By Suyi Ayodele
Something is happening in Edo State right now. It is a big lesson in infidelity. As you read this piece, the rope which strapped Governor Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Comrade Philip Shaibu, together in the wake of their joint political annihilation of their estranged godfather, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has snapped. As it stands today, Shaibu is holding on at the mercy of an Abuja Federal High Court, which asked the parties in the suit he filed to stay action. Shaibu, rightly, or wrongly, in the said suit, claimed that his principal, using the House of Assembly, had put in motion plans to impeach him. Obaseki, on his part, said there was no such plan. The security agents, who were joined in the suit, also denied it. How do my people describe a situation like this? “Agbón únsé, ìkamùdù únsé; ojú olóko rē gùdùgudu” (The wasp denies, the giant ant denies, yet the face of the farmer is full of bumps). Oshiomhole is the only one savouring the entire drama with his signature mischievous smile at the corners of his mouth. There is a snag somewhere. We would come to that in a while. What is playing out in Edo State reminds me of the chants of hunters, back in my childhood.
One of the childhood pastimes I loved back in those days, was attending the chants by hunters, known as Ìjálá Aré Ode. These chants come in different shades; some purely entertaining, and some esoteric and dangerous. For instance, Ìrèmòjé, a dirge chant by hunters, is one that is not performed in the daytime, and, or just anytime. You cannot perform an Ìrèmòjé in your family compound simply because you are happy. Such a misadventure comes with terrible consequences. Ìrèmòjé is chanted when a hunter is faced with a very difficult situation, and he needs the assistance of the owners of the trade to get out alive. Or at the funeral of a hunter who was indeed a hunter while on this part of the planet. It is a combination of evocation, incantation, and invocation. Talk about traditional trinity, talk about Ìrèmòjé. You have got to be versed in the deep language of Ogun worshipers to be able to participate in Ìrèmòjé, especially during an Ìsípa Ode (funeral rites for a departed hunter). I would have loved to do an Ìrèmòjé for Shaibu. But I was not initiated into the world of hunters. I only loved to watch the hunters ply their trades back then. I relied solely on the enviable positions occupied by my two elderly first cousins, the late Baba Olaiya Onipede (Olaiya Asho) and the current Head of Obajusigbe clan, Pa Jimoh Ajayi Owomorinle. These two, especially Baba Olaiya, were so versed in Ìjálá that other hunters avoided them when they entered their modes. And on such occasions, they would look around to see any inquisitive lad around and order him back home. Yours sincerely was once an inquisitive lad. Thankfully, curiosity did not kill my cat! There is one chant I picked back then that speaks to Obaseki and Shaibu’s debacle.
The chant is about an adulterous woman. Hunters, as far back as the creation of time, knew that it is not profitable to marry an adulterous woman. They reasoned that any woman who could betray her husband has the capacity to betray any other man. Her coquettish proclivity would always drift her to other men, the hunters reasoned in their chants, as they sing: Àgbèrè obìnrin sòro fé (It is difficult to marry an adulterous woman); Bó pé bó yá yió da’lè (sooner or later she will betray you), Àgbèrè obìnrin sòro fé (It is difficult to marry an adulterous woman). Traditional philosophers say that once a married woman opens her laps for another man other than her husband, the man at home has lost the battle. I would not know how true that is. However, I know that betrayal has a way of repeating itself. We have seen that among the Nigerian politicians, especially those of this inglorious era which began on May 29, 1999. Check those in power today and those in the opposition, you will find men and women who had before now touched base with virtually all the political parties. Our current swarm of political elite was absent when Obatala was giving the virtue of shame. One needs to attend any gathering where one politician is changing party colour like a chameleon to understand how despicable those we call our leaders can be. My Benin friends have a name for them: Anywhere belle face!
