All about love

Sometimes having no particular expectation can be a blessing. Here was I sitting amongst hundreds of young adults eager to listen to bell hooks on her new book – All About Love. I had no idea who she was, which helped significantly as I sat in the corner listening to every word she uttered with no preconceived assumption.

Then I sensed all sorts of emotions running all over, the ones that make one, right there do a bit of inward reflection. I could feel immense connections between every word Ms hooks spoke and the thoughts that has been in my head for as long as I could remember. She talked about love in many important areas of life: family, romantic relationship and in community. It is the community one that hits home.

So I turned to Cece “Who is this woman?” “She is a social activist” Cece answered,  with her gaze still on Ms hooks.

Cece is an African-American lady. She shared her experience growing up and the many social issues she had to face with limited resources. She drew on a chalkboard to show that African-Americans were the lowest on the ladder when we talked about social welfare.

Cece wanted to know about my culture, I smiled at her and could only say I am Yoruba. She wanted to know more but I didn’t want to burst her bubble about Africans and culture-rich mindset because all I had plentiful of at the time was me growing up in my small town and having to deal with issues that were just too big for my child self.

Even more difficult to explain was the fact that my next door town whose only preferred way of settling land ownership disputes was violence is said to be the Cradle of Yoruba.

I often switched off in my Yoruba language class in secondary school whenever my teacher talked about Cradle of Yoruba. I always thought, really? How could that be if compassion for human lives – same kind, same language means nothing?

Reciting the same old history tainted with brutality of innocent lives so one could appreciate how far we have come is one thing but to continue to dwell in the same mindset is plain wrong.

All About Love became my ‘bible’ – I was hooked. I learnt that

“Contrary to what we may have been taught to think, unnecessary and unchosen suffering wounds us but need not scar us for life. It does mark us. What we allow the mark of our suffering to become is in our own hands.” bell hooks

A friend was concerned for me the other day, he is Ijebu in diaspora. Never heard about the crisis, and could not believe we have our own Mafia-like amongst us. Many people are not aware of the depth of it all and those well aware learnt not to talk about it as there are potential consequences, not because the stories were not true but because traditional boundaries are much more important than human lives.

The state of Nigeria today is not out of the blue, it is all inter-connected. People get confused about the devastation in Baga last week of whom to believe – the government reporting of 150 casualties or the private citizens of 2000.

Just like my town ongoing crisis, keeping secrets is a quest to maintain power, hiding and concealing information so as to further keep larger mass in the dark. We have a choice to lift the veil for the benefit of us all.

Women and faiths during crisis

My perspective on religion is shaped by my small town crisis, everyone belonged to one sort of religion, some people two.

During crisis people around me called upon God in so many different ways. How did God respond?

An older woman in her 70s from my town shared her views about how God, Christian God fought for Modakeke during 1997 – 2000 crisis. It’s no secret we had fewer resources compared to the Ifes after all, Ile Ife is the cradle of Yorubaland.

Mrs Aduke was convinced it was the message she was sent from Prophet Obadare to the town that helped. She lived out-of-town at the time but travelled many times back to town with God’s anointing.

I agreed with Mrs Aduke, afterall Jesus said to the woman “… Your faith has saved you”

I believe there are many ways to see this given people of different faiths gave their undivided support.

Traditionally women were expected to fully participate by keeping the family together while men are in the front line.

Mrs Dorcas Adedoyin aka Rush E was once married to the Ogunsua of Modakeke, Oba Francis Adedoyin. They had a son together before their divorce several years ago. The then Mrs Adedoyin earned her nickname Rush E during the early years of her marriage to Mr Adedoyin (yet to be king), she sells akara (bean ball) at Oke Amola, Ologbin compound at which time people rushed to get to her stall on time to get their hands on her delicious akara before it’s all gone. Rush e relocated to Ore in Ondo as an independent woman and worked as a Herbalist and traditional healer after her divorce.

During 1997 crisis Rush e was very instrumental in liaising between the people in the front line and the palace. She gave all she had as a professional herbalist to help extract bullets from the wounded. This is very important as at the time many people died from gun wounds given all local clinics were filled up – only teaching hospital is at Ife so no hope and roads to get to Osogbo hospitals were blocked.

This was how Ade, my childhood friend died.

