Eighty years have always been a milestone in the life of any person. More so, when such a person or persons have made a meaningful impact in the life of a nation or a people. It is even not uncommon for others to bring out the drums and pump champagne to thank God for a life well spent.
It was therefore not a surprise that the handlers of former Military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s (IBB) image, decided to use his attainment of this enviable age to remind Nigerians, and indeed, the world, his contributions to the economic, political and other areas of development in the country. The first glimpse of the celebration was the interview IBB granted to the rave making television, Arise News, few days ago, where he spoke on a wide range of issues affecting the country.
Of course, and expectedly, his views on sundry and crucial issues did not go without thorough scrutiny by concerned observers, most of whom are always conscious of anything coming from the mouth of the Minna born General. He spoke on the worsening insecurity across the country; on the leadership deficit, which he ascribed to many of the problems plaguing the nation; he also spoke on the 2023 presidential election and those he thinks are in the best position to steer us in the right direction. He even suggested that the next president of Nigeria must be someone who has the capacity to unite the country by having friends from every part of the country.
Yet, he did not fail to comment on the June 12, 1993 presidential election, widely believed to have been won by late Chief Moshood Abiola and annulled by the Junta under his leadership. IBB again tried albeit unconvincingly to put the blame on the doorstep of the military, that according to him, have vowed not to allow an Abiola presidency, and would instead topple him in a coup if he was allowed to take over.
The many debates triggered by his interview were still raging when his associates again organized a talk shop, which they called “IBB Legacy Dialogue”, to celebrate a legend. The theme of the dialogue was: IBB, the man, His Vision, His Legacy. Held in Abuja, the event provided an auspicious opportunity for friends, associates and those who served in his eight years government, to try to reconstruct and redefine what IBB achieved during his eight years in office and how his legacy should be seen by both students of history and posterity.
Media mogul and staunch supporter of IBB and his philosophy, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, who chaired the event, in his opening remarks looked at the career of IBB in the military and how he participated in all the coups that have taken place in the country except that of General Aguiyi Ironsi. He said for a man who took office at the age of 44 and who understood the various challenges the country was facing, it was not difficult for him to hit the ground running. The first thing he did, according to Dokpesi, was to appoint the best and capable Nigerians into strategic positions. This in turn helped him to build infrastructure; introduced economic reform in the form structural adjustment programme (SAP); liberalized the media and political space and so forth.
Dokpesi argued that IBB had been the major issue in the Nigerian political space for more than four decades. He specifically accused the Lagos/Ibadan media for misrepresenting IBB’s intention and also undermining his many achievements. On the purported 12 billion dollars oil windfall which was alleged to have been stolen under IBB, Dokpesi said investigations have found it to be false. “How could one and a half years of oil windfall from Gulf War have brought in 12 billion dollars?” he asked.
Dokpesi further said that IBB established lasting and viable institutions that are still very vital in the development of the country today. That he appointed the right and qualified people into his government who helped him to consummate his vision for the country.
Other participants at the Dialogue include former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, Professors Jerry Gana, Sam Oyovbaire, Adele Jinadu, Bolaji Akinyemi, Tunde Adeniran, George Obiozor, Senators David Mark, Ike Nwachukwu, Dr Chidi Amuta, Alhaja Sinatu Ojikutu, Dr Kalu I Kalu, Former Osun Governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Brigadier General Haliru Akilu (Rtd), Air Vice Marshal Larry Koinyan (Rtd) amongst others. Most of the above eminent Nigerians were part of the government led by IBB between 1985 and 1993.
While Dr Kalu’s intervention was purely on the economic policies of IBB and its impact on what we are currently witnessing, Professor Gana dwelled on how IBB was pragmatic enough to open the political space and went on educating people at the grassroots to participate more in politics.
Kalu explained that IBB predicated his economic policies on the dwindling price of oil at that time and the need to diversify the economy to be able to withstand the vagaries of the world oil market. He said only a poor leader would be unconcerned when the price of oil was as low as seven to eight dollars per barrel. He therefore justified the introduction of SAP and the privatization and commercialization of the economy by IBB, which according to him came at the right time.
“As long as the economy is deficient, policies must be introduced to address the problems. Economy is always a work in progress, but Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) as a policy was misinterpreted. What we did was to lay down the rules. Debt management and economic diplomacy were well tackled. IBB’s vision on the economy was apt and pragmatic. I knew for sure that if we are to make progress that is the way to go. The moving spirit behind the intellectual discussions was the environment that IBB provided”, Kalu posited.
