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.

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?