How Fajuyi trekked to joined the army, childhood friend recounts

By Sunday Aloba, Ado-Ekiti

A chieldhood friend to late former Military Governor of the defunct Western Region, Lt.-Col. Adekunle Fajuyi, Alhaji S.B. Adeleye how the deceased trekked from his hometown of Ado Ekiti to the present-day Kwara State to fulfill his desire to join the Army. The centenarian who lives in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital said they undertook the journey to be able to join the Army at the time to fight in the World War 1 that was going on at the period.

According to Pa Bakare, Fajuyi who started life as a teacher joined four other able-bodied youths to embark on a six-hour trek from their hometown Ado-Ekiti to Ajase Ipo, about 20 kilometers from Ilorin, their destination when it became dark and they couldn’t proceed to Ilorin on foot again.

He added that Fajuyi and his friends saw an ambulance carrying a corpse from Ajase to Ilorin and approached the driver who asked them to pay one shilling each.

“Left with no other option and desperate to arrive Ilorin that night, they paid the fare and endured squatting next to the corpse being conveyed to the present-day Kwara State capital.” He said.

Adeleye who resides at 9, Arowa Street, Iyin Ekiti is the half brother of the oldest surviving General in the Nigerian Army and Fajuyi’s successor as the Military Governor of the Western Region, Maj.-Gen. Adeyinka Adebayo (retd.).

He explained that Fajuyi rose in his Army career because he (Fajuyi) was already armed with Standard Six certificate and worked hard in all the assignments and postings given to him.

The centenarian revealed that Fajuyi did not immediately join the Army on arrival in Ilorin but was offered an employment as a forest guard, an appointment which was later terminated when it was discovered that he was neither a northerner nor a Muslim.

Adeleye explained: “My friend, late Francis Adekunle Fajuyi and I became friends in 1933. But I advised him to let us join the army in 1943. He was then teaching in Aisegba-Ekiti and was receiving 12 shillings per month then.”

“I returned from Lagos and went to meet him and said that I wanted both of us to join the army. I told him that I tried joining the army at the Glover Memorial hall in Lagos but could not because they said I had a small stature.

“I said but I really like to join the army and I advised him to join me. He agreed and around 1pm one afternoon, we set out for Ilorin. We had three other friends who joined us and we trekked for six hours from Ado-Ekiti to Ajase town. The town is about 20 kilometers to Ilorin where we wanted to join the army then.

“We left from a spot in Okesa area of Ado-Ekiti where the All Saints Church is now situated. That area was a bushy area and it used to be the masquerades’ grove that time.

“Fajuyi brought the idea that we should go at that time because he knew his father would not allow him to go if we delay till the next morning.

“One other person whose name I cannot remember is the younger brother to the wife of the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, Oba Rufus Aladesanmi, who I think has become the Alare of Are-Ekiti.

“We got to Ajase town at 7pm that day and we wanted to continue trekking to Ilorin but we waited to get food to eat but there was no food. That was why we decided to sleep at the Ajase motor park that night. But then we later changed our minds when we saw an ambulance that was conveying a corpse to Ilorin from Ajase that night.

“Because I had lived in Lagos before then, I was smarter than others and approached the driver of the ambulance. He agreed to take us to Ilorin on the condition that we would each pay a Shilling  and squat where the corpse was kept, and we agreed.

“The ambulance took us to Ilorin and we went to a Catholic church on Jebba Road where Fajuyi’s teacher, who had been posted from Ado-Ekiti to Ilorin, was.

We trekked from where the ambulance dropped us to the Catholic church around 10 pm.

“Fajuyi’s former teacher who I only remember as Mr. Rewane, a whiteman, took us in and gave us a tin of garri and four cubes of sugar each for supper that night before we slept.

“The next morning, he asked us why we were at Ilorin and we told him we wanted to join the army. He was surprised. He asked Fajuyi if he brought his Standard Six certificate and Fajuyi said yes. He then said that Fajuyi would not join the Army but he would find a job for him.

“The other four of us then left Fajuyi with his teacher and went to the place where the commissioning into the Army for the second World War was going on and as soon as we got there, we were promptly welcomed and in less than 15 minutes, the officers there started to take down our names for registration.”

Giving explanation on Fajuyi’s career digression, Pa Adeleye said: “Five days after we had been accepted at the army recrutiment camp, Fajuyi came to see us, his teacher had secured a job for him as a forest guard and he rode a bicycle and wore the uniform. They allowed him in because he was a government worker.