Professor Gana, who was a visible cabinet member under IBB, in his own submission, said his boss is a man of ideas and always in the midst of people with the right ideas. He said IBB believed that real development must come from the people and not from anywhere else, adding that in addition to providing roads and other social amenities, IBB was of the view that real production must come from the people who must key into the vision of the government for it to succeed.
Gana said the establishment of Peoples Bank and Community Banks was to empower people at the grassroots to participate actively in economic activities. The professor of Geography pointed out that one of the institutions that IBB created at that time, MAMSER, was established because of the need to effectively educate and mobilise the people on the need for them to participate in politics. Gana indeed situated the protests by Nigerians against the annulment of June 12 election within the context of the mass political mobilization that took place under IBB.
To Oyovbere and Jinadu, two of the top political scientists behind IBB’s policies, there was the need for his achievements, policies and programmes to be put under proper perspectives for the sake of posterity. They were of the view that some of IBB’s initiatives, particularly his political transition, which according to them were of good intention, were misinterpreted by Nigerians.
Mark and Oyinlola, who both served as Military Administrators under IBB reminded Nigerians of the leadership qualities of the former Military leader, adding that he has uncommon human relations which helped him in managing the affairs of the country. While Mark said Babangida told them a leader must take decisions and be ready to defend and be responsible for them, Oyinlola noted that IBB was kind to both his superiors and subordinates, adding that he should be celebrated for all the sacrifices and leadership he gave the country.
Halilu Akilu, a retired Intelligence Officer, who is a known protégé of IBB said he was a leader who was not afraid to take decisions that he feels are in the best interest of the country. “He single-handedly took the seat of power to Abuja. He told us if you’re not coming with me I’m going. The wonders of Abuja are some of his major achievements”, Akilu said.
The Dialogue also provided an opportunity to recollect the contributions of IBB’s late wife, Maryam, who was very visible during his time in office. Her pet project, Better Life For Rural Women was variously mentioned and the impact it had on women all over the country. Ojikutu, former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, praised IBB for appointing women into leadership positions and for introducing programmes that changed the standard of living of women in the country.
Former leaders of the country, from General Yakubu Gowon to Chief Earnest Shonekan, Goodluck Jonathan and Namadi Sambo joined the programme through Zoom to celebrate the birthday of IBB and wish him many happy returns. Most of them described him as a detribalized Nigerian who appointed the best brains to rule the country. They also reiterate his continued relevance in the politics of the country.
“Many decades after leaving office, anybody who aspires to lead the country must visit the Minna Hill top residence of IBB”, said former President Jonathan, while also adding that IBB will always be a force in the politics of the country.
Needless to add that IBB’s foreign policy monks like Akinyemi, Adeniran, Obiozor and General Nwachukwu were on hand to remind Nigerians of many of the foreign policy successes recorded under his eight years rule. Concert of Medium Powers; the nation’s engagement in Liberia and Sierra Leone; economic diplomacy among others were mentioned.
An obviously delighted birthday ‘boy’ (IBB) later came on the big screen to thank the participants and expressed gratitude to God for sparing his life and for granting him the wisdom and good health to serve the country.
Kassim Afegbua, IBB Media Adviser, who gave the closing remarks, thanked everyone for coming to celebrate the birthday of a great leader, who he said is either part of the issue or the main issue in the country for decades. He said the Dialogue will remain a reference point in controlling the narratives of the IBB legacy.
“We want to come out with facts and figures to put the IBB years in proper political and historical perspectives”, Afegbua stated. It is however still unclear what impact the Dialogue will make in redefining the IBB years and ultimately, his legacy.
What is evidently clear and implicit at the end of the day was that the ghost of June 12 will take a long time to go away. But the organisers should be applauded for again reminding us of the eight years that IBB held forth at the helm of affairs in the country and what he was able to achieve.
Aruna is the Publisher of the Thepledge.
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Senator Adeleke: Of Dancing And Question Of Governance In Osun
…By Prof Oyesoji Aremu
Dance, beyond the rhythmical movement of the body, is an artistic form of behavioural expressions. Most often, joy and happiness are predisposing variables that produce dance. Hence, it is only the joyful that can truly dance.
The first written records of dance date back to some 4,000 years among the ancient Egyptians. To them, dance was a crucial element in festivals for their gods. And expressions of joys to the said gods. The ancient Egyptians also brought skilled dancers from central Africa to Egypt to provide entertainment. While this has since been with humanity, many people have come to perceive otherwise, the dancing skills always exhibit by His Excellency Senator Nurudeen Jackson Ademola Adeleke; the new setman in Osun State. This is mainly because it is considered unusual for a public servant of his huge political stature; moreso, as a desirer of the Office of the Governor. Were His Excellency to be reputable in entertainment industry like his nephew, the multitalented and highly skilled Davido, it would have been not-too-much ado of his dancing skills. But here, longing for the highest Office of the land at the state level should foreclose his expressions of his skills in dancing. Sometimes, human thoughts could be wrapped in sentiments.
