Yoruba and Egungun Festival

Juju Films

One of the festivals that unite Yoruba people from different communities is the Egungun festival. Most people regardless of religious affiliations participate in the festival for the exciting atmosphere and the songs, dancing and the colorful costumes of the “ara orun” (ancestors).

Egungun is believed to be the spirit of our ancestors coming to shower the world with blessings. Egunguns speak in strange voices, people especially children believe Egungun comes from “orun” purposely for the festival.

Oloolu is a popular and well-respected Egungun in Ibadan, Oyo State. His followers are male, during the Oloolu festival a public service announcement is made on radio and television of his scheduled route (which is always in Old Ibadan neighborhoods like Yemetu, Oluyoro, Itu Taba, and Oja Oba) as it is an “ewo” (forbidden) for women to see him. This is a tradition Ibadan residents are well aware of and follow.

Masquerade Masquerade

Oloolu does…

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Africa Utopia 2014 – Tribal loyalty versus national interest

Africa Utopia 2014 was inspiring – lots of African young leaders shared their views on the importance of Africans working together within the continent to move Africa forward. Among the guest speakers were Ronanke Akinkugbe, VP & Head of Energy and Natural Resources at FBN Capital Limited, Nigeria: Ola Orekunrin, Founder of Flying Doctors Nigeria: Larry Madowo, Technology Editor and News Anchor at NTV Kenya and many more amazing young leaders from across the continent.

One of the compelling questions asked by the friends of Africa at the event was around Africa and the burden of tribal loyalty at the expense of national interest. I was particularly interested in this area given I grew up in an area where royal family are held to the high esteem not because of their amazing contribution to the development of their communities but just for the virtue of being from a royal family.

Time was not on our side so not a lot was said, that or people were still unsure about the best way to approach our overbearing monarchs who by virtue of birth make demands for royalties but could not be held responsible for any of their adverse actions.

In today’s Nigeria we have kings demanding contracts from the government which were awarded not on merits but to avoid yet  another tribal clashes. A good example of this was the Ife-Ibadan motorway that was awarded to Oba Okunade Sijuade’s company in the 1990s. I remember clearly the locals grumbled about the length of time it took to complete, actually it was never completed as there were pot holes enough to swallow a Beetle VW in one part of the road commissioned as ‘finished’ at a time.

Citizens see this but were afraid of holding the king responsible. If we were to move forward, how do we deal with situation such as  this in a way that respect and admiration for the traditional monarchs remain intact while everyone works together for the interest of our nation.

Maybe what we really needed in this area is to be brutally honest amongst ourselves when we tell our stories. Royal families in Nigeria are on government payroll, a form of compensation for their work in the communities. Fair enough. I have seen a lot of instances whey local royals had displayed incredible leadership providing community support during difficult times.

However, where do we draw the line in terms of the involvement of non elected post holders especially when national interest is at stake?

On a light note, here is a couple of videos from the event by amazing young Nigerian women leaders:



Brittany Maynard – Inspiration for dazed and confused Nigerians

Brittany Maynard’s story is inspiring- I wish Brittany all the very best as she embarks on the last leg of the journey. I am glad that Brittany is in a country that allowed her to make peace within herself and to have opportunity to say all the important good-byes in her own terms to the people she loved.

If Brittany was a Nigerian her story would definitely be different. I do hope my people who have opportunity to read Brittany story would not only read but share information among family and friends – we have a lot to learn from her story.

Needless secrecy around illness in Nigeria cut across class, even the educated and public figures who should know better would rather leave everyone speculating than share the truth about their illness so concerned citizens could learn.

I watched with interest earlier this year when Prof Dora Akunyili appeared at the National Conference looking a shadow of her former self, Nigerians who have benefited from Professor Akunyili’s amazing work at NAFDAC were concerned, we wanted to know why our national hero looked so sick. I had trusted Dora to be open and honest about her illness but she did what most Nigerians would do – initially denied having cancer and after the pressure from concerned Nigerians, she did lament she was coming out of a ‘major illness’ but never made mention of what the illness was. Because I respected her and her work so much, I wrote a piece detailing how disappointed I was about her failing to tell simple truth expected of her. I also shared how following Ivan Noble, a British journalist who shared detailed of his battle with brain tumour with the whole world in 2005 helped to relief me of burden of finding the truth about Mayowa’s death. Here (apologies, more like a short story than blog post).

Thank you so much Brittany for sharing your story and for educating us about deadly tumour that is GlioblastomaGood luck to you and family.





The mask we wear when the world sees us

The more I think about the issues of Modakeke and Ile Ife the more I realised how easy it is for people to live in their own little world and in their minds think no one else sees the truth of their dealings when in fact it is no secret to anyone. And of course one of the reasons it is possible for one person or a group of people to oppress another is first of all the believe that the mission is possible and secondly the thoughts that the universe will remain the same that no one will get any wiser.

