THE TOYIN FALOLA INTERVIEWS
A CONVERSATION WITH OBA LAMIDI ADEYEMI III, PART 2
History is innocent to the extent that the individuals handing it down are not motivated by a level of inducement that can trigger fictional addition to the content of events. History is a candid guide that leads humans to suitable backgrounds where the sources of what humans do are revealed with disinterested views. However, the innocence of history as a source linking people to their past experiences is gravely challenged the moment the individual handing it down is induced by material things, has an ulterior motive, or is compelled to do so under duress. In these highlighted situations, the historian can be so dangerous to follow because not only would they mislead their audience exceedingly, but they would also cash in on the innocence of their listeners who would go on with wrong narratives and wrong impressions, to God-knows-when time. This is why those in the discipline of history value historiography as they do history itself. Historiography is essentially a responsible academic engagement simply because it situates a historical experience within the context of the motivation of the historian. Suppose the historian is found to have a sinister motive for their history rendition; they will produce a revisionist history that may result in difficulty between one individual and the other, one community and the other, one civilization and the other, and one race and the other.
One of the most controversial items of history is the history between the Yoruba and Benin, with overzealous historians across the two sides making frantic efforts to reprogram the past events for their parochial intentions. Beyond these revisionists’ intentions, many people usually challenge the credibility of what historians say or imply by their narratives. Here is a version of the Oyo tradition. The Oyo people are historically believed to have come from Oranmiyan, their progenitor who sojourned from Ile-Ife to conquer the surrounding areas in an attempt to expand areas under their political control. After he left Ile-Ife, he got to Benin, then a fledging civilization, where his incredible warrior capabilities enthralled the locals around to the level that he governed for a while. He would later offer his son to serve as the king because he was not done with his exploratory expedition. His son, with the assistance of locals, built the Benin civilization. Oranmiyan had also established a similar suzerainty in Oyo.
In what would perhaps serve as a compass to our correspondence with the Alaafin of Oyo, who is a direct descendant of Oranmiyan from the beginning to the current time, our first distinguished interviewer, Professor Jide Osuntokun, sought to understand the connection between Oyo and Benin because such enlightenment would expose the audience to otherwise hidden knowledge about the past already shrouded in secrecy. Beyond knowing, though, Professor Osuntokun asked how the Alaafin has used the throne to forge a lasting and Pan-Nigerian relationship with the kings of the civilizations Oyo has historically linked.
It is essential to repeat that the association of the Alaafin’s ancestral fathers with the Benin people is similar to what he had with the Nupe or the Borgu people. Due to this fact of history and as actors in the evolution of civilization, we know how different and competing groups were managed to bring peace, a lasting economic relationship, and a political alliance so that issues that are capable of threatening humanity would be jointly addressed. After all, humans are connected in multiple ways for a variety of reasons. To underpin the argument that the Benin Empire or kingdom had a tremendous historical association with the Yoruba people as their progenitor, Oranmiyan, the current Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, said that the Benin political engagement and palace affairs were run in the Yoruba language until 1922, a time when the colonial imperialists already established themselves in Nigeria. The exposition of this reality gives a general overview of how the relationship was nurtured and honored by the parties involved. In fact, relating with the story or question about how they forge relationships with one another for regional peace and economic growth of the civilizations involved, it cannot be contested that the adoption of Yoruba language in the palace of Benin until 1922 was an indication that they shared ancestral history.
In the intention to establish a strong connection among the kings because they were the representatives of the people and their cultural systems, the colonial government organized a conference in 1937, with the selection of kings in their hierarchical order. Meanwhile, the institution of kingship in the pre-colonial nations was not only culturally regulated, but it was also sacred. There were not as many kings as we now do. This brought a level of sanity to the system, and the honor attached to kingship was great. Kings did not commonly leave their palace, except there was an occasion mandating them to do so against what is obtainable in modern times. For this reason, the kings earned the respect of their people.
