This Is The True Story On How Famous Nationalist Ibadan Politician And Intellectual Giant Alhaji Adegoke Adelabu Became Known As Penkelemesi

May 9, 2017


The political history of Nigeria is indeed a very colourful one. And the reason for this is that it is an epoch full of very brilliant and vibrant personalities. The political history of Nigeria is incomplete without mentioning the name of Alhaji Gbadamosi Adegoke Oduola Akande Adelabu. Born on the 3rd of September 1915, he was one of the most influential politicians in Ibadan and later of the Western Region of the country before Nigeria got independence.

Adedibu was appointed Nigeria’s Minister of Natural Resources and Social Services from January 1955 to January 1956 and later became the opposition leader in the Western Regional Assembly (he was tackling Obafemi Awolowo’s Action Group) and this he did until his sudden death in 1958. 

A self-made man born into the middle class, he rose to the peak of Nigerian politics by sheer determination, courage and will power. A relentless champion for causes of the Nigerian masses, he attended the Government College in Ibadan and later veered into business before hitting it big eventually as a politician. He was a very passionate advocate of radical nationalism, national unity and radical socialism.


In 1956, Adelabu was the Chairman of the defunct Ibadan District Council and he was accused of corruption by the opposition. For someone who was had a very deep knowledge of English, he described the allegations as nothing but a ‘peculiar mess’. The illiterate section of his audience made up mainly of his supporters did not understand what he was saying and they Yorubanized what he said and converted it to mean ‘penkelemesi’ and that was how he got the nickname and it stuck.

This was how a commentator described the situation in 1955: 

Adelabu went a little farther; he not only described his political opponents as ‘the peculiar messes of the Action Group’; he created himself the ‘peculiar man of the masses’ by walking round town bare-footed and by eating with the ‘people from the same dish. What would you say about a ‘book-man’, a former UAC manager, a motor magnate who does not consider himself as one of the detached elite, but as one of the illiterate masses whose only recommendation is ‘this is my fatherland’?’

Unfortunately, his life was cut short on the 25th of March, 1958 when he died on Mile 51 of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway close to Shagamu as he was returning from Lagos along with a Syrian businessman and tragedy struck as their car crashed into an oncoming vehicle. He did not live long enough to see the Nigeria of his dreams, he wanted Nigeria to become independent. 

When he died, it was widely believed his death was caused by supporters of his political rival, Obafemi Awolowo, a native of Ijebu. As the rumours spread like wildfire across Ibadan, many Ijebu Yoruba migrants were attacked, their houses were burnt and their property destroyed.

Adelabu remains a very popular figure even in death and the videos below are about him:




  1. Adegoke Adelabu
  2. Adelabuism: Politics of Adegoke Adelabu, The Legendary Leader of Ibadan People by Taslim Abiola Layonu, Media Reports Projects, 2003.
  3. Juju: A Social History and Ethnography of an African Popular Music by Christopher Alan Waterman
  4. The Price of Liberty: Personality and Politics in Colonial Nigeria by Ken Post, George D. Jenkins


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