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Opinion:Soyinka’s Wisdom Cures Buhari’s Impotence



Tunde Odesola

Before 1975, the name ‘Gabber’ meant nothing to me. It was just any other nice-sounding monicker. But after I watched Sholay, India’s most successful movie in the last 50 years, at Rainbow Cinema, Mushin, Lagos, in the mid 70s, I began to hold the name in suspicion.

Gabber’s initials are GS. He’s the supervillain in the 1975 superhit movie which broke all records and ran for more than five years in Mumbai theatre. His surname is Singh. Gabber Singh is the ultimate, archetypal villain of the multi-billion dollar Indian film industry.

I was taken to the cinema by one of my uncles, boda Jide. Wow! I love the electronic darkness of the cinema. With its colorful, larger-than-life pictures, booming sound effects and fluorescent-white screen, the cinema holds a spelbound charm at all times.

Sholay’s storyline is simple but arresting. The bandit, Gabber Singh, kills the family of a retired police chief, Thakur Singh, who employs the services of two small-time thieves, Veeru and Jai, to help capture the criminal.

Clearly, I still can hear the bewitching Hemma Malini, (cast as Basanti), the commercial horse cart rider, singing and wriggling her beaded waist. I can see the tall and handsome Dharmendra (Veeru) and the sexy Amitabh Bachchan (Jai), riding their joint scooter in daredevilry, shooting their way out of harm. I can see the young Amjad Khan (Gabber Singh) smiling as he supervises the torture of Dharmendra, and the armless Sanjeev Kumar (Thakur), riding on the wave of vengeance. I can’t forget the song of avowed friendship between Dharmendra and Amitabh, Hum Nahi Todenge. Literature, good music, soap operas and movies were the hallmarks of my childhood.

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In today’s Nigeria, literature is coughing up blood, music is writhing in viral vulgarity; porn, violence and materialism reside in soap operas and movies while science and technology is the leper in a godforsaken colony called ignorance.

It’s not only Bollywood that has a cult figure with the GS initials. Nigeria’s political theatre, Aso Rock, also does. Aso Rock’s GS is the inimitable dramatis persona called Garba Shehu, who, years ago, rode hopefully towards Abuja in the convoy of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s aspiring presidency, but changed seats after the BAT shrieked at midnight and swung the pendulum of power to Katsina.

While the supervillain Indian Gabber is a master who gives orders, the superhero Nigerian Garba is an obedient servant who takes orders from seen and unseen masters, and carries them out with the swiftness of a conscienceless sword.

When you’re spokesperson to a President without a school certificate, insult becomes a weapon against reason, coercion displaces the rule of law, sycophancy swallows merit and victimisation becomes a state art – all in the defence of presidential ineptitude, corruption, nepotism and ethnicity.

Like Gabber, Garba is fearless. He’s no respecter of age, intellect, dignity and civility whenever a voice of reason rises against his lean and incompetent master in Aso Rock. Garba threw decorum and honor out through the window last week when Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, called attention to the weak ex-soldier’s everlasting lethargy and unconstitutional action by single-handedly locking down Abuja, Lagos and Ogun over the coronavirus outbreak without the consent of the National Assembly.

Like Soyinka, several lawyers, including two Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Femi Falana and Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, faulted Buhari’s overbearance, stressing that the husband of Aisha possesses no such powers to unilaterally close any state’s borders. But Garba chose not to contend the illegality of Buhari’s action with the lawyers because, unlike Soyinka, they didn’t beam a torch on the darkling failure that has enveloped Buhari from Nigerians. The poet-essayist-novelist wondered how Buhari, who had been on ‘AWOL’ (Absent Without Leave), suddenly woke up after a long siesta to start issuing orders, closing Abuja, Lagos and Ogun to movement for 14 days.

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If Soyinka had only criticised Buhari for the lockdown, Garba wouldn’t have been unleashed. Soyinka became Buhari’s object of attack because he (Soyinka) highlighted the pounding absenteeism that has become the cornerstone of the Buhari regime.

However, Garba neither deployed wisdom nor common sense in his attack on Soyinka, leaving discernible members of the public wondering how many certificates are missing in Aso Rock.

In a language decipherable to a primary school pupil, Soyinka, who didn’t criticise the global medical recommendation of lockdown, revealed that he himself was in self-isolation but he stressed that Buhari should simply have gotten the National Assembly to approve his lockdown wish, lest the country descends into illegality. The laureate even called on legal luminaries to help shed light on the legality or otherwise of Buhari’s action, warning that if left unchallenged, Buhari could wake up some other time, and declare a vindictive lockdown on any state – long after the COVID 19 pandemic had ended.

