By Lasisi Olagunju
Today’s Yorubaland is a very reluctant part of Nigeria. But it is also the most conflicted of the parts. Its goals are difficult to define – even by itself. A friend from the non-Yoruba part of Edo State asked me at the weekend if the serial declaration of today as a public holiday in the South-West was not a step towards self-determination. I laughed. There is actually supposed to be a Yoruba national day but there has been no agreement when it should be. Instead, four of the six states in the South-West are on holiday today in celebration of what they called Ìsèse Day. Outsiders may not understand what this represents; even many of us inside do not know what purpose the Day serves beyond the justice of “what is good for Muslims and Christians should be good for those who are neither.” The truth is, there is a disconnect between today’s Ìsèse Day and majority of Yoruba people’s contemporary concerns and interests.
Should today’s Ìsèse Day be costumed as a competition with Muslims’s Sallah and Christians’ Christmas? Before you say anything, ask what the word Ìsèse means, literally. It means ‘the beginning.’ And, what is the place of ‘the beginning’ in Yoruba’s belief system? That question was asked centuries ago by the elders: kí l’a kókó se ní’fè ká tó s’awo? (what did we consider first in Ile Ife before worship?). Those who asked the question provided the answer: Ìsèse l’a kókó se ní’fè ká tó s’awo (Ìsèse was considered first in Ife before worship). They explained further what makes up the conceptual Ìsèse :
Ìyá eni, Ìsèse ni (one’s mother is Ìsèse ).
Bàbá eni, Ìsèse ni (one’s father is Ìsèse ).
Orí eni, Ìsèse ni (one’s head is Ìsèse ).
We are not focused on celebrating all the above. Instead, the discussions are about how best to do the impossible: alienate Islam and Christianity in Yorubaland. The celebration of something foundationally key as what we are told Ìsèse is should not suffer thematic and functional deficiencies. The excitement that shrieked across the cyberspace over today’s holiday should have concrete contents. But there is none. Instead, what we’ve seen is an Internet buzz punctuated with a full stop. Whose idea is the choice of today as Ìsèse Day? If it is about celebrating the essentialities of Yorubanness, is this hollow holiday all the Yoruba can do? We could start from little but fundamental things. There is a Yoruba anthem inherited from Obafemi Awolowo. The opening lines state the responsibility of every Yoruba person: Isẹ́ wà fún ilẹ̀ wa/ Fún orílè ìbí i wa (there is work to do for our homeland, the land of our birth). The anthem also contains lines of equity and fairness: “Ìgbàgbó wa ni wípé b’áati b’ẹ́rú lab’ọ́mọ” (It is our belief that the freeborn and the slave are born equal). And the closing lines: Ọmọ Oodu’a dìde, bọ́sí ipò ẹ̀tọ́ ò rẹ/ Ìwọ ní ìmọ́lè gbogbo adúláwọ̀ (children of Oduduwa, stand up and take your rightful place (because) you are the light of the black race). Anthems are not fancy songs. We forgot, this morning, to set aside a few minutes to sing that song across Yorubaland and reconnect our orí inú with our heritage of ancestral goodness.
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Will it be wrong if we repackage the entire Ìsèse bouquet infusing it with the creative energy of the Yoruba of all faiths home and abroad? The Indian Diwali is celebrated by Indians of all faiths everywhere around the world in remembrance of their victory over forces of darkness. They do it with lit lamps of peace and liberty. What fundamentals of our culture is Ìsèse Day celebrating today? It is not religion. If it is about promoting the artistic parts of our culture and tradition, we have enough to make the holiday worth having. We can reform the form, reinvent content and learn orderly process from outside. The promoters of Ìsèse Day have so much to do beyond competing with Muslims and Christians on the number of days we are officially off work. There is a lot of clean-up to do in form and content for decent people to identify with whatever Ìsèse represents. I witnessed Olójó Day in Ile Ife twice during the reign of Oba Okunade Sijuwade; it was a struggle against law and order. This year’s Òsun Osogbo Festival in Osogbo claimed lives and limbs. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival holds over three weeks every August in the United Kingdom. The British Council celebrates it as “the world’s biggest arts festival” featuring hundreds of “stand-up comedy, dance performances, theatre, art exhibitions, circus, spoken word, opera and much, much more.” There is also the Belfast International Arts Festival which “brings the world’s best and most innovative artists to Belfast every year from across the globe in a celebration of contemporary arts – dance, music, theatre, visual arts, film and music – with an international outlook and artist base.” I won’t be surprised if the Yoruba play major roles in those festivals.