Just like many of us who happened to have family from both sides, Rush e’s mother was from Ife, father is from Modakeke and was caught in the middle so decided to defend her fatherland where her livelihood was.

I hope Oba Sijuade is noting this to see how families/relatives were turned against one another so the king could maintain his alter ego.

Rush e passed away a few years back, may her soul rest in peace. Modakeke will never forget her.

Mrs Déponírŏ was another courageous woman who secured Odo Okun area of Modakeke during the crisis. Her bravery was most notable in the 1983 crisis, when with a young baby still on breastmilk joined hundreds of others. She was popularly known as the woman who fought with a bunch of broom – how did she do it? God of Modakeke knows.

Mrs Déponírŏ lived in Pakoyi compound, an area that was very close to the borders of Ile Ife.  The Apostolic church headquarters at Odo-Okun survived the 1983 crisis as the area was well secured, thanks to Déponírŏ and other brave people.

Sadly the church and the mission house was burnt in 1997 crisis.

Mrs Dorcas (Rush e), Mrs Déponírŏ and many more women who prayed and worked on different projects were all God’s agents.

Boko Haram can be defeated with united Nigeria.

Mutual respect of old time can be rekindled

Past events are not meant to be all sweet and glamorous, they are behind us. Our fore fathers make decisions based on their perception of the world around them, not all of these decisions are worth copying, some belonged in the past, they are horrible histories. Thank goodness, some are fantastic so no reason not to rejoice in the wisdom of the old ones before us and build on their hard work.

Ooni of Ife, Oba Adegunle Abeweela was one of the kings in Ile-Ife, 1839 – 1849. Before his reigns, Modakeke were referred to as Oyo given my people were descendant of Oyo Ile. At the time Modakeke lived in the midst of Ife, in the same neighbourhood.

Oba Abeweela was another king of Ife that was warm and accommodating to the Oyos perhaps because his mother was from Oyo or he was just very smart Oba with a big heart.

In Ile Ife, kingship is rotated among many compounds/families and it is possible to have a king from the same family more than once, this is certainly the case for the sitting Oba Sijuade as his father was once a king. However, this is not the same for Oba Abeweela, when he died the senior chief in Ife colluded that never will anyone from Abeweela’s family be the king and it has not since 1849.

The sins of  Ooni of Ife, Oba Adegunle Abeweela:

Oba Abeweela reasoned differently, he could not see any sense in the hostility towards the Oyos given the they were at Ife due to the displacement caused by the raging war in Oyo Empire at the  time – lots of people were displaced and settled in different parts of the land.

There was an internal coup plan in Ife, they wanted to get rid of Oba Abeweela as he has shown he would not be part of enforcing slave status on the neighbours. Oba Abeweela was told of the coup plan by the Oyos.

It was awful day in the history of any king in Yorubaland. The plan was to kill the king at Igbo Itapa during the ritual. Oosa Itapa is a very special ritual in Ile Ife as it only involves the senior chiefs and the king. All of the chiefs that knew about the plan did not return from Igbo Itapa (Itapa forest), those that were not present were hunted down in town.

Ooni Abeweela after this incidence knew Oyo people living in the same town were not safe and did not want war being a sensible king noting what was happenning at Oyo Ile. With agreement of his senior chiefs pointed down the road to a thick forest where Oyos were told to clear to build their own little community separate from the Ifes, there they formed and named Modakeke.

Yoruba has many rituals to perform following the passing of a king, Ooni Abeweela was the only one in the history (that I know of) that did not receive any form of rituals because by the time of his death, the closest people to him were the Modakekes, he has passed on (waja) three months before Ife people knew, by which time his corpse were nowhere to be found, the location till today is not known to the Ifes.

We have horrible histories but what is more horrible is to continue to wallow in the past so as to chase unachievable goals that have no place in the twenty-first century.

May your soul continue to rest in peace Oba Abeweela. I am glad your corpse was saved for butchered.

I am sorry brothers and sisters of Ife that you can’t point to where one of your kings was buried, but you see – we are much better getting along in peace.

What happened to the powerful weapons in circulation after the war

War is horrible so is devastating news of losing innocent lives, but in reality victims of war sometimes go beyond those that have left us during the course of protecting the masses. Where there is no foresight, then the good guys, the courageous ones who survived the war soon became terror for the lack of better things to do.

