By Suyi Ayodele
I travelled to Edo North over the weekend. On our way, the cab I boarded had a flat tyre shortly after Ikpeshi in the Akoko Edo area. I was shocked to see that the first two occupants who jumped out of the vehicle and started hurrying back towards Auchi were the two female passengers at the back seat. They just hurriedly alighted and without a word to anybody, headed back to Auchi. I found that behaviour strange; no empathy for the driver who lost a tyre due to the bad road. Suddenly, it dawned on me that that was the area where some felons killed about three policemen about a month ago. Of course, I quickly borrowed myself senses and joined in the trek back to Auchi, leaving the driver to his fate. We are all security conscious now, irrespective of age, sex, and state of health. That is the Nigeria of Buhari.
By this time next week, General Muhammadu Buhari would no longer be in the Aso Rock Villa as the president and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. Six days away from today, the General would have retired to either his Daura country home or anywhere in his second country, Niger Republic. Whichever option he chooses, Nigeria and Nigerians would have heaved a sigh of relief to see the end of an inglorious era in the history of the nation. History is a beast. There is a saying that comes to mind each time I consider this season of the locusts. No matter how old a farmer is, the hut on his farm will always outlive him (ahere ni kehin oloko). It is gratifying to note that Nigeria has outlived the Buhari presidency! By May 29, which is next week’s Monday, Buhari would have completed his two terms of eight years as the president. Eight years is just like yesterday. Wonderful! What will now remain of the Daura-born retired General is what history says about him. I will restrain myself from being magisterial here. I know, if I were to write the history of Buhari’s era, what would be my introduction and what I would put in the concluding paragraph. I equally know that many people too, especially members of the Hallelujah orchestra, would also write different paragraphs about the man they consider their Mai Gaskiya (the honest one). That is life. However, one common denominator of our plight, fate, and life under the Buhari leadership is the fact that the poverty in the land, the hyperinflation; the insecurity; the killing and maiming; the disenchantment and frustration in the country do not make any distinction. Both the poor and the rich are at the mercy of the numerous ailments scourging the land.
After Aso Rock, what is next for Buhari and his aides – those ones, who in the last eight years have been acting as if they are the true children of Lord Lugard, while the rest of us are adopted children? Will they also, after May 29, queue for fuel the way we do? Will they go to the banks’ ATM machines, where, after the machines have dispensed the first N20,000 withdrawal, they will be told: “you have exceeded your daily withdrawal limit?” While on the roads, will they still use fierce-looking policemen to chase us out of the way, or will they have to learn how to meander their ways through the potholes and graters that have been part of our transportation system? “Everything passes”, is a common cliché of an older friend and mentor, Professor Tony Afejuku of the Department of English Language and Literature, University of Benin. No matter how terrible a situation is, the Itsekiri poet and columnist would end up with “Everything passes”! nothing illustrates this timeless saying than the fable of Omo Alagbaa.
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Alagbaa is the spiritual head of the Egungun cult. The cult venerates the ancestors and those who belong to the ages. It is another deity in the Yoruba legion of Orisa. Egungun, otherwise known as masquerade in the English Language, is regarded as the representative of the ancestors. They are heavenly beings. Please don’t pay attention to the masquerade that was captured, accredited by BVAS, and voted in the February 25 presidential election of Professor Mahmood Yakubu and his INEC. That is not the “ara orun kinkinkin” we are talking about here. I also read somewhere last week that a masquerade “escaped death in an accident” in Anambra State. That one too is not the “aji gbana oro” (he who sweeps the path of the deity early in the morning). During the Egungun festival, the children of Alagbaa, known as Omo Alagbaa, misbehave a lot. They suddenly become arrogant and run roughshod with the commoners. The privileged position of being the children of the Egungun chief priest goes into their heads. Why?
Egungun festival is celebrated for seven days. During that period, every participant, especially the Ojes -Egungun devotees – fry akara (bean cake). As custom demands, every devotee, while the festival lasts, must take akara to the house of Alagbaa. Akara, in case you don’t understand, is a delicacy in Yoruba gastronomy that is considered sacred and rare. No woman is allowed to go into commercial frying of akara without passing through some rituals to ascertain that she would not use human blood instead of palm oil. So, akara, which is not easy to come by, becomes almost a useless commodity in the house of Alagbaa during the festival, such that Omo Alagbaa shows little or no respect to the commodity. And for those commercial akara sellers, the business is usually very low during Egungun festival. They experience little or no patronage, but they have their consolation. They know that there is a terminal date for the festival. After seven days, Ifa would be consulted to ask if the ancestors had accepted the sacrifices of the living. If Ifa gives a negative answer, the festival is repeated for another seven days. That too is very uncommon. While the festival lasted, akara sellers console themselves with a proverb thus: “ohun to ntan ni odun Eegun, omo Alagbaa nbo wa ra akara je” (the masquerade festival has a terminal date, and the son of the chief priest will come out to buy akara to eat). This is because no matter the quantity of akara in Alagbaa’s compound, they become useless once the festival is over as akara cannot even on its own last for more than a day. It becomes rancid after 24 hours. By the eight-day of the Egungun festival, if Omo Alagbaa wants to eat eko, he must go and buy akara. And while on the queue, nobody knows who the child of the chief priest is or not. The eighth day ends their arrogance.