“He told us that he had to tell a lie to be employed as a forest guard in Ilorin then. He said he told the forest office that he was from Offa on number 9, Yoruba Road. He said he had to tell such lie because the North wouldn’t have employed him if he told them the truth that he was from the West in Ado-Ekiti.

“We had three regions then, the North, East and the West and these three regions preferred giving appointments only to their own children.

“Kwara State was of the north then and it extended to Omu-Aran and close to Otun in Ekiti here. When stayed for 22 days in camp, before we were ferried inside the train to Enugu for military training.

“We had spent three months in the training camp in Enugu when I saw my friend Fajuyi again. He said he had been sacked from the forestry office in Ilorin because the office found out that he was a Christian and not a Muslim like them. He added that because he was sacked from the Forestry Department, he had then opted for the Army and had been recruited.

“While Fajuyi’s set was taken to the CTS in Accra, Ghana for their military training, my set trained in Enugu. It was from our respective training camps that we were later sent to the war fronts in India during the World War II.

“When the war ended in 1945, he was redeployed to zone 6 in Apapa, Lagos while I returned home first. He had been trained to become a clerical officer in the Army because he had a Standard Six when he joined.

“I went back to meet him, we used to hail each other with an alias then. I used to call him Kakao while he used to call me SB. He encouraged me to stay in the Army with him.

“He took me to his boss,, Major D.J Bonne,  a whiteman, and his boss then liked him a lot. When he told his boss that I was staying, the boss was happy and offered me a post of a Dispatch Rider (D.R) for then  Governor-General, Sir John Macpherson.

“While in the service of the then Governor-General as dispatch rider, I was able to assist my younger brother, General Adeyinka Adebayo who came to stay with me in Lagos then.

“When Adebayo completed his Class four education in 1948, I searched for a white collar job for him in other areas but we didn’t get. I later asked him if he would like to join the Army and he said yes. I said Ademulegun, Sodeinde, Ironsi and Ogundipe were then the highest ranking officers in the Nigerian Army then.

“I took Adebayo’s application letter to the governor-general and he had written exactly the same thing Sodeinde wrote in his own application letter. The only difference was the address and name of Robert Adeyinka Adebayo.

The Governor-General was surprised and asked me why my younger brother was bearing that name. I was a Sergeant then in the Army and I explained to him that after losing my father, my mother had moved on to marry Adebayo who was Adeyinka’s father and that settled it.

“That was how my younger brother, General Adebayo, emerged the number 5 of the Nigerian army till date. He is the only one alive now out of the five of them. Adebayo started his military training at the 3rd Battalion in Abeokuta.”

The senior citizen revealed that he shared many things in common with the late military hero despite the fact that he is fourteen years older than him (Fajuyi) calling on the Federal Government to do more to honour him for sacrificing his life to prevent a war between the Yorubas and the Igbos.

He added: “Fajuyi and I were very close friends, and more like brothers, we married into the same Ereguyi family in Okesa quarters in Ado-Ekiti. We married at the same time and had our first children the same time.

“He was a very good friend. He was very compassionate and selfless. He was not yet an officer when he assisted me with all the privileged information we needed to make my brother, General Adebayo an officer of the Nigerian Army then.

“We were on leave when he was killed. I was here in Ado while he was in Ibadan. Aguiyi Ironsi had visited him then and the coupists came to assassinate him under Fajuyi’s roof. Fajuyi had protested and offered himself to be assassinated with Ironsi to prevent a war between the East and West.

“He had said that if his life was spared, the Easterners would invade the West with a mindset that he was responsible for the death of Ironsi and the ensuing calamity would be monumentally tragic, hence, he offered his life to forestall such tragedy.

“He was ordered to get down from the vehicle that took the coupists back but he refused and that was when they shot him. It was his death that made me resign from the Army. By that time, I had put in 11 years of service. I was really disillusioned with the job and opted out. My number was 101538 as a Sergeant in the Army.

“Fajuyi was a very approachable leader, he listened to advice from his followers and his people. This is a virtue that is lacking among our leaders today. They don’t listen to advice from their subordinates and the people and that is why they are not doing well.

“I want to urge the government to include his first son, a lawyer, in the government of the country, especially the state government. He should be given that opportunity to further show appreciation for his father.” 

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