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Thomas Augustus O. Adu Adu family photo
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Thomas Augustus O. Adu

A photo of the Adu family, Thomas Augustus O. Adu.

About Thomas Augustus Adu

Thomas Augustus Adu was bred and educated in Lagos and he excelled in Portuguese, English and Yoruba languages, which languages were a sine qua non for success in any endeavour one chose then, and he actually excelled! He was employed by the Colonial Police, a rare feat for those times, because of his impeccable education, which was another rare feat for those times! Within a short period of time, he had risen through the ranks to become the Pay and Quartermaster of the Colonial Police, a feat never before achieved by a black man. His father, John Stephen Adu had to resign in deference to his son who had risen far above him in rank. After quite a stint in the Colonial Police, he resigned and went into the bakery business having identified a lacuna therein. The British government in West Africa imported bread and other pastries from Britain to West Africa (there was no Nigeria at the time) and usually made a stop-over in the hitherto slave island of Senegal before coming to Lagos. By the time the bread loaves arrived in Lagos, they would be so tough to the point of plucking people’s teeth when they chewed them. Thomas Augustus Adu, therefore, competed with the British and won the hearts of West Africans who had the option of fresh and hot loaves, to the chagrin of the British whose business was thus threatened. He also diversified into properties and had quite a few in Lagos. In fact, the great and accomplished historian, the late Osi of Egbaland, Papa (Chief) Sobande had this treatise on Thomas Augustus Adu, “He achieved phenomenal strides in entrepreneurship, incredible for those times, by a black man. He owned a quarter of what was known as Lagos at that time.” His last testament (Will) also attests to this. It is also on record that he was a regular personality at Public Auctions and that he rarely went home without making purchases. He was also involved in the distributive trade into which he initiated all his “wives” and scored them according to their performance. Thomas Augustus Adu got married to Mrs. Honorata Adu (nee da Silva) who never bore him any issue. However, because of the rigid orthodoxy of the Catholic Church (it persists till date) at the time which was considered unAfrican (it still is), he could not take a second wife under the Act. He, therefore, resorted to African culture to marry other women who had offspring for him. The first of those women was Madam Feyisitan Adu, a beautiful maiden whose ancestry too had its roots in Thomas Augustus Adu’s father’s hometown of Oyin-Akoko. Her immaculate beauty and industry had naturally endeared him to her. Thomas Augustus Adu was a very renowned, influential and revered Lagosian whose friendship the high and mighty who were the crème de la crème of West Africa sought to cultivate. He and his friends, including Mr. Sapara Williams (the first lawyer from West Africa), were reputed to have called the bluff of Major (later Lord Frederick Lugard), which bluff was partly responsible for the eventual amalgamation of Northern and Southern Protectorates into Nigeria (Niger area) in 1914. He was the first non-Brazilian to be admitted into the Catholic Friendly Society No. 3619 (C.F.S.) in 1903 after the foundation of the society by fourteen (14) descendants of Brazilian repatriates on Sunday, March 01, 1903. He was the first West African to have a horse-drawn gold chariot with which he bestrode the streets of Lagos like a colossus. Whenever he was driven by in his chariot, history has it that mothers always brought out their children to have a glimpse of him and to pray that God should bestow on their children the goodness and kindness God had endowed him with. His best friend was his Brother in the C.F.S., the late Worthy Brother John Tiberio Munis (who was the third Worthy President of the C.F.S. from 1906 to 1910 and one of his Executors but who unfortunately died on October 28, 1917 barely five years after he died on November 29, 1912, and could, therefore, not administer Thomas Augustus Adu’s Will as wished by the latter). Thomas Augustus Adu had twenty-nine (29) children but, for reasons best known to him which we may never know, disowned three (3) of them. These three (3) reportedly left for the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and started life afresh there. Oral tradition also has it that he was poisoned on Wednesday, November 27, 1912 at a social function by the British or their proxy when they (the British) felt that he was getting too powerful for them both economically and politically. It is significant to note that he immediately rallied his Executors and Executrix and wrote his Will on that day on his deathbed. One wonders what must have been ringing in his mind that jolted him to do his Will on his deathbed. However, reading through his Will gives one a conjecture – he must have thought about how his young family would carry on without him. He died on Friday, November 29, 1912 at the very unripe age of forty-nine (49) in the forenoon! He was given a befitting burial by the Catholic Friendly Society No. 3619 and his mortal remains lie at the Ikoyi Cemetery, Lagos, Nigeria. ...more info

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Thomas Augustus O. Adu

Thomas Augustus Adu

Mini-biography
Born: Feb 18, 1863
Died: Nov 29, 1912 (age 49)
Cause: Suspected poisioning

Also in this photo: Thomas Augustus Adu at 40 years old