Among seasoned politicians in Lagos, everybody talks about Prince Tajudeen Olusi, the seasoned politician.
He is the Chairman of the Governing Advisory Council (GAC) in Lagos.
He is one of the godfathers of President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. At 86, he has seen it all. He started Politics from the scratch, from when he was 13 years old, as a Councillor in Lagos.
In his autobiography Do Not Be A Low Mean Man, Prince Tajudeen Oluyole Olusi revealed a lot especially how he got into Politics.
“I was about age 13 he revealed. “Particularly in the year 1949, the year that Oba Falolu Dosumu passed on, a bitter struggle for the succession to the throne started. The ruling houses of Lagos were divided into 2 main camps. A camp branded itself as King Ado Descendants Union.”
“The whole of our household then belonged to this camp. The other camp was called The House of Dosumu. This camp was made up of mainly the descendants of late Oba Dosumu, who ceded Lagos to the British. There were, however, a few descendants of Oba Akitoye in this camp. The King-makers pronounced Oba Adele, who was the candidate of the King Ado Descendants Union, the Oba of Lagos. The colonial government’s approval was subsequently given. The House of Dosumu commenced litigation to claim an exclusive right to Iga Idu-n-ganran.”
“The House of Dosumu was supported by the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP), the political party that was founded by late Herbert Macaulay, a staunch supporter of the Gouse of Dosumu in his days. Another organisation that was prominent in Lagos then was the Nigerian Youth Movement. This organisation was not involved in the succession struggle, but some of its members like late H.O. Davies and others were rooting for Oba Adele. At this stage, the Oba elect found it necessary to call the attention of his supporters in order for them to ‘politically’ face the NCNC cum NNDP.
In view of this, Oba Adele formed the Area Councils of Lagos; he created a Council for each area. The areas in Lagos then were Olowogbowo Area, Isale-Eko Area, Epetedo Area, Obalende Area, Obadina Area and many others. This was the basis on which the Area Councils were formed. ”
“Our house, Iga Olusi, was made the headquarters of the Area Council of the Olowogbowo sector. Weekly meetings were held in our compound and community leaders of Olowogbowo like the late Pa Abdul Smith, late Alhaji Issa Williams, M.A. Ogun, Taju Thompson and other prominent leaders were always at the meeting to discuss political issues. At this period, I began to get involved in the affairs of the Area Council. As a teenager, we would help in arranging the chairs for the meeting and later take our seats at the back during proceedings to listen to arguments and resolutions.
That was the beginning of my direct involvement in partisan politics.
“An incident happened early in 1962 which led to my emergence as the Councillor of the party. The seat of the elected Councillor for our ward, Ward A3 in Lagos Island, which was occupied by late Mr. Julius A. Odeku, was declared Vacant for non-attendance of Council meetings for a period of three consecutive monthly meetings.
After the declaration, a date was fixed for a By-election because Mr. Odeku still had 7 months to spend on his seat. However, Mr. Odeku indicated his desire to go back to the Council. He came to the general meeting of the Ward and gave some explanations why things had gone the way it did and, therefore, asked to be allowed to return to the Council. I opposed him and mobilised the younger members of the party against this decision. Elders of the Olowogbowo Area like the Chairman of the Ward, late Chief Wahabi Balogun a.k.a Igbalaye; Papa A. J. Molake and other three elders of the party prevailed on the younger ones. They asked us to allow Odeku to run and finish his remaining seven months in office. After this explanation, I was able to convince the youth
body that we should allow him return to the Council. At that instance, some people had earlier suggested that I stand for election at the time. There was one late Alhaji Raufu Adeyemi Williams that was also keenly interested to run for the position. I persuaded him to respect the decision of the elders and promised to stand by him after the expiration of Mr. Odeku’s tenure, in seven months’ time.”
“When the time for the general election came, people started indicating their interest to run for positions. Elders of my own zone within the Ward, Oke-Aarin, indicated their desire to support me. 1 was summoned to a meeting where 1 was told that they were going to suggest my name at the proposed representative meeting.
However, I was conscious of the promise 1 had already made to Alhaji Williams. So, 1 called him and told him that “I am not particularly interested in running for the position, since 1 have given you my words, I am going to stand by it”. At this stage, I knew I had to be diplomatic because I did not want to offend the people of Oke-Aarin and I told him that 1 would not go out to talk anybody into supporting me. He should rather go all out and ensure that he gets the total support of Balogun Zone and the total support of Oke-Olowogbowo, where he comes from. There were 3 zones in the Ward and 4 representatives from each zone were to be sent to the Special Committee. The idea is that if the four representatives from Oke-Aarin gave Prince Olusi their support, and the remaining eight from Balogun and Oke-Olowogbowo stood for him, then he would emerge winner. He worked towards this plan. But when the Special Committee meeting was drawing closer, the Oke-Aarin people got to know about this arrangement and they confronted me. 1 confessed to this allegation and they were very bitter about it. They were bitter because Oke-Aarin had never produced a Councillor while other zones had had their turns.
