Wednesday, 13 February 2013

ADELABU "Penkelemesi" : End of a Charmed Life (TIME Magazine Monday, Apr. 14, 1958)

Adelabu in London (Note: the robe is made from 'Ade' cloth)
Alhaji Adelabu and Alhaji Adegbenro pose together

Adelabu and Awolowo share a car

Adelabu as a co-operative official seated far right

Ade and Awo at a London dance

The half-million Moslems of Ibadan in Western Nigeria have two heroes: Hogan Bassey, the Nigerian boxer who is featherweight-champion of the world, and Ade-goke Adelabu, 43, a spellbinder whose Ibadan People's Party is their first line of defense against surrounding .tribes. The latest ring victory of their first hero (see SPORT) was not enough to compensate last week for what happened to their second.
On the eve of local elections, Adelabu drove to Lagos to confer with colleagues in the capital on how best to defeat the candidates of Obafemi Awolowo, Prime Minister of Western Nigeria and chief of the industrious Ijebu tribe. Returning home, Adelabu was speeding through the constituency of his rival, Awolowo, when his car sideswiped another and crashed into a ditch, killing Adelabu and two of his relatives. Many of his supporters could not believe his death: having survived 18 "political" trials in five years with no more punishment than a few chiding words from presiding judges, Adelabu was believed to have a charmed life. A hundred thousand mourners gathered for his funeral, and the rumor spread among them that their leader's death had been caused by Ibeju witch doctors using a lethal juju so powerful and selective that it killed Adelabu but preserved the lives of the occupants of the car that had crashed with his. Thousands of fanatics ranged the streets, beating up political opponents of the Ibadan People's Party, burning their houses, setting fire to cars parked in the streets. A tribal chieftain and his family were chopped to death because they showed insufficient grief at the passing of Adelabu. "Mammy wagons" (rural buses) that did not carry the traditional green twigs of mourning were overturned and destroyed, and the passengers forced to run for their lives. In ten days the official death toll was 20, and many lay in the hospitals. When the mob ran out of political opponents, it turned its fury on government tax collectors.
Prime Minister Awolowo, describing as "wicked and utterly false" the rumor that Adelabu's death had been caused by black magic, ordered in federal police reinforcements, who used tear gas and gunfire to break up the raging mobs, killing two and arresting 296 of the rioters. At week's end. Ibadan was still under a state of emergency. But Adelabu was dead and buried, and neither riot nor witchcraft could bring him back alive.

( All pictures from the book The Price of Liberty: Personality and Politics in Colonial Nigeria By K. W. Post, George D. Jenkins)

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