Ajala of our time

Our new royal father enjoys travelling, I have no problem with that. People who finds joy within and outside of their palace seldom have time to dwell on little things or cause people in their community needless grief.

Having said that, there is high hope for what is expected of Ooni Enitan Ogunwusi at home, people have an endless list of disputes he is to resolve and I agree because b’íná kò tán l’órí ẹ̀jẹ̀ kìí tan léèkánná (it is not over, until it is truly over).

A 76 years old friend of mine (age matters here to show different eras of Ooni of Ife), said in a message the other day how he has not being able to see any value of Oba in the local community he represents. My friend, Baba was referring to Ooni’s travels while there are plenty of issues yet to be resolved at home – a case of hope deferred making the hear sick – Proverbs 13:12.

I understand where Baba was coming from, it is only those who are not directly affected by the last crisis that say people ought to count their loses and move on, but for many people the scar is still raw.

Coincidently a few weeks ago, there was another meeting by good people in town – the meeting was between Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi, Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi and our very own Ogunsua of Modakeke, Oba Francis Adedoyin. The meeting was about finding amicable resolution to many outstanding issues – seized farmlands being the topmost.

It is pleasing to know that we have elders who are not relenting in being the voice for the voiceless farmers. Also, from that meeting I learnt that Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi who is another prominent Yoruba Oba has not set his foot into Ile Ife in 50 years – that is a big plus for Oba Enitan Ogunwusi for being the force of unity.

Oba Lamidi Adeyemi not visiting Ile Ife in 50 years is not too surprising – Ooni  Okunade Sijuade and Oba Lamidi Adeyemi were the perfect ọmọ ìyá awùsá (cat and dog relationship).

Baba was happy to hear of the meeting between the three Obas and elders, Guardian Newspapers did an okay job with the story, the real reason of the meeting in the last three paragraphs – good to see it in prints. 

Resolving many of our many land dispute issues is not going to be easy but it can be done and it is only fair.

As I was thinking about Baba and a slight impatience that I sensed from the tone of his texts, then it occurred to me why Baba has a high hope of Ooni Ogunwusi.

Baba came to the UK in the 70’s to study, this was when naira was strong. He has seen three different eras of Ooni in his life time, the most painful one being one and only Ooni Sijuade.  Baba, like many people in diaspora of his age built his first home in Akarabata area of town with the hope of retiring there one day.

During the long drawn crisis of 1997, his house was razed to the ground, in it was his niece who has mental health problem – everyone left the neighbourhood but the lady refused to leave so she was burnt with the house.

Also, Baba’s village was Ògùdù, one of most hard hit during the crisis – all of Modakeke people in that village that were not killed, fled their homes. The only farm baba knew was Ògùdù. 

Baba is happy with his life now, his children all grown. He could move to Nigeria if he wanted and he will still be happy. Like many people from my area, he is well aware that he is privileged to have options but he is still concerned for those people who still live in limbo.

We are happy that almost two years into the reign of a new Oba, our towns have been in relative peace – I am still hopeful that the meeting between our Obas will yield positive outcome – if we are all omo Yoruba then it is only fair that those chased away from their farmlands get adequate compensation or be allowed to return to their farmland. The latter option is very thin given some part of the land is being used for projects.

We are still hopeful for a fair outcome.

 

 Ajala Moshood Adisa Olabisi was an international student in the States early 1970s, he was known for his love of adventure. He travels several miles within the States and around the world on his bike and vespa. 

Locally we call people who enjoys travelling Ajala

Fairness is justice

Beyond the obvious cash remittance to Nigeria is the diaspora’s contribution to enlightening and encouraging families and friends back home. This, I believe is not because being in diaspora automatically gives anyone smart pills, rather because many have seeing how doing things differently can benefit us all so we share ‘recipe’ to improve.

Ooni Enitan Ogunwusi’s visit to the USA with several meetings with diaspora is something that I have pondered on. His visit was largely on cultural ground, presenting himself as the new mouthpiece of Yoruba culture and tradition – tried to encourage diaspora to get more involved with home affairs.

Reaching out to others and mending fractured relationships amongst the Obas within the country is important, no doubt. However, interesting is the way people especially Yorubas see the role of Ooni Ogunwusi as the custodian of tradition and culture – the role that essentially undermines his primary role of being an Ife king.

One of the reasons the late Ooni Sijuade was humiliated both alive and in death was because he failed miserably in his primary role. During all (on and off) of Modakeke and Ife crisis from 1981 to 2000, Ooni Sijuade was a frequent flyer around the globe, more to the United Kingdom where he had a house – one would ask, what did diaspora do to stop Ooni Sijuade raising funds for the purpose of evicting his neighbours? Whatever that was did not hit the right note and as he got away with it all.

Are diaspora always work in the best interest of the people back home?

