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Did Bode Thomas really bark to death?


L-R Bode Thomas, Obafemi Awolowo and
Ladoke Akintola

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”.


John Thomas, Bode’s Father

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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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.
So when next you hear about that Popular
Street in Surulere called Bode Thomas Street,
remember that genius whose arrogance cost
him his life… at a very early age.

This article was written by Ayokunle Odekunle and originally published on Ynaija.

*This article is a compendium of tweets by
the author on 26 April, 2014
Reference: The Nation Newspaper of 24
November, 2008

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