In his profoundly empty and unwise response, Garba steered the argument away from Buhari’s idleness and cow-in-a-china-shop meddlesomeness, which Soyinka raised, saying the playwright should write a fiction about coronavirus. In an infantile attempt to ridicule Soyinka and diminish his literary genius, Garba belched, “Professor Soyinka is not a medical professor… Across the world, mandated lockdowns are in place…Perhaps, Wole Soyinka may write a play on the coronavirus pandemic after this emergency is over.” It’s obvious that Garba is oblivious that all democratic countries, which effected lockdowns during the ongoing pandemic, first got the approval of their legislatures.

By trying to trivialise literature, Garba opened himself up to ridicule as a shallow image-maker, who is shockingly unaware that a captivating novelist, Dean Koontz, foretold the outbreak and deadliness of coronavirus more than 30 years ago. Medicine as an offshoot of science and technology is critical to human wellness just as literature as an offshoot of arts is the adhesive that prevents the world from falling off the map of human dignity – teaching language, culture and tradition. Unlike the misleading gospel of Garba, neither of science and technology, and arts is superior to the other. Probably, Garba is the type of parent that would force his child to study medicine when such a child has the talent to outwit Messi to the Ballon d’Or or outsing Cobhams Asuquo to the gong or beat Sanyeri to crowd applause.

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Few days after Garba’s defence, Buhari, uncharastically saw sense in Soyinka’s wise counsel as he later sought and got the approval of the Senate for the closure of Abuja, Lagos and Ogun, putting a needle to the balloon of shame inflated by Garba. A report by Vanguard newspaper of April 4, 2020, confirms Buhari’s compliance with the rule of law. Hitherto Buhari’s capitulation, Garba and the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, had insisted that Buhari was right in his usurpation of the National Assembly’s powers. If the President was right, why get the approval of the N/A in the long run?

After Buhari trampled upon Nigeria’s constitution by sacking the democratically elected government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari on December31, 1983, Generals Gbadamosi Babangida and Sani Abacha wouldn’t have had the guts to seize power in 1985 and 1993 respectively if Nigerians had resisted the criminality perpetrated by Buhari and his gang in 1983.

Expectedly, the impotence of the commander-in-chief of Nigeria’s Armed Forces to check the growing dehumanisation and killing of innocent Nigerians, especially in the South, by Buhari’s zombie-soldiers failed to stir the milk of human kindness in Garba. Or has Garba not seen viral vdeos of bestial soldiers, mostly of northern extraction, ordering people to swim in sewage? If Nigerians had resisted soldier-police oppression since the 1970s – as advised by the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti – the incessant killings we see today won’t occur.

This is the essence of Soyinka’s homily to Buhari. Political aides should help their principals see issues in true perspectives. This is a better way to earn a living rather than bark at imaginary shadows.

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Tunde Odesola is a seasoned journalist, a columnist with the Punch newspapers.




OPINION: Onitiri-Abiola And The Madness In Ibadan



By Suyi Ayodele

Date was Monday, August 29, 1955. Oba Isaac Babalola Akinyele, the Olubadan of Ibadanland, sat on his throne. There was an august visitor to be received by the monarch. He had in attendance some of his prominent chiefs like the Otun Olubadan, Chief Kobiowu, and the Ashipa Olubadan, Chief Akinyo. From the political class, Oba Akinyele invited the colourful Adegoke Adelabu of the Penkelemesi fame. It was an important occasion for Oba Akinyele. One of his subjects, a woman of no mean repute, had requested to see the monarch. Adunni Oluwole was not just an Ibadan indigene. She was a force among the political elite of her time. Her pint-size notwithstanding, Adunni was a political juggernaut; she had her own political party, the Nigerian Commoners Party (NCP). The clamour for independence was at its highest then. Adunni Oluwole was futuristic. She suspected that if given independence, the majority of Nigerians would suffer in the hands of the few that would take over from the colonial masters. So, while others were asking for independence, Adunni was of the opinion that the British should not hand over power until the masses were bold and educated enough to confront the monsters that the political class represented. To achieve her aims, she moved from one palace to the other: from one town to another, canvassing and mobilising the people against the clamour for independence. The Yoruba called her party Egbe K’Oyinbo maitiilo.

In the course of her crusade, Adunni wrote to Oba Akinyele, seeking the permission of the Olubadan to come and address Ibadan people on why they should not support those asking for independence. On her arrival, Adunni told Oba Akinyele and the people gathered that if the whites were chased away and the politicians took over from them, the common people would suffer untold hardship. To avoid that, she asked the Olubadan to use his influence and mobilise his subjects not to support the transfer of power from the British colonial masters to the Nigerian slave drivers. But she was not allowed to finish her message. Chief Adelabu (Penkelemesi) was reported to have interrupted her abruptly, almost to the point of physical assault before Oba Akinyele restrained him. Oba Akinyele recognised the toughness of Adunni’s resolve, but nevertheless asked that Adunni should be taken out of the palace and banished her from ever entering the palace. The late Professor Kole Omotoso recorded Adunni’s encounter with Adelabu in a more dramatic form in his book, one of the most authoritative documentations of Nigerian politics, Just Before Dawn (page 200-201). Omotoso called the book faction (fact and fiction). But the Adunni story is fact. Though she died before Nigeria gained independence, events after the 1955 episode have since justified Adunni’s prediction that after independence, a few would become masters and dictators over the majority.

