The God That Cut Soap For Wizkid (1)

By Tunde Odesola

This is the citation of Èsù, the Yoruba god of protection, benevolence, chief enforcer and messenger between heaven and earth: Èsù Láàlú, ògiri òkò, onílé kángun kàgun ọ̀nà ọ̀run, jọ̀wọ́ má yọjú s’ọ́rọ̀mi. Èsù Lároóyè, afi àdá olójúméjì tọrọ epo lọ́wọ́ ẹní lépo! Èsù má se mí, ọmọ ẹlòmíì ni o se.

If I successfully translate this panegyric into English word for word, and Èsù, in gratitude, offers me his meal of boiled eggs, palm oil, bean cakes, pigeon, and corn, placing it at the crossroads where three footpaths meet, I won’t dine with Èsù with the longest of spoons. It’s not that I’m afraid, it’s just that I’m watching my weight and height.

Translation: Èsù Láàlú, rock-solid, the owner of the ramshackle dwelling on the bumpy road to heaven, please, do not meddle in my affairs. Èsù Lároóyè uses a two-edged sword to beg for palm oil from the palm oil owner! Èsù, do not bewitch me, bewitch the child of someone else.

Courage can seize Èsù and make him command his disciples to fight for power, snatch, grab and run with it but inspiration falls like invisible dew on the insightful to birth breathtaking accomplishments.

Inspiration is a major step in the journey to discovery. Inspired in 1974 by the labyrinth that Ojúelégba, a Lagos district, was evolving into, Afrobeat superstar, Felá Aníkúlápó-Kútì, the Abàmì Èdá, reached for his saxophone, slung it over his shoulder and blew evergreen air into it, producing the album titled Confusion.

Forty years after Felá alluded to the higgledy-piggledy nature of Ojúelégba, popularly noted as the ‘paki’ end of the ‘buttie’ Surelere, Grammy award-winning superstar, Wizkid, sang Ojúelégba. Unlike Felá’s Confusion/Ojúelégba, which is a song of protest, Wizkid’s Ojúelégba is a song tracing his humble roots and the struggles of an emerging star.

In the beautiful song laid on melodious sound, Wizkid sings, “Ni Ojúelégba/They know my story/For Mo’Dogg Studio/I been hustle to work eeh/Ni Ojúelégba ooo/Me and Siddy/For Mo’Dogg Studio/We been hustle work eeh…”. He also hails the endless prayers of his mother, saying, “E kira fun mummy mi/ojojumo la n s’adura…”

Despite his ruthlessness, Èsù was lenient with Felá and had been lenient with Wizkid aka Weezy, together with millions of Nigerians, especially Lagosians, who have been distorting his name for ages.

Ẹlẹ́gbà is another name for Èsù, among the Yórùbá. Though ‘ojú’ popularly means the eye. It also means arena, spot or shrine – like ‘ojúde oba’ or ‘ojúbo’. So, ‘Ojú Ẹlẹ́gbà’ means the Shrine of Ẹlẹ́gbà. And not Ojú Elégba, which means the ‘Arena of the flogger or cane seller’.

While some Yórùbá dialects refer to God as Eledumare or Eledua, some others refer to the Supreme Being as Olodumare. It’s the same case when some Yórùbá dialects refer to Èsù as Ẹlẹ́gbẹ́ra, both Ẹlẹ́gbà and Ẹlẹ́gbẹ́ra mean ‘rescuer’. It’s the Yoruba Bible writers who erroneously named Satan Èsù because of his penchant for mischief. The Yoruba god, Èsù, isn’t the same as the biblical satan. Èsù, in the Yoruba pantheon, is not a fallen angel. He never rebelled.

Aside from Ojúelégba, which is widely mispronounced in Lagos, Agbó-ti-kú-yò, a community in Agege, is another place that’s commonly mispronounced. The correct and full pronunciation is Agbó-ti-èkú-yò. Èkú is the mask/clothing of the masquerader. Indigenous Agege residents are reputed for celebrating masquerade festivals with masquerade groves widespread in the community. So, Agbó-ti-èkú-yò means someone happy to wear the masquerade. The masquerade is the mask or clothing or èkú, and the wearer of the masquerade is the masquerader.

Also, the seat of power in Lagos State, commonly referred to as Aláúsá, is wrongly pronounced. The right pronunciation is Aláùsá, the place or owner of walnut – because the area was formerly a walnut plantation.

Though the mind is the incubator of inspiration, it’s not wrong to say that the eureka of inspiration can be shouted in the strangest of places. A few days ago, I was having a telephone chat with a former colleague and retired popular broadcaster of the Osun State Broadcasting Corporation, Osogbo, Osun State, Folasade Odunlade, whom I’ve not seen in about a decade. “Tunde, Nigeria ma ti wa le gan,” she started in her unmistakable voice, going on to lament the level of insecurity nationwide. “Nowhere is safe o…,” she continued before she suddenly groaned in pain, “Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Iya Yetunde! Ah…,” I was alarmed. I thought her house was under attack. “Sade! Sade! Sade! Ki lo n sele!? The phone went dead.

I continued to call until she picked up. “Kilo sele, Sade?” I asked. It’s mama Wizkid?” “Mama Wizkid?”, do you know her? “Yes, I do,” she responded. “I’ve seen the news of her death earlier in the day, I’m sorry. It’s good that she witnessed the stardom of her son,” I consoled.

Sade wailed, “Sometime ago, she was ill but she recovered after treatment abroad. Her death caught me totally unawares. Our paths crossed around 2001/2002 when she was working at the National Commission for Museums and Monuments office located inside the Ataoja Palace, Osogbo. I was working at the OSBC. She was a Christian, though her husband is a Muslim. I had a shop, SIMAK Frozen Turkey and Chicken, beside Olive Branches Schools, Oke-Fia, Osogbo; she lived with her uncle, Baba Senjobi, a hotelier, next to my shop.

“She was always going to Lagos every weekend because her husband and children were living in Lagos. We gisted almost every evening. She paid me visits at work while I paid her visits, too. In fact, she was the one who made me visit the Osun Osogbo Grove for the first time because I was initially afraid.”

Sade said the mother of three girls and one boy (Wizkid/lastborn) later got a transfer back to Lagos and they lost contact afterwards.

She explained that after she retired from OSBC, she took up the job of Special Assistant to the then Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Lasun Yussuff, in 2015.

“Iya Yetunde linked up with me in June 2015 before I became an SA to the deputy speaker. I didn’t know her son was the world-famous Wizkid. She was the one always looking for me. She found me and we continued with our friendship. She told me her son bought a car for her and that she went to church with it, and it was stolen at the church. She didn’t disclose Wizkid’s name then. I just thought it was just any other vehicle. And she didn’t specify the type.

“It was later when I discovered that Wizkid is her son that I restricted her visits to me because I was afraid she might be kidnapped, but she was so free, unassuming and humble. One time, I imported a popular poundo yam brand. The consignment was huge and I couldn’t sell them off on my own; she would come in her brand new Landcruiser and pack the poundo yam from my Magodo residence to Oyingbo, to help me sell them to Iya Alimi and other traders. I would have been in deep financial trouble if she didn’t help me sell the poundo yam off, using her own contacts. If she had a party, she would send her driver to come pick me up, and we would go together,” she said.

To be continued.

Written by Tunde Odesola and first published in The PUNCH, on Friday, September 15, 2023
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