His Excellency, Senator Nurudeen Jackson Ademola Adeleke, was born in Enugu on May 13, 1960. He is a touted businessman and had been very active in politics alongside his brother and first Executive Governor of Osun State, His Excellency Senator Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke of blessed memory. While the first Governor in the Adeleke dynasty went by Serubawon, the new Osun helmsman (Imole) is touted as Dancing Governor, given his social clout. Therefore, it is instructive and loudly clear that the expediency of dancing skills as His Excellency is known to have possessed becomes a sociopolitical discussion. This would not have attracted any fuss should His Excellency did not seek the highest Office in Osun State, having been a Senator of the Federal Republic between 2017 and 2019. It is therefore, a question of what is normal and not.
Fortunately, however, there is nothing unusual in the unusual dancing skills of Governor Nurudeen Jackson Ademola Adeleke. What is generally perceived unusual is because the multi-dancing skills were from a man who is now a Governor. For him, ijo dende (unsurpassed dance) that he longed for is here.
And good a thing, the man after God’s heart and second king in the United Kingdom of Israel, David, was a skilled dancer, instrumentalist and musician. Matter-of-factly, he deployed all these before and while on the governance in Israel. And he was reputable as a successful King in Israel. And so, being a skilled dancer is not inimical to good governance.
His Excellency, Senator Nurudeen Jackson Ademola Adeleke, should not be an exception of success in governance. For him, he has a DNA of governance given the fact that he is number three in a political lineage and
relevance in the Adeleke dynasty (the family had produced three Senators of the Federal Republic and him being the third Senator and second Governor from the family). What a rich political family in the ilk of the US’s Kennedys!
The referenced history, therefore, should be one of the compasses that should guide him in Office. He has no excuse to do otherwise. He is ‘Ta n wo’ (the One being watched). That being the case, he should prove the sceptics wrong by bringing up good narratives in governance. I mean the narratives that should eclipse the achievements of his predecessors in the governance of Osun. Osun State deserves the best and nothing but the best. May God help His Excellency so to do as he takes charge as from today.
Your Excellency, sir, undoubtedly, you have etched your uncommon dancing skills in the consciousness of the public. While this is itself therapeutic at both ends (the public who are stress-relieved and your goodself who through the skills, enjoys body comfort), its efficacy should be translated to good governance as King David’s in the Kingdom of Israel. The Holy Bible has it on record in the Book of 2 Samuel 6: 14 – 22 that King David danced with all his might, wearing a priestly garment as they brought the Ark of the Lord which represented then the symbol of governance in the nation of Israel. In spite of the mockery by his wife, King David asserted that his dance before God was because he was preferred and appointed as King over the nation of Israel. His Excellency, Senator Nurudeen Jackson Ademola Adeleke, has a wife in Chief Mrs. Titilola Adeleke, Yeye Soludero of Oke-Ila Orangun who quietly oozes charm, aura and love. And unlike, King David’s wife, Yeye Soludero approves of the dancing skills of Governor Nurudeen Jackson Ademola Adeleke. And you, your Excellency, as the preferred, please, etch yourself and governance in the minds of the good people of Osun.
Your Excellency, your dende ijo (unsurpassed dance) is because you are the preferred setman over the rein of governance in Osun State. You have every reason, therefore, to be distinguished as you lead the people of Osun in joy and not in contempt.
Dance provides relief from stress, anxiety and tension. It also involves some levels of mastery and fitness that evokes discipline. These should translate to results in governance. Your Excellency, Sir, the tasks of governance that are ahead are humongous, huge and expectedly challenging. Hence, you need your dancing skills o jare to relieve the stress and anxiety that will come with the huge tasks.
Your Excellency, sir, the near-relationship I have had with anything to do with you was my appointment as a Consultant to the Education Subcommittee of your Transitional Committee through a letter signed by an affable and cerebral politician, lawyer and journalist, Rt Hon. Bamidele Salam who represents Ede, Ejigbo and Egbedore Federal Constituency in the Green Chamber. At the level of the Subcommittee on Education of your Transition Committee, efficacious interventions were put together. The interventions, if well executed, should reshape the near-comatose state of education in Osun. May Almighty God help you so to do, your Excellency.
