Orisadipe Obasa

Orisadipe Obasa, a pioneer Nigerian physician, one of the last of the eight who qualified as medic in the late 19th century was born in Sierra Leone into a privileged royal family of Ikole-Ekiti and Ikija, Abeokuta on January 1863. In 1878, Obasa joined the Wesleyan Boys High Schol in Lagos where he showed good promise. In 1883 he was sent to England by his parents to study medicine at the King’s College, Taunton. He was also at the St. Thomas Hospital medical school in London, graduating in 1891. In the following year, Obasa returned to Lagos, Nigeria to commence a private medical practice. He served in the Anglo-Ashanti war late in the century with the Lagos Constabulary in the British Gold Coast colony.

In 1903, Obasa took a leading role in implementing Governor Macgregor health scheme in his Ekiti district of origin. He also participated in public health campaigns in the colonies of Lagos and Southern Nigeria. Obasa tried his hands on real scientific thinking, some of which prove to be seminal. His marriage in 1902 to Charlotte Olajumoke, daughter of the affluent Lagos merchant, Richard Blaize, made his continued engagement in the colonial service impractical. In order to live the public life which he appear to be more suited for, and enjoy the comfort bequeathed him through association, Obasa resigned his appointment as colonial surgeon in 1904 ostensibly in favour of a private practise.

With the leverage provided by his connection and his own bold, articulate and charismatic personality, Obasa launched himself into the politics of Lagos, first with his leadership in the water-rate agitation. The success and popularity of this struggle in 1908 encouraged him and Dr. Randle to form the People’s Union, a political group, Nigeria’s first, which showed early but unsustainable potential. Obasa and Randle’s fell out of favour with the people of Lagos, and their party gave way for Herbert Macaulay’s NNDP, under which Obasa, by dint of individual merit, clinched a seat in the Nigerian Legislative Council in 1921.

In 1923 when the first parliamentary election was held, Obasa was defeated. Before the turn of the decade Obasa had begun to decline in health as he battled with the Parkinson’s disease. and though he was accredited as president of the People’s Union after Randle’s death in 1928, he was for the rest of his years unable to replicate the lustre for which he was known. On 15 April, 1940 he died at his Lagos residence.

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer