INTERVIEW WITH THE ALAIGBAJO OF ARIGBAJO, OBA GBEMILEKE BABAJIDE, at Arigbajo Town on Sunday 24th March, 2013.
NOTE: This dialogue unfolded in a mixture of both the Yoruba and English languages, but has been transcribed virtually totally into English using approximate words as accurately as the author could determine. Every attempt has also been made to recreate the oral atmosphere of the encounter as best as possible!
WHATS YOUR FULL NAME SIR? “I am Oba Benjamin Oluwagbemileke Alade Babajide”.
WHEN WERE YOU BORN?
“11th of September, 1947.”
AND WHO WERE YOUR PARENTS?
“My father is late Mr Albert Olaosebikan Alamu Babjide.”
GOSH I MUST PAY HIM FOR MY NAME?
BECAUSE I AM ALSO NAMED ALAMU!
HOW ABOUT MAMA?
“Mrs Alice Moteleola Babajide.”
WHAT WAS PAPA’S OCCUPATION?
“He was a Barber, and also engaged in selling barbing and other petty materials. He also engaged in part-time farming.”
HOW ABOUT MAMA?
“She was also a petty trader, but we grew up to know her as a popular Egbo trader. Eeh…”
(Echoes). “Egbo,… egbo! We used to call her ‘Iya Elegbo’. She was popular everywhere in this community. There’s nowhere you would go where she was not known”
IN ARIGBAJO OR…
(Interjects). “In Arigbajo”
IS SHE ALSO A NATIVE OF ARIGBAJO
“No, Oluke-Orile, near Itori.”
WHICH COMPOUND ARE YOU FROM SIR?
“Omotunase compound in Owu Totoro,Abeokuta.” (emphasises) “Omo-tun-wase”.
NOW, YOUR EDUCATION SIR. FROM WHAT TIME TO WHAT TIME. DID YOU TOO HAVE TO STRETCH YOUR HAND OVER YOUR HEAD TO TOUCH YOUR OTHER EAR BEFORE GAINNING ADMISSION?
(General laughter). “Yes but I made it by 1955 when I started Standard One at the UDC Primary School, Arigbajo.”
YOUR HAND REACHED YOUR EAR THEN, OR DID YOU CHEAT A LITTLE?
(More laughter). “My hand actually reached my other ear then.”
AND AFTER THAT?
“I finished Primary 6 in 1960.”
WAS THAT ALSO AT UDC WHERE YOU FINISHED?
“Modern… ? Oh Primary 6. Yes! It was also at UDC that I finished.”
AND THEN YOU WENT TO MODERN SCHOOL?
“I went to African Church Secondary Modern School, Arigbajo. From 1961 to 63. And I left as the 2nd Prefect of the school then.”
2ND PREFECT. YOU WERE THE ASSISTANT HEAD PREFECT?
“It was called 2nd Prefect then.”
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THAT? “After that, I didn’t have the privilege of furthering my education, but I learnt a vocation.”
WHEN DID YOU GO INTO THIS VOCATION?
“That was 1964, September.”
AND WHAT WAS THIS VOCATION YOU LEARNT? “Motorcycle Mechanic and Generator Repairer. (Pause) With PZ Technical, Patterson Zochonis.”
THEY WERE AT YABA THEN? “Yes, Yaba. Opposite Army Ordinance. I was under one Alhaji Mumuni.”
THAT WAS BEFORE THEY MOVED TO ILUPEJU. ALHAJI MUMUNI WAS YOUR BOSS?
“Yes, he was then my boss.”
AND WHAT FOLLOWED AFTER?
“I finished there in 1968 and established my own workshop at Atewolara in Mushin, as a Join-man with Alhaji Mukaila.”
THE ALHAJI MUKAILA WAS YOUR BOSS?
“Oh yes, he was. By the way, the man is still alive now o.”
HE MUST BE EXTREMELY OLD NOW?
“No! He is a Baale now. He is Baale at Ilaho-Wasinmi. Mukaila, alias 10-10.
“Yes. The Ilaho is in Wasinmi on the way to Abeokuta. He was installed Baale under Oluwasinmi.”
OK. YOU ESTABLISHED THE WORKSHOP IN 1968. HOW LONG WERE YOU ONTO THAT?
“I was there until the end of November when I went for Police training…In 1968.”
OH! YOU WERE NOT EVEN THERE FOR LONG!
“As Journey-man. No, I didn’t stay there long. You see I was used to the Policemen who came there to repair their motorcycles which I was doing for them. It was them who advised me to go and join the Police Force which they claimed would pay me better.”
OK. AM SURE THAT YOU WERE IN THERE MECHANIC DEPARTMENT…
(Interjects). “No o! I join the Force as a General Duty Policeman.
OH! I ASSUMED YOU WERE IN THEIR MAINTENANCE… (Interjects again). “No, no, no, no!”
SO YOU JOINED AS A GENERAL DUTY POLICEMAN?
“Yes. That was on the 1st of December, 1968. That was when we began training at the Ikeja Police College.”
“By 1969, we had passed out and I was posted to the South East State, Calabar. South Eastern State then, now called Cross River State.”
“I was there till 1981, although I was posted all about within the area then. Finally in 1981 I came back to Ogun State.”
DO YOU REMEMBER THE DIFFERENT PLACES YOU WERE POSTED TO WHILE OVER THERE?
“Very very well. I was at the first instance posted to Ikang. That is Ikang Police Station spelled with an I-K-A-N-G. It is a very close Police Station to Cameroon Border, now Bakassi.”
SO THAT PLACE IS NO MORE IN NIGERIA NOW?
“No! From there, I was brought back to Calabar on transfer. What happened was that I was taking an accused person to court (in Calabar) one day, and I saw that they were recruiting Police Riders, so I told the Workshop Officer that I have the experience of motorcycle riding. He asked for a machine to be brought out to test me. When he saw the proficient way I handled it, checking the oil and other safety measures before mounting it, he was immediately convinced…”
THAT YOU WERE AN EXPERT AT IT?
“Yeah, yeah, yeah! So I only had to ride a short distance when he called me back and ordered that they cancel the serial numbering of the list of successful rider intakes with them, and put me as number one! So he said that when I get back to my formation, I should be expecting the signal message that will transfer me back to them at Calabar Township.”
NUMBER ONE FOR WHAT SIR? (Voice rises). “They had selected some people already, but when they saw the way I rode, they altered the list and placed me as the top rider of the lot. He just said “put that man as number one!”
ALRIGHT SIR, SO?
“Not quite 2 days, they did not even send signal, they just brought a lorry straight to Ikang Police Station and ordered me to pack all my stuff. You know I was just a fresher in the Police, just about a year, and I was still a bachelor. So they just packed all my scanty belongings into the lorry and drove me back to Calabar Township. What happened was that they were looking for good riders for the Governor.”
OK! SO YOU BECAME AN OUTRIDER FOR THE GOVERNOR?
“Yes. For many years.”
WHAT WAS THE NAME OF THE GOVERNOR?
“U.J. Essuene. Colonel U.J. Essuene (emphasizes the Essuene slowly for clarity). Uduaka Jacob. He was a Colonel. He was in the Air Force.”
COLONEL. IN AIR FORCE? OH! THEY HADN’T CHANGED THERE RANKING NUMENCULTURE THEN?
“No they had not changed it by then. They were still using the army rankings.”
“We were all made to meet at the workshop the 2nd day, so I met with other riders and they tested us there. They selected four of us and gave us brand new motorcycles and sent us to the Governor’s office. I was there for about 7 years.
YOUR POCKETS MUST HAVE BEEN FULL THEN OF LARGESE FROM THE GOVERNOR? “Tani (meaning ‘who says’). Military is not like politicians. I remember a day when Essiene was on leave and T.Y. Danjuma was holding fort for him. So he came downstairs and met two of us riders sleeping under the mango tree. Then he said, “You riders are sleeping. Is it because you have no job to do? Common, let’s go out”. And he took us 132 miles, and back. We went to Ogoja Sea-shore like this. It only remains to take pontoon to cross the river to Ikang. We got to the bank of the river, and he ordered that we make a U-turn back to Calabar.”
WHAT WAS THE MISSION?
(Voice rises). “Nothing. Nothing at all o! (Hysteric laughter). “When we got back, he said “Dogo, are you still sleeping?” (more laughs). Imagine, 132 miles just to keep us awake! That was the question he asked, and I said, “I am no more sleeping sir”. So he climbed up the stairs and went back to his office.”
HE CALLED YOU DOGO?
