Notwithstanding the array of democratically elected individuals it parades within its fold, the Kegites Club has refused to democratise, leading to a recent attempt to reform the club. OLALEKAN OSIADE looks at the collection of the large number of VIPs and why issues bedeviling the club had not gone beyond the medieval ways of operation.
The Kegites Club is unarguably the most populous socio-cultural club in Nigeria today, having taken firm root in almost all institutions of higher learning in the country. The club, which is non-political and non-religious, is no doubt populated by the high and mighty in the society. With its members scattered across the globe, the club had lately been in the news for both positive and negative reasons.
While there had been good news of elevation of some of its members to exalted offices, there was also information about the club being bedeviled by the infiltration of unwarranted elements. Analysts had however argued that the Kegites Club is too big not to be infiltrated, a position the leadership of the club had recently taken up with the ongoing reformation process.
The club, whose concept originated as Palm Wine Drinkers Club (PWDC) in 1962 had gone through several reformation processes, leading to what is today known as the Kegites Club.
Some had however argued that the archaic monarchical ways of operation is what is affecting the progress of the club, saying that the latest attempt to register the club will make it democratic.
An old member of the club, Olawale Kalejaiye, argued thus: “the new club is going to have members elected into its National Executive Council (NEC), that is democracy.
We will soon get to that stage”. According to the documented history of the organisation, some students of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), who were then operating from the present site of The Polytechnic, Ibadan, in Oyo State, started the concept as PWDC in 1962.
The site where the club originated from at The Polytechnic, Ibadan, is today seen as the origin of the club and that is why The Polytechnic, Ibadan is known as The Mother Shrine.
However, the nomenclature ‘Kegites Club’, which had become a phenomenon and enjoys tremendous goodwill today, is a product of the University of Ibadan (UI). Some UI students, taking a cue from the PWDC had formed a replica of the concept in 1972, with the aim of propagating African culture, as such they decided to use the most common unification object as the basis, thereby choosing the gourd as its symbol.
The name therefore arose from the gourd, popularly called keg. The club was initially named the Kegites Confraternity in UI and was registered as a socio-cultural club with the authorities of the institution, but due to the nefarious activities of some other confraternities on the campus then, which had negative connotations, members of the club decided to change the appellation and remove the word ‘confraternity’ from its name.
As such the Kegites Confraternity was renamed Kegites Club in 1973, and it was duly registered as such with the UI authorities, according to records available at the institution. Other replicas of the club later came into existence with different names.
While the OAU club remained as PWDC, students of UI stuck to the Kegites Club; The Polytechnic, Ibadan used Palmate Club, a name derived from Palm Wine and the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) had the Hornites as its own name.
Hornites was fashioned after the horn, which some people used to drink palm wine in the eastern part of the country. But in 1986, all the different appellations were dropped as others agreed to adopt the name, symbol and motto of the Kegites Club, being used by University of Ibadan students. So, the Kegites Club became a harmonised name in 1986 with the motto being ‘Unity in Diversity’.
The salutation method of the University of Ibadan club, which is called one-finger salute, was also adopted and the keg (gourd) had since become the symbol. The keg being its own symbol was introduced by UI students as a way of heralding its presence into the fold whenever there is a gyration (gathering of members for merriment). According to a past chief of the club, Pa Olasupo Owoade Fabiyi, “the keg was being used to showcase the arrival of UI, it was only Ibadan University that was using it.
It was a special symbol, but later it was agreed that UI should drop it and allow the Ilyas to be using it. “Since Ibadan varsity is an headquarters, it began giving out the keg to the branches.
By right, it was UI that owns the keg and they were giving it to other schools as their symbol. “It was a symbol of the UI version of the concept and UI students derived their own names from gourd, which is called keg.
The keg was used in those days to herald the presence of the members from UI. “It was the practice to hold the keg as UI symbol and use it to announce the arrival of Ibadan varsity students. By right, the National Headquarters own the keg.
They introduced it and they were giving it out to ilyasis that newly join the club. “I know the two sides because I was initiated in Ife. I spent two years as a comrad of Ife before leaving the school in 1972. I was out of academics for a while to do some other things. When I returned to continue my education, I moved to the University of Ibadan, where I later became a chief in 1976”, Pa Fabiyi narrated.
The keg has today become a tool of recognition for any Ilya (branch) that wants to be recognized. It must be issued after a test had been conducted by the incumbent (AB chiefs) of the world and national headquarters. The test is called Test of Kariability (ToK).