They saw me as the available candidate to champion the course of the zone. The elders came to me around 1:00 a.m. and vent their anger on the issue. In order to pacify them, I told them that by the grace of God, I and Mr Williams. (RAW) would emerge Councillors the same day. They asked me how I wanted to go about that and 1 answered that they should. leave that to God. While the meeting was going on, I conceived an idea that 1 could move to the second ward, Ward A1, and asked to be nominated as the candidate of the party. 1 decided to try this out because I had good relationship with people across the board; all over Lagos Island, I had been the Secretary of the Youth arm of the party in Lagos Island.”
“The candidate presented to stand against me at the polls by the NCNC was late Alhaji Waheed Giwa. He was also the candidate for the same party in the previous election but he lost to late Alhaji Dodo Williams. As a matter of fact, the election was his third as a candidate of the NCNC. Again, he lost the election to me.”
“Our votes were the first to be counted, announced and broadcasted on the radio for the simple reason that our ward was Ward A1 and the announcement was made in alphabetical order. It was a result everybody was eager to know because Chief Awolowo had been detained in Lekki before the election day. People thought the Action Group had been arrested along with Awolowo and also because the wealthy supporters of the party had earlier turned their backs against the Party during the crisis. All these notwithstanding, we won the election with a landslide victory.”
“There were 4 wards at Olowogbowo. I was the candidate for Ward A1. Alhaji Abdulfatai Masha was the candidate for Ward A2. He was a Prince Merchant. In Ward A3, we had Alhaji R. A. Williams, who was a social figure in Lagos at the time and who was older than I with some five or six years. He could also be seen as a young man like me. The two of us won the election and we both walked from the City Hall to our base in Olowogbowo after the counting, which was concluded around 2:00 a.m. We walked through the streets without any fear. That was the situation in those days. Even if you wanted to walk from Lagos to Yaba at any time, that is your business, there would not be any form of harassment from anybody. Late Alhaji Monsuru Onigbanjo was our candidate for Ward A4.We all won the election. Overall, we won over twenty wards in the Council.”
“Having become a member of the Lagos Town Council as a Councillor, our next assignment was the inauguration of the Council. It had to be performed by the Oba of Lagos. He was by law, the President of Lagos Town Council. The Nigerian Constitution at the time stipulated that the Oba of Lagos should be the first official of the Local Government. At the inauguration, the election of the Chairman that would be the Head of the Council had to be conducted. It was, therefore, essential for the political party to present a candidate before the inauguration day. Within our group, we had three people contesting for the position.
“I honestly believed that there was an inspiration behind what I was doing. Even though I was the youngest among the lot, I believed that it was God who gave me the wisdom to put all those ideas across. That was how Masha emerged the candidate of the Action Group. On the inauguration day, all 27 of us voted for Alhaji Abdulfatai Masha and he became the Chairman of the Town Council.
After this, the next thing was to set up various committees. The first thing we did was to put up a Selection Committee. It is this committee that will now nominate’ people to various other committees for the council’s approval. I was put in 2 committees, the Establishment Committee and Estate and General Purposes Committee. Establishment Committee was a very important committee. In those days, members usually lobbied to be nominated to the Committee. It was this Committee that was responsible for staff matters. At the time, Lagos Town Council was like a state government; we had senior officers, engineers, architects, valuation officers, traffic officers and other professionals. The committee is so important that after the Chairman of the Council, the next powerful official is the Chairman of the Establishment Committee. Alhaji Dawodu was made the Chairman of the Committee, not as a form of compensation but because in the party’s hierarchy, he was considered a very senior member. Dawodu was also put in the LMTS, Lagos Municipal Transport Service; this was a separate Board that was responsible for the running of the Municipal Bus Service. This function has been greatly encroached upon by the State Government after the creation of Lagos State. In the Establishment Committee, there were likes of late Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya, the late Lawyer Hakeem Habeeb, and 6 or 7 other members.
The second committee that I served in, the Estate and General Purposes Committee, was chaired by late Chief Ishola Bajulaye Jiyabi II, the Eletu Odibo of Lagos and the number one Kingmaker of Lagos. He was a retired instructor at the Federal Training School. The responsibility of this Committee was to look after the properties of the Council. At the time, Council had a number of properties like the official quarters, gardens, parks and various other buildings all over Lagos Island, Lagos Mainland, Apapa and Ikoyi. It was another exceptional committee with responsibility for planning state functions and reception for foreign visitors.
