With the unifying aspiration of fostering the oneness of the Yoruba nation, foremost Southwest traditional rulers led by the Ooni of Ife, Oba AdeyeyeOgunwusi (Ojaja II) and the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba LamidiAdeyemi (II) and other dignitaries gathered at Ile-Ife to expand the dialogue for Yoruba unity.
The much sought after unity in the Yoruba nation received a boost inside the expansive Oduduwa Hall of the ObafemiAwolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State on June 15, 2017 when the Ooni of Ife, Oba AdeyeyeOgunwusi and the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba LamidiAdeyemi unanimously spoke in one voice on the project.
To the amazement and indeed excitement of the large audience of the university community, comprising students and lecturers, the revered traditional rulers prayed for the oneness of the Yorubas at home and in the diaspora saying the unity was not negotiable.
Earlier in the palace of the Ooni, the Ogunsua of Modakeke, Oba Francis Adedoyin publicly demonstrated his respect for the Ooni in an impressive display of togetherness.
At the centre of the gathering was the renowned legal luminary and founder of AfeBabalola University, Ado-Ekiti, AareAfeBabalolawho was being honoured by the Faculty of Education of the institution and who delivered a lecture titled ‘The Difficult March Towards Educational Security In Nigerian Law, Policy And Governance Imperatives’.
When the Public Relations Officer of the institution, AbiodunOlanrewaju invited the Ooni to the podium, there was no doubting the fact that Oba Ogunwusiwould explore the opportunity of sharing the high table with the Alaafin at the occasion to further show his determination to achieveYoruba unity and return the glory of the race among the comity of nations.
After he was through with musical gyration with the mammoth students, an act that was greeted with wild ovation, Oba Ogunwusi expressed his appreciation to Oba Adeyemi and also welcomed him to Ile-Ife, described as the source of civilization.
The body language of the Ooni revealed an excited monarch standing before such eminent scholars drawn from the OAU, the AfeBabalola University and the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti. The Ooni did not mince word in preaching unity and calling on all sons and daughters of Yoruba to have faith in the project, maintaining that such collective effort would take the race to greater heights in no distant time.
“There is nothing like having us all together. There is nothing like a broom, which uses its cohesion to sweep the floor clean. There is nothing stopping us from becoming more united to emerge one of the greatest races in the whole universe. I am therefore very happy to have the Alaafin here in Ile-Ife and together we shall take Yoruba to greater heights.
“I commend Aare Afe Babalola for this occasion. When you have the Ooni and the Alaafin attending one occasion, it is not a matter of argument again to know the significance of such function. AareAfeBabalola is an illustrious son of Yoruba who has made his mark in the legal profession and education,” he said.
The Ooni’seffort at unifying the Yorubas is arguably legendary since he ascended the throne in 2015. His unprecedented courtesy tours to some first class traditional rulers across the South-West and beyond, starting from the Alaafin has earned him goodwill and added to his moniker as the AroleOodua. Just two weeks back, Oba Ogunwusi was in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital where he was the guest of the Emir of Ilorin, Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari and the governor of the state, AbduFatai Ahmed.
At his turn on the podium,Oba Adeyemi added his voice to that of the Ooni patting him in the back for his effort, encouraging and also praying for him to record the desired success. Reputed for his depth in Yoruba history among other subjects, the Alaafin asserted the strength of the Yoruba people as the only empire-building race whose influence extends to some parts of what is today known as Ghana.
In his 10-page remark which he prepared for the occasion, Oba Adeyemi dug deep into the core value of the Yoruba people and their belief in education as an investment which, according to him, pays the highest dividend. Specifically, the Alaafin drew an example from the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, whom, he said, was at a crossroads of history to lead a liberating revolution in knowledge production, dissemination and utilisation.
In contemporary Nigeria, especially with the state of the nation, Oba Adeyemi unambiguously declared that the Yoruba race was best equipped to provide enduring solutions to the crisis of nation and state building because, according to him, the race was firmly rooted in a sophisticated cultural system that valorised anddeveloped mechanisms for empire building.
“While some groups had limited understanding, narrow conceptualisation and vision of authority, the Yoruba were building prosperous and viable states and even an empire.It is trite knowledge that the edifice known as the Old Oyo Empire represents the glory and acme of Yoruba political architecture and political philosophy.
“Oyo survived many vicissitudes and challenges but eventually emerged as the most enduring political system and is reputed to have flourished for more than 6000 years arguably better than the Western Sudanese kingdoms of Tekrur, Ghana, Mali and Songhai. Oyo which was a leading African State at all times was built on the political thoughts of Oranyan, the legendary empire builder with an incontrovertible reputation of being responsible for the emergence of central authority among the Edo in Benin kingdom, Ife and other such places on the Western axis of Yorubaland,” he said.
The traditional ruler also emphasised that while some states were satisfied with limited government and autonomous communities and some others could not unite under a single political umbrella before the 19th century, the Yoruba, he stated, had succeeded in designing a model of administration which allowed Oyo Yoruba cultural hegemony to provide the sinews of political ascendancy over a considerably extensive area ofland.
In the essence, the Alaafin added, the successof the Old Oyo Yoruba political thought in building enduring states was predicated on the ability of the Yoruba culture to be hegemonic and at the same time benevolent.
“The Nigerian case calls for the intellectual input of the Yoruba people to redefine the nature and pattern of relationship among the diverse and seemingly disparage groups in Nigeria. Great Ife should lead other Southwestern universities to provide intellectual response to restructuring of Nigerian federation. The Yoruba academia and intelligentsia should not concede leadership in this enterprise to politicians and self-appointed opinion leaders whose stock in trade is soap-box grandstanding and parliamentary rhetoric. Our leadership in education will only be meaningful, if we acquire knowledge, internalise its values and appropriate wisdom therefrom for finding solutions to the twin problems of underdevelopment and state collapse.
“Importantly, Yoruba youth must never allow the prevailing climate of anti-intellectualism to distract them from the pursuit of knowledge through academic excellence. Our race is the pathfinder albeit, custodian of the soul of this nation because we are the only empire-building group. Our educational laws, policies and subject curricula must address our challenges and be re-engineered to provide home grown solutions and opportunities for the development of problem-solving values.” he stated.
However, the Alaafin pointed out what he perceived as an instrument that could distract and even disrupt the unity process. He particularly warned palace drummers to refrain from using talking drums to sing discordant tunes in their effort to impress their principals. Oba Adeyemi went down memory lane revealing how and under which circumstance the talking drum was invented as one of the intangible means of communication, especially in the palace.
Aare AfeBabalola was in frenzy of sorts with the presence of the two top traditional rulers in Yorubaland urging them to maintain the leadership status of Yoruba in Nigeria. He said reaching out to other ethnic groups with words of assurance of peaceful co-existence should be considered given the current development in the country.