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The Yoruba political, social and cultural set up is egalitarian in nature. It is a race known to have given equal opportunities for both sexes to actualise their potential. In the traditional set up, the position of Iyalode (leader of the women folks), has been as prominent as that of any male chieftaincy title. In some Yoruba towns and villages, occupants of the Iyalode chieftaincy play important roles in the selection of obas. This also underscores the respect accorded women on esoteric matters because the women folk are regarded as an important part of the tripod which governs an average Yoruba community (Oba-in-council, the awos and the owners of the night- our mothers). It is therefore not out of place for women in Yorubaland to rise and speak whenever occasion demands. The likes of the legendary Efunsetan Aniwura, the Iyalode of Ibadan (1829-June 30, 1874), Efunroye Tinubu (1810-1887),; Iyalode Bisoye Tejuoso (1916-1996); Chief (Mrs.) Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti (1900-1978); Mama Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo (1915-2015), who after the passing of her husband, Chief Obafemi Awolowo in 1987, held the Awolowo political dynasty and the entire Yorubaland intact, and the most recent, Iyalode Alaba Lawson (1951-2023), came to mind as some Yoruba matriarchs who used their positions, positively, to project the Yoruba nation to the world.

With the rich culture of decency that the Yoruba women folk have attracted to themselves and the race, one cannot but be worried that in the 21st century, a Yoruba woman can afford to wage a senseless war against her land under the guise of fighting for an independent nation for the Yoruba race. I am talking here about the last Saturday invasion of the Oyo State Secretariat by some miscreants who claimed to be soldiers fighting for the actualisation of an independent Yoruba nation. More appalling in the whole meshugaas, is the claimed declaration of the Democratic Republic of Yoruba (DRY), by Modupe Onitiri-Abiola, who claimed to be one of the widows of MKO Abiola. Shortly after the invasion of the Oyo State Secretariat, Onitiri-Abiola’s video of the declaration of her fanciful DRY hit the internet.

In the four minutes and forty-two seconds video (the version i got), the woman said among other things, in plain Yoruba Language: “We are indigenous people. We are sovereign people; we are ethnic nationalists. We have decided to secede from Nigeria on November 20, 2022. And today, April 12, 2024, we decided to finally leave Nigeria. I, Modupe Onitiri-Abiola, proclaimed the sovereignty of the Democratic Republic of Yoruba today, Friday, April 14, 2024. From today henceforth, Yorubaland has commenced its own republic. By that virtue, it has now become the newest nation in the world…” The video was obviously recorded a day before the invasion of the secretariat. After watching the video, I have been trying to situate what actually prompted her and her backers to embark on such a mission at this point. I have been trying to fathom which Yoruba nation she was talking about. I checked her pedigree; the only thing I could get is her conjugal relationship with the late MKO. So, I asked myself: being Abiola’s wife is now a qualification for one to lead the Yoruba race? Nnkan mà se wa o (something terrible has happened to us)!

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No doubt about the fact that Nigeria, as it is composed now, needs restructuring. Nobody, especially anyone who has been following the political trajectory of Nigeria since the collapse of the First Republic on January 15, 1966, will be comfortable with the way things are in the country. The current political dispensation has, since its inception on May 29, 1999, foregrounded, more than any administration before it (civilian or military), those things that divide us more than any hope of unity. The eight years of Muhammadu Buhari in the saddle between May 29, 2015, and May 29, 2023, projected a part of the country above the rest of the nation. The Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration that took over on May 29, 2023, has not fared better. Rather than address the agitation of imbalance in the appointments of personnel into key areas of government that characterised the Buhari government, Tinubu too has gone a notch higher with his one-sided appointments. If Buhari was accused of Fulanising governance to the detriment of other ethnic nationalities, President Tinubu too has shown that he has no fair mind as his Yoruba boys, especially his Lagos and Ogun Alleluyah orchestra, are all over the place. Nigeria indeed has never had it so bad as we have at the moment. The nation needs a surgical restructuring; one that will give equal opportunities to the citizenry without recourse to place of birth, political affiliation and religious creed.

