Today, January 15, 2021 is very significant in the odyssey of the late distinguished Senator Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke, the Asiwaju of Edeland, the first democratically elected Governor of Osun State and a ranking Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He would have been 66 this day. Senator Adeleke, in his life time, served as the Pro- Chancellor of the University of Calabar and the pioneer Chancellor of Adeleke University, Ede. His life was a life of achievements and service in diverse areas of Nigeria’s national life.
Born on January 15, 1955 in Enugu, Enugu State, to the family of Senator Raji Ayoola Adeleke and Mrs. Esther Adeleke of Olurombi Compound in the historic Yoruba town of Ede, Osun State, Nigeria. His father was a renowned community leader, a Labour leader activist and Leader, and a former Balogun of Edeland. He was also one of the heroic leaders who laboured, under challenging circumstances, for the creation of Osun State, a struggle which came into fruition with the creation of Osun state on August 27, 1991. Raji Ayoola Adeleke served as a distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria between 1979 and 1983. During this period he was a member of the Senate Committee on Health and Social Services chaired by Senator S. M Ojukwu. Other Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) members in the committee were Senator Christopher Adeoye and Senator Ayo Fasanmi.
It is noteworthy that Isiaka’s mother was of Igbo extraction, a woman of substance, an obedient house-wife, a caring mother and a successful home-builder. The young Isiaka grew up under the tutelage of his parents who brought him up in the proper way a muslim child should be brought up. He was given the highly-cherished Yoruba home training and character building which are very important for inter-personal and social relations. This prepared him early in life for leadership role.
For his primary education, the young Isiaka attended Christ Church School, Nwani and St. Barth’s School, Ogui, both in Enugu, South-Eastern Nigeria. Due to the outbreak of the Nigerian civil war in 1967, the Adeleke family relocated to Ibadan, Southwestern Nigeria where the young Isiaka was enrolled at the famous Alaafia Institute, Mokola, Ibadan, in 1967. In 1968, he proceeded to Ogbomoso Grammar School, Ogbomoso, for his secondary education which he completed in flying colours in 1972. Thereafter, he worked briefly with Ede Local Government.
The young and brilliant Isiaka Adeleke travelled to the United States of America early in life and had his university education there. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in Political Science at the Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green in the East-Central part of the United States. The quest for higher education also took him to the Jacksonville State University, Alabama, the United States of America where he obtained two Master’s degrees in Public Administration & Political Science and Criminal Justice Administration. After equipping himself with quality education, Isiaka Adeleke ventured into the world of service as an administrator, businessman, politician and community leader.
As a private businessman, director of business conglomerates, Alhaji Isiaka Adeleke was the President, Pacific International, Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Director, Pacific Merchant Bank, Lagos; Director, Pacific Farms Ltd., Ede and Lagos; Director, Pacific Drilling Company, Lagos; Director, Thorley International, London; Chairman/Chief Executive, Tadel Investments Ltd; and a host of other businesses. He was also a member of many professional and social organisations within and outside Nigeria such as Alfa Epsilon Criminal Justice Professional Fraternity and Association of Public Administrators, both in the United States of America. He was also the Secretary and Publicity Secretary of the Ede Progressive Union and Nigerian Students Union in the United States of America respectively.
A distinguished politician, Alhaji Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke ventured into politics in 1991. He contested and won the gubernatorial election of Osun State on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). His nickname, as a strong grassroots politician, was SERUBAWON which literally means ‘scare them’. Alhaji Adeleke was sworn in as the first Executive Governor of Osun State on January 2, 1992. He held this position until November 1993 when the military under General Sani Abacha took over power in Nigeria. In his 22-month administration of Osun State, Alhaji Adeleke recorded significant achievements. For instance, he changed the status of Satellite campuses of Iree and Esa-Oke of The Polytechnic, Ibadan, to full-fledged and autonomous polytechnics of Osun State in order to widen access to higher education. Among other achievements, Isiaka Adeleke worked with very competent and highly skilled hands as Commissioners and Advisers. He improved agriculture practices, food production and rural development; improved the healthcare delivery; enhanced fund generation, commerce, cooperatives and industrialisation of the state. He also promoted rapid infrastructural development of the state in the areas of road construction and power supply. All these were achieved in spite of the financial and time constraints which faced the Adeleke administration between 1992 and 1993. As pioneers, Alhaji Isiaka Adeleke and his team were able to weather the storm of administering a new state and thus laid the solid foundation upon which successive administrations built upon.
In 1999 when Nigeria returned to democratic rule, Alhaji Isiaka Adeleke joined the All Peoples Party (APP) and became one of the leaders of the party in Osun State. In 2003, he left the APP and pitched tent with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) under which he contested the Osun West senatorial seat and won. He was a member of the Nigerian Senate from May 29, 2007 to May 28, 2011 during which he not only participated in the passage of laws for the progress and good governance of Nigeria but also served as Chairman of Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). He was also a member of Senate Committees on Petroleum Resources, Integration and Cooperation, Housing and Air Force at different times. One of his major national contributions as a Senator was his fervent campaign for the rights of Nigerians in the Diaspora to vote in elections. Also, as a Senator he brought dividends of democracy to the people of Osun West Senatorial District. In March 2008, he instituted Senator Adeleke Scholarship Scheme for about 250 indigent students in tertiary institutions across the county. I was privileged to serve as the Chairman of the Committee while Hakeem Adewolu was the Secretary. Other members of the Committee included Hon. Gbadebo Oyejide from Irewole Local Government, Hon. Bamidele Salam from Egbedore Local Government, Hon. Alidu from Iwo Local Government, Deacon Noah Oderinu from Ejigbo Local Government and Mr. Oyetunde, former Principal of Baptist High School Ede, and Hon. Samson Siyanbola, a former member of the Federal House of Representatives. His scheme benevolence transcended ethnicity and parochial interests. Other achievements included the construction of comprehensive Health Centres, donation of an I.C.T Library at the Federal Polytechnic, Ede, building of motorized bore-holes in different locations in the Osun West Federal Constituency, various empowerment programmes for artisans in form of donation of Okada motorcycles, sewing machines, hairdressing equipment; among others. As a philanthropist and community leader par-excellence, Alhaji Adeleke touched many lives in positive ways.
Asiwaju Adeleke was a true leader of his people. His numerous contributions to his people over the years paid off in 2015 General Elections when he contested again and won the Senatorial Election to represent Osun West Senatorial District in the Nigerian Senate from 2015-2019. At this time, he contested on the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC). He served as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Capital Market in the 8th Senate.
Indeed, Senator Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke, by the testimony of preponderant majority of the populace, was one of the leading politicians, philanthropists and community leaders in contemporary Nigeria. He carved his name in gold as the first democratically elected Executive Governor of Osun State who laid solid foundation for the future of Osun State and which successive governors and administrations continue to build upon in Osun State. It is also not in doubt that Senator Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke was one of the foremost politicians and statesmen to have emerged in Edeland, Osun State and Nigeria in the 21st century.
Like all mortals, Senator Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke changed mortality for immortality on April 23, 2017. It is now impossible to physically see the Asiwaju of Edeland, the Otunba of Ejigbo, the Oga Nla of Ikirun and the Ajagunla of Iree. Our prayer is that may his great soul continue to rest in Al-Jannah Firdaous. May his tribe continue to multiply and flourish. He was truly a great Nigerian patriot and statesman.
Prof. Siyan Oyeweso, FHSN, FNAL writes from Ede, Osun State