Aron was a 24 year old American Medical student from Yale. He came to Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife in 1998 as part of a year-long research about West Africa traditional medicines he was doing. He made Ile-Ife as his base and from there travelled to different parts of Yorubaland researching our medicinal recipes for different ailments. He was happy that all of the traditionalists he met were exceptionally helpful providing him with loads of information.

What Aron will likely never forget was what happened during his 5 months stay in Ile-Ife. As an Oyinbo he floated between the two communities freely anytime of the day as he pleases even when he had to walk from the campus gate all the way to Lagere and through Mayfair – the area that usually would be bursting with different happy noises from people advertising their goods only that this time there were barely anyone on the road as the two towns were at it once again – killing spree fuelled by fight over land ownership.

Aron told me about his visit to Ooni of Ife palace and how well he was received, I was happy for him. I really did not have to tell him a word, he has seen it all. Before he left to Ghana to continue his research, he gave me a poem that he wrote about the relationship between Modakeke and Ife. Whao, is all that I could say because I don’t think Oba Okunade Sijuade realised that a 24-year-old stranger sees much more that we wanted him to see.

Agba kii wa l’oja k’ori omo tuntun ko wo – In reality this proverb is only words not at all true for Yoruba elders,  they watch on as the future of tomorrow are being wasted.

Who are we kidding? Even with many layers of mask people can see though the inhumane attitude that we display towards our fellow beings and don’t you be deceived, when we refused to talk/write about the truth of our stories due to fear of being leached, the outsiders are writing and documenting our stories for us.

State of education and inspiration from Akintunde Ahmed

This morning is one of the most exciting ones I have had lately. Just reading some news and Akintunde’s popped up, thank goodness I pursed to see what the news was about.

How did I miss Akintunde’s story early on this year? Following the news, I realised it happened around the same time Chibok girls news was hot in Nigeria, well still is because we very much want GEJ to #Bringbackourgirls. And of course from then, it has been one thing after the other – not very good news.

Focusing on the positives now – for those who didn’t know Nigeria is unique in the sense that just by seeing someone’s name you already know they have some sort of connection with Nigeria and in most cases you can tell which tribe they belonged so one can make educated guess about where Uche/Hasan/Akintunde are from – even when they have never stepped foot on Nigeria soil.

Just the other day I came across another blog that talks about Cuba education being highly ranked and the best in the region. That was very interesting to me because in the last few years, Cuba has come up a lot in Nigeria especially among Yoruba. Also, I heard my state sent some folks there for culture tour of some sort – you see some folks in Cuba today still practice the traditions that has eroded in today Yorubaland. Osun state sitting governor has made tremendous efforts in terms of resuscitating state primary and secondary schools since he got to power four years ago, building new schools and putting education as one of his priorities – I grew up in the state and I have never seen any public officials doing this before – never! So reading about Cuba excellent education system, I thought “Is this where Ogbeni Aregbesola got his inspiration from?” I knew there is something special about my governor especially the way he handles education. He must have travelled to Cuba on numerous occasions, so he didn’t just wander round the towns and cities like many of our leaders would do, he was inspired and now implementing it right at home – very impressive.

So coming back to Akintunde, while talented and geniuses in Nigeria rot away, I am glad to see someone who has a connection to Nigeria is succeeding abroad – lesson to our leaders that if you create a conducive environment for children, their brilliance will shine through.  Well done Tunde, all the best at Yale. And congratulations to the proud parents and siblings. And I love that Ellen pronounced Tunde the right way – I can tell she practiced a lot before hand.

Hope you enjoy the video clip as I did.



Being disabled Nigerian and a message from Maysoon Zayid

Living with any kind of disability is not the major challenge facing disabled citizens of Nigeria, it is dealing with constant reminders from people around that is most dehumanising.

We have our fair share of disabled Nigerians who are not on the road begging, these are the citizens whose disability are not only physical but also involves major neurological disorder. If they were lucky, they are home and usually the shame of the family, people used them as prayer focus/points and say something like “Please God, do not let me have a child like Emmanuel.” It doesn’t matter if Emmanuel could hear the prayers – he does not matter. The only reason Emmanuel lived to be twenty years old was because he was a very strong boy at heart and refused to give up on life.

Emmanuel developed a medical condition called Hydrocephalus  or “water on the brain” when he was about a year old. His family was devastated, they didn’t understand the condition so everyone around did what they knew best – speculate wrongly. I heard different stories about the cause of Emmanuel’s condition that I was confused. The one that stuck with me was the one that was blamed on the next door neighbour. It was said that Mama Eleja touched Emmanuel’s groin when little hence the condition developed – sounds really unbelievably ignorant but this is Nigeria where right information is very scarce. 