We should also use this day to ask questions about our politics and why things are as they are. Fortunately, the president of Nigeria is from one of the states celebrating Ìsèse. If Ìsèse approximates orí and all it does, then the leader can use today to reset himself. The Yoruba is told to propitiate the orí and let the gods take care of themselves. There are Nigerians to whom Bola Tinubu’s presidency is still a dream. How did he pull it? He became president, then chose his ministers and assigned portfolios in ways that raised queries and asked questions. I have heard and read words demanding why Lagbaja became Tinubu’s minister and why Tamedo got nothing. People who say things like this have probably not heard the story of Ajé, the struggling man who woke up one morning with the ambition to go to Otu Ife and become Olówó (king of money). Ajé knelt before his orí, his Eléda, and prayed to have his wish granted. But he is soon told that life is give-me-I-give-you; what the Romans, in three syllables, elegantly couched as quid pro quo. The Yoruba say ‘bùn mi kí n bùn o’ is Toad’s monologue at the river bank. What the ambitious want from life is always determined by what they give to life. Ajé was told to add two plus three as sacrifice to the Customs and Immigration officers of life. He did as he was told and in three days he became what he said he wanted to become: Olówo, king of money. The world looked at the crowned Ajé and at the unrewarded struggles of his friends and told itself: “ogbón ju agbára.” How do I translate that? Ogbón in Yoruba means wisdom (or is it guile or money?) which trumps agbára (force). Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles (page 116) contains a quaint variant of that translation: “‘Tis knack, not strength, that does it.”
It was easy to do difficult things in the days “when faith was a living thing” (Thomas Hardy again!). And, truly, faith used to be a living thing. Ajé’s story is not a stand-alone narrative. In the same country where Ajé reigned over wealth and money, there was the nameless warrior who wanted to climb Ọgẹ̀gẹ̀, the tree of success. He asked his orí and was told that life’s journey to success was a contest with barbed gates and border closures. On the highway of success were dogs that barked and bit; on the road were chickens with beaks that ate the eyes of the ambitious. There were monkeys on that road with finger-nails of death and bulls with poisoned horns. They were the graveyard of all previous attempts at getting to the tree top. The one who would climb the tree of success to the very top must conquer the dogs and the chickens at the barbed gates; he must overcome the monkeys and the bulls enforcing the border closures. If the ambitious would be successful, he must arm himself with lots of bones and bowls of grains; he must have in his pouch lots of banana, and on his head a basket of fodder. In that age of wisdom, obedience was not seen as senior to sacrifice; both slept in the same bed and travelled in the same saddle. ‘Obedience’ was ‘sacrifice’ spelt differently; they were synonyms. The man who would successfully climb the tree of success did everything he needed to do for the road to accept him. Because his orí did not deceive him and his ears heard well, he had something for every enemy that showed up on the way. To the dogs baying for the flesh of his ambition, the candidate reached for his bag and threw bones; to the pesky chickens, he dropped grains; to mischievous monkeys, he fed banana, and for the bulls and their horns of death, ambition’s basket of fodder was the perfect distraction. The man who would climb life’s tree to the top must do as told; and, because he did as told, his road was weaned of the pestilence of the past. His enemies were busy having their feast of freebies while he waltzed to his prize. He got to Ọgẹ̀gẹ̀ and climbed to the top of the tree of success.
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The ascendancy of this president was celebrated by his fans as a genius in the skies. Our push-back at the prebendal essence of what was coming was viewed as a perfect vindication of Jonathan Swift’s defence of geniuses against petty jealousies. They said the president was the “true genius” and we were “the dunces” stupidly in a “confederacy against him.” Money can buy thrones, they cannot sustain them. Reigns are maintained with a fine mix of goodly obedience and sacrifice. It is not enough to conjure crowns and coral beads and be king of money. Being rich enough to be president, governor or minister is a step to genuine success. How about what the Yoruba call àtubòtán, the day after? It happened to the Moon with all its glory. The Moon was asked to sacrifice so that he would have peace of mind. Golden moon laughed at the counsel and turned deaf ears to what the Divine asked him to give. And why would he not be proud? He was up there glowing in glory with all creations of the world looking up to him. Then Olodumare sent for him.