Giving my online experience, I would say not all the time partly due to misinformation and self-importance.

Around this time last year, I had a long conversation with a few guys who are from Ife. What was clear from the conversation was that though these guys have lived and worked in other people’s land: South Africa, USA and UK respectively, they are still adamant that Modakeke people do not deserve to be allowed back to the land their great grand parents farmed on because the land belonged to the Ifes – this is the case for those evicted from Ogudu and surrounding villages today.

Transaction is as old as humankind, there must have been an agreement in the beginning before they consent to working on the land, and if that relationships broke down, this generation that inherited the ‘mess’ can and should do better than chasing innocent people out of the land they only knew as source of livelihood.

Now imagine this, that tomorrow the Her Majesty showed up at one of these guy’s door to say she decided to change the term of the property he rightly owned and pays mortgage on from ‘Freehold’ to ‘Leasehold’ and before he could think, the Queen demanded he leaves the property just because she was mad at all Nigerian corrupt leaders…

That will be outrageous, right? And you’ll probably see it all over the news the next day with question demanding for explanation because we all know how it is to start our lives from scratch in new land.

Now, think about the folks in Ogudu, who inherited the land of Ogudu and surrounding farms from parents – they were chased out during the brutal crisis in 1997/98. Still not allowed to go back to the farm.

We recently hear of federal government project of cashew farming plans for these areas. I am presuming this is the effort to drown the ‘little voices’ once and for all. Knowing the way things are in Nigeria, this is likely to be ‘hush, hush’ until systematically all hopes on ever returning to the farms fades out.

While the rest of the Yoruba pick on Ooni Ogunwusi’s choice of religion and his very important role in Yorubaland, I know for sure that his defining efforts will be based on resolving this land dispute once and for all since Nigeria is still in denial about dealing with this at the federal level.

Which reminds me, now that we have a vice president who is a Yoruba man, a lawyer and someone who seems quite smart. I wondered what Professor Yemi Osinbajo thinks about this cashew farm as federal project?

If we were going to take peoples’ land in the name of ‘federal project’, at least they deserve another land (not flimsy cash) compensation so they too have a fair shot at life and something to cater for their family – it is only fair. Land is what we have plenty, all it needed is opening up so people can use.

 

Here is a poem by Portia Nelson that might help us see that if we ever want this to end we must do things differently not merely shutting little people up.

There’s A Hole In My Sidewalk

Chapter 1
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in. I am lost….I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the side walk.
I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I fall in….it’s a habit…but my eyes are open.
I know where I am. It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter 4
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter 5
I walk down a different street.

Sense of belonging

Late last year there was a picture of Ooni Enitan Ogunwusi on his knee at a local church praying, for some reason this did not settle in well with many young Yorubas, especially those who have different views of a befitting religion for traditional rulers.

Ogunwusi in church

Just as that was settling down, another young king, Olowu of Owu-Ile, Oba Muhammad Raji Quazeem Ilufemiloye  appeared in public in February, this was slightly different as the young king has two wives wearing full burka beside him. It received quite a lot of criticisms both for being Muslim as well as for his wives covering face. One wonders if they didn’t know his religion before being appointed.

I learnt from my fellow self-appointed ‘foot soldiers’ that our Obas need to stick to traditional religion.

The latest is Ooni Enitan Ogunwusi again singing a Christian song and proclaiming his love for his ‘father’ Jesus.

My people were still not happy with Prince Charming – lots of people want the young Ooni to stop mixing his very important role with foreign religion.

The way I see it: I am not sure which rule book says what religion anyone or a king must follow, as far as I am aware most of our traditional kings are either Christian or Muslim.

As it turned out people in general don’t even care, I for one can not see why anyone is sweating over the choice of a king’s religion – he is a person that deserves freedom of religion just as anyone of us.

And who says Christianity isn’t compatible with appreciation of our traditional beliefs? What I learnt as a kid is that Obas are always neutral when it comes to religion so they tend to support all religious events. However, over the years, most people for one reason or the other have turned to cling to the one they feel most comfortable with.

Each to their own I say.

I suppose having lived with Ooni Ogunwusi’s predecessor, the king who ruled for 35 years and managed to set his town and next door neighbours back several decades – I am happy to see a different king who since his coronation has worked so hard to unite the elders, reiterates that all he wanted was peace as destruction of lives and properties benefit no one.

In one of the numerous meetings that Ooni Enitan Ogunwusi had in his recent visit to the USA, he talked about us all as alajobi (same blood), he also talked about the importance of working together for the common good.

What I see Ooni Ogunwusi offering to people both home and in diaspora is sense of belonging – to feel connected in order to fight for common good – isn’t that good enough?

For this and his wisdom of dealing with one of the most difficult and long-standing crisis ever in Yorubaland, I think him.

