The story of Bode Thomas

Bode Thomas was born to a wealthy trader, John Thomas in 1918. He attended C.M.S. Grammar School, a missionary school founded by Samuel Ajayi Crowther. He travelled to London to study Law with Remi Fani-Kayode and Chief FRA Williams. Bode Thomas, FRA William and Remi Fani Kayode founded d 1st indigenous law practice in Nigeria ‘Thomas, Williams and Kayode’. The law firm was in Jankara Street and it thrived. His huge frame earned him the appellation “bulldozer”.

He became a member of Regional House of Assembly in 1951. From there, he, Prest and Akintola were selected as members of the House of Representatives. Sir Adesoji Aderemi, Ooni of Ife also joined them in the Central Council of Ministers. But, Thomas was the leader; astute, workaholic, thoughtful and forward-looking.

On the floor of the House, Thomas was a charismatic speaker. He was a lover of facts. He was a fire brand nationalist. He wanted self-rule and independence at a faster pace his colleagues from other zones could not comprehend.

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 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.

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 founding member of ACTION GROUP which sprang up from EGBE OMO ODUDUWA.

He was the first Legal Adviser of the group.He was a senior at the bar to the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Hezekiah Oladipo Davies, Justice GBA Coker, and Udo Udoma. Bode Thomas and Ahmadu Bello, Premier of the North, were also not the best of friends. I will give you reasons.

Bode 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 perplexed at the way the Sokoto prince fretted in the court room. Bode Thomas after winning Ahmadu Bello’s case insulted him. He called him names. He saw Bello as unlettered and uncultured. Bello’s unpleasant encounter with Thomas made him conclude that his more qualified educated rivals in the South were pompous and arrogant.

Many believed that Bello was reacting to that complex by refusing to come down to Lagos to serve as Prime Minister but allowed Tafawa Balewa.Thus, while Thomas was universally acknowledged as an accomplished lawyer, he was also perceived as arrogant and supercilious.Bode Thomas was hated by his peers from the North to the extent that Bello always preferred to communicate with Ladoke Akintola to Thomas.

He had endowed Jankara Street, in the heart of Lagos, with visibility when he and his friends, the meticulous Rotimi Williams and the rascally, yet deep and witty Remi Fani-Kayode set up a chamber in partnership in 1950.

Thomas was ahead of them his peers. He was a Senior at the bar to the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, his bossom friend, political soul mate and leader, Chief Hezekiah Oladipo Davies, Justice GBA Coker, and Udo Udoma, a former federal parliamentarian and jurist.

But, a hot-tempered fellow, he was perceived in some circles as a bully, a successful, yet arrogant lawyer and a domineering figure. Some judges loathed his style of argument in the court. But, he was full of masterful logic.

Judges hated the way he comported himself in court. They saw him as brash and arrogant.T homas died in a controversial circumstance. It was a chain of events that led to his death. According to many accounts, there was a protracted feud between him & Alaafin Adeyemi II, father of the current Alaafin Lamidi Adeyemi III.Both Alaafin Adeyemi and Thomas (Bode Thomas was Balogun of Oyo) were members of the Oyo Divisional Council. At a time, the respected ruler was chairman of the council.

Later, Thomas became the chairman when the Oba was still a member. Then his rudeness to the Alaafin led to his mysterious death.

Thomas arrived at a meeting of the council, all the other councillors, except Oba Adeyemi, stood up to welcome him. He rudely told the king “WHY WERE YOU SITTING WHEN I WALKED IN? WHY CANT YOU SHOW ME RESPECT?” Bode was 34 years. The Alaafin was in his 60s.T he Alaafin felt very insulted. he told Bode “SHEY EMI ON GBO MO BAUN? EMI NI ONGBO BI AJA MO BAUN{ IS IT ME YOU ARE BARKING AT LIKE THAT? IS IT ME YOU ARE BARKING LIKE A DOG AT LIKE THAT? KEEP BARKING.”

That was on 22nd November 1953.  It was reported that Bode Thomas got home and started barking. He barked and barked and barked all night. Then he died. He died on 23 November 1953. He was Balogun of Oyo. He died without fulfilling his many potentials. Bode’s friends went on to reach the peak of their careers. Fani-Kayode died in 1995. FRA Williams went on to be Nigeria’s greatest lawyer. Remi Fani-Kayode died in the early 90s after a successful spell in the Legal Practice and in politics.

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