By Suyi Ayodele
The appointment of Hannatu Musawa as Minister of Art, Culture and Creative Economy by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the latest impunity and I-don-care-attitude any leader can display. Musawa has been in the eye of the storm in the last one week or so, when the news broke that the young minister is still a serving member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), observing the mandatory one-year service to Nigeria as prescribed by the constitution and the NYSC Act. Since the news flew to town that the ‘Honourable’ minister still has some four months to go for her to complete the mandatory one-year NYSC scheme, there has been a lot of arguments as to the appropriateness or otherwise of her appointment by President Tinubu. The beauty of the whole ugly situation is that Musawa has affirmed that she is indeed a serving corps member somewhere in Abuja. According to the information in the public place as released by the management of the scheme, the minister was mobilised in 2001 for the programme and was deployed to Akwa Ibom State. After the three-week orientation programme, Musawa sought redeployment to Kaduna State and on arriving in Kaduna, absconded. She only resurfaced in 2023 to complete the scheme she abandoned unofficially and was graciously posted to Abuja. And while still on the programme, our new husband, who promised to appoint technocrats to manage every aspect of our lives, could not find any other competent hand than the serving corps member to be appointed as a minister.
I am looking for my old secondary school Government teacher, Mr. Abayomi Olugbenga Oduntan. He taught me some government principles back then in form four that he needs to clarify now. My late father had absolute trust in two people – the Anglican Reverend in our All Saints’ Anglican Church, Oke Bola, Ikole Ekiti, and anyone who answered the name, teacher. I grew up to believe also in those two personages. This probably was why I could not doubt some of the things Mr. Oduntan taught me in those formative days. But now I am old enough to ask questions and I have one to ask my old teacher. While on the topic: “Sources of Constitution”, Mr. Oduntan said that apart from Acts of Parliament, conventions, customs, and traditions, military decrees, and opinions of statesmen; one major factor through which a constitution can be derived is “pronouncements by courts otherwise called judicial precedents”. He went ahead to say that pronouncements by courts, especially the Supreme Court, formed an integral part of the Nigerian constitution. The Ijebu man from Ikorodu, Lagos State, added that the Supreme Court, being the highest court of Nigeria after the abolition of the Privy Council of the colonial era, its judgements are as good as the law, final and cannot be discarded. In essence, my old teacher gave us the orientation at that tender age that whatever the Supreme Court says is final and cannot be changed. I would like him to answer, in the face of our current situation, if he still believes in what he taught us then and if indeed, the pronouncements of our Supreme Court are final and sacrosanct!
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Before the coming of the current locusts in power and their predecessors in 2015, Nigeria was stratified into three distinct groups of the super-rich, the super-poor, and the not-too-fantastic-middle class. After the eight years of the ruinous regime of General Muhammadu Buhari, everything about the middle-class was removed, the super-rich class elevated to a higher height, and the super-poor taken deeper into the pit of deprivation, want and untold agony. No society is created equally. That is why social scientists devised the idea of social stratifications to differentiate among the various groups and standings using the parameters of wealth, income, family background, education, and power or influence. Notable among these social scientists are Karl Max and Max Weber. Even in the seemingly egalitarian society of this world, dichotomies still exist among the various segments of the population. The only difference being that while the advanced world gives a semblance of fairness to the inequality in their societies, the poor nations of the world are too brazen in showing that inequality is the norm rather than the exception. In Nigeria for instance, an unborn child knows that men are not born equal in the 1914 contraption of Lord Lugard. The unborn babies of poor Nigerian expectant mothers know the difference between the maternity wards their expectant mothers attend for pre and postnatal sessions and where the mothers of their counterparts from rich homes go to. Even death which ordinarily should have been the leveler has been hijacked by the Nigerian elite such that the poor dead and the rich dead don’t appear to close their eyes the same way.
It is a huge crime, and an unpardonable one for that matter, to be poor in Nigeria. This is because two different laws apply to the rich and the poor here. While the Holy book, the Bible tells us that the poor, we will always have in our midst, the way and manner the elite flaunt impunity in our eyes are too despicable to behold and interrogates the validity of the holy injunction. Ours is a country where the poor pay taxes to take care of the rich and the elite, while the duo takes advantage of the porous system, we run to feed fat on the sweat of the downtrodden. While our judicial system has been programmed by the wicked leadership of this generation to punish the poor who commit any infraction with the speed of light, the same judiciary treats cases of the rich with a speed slower than that of the snail. That is why it is possible for us to have those who, Nuhu Ribadu, the first Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), labelled as “the most corrupt governors in Nigeria” in 2006, in control of the country today. Most unfortunately, one of such “most corrupt governors in Nigeria” is the one who appointed Ribadu as the overseer of the nation’s security architecture! Yet, the same EFCC, almost daily, prides itself as having “secured the convictions” of internet fraudsters, petty thieves, and other lesser felons. The axiom of one partridge not being taller than the other (Aparo kan o ga ju kan lo) does not apply in Nigeria.
The problem did not start with the appointment of Musawa as minister by President Tinubu. The first problem here is with the NYSC authority which decided to indulge the deserter with a new posting to Abuja of all places. The question we should ask NYSC is if there are no rules and regulations guiding the conduct of corps members. If for instance a corps member absconded the way Musawa did, and resurfaced later, say a month or a year, is there no punishment for such an infraction? Here we are talking of a young lady who absconded some 22 years ago! I remember two or three of my fellow corps members back then in Black Gold, Kaduna, who for one reason or the other, had their service year extended and were posted out of Kaduna City to some remote villages where they were closely monitored. If Musawa absconded in Kaduna in 2001, why was she redeployed to Abuja when she chose to show up to complete her service 22 years later? Where exactly was she posted to in Abuja for her Primary Assignment? Where has she been holding her weekly Community Service? Who are the fellow corps members of this super corper?