Osun State is our commonwealth. Therefore, every effort has be made by all to change her narratives with a view to making a difference that will impact all positively. Many public secondary schools in Osun have become shadows of the glories past. This, continuously ache the hearts of stakeholders including old students. That Osun State ranks 36th with 32.6% in 2022 WAEC Results speaks of academic failure on all indices of measurement in evaluation. It needs be stressed, therefore, that as your Excellency assumes the leadership of the state, the parlous state of education need be urgently addressed. And of course, this comes with political landmines. Your Excellency, therefore, has every reason to prove to all by resolving to make the difference in all sectors. It is only then, the good people from the State of Omoluabi can tell the world as Philip told Nathaniel in the Holy Bible, “Come and see” (John 1:46b). May Osun State rise to see the great difference you will bring to governance. And may you always be guided, by the evergreen poetic and praying-admonitions of Josiah Gilbert Holland:
God give us men!
A time like this demands.
true faith and ready hand.
Men whom the lust of office does not kill, men whom the spoils of office cannot buy, men who possess opinions and a will; men who have honour; men who will not lie; men who can stand before a demagogue and damn his treacherous flatteries without winking.
Your Excellency, Sir, may you and your administration represent the lofty virtues in Gilbert Holland’s poem. And above all, may you, always be guided by Almighty God to make a difference in governance.
And as you take charge, may your hands be strengthened for dende ise (unsurpassed works). And may Osun witness dende ilosiwaju (unsurpassed progress).
Hearty congratulations, Sir.
Professor Oyesoji Aremu is of the Department of Counselling and Human Development Studies, University of Ibadan, Ibadan.
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2023: Asiwaju Tinubu And The North
By Tunde Rahman
Could there have been a better and more appropriate platform to interact with and relate to the north than the one provided by the north itself? Certainly no! This is because sensing the need to come together and present a charter of demands to top presidential candidates to procure a better deal for the north in 2023, some influential groups and institutions in the region created an avenue that brought the critical stakeholders together to interface with the candidates ahead of the elections. It was the first time the north would emplace such a powerful forum to listen to what the candidates have to offer.
Held under the auspices of the Arewa Joint Committee for an interactive session, a coalition of six groups and organisations including the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation, Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Arewa House, Jam’iyyar Matan Arewa and Arewa Research and Development Project organised the talks.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, honoured the invitation of the organisers of the conference and came before the region as it were on Monday, October 17, 2022. That he attended the forum despite the allegations that trailed its perceived agenda was a demonstration of good faith by the APC candidate and the high esteem in which he held the organisers. Asiwaju Tinubu did not waiver in his resolve to attend the session even when informed of the allegations. For instance, he was told the allegedly hidden intention of the organisers was to deploy the forum to endorse the candidature of Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party. He was told Atiku had bankrolled the conference and was waiting to reap from his alleged investment.
Two or three critical developments around the conference were interpreted by many observers as giving stimulus to these conspiracy theories. One, the PDP candidate had scheduled a campaign visit to Kaduna well ahead of the conference, suggesting perhaps that he may have long been apprised of the dates for the forum ahead of others. Two, the pairings of the candidates also seemed skewed ostensibly to favour the PDP candidate. Why this perception? When Atiku appeared on day one of the conference, he was the only seemingly significant candidate scheduled for the day. The other three major contenders namely Asíwájú Tinubu, former Anambra governor, Peter Obi of Labour Party, and Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwankwanso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party were grouped together at various times on day two.
Also, on the day the trio was supposed to appear, Atiku had staged a campaign rally at the city stadium, a short distance from the Arewa House venue of the conference. However, Asiwaju was unperturbed, telling this writer the organisers of the conference were important institutions and prominent groups he must honour. He wanted to seize the opportunity to engage the north as he takes his campaign message of hope, full security, national unity, and economic development embodied in his action plan christened Renewed Hope to all segments of the Nigerian society.
The organisers of the conference themselves were not oblivious to this underlying allegation. As the conference opened on day one, the secretary-general of Arewa Consultative Forum who doubled as the moderator for the event, Mutawalin Gombe Dr. Murtala Aliyu, dismissed the accusation, assuring everyone present there was nothing like that.
Asíwájú seized the moment at Arewa House. His emergence at the arena was as remarkable as the substance of his offerings to the north and the way and manner he delivered the message. The APC presidential candidate arrived at the forum with an entourage comprising a majority of the northern governors and some political leaders, thus making a big statement. In his entourage were his vice presidential candidate, Senator Kashim Shettima; chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum and governor of Kebbi, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu; director-general of the APC presidential campaign council and governor of Plateau, Rt. Hon. Simon Bako Lalong, and Kaduna state governor Nasir el-Rufai. There were also Governors Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa), Mai Bala Buni (Yobe), Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Abubakar Sani Bello (Niger), and Bello Matawalle (Zamfara) as well as former governors Saidu Dakingari of Kebbi state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of Edo and Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara among others. At every turn, Asiwaju praised the governors for standing by him in the ongoing presidential battle, calling them promise-keepers.
