Abraham Adesanya

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Abraham Aderibigbe Adesanya (July 24, 1922 in Ijebu Igbo - 27 April 2008) was a Nigerian politician, lawyer, activist, welfarist, aristocrat and liberal progressive. He was the son of a famous and powerful traditional healer, the late Oloye Ezekiel Adesanya aka Baba Obu’keagbo who lived between the 19th and 20th centuries.


Adesanya attended Ijebu Ode Grammar School after which he worked as a teacher before travelling to United Kingdom to study law at the then Holborn College of Law.

Early Political Life

In 1959, Adesanya returned to Nigeria as a qualified lawyer and joined the Action Group led by Obafemi Awolowo. The same year, he was nominated and eventually elected to the defunct Western House of Assembly to represent Ijebu Igbo constituency in the December 12, 1959 House of Representatives Election.

Having qualified as an ambassador of the Action Group's core social democratic ideals, he secured another nomination to the second republic Senate. He was said to have preferred his senatorial appointment to the Governorship ticket that was originally offered him by the Unity Party of Nigeria, a successor to the Action Group. This principle was to be further justified in the roles played by him in the effort to re-define Nigerian politics and Nigerian democracy.

He was a religious Awoist. He led a team of lawyers that defended Chief Obafemi Awolowo against the Nigerian Federal Government's exaggerated charges of treason in 1962.

As a Leader and Activist

In the aftermath of the deaths of Obafemi Awolowo and Adekunle Ajasin, Adesanya assumed the honorific title ' Asiwaju of Yorubaland ' and simultaneously became more active politically, allying with Bola Ige (Ayo Adebanjo, Ganiyu Dawodu, and Bola Tinubu to fight their way to victory in six states of the defunct Western region, with their political party, Alliance for Democracy (AD).

Later, Adesanya under the auspices of Afenifere and the Yoruba council of Elders, alongside others led a congress of Yoruba elder-statesmen through a congress that rose to pronounce that the convocation of a constitutional conference, where new confederating terms would be determined for the country, was inevitable for the good of Nigerians.

Adesanya was the deputy leader of National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), a pro-democracy movement formed in 1994.

Turbulence and victory

At the peak of military persecution, many of the then pro-democracy activists, including his leader in NADECO, Chief Anthony Enahoro fled the country on exile, but Abraham Adesanya remained at home solidly behind the Nigerian masses alongside others like late Gani Fawehinmi, Femi Falana, Olisa Agbakoba and a host of others to achieve victory which came gradually - first when IBB bowed out of their way in 1993 - a period that saw Adesanya acting as the mouthpiece of Nigerians, persistently condemning the General Ibrahim Babangida’s (IBB) annulment of June 12 Presidential election won by late Chief MKO Abiola and second, when General Sanni Abacha attempted to transform from a military head of state to a civilian president - a period Adesanya firmly stood his position as a pro-democracy activist and a progressively minded politician, siding with Nigerians and ardently opposed to Abacha’s ideas, and lastly when in 1999, democracy was eventually ushered in. These feats saw him and the group he led for five eventful years rise to the international limelight in reported news and commentaries.

Late Abraham Adesanya, like many other world class leaders also suffered persecutions during his political life on many fronts. For instance, at his country home; he suffered persecutions for not accepting the governorship position which his people in his native Ijebu land had deemed more beneficial to them than his personal choice of senate. But history will find justification in the fact that rather than enforcing draconian laws as a governor, reticent but tactful campaigner Adesanya was more interested in encouraging and legislating friendly, home-cooked laws for his people and the generality of Nigerians - a people just emancipated from the shackles of colonial rule and two post colonial rule military aberrations. On the leadership front, his Yoruba and Afenifere leaderships were heavily burdened by contentions from his opponents’ tiny quarters, but he left no one of them in doubt that he was truly in charge with the strong character of honesty and consistency as-well-as pragmatic approach he often adopted in handling issues.

On Tuesday 14 January 1997, his uncompromising stance to the military misrule led to an attempt on his life at the behest of the then head of state, General Sanni Abacha. Adesanya had just left his law chambers on the fateful day sitting at the back of his car when an unknown team of assailants (later unveiled to be General Sanni Abacha's killer squad) struck. The front and back screens of his Mercedes Benz car were shattered and the car seats perforated by bullets from the assailants' guns but he escaped unhurt with his driver.[1] The car was later transferred to a Lagos museum.

Illness and death

Before Adesanya later became incapacitated by illness which confined him to his Lagos Apapa residence and made his role appreciably gravitate to advisory on important matters affecting Yoruba and Afenifere only; the two leadership caps he unarguably wore till his death, his fame travelled wide and far among Nigerians and non-Nigerians for his pro-democracy activities in Nigeria.

He died on the 27th of April 2008 while having lunch at the ripe age of 85.

Since his death, he has been immortalised in several ways, especially by the six South-Western states of Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti.


  1. Aigbogun, Frank (January 14, 1997). "Anti-government activist attacked by gunmen". Associated Press Worldstream.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

1. Igbokue, Joe. Heroes of Democracy: Clear Visions Limited, Nigeria. 1999.
2. This Day Editorial, Nigeria: Abraham Adesanya (1922 - 2008) This Day News Paper. 8 May 2008. Retrieved 13-11-2009.
3. Adeboboye, Tope. Pa Abraham Adesanya... his Life and Time. Online Nigeria, April 30, 2008. Retrieved 13-11-2009.
4. The News Magazine, Adesanya's Death: The struggle for Yoruba Leadership. May 19, 2008. The News Retrieved. 13-11-2009.