“What is it that you want me to do?” He asked his Maker.
“You will henceforth live fifteen days on earth and fifteen days in heaven,” Olodumare told him and it was a decree. The Moon was stunned but it was too late. It was the world’s turn to laugh at the one who was too big to listen. From that day on, Moon would have no peace of mind. He would be living fifteen days in the world; fifteen days in heaven (see Ulli Beier’s Yoruba Myths, 1980, page 3). The Tinubu government is buffeted by troubles on all fronts. Its headaches are its unpopular policies, domestic and foreign. I could imagine him and his ardent aides stand askance wondering like the defeated Kurunmi of Ijaiye: Are we truly wrong in these matters? The answer may not get to them so soon as it did Kurunmi with his crashing. And lovers of the president tell us that his errors might be because of his age. But his age is not his problem; his problems are the choices he made (and is making). He should beg his orí inu – his inner head – to tell him what is wrong with his ways.
You regularly watch your favourite footballer hold his/her head in regret at every goal missed. Before every contest, such player should sing along with Hubert Ogunde: “…If I have good legs, Creator, let me have good head (Bi mo l’ésè ire, Èdá jé n l’órí ire).” Yoruba’s elevation of orí above religion is therefore deliberate. They say it is what vindicates one before the deities do (atètè gbéni k’òòsà tó gbeni). It was the case with Olókun, king of the seas, who was repeatedly told by his peers that he would amount to nothing. He sought counsel from those who had knowledge and was told to appease his head. Olókun did as he was told and our ancestors said he became oyígíyigì ota omi (oyígíyigì, the rock in the waters). University of Ibadan’s Femi Fatoba (2002) celebrates well this victory over failure: “Olókun became rich and prosperous and all the other bodies of water began to flow into it. Whenever Olókun looked at the other priests who said he would never amount to anything, he surged over them and washed them away.” Olókun would not have won without his being true to truth. Tell Tinubu, the ‘ibú’ in his name means ocean depths. He must have heard it said that fish uses its head to wade through the sea bed: orí ni eja fií la ‘bú. So, tell him Abuja is not Lagos. The few who survived there were the ones wise enough to hold their heads firmly.
This article written by Dr. Lasisi Olagunju, Saturday Editor, Nigerian Tribune, was first published by the same newspaper.
Alaafin Stool: Putting Culture To The Sword? [OPINION]
By Suyi Ayodele
May the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Kayode Adetona, live long on the throne of his fathers. But, how about my illustrious Ijebu people having Fuji musician, Wasiu Ayinde, as their oba one day? That is what I see in the current drama of some Ijebu obas and others paying homage to him inside an ‘ipebi’ (seclusion). So, let me be the first outside Ijebuland to pay homage to the latest ‘oba’ in Yoruba land. Long live, Kabiyesi, Alayeluwa, Oba Wasiu Ayinde, the Olori Omooba Akile of Ijebuland. May you reign long on the throne of your forebears! Wasiu has money, which is the vehicle of power. More importantly, he has the king of Nigeria as his godfather. Don’t mind me. My mind is just playing a prank on that possibility. But that is not the main reason for today’s discourse. Oyo Alaafin is my destination.
I am not an alarmist. But an alarm is ringing, loud, in my head. It is about the happenings in Oyo town. The sons of Atiba, Omo ojo pa sekere mo de (Oyo, the sons of Atiba, whose cymbal does not deflate when beaten by rain) are on the verge of sending the last vestige of Yoruba culture to its grave. Once Oyo Alaafin (Place where the owner of the palace resides) succeeds in desecrating the Alaafin stool, the Yoruba race can as well kiss its culture goodbye. Awon Alale o ni je (May the owners of the land not allow it). Ewi aye o ni wi; Egba Orun o ni gba (May the sayer of the world not say it; may the hearer of heaven not accept it). I feel I should go invocative now, to call on all Itas (forebears), who have gone to Iwaleasa (great beyond), to rise, and defend our land. Our elders say: oku olomo kii sun (the dead who have offspring don’t sleep). Are our forebears sleeping? Ee ti je (how come it is so)? If I were to see the Ijelu Ekiti priest of Esu, I would have asked him to help us appease Laaroye to have mercy on us. If I were to run to the Alamoeku (Chief Ifa Priest), the Adifa-se-bi-aje (he who divines accurately like a witch) himself, I would have asked him to help us ask the only one known as Okunrin-kukuru-Oke-Igbeti (The short man who resides on the hills of Igbeti), Ifa, what our crimes are. What is happening in Oyo is bigger than Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State. It is bigger than what the Oyomesi can handle. The entire Kaaro, oojire (the entire Yoruba race) must come together and rescue the race. Keeping silent is akin to allowing a mad man to single-handedly attend to his mother’s corpse. He will throw it into the community river and pollute our source of water. We cannot afford that! Oyo kingmakers known as Oyomesi, are insulting our sensibilities as a people. They are attacking the very essence of our being. They say Ifa, the Yoruba religion, is not required in the selection of a new Alaafin! Haaaa! Eemo re (this is stranger than strange)!