That is how transient power is. I first made a passing reference to this allegory on this page on October 19, 2021, in the piece titled: “Awolowo and the Bondsman in the Villa.” That was when Buhari’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, made a comparison of the Avatar, Chief Obafemi Awolowo with Buhari, by saying: “I am old enough to have seen our colorful and even swashbuckling politicians in action. I have seen the great Obafemi Awolowo; the charismatic Nnamdi Azikiwe (Zik of Africa); Shehu Shagari, Amino Kano, M.K.O Abiola, Bashir Tofa and many others in action, but I have not seen anyone with the kind of attraction, magnetic pull that Muhammadu Buhari has. And that is round the country, north and south. People swarm around him as bees do to honey’”. I concluded in that piece that a day would come when Adesina would leave the Villa and would become a commoner that he used to be before his ‘elevation’ to Aso Rock. By May 30, Adesina would have joined the camp of the “wailing wailers”. That same day has come. And it has not come for Adesina alone. You have Chris Ngige. Will the Anambra politician be able to go back to his colleagues in the medical profession and beat his chest that he has represented them well? Will Adamu Adamu, after May 29, be able to sit down with ASUU members again? What about Festus Keyamo? Will the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) be justified in calling him a “Comrade” after May 29? Think about Raji Fashola. How many states in the entire Southern Nigeria will the former governor of Lagos State be able to drive to without losing his car tyres to potholes or being harassed by kidnappers, and killer herdsmen who use the graters on our roads as ‘poultry spots’ to kidnap commuters? After May 29, would Professor Yemi Osinbajo be able to visit Ketu vegetable market to access the performances of the beneficiaries of the “Trada Moni”. How about Sadiya Umar Farouq of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs Disaster Management and Social Development? Hope she keeps records of the beneficiaries of her COVID-19 Palliative? Can someone also help to take Madam Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, to the schools where she spent about N1billion daily to feed school children, after May 29, for her to see how buxom those children are now. I am sure those children who were ‘fed’ in their schools even during the COVID-19 lockdown would be delighted to see their ‘Mama Christmas’. Phew! The list is endless.
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The masquerade festival is over for Buhari and his team. Every masquerade must dance back to the grove after each outing (poor or excellent). Buhari cannot be an exception. What is remaining is the memento of the ruinous era he led. Nigerians will now make a comparison of the strength of the Naira in 2015 and how weak the currency is now. The nation can now sit back and compare how fragmented we are as a people in relation to the pre-2015 unity. We can now look at the corruption scale to determine if we fared better than the era before the Mai Gaskiya. What about our security architecture? Are our Armed Forces in any way better than the old Boys Scout of yore with the level of insecurity in the land? We now can ask Fashola, and his elder brother, Buhari, what has happened to our power system. Buhari can now tell us if we should stone him or hail him as the late Tony Momoh projected in 2014.
It is time now for Nigerians to do a personality identikit of Buhari and situate him either as a heroic president (who made our lives better) or to consign him to the dustbin of history as a complete anti-heroic personality (who worsened the situation). For those who made it real ‘big’ during the era, I hope they know that stealing the king’s trumpet (kakaki) is not the problem but where to blow it. Now the import of the warning the inimitable Chief Obafemi Awolowo gave when he said: “The rich, and the highly placed in business, public life, and government, are running a dreadful risk in their callous neglect of the poor and the down-trodden”, will be clear to them. The near apocalyptic commendation of the sage, to wit: “The children of the poor you failed to train will never let your children have peace”, is coming home to roost. We would all witness it.
While doing that, Nigerians should not lose focus of the man that would have taken over, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. A lot of readers of this column, and some other old friends, have asked me several times why I recourse to African tradition and customs to drive my points on many of the issues I have raised here. My simple answer to them is that each time I consider the present situation in Nigeria, I always become dewy-eyed. I grew up at a time Nigeria was about to take its slide to the present ditch. From the countryside setting of a child who sat beside other children to listen to folktales and to draw moral lessons from the experiences of those who have seen the world, the temptation is always there for me to make a comparison of what is obtainable now and what it used to be back then. I grew up to learn the cliché: “When a civil servant builds a house, congratulate him. When he builds the second one, suspect him. If he builds a third one, call him a thief.” But what do we have nowadays? And I must confess here; I do not belong to the generation of those who saw Nigeria when it was good. No. Nigeria was already packing its decent loads in preparation for the arrival of the current locusts when I was raised. The only privilege I had was that for the first two decades or more of my life, I was not exposed to modern-day civilisation. Our tradition has given us what we need to make a projection into the future. However, ‘civilisation’ has robbed us of that opportunity. Ifa is called “Eleri ipin” (One who witnesses destiny). The one who witnessed one’s destiny can never be wrong in his prediction of what the future holds. With Pentecostalism and spirit-filled Born Againism, nobody dares consult the Oracle! Yet, it is pertinent for us to know what the future holds for us.