As much as we agree that we don’t have the best of structures at the moment, it is unthinkable that the solution will be a broad day-light secession! The truth is that the last set of nationalists that have ever traversed the Nigerian political landscape were those lofty politicians of the last five years of colonial rule and the first three years after independence in 1960. Before the January 15, 1966, coup led by the late Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu, it was obvious to all discerning minds that Nigeria was “a mere geographical expression”, as espoused by Chief Awolowo in 1947. There is nothing to show that the country has grown into nationhood. Fifty-four years after we fought a needless civil war that claimed over two million lives from both sides, all in a bid to “keep Nigeria one” in spite of the glamourous insertions in our various constitutions- the affirmative cliche of Nigeria being “one indivisible and indissoluble Sovereign State”- we have demonstrated that we have not learnt anything from our history. The elite class has not done anything to promote the unity and oneness of the country. Even the followership, as long as the current events favour us, we don’t give a hoot about how others fare neither do we exhibit any empathy towards those who seem to be holding the short end of the stick in perpetuity. We think more of what is in it for us and our ethnic groups than what is in the overall interest of the nation. That type of orientation breeds nothing but continuous agitation.

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When one considers all these, to pray for the oneness and unity of the country becomes an arduous task. Every person of good conscience will agree that Nigeria cannot continue the way it is now. Something must be done to address the various agitations across the nation. When a Fulani man is at the centre, the Yoruba man is not happy. When it is the turn of the Yoruba man, the man up north feels that he is being short-changed. Yet, the third leg of the tripod, the Igbo race, is left in the cold to suffer its fate. We fought a war for 30 months. We ended the war and affirmed that: “there is no victor; there is no vanquished”. Over five decades after the ‘affirmation’, we still see the Igbo as “those who attempted to break away’, and as such, not fit to be number one in the country. This is the kind of feeling that emboldened last Saturday’s thoughtless action of Modupe Onitiri-Abiola. However, we cannot but caution Onitiri-Abiola that this is not how to be a heroine. She could read more about how Mrs. Olufunmilayo Ransome Kuti led the Egba women on October 5, 1946, and Nwanyereuwa, led the November 18, 1929, Aba women’s riots. Those were great women in their own right.

My greatest concern in the current matter is that it happened in Yorubaland. With our sophistication, cosmopolitan outlook and enlightenment, it beats one’s imagination that a group of people would wake up, arm themselves and march to the Oyo State secretariat to “take over” the place. One of the things that came to my mind is that if, for instance, those DRY ‘soldiers’ had succeeded in taking over the Oyo State Secretariat, what follows? Would that have meant that their gang members in Ekiti, Ondo, Osun, Ogun and Lagos States would replicate the same? How many men do they have? What is the size of the arsenals? What a joke! But who do we blame for this charade? How long have we been asking that the Yoruba elders should put their house in order? How long have we been clamouring that Afenifere should detach itself from the apron of Yoruba political marauders- the very ones who believed in restructuring before they got to power but would not touch the same ideology with a 10-foot pole while in government? How did Baba Ayo Adebanjo feel when he read the news of the Ibadan invasion; what agitated the mind of Pa Reuben Fashoranti on seeing the video of Onitiri-Abiola’s ‘proclamation’? Is this the Yoruba of their dreams, a nation without leaders? I would not bother about Professor Banji Akintoye, leader of the Yoruba Nation self-determination group’s response to the Ibadan event. Those sages who warned us not to show the young folks the length of the phallus so that they don’t begin to think that everything that is long is an object of procreation are absolutely right. Like they say on the streets: Akintoye go explain tire.

Above all, the last Saturday incident in Ibadan is a wake-up call to the nation’s leadership. They should be worried that that type of thing can happen in Yorubaland. Whether it resembles ‘gate’, or it does not resemble it, one is advised to set a trap for it (Ó jo gàté kò jo gàté àwòn laa dee de). Who knows who has copied the template? How many of us in Yorubaland ever thought that something close to that could happen in our backyard? When the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) started its agitations, what name did we not call them? The nation must do something before we have a conflagration in our hands. Beyond punishing those behind the Ibadan saga -, and I think they should be thoroughly punished- we must address the factors that are responsible for such reprehensive behaviour. It should not be dismissed as one of those things. It is obvious that Nigeria needs restructuring in all aspects. Any further delay will bring more of Onitiri-Abiola’s type of ‘proclamation’. Truth is, many are waiting in the wings to follow suit. It was the Igbo the other time. It is Yoruba now. Who knows who is next?

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OPINION: For Yoruba Muslims And Pentecostals



By Lasisi Olagunju

The audience at the 1903 (third year) lecture of the Royal African Society in London listened with rapt attention as African nationalist, Dr. Edward Blyden, took them back to antiquity when “the most enlightened nations of Greece, Asia, and Egypt” held the opinion that “God revealed himself only in Africa.” Great men of that period, including Alexander the Great, rushed to the great oracle of Africa to drop offerings and “learn the will of God.” A few centuries after that epoch, Blyden lamented, Africa, the “first home of God” where He “buried His great truths” had travelled full circle and had come to be identified by the ‘civilised’ world of the 19th century as “the last home of the devil.”