A few decades after the departure of the British, many kings were made by the politicians. The Alaafin was asked if there are efforts to address the issue of proliferation of kingship. His Imperial Majesty confirmed his awareness of the issue, but he is also not oblivious to the political situations that brought these kings to power. He conceded that because partisan politics infiltrated the institution of kingship, it upturned the traditions for the interest of self-serving political representatives.
The primary beneficiaries of such a scheme are the individuals who have political influence. They ensure that their political allies are used to acquire power, support, influence, and money to seek an Obaship position. In essence, the very cultural toga or cultural traditions that brought about the evolution of kingship became abused. It radically changed the institution’s prestige and allowed the people who have no interest in traditional leadership to ascend the sacred seat. This would eventually lead to the careless desecration of the Yoruba civilization because the individuals at the echelon of their traditional institutions are ignorant of its tradition and do not know how kingship is operated for the benefit of the people.
A problem that characterized the kingship institution in Yorubaland is that of succession. It has generated much heat and conflict because individuals want to associate themselves with power and the pecks that come with it. Regulations are put in place to ensure succession. This includes the selection of Oba, for example, because the ascension of kings on a throne requires orderliness, without which the society could degenerate into potential chaos. Post-colonial disorder created challenges, destroying their indigenous systems and principles followed in selecting kings.
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In responding to the question as to how this became the practice, despite the various challenges that come in the wake, Oba Adeyemi responded that two families belong to the royal lineage of Atiba in Oyo. These are the Agunloye family and the Adeyemi family. Meanwhile, they still preserve this system of succession. The present occupant of the throne is from the Adeyemi family, and the tranquility and serenity that happens in the palace today can be attributed to this. Thus, they have continued to observe the system of succession because it helps to reinforce the fact of history that shows where they are coming from. This was a consensus that the royal lineage and distinguished dignitaries understood that the expanding world deserves new philosophical structures that would assist the people in managing their activities so that they would not become anarchic and imposing in governance. It is thus evident that the structural adjustment has come with a positive impact, as can be seen in the life of the Oyo people.
It is etched in history that the democratic culture of the Yoruba has survived extraordinary circumstances. In its long history, the political seat of Oyo moved across different neighboring city-states from where the Alaafin conducted the affairs of the dynasty or empire. This creates an impression that the political validity of Oyo headship and the dynasty was not particularly associated with or tied to specific geographical locations, which meant that the Alaafin was considered the leader of the people irrespective of where he led from because the authority was reposed in him. This allowed for a flexible central government as it could be rotated or taken to geographical places without triggering infractions.
Undoubtedly, the survival of a political structure is founded on a robust political understanding that the people built to preserve their legacies, protect their identity, and promote their collective agenda. The Alaafin was asked to explain the reason for this. He was direct with his response. He argued that the practice was built on the understanding that there can only be one palace. Wherever the Alaafin was, that was the political seat from where he was expected to administer the political affairs of the empire. The mutual understanding that his seat of power was important gave it its relevance.
Elements were carried over to the colonial period. Rather than antagonize the system, the British did exceptionally well to preserve it, although with timely modifications meant to encourage the effective management of the colonial system. The system was validated because it showed the British an existing political structure that catered to the differences in interests and aspirations. Oyo had functioned at different times in history as the arrowhead of the Yoruba nation.
Also, the changes that the British encouraged could submerge the indigenous knowledge and civilization of the people, especially when they do not make efforts to integrate themselves with the dictates of the current time. In responding to questions by Professor Nike Akinjobi and Akin Alao, the king talked admirably of the tremendous transformation he ushered in the last fifty years. There have been structural changes and improvements that align with the contemporary world under him. The most important one he mentioned is his commitment to education to consolidate the existing structure that his forebears laid down. When the colonial imperialist introduced Western education, it required the foresighted ones to immediately explore the potential advantages it came with. Of course, education during the old days was non-formal; however, this does not reduce its values and importance to the development of the race. The non-formal status of education developed people’s skill set, which they used to develop themselves and society.