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So, what does the future hold for the Tinubu presidency? Olu-Osayomi Olusegun of the Department of Languages and Literary Studies, Babcock University, Ilishan- Remo, Ogun State, in a paper titled: “Dramatic Aspect of Ese Ifa in Yorubaland”, says: “Before a betrothal, before a marriage, before a child is born, at the birth of a child, and at successive stages in man‟s life, before a king is appointed or a chief is made or in time of crisis, in terms of sickness and at any and all times, Ifa is assurance. Like the saying „onil‟ari a o r‟ola on nibaba‟lawo se nd‟ifal‟ororun‟ (it is today we see, we do not see tomorrow, hence the Babalawo consults the oracle every fifth day). One must therefore consult Ifa who knows how to explain issues about present and the future”, (International Journal on Studies in English Language and Literature (IJSELL), vol 5, no. 10, 2017, pp. 12-18). I am not sure anyone took that step to ask what is in it for us in this new government. But that notwithstanding, like the saying goes, “oju ni alakan fi nso ori” (the crab watches its head with its eyes). Vigilance is the watchword. Nigerians must not allow the Tinubu presidency to degenerate like that of Buhari before they cry out. Unlike Olu-Osayomi’s fifth day divination projection above, I have explained here in another piece titled “Ojudu, Sunday Igboho and the Sangba Allegory” (Nigerian Tribune, Tuesday, February 2, 2021), “Ever since diviners consulted Ifa every day, hence the saying: “Bi eni ti ri, ola ki ri be lo mu babalawo d’ifa ojojumo”- what is obtainable today may not suffice tomorrow, the reason diviners consult Ifa every day.” An average Nigerian politician, from all indications, has no sense of history, or pretends not to have any sense of history. It is therefore left for the citizenry to keep the government on its toes. To allow the sore of Tinubu presidency to fester like that of Buhari is to call in the pallbearers. Nigerians would only keep quiet at their own peril. As for us from this side of the divide, we would follow the Yoruba dictum of old to wit: “a o ni sepe, a o ni sure; sugbon enu wa o ni gbofo” (we would neither curse nor bless; but our mouth shall also not be empty – shut). May the new day break well for us all.
OPINION: The North And Tinubu’s Appointments
by Lasisi Olagunju
President Bola Tinubu gave our country’s Minister of Defence and Minister of State, Defence to the North; he gave the North Minister of Police Affairs and Minister of State, Police Affairs; he gave the North Minister of Education and Minister of State, Education; he gave the North Minister of Agriculture and Food Security and Minister of State, Agriculture and Food Security. Again; he gave the North the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare plus Minister of Steel Development and Minister of State, Steel Development. To the North, again, Tinubu gave Minister of Water Resources and Minister of State, Water Resources. I can go on and on and add the Minister of Housing and Urban Development and Minister of State, Housing and Urban Development. No part of the South has that privilege of having ‘couplet’ ministers managing key sectors. It is double, double blessing for the North. I don’t think any president has ever done that – not even the insular nepotist, Muhammadu Buhari, did. But why did Tinubu do that? Sacrifice, obedience and gratitude for favours. Sacrifice (libation) to power timekeepers, obedience to janitors of politics, and gratitude to regime makers. “O Lord that lends me life, lend me a heart replete with thankfulness!” (William Shakespeare in Henry VI).
But my people say it is impossible to get it right if you are asked to sweep the compound of the witch. If you do it well, she will accuse you of overdoing it; if you do not do it well enough, she will accuse you of not doing it at all. The North is like Hades. In the pantheon of the Greek, Hades is that greedy god who wants more of everything and who shares what he has with none. The Yoruba have Esu which takes everything wholly and completely. Those who know who Esu is know how fatally wrong it could be to appease him with one hand; he demands your two hands and ten fingers (owo meweewa) to deliver his offerings. Yet, whether at home or at the crossroads or even in palaces, Esu takes; he does not give; and when he takes, he offers neither thanks nor thankfulness. Those who know his oríkì say he is the master of the marketplace who buys without paying; the one who ensures that nothing is bought and nothing is sold unless it is nightfall – and on his own terms. For their way to be free of trouble, all other deities worship and propitiate him. That is northern Nigeria; it is not enough that it has all the above. It wants more, and maybe all.
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The North is complaining. Its elites say they made this president, now the supposed side chick is ‘forming’ independence; he is neither singing their song nor dancing to their beats – the right way. I have a sultry parallel to draw here: The bed is made, the room is scented with the fragrance of desire, the groom is unknotting his boxers, yet the bride is complaining that her husband is not paying enough attention to her needs. What does the hot bride want to eat that is not yet on fire?