Terrifying to think about the way Boko Haram is spreading and the way my government failed to see the bigger picture of it. One would think we have learnt a thing or two from the Somali child soldiers stories.

Actually, we don’t have to go that far to learn of the aftermath horror of war – we have our very own examples at home, on a smaller scale, I must add.

Many courageous people died in both Modakeke and Ife crisis but the other sad reality was the aftermath of the war – when courageous people with powerful weapons turned to each other.

During the 1997 – 2000 crisis, tens if not hundreds of youths mostly under forty were hired by the Ifes, this is no surprise because there were plenty of money that could have been better spent on education and infrastructure but guns and bullets took priority.

Some of these guys were in police uniforms so initially Modakekes trusted them as they were mistaken to be from the state/federal government to maintain peace in the area.

Well, that trust was tossed after Mr Tanimowo, the old man in his 80s and the first principal of Modakeke High School was killed at his Iraye area house. The old man returned to his house because he had trusted police officers in the area for his safety – Oh, well.

Tens of other guys hired by the Ife’s had proper guns, automatic ones, the ones you can only get your hands on if you were in the police or the army.

More guns in circulation in a society where the gap between haves and have-nots is at the opposite ends equals disaster.

For fathers, uncles, brothers or husbands that had habits of hanging in motor parks especially in our big cities that would jump into opportunities of being paid for causing street troubles that went missing around this time – I am not in any sense elated to say this but the following might provide a bit of closure.

These guys had no idea where they were, they were given  as little as ₦3000 (17 USD ) and automatic guns and of course plenty of hard drugs and mountain of food but what they failed to ask was the map to enlighten of the borders, which literally was a thin stream, easy to miss even for the locals.

They wandered right to the middle of the town a mile or so in the land of the people they were supposed to attack, asking the very same people ‘where are we?’ They lived just enough to tell their stories, where they came from and contract details – very sad.

They became the victims of a lawless society where future of tomorrow were being wasted for next to nothing.

Their weapons lead to further horror for months after the war ended. Another gangs formed – the untouchables. This time not to grab farmlands.

Ajitebi from Akarabata nicknamed Double was a victim of this. He fought wholeheartedly to protect Urban Day area and Akarabata, survived the war but lost its life from the aftermath. Sunday Igboho was a good guy too a very dependable son, still alive but not in town.

I wish my president could read, maybe he would take Boko Haram issue more seriously than with kids gloves

Akoraye Day

Today is Akoraye Day. Every last Saturday of the year is.

The day that all Modakekes home and away celebrate the gift of life and a bit of pat in the back that we are still here.

The event is mostly to reflect on the past, appreciate the present and plan for the future – call it Modakeke Thanksgiving Day.

Plenty of music, dance, food and many more of it. Some folks would get super drunk on Emu (palm wine) and Ogogoro (locally made liquor, that stuff burns throat!) today – it’s all about celebrating.

Although the resistance to lease payment from Modakekes is a century old tale but it has never been consistent, it all depends on who is at the throne in Ife and how much delusional he is.

1981 was the first Akoraye Day – the need for a day of reflection arose out of necessity.

A year prior Oba Adesoji of blessed memory w’aja (passed away). During his time, there was no need for Akoraye Day – relationship was not perfect, but it was manageable. Senior chiefs have never stopped pushing but Aderemi knew better.

The last blood shed was during Oba Sijuade, Olubuse I.

True to his words on coronation day December 06, 1980 – everything changed, Oba Okunade Sijuade Olubuse II wasted no time to execute his plans.

By midyear 1981, the town has witnessed the most brutal killings of our recent time in Yorubaland, it met Modakekes by surprise, they were suspicious but no one knew the extent.

By December 1981, agreement was made, we do need a day – Akoraye Day it is it will be celebrated the by last Saturday of every year. Home and away, physically or spiritually – be there to rejoice and reflect and remember that our town needs us.

This year would have been the 33rd Akoraye Day but because of the last ‘open’ killing spree between 1997 and 2000, we missed two years – The town was too much ‘broken’ to see any reason to celebrate, too many of our brave ones were lost in 1998 especially.

This year is our 31st Akoraye Day.

Today I am grateful for all those guys whose lives were cut short, and others who defended the borders and survived, the youths who didn’t run away but hung around to provide moral supports, the women who pounded locally made gun powder even when their palm of their hands were swollen from so much work and one brave woman (Mama Rush E)  in particular who broke the myths of gender bias of women capability. She led several people to the borders – incredible woman she was – without the collective effort,  Modakeke would have been heaps of ash.

