Chief Omoboriowo’s passing. On Wednesday, President Goodluck Jonathan issued a statement commiserating with the families of the late Omoboriowo, enjoining “the Omoboriowo family members to take solace in the fact that the late politician lived a fulfilled and God-fearing life to a good old age.”
Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, described Omoboriowo as a consummate and respected politician, who was a great defender of Ekiti interest during his time as a politician. The Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation, Funminiyi Afuye, who reacted on behalf of the government, said, “the governor, government and the good people of Ekiti State received with shock, the passing away of Chief Akin Omoboriowo. “Papa was a consummate and respected statesman and a great defender of Ekiti interest during his lifetime. In fact, he will be sorely missed.”
He described the late Omoboriowo as a nationalist, a political leader and a community leader in Ijero Local Government Area, whose contributions to the political development of the nation would remain indelible.
He also recalled the roles played by the late Omoboriowo in the creation of Ekiti State, which resulted in the birth of a new state on October 1, 1996.
Fayemi also lauded the contributions of the late former deputy governor to the development of the then University of Ado-Ekiti (UNAD) now known as the Ekiti State University (EKSU), where he served meritoriously as chancellor. He added that the government had sent heartfelt condolences to the family of Chief Akin Omoboriowo, saying, “may the good Lord give the family the fortitude to bear the great loss.”
Also Ondo State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko condoled with the people of Ekiti State and family of Chief Akin Omoboriowo, over the death of the veteran politician and elder statesman, describing the death as shocking.
Mimiko, reacting to Omoboriowo’s death through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Eni Akinsola, said the death was a huge loss to his home state in particular and Nigeria in general.
He noted that the death was especially shocking because the deceased was not reported to be sick. The governor saluted the late politician’s contributions to the development of the old Ondo State when, in the second republic, he served as deputy governor to the late Chief Adekunle Ajasin.“The contributions he made at that time to the development of Ondo State are still green in our minds,” Governor Mimiko said, adding that “Chief Omoboriowo is dead but we are comforted that he lived a fulfilled life and wrote his name in the sands of time.I pray God to grant the family and the people of Ekiti the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.”
Also, the former governor of Ekiti State and National Vice Chair of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Segun Oni, on Wednesday released a statement through his press aide, Mr. Lere Olayinka, saying that he “received the death with shock because Baba was not particularly sick. I saw him a little while ago and we always see him regularly.
“However, I know that Baba departed this world at the time appointed by God and all we can do is to first celebrate him as our leader, father and foremost patriot, who never shifted his attention away from the development of Ekiti.
"I want to urge everybody to come around when the time comes to give Baba a deserving burial.
“I, also implore the family, to take solace in the fact that Baba lived a fulfilled life and pray that will console them."