I do not belong to the Tinubu orchestra; what I sing here is my own chord. We may complain about the quality of some of the Tinubu appointees but the justice of the spread between the north and the south no one should. The cluster structure of the appointments would be seen by critics as the president zoning and centralizing prebendal privileges in the hands of regional power lords. His friends and fans would argue that the cluster pattern is the president’s way of ticking problems and attaching them to localised solutions. If the North has Defence Minister and the defence ministry’s Minister of State; if it has Police Affairs Minister and the ministry’s minister of state in addition to the National Security Adviser and the Chief of Defence Staff, should it still have the mouth to complain of lack of official attention to its endemic insecurity? If the North has the Minister of Education and the ministry’s Minister of State, should it still rummage for policies that will wean it of the blight of mass illiteracy and of having uncountable millions of out-of-school-children? If the North has the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, should we ever hear it lament high incidences of child and maternal mortality and epidemics of preventable diseases? The whole of the agriculture ministry is ceded to the North; the entire Water Resources ministry belongs to the North. We wait to see how it will use these to feed its dying, hungry poor – more than eighty percent of its population. It is like now that the South-East has the Minister of Works, we wait to see who that zone will blame if the East-West Road remains unbuilt at the end of Tinubu’s reign. And, if the management of the economy is in the hands of the Lagos-Yoruba, the country knows who to attack now that a dollar is selling for a thousand naira.
Samuel Butler, author of ‘The Way of All Flesh’, warns that what is golden is tact, not silence. Although my fish does not swim in Tinubu’s river, I join this ‘noise’ because of the hypocrisy of those involved. New groups are being formed and old hacks are being activated to compose complaints. One of them is the Arewa Economic Forum (AEF) which recently accused Tinubu of what it termed ‘Yorubanisation’ and ‘Lagoslisation’ of his appointments in the economic and finance sectors. Chairman of the Forum, Alhaji Ibrahim Shehu Dandakata, at a press conference in Abuja said the North was not happy that it was being left out “in the Finance and ICT sectors.” Voices from outside the North are also being borrowed the perfect way slave owners deploy their bondmen to battle. There is an Ile Ife man whose business name is MURIC; he joined the orchestra from his Lagos base and wrapped the nepotism charge with boubou of religion: “All five key appointments made by President Tinubu to revive the economy were given to Christians and Yorubas mainly. These new appointees include the Minister of Finance, Wale Edun; the newly nominated CBN Governor, Dr. Michael Cardoso; Hon. Zacch Adedeji, acting chairman, FIRS; the chairman, Tax Reforms Committee, Mr. Taiwo Oyedele, and Mr. Tope Fasua, Special Adviser on Economic Affairs,” MURIC’s promoter, Ishaq Akintola, said in a statement. The MURIC man’s puppeteers did not tell him or he forgot to remind them that an Atiku Bagudu from Kebbi State is the Minister of Budget and Economic Planning. Ishaq Akintola is Yoruba, he is attacking the Yoruba; he is Muslim; he accused his Muslim-Muslim presidency of marginalization of Muslims. Perfect isé erú (slave job) delivered the erú way. In folklore, we tell the hunter to use the sword of Tortoise to kill Tortoise (idà ahun la fií pa ahun). One of the best newspaper articles I read on Nigeria’s north-south relations was written in the early 1980s by Banji Kuroloja, editor of the Nigerian Tribune from 1984 to 1988. Because the title of the piece came very simple and catchy, I will remember it forever: “Singing Their Songs.” I can’t forget. I also can’t forget the takeaway from it: “The ubiquitous North has a way of making others sing their songs.” Forty years plus after that article was published, nothing has changed; the falconer still holds the falcon by the throat, making it say what it is told to say. We’ve seen how abjectly the MURIC man recited his verse, shedding blood when the owner of the problem was shedding tears.
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Even the National Publicity Secretary of the North’s apex organization, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Professor Tukur Muhammad-Baba, joined the discourse. In a newspaper interview, he accused Tinubu of giving sensitive and lucrative appointments to persons from his ethnic Yoruba stock. He said Tinubu should not be doing what he is doing “in a deeply fractious federation like ours.” He remembered that “a part of the constitution directs that… appointments must reflect the social diversity of the country in terms of balancing, of place of origin, indigeneship, ethnicity, religion, etc.” Muhammad-Baba and his ACF did not remember the existence of this constitutional provision throughout the eight years of imperial Buhari, Bayajjida II of the kingdom of Northern Nigeria. “Few love to hear the sins they love to act.” That is how William Shakespeare, in his ‘Pericles, Prince of Tyre’, elegantly explains what hypocrisy does to people’s sense of shame.