“Now, things have so changed that it is the opinion of some that God is everywhere except in Africa,” Blyden agonized in the lecture which was on ‘West Africa before Europe.’ He went on to predict that “Africa’s turn will be sure to come again” when it would reclaim its place as the “refuge for seers who see and for prophets who prophesy.” Blyden said when that time would have come, an utterly materialized and exhausted Europe would go back to Africa to learn about God. The lecture is in the July 1903 edition of the Journal of the Royal African Society, Volume 2.

Just a hundred years after that lecture, the Blyden prophecy has come true. We’ve reclaimed our place as “the first home of God”. Nigeria, which houses the highest percentage of Africa’s population, qualifies to be celebrated as the global “refuge for seers who see and for prophets who prophesy.” Across faiths, we incubate and hatch men of God and gods of men – in their thousands. We speak and act for God here without counting the costs.

There is something cool about setting precedents. The immediate past Oyo State Governor, the late Abiola Ajimobi, won a second term election in 2015 and pronounced himself Koseleri (it-has-never-happened-before). Nigerians enjoyed an unprecedented three-day leave from work last week. In some places, the holiday lasted the whole of the week. The abstinence from work was the country’s way of celebrating Muslims’ 30 days of total abstinence from day-time meals – and from all sins. Allowing one abstinence to provoke another abstinence made all of us pious and sinless. It was surreal. The holiday should have endured till eternity.

While the holiday lasted, some friends shared their sallah experiences with me. They thought another koseleri was happening in Yorubaland: their pentecostal Christian neighbours refused to eat their food. “They said it was sin to share in our feast,” one of them said, sadly. “That was not who we are”, another added. I told them it is not really a new strain in Yoruba Christianity. I have RCCG and Deeper Life friends who celebrate and dine with me during Ileya. I also have RCCG and Deeper Life friends in whose mouths our good old eran Ileya (sallah ram meat) has lost its holiness. The twists started before the close of the last century when pentecostal Christianity came in costumes of fundamentalism.

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Can the Yoruba Christian really avoid sharing things Islamic? If you are a pentecostal Yoruba Christian and you will see it as a sin to celebrate the next Sallah with me, what you will need to throw away will be more than my food. You will stop praying entirely in Yoruba because almost all the key words in the established Christian payers are taken from Arabic/Islamic texts. You will stop calling prayer ‘adura’ because it is from the Muslim ‘Du’a’. You will stop using the word ‘aanu’ (mercy) because the word is rooted in an Arabic word. A new word has to be coined for alafia (peace, wellbeing) because its root is also Arabic. Sermon will stop being called ‘iwaasu’ because it is from the Arabic ‘wa’z’. You will, furthermore, need to change your wardrobe and come up with new designs beyond what you call Yoruba dresses.

British Africanist J.D.Y. Peel’s ‘Christianity, Islam and Orisa Religion’ published in 2016 addresses some of these on pages 162 and 163. It says the agbada dress which you proudly assert as yours is a donation from Islam, perhaps from persons more northerly than northern Nigerians. Anglican missionary, Henry Townsend, in 1847 saw agbada’s acceptance and growing popularity and wrote that the “Mohammedan costume is become very fashionable with the young and gay” and “is by no means put on as a religious peculiarity.” If you read David Heathcote’s ‘The Embroidery of Hausa Dress (1977), cited by R.O.R. Kalilu’ (1997), you will have a clue that the embroidery (jakan) on your agbada “developed from Mali (and) is associated with Quranic scholars and teachers.” You must have heard the saying: Ise agbada kii se Imale (poverty of lack of agbada does not afflict a Muslim). I heard that from the genius of Yoruba Sakara music, Yusuf Olatunji.

There is no escaping the oneness of the world. Do the anti-Muslim pentecostal realize that Bible chapters and verses are numbered in Arabic numerals 1,2,3 etc. The word, ‘Algebra’ is from the Arabic al-jabr. Indeed, the whole “method of equation solving” in Mathematics is from Arabic.

When we speak about what Lord Lugard did with Southern and Northern Nigeria in 1914, we use the word ‘amalgamation.’ Scholars have agreed that ‘amalgamate’ descends from the Arabic al-malghama which means what ‘amalgam’ means.

In your everyday lives, you can’t escape words that have Arabic ancestors. The ‘sugar’ in your tea is from the Arabic word ‘sukkar’; cotton is from ‘qutum’, your overcoat got its ‘jumper’ name from the Arab’s ‘juppa.’ We can go on and on and conclude that it is pointless and fruitless for my Yoruba pentecostal friends to seek to run away from dining with Muslims and their Islam.

