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Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo

Culture, Religion & Modernity- Ogun, Oyo, Delta Experience

The Bible says my people perish for lack of knowledge. Holy Prophet Muhammad, (PBH), enjoined His followers to seek knowledge, up to the far East- China. In essence, love and knowledge are the main thrust of God’s message to mankind!

Culture/Tradition, as a way of life, defines people’s uniqueness. So, unlike the western world, black African worldview is divinely rooted in the spiritual interconnectivity of the unborn, the living, and the dead.

Unlike the late Olu of Warry, Delta State, Ogiame Ikenwoli, whose subjects overwhelmingly rejected the Olu’s move to religiously meddle in their tradition, the Awujalẹ of Ijẹbuland, Oba Sikiru Káyọ̀dé Adetona, Ogbagba 11, finally found solace in the recently signed Ogun State Chieftaincy Bill, that put paid to people’s opposition to His Royal Majesty longtime desire to see an Ọba being buried according to his religion.

However, unlike Ogun State, the Oyo State government had put a stop to the tampering with the people’s age long succession process to the Olubadan stool by late Governor Abiola Ajimobi crowned Ibadan High-Chiefs.

In essence, unlike the Warri people whose protests and wishes held sway, the sustainability of tradition in Yorubaland is gradually being subjected to the dictate of politico-religious and class sentimental interests (Ogun State), or to the native intelligence, knowledge, wisdom and discerning minds of the people, and government in power, to uphold the unifying nature of culture and traditions- (Ọ̀yọ State & Warry people).

In the PUNCH Newspaper interview on page 46 of Thursday, June 22, 2006 edition, the Ajalọrun of Ijẹbu-Ìfẹ́ in Ogun State, Oba Adesesan Afọlọrunṣọ Oguntayọ, stated interalia “…I thank God for the light that has come to the community. People are no longer fetish and the churches and mosques are making progress….We install chiefs without having to perform rituals. What we do is to allow the recipient of the title to invite a pastor or an imam to pray for him during the installation…. We now believe that a Ọba should have a religion.”

Ọbas have always been the custodians of Yoruba traditions, supposedly without any religious affiliation publicly.
In my opinion on Kabiyesi’s interview, ‘Re: Monarchs Should Avoid Politics’, published on page 16, Wednesday, July 19, 2006 edition of the PUNCH, I stated, amongst others-

“…When Pope John Paul 11 died, we all saw his lying-in-state, but, to date, no one knew how he was buried. And in the process of choosing a new pope, all the cardinals took an oath of secrecy before entering the conclaves…

This is known as imulẹ in Yoruba land…If such event were to be performed by Africans in an African setting, we would be the first to condemn the whole process as ritualistic, idolatry, evil, secretive, fetish, anti-this and anti-that.”

‘Sísìn, tí a sìn Ọmọ Ọgbẹ́ri, aa gbọdọ sìn Ọmọ Awo bẹẹ’ – How the son of the ignorant/low class and the uninitiated are buried can not be liken to that of the son of the knowledgeable, noble and the initiated ones. And this Yoruba wise saying seems to be universally acclaimed/accepted, judging by the Pope John Paul 11, burial process.

Hence, unlike Yoruba Obas, a non-interested person in the pope’s ritual passage rites, and secret processes of both selection and burial, needs not to venture or accept to be initiated into the cardinal group, from which popes are always chosen! Why then should ours be different? Wanting to be holier than the Pope and, thereby, destroying our own traditions!

In fact, the contents of the black and white smoke, that usually appeared on the conclave roof top, during the process of the new pope selection, was only known to the initiated cardinals inside the conclave, indeed.

1 later wrote a personal letter to His Royal Highness, the Ajalọrun, pointing out the spiritual implications of the Kabiyesi’s disparaging remarks which do not uphold Yoruba traditions. I copied the Awujalẹ̀, and other notable Ọbas in Ogun State, then.

Lo and behold, the whole town of Ijẹbu Ifẹ̀, thereafter, came to a standstill, empty and deserted by both the old and young for months in a widely poblicized crisis, ignited by an incident and escalated by the killing of a police officer.