Not knowing when to complain is a problem. That the North believes it has the moral right to talk at all is because it thinks itself senior in the Nigerian arrangement. But I know that the greedy is red-eyed twice: when he eats his yam alone and when his neighbours converge to eat their pounded yam. For eight years, Muhammadu Buhari dared the other parts of Nigeria outside his north and fed àdí (palm kernel oil) to Èsù with his provocative nepotism. He did it without personal consequences because he stood on very firm grounds of regional supremacy. While he wantonly shredded Nigeria’s garment of diversity, today’s noisemakers (and their slaves) egged him on with claps of endorsement. They okayed Buhari’s cronyism and hollered that the spread of the appointments was not necessary but that what mattered were competence and performance. They felt (and feel) no shame that at the end of their Buhari’s eight years, what was harvested from their farm of ‘competence’ and ‘performance’ was mass hunger and mass misery.
I know that there are certain All Progressives Congress (APC) masquerades who wear costumes of region and religion to complain about their not having posts (yet). If they are in the cold, whose fault should that be? Tinubu’s is a government of libation, everyone who has sense knows. But when you refuse to offer prayers in the right temple and drop sacrifices in the proper shrines, expect disappointments. There is a Festus Keyamo whose ministerial dream suffered reluctance of nomination and controversy of clearance. But, apparently because he knew in what river to wash his hands, his troubles eased off with apologies in sherds of remorse. There is, on the other hand, the petite Nasir El Rufai who went through the examination process supervised by prayerful Godwin Akpabio but had his result withheld by those who held the yam and the knife. What else is there to say when a pupil finds their report card in the mouth of the headmaster’s goat? Yet, there are some who got what they wanted because of the good boy and good girl they had been to the new powers in town. If you keep your palms clean, it is not every time you pour libation to dispensers of favours. And, I have here Ezeulu in Chinua Achebe’s ‘Arrow of God’. The old priest is full of apologies for not setting before his guests “even a pot of palm wine.” The response he gets is to the effect that “when a father calls his children together, he should not worry about placing palm wine before them” (page 143). But that is a father that has paid his dues and has not taken more than he has put down.
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Now, is it not a shame that the complaints we hear from the North are about elite privileges and not about the hardship in town? Think about the existential struggles of an average Nigerian and what interests the political class. Like an exasperated friend said on Friday, inflation is hitting the roof, the naira is sinking, market capitalisation at the Nigerian stock market is tumbling, people are dying, yet what interests the elite is what appointees come from their bedrooms. Instead of the northern elites complaining about the ethnic origin of those managing the economy, they should be worried about the calamity of their own failure as leaders and the collapse of all humanity in their region. On the streets of Ibadan, we encounter, daily, beggars from the North with heart-rending stories. This last Saturday, one of them, Harira Muhammadu, told the Saturday Tribune that she left her husband, aged father and children behind in Kano to face a “life of uncertainty” begging on the streets of Ibadan. She said she had no other choice than to beg because the North had collapsed and she could not afford to watch her children starve. “If things were easy and sweet for us back home, we would not come here to live this life of uncertainty. I have some children with me and I do not have anything to feed them with and it is a lot of work…I remember when I first came here many years ago, I did not know where to go or what to do and I was afraid and all. I would cry and wipe my tears. Sometimes, the children would cry with me but I endured because I knew that if I returned home (to the North) the suffering would be more severe,” she said.
There is no southern town or city without sad stories such as that of the beggar above. Yet, check all conferences, read books, monographs and pamphlets from the North, the poor perennially have no space there. There is never a conversation there on the imperative of finding a cure for the pandemic of poverty in that region. The North’s eunuch stands erect (or has an erection) only when there is a South to intimidate. Everything is about power and elite comfort carefully packaged as regional nationalism and/or duty imposed by religion. The elites of the North won’t keep quiet until they are back in power to ride roughshod on the other parts of Nigeria. Check how to deal with bullies. Stand up to them.
This article written by Dr. Lasisi Olagunju, Saturday Editor Nigerian Tribune was first published by the same newspaper, it’s published by INFO DAILY with permission from the author.
OPINION: The god that cut soap for Wizkid (2)
There’s no god-like mother, orisa bi iya kosi. A praying mother for that matter. Eyes shut wide in her bowed head, brow sweats as bosom heaves up and down while tongue speaks in supplication for her offspring to grow in wisdom, blossom in understanding, blow in success, live in health and enjoy the good life. The prayer of a mother.
Father is the mirror, baba ni digi. He’s also the unsung hero. The overworked engine. Father prays, too. But his prayers are short and practical, they are against real threats. His prayers are more physical than metaphysical.
May God hearken to the prayers of every parent on their children. The more bad the child does, the harder the parents pray. May the joy of every parent on their children not be cut short by destiny killers, like naira and kobo flogged the destiny of MohBad to death with the koboko of drugs.