My first and second periods as an elected Councillor in Lagos cover October 1962 to March 1966. The first was from 1962 to 1965. There was another election in 1965. It is interesting to point out that I faced the same opponent that I defeated three years earlier. It was like a repeat performance. This tenure continued until the Military struck in January 1966. We were however allowed to continue the administration of the Council until March when it was eventually dissolved. During this period, 1963 to be precise, I had the opportunity to be part of the delegation that toured some West African countries, particularly Senegal and Togo. We saw a number of things. We were especially interested in their City Halls. The idea of building a City Hall was in vogue at the period. Even our officials that went to London were clamouring for the need to build a City Hall in Lagos. The delegation that toured the West African countries was led by late Senator S.A.R. Anifowoshe. Other members of the delegation were late Alhaji Olaniyan, late Councillor Solomon from Surulere, late Councillor Ololo and a host of others. We came back to strengthen the need for the construction of a City Hall. Each year, the Council would send delegates out of the country on what we used to call “Visit of Inspection”. This was done in order to see the developments that were going on in other parts of the world. Some people even visited Israel and other Western countries.
I think it is necessary to put down some of the achievements of the Town Council between 1962 and 1966. The achievements were overwhelming to the” extent that Lagos was no .longer seen as a town, but a city, when the developments were placed side by side with the cities of the developed worlds like London. It was a big
and celebrated status at the period. It was this period that the library which is now at Odunlami Street was built; the old library was at Custom Street, opposite Glover Hall. We also built another library on the Lagos Mainland. A number of roads were constructed, particularly at Ebute-Meta. And it was this period that we laid the foundation of the City Hall. It was in 1963 that we started to save towards the construction of the Hall. We eventually awarded the contract for its construction in 1965. We also constructed some Markets in Lagos. It was during this period that the Ebute-Ero Market was completed and allocated. I remember that I was given eight shops and two stalls for the people in my constituency. We also assisted the people in what is similar to the present Poverty Alleviation Programme…
…Apart from the Committee of Friends, there was another group that had Senator Wahab Dosumu and his brother, Lawyer Lateef Dosumu of blessed memory, who was a Councillor at the time. Also in the group was my cousin, Prince Sultan Ladega Adeniji-Adele. Notable among them was Muba Quadri, a very good younger friend from Oluwole Area. Be was very close to me and was also an elected Councillor. In fact, up till a day or two to the election, he was still coming to my house even though he was neck-deep in the scheming that was going on in the other group. This group resolved to present late Prince Sultan Ladega as their candidate.
Within our group, I was sponsored by late Councillor Sikiru Oteshade, a friend and associate, and Mr A.O. Koku, a prominent lawyer and elected Councillor. They had to file the nomination in accordance with the law. The election was held on the 13th of January, 1977, and conducted by the then Town Clerk of Lagos, Mr Oshodi.
Let me quickly explain the composition of the Council at the time. There were five nominated members in addition to the elected officials. The nominated members are Alhaja Abibatu Mogaji; the late Chief Ishola Bajulaye, the then Eletuu-Odibo of Lagos; late Chief Lamidi Kalifo, then Olumegbon of Lagos and Mrs Leila Fowler an educationist and Mr. Demola Dawodu. They were all nominated by the Military Governor. There were twenty-six elected Councillors from the various wards of Lagos Island.
Fourteen of the elected members belonged to our caucus. They are Alhaji B.A.B. Fasinro, Chief Oluwole Awolowo, Councillor D. I. Pitan, Alhaji M. A. Balogun, Councillor Tajudeen Kotun, Barrister A. Koku, Councillor Razak Oshodi, Barrister Yekini Akande, Alhaji Sikiru Folami, Councillor Olayeni Ajose, Mr. S. A. Oteshade, Mr. Kolawole Ayoola, Alhaji Ayuba Animashaun and myself.
Back to the election story, my only opponent was Prince Ladega Adeniji-Adele. After the election process, I got seventeen votes against his thirteen. And so, I was elected the first chairman of the Lagos Island Local Government, after the Dasuki report in respect to the redesignation and adjustment of Local Governments all over the country. There was wide celebration by all as we trecked and jubilated from the City Hall to our Family House at Oke-Aarin on occurrences.
…At the third year of the Administration, precisely in 1979, I was nominated to contest as a member of the House of Representatives by the Unity Party of Nigeria. That was how I ended my career at the Local Government level.
During my tenure at the Council, particularly between 1962 and 1966, I took active parts in the affairs of the Council and that of the party. I always made sure that I voiced my opposition to anything that was not acceptable to me and that was not in the best interest of my people. As a result, I had problems with senior colleagues like late Alhaji Rauf Williams and Alhaji G.O. Dawodu. I had worked closely with the two of them. During this period, there was a tussle for leadership in the Council.
After this, I told my supporters that we should accept the outcome in good faith and forget about it. I told them that my participation in politics was even time and money-consuming. At the time, being a Councillor was a part-time job, we only received allowances and I had to give out more than half of my salary to serve the community. In the following morning, three members of the party came purposely to trick me. The people that came were late Aminu Cashier, late Alhaji Sabitu Olaleye Balogun, former Chairman of ACN in my Ward and one Agbaje, a native of Ikorodu, who was living at Idumota at the time. They told me that people are not happy because I said I had left everything to God, and that I should not just accept the verdict. They persuaded me to protest the outcome. Even though I objected to this idea, they insisted and gave me the indication that most people wanted me to.
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