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Open Letter To Seyi Makinde: Preserving Our History, Rewriting Our Story | ‘Bayo Adeyinka

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Your Excellency,

The circumstances surrounding your election show that there is a purpose why providence cast the mantle of leadership of Oyo State on you. I believe you have an assignment that goes beyond basic governance. You are going to occupy Agodi Government House that has served as official residence to leaders of the former Western Region and later Oyo State such as the late sage Obafemi Awolowo, Ladoke Akintola, Uncle Bola Ige and others. Ibadan is the political headquarters of the South West and it has pleased Divinity to put you as a custodian of the place. Ibadan has always been pivotal in providing direction for the Yoruba nation. As you know, Ibadan was founded when the old cities of Oyo-Ile, Owu and Ijaiye were destroyed following the collapse of the Oyo empire. Other towns found Ibadan as a refuge and the town harboured people from different parts of Yorubaland. It was also the armies of Ibadan that halted the incursion of the Fulani army into Yorubaland in 1840. Ibadan has been instrumental in bringing the much needed succour to the Yoruba race at critical points of their history. The renaissance of the Western Region during the period of the leadership of the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo also started from Ibadan. Consequently, you have a burden of leadership, not only for Oyo State but for the entire Yoruba nation.

I want to go into this discourse by sharing an experience I had today. I went on a tour of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, USA and it gave me mixed emotions. As the tour guide took us through the various sections of the museum, I could only wonder at the deliberate and intentional efforts at preserving history. Starting with Egyptian history, I saw artefacts from the time of the female Pharaoh, Hatshepsut. I listened to her story and how she took the throne instead of Thutmose. I also saw the artefacts in honour of previous Pharaohs that she tried to destroy in her attempt to erase their history. I learnt about how the Egyptian Pharaohs were buried and saw their tombs. I saw various arts depicting their culture and worship.

The tour guide also took us to another section that contained Assyrian and Babylonian art. I saw art from the times of Nebuchadnezzar, Ahasuerus and Darius. I saw a particularly striking artefact from an Assyrian king called Sargon that was referred to in the Bible in Isaiah 20:1 ( In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod, (when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him,) and fought against Ashdod, and took it;). I saw references to Nebuchadnezzar and we finished the day with a tour of art works from the Mesopotamia. We couldn’t even tour the Graeco-Roman, Islamic and Asian sections. There was a crowd and each visitor was attached to a tour guide. In 2016, 7.3m people visited the museum and paid an average rate of $25 per person. That is $182.5m grossed that year. In Naira, that is about N65.7b! Furtheore, parking for up to 4 hours attracts a fee of $42. If 100 cars park every 4 hours, that is $4,200 and if 500 cars park in a day, that is $21,000 daily. That translates to N7.5m parking fees daily and N45.3m grossed in a 6-day working week! There is also an in-house restaurant that serves meals on a pay-as-you-eat basis. Talk about IGR.

As we took the tour, I thought about our Yoruba nation. How much of our history has been preserved? How much will still be known in the next 100 years? Will the next generation know about Oduduwa, Oranmiyan, Lagelu, Ogedengbe, Afonja, Alaafin Aole or even Obafemi Awolowo among others? How much efforts are we making to preserve our history, culture and language? Can we tell our story now so that another people or nation doesn’t tell it in future?

I believe you should take on the responsibility for this challenge by pioneering a renaissance that will put your name in the annals of history forever. It is good to build roads and create infrastructure. It is good to build schools and ensure citizens get good and affordable education. It is good to provide excellent health services. But it is best when a nation’s history is preserved for future generation and they are saved from extinction. ‘Omo to so ile nu, o so apo iya ko’. The Yoruba nation is gradually going extinct and it will require a deliberate and intentional effort to reposition her.

I don’t believe in just pontificating or pointing out issues with no attempt at giving solutions. So many ideas went through my mind on that tour. We have Cocoa House which still stands as one of the monuments of our Yoruba nation. You can carve out a significant part of the first few floors and the basement for the Yoruba museum (I know there is a small museum at the penthouse but this is nothing compared to what I’m postulating). The Ifa body of knowledge is a major area we need to preserve. There are 256 ‘odu ifa’ which only the ‘initiated’ know. We need to democratize this body of knowledge and consciously create historical basis and learning points from them. Can you imagine an Ifa section at the Yoruba museum that has ‘Ifa priests and priestesses’ as tour guides? Can you imagine them dressed in their immaculate white robes as they explain to visitors the basis for their dressing among others? 

The Ifa section can contain the ‘opele’ (divination beads), ‘opon’ (divination tray), cowries, etc. Each ‘odu ifa’ should have a dedicated section on a wall with explanations while the tour guides provide the oral literary corpus. 

One can consult renowned people like Professor Wande Abimbola to populate such a section. We can do the same for our various traditional deities: Ogun, Sango, Oya, Obatala, Osun and others. It is possible to isolate the mysticism and superstition associated with these worship systems and elevate it into art-form.

The Yoruba museum will have the Ori Olokun, carvings of great warriors of Yoruba nation such as Ogedengbe Agbogungboro, Kunrunmi of Ijaiye, Fabunmi of Oke-Imesi, Moremi Ajasoro, Aare Latosa, Soun Ogunlola among others. It should incorporate a section dedicated to the Yoruba civil wars (the Owu war, Kiriji war- possibly the longest civil war in the world as it took place for 16 years, Jalumi war, etc). We can consult Prof Banji Akintoye and others of his ilk to reconstruct these very important piece of our history. The history of towns and villages in Yorubaland should also have a prominent place. We can have tablets and big screens placed at various places which will reel out required information at the touch of a button. It can be done.