It’s good. Nigerian youths are rising across the states, demanding a probe into the death of MohBad, the youngster and songster whose star dropped off the sky into the sea on noonday, a few days ago. Like many Nigerians, I know the nation’s music industry is a haven of hard drugs, but the fast-spreading #justiceformohbad movement, however, should curb the power of life and death wielded by barons, producers and record label owners. Though death has stopped Ilerioluwa Aloba aka MohBad and his promise, the awareness created by the #justiceformohbad movement will set many up-and-coming musicians enslaved to music labels free. Rest in peace, MohBad Ìmólè!
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Oak grows from acorn. Mighty grows from mite. A casual telephone call to a former colleague, Folasade, inspired this article. I was touched by the good-naturedness of Wizkid’s mother, who stayed connected to her humble beginnings. As Folasade recounted her moments with Iya Yetunde, I saw her influence in the musical works of her son.
If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it, goes a popular catchphrase. Nigeria, her youth and music industry are fast becoming broken like the rickety bicycle of the village drunk nicknamed Keke baje o seto. Nigeria needs to fix the menace of drugs. I wonder how Iya Yetunde would have felt at MohBad’s death. Like the caring mother she was, I guess she would have been shattered.
A testimony that her prayers on Wizkid were being answered manifested when her only son flew her to Dubai about three years ago for a medical checkup.
Folasade recalls, “Iya Yetunde wasn’t sick from COVID. She went to Dubai for a checkup in the heat of the COVID pandemic. Because she and her husband were very close, they went together. When she was through with her checkup, she flew back home with her husband. When they landed in Nigeria, Wizkid told their driver to bring them to his two-storey mansion in Lekki because he wanted his mother to have adequate rest. He knew friends and well-wishers would throng his father’s Surulere home if his parents went there from the airport.
“But Wizkid’s tactic failed because Iya Yetunde was a golden fish. Family and friends still thronged Wizkid’s Lekki home, and the privacy he sought for his parents became a mirage. After some days, Wizkid bought another house in Lekki, where he moved to, leaving the sprawling two-storey house for his parents. They never moved back to Surulere. She gave me a room on the middle floor where I slept when I visited while she and her husband stayed on the topmost floor. The house has a swimming pool.”
Recounting another act of kindness by Wizkid’s mother, Folasade said when Iya Yetunde visited her in Abuja, she (Folasade) cooked a pot of soup and told her to help give it to her (Folasade) son, Akinola, who was seconded by Accenture to MTN.
“My son was then working in Accenture but he was outsourced to MTN. So, when Iya Yetunde was going back to Lagos after a visit, I told her to help give my son the pot of soup I cooked. She asked me why would I want her to take a soup from Abuja to Lagos. She said she couldn’t take it. But she got the phone number of my son.
“A day later, my son called to ask if I told Iya Yetunde he was having a birthday party. I asked him why. He said she stormed his office with different kinds of dishes enough to host a wedding reception. My son said he had to share part of the various dishes with his colleagues. That was when I knew Iya Yetunde was also a caterer. In fact, she catered for MTN and other big multinationals. When I asked her why she was still into catering despite her son’s success, she said catering was her hobby, and that she didn’t want to be idle. After this, she regularly cooked for my son,” Folasade said.
Folasade, who disclosed that Iya Yetunde was quite older than her, also shared another display of humility by her. “One day, she came visiting in Abuja. She had an afternoon flight to catch and I had to go out in the morning. So, I took her to a friend’s house to stay till the afternoon because I didn’t want her to feel lonely. My friend, Aunty Funmilola, was an ex-caterer with the OSBC, she owned a school in Abuja. When we got to Aunty Funmilola’s house, I called her aside and told her to help me take adequate care of Iya Yetunde. I said she was Wizkid’s mom. She said Wizkid ko, Wizkad ni; she thought I was joking. I didn’t press it. I just left Iya Yetunde in her care and went away.
“Aunty Funmilola collected her number it was during their subsequent telephone discussions that she got to know I was saying the truth. Iya Yetunde never threw her weight around. She was honest, kind, sincere, humble and very down-to-earth.
If there are only two Nigerian Afrobeat stars who love their mothers and are proud to show it, Wizkid is one of them. The love he has for his mom shines through in the various songs and verses he dedicated to her. The song ‘Ayo’ is a special dedication to her. Also, he recorded ‘Jaiye Jaiye’ in her honour, featuring Afrobeats legend, Femi Kuti. Wizkid referenced her in ‘Pakuru Mo’ and some other songs.
Iya Yetunde never dissuaded Wizkid from doing music, she gave her blessing and support, praying, guiding and hoping he turns out well. And Wizkid didn’t disappoint her. Wherever she is now, I think she’s happy. Ayodeji omo Balogun showered his mother with love and affection as if he knew her time was petering out. My heart-felt sympathy goes to Wizkid’s dad, Alhaji Balogun, Wizkid’s elder sisters, family and relatives.
Adieu, Iya Yetunde, the god that cut soap for Wizkid.