And to our King – Oba Francis Adedoyin, he stood by throughout, even when the youths had enough of listening to orders, he showed that he understood the frustration.

Last but not the least, not always have we ever had hearing ears from the ‘outsiders’, news don’t get out in a way that human lives being wasted meant anything so for the most part, we are on our own.

The current state administrator, Governor Rauf Aregbesola is different, not because of what he said, but because of what he is doing. Grateful for the new state school system, one of Modakeke ones was completed early this year.

Give me education, I’ll live.

For this and many more I am grateful to Gov. Aregbesola’s admnstration.

You don’t have to be from Modakeke to see the injustices going on, if you must help us, anything in the line of education is a life gift no one can take away from.

 

Akoraye a gbe wa o.

Putting names to the victims of war

This year marks the one hundredth years since the First WW broke out. UK did massive poppy display representing each soldiers killed in the war by planting 888,246 clay poppies themed Blood Swept Lands of Seas of Red – The display was beautiful and moving.

I am grateful too as I have benefited in no small measures from the peace around me.

Tower of London poppy Display
Tower of London poppy Display

Then it occurred to me that my gratitude for brave men and women goes beyond British soldiers and the first WW. Mine included a very recent and less publicised one but war nonetheless because people died so others like me could live.

Old NEPA building on Ondo road, Modakeke is a popular landmark in town, not only because it once housed NEPA (National Electric Power authority) but also that in the 80s, Nigeria Guru Maharaj Ji once lived there – One God. Many ways of reaching Him. My people’s madness about One Way and My Way is fascinating. Little wonder #Bringbackourgirls occurred.

I digressed a little there.

Old NEPA’s building has lots of memories that has shaped my view of the world in more than one way. I lived about 300 metres away from it for seven years.

By December 1998, I was beginning to think this will be the end of it all, the killings have been going on for about a year and no end in sight. Nigeria newspapers reported the crisis as if it was foxes and Chickens.

Adegoke retired to his house Old NEPA building, in the heart of town. Behind his house was a swamp, really it was a stream, flows during raining season but stood still most time of the year for the path is clogged of household waste.

One day, Modakeke youths went to Adegoke to ask if he could lend out his garden hose, people have seen him using this on occasions on the compound weeds. Adegoke refused to lend out his machine demanded the youths to leave his compound at once. The guys were not only disappointed, they were furious for his refusal to be of any help.

Adegoke has drunk, eaten on the soil. Even raised his family and Modakeke good enough for him to settle after years in the Nigeria Army. We were not asking him to fight given he is from Ikirun (or somewhere close in Osun State) but only fair that he help in his capacity to support our efforts to defend ourselves and livelihood from the Ifes.

The guys wanted to tell the old guy he was a traitor but must be cautioned as Adegoke has plenty of powerful guns so they left his compound.

Retired Captain Onigbinde assured the aggrieved youths he’ll have words with his old-time friend. Onigbinde walked up the stairs as he had done many times before, only to be carried out in a body bag, all the boys hanging about the building were taken down within minutes that followed.

Aremu Baba Elero Ata at Oke Amola, who has been fighting intensely for the last few weeks and tired was on his way home when he heard the news, made a detour to Old NEPA so as to stop Adegoke – him too was sent to a journey of no return within minutes of arrival.

Within 24 hours, Adegoke killed more people in Modakeke than the total number of people killed by the Ifes at the borders.

Was Adegoke an enemy within? Or was his action triggered by years in the Nigeria Army where killings has become a ‘child’s play’ and not enough psychological help to follow-up with soldiers to be sure they were not danger to their communities after retiring?

Must see what happens to Adegoke, next day I sat among tens of youths at Olanrewaju in a two-storey beside Baba Liadi’s building. There you can see Adegoke’s compound clearly, there was a stray bullet near this building yesterday but if others didn’t get shot, I will be just fine too.

This is history, must see.

Adegoke had resources, had a working landline phone from the then Nitel – his lawyer from Moro came by and whizzed him away.

“Remember Femo, the powerful undefeated Ife man who once rode Oba Sijuade’s horse to events?” A friend asked. I responded in affirmative.