Emmanuel received all sorts of treatment from when he turned two all of which did not include what he needed most – medical attention to drain fluid accumulated in his head as this is preventing his brain from developing properly.

In 2003 – I got a name for Emmanuel’s medical condition while working at an institute that studies Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology. The group did research all year-long, inviting people to participate on hundreds of studies – the work they do is really impressive. Then one day, one of the professors had a subject that bear striking physical semblance to Emmanuel – The subject went and gone. Then I went to Prof. Peter to ask questions about his subject. Peter was very generous in explaining the condition and I ended up reading all of his papers on the condition – You have to be really keen to survive reading academic papers on this subject.

With this new knowledge Emmanuel was taken to a Nigerian teaching hospital, doctors were very helpful, the water on his head was drained. However, his walking ability had been compromised before now, legs too thin to support the size of the head and growing body so needed support. He has learning difficulties and most of the problem that comes with hydrocephalus – he would have been a bit less affected if he was properly diagnosed when young. He was ten years old at the time of the surgery.

But yet I am glad we had a name for the condition so the family can find the best way to support their child.

In the last twenty years, Emmanuel’s mother and I have had major disagreements, all of which were about Emmanuel’s condition. She runs from post to pillar looking for ‘who was responsible.’ A pastor once told her the her son was Emere (a spirit child) and the poor boy was subjected to physical abuse with the hope that he would ‘confess.’ The said pastor who is seeing ‘visions from God’ dies 2 years ago due to untreated diabetes/high blood pressure – enough said.

Emmanuel’s mother is my sister, three years my senior.  Emmanuel was born during the time that I lived with her family so their challenges is close to my heart and had helped me to see Nigeria and the those guys in plastic white collars round their necks in different lights.

I wish everyone in Nigeria could watch Maysoon Zayid to learn how much we could lift one another’s spirit just by being a bit more kind towards those that have disability of all sort. I learnt from Emmanuel long ago that he did not need anyone’s pity – all he asks for is a bit more kindness.





Before being made Emir – Lamido Sanusi on Nigeria vested interest

I first listened to this TEDx talk in January when no one knew Lamido Sanusi would be crowned this year. One need to listen to it to draw conclusion, however I knew that in order to understand how deep-rooted Nigeria issues were, one will need to be part of a certain group – what common people like me see is like the tip of the iceberg. Needless to say, this speech made me realise how important it is that we all as Nigerians must contribute whatever we can/able to lift us all from the rot.

You can imagine my joy when he was crowned as the new Emir of Kano on the 8th of June this year. Nigeria needs not just a patriotic traditional Obas, but intelligent ones across the whole country. Those that will use their experience and position of power entrusted in them to effect positive change in people. Those that understood that freedom for one child should really be translated to freedom for all children.

I know our Obas are friends, to a large extent, they do meet and socialise. Although Mallam Muhammad Sanusi II is way up north and me in the south – eyes are on him and we do hope to draw positive examples from him.


Raising Nigeria sons

It is generally known that there is gender bias with boys being favoured. Nothing wrong with desiring certain gender in the household, humans desires are sometimes shaped by experience. We just have to be careful the way we relate to our ‘favourite’ gender based child in a way that he/she did not grow up with false hope of what real life has in store.

I have witnessed with interest how many of us are raising our boys especially around domestic chores. The culture especially in patriarchal Yorubaland is that daughters are the one that bear the responsibility of household chores, this include and not limited to cooking, laundering, shopping and the likes while quite acceptably boys are allowed to spend his time playing about. And of course this is not true for all Yoruba families but for the most part the practice is the norm.

My 22 years old niece is home for  a couple of weeks. As we talked on the phone, she was busy between preparing dinner for the family and at same time looking after her mother’s shop. “Where is your brother”? I asked. “Playing football down the road.” It would have been very nice if Tomi could manned the shop so Janet can focus on preparing the family dinner but the issue here is Tomi is 15 years old and he has never been taught to help with household chores not even fetching water or washing up his own clothes – my sister does everything, she gets help from her daughter when home for holidays – she has three boys and a girl.

Lola is a good friend of mine, she has a boy and a girl and lived in London, UK. I once visited her at home when Wale her first child was ten years old. A few minutes after dinner, Wale disappeared into the kitchen. When I asked where he was, “in the kitchen cleaning up the dishes,” Lola told me.  My admiration for Lola grew ten folds instantly because I knew she was raising a child that will grow up to be a pride both to himself and the people around him. It is impressive to see a diasporean adapting to the culture of their adopted home – taking advantage of teaching their boys importance being all-rounder.

Speaking with my sister the next day, I ask if she thought her daughter who is intelligent, hardworking as well as one of the top 3 students in her school would want to have someone like her brother as a partner/husband in future? My sister realises that time has changed and that people must adapt as well. It is old habit to expect girls to do all household chores while the boys roam about contributing nothing – he’ll grow up wanting to continue just like that thinking all females around owed him.

