Ooni, OAU And Ife Deaf Gods (2)
By Tunde Odesola
Arole Oduduwa, my second mental image of you left me in pure dazzlement of your unfolding personality, which I thought was a perfect fit for the big shoes left behind by the departed Ooni Okunade Sijuwade, Olubuse II. But William Shakespeare warns, “There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face.”
Kabiyesi, it’s true that Ooni Sijuwade had dragged you before the EFCC over alleged fraud and forgery, but for a larger-than-life personality such as OBJ to embark on a journey to Ile-Ife just to pay homage to you, I held my suspicion in check, in the hope that there could be more to royalty than the kàrá-kàtá of land buying and selling.
A stickler for promptness, Pastor Fasipe, Segun and I were shocked to discover that Baba Obasanjo wasn’t home when we got to his sprawling hilltop residence by 9am as scheduled.
But he had left word for us to wait for him as he had dashed to Ile-Ife to pay homage to you on the very first day you were to enter Ife as Ooni. “Baba said you should wait, he won’t be long gone,” one of OBJ’s aides told us. So, we waited.
While on the journey to and fro Ife, Baba Iyabo called repeatedly to ask about us, instructing his cook to serve us food and make us feel at home. Before the General returned in the evening, many visitors were already waiting for him outside his main building but we – Baba Fasipe, Segun and me – were in his sitting room all day.
When he arrived, we could hear him from outside, asking, “Pastor mi nkò? Awon journalists ni mo kò fè rì,” meaning: “Where’s my pastor? I want to see the journalists first.”
When Ebora Owu walked into his living room, the atmosphere sparkled in reverence to an enigma I never liked, but whom Segun admired on account of his numerous non-biological children that he was sponsoring at various levels of education.
After apologising, Baba Obasanjo clutched Segun’s hand and my hand in each of his armpits, and led us like captives into his beautiful kitchen that has a dining area, announcing in a hurried tone, “ebi n pa mi o! Ki le ni’le o?” “I’m famished, what food do you have?”
His beautiful wife, Mrs Bola Obasanjo, who came in with him, said there was beans, and Baba said, “E ba ngbe e!” He was given some beans cooked without oil. He put some garri on the beans, and sliced some tomatoes by himself, which he added to the beans, garri and stew. He didn’t sit down all this while as he held his plate of food in his hand and was eating, asking about the wellbeing of some of his foster children.
Oonirisa, OBJ travelled out a few days after the visit. When he returned, he visited you again, and in a symbolic gesture, the then 79-year-old Owu-born former Head of State and former civilian President, hit the ground in prostration before your 42-year-old self. The picture of the almighty OBJ on the floor before you had set the internet on fire.
Oba Adeyeye, that OBJ gesture was a lesson in humility, and an acknowledgement of the father figure that the Ooni stool symbolises to ALL Yoruba. I remember that OBJ, in newspaper reports the following day, charged you to UNIFY ALL Yoruba.
Arole Oodua, it’s, therefore, unfatherly and divisive if the drumbeat from Enuwa today is ‘omo eni ki n se idi bebere, ka fi ileke si’di omo elomi.’ The OAU selection committee has found the waist of the VC-elect, Professor Adebayo Bamire, worthy of the beaded string; let Ife not waste time on frivolities, let Ife disembark from the ladder of clannishness and clownishness. If it pleases your Majesty, let Ife look inwards and put forward a candidate for the position of CMD, Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, Ile-Ife, which would be vacant in six months’ time. If an Ife indigene fairly clinches the post, so be it; if not, better luck next time. However, one thing is certain, your Highness; the emergence of an Ife indigene as VC or CMD would only yield selfish benefits to a few, it won’t deliver OAU land to Ife or improve the fortunes of Ife as a collective.
Kabiyesi, if the Premier of the old western region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was cliquish, OAU would’ve been sitting in Ikenne today. Alayeluwa, the song the House of Oduduwa should be singing today is the Awo-inspired Yoruba anthem, “Ise wa fun ile wa.” Putting round pegs in round holes is the Yoruba maxim that says, “Ika to ba to, lo ye ka fi ro’mu.”
Still in the dining room with OBJ, his wife, and cook, we – Segun and me – decided to outfox the old General by killing two birds with one stone. There was a break during the interview when OBJ had to attend to something. “Segun, let’s take more than one interview out of this place,” I whispered. “Why not, if not?” Segun responded. “Ok, I’ll go ask Mama some questions, you just keep Baba busy,” I told Segun, who said, “Ok.”
Subsequently, I slipped out of Aremu’s view, and cornered his wife in the kitchen, asking her questions about the home front. But Okikiola was eagle-eyed, he looked beyond his shoulders, caught me, and asked what I wanted from his wife, “Iwo arakunrin yi, kilo nwa lodo iyawo mi?” When Matthew caught me beside Mama again, he warned sternly, saying, “Ma ni ki won ju e si’ta o,” meaning, “I’ll have you thrown out!” But I already got some insight from mama.
I went down this memory lane, kabiyesi, because your name, Enitan, means ‘man with a history’. Kabiyesi Enitan, in the 61-year-old existence of OAU, Ife candidate, Adedoyin, would be the second Ife indigene who would vie for OAU vice chancellorship!
Kabiyesi, please, tell them to keep their mouths shut, those wailing that the office of the VC had been shut against Ife indigenes since the inception of the university! Isn’t it stupid to expect the OAU to give the mantle of VC to Ife indigenes who haven’t been contesting?
Kabiyesi Enitan, you attended a polytechnic; I attended a university. So, I know how the university system runs. I also understand the universality of the university. Ojaja Enitan, I wasn’t surprised when you said the first university in the world was established in Ile-Ife, and that it was called, “Ifa Fiti,” meaning “Ifa sets apart.” That assertion is laughable, kabiyesi. No archeological evidence supports that claim.
The 51st Ooni of Ife, true Yoruba sons and daughters would’ve stood solidly behind you if you had urged President Muhammadu Buhari to provide hostels for the over 35,000 OAU student population, whose 30% live in decrepit hostels, leaving out over 25,000 to rent houses in Ife town. This was what led to the death of the postgraduate student, Adegoke, and Heritage Ajibola, the undergraduate that fell into a soakaway in February. If both students lived on campus, they wouldn’t have died.
Kabiyesi, do you know Olamide’s hit song, Abule Sowo? Abule sowo means someone who sells land. In the song, Olamide said though he didn’t study Real Estate and Management, yet he’s stinkingly rich.
Oonirisa, do you know Eedris Abdulkareem’s Jagajaga. If Nigeria isn’t ‘jagajaga’, one expects the Presidency to have condemned the Ife shame, and queried the Inspector General of Police for having an inept Commissioner of Police in Osun, whose command looked away for many days while lives and property were threatened in a public institution. Your kingship, I heard the police were mobilised not to arrest the OAU invaders. Insensitively, federal and state lawmakers also turned a blind eye to the abomination.
Kabiyesi, please, permit me to ask President Buhari to investigate why soldiers drafted for the proposed pulling down of the illegal structures built on OAU land retreated at the last minute?
Ooni, please, help retrieve from private pockets, monies collected for the illegal sale of massive OAU land. Where’s the money? Oduduwa’s watching.
Written by Tunde Odesola and first published in The PUNCH, on Monday, April 4, 2022
Facebook: @tunde odesola