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And coming to her appointment as a minister, what happens to the screening by the various security agencies? How come none of them detected that the ministerial nominee is still a youth corps serving member? I will gladly excuse the Godwin Akpabio-led senate in this case for the simple reason that I knew that nothing enviable can ever come out of anywhere the Akwa Ibom politician superintends. The current Senate President’s case, in my own estimation, should not be mentioned wherever decency, decorum and morality are at stake. From his eight years as the governor of his home state, to his first political voyage to the senate; his jumping of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s ship to board the All Progressive Congress (APC)’s canoe; his stay as Minister of the Niger Delta Ministry in the inglorious Buhari administration, and his scandalous entry to the senate for the second time, there is nothing Akpabio will do that will shock any normal human being. His is a complete circle of the rots in our system and it is therefore not surprising that he presided over the session where Musawa was ‘cleared’ as minister-designate. So much for Akpabio and his decomposing hallowed chamber! What about the appointing authority himself, President Tinubu? Does it mean that our new husband did not take time to check out the profiles of his appointees? Are we by any shred of imagination saying that like his insentient predecessor, Tinubu is also an absentee president who, like Mrs. Aisha Buhari said of her husband, “does not know any of the people working with him?” The buck stops at the president’s table in the appointment of his ministers and aides. While political allies can make suggestions to him as to who to appoint in each state of the federation, the onus is on the appointing authority to know his would-be minister by the minutest of all details. The argument that he is a busy president and cannot be blamed for relying on the judgements of political associates will not hold water here. What happens if a known armed robber is suggested to the president? Would he go ahead and appoint such a felon just because a ‘trusted’ political ally nominated him or her? What then is the difference between Tinubu and Buhari, who on many occasions appointed dead people to boards of parastatals?
So, why am I looking for Mr. Oduntan? In all the many arguments for and against the appointment of Musawa as minister, the one that struck me most is that of Mr. Femi Falana, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). I picked this argument not because it is the best of all the arguments, but because of the inference the senior lawyer made to the judgement of the Supreme Court in a case like this. While condemning the controversial appointment of the minister, Falana referred to the case of Modibo vs. Usman & Ors (2019 LPELR-59096(SC). In the citation, the learned Silk presented the concurrent judgement of the justices of the Supreme Court, which dismissed the appeal of the appellant, who had contested and won election into the House of Representatives while he was undergoing national service. The apex court justices ruled that it is absurd for a youth corps member to contest the said election in view of the provisions of the constitution and the NYSC Act. “The appellant could therefore not be eligible to contest the said primary election while still undergoing the compulsory one-year service period. The law will not allow the appellant in this appeal to benefit from his wrongful act”, ruled Justice Okoro JSC, who delivered the leading judgement. Falana, thereafter, drawing from the provisions of the Nigerian constitution submitted that: “It is crystal clear from the authoritative pronouncements of the Supreme Court in the case of Modibbo v Usman (supra) that a youth corps member is not competent to contest any election in Nigeria. In the same vein, a person who has not completed the compulsory one-year youth service is not competent to be appointed a Minister in Nigeria since the Constitution has prescribed the same qualifications and disqualifications for election into the House of Representatives and appointment into the post of a Minister.” I need my old teacher to re-teach me if indeed the judicial precedent cum pronouncements of the Supreme Court are part of our constitution, and if indeed the Supreme Court is the final authority. These new men of power, and in power, are making nonsense of what my old teacher taught me years back.
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Now imagine if Musawa were to be the daughter of a farmer in one of the Iyeke-Orhionmwon villages! We are indeed back to the Orwellian era of the unequal treatment of equals, as espoused in the allegorical novella, “Animal Farm”, by George Orwell. As in the case in the beast fable, we have had in the argument for and against Musawa’s appointment, characters like Napoleon, the proponent of the inequality of the animals on the farm, Snowball, who tried a challenge of the Napoleon order and Squealer, who is always ready to propagate the proficiency of the new Lord of the Manor at the expense of common sense and morality. It is therefore not entirely baffling that as glaring as the President’s impunity is in this controversial appointment, we have in our midst ‘legal juggernauts’, who are battle-ready to play the devil’s advocate in defense of the comedy of errors that Tinubu has been dishing out since May 29, 2023.
As for President Tinubu himself, I don’t know what the president saw in his corps-member-minister, Musawa. I don’t know what expertise the lady is bringing to the table. My concern is that if Musawa is all that important such that Tinubu’s cabinet would have missed her pedigree were she not appointed, Tinubu could have waited for the next four months to allow the super corps member to complete her mandatory service. While we thank the president most profusely for his attempt to “empower the Nigerian youths” by Musawa’s appointment, doing so in flagrant violation of the very constitution he swore to uphold, makes the “youth empowerment” unmeaning, tactless, pure impunity, crass arrogance, and lack of respect for the people, whom they said all came together: “to make, enact and give to ourselves the following constitution.” If indeed Section 1 (1) of the Constitution, to wit; “This constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal republic of Nigeria”, is sacrosanct, I leave President Tinubu with the injunction of our people thus: “Alatise lo ma mo atise ara e lo difa fun onikun to mo ika ati alaso to mo a tun ro”, which, when translated, will mean, he who is in a conundrum should know how to wriggle out of it.
This article written by Suyi Ayodele, South-East/South-South Editor, Nigerian Tribune was first published by the newspaper. It’s published by INFO DAILY with 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
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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