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Now, the insular Christian has ideological bedmates in Yoruba Islam. There is this Imam in Ogbomoso shown online last week emitting fire and pronouncing everyone outside Islam as hell-bound. His voice was divisively loud and his penal tongue baleful. I listened to him and wondered where he was coming from. I once discussed clerics like this with the late Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi. “Taa lo ko won ni kewu (who taught them Quran/Arabic?)” was the oba’s rhetorical response to our worries. True, we should ask questions of competence when we hear such papal pronouncement from supposedly learned people. What he said was not what my Mallam taught me in Madrasha. If God had willed, He would have made all of humanity to belong to one nation (see Quran 5:48; see Quran 42:8); and one religious community (Quran 16:93). But, in His wisdom, God didn’t; instead, “to every people”, he sent “an apostle” (Quran 10:47). The Yoruba forbid saying or hearing what that Imam said about other religions. It is unYoruba to speak the language of perdition – they say man is not God.

It is in the character of the Yoruba to celebrate persons who speak with decorum. The highly regarded, thoughtful Chief Imam of Offa, Alhaji Muhyiddin Husayn, was at a Laylatul Qadr event in Ogbomoso a few days to last week’s sallah. His sermon at the programme was a tour de force on how to have a calm sea of peace. I heard him warn against unguarded utterances. He told the Chief Imam of Ogbomoso to win acceptability with character and close his running tap of hot words: “It is when you stop uttering words that words will stop uttering themselves,” he told the Imam. He added that bad words can’t win wars: “if you’ve seen war before, you will fear war” and “war knows no friend.” He cited examples with his own ascendancy experience. “The years I spent warding off attacks were enough as a man’s full tenure,” he said. But, he added, you would win if your tongue is bridled, if you do right and respect elders and pay hate with love. “One can gain an office with force”, he counseled, “but it takes patience and wisdom to sit there in peace.” Words, they say, draw kola nut from the pocket and can also draw sword from the pouch. The consequence of not listening to reason is having one’s milk spilt and the mug broken.

Ask master-potters if refiring can make whole again a broken pot. It is there in the experience of our fathers that a pot once broken, cannot be mended. There are several lethal pronouncements in Yoruba history with the pot metaphor at the centre. That is why we emphasize peace and unity in all our affairs.

The story of Islam and the Yoruba is the story of how leaf becomes soap. Scholars from the earliest of times have always marveled at how the Yoruba seamlessly combine opposition and accommodation when it comes to religion and religious matters. Fundamentalist Christianity and radical Islam have neither comfortable bed nor cushion seat to relax and flourish in Yorubaland. And they won’t tomorrow. There is no family without both Muslim and Christian wings. In books and arts, we encounter moderation and cross-religious handshakes that emphasize the Yoruba moderation in matters of faith.

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I read Gbadebo Gbadamosi’s ‘Odu Imale: Islam in Ifa Divination and the Case of Predestined Muslims’ published in the Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, June 1977. In it, I encountered discussions on Ifa verses which tell us of Yoruba Muslim clerics, “their dress, travels, and the patronage which they enjoy from the people.” Ifa speaks of “Babamale ‘Bewu gereje/ti yio fi gbogbo aye se ofe je (the Muslim man/ who wears voluminous garment/ who will have the whole world as free bounty).” I read Razaq Kalilu’s ‘Bearded Figure with Leather Sandals: Islam, Historical Cognition And the Visual Arts of The Yoruba’ ((1997). Here, the author asks the reader to note earlier works which suggest that Sango, the third Alaafin of Oyo, was “favorably disposed to Muslims” to the extent that he got an oriki: “Ogbori odo s’aluwala ‘male (He that sits on a mortar to perform ablution like the Muslim.”

Whether Christian, Muslim or nothing, humanity is one – or supposed to be one. One hundred and fifty nine years ago, Harvard-trained American scientist, Pliny Earle Chase (1820-1886), sought to use similar words and word-sounds found in Yoruba and other ‘world’ languages to prove what he called the “universal brotherhood” of man. In a 39-page seminal article published in an 1865 edition of the ‘Transactions of the American Philosophical Society,’ Chase did a painstaking comparison of some Yoruba words and word sounds with some others found in Arabic, Latin, Greek, English, Hebrew, Chinese, German, Coptic, Gothic, French, Dutch, Egyptian, Italian, Finnish, etc languages. He examined similarities in sound and meaning of prefixes, suffixes and midfixes found common across Yoruba and those other languages. He, in particular, draws our attention to what he calls “the marvelous grammatical affinity that exists between the Yoruba, Egyptian, and Coptic Languages.” Copiously using T.J. Bowen’s ‘Grammar and Dictionary of the Yoruba Language’, he argues that it could not have been mere fortuitous occurrence of coincidences that “auro” (owuro)- morning/dawn in Yoruba is “aurora” (dawn) in Latin, just as “awari” (search) in Yoruba shares sound and meaning with the English word “aware”. He writes that there is “oro” (wealth) in Yoruba just as its Latin sound-mate, “aurum”, means gold. Chase notes with considerable interest that the word ‘duro’ means “to stay” (or stand firm) in Yoruba, and ‘duro’ in Latin means hard, harden, toughen, become stern. Incidentally, I also found that there is a similar Hebrew word, ‘dura’ which, among others, means ‘endurance.’ Chase’s conclusion is that humanity is one vindicating the Biblical assertion that “God hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts, 17:26).