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Shaibu was an unknown entity until the gods used Oshiomhole to support him in the year 2000 to become the President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), following the death of another Edo NANS President, Moses Osakede. Oshiomhole himself, whom many believe is a protegee of late Pastor Francis Osikpomobo Shaibu (Philip Shaibu’s father), remained committed to his late benefactor by holding the junior Shaibu’s hands up the political ladder. Through the instrumentality of Oshiomhole, Shaibu, was elected as a member of the Edo State House of Assembly, to represent Etsako West, under Oshiomhole’s Action Congress (AC), in 2007. On November 12, 2008, the Court of Appeal sacked Professor Oserheimen Osunbor, who was erroneously declared the winner of the 2007 governorship election and declared Oshiomhole as the winner. As the sitting governor, Oshiomhole orchestrated the removal of the House of Assembly leadership in 2010 and installed Shaibu as Majority Leader on February 24, 2010. In 2015, just a year to Oshiomhole’s end of second term, he, against all protestations from their Etsako clan, imposed Shaibu as the House of Representatives candidate for the Etsako Federal Constituency. The argument that Oshiomhole as a governor, and being from Etsako West and of Uzairue ethnic group, should not allow another Etsako West and Uzauire person, who had before the 2015 elections, been a member of the house of assembly for eight years, to take the slot, fell on deaf ears. Barely a year in the House of Representatives, and as Oshiomhole’s second term in office was round the corner, the homuncular former labour leader found no other person to be nominated as the deputy governorship candidate of the APC than Shaibu. On November 12, 2016, Philip Shaibu was sworn in as the deputy governor to his principal, Governor Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki. If there is any proverbial squirrel which cracked Shaibu’s political palm kernel, look no further than Oshiomhole.
As it was for Shaibu, so it was for Obaseki, who before he became the occupant of Dennis Osadebay Avenue, Government House, Edo State, on November 12, 2016, was a political nobody. Oshiomhole appointed him as the Chairman of the Economic and Strategy Team (EST). He was in the Oshiomhole’s administration as the unseen hands behind the government’s Tax Assessment Review Committee for the Edo State Internal Revenue (TARC) and the Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME). Like he is fond of saying to anyone that cares to listen, Obaseki remains a ‘technocrat’ without any political lineage, platform, or idea. Meanwhile, in government, Oshiomhole had Dr Pius Odubu as his deputy, whom he never handed over to for a second as acting governor, but who nevertheless remained loyal to his principal. Many would have taken the bet that given Odubu’s level of loyalty, he would be anointed as Oshiomhole’s successor. That would never be as Oshiomhole, again ignoring all wise counsel, anointed Obaseki as his successor. He browbeat everyone to support the project and went all the way to bulldoze the political mountains on Obaseki’s path to the Government House. On November 12, 2016, Obaseki took the oath of office as the Executive Governor of Edo State. The cycle was completed when Oshiomhole donated Osarodion Ogie, his erstwhile Commissioner for Works, as the Secretary to the State Government (SSG). He packed his bag, headed for his Iyamho country home and from there to Abuja, where he upstaged another Edo man and former governor of the state, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, as the National Chairman of the APC. Installed as the new APC National Chairman on June 23, 2018, Oshiomole, like the foolish Biblical rich man, looked at his political trajectory and the IOUs he deposited in the trio of Obaseki, Shaibu and Ogie back in Edo State, asked his soul to be at rest! How mistaken he was.
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Back at home, the duo of Obaseki and Shaibu, like a political monozygotic twin, decided to carve a niche for themselves. They branded their political godfather overbearing and carried on in government without further recourse to him. Shaibu, who refers to his principal as “my elder brother”, was treated like a partner and not a subordinate by the governor. While Odubu never had a second to become acting governor under Oshiomhole, Shaibu was given almost unlimited latitude by Obaseki. Shaibu oversaw politics while Obaseki concentrated on core governance. The deputy governor enjoyed much visibility such that the then Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State had to ask, rhetorically: “Who is Shaibu, a common deputy governor?” The gap between the godfather and his godsons became widened by the day. Prodded by Shaibu, who claimed to know all the tricks of Oshiomhole, whom he calls his ‘father’, Obaseki became vicious, such that Oshiomhole had to bide his time before coming to Benin City. All known political allies of Oshiomhole became endangered as Obaseki went after them one after the other. Their business premises were either sealed up, demolished and their rights to the ownership revoked, and even railroaded to the nearest jailhouse. One of such boys relocated permanently to Abuja after he spent one Christmas in prison custody! Prompted by Osadebay Avenue (Government House), Oshiomhole was suspended by his Etsako West Ward 10, and the suspension was ratified by all the 18 local government chairmen on November 12, 2019. The National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC upheld the decision. There were litigations and counter court orders. An embattled Oshiomhole fought back. He denied Obaseki APC’s ticket for a second term, on the grounds that the governor’s certificates were fake. Obaseki and Shaibu wasted no time. On June 16, 2020, they both resigned from the APC, and three days later, joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), where they sought the party’s ticket for their second term. Again, Obaseki showed fidelity to his deputy, when PDP asked him to drop Shaibu, and pick a new man, the governor declined, stating that he would rather lose the bid for a second term than betray a deputy who stood by him in his political battles. Reason prevailed and Obaseki and Shaibu were adopted as PDP candidate and running mate for the September 10, 2020, gubernatorial race.