Facebook: @Tunde Odesola
OPINION: ‘Alaafin’s Stool Is Not For Sale’
By Lasisi Olagunju
An oba is put on the throne to keep “the bush at bay.” Collectively and individually, the successful oba is praised as “so’gbó di’lé/sò’gbé dì’gboro/ oba a s’ààtàn d’ojà – the successful king is he who turns forest to home; the one who turns bush to town. Karin Barber’s ‘I Could Speak Until Tomorrow’ (published in 1991) is my book of reference here. An oba that would turn his town’s rubbish heap into a market would not be deficient in legitimacy; he would not owe his ascension to the throne solely to money and its filthy influence. A king whose reign would be well would come courtesy of the blessing of God and man. In the past, “nobody could be a good oba unless he had a very broad-based support in the town” (Ulli Beier). But royalty in Yorubaland today suffers the violence of money; money is the principal speaker that speaks and gets listened to. It is our parliament and our executive; it is the judiciary. It is true that a palace needs money to breathe; it is a necessity, but it should not be the reason for a king and his super elector.
At a project inauguration event in Iseyin, Oyo State, on Friday, the state governor, Mr Seyi Makinde, announced that the vacant throne of the Alaafin of Oyo would not be allowed sold to the highest bidder. “Those of you fighting over Alaafin of Oyo’s stool should stop. Those who have collected money from people should know that Alaafin’s stool is not for sale. The stool is very important to Yoruba land; we will not allow it sold to the highest bidder.” That was quite cool, pleasing and reassuring. The governor spoke as an authentic Yoruba patriot who understands the place of the oba as the ori (head) and what it does in the life of the Yoruba society.
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One of the most difficult moments for a governor in Yorubaland is when a prominent oba’s stool falls vacant. The skies, at that moment, wear an incandescent shroud of lightning, thunder claps and storms of intrigues. Dr Omololu Olunloyo was Western State’s commissioner in charge of chieftaincy affairs when the last Alaafin was chosen in 1970. He tells dusky stories of what went into that decision. When a first class king dies and the governor allows the lowering of his guard, his face will suffer the ugliness of pimples. Where the soil is fertile, kingmakers sell thrones for princely sums and princes of means buy stools. Shortly after the immediate past Timi of Ede, Oba Tijani Oyewusi Agbonran II, joined his ancestors in August 2007, the then Osun State governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, asked the most senior kingmaker in that town which royal house’s turn it was to present the next oba. “It is everyone’s turn” was the answer the governor got. It cannot be every prince’s turn, the governor countered the kingmaker, asking him if what he was saying was that the family of the one who just died could also present a candidate. And the kingmaker replied the governor: “Ṣebí oyè bàbá won ni” (Why not? It is their father’s chieftaincy). That final answer was a code (or a red flag) for rent seeking and rent collection – a recipe for interminable litigious crisis. The governor understood what was not said, and, I am aware, he quickly closed all roads to trouble.
Sometimes, it is the princes and their houses who run after kingmakers and assail them with irresistible cash. Throne purchasers pursue chiefs up the hill and down the valley. The same happens to key people around the approving authority, the governor. Even small me, as the governor’s spokesman, I received august visitors from the town of Ede who said they came to thank me. Thank me for what? They said I issued a statement in which I promised that government would “follow due process in filling the stool” and because of that they brought gifts. Where I come from, a child’s most precious possessions are his mother’s and father’s prayers. I got plenty of such prayers against missteps before I became an orphan, and I pray daily for those parental fortifications to dictate what I do, what I say, what I eat. My elderly guests said they brought kola nuts for me; I told them I inherited hectares of kola nut farms from my father but I don’t eat kola nuts. They fixed their gaze on me; I also looked at my ‘appreciative’ throne-seeking visitors and smiled. I showered them with rejective thanks. They left with their kola nuts in their pocket.
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Who or what should choose the next Alaafin? The answer is in tradition and religion, encased carefully in lore and anecdotes. Priest and professor of Ifa religion and a former vice chancellor of the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile Ife, Professor Wande Abimbola, offered an insight in November 2022 in an interview published by the newspaper I edit. He told this story: “In ancient times, there was a vacancy in the stool of the Alaafin. In those days, Ifá would choose from among the princes. So they had the list of all the princes; they presented all to Ifá and Ifá rejected all of them. After exhausting the names of all the princes, the kingmakers were worried about what to do next. One of them said: ‘there is one person who lives in a village far away. He carries his load of firewood to the town once a week. He goes to the bush, cuts firewood, takes it to the town every week to sell. After selling, he would go back to the village. His name is Otonporo. Why don’t we try him?’ So they consulted Ifá if Otonporo would be fit for the throne, and if the Oyo Empire would be prosperous under his reign. Ifá said yes. At that time if Ifá had chosen you as the new Alaafin, the kingmakers would meet you in the house wherever you were. Otonporo had just put his heavy load of firewood on his head, coming to the town. They met him as he was leaving his abode in the forest. They shouted: ‘Otonporo, da’gi nùn; ire ti dé’lé kokoko’ (meaning ‘Otonporo, throw away your firewood; great fortune is awaiting you in the city.’) Otonporo became Alaafin and ruled for a long time. He was a successful king….” None of the rich princes in the metropolis got the throne; it was one hewer of wood somewhere deep in the bush who got the crown – and brought peace and prosperity to Oyo and its people.