The gourd is today called the Keg of Office and serves as an official insignia of any school that operates the club, except the universities of Ibadan and Ife, which are exempted, being the headquarters.
The sealation (constitution) of the club guards the activities of the chiefesis (heads) and members. The club, as of today is reputed to have over 10 million members scattered across the globe with branches in over 100 institutions of higher learning across the length and breadth of Nigeria.
It has also extended beyond the shores of Nigeria as it now operates in London, the United Kingdom and Chicago in the state of Illinois in the United States of America to mention a few. While the London branch is referred to as Ilya du Queen, that of Chicago is called Ilya Windy.
The admission of foreign institutions into the Kegites Club is the reasons some of the members are having an attempt to rename it Supreme Kegites Club International (SKCI) to reflect the foreign dimension into the fold, a move that some had criticised.
While the proponents of the new name have gone ahead to register it with the Cooperate Affairs Commission (CAC) and had even constituted a Board of Trustee that has Governor Rotimi Akeredelu of Ondo State as its chairman, the opponents are of the view that the name change is an attempt aimed at rewriting the history of the club, which was skewed in favour of a section.
The antagonists of the name change had also argued that the registration is aimed at taking the leadership of the club away from the students, thereby eroding the campus fun attached to it.
They went further to say that it was done in bad faith as it did not involve many stakeholders. But the advocates are quick to point out the benefits of the SKCI, alluding to the fact that some unscrupulous elements had been giving the club a bad name, hence the need to refocus it and be in firm control. The prominent members of the club, who are too numerous to mention are seen in virtually all spheres of life.
While some of those who had been part of the club while in school, had been silent on their continuous membership, some are still associating despite their busy schedules.
A look at the roll call of those who had been and are still part of the club shows that, politicians, clergymen, academic scholars, media practitioners, entertainers and policemen are among those enlisted. Prominent among them is former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was made a fellow of the Kegites Club alongside former President Julius Nyeyere of Tanzania on November 17, 1976; both men were inducted as heads of state by then AB National, Pa Olasupo Owoade Fabiyi, popularly called Chief Alawoekun.Recalling how he initiated Obasanjo into the club, Pa Fabiyi said; “When I waited for long and he was not forthcoming, I just called my marshall and my comrads to go and meet him.
“He was about leaving as The Visitor to the school and I told him to stop that he must be initiated that day. His ADC initially wanted to stop me but Obasanjo asked him to leave us. I said to him, in the presence of the then Vice Chancellor, that I am the traditional head of the institution while the VC is the academic ahead. “That was how he allowed us to perform. He was with the former President of Tanzania, Julius Nyeyere, and I initiated the two of them the same day.
It was on UI Founders’ Day in 1976. Nyeyere loved what we did that he later invited us to his country, but the people in the bureaucracy scuttled the movement by going with non-members on the trip”, he said.
Other prominent members of the club include the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the late Timi of Ede, Oba Laoye, who were the Eternal Grand Patrons; the late Professor Segun Adeshina, who was the first chief of the club from Ife; a former Deputy Governor of Rivers State, Chief Tele Ikuru; a former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu; popular musicians, King Sunny Ade and Hon. Anthony Muonagor (Tony One Week); former PDP legal adviser in Ogun State, Babatunde Adesanya and a former Speaker of Ondo State House of Assembly, who is now the Senior Special Assistant to Akeredolu on Legislative Matters, Dr. Oluwasegunota Bolarinwa. Others are Oba OJo Peter Daramola, the Olora of Ora Ekiti; the Olumojo Of Imojo- Ekiti, Oba (Dr.) Olatunji Olusola Samuel; the Deputy Speaker of Ebonyi State House of Assembly, Chief Odefa Obasi; the Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Environment, Abiodun Bamgboye; former chairman of Ajegunle LCDA in Lagos, Chief Kamal Bayewu; and a the wife of the Minister of Solid Minerals, Mrs. Bisi Fayemi.
The list is an endless one, but the roll call would not be complete without the mention of those in the academic world, such as, Prof. Olu Akinkoye, former Managing Director of the Ogun Osun River Basin Authority; Prof. Adeniyi Gbadegesin of LAUTECH, Ogbomosho and a former dean of students at the University of Ibadan, Prof. Babatunde Ikotun; UI’s current Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academics), Prof. Adeyinka Aderinto; a former dean of Social Sciences in the school, Prof. Lanre Olutayo; Prof. Alex Ogunba of the Zoology Department, UI; Prof. Rasaki Bakare (AB UNICAL) 1989, former dean Faculty of Humanity, Federal University Oye-Ekiti, among many others