The APC candidate shared both his blueprint for Nigeria’s development as well as his plans for the north at the interactive session. Some of the high points of his presentation bear restating here. He began by eulogising past leaders of the country including Nigeria’s late premier of the region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Nigeria’s first and only prime minister, Tafawa Balewa, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe for being visionary leaders who gave their all to nation-building. Incidentally, on arrival in Kaduna, he had first visited the tomb of the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, who he prayed for, for his invaluable sacrifice to the north and country.
Addressing the gathering, he had said: “As I said when I chaired the Sardauna Memorial Lecture, last year, I have a solemn feeling of responsibility and duty to our country every time I am here. Standing here evokes memories of a great leader and a father of this nation, the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, the late Sardauna of Sokoto. The contributions of the Sardauna to nation-building remain a reference point for us all. He was a visionary builder of men and institutions”.
He spoke of the vision of the foremost leaders of Nigeria, which, according to him, was for one indivisible and prosperous nation built on shared values of patriotism, equity, justice, and brotherhood.
It’s no coincidence, according to him, that at independence, this vision was clearly laid out and encapsulated in the first national anthem, which says: “Though tribes and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand”. This is a strong statement that acknowledges the country’s diversity and the existence of different perspectives and interests and how that should not stand on the path of unity, he said, while pointing out that the framers of the anthem would baulk to know that 62 years after, “someone would come to the Arewa House to campaign on the basis of tribe or where others come from,” apparently taking a swipe at PDP candidate Atiku who asked the north to vote him because he is from the north.
On his plans for Nigeria as president, Asiwaju said he would consolidate the investments of the President Buhari administration in all sectors of the nation to build on the successes recorded. The APC presidential standard-bearer also spoke of his plans to ensure that insecurity is nipped in the bud in the North and across the country, harness the resources which abound in every part of the nation for greater economic development and utilize the vast natural resources through strategic investment in infrastructure which will lead to the diversification of the economy and wealth creation across the entire country.
He promised to pay attention to modern economic drivers such as the digital economy, creative industries, sports and entertainment sectors for the benefit of young people. Leveraging on his experience of building human capital, which made Lagos one of the largest economies in Africa, Tinubu promised to grow the nation’s economy to an enviable height, while also working to reposition existing industries in the country, making them a competitive source of industrialization and growth not just for the North but the entire country.
“It is time to fetch water from a dry well. I, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, have done it before and I will do it. We will find a way where there are no roads,” he said proudly. While some of the presidential contenders see only despair and failure at every turn, Asiwaju does not deny the immensity of the challenges but preaches messages of hope and light at the end of the tunnel at every point.
Speaking specifically on his plans for the north, he said the region has a greater advantage in agriculture, and that under his presidency, the region will emerge as the hub of agribusiness in Africa through huge investment in the sector in collaboration with the private sector.
“Agriculture is of special interest to me. It is both an economic and existential issue for every country. Experience in the last seven years has shown the potential of agriculture in solving the problem of unemployment and boosting our GDP,” he pointed out while citing the example of the recent investment in the rice value chain, which led to the springing up of rice mills across the country with attendant wealth creation and reduction in the import bill. He said his vision is for the north to be the hub of agribusiness in sub-Saharan Africa because the region has a greater advantage in this regard due to its large and abundant arable land.
Asiwaju said he would mobilise investment in the livestock value chain, adding that subsectors like the dairy industry that have the potential of adding billions of dollars to our economy will receive significant attention. In collaboration with the private sector and governments at sub-national levels, he promised to make available high-yield seeds and inputs, and invest heavily in post-harvest storage and processing facilities so the country can significantly increase the value of what it produces. To ensure optimising the full value of their produce, he would utilise commodity exchanges to guarantee return on investments and enhanced wealth for the farmers. Identifying financing as critical to his vision for the agricultural sector, he assured the North he would attract the much-needed investment and re-engineer financing institutions to provide impactful interventions for maximal output.
On his plans for education and reducing out-of-school children in the north, the APC presidential flag bearer while noting that education is the most effective weapon against poverty said that compared with other countries, education in Nigeria suffers from a funding deficit on account of the population and limited resources. Therefore, he said, working with both states and local governments to reform and retool the system, he would provide the required leadership and mobilise investment for the development of the sector. These reforms, according to him, will give special attention to the welfare and training of teachers and lecturers as a necessary catalyst for the better system the north desires.
