- Photo: Ife traditionists protesting over non appointment of indigene as Vice Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife *
“It is an insult on us that after 61 years, they deemed it unfit to appoint or to elect any of our sons. We are not particular about Ife. Ipetumodu, Lorigbo, Modakeke, and anywhere in the land.
“We are telling you (workers and students) today, don’t come to work tomorrow (Friday). We won’t agree to anything. We will be here with charms, we will be here with masquerades, we will be here with deities.
“We are appealing to you, don’t come to work tomorrow. We will allow you to go now but don’t come to work tomorrow.”
That was a declaration of war, yes war. Not from the Fulanis or Igbos or Hausas but from natives of Ife and environs, Yorubas and sons and daughters of Oduduwa, against other Yorubas and staff of Obafemi Awolowo University protesting the appointment of Professor Bamire as the 12th Vice Chancellor of the Institution. Bimbo Afolabi who spoke on behalf of Ife and environs was very particular and specific.
They were not saying that an Ife indigene should be appointed, but someone at least from the district such as Modakeke, Ipetumodu, etc. They consider it unfair that in 61 years no Ife indigene has made it to the top position in the University. The Ibadan people too have similar argument sometime last hear when the post was to be filled that since inception of UI, no Ibadan native has made it.
My interest in this piece is not the merit of native people to occupy offices in Government facilities in their domain especially educational institutions since there are criteria usually employed; although for the sake of peace I think there should be a proviso once in a while that indigenes too should be allowed to ascend the topmost position in the Institutions sited in their domain as a way of compensation. Especially in a nation where for most of the time criteria other than merit are often used for selection. What I want to examine in this essay however is the precarious nature of Yoruba nationalism. I have been saying this for sometime that Yorubas are not as united as they claim inspite of all demonstrations to such as seen in the present Yoruba Nation activism.
This is my consistent position as carefully canvassed in my essay – AGAINST SECESSION: MEMO TO YORUBA LEADERS AND PROMOTERS ODUDUWA REPUBLIC.
This is the kind of thing I suggested would happen in a Yoruba Nation when established. It is instructive that the person elected as VC is also a Yoruba man possibly from Ilesha or Ekiti or Oyo or Ibadan or Egba or Ijebu. Yet the Ifes are promising to bring charms and masquerade to prevent him from working in a Yoruba land and to stop the work and smooth operations of a university!
Thus, a son of Oduduwa cannot be VC and cannot function,- we are being told, – in the very cradle of Oduduwa. This is what I know and have known about Yorubas for long. And please don’t blame Ife people in anyway. It is deep-seated everywhere. Ibadan would do the same. ijebus too would do even worse in their own land. They would not even have been patient for 61 years for others to rule over them. Likewise the Egbas, Oyos, Ekiti and Ijeshas too etc.
What is known today as University of Ado- Ekiti was originally named Obafemi Awolowo University by the Michael Ajasin administration who established it. It was racism largely which forced a military government to do the name change as some Ekitis kicked against their university been named after an Ijebu man somewhere. This thing is real and is endemic among Yorubas.
I have lived and worked with virtually all Yoruba tribes and I know Yorubas too well. ( See YORUBAS ARE NOT BETTER THAN THE REST) In the Second Republic there was a motion at the Oyo House of Assembly just before the collapse of the Republic when Omololu Olunloyo an Ibadan man took over as Governor of Oyo, to the effect that all Ijebus should leave Ibadan. ( The headline of the paper the next day was SEND IJEBUS AWAY) Are Ijebus not Yorubas? Are Ibadans and Oyos not Yorubas?
This is my grouse about Yoruba Nation because the tendency towards ethnic hegemony will not go away; no they will be accentuated even more by forces of dissiparity and self- seeking so endemic in the Adamic creation. Lagosians are.now saying they don’t want to be part of Yoruba Nation because they know that it is better for them to be alone and stand alone because these other poor Yoruba states are coming to chop their resources in the Yoruba Nation if it becomes a reality. ‘Gedegbe leko wa’ ( Lagos stands apart).Even if the people have not said so their elites have spoken that they won’t be part of “schemers”- that is how they called Yoruba Nation activists. Why is there so much division and rivalry and self seeking and enmity among Yorubas towards each other? It is too deep to state here and the space is not there. As I often say from my own bitter experience “the enemy of a Yoruba man is a Yoruba man.”