“They were all calling me ‘Dogo’ then, in the Governor’s Office”.
WHY, IS IT BECAUSE YOU ARE VERY TALL?
“Of course, it was because of that.” And when I left the Governor’s Office… I left the place because there was a little dissatisfaction. They brought somebody who was carrying ordinary radio and bag for the Governor, and he did not stay 4 months before he was given Corporal rank, because he was from Eket, the hometown of the Governor. And all of us that had been suffering with the Governor for a number of years were left just like that. So we were nursing that grudge as young Policemen then. We were wandering why somebody who just came barely 4 months, would sit inside air conditioned car and office and climb upstairs with Governor’s bag and radio, and is immediately promoted as Corporal. The A.D.C, one D.U. Essang and that Orderly, Amaku were from the same hometown. So when we got to the airport the following evening, when the Governor was flying in from somewhere and the ADC, Essang was shouting, “Will you people arrange your motorcycles…”, so I told him he should stop worrying us when a new comer was promoted while some of us who have been here for over 7 years did not receive any recognition.
SO YOU VOICED OUT YOUR VENOM?
“Ah! ‘Mo ki fun nwon rẹpẹtẹ’ (meaning: I resisted them totally). And as the Governor was coming down from the staircase of the plane, I turned my motorcycle around and abandoned it somewhere at the airport! That was what I did then because the provocation was too much. People sympathized with our cause. So when the Governor sent for me the next morning, I told him that I was no more ready to ride for the Government House since they don’t value the risk we were taking. You can imagine, ordinary merely sleeping, somebody made me to ride 132 miles and back. That is 264, and at a very terrible speed. Now somebody who is carrying ordinary radio was given Corporal after only 4 months! That’s how I abandoned them, and when they took me to the C.P, the Commissioner of Police, Mr Ebiko Maregun, asked why I abandoned the Governor at the airport, I explained everything to him. He was understanding and only said that I only acted in that fashion because I was still young and inexperienced, and that they don’t behave like that in the Police. But they know my value o.”
YOU WERE NOT DISCIPLINED?
(In a self-assured outburst). “Ah! I was the Police Sweeper for the State. It’s a very risky job and they know it. Out of the 15 riders the state had at that time, none of them could sweep effectively like the grace God gave me! We were only two who could perform, and even the second person, Dennis Ekpong, the Flying Cat, was only trying to measure up.”
YOU USED THE WORD ‘SWEEPER’. WHAT IS THAT? “Yes, we clear the route. Any route we are going, we’ll be the first persons to go.”
YOU LEAD THE TEAM AND HALT VEHICLES AT THE JUNCTIONS… (Interjects). “If it is in the township, you’ll have to run that route two or three times before the Governor even takes off from the office and also continue at the head of the convoy.”
WELL I HAD TO CLEAR THAT BEFORE PEOPLE START THINKING YOU WOULD GET A BROOM AND SWEEP THE STREETS AS SWEEPER! (Laughter). “No o. It’s not the ACN broom o.” (more laughter). So that’s how we did it, and the Commissioner said I should come to his office. So I told him I was tired of riding and that I was a General Duties Policeman, not a mechanic. He was surprised and said he was hearing it for the first time. He said he was soon to leave the state and another CP was coming. He asked that I be posted to his office, but not quite 3-4 days afterwards, another CP, Magnus Eweka was posted there and took over from him. He is from Bendel that time, now Edo.”
WHICH YEAR WAS THIS SIR. WAS THAT SOMETIME AFTER 1981?
“No. I left Calabar finally in 1981. This was in between the time I was there.”
OK. I NOW UNDERSTAND. DO YOU REMEMBER THE DATE OF YOUR POSTING TO THE COMMISSIONER’S OFFICE?
“It must be sometime like 1979. I now worked with C.P. Magnus Eweka. He died in Lagos as an A.I.G. in 1981. So he was the one that promoted me on the field after I had demonstrated at the Police Day as an Acrobat Rider. I was promoted on the open field.”
WHEN WAS THIS?
(Pause). “That was exactly 1975, I now remember.”
THAT WAS BEFORE YOU WERE POSTED TO THE CP’S OFFICE?
“I was in the CP’s office just about 2-3 weeks. The man reported early to his new posting just because of the Police Day. That was Magnus Eweka, the new CP. It was when we were on the field that he promoted me.”