Understandably, the Alaafin of Oyo is aware of the importance of education in modern Nigeria. Thus, he is a powerful agency of that integration. Under his leadership, numerous academic institutions have been established that are making maximum contributions to the advancement of the people. One thing that cannot be undermined in the developmental trajectory of the people is the influence of identity in their engagements, ranging from cultural views, customary regulations, tolerance, their collective understanding of life, among others. This is because the people are forced to come to a social environment where multiculturalism remains the new basis of existence. Still, they are also conditioned to consider views of state powers as the central values around which they could judge theirs.
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Oba Adeyemi’s multiculturalism is grounded. He studied in a Catholic school, despite being raised as a Muslim. Therefore, his religious background suggests that the ideas he would be introduced to would contradict the ones he was familiar with. In essence, it is essential to ask if his exposure to Christian values through the Catholic school or his relationship with Islam through his family identity influenced the ways he views people of opposite religions or on his reactions to them. This question is appropriate on many grounds. One is that the king presides over the affairs of the people of different religious orientations and affiliations. Also, he would have to demonstrate a good level of tolerance to all. The king, however, attributed his tolerance and accommodation of alternative perspectives to the robust formative experiences he had as a child and then as an adult.
At the beginning of his life’s journey, the Alaafin attended a Christian school under the royal education establishment of the Alake of Egbaland. It was here they introduced him to the philosophical focus and the epistemic world of Christianity. He became versatile and grew in wisdom. Subsequently, he continued his education under a Muslim school where he was once again introduced to the tenet of Islam, with which he came to identify. All these experiences introduced him to the world of different cultures and views, and by that arrangement, he was learning about several things. By virtue of his traditional position, too, he would later become vast again in the affairs of his forebears that combine tradition with religion. As a result of all these experiences, the Alaafin has no reason to discriminate against any religious practice. Apart from being introduced to many of them as a child, he also has to govern people with different religious orientations.
Oba Adeyemi III is part of the order of the royal lineage in Oyo that straddles between two ideologically different eras–the primordial lineage and the current modern state. To strike a balance between these two worlds requires tact, quality intellection, solid ideological foundations, and the moral authority to execute one’s ideas. The King successfully displayed all these qualities and experiences of governance.
The above is the interview report with the Alaafin of Oyo, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, on October 24, 2021. For the transcripts, see: Facebook: https://fb.watch/8RtsH8UVn8/ and YouTube: https://youtube.com/watch?v=S-MEj8qr0ls
Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.
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Don’t Rule Out Possibility Of Military Coups In Nigeria, Rwanda, Ghana, Others – Panelists Warn
Want Medicines, Food Blockage In Niger Lifted
African governments have been warned of the possibility of being upset by military coups similar to the ones that have taken place in some countries on the continent.
The warning came from some panelists at a session of the Toyin Falola Interviews entitled “Coups in Africa: Geo-Politics, Legitimacies, and Resource Management” which was held on Sunday.
At the virtual session which was organised by Prof. Toyin Falola, the panelists spoke on the problems of governance in Africa and how to stop military coups from occurring in African countries that are not already being ruled by military coupists.
The panelists included King/Prof. Fuankem Achankeng, Col. (Rtd) Festus Aboagye, Dr. Omotola Ilesanmi, Prof. Vladimir Antwi-Danso, and Prof. Biodun Ogundayo.
They warned that it is an illusion to think that the recent military coups in Niger, Mali, Gabon, Burkina Faso and Guinea will be the last ones in Africa.
The panelists raised the alarm that as long as the practices of democracy in Africa are plagued by Western influences and corruption that results in the impoverishment of the citizens, the military will always find excuses to make incursions into governance.
They also warned that countries where their leaders arbitrarily change their constitutions so that they can have third or fourth terms instead of two terms are prone to military takeovers.
The panelists also expressed the need to exercise caution in unleashing sanctions on Niger Republic because of the military coup.
They urged that regional bodies such as the Economic Community of West African States ( ECOWAS) , the African Union (AU) and political leaders in Africa should have a common template for defining coups.
According to them, there are military coups just as there are civilian coups. Thus, to them, if military coups are sanctioned, civilian coups which are fomented through the rigging of electoral processes should also be sanctioned.