What the the Lord Jesus said: ” A man’s enemies are the men of his own house”- particularly applies to the Yorubas more than to possibly any other person. In point of fact I think He was referring to the Yorubas. Only a Yoruba man sees himself or herself as superior to another. The Ijebus actually say they are better and superior to the Yorubas even in their fraudulent literature and origin stories. The Oyos believed actually they are the “proper Yorubas”, which they wear with aristocratic arrogance. ( Ajise bi Oyo laari, Oyo use bi enikookan) i.e., ” You can only aspire to be an Oyo man, an Oyo man can never act like another.”
Rev Samuel Johnson took this to a ridiculously low level in his magisterial classic on HISTORY OF YORUBAS because he was an Oyo man and he took that bias into scholarship. The Egbas believed they are brothers to other Yorubas only that they are senior brothers – ” the first to see civilization”. And so on. It was this self- hatred that caused the Yorubas to lose their hold of the old NEPA: they fought each other so thoroughly and undermined each other so completely that the Hausa- Fulanis assisted by the Igbos only came for the sharing because the Yorubas had done a good job finishing themselves. “Se bo omo Ina la nran sina” ( It is the child of fire that you send on the errand to fire). That story will be told another day.
Only among the Yorubas I have seen this contest for supremacy and ethnic hegemony. A European Jew inspite of his sophistication does not look down or despise even an Ethiopian Jew inspite of his poverty and ignorance. Read how the Jews took and resettled their kinsmen in America in the wake of Nazi onslaught against Jews in Europe in the 1940’s and you will weep for the Yorubas. Yet some Yorubas have told me with characteristic impudence and stupidity that they don’t regard my people from the North Kwara and Kogi as proper Yorubas. How about that? And they not only say so they act so. I can cite several instances in my own life. The hatred Yorubas displayed against each other is a mystery but a mystery that can be decoded and deciphered. It is a long and deep story and the mystery will be unfolded some day.
Although the Ife people say they don’t mind even if the VC comes from Modakeke or Ipetumodu or any of the surrounding towns it is only a ruse. They will definitely mind if an indigene of Modakeke is preferred before an Ife indigene. In point of fact if we leave the entire Osun state to be shared by Ife and Modakeke among themselves there will still be a bitter war. Even within the same town there is problem to a Yoruba man and this ethnic hegemony rears its ugly head.
Even among the Egbas there is still argument as to which is more authentic Egbas between the Alakes, Gbaguras, Owus and Oke- Ona Egbas. In the same town! Witness the gruesome way the late Iyalode of Egbaland, Madam Bisoye Tejuoso was murdered? Witness how these forces rose against M.K.O Abiola within his own Egba cosmos, deconstructed him and robbed him of his mandate, then supplanted him. Within the same town and among the same ethnic group and kinsmen. Kinsmen or swordsmen?
This is why I do not support the Yoruba Nation activism. These problems won’t go away in a Yoruba Nation; never. They will be worse because you are now closer and the differences hitherto unknown and unrecognized will now become magnified while the enmities and bitterness buried for interminable generations will now come to light and to the open asking for vengeance. That a wound was covered does not mean it has been healed.
If the Bimbo Afolabi group of Ife indigenes carry out their threats to bring out Oro masquerade and charms to stop work at OAU then outsiders, the Fulani hegemonists, Igbo irredentists, northern oligarchs etc have an opportunity to laugh at Yorubas.
The picture of a Yoruba group from the cradle of Yoruba land taking charms and masquerade to fight the appointment of another Yoruba man, a son of Oduduwa presents a contradiction; but then, life is all about contradictions. Yorubas evolve from Ife according to all Oral and written accounts; it will be a thing of sorrow that the idea of Yoruba Nation so powerfully enunicated and canvassed by many is also witnessing its unravelling in the same cradle. Indeed, the point of miracles is also the point of disaster.