The world lounges under a fatal canopy. You should be following the escalated bloodshed in the Middle East. The standards and the double standard. It may still get worse. Just as it is in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, carrion birds are hooting at noon; ravens, crows and kites are flying above the “sickly” world. But, what we need is love to defeat war. And, we will have this if we are able to take care of the devil in race and religion. It is difficult. Daniel Defoe, in his ‘The True-Born Englishman’ (1701) writes that “Whenever God erects a house of prayer,/ The Devil always builds a chapel there; /And ’twill be found, upon examination (that) / The latter has the largest congregation.”

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OPINION: Bobrisky And Our Other S/He Offsprings



By Suyi Ayodele

Nigeria’s most celebrated social deviant, Idris Olanrewaju Okunneye, also known as Bobrisky, has been in the news in the last two weeks. Apart from the controversial contest the 33-year-old man from Ogun State, won recently, when he was adjudged as the “Best Dressed Female”, he had a date with the law last week. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had picked him up in his Lagos home and arraigned him on charges bordering on abuse of the Naira and others. EFCC, in its testimony before Justice Abimbola Awogboro of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos, accused the cross-dresser of “spraying” various sums of money ranging fromN400,000 to N50,000 at various social events within Lagos. The Commission’s witness, one ASE Bolaji Temitope Aje, told the court how the Commission “Based on the intelligence, the EFCC set up the Special Operations Team to observe and monitor activities of individuals, who are involved in the habit of mutilating the Naira.” The team, Aje added, came across videos of where Bobrisky was “spraying” money and was arrested. He added that the cross-dresser, when confronted with the videos, admitted that he was the one in them. Bobrisky did not deny the charges and was summarily convicted by the court and remanded in EFCC custody pending his sentencing today, Tuesday, April 9, 2024. Unfortunately for him, today is a public holiday!

In pleading for leniency, Bobrisky asked the court to show him mercy and give him a second chance. “I am a social media influencer, with five million followers; and in all honesty, I was not aware of the law. I wish I can be given a second chance to use my platform to educate my followers against the abuse of the Naira. I will do a video on my page and educate people on that. I will not repeat the offence again. I regret my action.” He pleaded. Ever since his conviction, a lot of people have reacted to the Bobrisky-EFCC drama. Many believed that the cross-dresser is being punished more for his deviant behaviour than the crime of Naira abuse for which he was convicted. A prominent Nigerian, Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, hit the EFCC hard by describing the Commission’s evidence against Bobrisky as “idleness or an abuse of power.” The EFCC fired back at Odinkalu and asked him to exercise “decorum and responsibility”, as it warned that: “The Commission would not hesitate to take appropriate legal actions against such uncouth commentaries against its lawful mandate by anyone. Odinkalu is warned and advised to ventilate his rascally opinions more responsibly in future situations.”

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I find the EFCC outburst against Dr. Odinkalu as most unnecessary because I believe in his assertion that the EFCC’s evidence against Bobrisky is not just borne out of “idleness and abuse of power”, it is equally lazy and most discriminatory. I have no doubt about the provision of Section 21(1) of Central Bank Act, 2007, and the penalties spelt out therein. The question to ask the EFCC in this matter is: did Bobrisky commit the crime of naira abuse alone? In the various videos the Commission said it showed to the cross-dresser and to which he admitted, was he alone? Did Bobrisky, in “spraying” the naira notes not have an accomplice? Was he not “spraying” the notes on someone, the musician? Should the one who received the ‘abused naira’ be spared while only the one who ‘abused’ it is made to face the music? Leaving that aside, can we ask where the EFCC was when the Olu of Owode-Egba in Ogun State, Oba Kolawole Sowemimo, abused the same naira early this year. While Bobrisky in the EFCC videos was caught “spraying” the naira, Oba Sowemimo sewed the naira notes and was decorating a Fuji musician, Wasiu Ayinde Marshal, who is also called KWAM 1, with the currency notes. Is the EFCC saying that it did not see the video, or are the two traditional rulers involved, KWAM 1 himself being the head of princes of Ijebuland, too big to be arrested and arraigned? So, what is the crime of Odinkalu in calling EFCC idle? If the Commission can close its eyes against a similar action by the two Ogun State traditional title holders, is it not an “abuse of power” if the Commission chose to go after Bobrisky alone? Isn’t that discriminatory and selective?

