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.

Remi Fani-Kayode – When telling the truth means betrayal

I have always wondered about the opinion of the elders of the past and how they dealt with the local crisis. I want to know if there were any significant differences in the way that the educated elders and the illiterates of the past handled disputes around social issues that we still struggle with today.

I appreciate whenever I am lucky enough to be in the company of elders that witnessed some of the events of the past first hand and did their own documentation of it so generation to come could have something to reference.

The event of the early 1950s when Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode returned to Nigeria from Britain that caught my interest. Being born and raised in Britain, I wanted to know how he felt about Ile-Ife adamant on letting go of 300 years *Isakole imposed on Modakeke. This was during the time of Oba Adesoji Aderemi, whereby there were relative peace however, there were numbers of local Senior Chiefs at the time who grew up on being fed on the hard work of others, the elders were harder to please however, Oba Aderemi managed his ruling years with grace as he knew better.

In 1954 Chief Fani-Kayode got involved in politics to represented Action Group in Ile Ife. It was during this time that the Chief was able to see first hand the injustice going on underground between Ile-Ife and Modakeke. This was alien to him and could foresee future with no meaningful development in Ife if the mentality towards their close neighbours did not change.

Chief Fani-Kayode education both at King’s College, Lagos and his law degree from Cambridge University was not lost on him. As a young black man studying in Cambridge during his time, he must have spent considerable amount of time learning a lot about himself, country and humanity in general. Chief refused to be content with what was going on underground of Ile-Ife.

Chief’s political campaign was well received  in his town however, he met heavy resistance from the rigid-minded elders. Modakeke at the time appreciated Fani-Kayode’s honesty so they rally round him. It was because of the chief’s insistent that no one should pay Isakole as it was not only unlawful but also outdated that lead to AG in Ile-Ife to split into two – Erin and the youths groups. Erin being the elders group. Youths from both Ife and Modakeke were his major political supporters.

How could any Nigerian grew up in Britain of the 1920s, studied and being active part of Nigeria readiness for independence be ever content with injustice in his own small town? This was difficult for the chief because he knew better and stuck to his gun.

Ile-Ife chief branded him as a betrayal for the ideals and did not vote for him as AG leader in the 1959 general election.

Story like this refreshes my faith in my elders that after all we have many in the past that remain on the side of justice even when their career suffered as a result.

Sixty years on after Chief Fani-Kayode made it clear that collection of isakole has no place in modern time, that with this mindset, neither Ife nor Modakeke will move forward in a meaning way – Modakeke no longer pays isakole that came about through plenty of blood shedding, however, land grabbing goes on underground by the great ground children of those that believed 300 years lease must continue, this was led by Oba Okunade Sijuade when he was crowned on December 06 1980.

Perpetual killings because of land grabbing goes on underground till today.

 

*Isakole is a form of lease imposed on Modakeke from Ile-Ife for being on the land. This started more than 300 years ago and some people still want the lease with the same condition to continue today.

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.

 

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