Chief Bode Thomas (full name Olabode Akanbi Thomas) who lived between October 1919 and November 1953 was a contemporary of Obafemi Awolowo, Rotimi Williams, and Remi Fani-Kayode.
This Nigerian lawyer, politician, statesman and traditional aristocrat, distinguished himself as both a colonial minister of the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria and a nobleman and privy counsellor of the historic Oyo clan of Yorubaland, at a time when Nigeria commenced its strive for independence in the 1960s.
Clash with Alaafin
He was said to be an excellent but arrogant lawyer. I have heard it said by certain informed elites that intelligent people tend to be arrogant. I can imagine how an intelligent person during the era when Bode Thomas lived, an era when there were few people of his type, would have displayed their hard-earned worth.
His alleged arrogance was manifested in his strained relationships with some of the local leaders like Ahmadu Bello and Alaafin Aderemi II. He was said to have been rude to the Alaafin at an Oyo Divisional Council meeting because the Alaafin did not stand up in reverence to him (he was the chairman of the council while the Alaafin was a member). He was 34. The Alaafin was 60.
According to reports, Thomas died in a controversial circumstance. That was on 22nd November 1953. It was reported that Bode Thomas got home after the meeting and started barking. He barked and barked and barked all night and died. He died on 23 November 1953.
His grouse with Ahmadu Bello
According to Ayokunle Odekunle in YNaija, erudite Bode Thomas was said to have defended Ahmadu Bello before the colonial court over allegations of financial embezzlement of Native Authorities funds. Thomas won the case and Ahmadu Bello was freed. But he was not pleased with the way Ahmadu Bello fretted in the court room. Bode was said to have insulted the Sokoto prince after winning the case, calling him names. For him, Bello was unlettered and uncultured. Bello’s encounter with Bode Thomas made him conclude that his more qualified educated rivals in the South were pompous and arrogant.
According to historical records, Olabode Thomas’s father, Andrew Thomas, a wealthy trader and auctioneer, was originally from Oyo but migrated to Lagos. Bode attended C.M.S. Grammar School, a missionary school in Lagos. He studied Law in London, was called to the bar in 1942 and returned to Nigeria to establish what a successful practice in Lagos became. In 1948, together with Chief Frederick Rotimi Williams and Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode, he set up the first indigenous Nigerian law firm, called “Thomas, Williams and Kayode”.
Same records say in 1946, Bode Thomas became the legal adviser of Egbe Omo Oduduwa and was one of the founding members of the Action Group. Prior to joining Action Group, he was a successful Lagos lawyer and was a member of the Nigerian Youth Movement. He is credited as the first prominent Nigerian political elite during the colonial era to make strong interpretation for regional-based political parties, which, he believed the parties would be equipped with the necessary knowledge to develop their regions and also forming a coalition at the center.
In 1951, Thomas represented the Western region as Minister of Transport under the Mcpherson Constitution and an advocate for self governance in Nigeria by 1956, he resigned from the portfolio during a constitutional crisis in March, 1953. He later became Minister of Works after a Constitutional Conference in London.
Ayokunle Odekunle also wrote that Bode Thomas became a member of Regional House of Assembly in 1951. From there, according to him, he, Prest and Akintola were selected as members of the House of Representatives. He said Sir Adesoji Aderemi, Ooni of Ife also joined them in the Central Council of Ministers. But, Thomas was the leader.
He argued, “ During the debate on self-rule, his speech infuriated the legislators from the North. Thomas labelled them collaborators in the extension of British rule. He did not only speak; he acted. Thomas and the three Action Group (AG) parliamentarians consequently resigned from the Council of Ministers in protest over the elongation of colonialism. On that note, the Macpherson Constitution collapsed immediately.
“In the quest to preserve Lagos as part of the old West, Thomas was also at the forefront. In contrast, H.O. Davies was campaigning vigorously for the retention of Lagos as a symbol of national unity. At the 1953 London Constitutional Conference held in August, AG vigorously campaigned for the preservation of Lagos as part and parcel of the region. Awo, the AG leader and Thomas, Deputy Leader of the party, were delegates to the conference.”
For Odekunle, whenever he set a positive goal for himself, every obstacle on the way must be uprooted. “His successes in law practice, politics and government were hinged on his sheer resolve to triumph in the face of all odds.”
Bode Thomas was a senior at the bar to the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Hezekiah Oladipo Davies, Justice GBA Coker, and Udo Udoma. Thomas was ahead of them his peers. He was a senior at the bar to the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, his bosom friend, political soul mate and leader, Chief Hezekiah Oladipo Davies, Justice GBA Coker, and Udo Udoma, a former federal parliamentarian and jurist.
Siaka Momoh, a media consultant, can be reached via email@example.com; 234-8061396410.