A good leader is to his people what a good child is to its parents. When a child takes the right steps, the mother sings delightsome tunes; when a child opens its arms, it delights its father (omo sí’sè o wù’yá/ omo sí’pá, omo wu baba). Every Yoruba person should be proud of Governor Makinde’s stance on the Alaafin stool. His vow that the stool won’t be sold to the highest bidder is good news. It means we won’t have an Alaafin that has no regard for etiquette and protocols; one who routinely violates values and would be beating up other obas in private and public places. When a government makes a vow to do good, the people would be assisting themselves by helping it to get the promise fulfilled. We should be interested in what is happening in Oyo town and what will happen to the stool there. We should particularly note the governor’s choice of words. What he said was not a guess-work; he was sure of what had happened and may still happen to the process. He hinted that some people had taken money to force an unworthy stuff into the vacant ààfin in Oyo. Who took money and who gave money?
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Things happen daily around us; only that we are too blind (or too drunk) to see them. But if the eyes are attentive enough, they should have no problem seeing through the dank alleys of nostrils. It is not as if the decay in our obaship system started today. Maggots and nestling peckers have, long before now, been gutting the Yoruba royalty. Pioneer arts, culture and tradition scholar, Ulli Beier, was here from 1950 through the ’70s. He observed the Yoruba society’s unique monarchy and its democratic mainframes. He noted that in the selection of an oba, every part of the community had a say in it. He added that the Yoruba held the belief that an oba that lacked broad-based support in the town could not be a good king. In exasperation, he lamented that “now, people more or less buy the office, or they are imposed by the government.” The German uttered those words decades ago. Ulli Beier said more about the journey with so much poignancy in this narration: “In the 1950s, I met a generation of oba like Timi Laoye of Ede, Oba Adenle of Osogbo, the Olokuku of Okuku (Oyinlola) and many more. They were Christians and they understood the changed political situation. They believed in education but they were also strongly committed to upholding the dignity of their office. They also understood the value and wisdom of ancient Yoruba traditions. They were an impressive group of men, of kings. They did not use their office to enrich themselves; and they were absolutely accessible to the people. Now, you have a generation of oba, many of them political appointees who have by-passed traditional election procedures in a shameless way. A surprisingly large number of these new oba have been accountants or big businessmen before ascending to the throne. Some see the office as a means of making money. Various governments keep them in tow by throwing a few contracts their way. You now have an oba who shamelessly asks: ‘where is my envelope?’ – a new euphemism for ‘haven’t you brought any money to give me?’ So, how is Yoruba society going to cope with such problems? Should this ancient institution be abolished? Can it be rejuvenated, and, in such a way that we can keep politics out of it? Can it still play a vital and positive part in contemporary and future Yoruba society? If not, can it be replaced by something else? And what will that ‘something else’ be? Who or what will give a sense of direction and cohesion to the Yoruba town?” (Ulli Beier in Conversations, 2012; page 84-85). Beier asked the right questions: in the face of this thing we called ‘democracy’, shouldn’t the institution of obaship be abolished? Or can it be saved with rejuvenation? How? Who will save it?
The kingmakers in the Otonporo case above had a choice: they could sell the Oyo throne and strut the metropolis in accursed beaded wealth. The priest too had a choice; he could collect money and pick a candidate his oracle did not command him to pick. But both sides did not take the route to personal and communal ruin. They knew that every bad behaviour had very bad consequences. A purchased throne, most times, results in having a bad oba. And, what is the effect of having a bad king? A bad king is exactly the public equivalent of a bad head. A town can survive lack of rains but no society survives the ravage of bad leadership. Leaders without legitimacy reverse gains no matter what riches they inherit – they make bush of their society and ruin their people’s good head. Look around you. It is real. I quote Karin Barber again: “…the ruins of abandoned houses overgrown with bush, the traces of whole ruined settlements, remain as a warning that at any time, the conquest of the bush can be reversed…” True. The quickest way to reverse “the conquest of the bush” is to invest the powers of the state in the wrong hands. Athens and Sparta were Ancient Greece’s powerhouses. They convulsed and lost their luster to bad choices. The frailty of the polis is a constant warning that we must never plant thorns and thistles where rose is desired. Oba Lamidi Adeyemi died in April 2022; he was a very successful king and a pride to the Yoruba, home and abroad. When he died, the question was: who steps into his shoes and when? That we are still asking that question in September 2023 is to our collective shame as a people.
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