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The First Agoiwoye Town Council

I shall pause here for a while to tell you the history of Ago-Iwoye Town Council. When the Odosinusi people began to petition the government that they wanted a Bale from Odosinusi instead of having an Ebumawe, I told the story of our struggle for the resuscitation of the Ebumawe Chieftaincy to a friend of mine at Ibadan in the person of Mr. Chief D. T. Akinbiyi.

He lectured me on how unwise we had been for asking for a king. he said that the example of David and his sons with the children of Israel should have taught us that a king would always oppress the people. he told me that the system of Baleship in rotation such as at Ibadan would make room for a really democratic system of government while that of kingship would tend to be autocratic. I was convinced by his argument, but we had worked hard for the resuscitation of the Ebumawe Chieftaincy and it was rather too late to retrace our steps. Then I, (Chief J O Ajibola) began to think to myself, ” How can we retain the Ebumawe Chieftaincy and yet enjoy a democratic system of government?” I started to draft a series of safe-guards; e. g.

  1. A Quarter Council, whose life should not be longer than five years before a re-election
  2. A Town Council- ditto
  3. The Native Courts – ditto

I wrote out all the rules which should govern all these institutions and presented the document to Ago-Iwoye Progress Union for approval.

The Ago-Iwoye Progress Union welcomed it and recommended it to the newly appointed Ebumawe for putting it into action. The then  Ebumawe threw it into a waste-paper basket and started to rule despotically and autocratically. when the late Chief Ladipo Solanke of WASU, in London visited Nigeria in 1932, I showed him a copy of this draft constitution and asked for his advice on it. He was so impressed with it  that  he went to Ago-Iwoye and advised the Ebumawe to use it. But Chief Solanke’s advice to the Ebumawe and all various petitions to him from the Ago-Iwoye Progress Union and other bodies were simply brushed aside.

Petitions upon petitions against his autocratic rule went from Ago-Iwoye to the Awujale and the Resident. In 1934, the District Officer Mr A F Abell came to Ago-Iwoye to inquire into these agitations of the people. There was a public meeting at Odosinusi Methodist School Field. He said he had received various petitions from Ago-Iwoye and he wanted suggestions for improving the situation in the town. Some of the speakers wanted to be given some days  so as to think out what suggestions to give. But the District Officer wanted some suggestions there and then. It was there I had the first opportunity of informing the townspeople what Ago-Iwoye Progress Union had planned as the Constitution for Ago-Iwoye. as I explained every point in the scheme, the people shouted in praise of it.

The late Mr S O Adedeji was the interpreter that day. When Mr Abell saw that I was explaining these points from a typewritten document, he told Mr. Adedeji not to  interpret again, especially when he was told that I was a tutor at Ijebu-Ode Grammar School. at the close of my speech he told the meeting he would consider all the points raised.

When we got back to Ijebu-Ode, he invited me to his office and we went over this draft constitution for Ago-Iwoye Town Council, approving part and rejecting some and he  finally produced one which he submitted to the government for approval. The approval came, on the 25th May, 1935, the lieutenant Governor Western Provinces W. E. Hunt, Esq.., the Resident Mr. E. G. Hawksworth, the District Officer – Mr. A. F. Abell, and for the first time in the history of Ago-Iwoye, the Awujale Daniel Adesanya – Gbelegbuwa 11 came to Ago-Iwoye and formally inaugurated “Ago-Iwoye Town Council”. We were asked to work on it.

We started to work it by elections based upon a sort of universal adult suffrage into;

  1. The Quarter Council
  2. The Town Council and
  3. The Native Court;

according to that constitution and we worked it so well that there was scarcely any petition order either from the native court or from the town to the Awujale, the district Officer or the Resident for the next five years. Our Town Council was regarded as the model in the Province and even beyond.

I should mention here that each quarter succeeded in including its most educated and reliable sons among its  share of four councillors into the Town Council. the news of Ago-Iwoye Town Council as a model Town Council went far and wide so that people from Remo and Abeokuta, as far as I can remember, came here to ask us for advice. After five years, we had another election. In the new election some of the old members who had done well retained their seats, other new members came in and the whole procedure went on as before.

Reference: A Brief History of Ago-Iwoye by Chief J O Ajibola.

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