New king, new Olorì

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Where have I been? I didn’t see that coming at all. Oh well, I wish Prince Charming and Olori a beautiful union together.

I am sure Olori Wuraola Ogunwusi needs no introduction to the town and Siamese next door neighbour – to lead a town is to get to know the people and streets – I hope Olori’s time in the palace will be one to reckon with positively for everyone.

It is simple really, study everything that Ooni Okunade Sijuade four Oloris did and do the complete opposite – easy, job is done.

Often when we hear about famous king having a new wive, they often go for someone a third of their age; like one just did up north a few months ago. It is comforting to hear that Ooni Ogunwusi marries a grown woman, hopefully Olori Wuraola would use her position to embark on projects that have positive impacts on the lives of people around.

Eyin Olori ko ni m’eni o.

Sabada

I have heard ‘Sábàdà’ so many times over the years, usually during events when the drummers were doing their job. The word is associated with people of Modakeke. The drum message goes:

Sabada ni e lu fun, Modakeke lo ti wa – (Beat sabada for him, he is from Modakeke). For some reason, like intoxication, people will rise up to move their hips in rhythmic fashion – they’d dance for the recognition.

Once you get the grip on Yoruba language, it is not hard to decipher the meaning of any words, knowledge of accents and dots makes it a lot easier – creativity with words is endless.

However, looking at the word ‘sabada’ on its own – the meaning beats me. And interesting enough, a few elders I know agreed it to be a new word, perhaps in use in the last 30 years or so (yet to get hold of the relevant book).

As with all other languages of the world – language does not exist on its own, it evolves, changes, improves by the events of the society and the people therein – adding to the beauty of it all.

But where does Sábàdà come from and why is it associated with this group of people, the Modakekes?

Ẹwà Èdè – Beauty of Language

I found out that Sábàdà is a relatively new word coined Dr Oladiran Ajayi who was once a lecturer at University of Ibadan Chemistry Department and a passionate writer on the issue around Yoruba culture & tradition and how Modakeke-Ife fits into it.

This post isn’t about Sábàdà alone, it is more about how peaceful co existence facilitates progress.

Dec 26th 2015 was 32nd Akoraye Day – it is the town’s own festival to celebrate gift of life. It would have been the 34th but we missed two years 1997 & 2000. Read about that here

History, I have found is powerful. Knowing the past allows us to plan to execute actions differently if we ever expected different results.

On this day, I was with a friend, she is a fellow Modakeke and her husband is mixed (not race) His father is from Modakeke and Mother from Ile Ife. (what an irony) Our talks was all around our town, how we all are hoping that permanent (not pretend) peace reigns.

Permanent peace here means people in both towns and villages can go about their business with no fear for their lives.

“Oh well, let’s thank God now, abi? At least there’s more awareness and something promising is happening.” I said.

Then a text message about Ooni Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II came through that reads “Oba Enitan Ogunwusi is also present.” I showed the message to the adults around me – everyone was happy!

We were over three thousand miles away, all lived through the last 35 years and for the first time a monarch, in our lifetime deem it fit to step on to the soil next door to jubilate with fellow Yorubas, fellow Nigerians and fellow humans – well, Ooni Ogunwusi is making history and a positive one.

When people follow what they communicate with actions, then it means a lot.

I have heard and read online about Ooni Ogunwusi’s  insistent on bringing back permanent peace both in towns and villages – that is commendable.

My two kobo here is that – B’ina ko ba tan lori, ẹjẹ kii tan lekanna – (Lice infested clothes encourages ones fingers to be feasted on).

E f’ori jin omo, to ba se bi owe o.

I am not suggesting this will be an easy task given our long history, however, I hope Ooni Ogunwusi would look into making it possible for our farmers to return to their farms and villages. These are the people who managed to survive the massacre in the farms between 1997 and 2000. Residents of both towns were affected. Some of these people are still picking up pieces of their lives after 18years.

I know this is a lot to ask, but then again, Ooni Ogunwusi is Enitan (person of history), you have the authority to change the course of history – mend the broken hearts.

K’ade pe l’ori.

Àgbájọ ọwọ́ laa fi s’ọ̀yà

The following is the four-minute long where Ooni Ogunwusi spoke in mother tongue during an interview after his coronation. Interesting interview overall, however the Yoruba section is very important hence I decided to transcribe and translate it.

Hope it is. K’ade pe l’ori.

From 39:32 – 43:20

Thank you very much. I am pleased that it is God that chose me for this position, also that I am young. All of our elders, when I was prince, they had children of my age as well as those that are older than me. Prayers, like I said – every parents pray to see their children successful like them and sometimes hope they will be more successful than they ever were.

Prayers, all parents pray. And God has blessed the elders, when I was prince, I was their son, and now that I am in a position above them, I will not forget that I am once their son.

