By Bola BOLAWOLE
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The Yoruba set a huge store by character, which they insist is more precious than rubies and gold. “E hu iwa Omoluwabi” is a refrain that so unambiguously states what the Yoruba expect from every true-born son or daughter. Those who deviate are referred to as bastards – “omo ale”. Proper or good behaviour is non-negotiable. There are certain characters or behaviours that must not be mentioned, not even once, among Omoluwabis.
One of such is stealing/cheating. Another is laziness or slothfulness. Liars and unreliable people, those who are not bound by their words, are loathed among the Yoruba. They are to be avoided like a plague. Wealth does not define the Yoruba; character does. Good character, not wealth, is what the Yoruba believe a person should flaunt and which every other person should acknowledge, respect and emulate.
A number of songs, proverbs, and words of wisdom of our elders are drummed into the ears of every Yoruba child. One such song, which I learnt in elementary school and which remains ingrained in my soul, is: “Kini n f’ole se l’aiye ti mo wa? (2ce) L’aiye ti mo wa ewon ko sunwon/Ewon ko sunwon f’Omoluwabi/Kini n f’ole se l’aiye ti mo wa” Thieves and vagrants are ostracized; murderers are excommunicated and anyone related to such fellows are enveloped in shame.
Unable to live with such shame, many have been known to commit suicide, considering death a more honourable outcome – “Iku ya j’esin”. Begging was alien to Yoruba land and culture. It used to be considered a shameful thing. The Yoruba taught the virtues of hard and diligent work – “Ise l’oogun ise/Mura s’ise ore mi/Ise la fi n d’eni giga…” Students were taught to study hard – “Bata re a dun ko-ko-ka/Ti o ba ka’we e/ Bata re a dun ko-ko-ka”
I first noticed it in Lagos – “Eko gb’ole, o gb’ole” – but street begging has since enveloped the entire Yoruba landscape. Beggars of Yoruba extraction compete favourably with those who were seen as the traditional beggars. These days, there are no vices that were loathed in Yoruba land that have not now seized the entire Yoruba landscape. Look around you, the “twale” and “alright sir” boys and girls, the area boys and area girls, are mostly Yoruba youths.
While their Igbo counterparts are busy learning trade and their Hausa counterparts are riding Okada and pushing carts to eke out a living, the Yoruba youths are useless to themselves and to the society. Yet, they insist on living life to the hilt, and on the fast lane, to boot. They are the enforcers. They are the political thugs. They are the “agberos” They are the petty thieves waylaying and stripping the hapless of their phones and other valuables at street corners.
Cultism has run riots among Yoruba youths. It is no longer the exclusive preserve of students in the institutions of higher learning. Primary schools, secondary schools, any gathering of youths in Yoruba land these days is infested with cultism. They kill, they maim. Rival groups waste one another with relish.
Evil – all manner of evil – walks naked on our roads, wasting our future before our very eyes. Now, our youths are said to have graduated into the ranks of kidnappers, bandits and terrorists! All eyes used to be on the Fulani but the kidnappers of the Ekiti school children are said to be of Yoruba extraction.
Governance in Yoruba land progressively took a dip the very moment Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in pursuit of his ambition to rule Nigeria, left the office of premier of the Western Region for the position of Leader of Opposition in the Federal parliament. Cracks soon set in between him and his successor, SLA Akintola, with other Action Group leaders siding with this or with that. The Fulani-led government at the Centre cashed in on that, aided by Nnamdi Azikiwe and his Eastern Region, to set the Western Region on fire and send Awo to jail.
From that moment, things fell apart in Yoruba land. Akintola, Fani-Kayode and others betrayed Awo. Fani-Kayode in turn betrayed Akintola. In the Second Republic, the core opponents of Awo were big-time Yoruba politicians and business moguls, the likes of Meredith Adisa Akinloye, Richard Akinjide, Omololu Olunloyo, FRA Williams, Bashorun MKO Abiola, among others.
