Oba Adesoji Aderemi was a frontline nationalist. If he had not been Oba, he would, in my judgement, have occupied a position of leadership in the affairs of the country as from the late thirties such as some of us have occupied since the early fifties. The progress of Nigeria towards independence was greatly accelerated by the motion for self-government in 1956 filed by Tony Enahoro in 1953 at the instance of the Action Group of Nigeria. Without the mighty backing of the late Ooni and the late Alake, the motion would not have even reached the Order Paper.
Late Sir John Macpherson had left no stone unturned in trying to get Oba Aderemi and Oba Ademola to dissuade us from pursuing the motion. In the alternative, he had urged them to mobilize all Western Region Obas and Chiefs to oppose the move. But the late Ooni and the late Alake immovably stood their ground. The emancipation of their country was of greater concern to them than any material thing or official honour that could be gained, or any inconvenience that could befall them. When the motion for Independence was killed in the House of Representatives by the NPC’s dilatory tactics, the Action Group and NCNC members walked out of the House. Oba Aderemi and Oba Ademola also walked out with us.
Immediately after the walkout, the Ooni proceeded to the Government House to tender his resignation from the Council of Ministers. And thereafter, throughout the contest unto final victory, the late Oba Aderemi did not waver even for a fleeting moment. When the big test came that is, when Sir John (Macpherson) tried to divide our ranks by nominating the late Ooni to the Council of Ministers to the exclusion of Bode Thomas and others, the late Oba Aderemi voted against himself with the same determination and defiance as all of us in the Joint Session of the Houses of Chiefs and Assembly did. In the end, thanks to his steadfastness, we had our way.
The late Ooni of Ife was a valuable member of all the Constitutional Conferences which ushered in both the Macpherson Constitution in 1952 and the Independence Constitution in 1960. Strictly speaking, Oba Aderemi could be described as a socialist proselyte of the gate. He abhorred violence no matter the merit of its objective. He held the view that anything obtained through violence or bloodshed would not endure.
He detested the term socialism. But he passionately believed in equal opportunity for all; and never lost a chance in participating actively in anything that would bring this about, for the people of Ife, of the Western Region, and of Nigeria. Sometime in 1954 or so, the late Ooni and I had a discussion. Pandit Nehru of India had declared that at the end of this century, there would only be five surviving monarchs: the king of hearts; the king of clubs; the king of diamonds; the king of spades; and the King of Britain! The late Ooni had no hesitation in agreeing with Nehru. He did state clearly, however, that if and when this occurred in Nigeria, be it in his lifetime or after, his aspiration was that his children should be among those who would manage the affairs of the country. He must have felt gratified that though the administrative power of traditional rulers in Nigeria had been much curtailed, his own children are among those who now manage the affairs of the country.
In 1948 he inaugurated the Egbe-Omo Oduduwa and the same year he visited England and served as a delegate at the African Conference in London. In 1953, he was appointed Minister without Portfolio in the Nigerian House of Representatives and in 1954 was appointed the President of the Western Region House of Chiefs.
He climaxed this, by becoming the first African Governor of the Western Region in July 1960, succeeding the former British Colonial Governor, Olola Sir John Rankine. He was the first to hold such a post in the entire British Colonial Africa. He functioned effectively in the office as Ooni and Governor, with vigour, grace, panache, dexterity and humaneness, as a true symbol of the royal stool of Oduduwa. He was in office till December 1962.
Oba Adesoji Aderemi used his position of influence to advocate that the proposed University of Western Region be sited at Ile-Ife in 1962, in recognition of the ancestral status of Ile-Ife as the religious and cultural matrix of the Yorubas. The University started from the current Ibadan North Campus of the present Ibadan Polytechnic and finally moved to Ile-Ife in 1967, which was, to Aderemi, the fulfillment of a long cherished dream.
He built a magnificent mansion; The Atobatele Lodge before he ascended the throne of Ooni in 1930. This lodge was later occupied by Barclays Bank. Adesoji being a man of deep foresight, built the popular Glass House at Iremo Road Ile-Ife, as his own family compound, which his family of several wives and over sixty children relocated to, upon his passage from the royal stool of the Ooni of Ife in July 1980.
Oba Adesoji Aderemi as a progressive and radical traditionalist was described by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo as “the very embodiment of royalty and devotion.” In his funeral speech, titled; “A Rare Breed of Monarch” delivered on the 11th July 1980, at an open prayer service for Adesoji Aderemi, Chief Obafemi Awolowo said this of him -‘As an Oba, he was the epitome of a humane and liberal ruler. Wherever he was, he diffused geniality and peace. I never knew him, in our forty years together to be angry, even once or to speak harsh offensive words to any man”.