See, my point here – No one benefitted absolutely from Modakeke and Ife crisis, but the bruised egos are still adamant to accept defeat to move to 21st century where it is not acceptable to demand for lease after centuries of ownership on farmlands.

None of the kings and chiefs children were victims. Actually, during this time four of Oba Sijuade’s children were in the USA studying and yet ordered children of his people to grab lands of the Modakekes do or die style.

A sliver, hope nonetheless

This is part of an epic tale of growing up with my Yoruba monarch

——————————-

My parents generation today have witnessed at least two different Ile-Ife monarch reigns so sometimes they are best to tell some stories given most of our stories were not written and those that were, are seriously skewed to the benefits of the writer. Not everyone in that generation thought anything would ever change, most complained of being tired of asking for what is right, others feared they’d be at risk.

Either way, I believe we can not keep going the same old way and expected different results. If we want improvement in the way that  land ownership is being dealt with, then there must be a change, a defined and fair one.

I get excited about things – new experience, new places to explore so naturally visiting Thailand excited me more so that I have plenty of time to see and learn. For my six weeks there I saw plenty from the beautiful Grand Palace, to riding elephants in the north jungles. Really, you guys have palm trees too? That sort of knowledge filled me with innermost joy.

The biggest surprise of all came two days before leaving. I was in a big market in Bangkok, Chatuchak market, just window shopping but when I spotted a group of African shoppers, the veins in my head popped. I remembered the saying that 1 in every 5 black person you see is likely to be a Nigerian so I thought, I’ll keep walking around to see if I’d see some.

Before long I found myself in a Nigerian restaurant eating eba and egusi – incredible. Spoke to an Osogbo woman who has African prints shop, the type and quality that you don’t get back home, so I stocked up for my parents.

Then comes the biggest surprise of all. Adegoke walked into the restaurant, ordered his food, and sat opposite me. He has been in Bangkok for a while, so decided to settle there, not easy he told me. “Compared to home, what do you say?” Goke chuckled and looked me in the eye saying between us both “Hell is better than home he left behind.”

Nigeria is not that bad, maybe not enough opportunities but really not that bad. so I asked him, tell me “where are you from that is that bad.” He hesitated because he thought I could never understand, but I urged him to trust me. Then he said the most unexpected town ever, “Modakeke” No way, I yelled and gave him the biggest hug ever.

After getting over the shock, then come the familiar stories, we both shared tales of our beloved town, we knew each others primary and secondary schools even knew a few people in common.

It was the 1997 – 2000 crisis, he went to secure the borders for a few days with a gun, the experience was just a bit too much for him so he swore to get away from it all and here he found himself. Goke was in his early 20s at the time.

Meeting Goke gave me hope. He knows the true story of what has happened and continue to happen till today and the aftermaths on people. This negative effects is not just on one side, it affects everyone from both communities.

Hope it is.

Grandfather’s chest box

“If someone has bitten you, he has reminded you that you have teeth.” Kenya proverb.

I asked my father what the deal was with his Iroko chest box. I have known this box to be special since I was little, it stays under his bed and in it were journals and diaries of my father from before I was born.

“Apoti Baami nuu” – “My father’s chest box”, he said to me. Your father’s? I was ecstatic! All of my grand parents from both families were long gone before I was born  and apart from the house in the village and the farm that belonged to my paternal grandparents, there were nothing personal around that I knew of, not even a photo! By the time I was old enough to appreciate stories about my paternal grandparents, my father had lost his voice so took solace in his pens and journals.

My mother chipped in to talk about my grandfather’s dentures and how they became his ‘little babies’ the first few weeks he got them. My grandfather had dentures? How could he have afforded those close to sixty years ago? Where did he get them done?

Everything becomes clearer by the day why there will always be endless conflicts and lots of it in Nigeria if government continue to turn deaf ears to landownership crisis like the one in Modakeke and Ife

My grandfather got his dentures fitted at Ibadan, likely to be LUTH.

My grandfather’s dentures and his chest box have nothing to do with what really is boiling in me however, they were crucial clues to the lives people of his time lived in the village – He was not rich, however, he was content. He lived well, he was able to afford the cost of his health services and food for his family.

What has changed:

My grandparents had seven children, four were male so family farm was divided between them (leaving gender inequality for another time). Only one was educated to Standard Six, others enrolled in various apprenticeships. At one point all of them returned to the village, each working on his portion of the farm.