THAT MUST MEAN YOU WERE POSTED TO CP’S OFFICE NOT IN 1979, IT MUST HAVE BEEN MUCH EARLIER THAN THAT!
(Paused to recollect). “Hmm! Maybe say around 1974. Because I remember I left the CP’s office for Ogoja where I stayed another two and a half years in a village as the Station Officer. But finally, I left that village in 1981 November for Abeokuta here.”
YOU WERE PROMOTED ON THE FIELD THEN, TO WHAT RANK?
“It was only Corporal. That was all we were struggling for…”
…WHICH THE BAG CARRIER CAME TO BEAT YOU TO? (Laughter). “Yes, that Amaku came to take from us! That’s what we were saying that angered the Governor’s aid-de-camp. His window was very close to the tree under which we used to sit, and we would be transferring abusive language to him. We would also be messing the Corporal who was upstairs, saying things like a person who could not even write his name was now promoted corporal. Sometimes the ADC would open his window-blind and ask, “Dogo, who is murmuring there?” I would answer , “We are not murmuring sir, we are only talking about that promotion”. And he would say, “You people are mad. The promotion is done and is done. There’s nothing you can do about it. You are mad.” (prolonged laughter).
SO, IN 1975 YOU WERE PROMOTED ON THE FIELD BY… “By CP Magnus Eweka. So, in 1978, I became a Sergent. I was transferred to one village, Okubuchi-Iruan in Ikom Local Government.”
“No o! Ikom. I-K-O-M. I was there as a Special Officer, until 1981 November when I came back here.”
THAT WAS YOUR LAST DUTY POST IN THE SOUTH EAST?
“Exactly. Then I was posted to Abeokuta, Ogun State. From there I was given a posting to Owode-Egba, where I was until (pause) I think 1982.”
SO, YOU WERE THERE FOR JUST ONE YEAR.
“Yes. From Owode-Egba I was posted to Operations, in Abeokuta Police Headquarters. I worked in Operations and F-detachment, before I was transferred to Ogbere. I was then transferred to Benue in September 1983.”
SO, YOU ONLY SPENT A FEW MONTHS IN OGBERE?
“Yes. I was then transferred to Benue State as an Inspector then.”
WHERE IN BENUE?
Aleide, on the way to Gboko. The junction to Gboko and Makurdi. Aleide Police Station.”
AS AN INSPECTOR. YOU GOT THE PROMOTION AT OGBERE?
“No. I got the promotion at Abeokuta.”
SO, IN OGBERE YOU WERE AN INSPECTOR?
“Yes. I was an Inspector at Ogbere. I was Inspector and Station Officer. That was my post. Then I was transferred to Benue, Aleigbe. Then just about a year and a half or so, we were transferred on political reckoning…There were only two Inspectors in the whole of Benue. It was like we were transferred today and moved tomorrow. It was politically motivated. I was brought back in 1984 to Ago-Iwoye, still as an Inspector. I was at Ago-Iwoye till 1987, from where I was transferred to Odeda. Then in 1991, I was transferred to Police College, Iperu. We called it Police Trainning School then. I was interviewed by the Commandant, one Mr Abraham Ayeni, now a retired CP. The transfer came from Elewe-eran”
“Then he posted me as the Coordinator of Courses. He gave me living quarters. As recruits were cleaning the place he gave me, he sent back for me again that there is a telephone call informing that I have been promoted to ASP. So he asked me to bring the keys of that quarter and gave me a bigger one at GRA, so we moved the recruits straight to the other place where they did the cleaning and other things.”
“I was in Police School (Iperu) until 1992. I attended DPO course about November 1991 at Ikeja, and I came back. Then there was a mass transfer in 1992 when I was transferred to the Lagos Police command. I was posted to Alakuko Police Station as the Operations Officer and O.C. Road Blocks. I wasn’t there for long before they posted me to Sabo Police Station, maybe because I did not attend those Road Blocks. (Laughter). “So, I was in Sabo where we were dealing with students of UNILAG and Yaba College of… ehm, something… “
ALL THESE TIMES WERE YOU STILL BEING CALLED BY THE NICKNAME OF DOGO?
“No o! That had gone long time ago with Calabar. So, I was transferred fom Sabo to Elere Police Station.”
… (to be continued in Part 2, tomorrow).