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The man who coined the word ‘Owambe’ is dead

General Robert Adeyinka Adebayo is the creative mind behind the invention of the word ‘Owambe’ which is popularly used across the globe to describe ceremonies. He died at age 89.

General Robert was the Governor of the Old Western Region in Nigeria from 1966 to 1970. He took office during the political crisis that later snowballed into the bloody civil war.

A career military officer, he most likely would be remembered for coining the word ‘owambe’ to describe the glamorous parties he hosted at the state house during the Nigerian civil war.

A section of the country criticized him for throwing galas while the nation went through a bloody war. In later years he defended the parties saying in one interview, ‘First of all, I want to say that everything depends on what you want in life. I think I have lived a good life. Now let me tell you about the Owambes.

When I went to the West as governor, it was very ‘dark’ and in turmoil: Awolowo was in jail, Akintola had been killed, most of the leaders had been killed or in hiding. There was darkness in the West. I didn’t know the people well, together with the kind of politics that they played. I had to open up the politics of the West, and bring the people closer to me one way or the other so that I could study them.

Secondly, the plan was to use the galas to bring [people] nearer the government and give them a sense of belonging. I visited them sometimes and if it was impossible to discuss with them there, I sent vehicles to bring them to government house and had lunch with them. Before long, word had gone around that I was doing a good job. That was why some people began to call me owambe, and I loved it!’

General Adebayo was born in Iyin Ekiti on March 9 1928. He became a military officer in 1953 and would go on to have a stellar career. He became governor after Major Adekunle Fajuyi was assassinated along with the then Nigerian Head of State Major General Aguiyi Ironsi in the 1966 counter coup.

He also had to contend with the Farmers’ Revolt, known in western Nigeria as ‘Ogun Agbekoya’ during his stay in office.

He became a later politician after his retirement, co-founding the defunct National Party of Nigeria and also one of the founders of Alliance for Democracy when the country returned to democracy in 1999.

His first son, Niyi Adebayo was the first civilian governor of Ekiti State from 1999-2003.


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