Elder statesman and former Military Governor of the defeunct Western Region Gen. Robert Adeyinka Adebayo died yesterday in Lagos on the eve of his 89th birthday. He would have been 89 today.
Family sources said he suddenly took ill at his GRA, Ikeja, home and he was taken to the hospital where he died shortly after.
The eldest son of the leader of the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) and former Ekiti State Governor Adeniyi Adebayo said: “General Adebayo passed on this morning, wednesday March 8, the eve of his 89th birthday. He served as the military Governor of Western Region between 1966 and 1971.
“He is survived by his wife, children, grand children and great grand children. His burial arrangement will be announced later.”
Dignitaries thronged the residence to pay their respects. The eldest son received them.
A group of priests from the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) where the late General worshipped were among the early callers. They prayed for the repose of his soul and the fortitude for the family to bear thw loss.
Former Ogun State Governor Chief Segun Osoba said the journey to liberate Nigeria from military dictatorship began in the late Gen. Adebayo’s home.
He said:”I thank God that he saw democracy in his time. It was in this house that MKO Abiola and I came to address a group of which Gen. Adebayo was part, the Conference for Unity and Understanding.
“It was a group of eminent Nigerians, from Igbo land and Yoruba land; what was then nicknamed handshake across the Niger. The group was part of the machinery that produced Abiola as the president-elect on June 12, 1993.
“When the election was annulled, NADECO was formed in this house. It was in this house that we formed NADECO. Abiola was not part of NADECO, which was formed principally to get the military out of governance. It was in this house Abiola declared to join NADECO after he returned from the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as the President of South Africa.
“General Adebayo’s house is a reference point, democratic shrine, where major events that led to democratic governance that we are enjoying took place.”
Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola said: “Every death that occurs is a matter of sadness. When you talk about people who inspired you and you now begin to talk about them in the past, it’s a very humbling experience.
“It reminds us a how mortal we are, how transient our roles are in this world and how it is important to dedicate the time we have here to what is good. Papa General Adebayo did a lot of good. He did it in public service and even after he left the public service.
“His role in building peace in the country, the Yoruba Council of Elders on national basis was continuous service. He served the country until his last moment.”
YCE Secretary Chief Idowu Sofola said Gen. Adebayo’s death came when he was given a major assignment that would further bring peace and unity to the country.
He said: “His death was shocking. At the last meeting we held, where he was present, he was given a special assignment. It was him alone we knew was in the best position to handle the task. We will miss him badly.”
Former News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Managing Director Akin Osuntokun said: “There is no prominent Ekiti family that does not have warm and cordial relationship with him. If anybody served to be called Mr. Ekiti, in his generation, I don’t think anybody deserved it more than him.”
The late Gen. Adebayo was born on March 9, 1928. He hailed from Iyin-Ekiti, Ekiti State and was military governor of the defunct Western State between 1966 and 1971.
He was educated at All Saints School, Iyin-Ekiti, Eko Boys High School, Lagos and Christ’s School, Ado-Ekiti. He joined the West African Frontier Force in 1948 as a regiment signaler and later completed the Officer Cadet Training Course in Teshie, Ghana between 1950 and 1952.
After passing the War Office Examination for Commonwealth cadets in 1952 as well as the West African qualifying examination in 1953, he was commissioned as an officer in the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF) as the 23rd West African military officer with number WA23 and 7th Nigerian military officer with number N7 after completing the War Office Cadet Training in Eaton Hall, England.
He attended the Staff College course in Camberley (Surrey) in 1960 and the prestigious Imperial Defence College, London in in 1965 where he was the only African officer.
As governor of the Western Region, the late Gen. Adebayo promoted agricultural extension services —in particular the establishment of the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training, Moor Plantation, Ibadan.
He advised against the use of force in resolving the Biafran crisis.
In one of the most prescient and articulate quotations of the war, the late Gen. Adebayo said: “I need not tell you what horror, what devastation and what extreme human suffering will attend the use of force.
When it is all over and the smoke and dust have lifted, and the dead are buried, we shall find, as other people have found, that it has all been futile, entirely futile, in solving the problems we set out to solve.”
At the outset of the war, then Colonel Adebayo, governor of the then Western State, ordered all bridges into the West demolished to prevent Biafran rebels from reaching Lagos, the capital of Nigeria via his state.
After the war, he was appointed by Head of State Gen. Yakubu Gowon as the chairman of the committee on the reconciliation and integration of the Igbo back into the Nigerian fold.
He retired from the Army as a Major-General in 1975. Since 2011, the late Gen. Adebayo has been the chairman of the YCE.