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Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, the Alaafin of Oyo, joined his ancestors on Friday, April 22, 2022. His passage was celebrated all over the world. The succession battle to fill the vacant stool began almost immediately. The last one year has been turbulent, so to say, in the history of Oyo in recent times. It is the battle for the right candidate for the throne of Oranmiyan that is ringing the alarm in my head. I read the news. I did not believe it. It was published by the Saturday Tribune on September 23, 2023. It was an interview granted the newspaper by High Chief Wakilu Oyedepo, the Lagunna of Oyo. The Lagunna is a member of the Oyomesi – Oyo Kingmakers. The head of the group is Bashorun. The occupant of the title today is High Chief Yusuf Ayoola. Saturday Tribune said that the Bashorun gave permission to grant the interview to the Lagunna. The Lagunna was asked: “What is the role of Ifa in the selection process?” Here is his response: “Ifa (oracle) has never been consulted in the process of selecting the Alaafin of Oyo. The Oyomesi is Ifa; Ifa is the Oyomesi. The decision of the Oyomesi is supreme in the choice of a nominee for the exalted stool of the Alaafin. Ifa was not consulted when late Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III was to be enthroned as the Alaafin. What happened at the time of his enthronement is still fresh in our memories. Why was it that the person that topped the list was not enthroned as the king but Oba Adeyemi if truly Ifa was involved in the selection process? Since we have been enthroning the Alaafin in Oyo, Ifa has never been consulted. The issue of Ifa arose during the reign of Alaafin Sango.” This left my mouth agape! How can an Oyo man utter such a sacrilegious statement? We are talking about the nomination of one of the princes in Oyo to fill the vacant stool of an Alaafin and a member of the Oyomesi is saying Ifa had never been consulted in the past in carrying out such an exercise! Really? Who is Ifa? Who is Oyomesi? How can Ifa be Oyomesi and Oyomesi is Ifa? How can the decision of Oyomesi be superior to that of Ifa? Who made Oyomesi in the first instance? From where do members of the Oyomesi Council derive their power?
World-known Ifa priest, the very Awise Agbaye, Professor Wande Abimbola, an Oyo man, says of Ifa in his Ijinle Ohun Enu Ifa Apa Kini and Apa Keji (parts one and two), that Ifa is a very important deity among Yoruba people. He added that the belief of the Yoruba people is that Ifa was sent to the earth by Olodumare (God Almighty), to use his heavenly wisdom to organise the earth. Yemi Elebuibon, another Yoruba notable Ifa priest, wrote a book in Yoruba Language. The title is: “Ifa Elerin Ipin”. On page i of the book, he has this to say: “Oosa kan pataki ni Ifa je ni Ile Yoruba (Ifa is an important god/deity in Yoruba land). Ouni ni (He is): a-kere-finu-sogbon (He that is small but full of wisdom), ako eran tii i soku ale ana daaye (the strong one who revives the corpse of last night to a living soul), Ela Isode ti i komo loran bi iyekan eni (The one from Isode, who explains a situation to one like one’s relation)”. The title, Eleri Ipin, when interpreted, means the one who witnessed destiny. Part of the oriki (praise names) of Ifa is “Arinu-rode, Olumoran-okan (He who sees both the inside and the outside, the decipher of human thoughts). In another instance, Ifa answers the name; “Atun-ori-eni-ti-o suwon-se (the repairer of a bad head – unfortunate destiny). Ifa is not just the Yoruba religion; it is the essence of the race; the very one which directs the functionality of the people right from the time lizards were few! Incidentally, Ifa, as a religion, deity, and way of life, was exported to other Yoruba towns and villages from Oyo. On June 20, 2023, in a piece titled: “Yoruba governors are Ifa priests”, which I did in response to the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrasheed Akanbi, who claimed the same position that the Lagunna of Oyo is claiming today, I traced the history of Ifa to the reign of Alaafin Onigbogi, who adopted Ifa from Arugba-Ifa, the wife of Alafin Oluaso and mother of Alaafin Onigbogi. The entire story is told by The Reverend Samuel Johnson, in his “The History of the Yorubas”, (pages 118-189). From then on, Ifa did not just become the religion of the Oyo people but that of the entire Yoruba race.