Dogs began to eat dogs. Bola Ige dumped Alayande out of the Oyo governorship race. Cornelius Adebayo did similarly to Chief Josiah Olawoyin in Kwara state. Both disrespected the counsel of Awo. Ige got his due recompense at D’Rovans, Ibadan years later as his peers ditched him for Chief Olu Falae.
Against Awo’s advice, both Ige and Sunday Afolabi served in President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government in the Fourth Republic. A man who hates your father cannot love you, the son, Awo was reported to have told his two political sons gone errant. Both Ige and Afolabi perished in Obasanjo’s government. Those who did not perish serving Sani Abacha lost relevance and the reputation that had taken them decades to build – the likes of Ebenezer Babatope, Alhaj Lateef Jakande and Olu Onagoruwa, who also lost his first son to the bargain.
The Fourth Republic started well for the mainstream Yoruba political leadership in 1999 but wily Obasanjo unhinged it four years later in 2003. Only Bola Ahmed Tinubu as Lagos governor survived the Obasanjo tsunami. A new king was born!
Whatever aileth the Yoruba nation today must be placed squarely at the door mouth of the Asiwaju of Yorubaland and Jagaban Borgu. Tinubu uprooted the Awo political dynasty and created a new political empire of his own. The Yoruba nation today is cast, for better or for worse, in the image of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. If all is well, give the credit to Tinubu. If all is well the other way round, as our elders would say, hang it as well around Tinubu’s neck!
The creation, nurturing and blossoming of the Yoruba area boys and girls coincided, if I can put it that mildly, with the ascendancy of Tinubu as the master of South-west politics. Coping with the influx of Hausa/Fulani criminals into Yoruba land is difficult enough, especially with the obstacles deliberately put in the way of containing the criminals by Federal power. To now have to contend with the sad spectacle of our own children themselves swelling the ranks of the criminals is distressing, to say the least.
But what do we expect from jobless youths? What do we expect from generations whose destiny has been wasted by our political leaders who have no plan for them other than use them as thugs and then dump them? Why are our youths not being helped to learn a trade like their Igbo counterparts? Whatever you may say, the Fulani are smart; they buy carts and okada for thousands of their youths and then unleash them on us down South. Who will do similarly for our own youths?
Yesterday (Tuesday, 6 February, 2024), I was invited to join the Afenifere team to commiserate with Ekiti State’s Gov. Biodun Oyebanji over the tragedy that befell the state recently. Two traditional rulers were felled by suspected Fulani terrorists and some school children were kidnapped on their way to/from school. God have mercy! Ekiti suddenly became Chibok and Dapchi!
The Afenifere delegation was led by Chief Korede Duyile, who described the disasters as unfortunate. Duyile proffered the following solutions: that the governors of the south-west cooperate more than ever before to confront the security threats facing the sub-region; and that Amotekun, the security outfit of the South-west, be given appropriate arms and ammunition. “We want Amotekun to be fully armed. It is not easy to work with bare hands or with incantations”, he said. He also faulted the country’s structure: “If governors are in control of security, it will be easier to tackle these problems” he said, adding that the need to restructure the country has become more urgent than ever.
Responding, Gov. Oyebanji described the killing of the Obas as “sacrilege and an affront to the Yoruba race”, which he said his government would not take lightly. The culprits would be brought to book, he vowed. Despite party differences, the South-west governors are cooperating on security and had measures in the pipeline before the unfortunate death of their chairman, Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo state. After giving Akeredolu a befitting burial later this month, the South-west governors will unfurl their plans.
Oyebanji praised President Tinubu for providing leadership and encouragement to Ekiti in its trying moments. Despite being out of the country, he said the president called him on a daily basis and also gave directives that have been of immense benefit to the state. “I want Afenifere to thank him for me” he said before passionately pleading with the Afenifere to forge a common front and work together “because it is only in unity that we can confront and defeat this menace. Your voice carries weight”
Nigeria needs urgent restructuring. And the South-west itself needs urgent repositioning. Governance must be elevated to a higher level. Hope renewed, which Tinubu promised, must not remain a cliché. Blood and flesh must be infused into it. Time to act is now!
- Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.
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