Ignorant or deliberate violations of the spiritual ESSENCE of the African culture, nay Yoruba traditional practices, under any pretense of human rights, religion or modernity, have taken a heavy toll on the lives and properties of the individuals, families, communities and towns involved across the Yorubaland.

Examples abound, like Sagamu Town, where the Palace, properties and lives were lost some years ago! The Ikenne town church violation of the age long practice of non-beating of drums for a few days of traditional spiritual cleansing exercise that led to the mysterious death of the people, especially the youths, who later urgently summoned the elders, community leaders and associations to Awolowo recreation centre, Ikenne, for possible solutions.

In the early 90s, the burial of an Ọba of a town, immediately after Ijẹbu Ifẹ̀ town, despite the traditionalists’ insistence otherwise, led to the death of the late Oba’s prominent younger brother of the famous White House in the town, few days after the Ọba’s family religious burial ceremony in which the man played a prominent role!

The sage, Chief Obafẹmi Awolọwọ, once observed the hypocritical/pretentious nature of the Euro-Arabian religious expansionist nations, and their average African neo- religious educated elite counterparts, whose intellects, according to Chief Awolọwọ, are only being psychologically stimulated and excited by religions, but deep down in their inner hearts/spirits are places for their culture and traditions, where they often privately take refuge to seek out the solutions for their numerous spiritual challenges and knotty issues beyond their intellectual understanding – either as youths, already traditionally fortified by their parents, or as independent adults, by themselves.

Hence, Àwo, as a liberal and a man of culture, apart from the religious and state burial, the traditionalists equally performed their roles in Awolowo’s burial, being the traditional holder of Losi of Ikenne, and a member of the ruling Ikenne traditional Osugbo Inner circle- Until the Rosicrucian Order (AMORC) staged an unprecedented ceremonial procession at Awolowo’s funeral programmes in 1987, many were not aware that Awo was an AMORC staunch member, deeply and fully engaged in the mystical teachings.

In the original African setting, the elders never took for granted taking divine traditional means to find out the cause/solution to strange happenings like disaster, epidemics or when sudden death, in quick succession, of family members, youths or prominent persons occurred after the demise of a parent, family head or an Ọba.

Traditionally, original Yoruba Obas often live to ripe age – free of sudden death by killings, assassinations, kidnappings, accident, or any disaster. They are forbidden to see dead bodies but theirs are, nowadays, ignorantly displayed and exposed openly for people to see during a religious burial- an aberration with great resultant consequences for the Ọba’s family and prominent members of the community or town- ‘idalu ni ìṣèlú’- originality is in the transcendental culture of the people. But our people and leaders seem not to be conscious, or pretended to move on with their lives- ‘fífì iná sí òrùlé sun’ – putting fire on the roof and enjoying today, damning the future/tomorrow- thereby wallowing in the cobweb of ignorance- calamities upon calamities, unexplainable mysteries and strange occurrences, hitherto unknown, on Yoruba soil and in our immediate environment every day.

Nowadays, under the guise of human rights or religion, laws that are supposed to protect the natives are now being used to prevent their traditional practices, like ORO that are usually carried out to ward off evil spirits, now entering/overwhelming both young and old to be so cannibalistic, and killings everywhere.

There are traditionalists and traditional medicine charlatans everywhere because the majority of the custodians of our culture and traditions, the Ọbas, have abandoned their responsibilities of checks and balances, using the established traditional structures on the ground.

The sayings- ‘my people perish for lack of knowledge’ and seeking knowledge unto the far East- China’, will only be holistic when we do not take the peaceful nature of the traditionalists and Yoruba people for granted, but having deep knowledge and understanding of the culture, traditional values, principles and practices of the host community/town without any unholy rivalry, dominance, forceful displacement and being over critical or judgmental of  the hosts, instead of peaceful co-existence, and harmonious relationship, as enshrined/enjoined in the Bible and Quran.

‘Odò to gbàgbé orísun ẹ, a gbẹ nì’ – any river that forgets its source will surely dry up.

       *’Wọle Oladipọ is the former Information & Education Officer. Ogun State. 39, Mosorire, Soka, Ibadan. 08033598528.

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