From Abimbola, to Elebuibon, and up to Abosede Emmanuel, who, in her “Ifa (As Literature), English Translation of Yoruba Text of Revd. E. M. Lijadu”, a translation of Rev. Emmanuel Mose Lijadu’s Ifa Nipa (1908), the consensus is that Ifa was once a human being, who lived among us but had to ascend to heaven, using the palm tree with 16 branches, which are the 16 Odu Ifa (Odu Merindinlogun). The story is told in many Ifa verses (Ese Ifa), with Iwori Meji being the principal corpus (Odu Ifa). Abimbola’s Ijinle Ohun Enu Ifa Apa Keji (Page16-21), gives a vivid account of the story. While Orunmila refused to return to earth as human, he, nevertheless, handed over to the people, the 16 divination seeds (Ikin Merindinlogun) of Ifa, and instructed that for that whatever issue might confront the people, they should consult Ikin Merindinlogun. The entire Yoruba race accepted the gift and whenever any major decision is to be taken, the people consult their Babalawos, who will ask Ifa what the solution is. That has been the way of life of the Yoruba race. Foreign religions of Christianity and Islam have not been able to change that. Lijadu that is referenced here, was an Egba catechist, evangelist, and a confirmed Deacon and communicant of the Anglican fold. So, if we may ask High Chief Wakilu Oyedepo, the Lagunna of Oyo, and his fellow Ifa-is not-required Oyomesi, what has changed?
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Four days after Oba Adeyemi III passed on, and worried by the way and manner Yoruba thrones have become meta toro (three for two and half Kobo), as reigning obas desecrate the thrones of Oduduwa with impunity, I did another piece on April 26, 2022, with the title: “Alaafin: Message to Oyomesi, Makinde” But for the fear of being accused of intellectual laziness, I would have loved to reproduce that piece here because the contents are relevant to today’s discussion. All the fears I expressed in that piece are coming out one after the other. This is why I feel so burdened that the way the Oyomesi are going about the selection of a new Alaafin, if care is not taken, the pride of Yoruba race will be greatly jeopardized. Governor Makinde., while speaking at Iseyin on September 15, 2023, alluded to the fact that some members of the Oyomesi had collected money from some candidates jostling to become Alaafin. Makinde said in that speech: “Some people might have collected money from someone; Alaafin stool is not for sale. It is so important to Yorubaland that we won’t sell it. Anyone who might have gone to collect money, I won’t take them to OYAC; I will take them to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the man who started the EFCC is here seated, and I am saying in his presence.” I was expecting Oyomesi to answer the governor and dare him to name those who were suspected to have collected bribes from any of the contestants. That would never be. In a shocking manner, when the Saturday Tribune reporter put the question to the Lagunna of Oyo, here, again, is what he said: “Ko si ibi ti won kii ti jule, meaning, there is nowhere in the world where gift is forbidden. Such an act is not alien to our culture. Even politicians spend money during electioneering to lobby the electorate. I said it at the beginning of this interview that the Oyomesi is like the Ogboni cult. Our secret remains among us, but unfortunately, these same personalities betrayed the oath of secrecy. They travelled to Abuja to tell the governor that kingmakers collected money from one of the aspirants.” Imagine the raw admittance of bribery. To the respected Oyo kingmaker, if “politicians spend money during electioneering to lobby the electorate”, contestants for the Alaafin stool can also spend money to “lobby” Oyomesi. We need to ask this: is that why Eleri Ipin, Ifa, is not required in the selection process? Chief Lagunna knows too well that Ifa kii paro; Opele kii se’ke (Ifa does not lie, Divination is truthful). He would rather prefer that the cult-like “secret” of Oyomesi is not leaked to the governor and the public. This is where the danger lies. A section of the Oyomesi is ready to compromise the age-long tradition of Ifa consultation in the selection of a new Alaafin. This is what my people call “those at home have reached the farm (ara ile ti de oko). Every rational mind should be worried about this development. Permit me to quote myself in the April 26, 2023, piece:
“This is where the issue of the successor to Alaafin Adeyemi III should be of paramount interest to the entire Yoruba people. The time we are is the season of the locusts. The throne of Oyo is too big, too significant, and too important to the survival of our culture… This is where the Oyomesi- the kingmakers of ancient Oyo must stand firm. Oba Adeyemi III’s greatest asset was his integrity, his character, his disposition to everything that cements Yoruba culture. He was a Moslem; a practicing one for that matter. But in that, he never ignored the noble tradition of the people. He upheld the culture that made him Alaafin. He did not become Alaafin at the age of 31 because he had money. He became Alaafin because he had character. Yoruba say “iwa ni eniyan” – character is the man. Whoever comes after Oba Adeyemi III must not be less.” I warned them further about the danger of a long process of selection. I envisaged that “finding a fit-in successor”, would be difficult and posited that “that, however, should not be an excuse for the delay in selecting a new Alaafin. When a man stays too long on the chamber pot, different kinds of flies begin to perch on his scrotum.” Now we have the flies in their swarm perching not only on our scrotum, but dancing palongo on our phallus. Oyo princes are up in arms against one another. Cases are pending in courts. Oyomesi is sharply divided with two members of the council, High Chief Asimiyu Atanda, Agba-Akin of Oyo, High Chief Lamidi Oyewale, Saamu of Oyo, and another Chief, Odunrinde Olusegun, Alajagba of Oyo, singing a different song. The House of Oramiyan is not united anymore. Who will bail us out? Who will step in and ensure that the curse placed on the race by Alaafin Abiodun Aole (1770-1789), does not come home to roost again? The very one we can run to; the Atori-Eni-ti-o-sunwon-se, is said not to be needed. A child who sets his father’s Umosanyin (shrine) on fire should know that when sickness and fire break out, there will be no deity to run to. I made a passionate appeal in that April 26, 2022, piece. I seek your permission once again to repeat some of them here: “The Oyomesi will do Yorubaland proud if they resolve to give us an Alaafin that we can all follow to the battlefield. They should strive to give us an oba that will be royal in all ramifications of life. They will record their names in gold if, in considering the next Alaafin, the Oyomesi put character before wealth; integrity before popularity and our supreme culture before ‘civilisation’…. All eyes are on the Oyomesi. How they handle this assignment will definitely define their future and the future of Oyo town and Yorubaland. All Yoruba men everywhere in the world should not sleep. They should stay awake and monitor how the next Alaafin will emerge and who the person is and where he is coming from. We don’t want to enthrone an agent of the enemy as king….”
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Nothing untoward must happen to the Throne of Alaafin. The consequences will be too dire for Yoruba land. Oyomesi must know this. Oyo princes too must equally appreciate that. Those who can add two to three (mu eeji kun eeta), the initiates in the land, must tell Chief Lagunna and those who share his sentiment of “Ifa is Oyomesi, Oyomesi is Ifa”, that he is eternally wrong! Ifa is our way of life. He is far above any mortal. Ewi nle Ado, Mapo Elere, Erinmi lode Owo; Mapo Elejelu: Maba Otun; Omo enikan saka bi agbon, is not a mate of any chief, high or low. Our forebears consulted Ifa in the past and things went well with us. High Chief Lagunna accepted that at the choosing of Alaafin Sango, Ifa pointed the way. He cannot act otherwise now. Those who have gone before, and who handed Okin Merindinlogun to us, are watching. If anything goes wrong, the ones who established the Alaafin Throne will ask questions and act appropriately. Nobody can shew alligator pepper to avert the consequences. As for me, I know that: Ifa, iwo l’awo (Ifa, you are the initiate), emi logberi (I am the uninitiate); bi a ba njoko (when you are burning the bush) ma jo eliju mi (don’t born my savannah)!
This article written by Suyi Ayodele, South-East/South-South Editor, Nigerian Tribune was first published by the same newspaper, and published by INFO DAILY with the permission from the author.
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
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