Any mystery as to why there were ongoing conflicts when Ife insisted on Modakeke to continue paying Isakole on three hundred years old lease?

There’s just not enough to keep feeding idle hands of great grand children who relied on proceeds from informal lease between great grand parents. Simple.

The same piece of land has not and will never increase in size, however the population has quadrupled in the last century – why is our elders not seeing this and find constructive ways of dealing with the conflict in the way that a group of people are not alienated on their land?

Lease on land met brick wall in the 1980’s after Oba Okunade Sijuade decided to reintroduce his rights to absolute power for good reasons but now outright chase of people from their farms is the new strategy.

My question is, those people especially in Ogudu Village, will they remain quiet for ever? They are hurting, no one is listening or think they are making any sense.

Yet, our president Jonathan Goodluck had time to visit the “Notable Yoruba Kings” yesterday in my hometown to discuss politics – Well, we all know these Obas do not give a hoot about the common people and neither did GEJ.

I have a word for all of them – Ile ti a fi ito mo iri in yio wo – A house built of saliva will collapse when dew hit.

Chickens and Foxes

Creating a peaceful world must start from everyone’s backyard.

A few years ago, I received yet another fatality news about Modakeke farmers at Ogudu Village. This is because the villagers believed the superficial instructions given by our ex president General Obasanjo that there will be no more killings or farm grabbing so everyone should go about their normal business peacefully. Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade also openly agreed to this. Given our history, people were sceptical but after a few months, they have to go back as their livelihoods depended on tending the farms.

The farmers, upon getting to their village were met with machetes and guns – those who escaped were lucky, a few others, not so much. Farmers at Ogudu Village were predominantly Modakekes (>50%) the rest were people from all over Osun state i.e Iree, Gbongan, Ode-Omu etc.

As I went through my inbox that day, in came another email from Adeoye with the same prayer request for the war-torn nations of the world:

” Please let us remember the nations of Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Israel, the US, DR Congo, the Palestine, the rest of the Middle East region and  other troubled spots of the world in our prayers.  Let us pray for the peace, justice and protection of GOD over all HIS children and their possessions in those countries. GOD Bless you as you do so.

For at least a decade now, I received daily inspirational messages mostly along religious line with bible quotes from the same person. The quote above is the signature to all of Adeoye’s messages – I used to read them all religiously. So I called him up to have a chat about his campaign for world peace when he is oblivious to the fire burning in his backyard.

As it turned out although Adeoye has lived in Yorubaland all his life between Abeokuta and Lagos – about 200 km from Modakeke and Ife,  still he was not aware of the recent crisis in Modakeke and Ife.  ‘You must be joking’ I exclaimed. Adeoye was aware of 1980 crisis just after the new Ooni was crowned however, he had no idea that the 1997 to 2000 one was very serious.

Well, tens of houses were burnt in both towns and village houses razed down, hundreds of lives wasted and even today more than a decade later, some neighbourhoods remained deserted and wreckage of burnt houses visible.

After all these wasted lives and properties, are we close to resolving the problem. Not close. For one, Ogudu farmers are still roaming the town and not able to return to their farms and secondly, Yoruba elders would rather beat about the bush than call a spade its name with Oba Okunade Sijuade.

Nigeria newspapers do not carry news of event under their noses, and when they did the news would read more like fights between foxes and chickens.

What happens when ones livelihood is stolen

Many Nigerians today are all over the world working and living and for the most part making honest happy living. Their new-found homes allowed them to keep the wealth they worked hard for and make use of what rightly belonged to them as they see fit.

Here is what happens to Nigerians on their own very soil that we all shy away from talking about but forget that very adage Adie ba l’okun, ara o r’okun, ara o r’adie loosely means that chicken that stands on a thin line is as unstable as the line itself – neither is at ease.

About two weeks ago, another clash occurred betweeen Modakeke and Ife, this time it was between farmers in a village called Tòrò, a village in Modakeke and had equal number of farmers from both towns. For more than 300 years farmers from both sides have planted and harvested their produce, inter-married, shared memories of important events, well not without occassional hiccups but for the most  part, manageable coexistence, thanks to  Oba Adesoji Aderemi

The last long crises in both Modakeke and Ife started in 1997, handiwork of  Yoruba Premier King, Oluaye of Yorubaland this time a lot of permanent damages was done. All Modakeke farmers at Ogudu Village were either killed or escaped with nothing they could point to, to be theirs. Ogudu is a village based in Ile Ife however, for hundreds of years it is occupied by both Modakeke and Ife farmers just as Tòrò is in Modakeke but farmers are from both two communities.