Asiwaju also identified some priority roads and hydropower projects in the north which are ongoing and which he will follow through and new ones he would introduce to aid the development of the region. Among the power projects he mentioned were the 950MW Zungeru- Kaduna River, 2000MW Lokoja-Niger River, and 1000MW Makurdi-Benue River.
Many were gripped by his presentation and the way and manner he calmly but firmly responded to the questions thrown at him.
Asiwaju’s promise to the north is no fluke I must say. It is not a vote-grabbing gimmick. Asiwaju is a true friend of the north. He has created and maintained a cordial relationship with the north where his friends and associates dotted the landscape. He has built bridges across the Niger. Asiwaju has always identified with and risen in support of the north when challenged by natural occurrences and other unfortunate developments. From Kano state to Katsina, Jigawa to Zamfara and other diverse places in the north, stories abounded of how the APC candidate supported the people when attacked by bandits or troubled by flooding or other disasters.
I have no doubts he will do more for the north and other parts of the country if elected president. Asiwaju was certainly not just playing politics when he asserted that he had always identified with the region right from his association with the late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and support for other northern presidential candidates over the years and that he did not, like some others, only remember he was from the region when he needed to ask for their votes.
Rahman, former editor of Thisday Newspaper on Sunday is media adviser to Asiwaju Tinubu.
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Oluwo, Wande Abimbola And The Philistinism Of Culture
By Festus Adedayo
Sometime in the 19th century, as he stood in the ancient town of Ijaiye in present-day Abeokuta, Ogun state, an American missionary, Richard Henry Stone saw a young man by the gate of the mission premises. The young man was prepping himself for a war expedition, probably the Ijaiye war. The young man boasted to the people who milled around him that the vest he wore over his coat was so fortified that no bullet could pierce it. From the outwards, however, the vest was made of shells. The missionary said that after he watched him swagger for a while, regaling the crowd gathered with his boastfulness, he told the young warrior that he had a gun in his possession and asked if they could try the efficacy of the so-called charm he wore on him.
The young warrior, upon hearing this, defiantly challenged Stone to shoot at him at short range. Arguments ensued and the young warrior was persuaded to take off the charm-laced vest and hang it on a tree. Stone then gave his native interpreter the gun with which he shot at the vest of charms. The bullets pierced and shattered the shells that festooned the vest. Struck to submission by the white man’s show of superiority to his charms, according to Stone, the warrior fell at his feet, worshipped him, and begged to be given some of his “strong medicine.”
Stone was an American missionary sent to Africa in the 19th century. He was a representative of the Southern Baptist Convention and spent his years of stay in Africa among the Yoruba-speaking people of Western Nigeria. He specifically lived in Ijaiye, Abeokuta, and Lagos, traveling to Ibadan, Lalupon – which he called “Lahlookpon” – Iwo, Ogbomoso, which to him were “Ewo and Ogbomishaw”. He actually met great warriors of Yorubaland like the fiery Kurumi of Ijaiye, Aare Ogunmola, and took time to study and report the ways of life of the people during this era.
While he appreciated the industry and neatness of the Yoruba of this period, Stone had nothing but disdain for the Yoruba worship of gods and idols. In the biographical sketch of his encounter which he entitled ‘In Africa’s Forest and Jungle’, Stone couldn’t hide his disdain for what he called Africans’ hideous idolatry. While observing the Ijaiye market, he was excited by the symphony and cadence of market mannerisms exhibited by Africans and portrayed their craft as admirable and excellent. He was excited by the industry demonstrated by the people but couldn’t fathom how the people harbored “misery (in) their inner life” due to the “hidden… recesses of their secret life (which bore) many hideous specters”.
At another time, Stone saw a boy said to be possessed by the spirit of “Shango,” the Yoruba god of lightning and thunder. He had come out of a compound that was near the mission chapel. A crowd of people, old and young, followed the young boy. The crowd, in Stone’s words, was “piteously beseeching him to spare them”. So the American missionary stood to observe the scene. The boy bore a “distorted and scowling countenance” and lit a torch of dried grass. He was about to burn the villagers’ houses. “What will you give me? What will you give me?” shouted the little boy, who Stone the missionary referred to as a fiend. In anger, the missionary yelled, trying to seize him by his Sango tuft, “I’ll give you something, you little imp of Satan!”. A dangerous and angry mob was however waiting for Stone. They bayed for his blood for committing such a sacrilegious act of confronting the gods’ messenger and hurled terrible curses at him in the process.
