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 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?

 

 

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 

 

 

 

Absolute power of a Yoruba king

*Aroba ni baba itan. Most of Yoruba stories are orally based, this no doubt leave room for manipulations of narrative, each time a new person tells a common story, there is always key points missing and in place will be additional information based on the narrator’s mood. Because of this I take some of past history with a grain of salt – they are Chinese whispers at best.

In 2004, I decided to visit Ogunsua of Modakeke, Oba Francis Adedoyin. The sole purpose of my visit was to learn more about my town and its relationship with Ile Ife. How it all started and how long are we going to remain in our situation of being strangers with no entitlement to farmland. I wanted to understand some of the questions that keep popping up in my young person’s head – I tried to shake them off and just ‘get on with it’ but I could not because the reminders were too compelling to ignore.

I was really impressed with my king, the fact he was educated was added pleasure listening to him. Despite no prior appointment, he was accommodating answering my questions. Oba Francis Adedoyin expressed his joy seeing a daughter of the soil interested in our story. Glad I made the visit.

A few days after the visit, I sat alone in my father’s backyard, listening to the recorded conversation. At the end of the tape, I have never felt so depressed in my life. It is all wrong – I said to myself. I saw no escape in the rat trap. I blamed the universe. I blamed my great grandparents for their choosing career of On the Road Warriors – settling wherever their help is needed. Then I blamed God for making my parents a couple, them being together is fantastic but why do they both have to be from Modakeke?  No where to run.

I wrote the story down as told in Yoruba, also translated to English.

So I decided to tell Modakeke and Ile Ife story based on what I have seen and lived through since 1980 when Oba Sijuade was crowned – better for my generation this way, we can not keep suffering from the decisions our grandparents made which I believed would have been mutual at the time. We deserved to be treated like a person we are NOT 300 year old On the Road Fighters.

All royal families around the world have lots of not very nice stories about them, some gruesome, however, today things are changing fast so are the attitude of royals around the world – mostly for the better, appreciating humanity rather than suppressing everyone around them.

I wish this is the case for Modakeke and Ife. Today, Ife-Ife is still as oppressing as it has always been, only that it is subtle, perpetual killings still go on, chasing of Modakeke’s farmers still is the norm, imposing non local indigenes as chiefs is the new addition to penetrate into Modakeke.

Oba Sijuade is 84 years old now, but *Oka ti b’imo s’ile, o ti b’oro.

Of course I am aware of the danger that comes with talking about the truth of Modakeke and Ile Ife relationship especially when mentioning the *Oluaye of Ife. I know exactly what happened to my uncle – he was burnt with him in his house. I know what happened to Ade, my childhood friend – he was shot during 1997 crisis and died of the gun wound. I know what happened to my extended family at Ogudu village – they were cut into pieces in the early hour of the morning and a few that escaped still live with the horror and now wander the streets with no land to farm.

This is my stand now – Joy runs deeper than despair by Corrie ten Boom. I am obliged to credit Elaine Random Thoughts as I learn about this wonderful quote of from her blog, thank you Elaine.

 

*Oka ti b’imo s’ile, o ti b’oro – Baby cobra is as poisonous as the parents

* Oluaye – Owner of the world (Irony)

*Aroba ni baba itan – stories are at its best when retold (or something like that)

Effects of war on Nigeria yesterday children

When time is not enough to heal wounds – War Wounds.

If time can indeed heal all wounds, I would not remember the case of Amina each time I think of Boko Haram especially the effects of mindless killings on children and the youths when tomorrow gets here. Today is my tomorrow and the wounds are still raw because no justice has been served and perpetual killing/injustice is still going on. Their tomorrow will come fast and perhaps may react differently. Those who have been killed, were gone. Those who faced daily torture especially the abducted girls of Chibok whether sold out as child-bride or (finger-crossed) released to their family members, will have the rest of their lives to tell the tales.

In a country like mine, human lives were the cheapest, sad but that is the truth. With the resent twist about the news of powerful Nigerians being the main sponsors of BH – No surprises.

Most of the people involved in BH were youths, they are young and for the reasons best known to them, they allowed “big” people to manipulate them into killing their own kins, friends, neighbours and school mates.

I know that GEJ, my president is somewhere still handling Boko Haram case with kid’s glove – he said this himself a few months back.

Amina and I attended the same secondary school, she was very outgoing with lots of friends. Both of her parents were from *Ile Ife but they decided to build their mansion in Modakeke. Ordinarily, there is nothing wrong in people having a home where they liked especially when they have paid all their dues. One problem here was that Modakeke and Ile-Ife were like Omo iya *awusa. (loosely means siblings that passionately hated each other). Amina’s parents made this decision in the late 1970s when everyone in the area thought life will forever be peaceful. Their house was one of the few beautiful ones in town at the time, even today several decades later, Amina’s house still stands out.

By December 1,  1980, everything changed. A new king installed in Ile Ife.

This is where Amina’s story came in. For me I already knew I was in hot soup since I was about seven years old. I knew how terrible it was to have both parents being native of the same town – no where to run, we were doomed and just lived by the mercy of the new Ife king – whose only mission in life was to see the end of every living soul that belonged to Modakeke or if that failed, to take away all their farmlands so as to keep them as servants forever – this is real. As it turned out it was not that easy to wipe out everyone in a group but easier to take over their livelihoods forcefully. This is where the torments begins.

As terrible as this sounds, I was a bit happy and felt safe as I was among a group of people whose lives were filled with daily paralysing despair – we had similar fate.

Amina’s story was different. Her family lived in the middle of Modakeke. She and her siblings knew no other place since they were born. They of course could have run as it will only take just about 20minutes power-walk to be in safe haven of Ile Ife – but they did not.

Since December 1980, there has always been one thing or the other that leads to displacement of people usually chasing them out of their farmlands in broad day lights and when resistance of any kind is perceived, the attackers will come around first thing in the morning usually around 5am and just hack/gun them all – the aim was to take away their farmlands anyways, either dead or alive means nothing to the perpetrators.

Amina’s story was in early 1990’s. Here is the dilemma for Amina who was only sixteen years old at the time and her brother 14 years old:

– They needed to protect their house, if they run away their mansion is likely to be razed to the ground as they may be seen as enemy within.

Alternatively,

– They could run to Ile Ife where their extended families were, but really have no place to live there, they will be leaving their home and livelihood behind.

Amina’s father was away on business. Amina and Tajudeen though children were forced to make decision – they chose to stay and defend their home and support the people whom they have known all their lives.

Why am I relating Boko Haram with Modakeke and Ife crisis?

-Both heavily involved youths as casualties and as fighters

– In both cases youths are brainwashed to kill their own kind

– In both cases Elders/royals that were meant to protect/educate/enlighten were the monsters, keeping their own children away and wasting other people lives

– Both started as nursed hatred/revenge then get political therefore government fold their hands and pretended all is well.

 

 

*Awusa = Walnut. Nigeria walnut is different from western walnut. When broken, there is a thin layer of cover between two halves that prevent one from touching the other.

*Ife and Modakeke belonged to the same ethnic group, spoke the same language albeit slightly different accents.

Proximity of Modakeke and Ile Ife – Imagine London and Kent or Seattle and Belleveu in WA – so no defines boundaries.