Bayo Adeola’s The Life and Times of Imran: Family story in a Nation’s history, by Michael Olatunbosun

Book Title: The Life and Times of Imran: A Family Story in a Nation’s History

Author: Bayo Adeola

Publishers: Quramo Publishing and CPMS Limited

Year of Publication: 2022

Genre: History, Biography

Pages: 658

The book is first the story of a very prominent Nigerian and his family, and second, it is the story of a nation in a flux. And the author sets out immediately to intimate the reader of his objective. In the preface, the author writes that the book is to give the reader a glimpse into the events in the life of his father, Imran Sanusi Adeola. For Bayo, Imran’s third child and second son, it is important to tell the story for posterity, and for his ‘children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and indeed the future generations of Adeolas to have some idea of their ancestors’. So in this book, we have a bite of the life, the travails and victories, the faith and fate of Imran Sanusi Adeola, his education, his siblings, his career, his wives, friends, and children. And in an attempt to unlock his family history in order to provide some clarity for his own children and their children about their ancestry, Bayo Adeola digs into the history of the Egba, Abeokuta, and Nigeria. This he does so gleefully by excavating pre-colonial and colonial history from the 1820s through to 1914, when Abeokuta lost its independence to the amalgamation of the Northern and southern protectorate to create Nigeria.

In this 30-chapter book, the author attempts a reconstruction of the history and origin of the Yoruba. 

This he does creatively by riding on the shoulders of historians and archeologists, gleaning from their accounts and resplendent research to get to know the Yoruba, who inhabit the Southwest of Nigeria, up to West Africa, and some other countries and regions of the world. Of note in this historical excursion are Oyo, Ife, Ibadan, Abeokuta, and so on. 

In the book, The Life and Times of Imran, Bayo Adeola beams his light on Abeokuta, giving us snapshots of the internal and external wars that its progenitors and warlords fought. We read about the impact of slave trade on the people, the entry of Henry Townsend, and activities of the Christian missionaries, of Ajayi Crowther, and the like. We also read about the achievement of Townsend with the introduction of Iwe Iroyin in 1859 as the first newspaper published in Nigeria. A substantial part of the work is also dedicated to discussing the introduction of Islam in Nigeria, Yoruba land and Egbaland. 

It is within this maze of national and provincial history that the author gives the precise ancestry of his father, Imran, informing us that Imran’s family is part of the indigenous Egba who migrated from the Egba villages to Abeokuta with Sodeke in 1830. His paternity and ancestry is that of the Alamutu family, one of about ten families who settled in the Mokola area of Abeokuta, in the particular location called Oke Agbunrin. ‘Agbunrin was one of the war chiefs who led the Egba from Ibadan to Abeokuta under the leadership of Sodeke in 1830.’ (P129)

The 16th chapter of the book presents the author’s exploration of the various constitutions crafted to give the Nigerian nation coherence in terms of governance philosophy and structure. The author gives a snapshot of the intrigues and debates around how the different regions in Nigeria had expected to be governed within the larger Nigerian state. In this chapter, we read that the question of regionalism, self-government, and other such germane issues, have perpetually changed the course of this nation. 

The author gives us how many of the community associations in Nigeria’s history metamorphosed into political parties with objectives beyond community development to self-governance. In the first instance, they were formed to promote the interest of their members and the development of their communities. These associations include the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) formed in 1923 by Herbert Macaulay as Nigeria’s first political party. The Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM) was founded in Lagos in 1934 by a group of nationalists led by Eyo Ita, Samuel Akinsanya, Ernest Ikoli and others as the first multi-ethnic organization in Nigeria and it became a strong national movement when Nnamdi Azikiwe and H. O. Davies returned to Nigeria in 1937 and 1938 respectively and joined it. Obafemi Awolowo and Samuel Akintola were other prominent members of the Movement. (P271) Then the NCNC was formed in 1944 by Herbert Macaulay, who was its first president, while Azikiwe was its first secretary. Then the Pan-Igbo Federal Union was founded in 1944, and it changed its name to Pan-Igbo State Union in December 1948. 

The author reports that in 1945, Egbe Omo Oduduwa (Society of the Descendants of Oduduwa) was founded in London to ‘foster the study of the Yoruba language, culture and history…, and to accelerate the emergence of a virile modernized and efficient Yoruba state with its own individuality within the Federal State of Nigeria.’ The Egbe Omo Oduduwa was launched in Nigeria in 1948, and its membership included Chief Bode Thomas, Sir Adeyemo Alakija, Chief H. O. Davies, Sir Kofo Abayomi, and Chief Akintola Williams, Dr. Akinola Maja and others, with Awolowo as General Secretary. And by March 1951, the Egbe gave birth to the Action Group. (Pp273-274) Thus began the creation of more groups and political parties in Nigeria.

In this book, Adeola tells us about the relocation of Imran, his book’s protagonist, from Ibadan to Lagos in the 1950s after about a decade. He gives us a glimpse of the Lagos of the 1800s and what Lagos was in the days before independence, with the settlements in Eko by slave returnees and so on. He delivers a copious reference to the polygamous life of Imran, and how he was able to manage his family. 

In recalling his family history and national trajectory, Adeola tells us about Nigeria’s independence, and the civil war story. He reports the political intrigues that followed the regional administrations, and the trial and sentencing of Obafemi Awolowo and others. He discusses the nagging issue of population census and the controversies that clouded the 1952, 1962 and 1963 census figures. We read about the coup of Jan 1966, and the counter-coup of July of 1966, as well as the characters involved. And this is followed by a rich report of the civil war. In fact, the book is a rich resource material for those curious about the civil war. It is a complete dossier of the civil war, precisely foregrounding the social and political intrigues leading to the war. If one is curious to know the content, characters, and context of the much talked about Aburi Accord, then this book is the go-to book and the whole of chapter 23 tagged ‘From Independence to Civil War’, spanning 20 pages is where to catch the details.

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And the author takes us through the regimes of Gowon, Muritala Muhammed, Obasanjo and Buhari governments. He gives us a sumptuous presentation of the groundbreaking Lateef Jakande development exploits in Lagos. We have a glimpse into the Ibrahim Babangida military government and his annulment of the June 12 1993 Presidential Election, and all the general uproar that greeted it. We have a profiling of the Ernest Shonekan Interim Government and the author’s blow-by-blow account of the Sani Abacha government, his dissolution of all democratic institutions and the disenchantment that greeted his regime. In short, this book is a pot-pouri of all the characters in governance of the Nigerian nation from the pre-colonial, to the colonial era, up to the military experiences of the nation.

In the final analysis, this book, Life and Times of Imran, is a well-researched work, a well-illustrated book, and a rich repository of history and life of Imran and his great family, and a text on local, national and global political and economic shifts. It is a book that lovers of history will find important. The author’s power and deeply eclectic knowledge is strongly on display here. One family’s history is put forward as a case study for understanding the social, cultural, political and economic milieu of the entire nation.

Olatunbosun is a broadcast journalist and fact-checker at Splash FM 105.5, Ibadan, Oyo State.

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