Modakeke farms at Ogudu village were taken over by the Ifes, some have even been sold to non natives from out of state, deliberately. However, Ife farmers in Tòrò make regular visits to their farms and for the most part, they are unharmed.

Since 1997 hundreds of ‘peace talks’ have been conducted among elders, none of which resulted in getting Ogudu farmers back to their livelihoods or provided alternatives. In other words, the displaced farmers from Ogudu still live by the mercy of neighbours and donations from friends and family – charity is all good but for how long can one survive on that?

A group was formed in Tòrò and worked together to no longer allow Ife indigenes to come to the farms if Ogudu farmers aren’t allowed to visit their farms. Can’t anyone see this coming before now? If the government refuses to step in when the traditional rulers /elder have woefully failed, people will take power to their own hands and fight for survival – it is all that most people ask for anyways, to survive at least with a bit of dignity.

Oh, on this occasion, Oba of Ife was not available for any comment even though ‘his’ own son of the land lost his life. The king is 82 years old, I have seen the tone of his language changed dramatically in the last decades, even cautious but the truth is Oka ti b’imo, s’ile, o ti b’oro. Some have profited enormously from the crisis and would do anything to keep it going.

Having been born and raised in the midst of this mindless waste of lives and properties, I don’t condone violent to make any point no matter how crucial especially when I know that where my people are concerned it is the normal everyday people from both communities that always get the brunt.

What I know for sure is that both communities are here to stay, we just need to count our loses and find better way of coexisting together. How do we achieve this when so much decision is left for the royal family whose idea of a neighbour is synonymous to being servants?

 

 

1987 – School interhouse sports cancelled for the king

Our Lady’s Girls High was a purpose-built school by the Catholic missionaries. The school has all the department and facilities required of a decent school. It started as a boarding school and housed many girls from all around the country – a pride of the surrounding communities. OLGHS Modakeke has it brother school at Ile Ife – St John’s school for boys. Both schools, a couple of miles apart must have been put in these locations when peace existed in the region and a strategic move to foster more and better relationship between the two communities.

After the independence, a lot changed in Nigeria as a whole, part of which was the government taking over of missionary schools. However, the teachers in charge of Our Lady’s (as locally called) and St John’s did the hand overs gradually to ensure continuity in the culture of education they worked hard to build. One of the things that happened to Our Lady’s was making it a day school so as to accommodate more students. All seems to be gone well with this change.

Oba Okunade Sijuade assumed his throne in late 1980s. It should be a thing of joy in the region however, him being the king  affected everyone and everything around the two communities and education was not important enough to be spared of the new king resentment towards his neighbours.

By 1987, we had a new principal at Our Lady’s. I don’t remember her name but she was a delight. She saw every child in the school as capable and talented individuals, spoke so softly that you can barely see her lips moving but yet her words echoed in our ears. She once made the whole school brought our chairs into the assembly ground so she could teach us how to sit properly, we initially thought she was crazy but everyone was grateful for the lesson learnt that day. She was a complete opposite of Mrs Cruella – a new principal that I will have to live with a few months down the line.

Mrs *Iwarere was determined to bring the lost glory of the school back, so she wanted the school to do Interhouse Sports. Our sports  head, Mrs Sheba was fantastic. She was happy to put her skills to good use, she had a team of about five teachers at the time, all worked so hard training us. Ruth eleja in my class was the fastest on tracks ever – just like the wind. She had competed and won lots of medals from schools around us. I have never been in any competition but not too bad with volleyball – I was in a Yellow House and really proud of myself and looking forward to the event. It will be the first time in my life to play competitive sports against kids from other schools. The spirit was high, everyone put lots of efforts into doing their very best.

Two weeks to the big day, all of our hopes was dashed right in front of our eyes. We are a few hundred children in my school, age between 12 and eighteen years old – we just wanted to have fun and to show off our skills to our families and friends – Oba Sijuade crushed our hopes with no remorse.

When children’s happiness meant nothing to the king – well not his children.