I have seen lots of improvement in this area in the past decades but we still have a long way to go. A boy who is raised in a household where every child regardless of their gender contribute equally to the household chores is likely to grow up respecting females and their views when earned – haste to add. Then a bit of our job of creating a gender equitable society is done and it all started right from the source – Home

Friends Africa is having a big 2-day event next week on women and girls empowerment in Nigeria, I really do hope that areas of how boys upbringing affect their perspectives and attitude when they turned adult is raised and discussed. Home and society must to work together to create a less gender biased society.




Sonia Shah on malaria

I have over the years accumulated lots of many interesting talks from TED. Massive thanks to the group for sharing this wealth of information with the world freely.

Here is one of my favourites by Sonia Shah on malaria and how the least bothered people about finding solutions to rid of malaria are the people who are most affected. That is sad but true. See here.




Maggots in the brain


Life in the village sometimes can deal more than you ever bargained for. Life can be slow-paced and interesting and at the same time whenever there was any drama, everyone feels the impact, whether or not you liked to be involved.

It was one summer school holidays, I was in the village from school just like many school children. Long holidays are always very eventful. Two weeks earlier, there were words going around that someone has been stealing yam and maize from the farm huts. A few farmers had huts in the farms for produce storage and also for livestock. My father had a few dozen chickens at the time, he fed them twice daily and with plenty of insects to snack on, these chickens grew very big, a few other farmers in my village kept chicken in their huts too. It is very rare for anyone to complain about missing stuff in my village because we…

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A different kind of Yoruba king

Our history is distorted – too much uncomfortable inconsistencies in our past that make the so-called Cradle of Yoruba people less appealing. The inhume manners we treat one another have always been hidden from the public. We fabricate our stories with the hope that people remained delusional for generations to come.

Oba to je, t’ilu f’toro, oruko re ko ni pare – The king whose time on the throne brings harmony to the people will be remembered.

It was astonishing learning there once was a king at Ile Ife, well respected for his integrity both at home and on the world stage – this was Oba Adesoji Aderemi. I knew of Oba Aderemi story since I was little, his name would pop up once a while as a reminder to me and many other confused people around that relationships between Ife and Modakeke was once peaceful – no remorse from either parties.

Adesoji Aderemi + Winston Churchhill
Oba Adesoji Aderemi + Sir Winston Churchill

The joy that came with this reminder was always short-lived as the reality on ground is far more painful.

What I found most interesting was that Sir Adesoji was occupied himself building Yorubaland and making his influence known within Nigeria while actively contributing to the struggle of our people at the time. He was the first African governor in the British Empire and Commonwealth. This says a lot about him as you do not get to that post when your hometown was on ‘fire.’ After his retirement from politics in 1962, he focussed mainly on his role as the king and spent his time leading his people and environment to a community where everyone feels valued as a person. This must be one of the reasons his reputation has  never being clouded with controversies – everyone thinks he was a great leader.

Oba to je t’ilu fi t’uka oruko re k’oni pare – The king whose time on the throne encourages hatred and dispersion among his people will be remembered.

I read with interest Oba Okunade Sijuade’s coronation speech on December 06, 1980. The last paragraph of his amazing speech was the only part that touched on his sole mission as the king. “I declare that the era that ended in 1910 will resume in Ife. In that year, Olubuse I departed to join his ancestors. On 17th September 1980, he was being reincarnated to continue his reign and fulfill further aspects of his mission.” reads Olubuse 11.

Here the new king was talking about his father Olubuse 1, he was making promises to his people that he would start where his father left off in 1910 – before 1980, the last time Modakeke and Ife had crisis that wasted many lives and properties was the time of Oba Olubuse 1.

Culture must be adaptive, otherwise friction will continue.

Humans are still evolving, it is unrealistic to assume simply because Olubuse 1 managed to do all that he did to suppress his neighbours with no questions asked nor repercussions faced should mean that his son decades down the line must embark on the same mission. And the fact that Olubuse 11 has really tried his best from his first day on the throne in 1980 to complete the dreams from his father should not mean it is the right thing to do – maybe the acts of violence over dialogue was fashionable in the past, the world has changed now and it is changing daily.

There maybe upper hand today but that may not necessarily be the case for future generations – we all have the power to stop the oppression NOW and let Modakekes have their farms they’ve worked on for more than 300 years. The kids whose livelihood have been taken today will not remain kids for ever – they’d grow up, likely to be uneducated and no skills – they are the main threat to the over-privileged children you are hoarding all the wealth to.

Most of our histories are not written but that was in the past. Today we are all documenting as much as we can, and as honestly as we must – history may not be that hard to trace as it used to be for future generations

You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom. Malcolm X