This takes us back to the argument that in arraigning and getting Bobrisky convicted, with a possibility of a jail term, the cross-dresser is being punished more for his deviant behaviour than the crime of abuse of the naira. For me, this argument is valid. I also hold that it is morally on the negative side. But funny enough, I don’t find it offensive. I think I love it; it is a welcome development! My argument. The Bobrisky menace is an epidemic that anything done to arrest it is good enough for me. The boy told the court that as “a social media influencer”, he had “five million followers.” That is a huge number if you ask me. How many of the number are children whose sexual orientations have changed as a result of Bobrisky’s influence? Our statutes do not recognise such deviant behaviour. This is why I feel very strongly that the government and the law enforcement agencies should come in and arrest this drift. Many parents are in pain today as a result of Bobrisky’s activities. And true to his appellation, his conducts are “risky’ to proper upbringing of our children. I have seen parents whose children are sexually deviant, agonising that they would have been more at home if those beautiful children of theirs are sexually promiscuous than going for the same sex partners! When a parent is on such an extreme edge, we ought to ask the laws to go after the Bobriskys of our era.

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Incidentally, Bobrisky did not start this culturally ‘risky’ behaviour. Before him was Uzoma Odimira, alias Area Scatter, who reigned in the early 70s, shortly after the civil war. Area Scatter, who dominated the entertainment scene in the Imo area of the South-East, was noted for his braided hair, heavy makeup and high-heeled shoes. His argument then was that being a cross-dresser, he wanted “to create awareness and promote tolerance for gender diversity.” Before he finally disappeared, Odimira was seen as a ‘complete woman’ on the claims that the gods gave him supernatural powers. The Nigerian nation tolerated him and he had quite a huge number of ‘followers’. In the Bobrisky’s era, we have the likes of Jay Boogie, who was born Daniel Anthony Nsikan; Fola Francis; WF James Brown, whose baptismal name is James Chukwueze Obialor, Miss Sahhara who was raised in the north and Noni Salma; and many others. We are moving gradually to a point that parents would be watching the evening news in their sitting rooms and their children would come in with persons of the same sex to be introduced to them as their fiancés or fiancées. And before we say the religious cliché, “God forbid”, we need to first forbid it as Bobrisky’s father did in June 2020, when he forbade the deviant from attending his (father’s) birthday party dressed as a woman. Guess what: the boy complied!

I have heard arguments that Bobrisky and his gang of socially disoriented children have the right to be who they want to be. I asked one of the advocates of Bobrisky fundamental human rights if he would allow Bobrisky to enter the same female toilet with his wife because Bobrisky dresses like a woman and has female features. His answer was an emphatic no! This is where we should start from. Let our women; our wives raise the alarm anytime a Bobrisky wants to enter the female convenience with them at our airports and other public places. If Bobrisky attempts to answer the call of nature using the gents, let the men around resist him because they cannot afford a woman to look at their genitals while doing the big or the small. I am not against her fundamental human rights. But his rights should not infringe on other people’s rights to decency and secrecy of their genitals. The EFCC was in a dilemma while deciding the facility to detain this ‘risky’ element. The Commission could neither lock him up in a female or male cell; Bobrisky was locked up in a ‘lone cell’. Of course, the Commission doesn’t have a gender-neutral cell. If Bobrisky is locked up in a female cell because s/he is a woman, there are associated risks for the genuine female inmates of the cell. If s/he is locked up in a male cell, the EFCC will be violating his/her fundamental human rights. And if the Commission decides to keep him in the open, it will be standing in contempt of the court order. Whichever way, it is confusing just as the cross-dresser has a confused sexual personality.

The Black man’s sexual orientation is in two folds. A child is either a male or a female; boy or girl and man or woman. There is no issue of cross-gender or gender neutrality. And the Black race is a civilised race. Our current challenges are as a result of how we abandoned everything that makes us unique as a people and go after practices that are alien to our enviable values. When a woman gives birth in Yorubaland, we congratulate her for surviving the dangers of childbirth. Thereafter, the question we ask next is: Ako abi Abo (is it a male or a female child)? I believe this is so with other tribes in Nigeria. I cannot say I am old enough, but in the few years I have spent on Mother Earth, I am yet to come across where a child is born and the people rejoice because it is of mixed sex – half male, or half female. I don’t dispute that there are some medical conditions that can result in a child having two sexual organs. I was only taught the concept of hermaphroditism in my Biology classes in secondary school. We were told then that it is a medical abnormality. I have not seen one, though. And when such a rare case occurs, I take a bet that the parents would be dead worried. I am talking about real African parents and not the ‘civilised’ parents of the Western world. The Holy Books (Bible and Quran) approve only male and female sexes. Genesis 1:27 says: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” The Quran recognises Adam and Hawwa. The Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) explicitly condemned imitating the appearance of the opposite gender. How those who brought ‘civilisation’ to us now recognise lesbians, gays, transgenders and bisexuals as normal beats my imagination. How they took polygamy from us and replaced it with homosexuality and bestiality remains a mystery! That is not our culture; and more importantly, that is not how God ordained it. Unless we frontally confront the menace of Bobriskyism, we stand the chance of having many H/She offsprings. God FORBID!

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