One major aspect of the proposed Yoruba museum should be our music. The Yoruba nation has very diverse musicology- from the now extinct awurebe, were, sakara, waka, bata, apala, juju and fuji among others. We need to document our rich music genres and their proponents such as Tatalo Alamu, Ayinde Bakare, Dauda Epo-Akara, Tunde Nightingale, Ayinla Omowura, Haruna Ishola, Kayode Fashola, IK Dairo, Batile Alake, Salawa Abeni, Yusuf Olatunji, Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Orlando Owoh, Kokoro, Fatai Rolling Dollar, Shina Peters, Segun Adewale, Kollington Ayinla and Sikiru Ayinde Barrister among others. The family house of Ayinde Barrister at Ayeye in Ibadan can be converted to a Fuji museum. We need to urgently save Fuji music. There can also be a dedicated section to music artistes of Yoruba origin such as Seal, Shade Adu, Fela, Angelique Kidjo, Bobby Benson, Roy Chicago, Brewster Hughes, Ambrose Campbell and others. We should do the same for our dances and poetry forms such as ‘ijala’, ‘ekun iyawo’, ‘rara’ and various ‘orikis’.

We cannot leave our thespians out of the proposed museum. The works of cultural ambassadors such as Hubert Ogunde, Moses Olaiya ‘Baba Sala’, Ade Afolayan, I Sho Pepper, Papalolo, Jacob and Aluwe, Ade Omonitan, Duro Ladipo, Oyin Adejobi of ‘Kootu Asipa’ fame, Lere Paimo, Jimoh Aliu, Baba Wande, Kola Oyewo and many others should be on display. I’m sure the family members of these thespians will be willing to turn over mementoes and other relevant documents for the purpose of immortalization of these giants of the arts. 

Permit me to dwell a bit more on entertainment. The Wedding Party 1 & 2 grossed N3.5b at the cinemas. Half of a Yellow Sun grossed N340m and A Trip to Jamaica grossed N200m. Carefully packaged Yoruwood movies featuring major historical characters such as Oduduwa, Timi Agbale, Ogedengbe Agbogungboro, Alaafin Aole and modern Yoruba characters such as Obafemi Awolowo, Wole Soyinka, Fela and others can be box-office hits. NEXIM has a facility for entertainment and Oyo State can access this through a Special Purpose Vehicle. By the way, why has there not been any movie on the life and times of Obafemi Awolowo just like there have been movies about Ghandi, Nehru and Nelson Mandela? Short documentaries on Yoruba towns and villages, characters, native foods, how places got their names, etc will form part of the museum which will be fully automated and will serve as a tourist attraction. It will generate revenue for the government. Initial seed fund can be generated from the movies shown at the cinema.

With our rich array of foods, we can include Food Festivals where we celebrate our traditional foods and soups such as amala, iyan, gbegiri, ewedu, osiki, isapa, efo riro, lafun and ikokore among other foods. We should also showcase the Yoruba masquerades- Alapansapa, Oloolu, Abidiege and others.

Finally, may I espouse the need to have a Yoruba Walk of Fame similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame (which attracts 10m visitors annually) where Yoruba achievers are recognized and their stars emblazoned on a dedicated sidewalk similar to the Hollywood Boulevard. We can have different categories such as literature where icons like Amos Tutuola, Wole Soyinka, JF Odunjo and D.O. Fagunwa among others will be recognized. Cinematographers such as Tunde Kelani, Tunde-Alabi Hundeyin of Dudu Heritage, etc can be recognized for their contribution. Various categories such as Television, Film, Radio, Music, Video, etc will feature. The Yoruba Walk of Fame should be administered by a Yoruba Trust Council comprising of eminent Yoruba nationals who will select awardees through a very rigorous process. Imagine the tourism potential that is embedded in this proposal. With the Yoruba race- more than 40m strong- spread across Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Cuba and Brazil and some parts of the Caribbean, this re-awakening can spur tourism in an unprecedented manner. With other details worked out around this project, it may turn out to be a top revenue earner for your government.

To jumpstart this renaissance, you may wish to send a bill to the State House of Assembly to enable a law making every civil servant in the State put on traditional attires every day of the week. Truth be told, the efficiency of the public sector does not lie in their wardrobe but in the inspiration provided to follow a new way. Also make Yoruba a compulsory subject for all schools that operate in the State- from primary to secondary. China has not lost its culture and language inspite of the influence of the western world. The language of instruction from primary school to the University in China remains the Chinese language. Go a step further by encouraging the Oyo State House of Assembly to conduct their plenary sessions in Yoruba while you conduct your Executive Council meetings in mother tongue also. Can you do the Yoruba nation a favour by streaming such an Executive Council meeting live? That will be a first in history- and you should have it at the back of your mind to be a history maker.

I recall the words of the late Professor Akinwumi Ishola, “When a language dies, the culture atrophies”. According to The Centre for Endangered Languages, “Language is the key to the heart of a people. If we lose the key, we lose the people. A lost language is a lost tribe, a lost tribe is a lost culture; a lost culture is a lost civilization. A lost civilization is invaluable language lost; it will be consigned to oblivion.” You, Engineer Seyi Makinde can do this, not only to save the Yoruba culture but also improve tourism and generate the needed revenue from this neglected sector. As you work on the very important tasks of rebuilding the infrastructure, health, education and other critical areas of our economy, please do not neglect this area. It will determine our continued existence as a race. You are the progenitor of valiant men- Omo Akin (Makinde)- and may God give you the courage of your conviction to step forward like the armies of Ibadan in 1840 who stopped the invasion and encroachment of our common patrimony.

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