Even as I am in a position above them now, it is the will of God. What have I done? God makes it all easy for me.

I started going to all the elders, imploring them that one can only beat chest with all fingers (team work benefits all). I am holding on to your feet (King holding onto elders’ feet for support).

I will absorb all that you say, I will still hold on to you for collective support because of our youths so all can be well for all…I am pleased today. In Ife, there is a long standing crisis, what did I do? Ife, Modakeke no one prays for communal crisis because whoever initiated crisis can never be sure of how it will end. No one knows what the end result of communal crisis will bring. May the lord spare us from crisis.

So I said, no more crisis, no more grudge.

Because it was part of my fore fathers’ praise poem/song, I am not involved in communal crisis.

Unity is all that I am after. No supremacy. No father. Each person is free to be on own territory  because town supposed to grow/ spread out, and we will all be there to grow with it.

Therefore, I am going to work with the elders. I give thanks to God, I am communicating with them. I am thankful that all of the elders received me with open arms.

Firstly, I started at Ilẹ̀ Ifẹ̀,  charity begins at home. I say…Modakeke let us put end to this crisis. We worked with all the surrounding villages to reiterate this, God did that for us.

Then I went around Yorubaland to all our elders and the kings, reaching out to everyone. Ekiti, Osun, Oyo, Ondo, Ogun and all the way to Kwara imploring everyone that we must stop needless bickering – one can only beat chest with all fingers (teamwork benefits us all).

 

Continue reading “Àgbájọ ọwọ́ laa fi s’ọ̀yà”

Royal highness: Then and now

What drives our decisions to behave certain way and not the other? Nigeria has a culture that relies on oral transfer of important events, which is fantastic but too much reliance on narratives based on mixed up memories is why we have repeated problems in our land. Here’s my way of keeping the history alive so we don’t fall into the same pit again.

My father was 45 years old when Oba Okunade Sijuade was crowned as Ooni of Ife. Two years prior, my parents decided to move to town in Modakeke. I was very little at the time so everything was exciting: the tarred roads, the NEPA (that was when it meant electricity), the tap water (in front of our rented house was a public tap water, that is history now).

For strategic reasons, my parents chose to live in the heart of the town, Akarabata Street, for its proximity to Idi Omo meaning easy access to transportation to my sister’s school at Oluorogbo High School (had to be transferred to Modakeke High School shortly after Sijuade’s intention was apparent), walking distance to Seventh Day Adventist Grammar School for my older brother (this school was partly burnt too between 1997 -2000)

LA Primary School Alapata, Modakeke
LA Primary School Alapata, Modakeke, photo 16/04/2015

My only younger sister at the time  attended LA Primary School, Alapata – this same school looks like the photo on the left today after the last big showdown of Oba Sijuade 1997 – 2000.

We all have stories to tell. While Oba Sijuade’s praise singers talk of his socialite lifestyle, my story is a familiar one to thousands of people both in Modakeke and Ife. Thankfully, the man did not hold the key to everyone’s life, today many people including myself have been blessed but I still think of so many people who have never recovered fully even after 18 years.

Earlier this month when Prince Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi was tipped to be the next Ooni. I wrote about it here. Not too surprising he is the chosen one in the end, seems to be the best of the bunch.

My congratulations to the Prince. I’m sure he has plenty of time for reflections at Ilofi where he stays for the next 21 days as part of rites of passage.

Is there going to be improved relationship now? I can only take people by their words after all what can we achieve without trust?

The other day I read Ogunwusi’s acceptance speech, there are a few points that are noteworthy. Ogunwusi talked briefly about being a father: a father learns to protect and care, I have never thought of Oba Sijuade as a father. I used to believe he didn’t have biological any child, not only because of the local side talk which was just a deliberate cheap joke, but because of his attitude towards youths i.e paying out of town youths and handing them sophisticated guns to fight in crises he started while his own children were tucked away.

I appreciate that Ogunwusi does not ignore the obvious, in his words: “In recent history one cannot mention Ile-Ife without acknowledging the Ife and Modakeke conflict. It’s unfortunate that lives were lost during the war between Ife and Modakeke; a war that had no economic value and displaced many lives.” Ooni Ogunwusi.

He further talked about visiting youths that were affected by this crisis. This is more than Oba Okunade Sijuade ever said after the crisis that he initiated at any time since 1981.

All sounds promising.

The more I read about the land ownership problem in Nigeria and other developing nations, the more I realise the enormity of work that must be done. It is a job for Nigeria government to set implementable rules that all must follow in order to bring dead capital to tangible asset.

The mid age adults of 1980 are now officially old, children of that time are mid age now. What an exciting time to be alive, wishing Oba Ogunwusi all the very best.

I agree with Delai Lama:

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”