Stone was disdainful of Yoruba gods. He hurled unprintable names at the people’s spiritual lives and their minds which he said were filled with “spiritual darkness and nameless terrors”. The souls of the people he called “benighted” added to another disdainful superlative description he wore of the people, “shackled by superstition and idolatry”.
The above was how the white man, on a self-confessed civilizing mission to Africa, saw Africans and their religions. In Stone’s ascription, Sango was “the most terrible of their inferior deities” and in his dreadful attribution, he ranked the Oro cult as the next in terror and horror. “During my two years of residence in Abeokuta, the town was frequently given to Oro, and on these occasions, malefactors were punished and political matters of importance were transacted. The voice of Oro was frequently heard in the streets after dark. It began in a low moan, then rose to a kind of scream, and then sank into a moan. This noise was made by whirling a flat stick, but it was a capital crime for anyone to intimate as much. It was a capital crime, also, for any woman to remain on the streets after the voice of Oro was heard at any time,” he said.
Next in Stone’s classification was “Efa” – Ifa – which he called the god of secrets, which he said was “represented by a dove standing on a wooden plate on the margin of which is carved a single eye” and who had “devotees of that god carry sixteen consecrated palm-nuts”. And then, Ogun, the god of war, fitly represented by an iron bar and to whom “human sacrifices are sometimes offered”. Stone recalled how, on one occasion, devotees prostrated in worship before an immense python snake that appeared on the great central rock of Abeokuta with the people believing that the “tutelary deity of the city had assumed that form and taken up his abode under the rock, that he might look after their welfare”. To him, this showed how Africans’ “dark imaginations multiply terrors”.
I took my time to extensively unscroll the mind of African civilizing invaders of the 18th and 19th centuries so as to reveal similarities between them and the offspring of their conquest in dark skins who today are scattered all over Africa. I take my cue from the derision which the Oluwo, monarch of Iwo in Osun state, Oba Abdulrasheed Akanbi has for Yoruba idols. If you take your time to study Oluwo’s statements and actions since he became the king of this ancient town, you will discover that he is every inch Richard Henry Stone and his mind is of the same stature which harbors the same quantum of hate for Africa’s past.
Last Friday, a feature piece in the Punch newspaper revealed this. Tunde Odesola interviewed a respected former vice chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Professor Wande Abimbola, who is also the Awise Awo Agbaye. Abimbola was installed in 1981 by the late Ooni of Ife, on the recommendation of a conclave of Babalawos of Yorubaland.
The Awise had no kind words for the Oluwo and traditional rulers who he felt were desecrating their stools with their Stone-like vituperations against the culture and tradition of their people. Oluwo and his co-travelers had no business being on the stool, the Awise thundered.
As a tieback, the newspaper reminded its readers of how almost immediately after he was installed, the monarch began a campaign against Yoruba gods like Ogun, Sango, Obatala, Osun, and many others. In his vituperations against them, Oba Akanbi, just like Stone did, labeled those ancient objects of worship as effeminate, dead, and “retrogressive idols”. These were the same gods which his forefathers worshipped and which sustained traditional Africa for centuries. Islam, with its twin sibling, Christianity, in the thinking of the Oluwo, is superior to these “barren worships”. He does not bother to reflect that these religions made forceful incursions into Yorubaland with the aim of snatching the minds and thinking faculty of Africans. Trado-cultural practices, he also said, bear insignia of barren spiritism, and festive celebrations where these Yoruba gods were worshiped deserved to be consigned into the dustbin.
Abimbola’s response which I found worthy of a Nobel Prize if mere words qualified for Alfred’s yearly award, is “… ki won ba wa agbo ile tutu” meaning, “those close to the monarch should quickly get him a febrile convulsion herbal concoction”. Malaria is often a major precursor of febrile convulsion in children and is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the developing world. It is dangerous in young children and is often preceded by high temperatures which ultimately lead to possible brain damage and death. What an unkind cut!
Abimbola was not done. Flotsam and jetsam, as well as riffraff, were now occupying the exalted stool of royal fathers in Yorubaland and this is because climbing those stools has become ten a dime.
“Yoruba traditional rulers are too many. They are over 10,000. So, there are no checks and balances to control their excesses. Some communities have between 30 and 40 Obas. Many of them who parade themselves as Obas today were Baales or heads of farmsteads. Kingship in the land has been so bastardized that some of them don’t even mind being kings over just their houses alone,” the revered professor said.
Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, the exited Alaafin of Oyo – God bless his soul – and I always doubled down on the vanishing traditional stools in Yorubaland. When I listened to the profundity of Oba Adeyemi’s thoughts, his personification of tradition and culture in virtually every area of his life – clothing, words, depth, grasp of mores and lore of his people – I said to the Alaafin that we were witnessing an eclipse of the traditional institution in Yorubaland. And he agreed with me. When the institution now parades rulers who are certified fraudsters, social misfits, and who know little or nothing about the history of their people; who pervert virtually all the gamut of tradition and standing culture on its head, I said to the foremost Yoruba ruler that after him, except for one or two people, we were left with dregs. Many of the traditional rulers in Yorubaland today are on the stools for the material things they are able to extract from them – selling traditional lands and using the office to attract personal favours to themselves.
Richard Stone and all those who believe that Yoruba gods were barren must be talking absolute bunkum. That belief of their existence sustained the peoples of Yorubaland for centuries. It helped them in their crafts, and in inventions they made that suited their time and it constituted the core of the system that helped Yoruba kingdoms to administer their people. Those gods and the fear of them – whether they existed or not – were the cement that glued the moral corpus of traditional African society together. To claim that our forefathers, whose artistic inventions were so worthy that Europeans stole those artifacts and kept them in their museums, were pigheaded and didn’t have the mental power of discernment is a fallacy from the pit of hell. That is why Stone who, in a serpentine manner, got that young warrior of the 19th century Ijaiye town to renounce his belief in the potency of his ancestral magical power was reductionist in his stand on African magic. The gun Stone brought out to be tried on the warrior was apparently a pistol and the magic of Ijaiye was gun-specific; it was tailored specifically to bar dane guns and weapons of wars of that period from penetrating their users. To now use this to conclude that African magical powers were ineffective is reductionism at its highest decibel.
Of course, culture is dynamic and Africans will have to prune a huge portion of their bequeathals of chaffs. We will need to retain a huge part of them that haven’t gone otiose. One such is respect for elders. Born December 24, 1932, the highly venerated Professor Abimbola will be 90 years old in December. In the newspaper edition under reference, Oba Akanbi did not speak like one who had respect for a man that was old enough to be his father. The Oba also went into some indecipherable cants that fail the test of logic. “You cannot count from one to one zillion in Yoruba, yet you call yourself a Yoruba scholar. What is the essence of the Yoruba language when it doesn’t have meanings for so many scientific things? We need to upgrade the language. Who recognizes Babalawo or Awise in the constitution? It’s we, Obas, that are recognized by the constitution, not Babalawos,” he said in what he must have assumed were jibes against the professor. To many people, it is difficult to tease a grain of sense out of those statements. So, because you cannot count the Yoruba alphabet from 1 to zillion, they are impotent for scientific study? Is that what Chinese Mandarin base the efficacy of their language for use in teaching how to invent?
The monarch’s reason for sentencing idols to banishment was that traditional rulers were higher than Yoruba gods. Looks like it is a fight of ego here! Is it superiority or usefulness that is at issue here? Today, Yoruba traditional rulers are almost irrelevant in the lives of their people. It is said that they know the number of pending contracts in government houses more than the aspirations and vision of their people. The people too have abandoned them, conscripting them into remembrance only as antiquated pieces. Only traditional rulers who are able to connect with their people, lowering the guards of their egos will retain the respect of their people.
For traditional rulers to retain the respect and adoration of their people like natural rulers of old, they have to be abreast of the people’s culture and tradition. They should not be rulers who will scamper after material things and make confetti public shows of changing wives like chameleon changes colour. I have seen the Oluwo dress like the Sultan of Sokoto on a couple of occasions and was at an event where he barged in just to have an opportunity for a discussion with the Sultan. What is the difference between idolizing the Sultan and idolizing the gods of Yorubaland? The culture of our people counsels against coveting other people’s things and the need to be content with ours.
Those who disdain culture and the supreme teachings of the gods of Yorubaland, whether dead or alive, cannot understand the kernels of those eternal teachings. Granted that syncretism has seized hold of the African today as he switches between his received cultures/religions and ones he inherited from his forebears, there is a shuttle backward in this modern age to find out what made our forefathers tick. That is why trado-medicine is gaining currency and the damage done by orthodox medicines in our bodies is being interrogated.
Oba Akanbi and his fellow Obas of the Christian fold who talk down on the cultures and religions of their forefathers, no matter how they try to ape the Pope, Sheikhs, and Khalifas of the east, cannot earn the following and respect of their people. Binis earn the respect of the world today because they do not joke with their tradition and culture and their monarchs earn their respect because they do not abandon the teachings of their forebears.
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