The 2020 election was the most tortuous for Oshiomhole. The campaigns “brought out the beasts” in the gladiators. Oshiomhole was practically chased back to his Etsako enclave, where he struggled to win five out of the six councils in that District, with a very puny margin. By then, Oshiomhole had become an ex-National Chairman of the APC, having been sacked by the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal on June 16, 2020. The 112,149 votes for the PDP in the Benin metropolitan councils of Egor, Ikpoba Okha and Oredo, was 18,381 votes more than the entire result of 93,768 votes, Oshiomhole got from the five, out of six LGAs in Edo North. Obaseki and Shaibu won and were sworn in on November 12, 2020, for their second term. The duo drank wine and danced to the who no like better thing, lyrics of Mr. 2kay and Jonsers. The conspiracy against Oshiomhole worked for the duo, but it was not to last.
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Yoruba say of conspiracy this way: “Egbèrìn òtè, rírú ní rú; bí a ge laarò á rú lálé” (conspiracy is like a bunch of weeds, which when uprooted in the morning, sprouts in the evening). They go further to dismiss conspiracy as ephemeral, saying: “Ilé tí a fi itó mo, ìrì ni ó wo” (a house built with spittle will be destroyed by dew). Olu Daramola and Adebayo Jeje co-authored a play with the same title, “Ilé tí a fi itó mo”. No matter how conspiracy thrives, it takes something inconsequential, like the dew, to pull it down. Obaseki and Shaibu are today, living examples of the validity of these sayings. The hitherto political soul mates are not just on the battlefield, it will take the grace of God for Shaibu to complete his term as the deputy governor. Given Obaseki’s antecedents as an unforgiving and ruthless fighter, it beats my imagination how Shaibu would decide to take on his principal. Since the Obaseki political wars started with Oshiomhole, one fatal mistake his enemies make is to underestimate the governor’s capacity to wreak havoc. Oshiomhole underrated Obaseki until the latter was reduced to a lonely political figure in his Iyamho village before fortune smiled on him and he won the senatorial seat in February. What about Dan Orbih, the erstwhile National Vice Chairman of the PDP, South-South, who had the privilege of welcoming Obaseki to the PDP in 2020? Where is he today? Obaseki did not only hijack the entire PDP structures from Orbih, but he also sent him to political siesta. Why? Because everyone, who has gone into the political ring with Obaseki, has the tendency that the governor, being ‘a political neophyte’, does not understand the intricacies of deft political machinations. Poor souls! Even those who staked their political relevance to follow Obaseki from APC to PDP, are today licking their wounds.
Now back to the snag. Hanging on Shaibu’s neck is the weighty allegation of breach of Oath of Secrecy. The Edo State Executive Council meeting held last Wednesday, accused him. Chris Osa Nehikhare, Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, who briefed the press after the meeting said there were consequences for the deputy governor. Obaseki too, while speaking at Shaibu’s backyard on Thursday last week accused Shaibu of planning a “coup” against him. “To say the deputy governor has become so desperate to take over that he would do anything, including carrying out a coup, against his governor”, Obaseki bemoaned. While the deputy governor has denied all the allegations, assuring that he would “swim and sink” with his principal, Oshiomhole, a demagogue par excellence, during the week, advised Shaibu to stay loyal to his boss. He warned Shaibu not to tinker with the idea of running back to the APC. “We in APC are satisfied with the way we are. We are happy in opposition, and we are not about to receive people who are coming because they have lost out. No IDP (Internally Displaced politicians) camp for politicians in APC”, he maintained. I am not a prophet. All I know is that if by any chance, the Abuja court vacates its restraining order in the pending suit, Shaibu can as well sing his Nunc dimittis. Obaseki’s antecedents point to that!
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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