My school was situated in the heart of Modakeke. On all occasions my school was addressed as OLGHS Modakeke, Ile Ife. This was completely fine with Oba Aderemi however, Oba Okunade would have none of that, he was determined to cause argument where none expected/existed. He insisted he did not want the name Modakeke appeared at all on all the programs for the event. There were lots of going back and forth on this and eventually he ordered the event not to take place at all. Lots of outcry about this however, maintaining peace in the region is important as the safety of the students could no longer be guaranteed – so my Interhouse Sport was cancelled to make the king happy.

Mrs Iwarere reportedly was a returnee Diasporan, a beneficiary of a great education my school once offered hence her passion to put school children and their education first. She was very sad after this unfortunate event and left my school shortly after – we all missed her dearly.

Oba Okunade Sijuade was 57 in 1987, now twenty-seven years later, not much has changed in his mission of subduing everything and everyone in Modakeke. See here and here

I am a yesterday child just like Boko Haram today’s children. I am blessed that I no longer feel shaken up with anger when I think of these events, not everyone is like this today – something for our elders, kings and leaders to think about.

*Name I give to my nice school principal

Kindness of Strangers

DSC_1191

I came across an article the other day about a lady who was crying in the middle of the night for help. She knocked on a door and asked to be let in but she was turned down because the home owners were too scared to let her in as she was a stranger. For full article click here

After reading the article I immediately was taken back to my midnight ordeal several years ago when I desperately needed to be housed by a stranger in a town about 20 miles away from my home town.

It was on a weekend while in college I had travelled to my sister in Lagos, all worked according to plan on Friday. The journey back to Ilesha was a completely different story that if I had not been helped by two complete strangers that believed me, I am not sure what my story would have been today.

On my journey back on Sunday, I was at Iwo Road Ibadan mid-morning with the hope of getting a direct bus to Ilesha. I waited around for about an hour trying to make sense my situation. Apparently, in the space of 24 hours, the fresh crisis between Modakeke and Ife at the time had taken a new turn for the worse and drivers had been warned not to use that route as reports had it that vehicles were being stopped along Lagere road and passengers being forced to say a sentence or two to determine where they belonged.

Taking the back road, eventually we arrived at Atakumosa Market just after midnight after travelling for seven hours. Needless to say we were all relieved to be at Ilesha in the end. When I entered the bus from Ibadan, I had told my driver several times that I will be getting off at ’10 by 10′ hostel opposite my college as that is where I lived, the request he agreed to. However, the journey was longer than anticipated so the driver refused to honour his promise.

I was the last passenger on the bus so made my peace and got off the bus. Searching for an hotel didn’t cross my mind as I didn’t have much cash, even if I did, I didn’t know where to look.

Looking around outside of the market that I had shopped at for the last three years with ease, now in the middle of the night it looked different, I was gripped with fear of what could happen if I slept on the street overnight.

I spotted a teenage girl, she was about 13 years old, selling bread at the bus garage. She was the last trader to be there, also there were two okada riders waiting for their last passengers of the night

An okada rider didn’t want to travel towards college as he feared students cults might attack him instead offered to take me to his house as his wife goes to the same church as me – The Apostolic Church.

I went to the young bread seller, who immediately took pity on me and offered to take me to her Aunty, her house was just at the back of the market.

Tope did help but unfortunately her Aunty did not trust me enough as I was a stranger so was not sure – I could have been anyone or had evil plans, being a witch etc was her reason for not allowingg me in.

Again, crying would do nothing this time of the night.

As the young lady had been so helpful, I asked if she knew anyone around there who could believe my story and let me into their house for the night.

Tope then took me round the back of her Aunty’s house into an alley to a building with rooms in a row. She told me of a young man she knew that was kind, he attends Catholic Church.

I immediately was pulling all positive memories of Catholic church and people I had to ensure Yinka that I was a real human that genuinely needed help. True to Tope’s words, Yinka believed my story and offered me a space for the night. He lived in a room and a parlour.

To put him at ease I talked about my Catholic secondary school and luckily he knew Sister Veronica from school and had met Sister Antonia in my college at the time. I sat on his sofa for the few hours of the morning in a safe home and left his house at 5.30am for my college.

Needless to say, I was very grateful for this random act of kindness. Several years on I still remember and believed that humanity is awesome!