They urged that ECOWAS, AU and political leaders in Africa should have a better way of sanctioning military coupists and their governments. They urged that the blockage of medicines and food in Niger Republic should be lifted since it is the masses and vulnerable people who are the worst hit by such a sanction.
Coups In Africa: Historical Antecedents, Root Causes, And The Systemic Way Out
By Toyin Falola
Military coup — and its sister-act, usurpation — have existed for centuries. Seventeenth-century England had its fair share of attempted and successful military coups. Eighteenth-century France suffered military coups. Even the eighteenth-century Oyo Empire, despite the ingenious move of having the war generals — Are — lived in a city far away from Oyo-Ile to avoid usurpations, still suffered deposition and military coups at the hands of Basorun Gaa. Between the 19th and 20th centuries, several countries of the world faced at least one attempted or successful military coup, from Asia to Europe to Africa. However, military coups have either fully become non-existent or significantly subsided worldwide, except in Africa, where there has been a fresh batch of military takeovers.
Truly, military coups have historically served several purposes. First, they have been an integral part of the growth and evolution of several countries of the world. Humans, by design, are curious experimenters. Therefore, it is only expected that several countries would have attempted military coups and the subsequent military rule that resulted from such coups as an alternative to the type of government they were practicing.
At its basest form, the motivating factor for military coups is a simple attempt to try something new, to see if there is a better alternative to how the country is being run. For this, military coups have served as the beginning of a learning curve for several countries, many of which have adjusted to find a system that works for them and will help them thrive — China finding solace in a communist dictatorship, the United Kingdom has opted for a constitutional monarchy, and for France, it is a semi-presidential government. These countries have gone through the proverbial fire of military disruptions and rules to become what they are today.
Furthermore, military coups result from a failing or failed system of government. Historically, military coups happen in countries experiencing turbulence — whether the turbulence results from a leader clenching on to power at the country’s detriment or widespread corruption running aground. We have also seen cases of coups due to the high-handedness and excesses of those in power. For every country that has experienced a coup, there is a backstory of oppression, corruption, dictatorship, stagnancy, and the suffering of citizens.
Africa is not the only place in the world where coups have happened. But Africa is currently home to the highest number of countries with recent military coups and takeovers. When the rest of the world aims for advancement and development, Africa is battling recurrent news of military coups and takeovers. There is something fundamentally wrong on the continent. While it is not out of place to blame the role colonization — and its resultant mambo-jumbling of people of differing races, cultures, and approaches — played in the disruption of the continent, it is important to note that Africa is not the only home of former colonies. India has never for once experienced a military coup. That is not to say India is perfect, but India is growing, evolving and learning.
Military coups have registered themselves as the transitional bridge in African politics. The poor leadership, country-wrecking corruption, mass abuse of power and disregard for the rule of law, constitution, and citizens contribute massively to the military’s self-justification of military coups in these African countries. Ironically, the military that has often positioned itself as the restorer of law and order and the savior of the people is also notorious for committing the same or far worse offenses and abuse of power during their regimes. In West Africa, countries like Nigeria, Ghana, and Togo experienced their first military coup less than 10 years after their independence. That speaks more to a fundamental problem or mentality that transcends political failure.
In Africa — especially with the recent military coups — there is more to it than military intervention. These coups and usurpation of power are beginning to look like the countries’ way of taking a stance devoid of the perceived cowardice of the deposed democratic leaders. There is a pattern to the military coups that have happened recently in Africa, as they have mostly been in countries that are former colonies of France.
Although it is being said that the days of colonization are far behind, there are indications of not-so-subtle neocolonialism by France within its former colonies, often aided by the French-state-backed elected leaders of those former colonies. In exchange for the pleasures of the French soil — akin to the resultant effect of the notorious model of assimilation and association — the leaders of these Francophone African states curry for the grace and favor of the French state, at the detriment of their countries and citizens.
There is also the hefty price for independence tied to the ridiculous agreements the French state has reached with its former colonies, including the enormous amount remitted to France annually for the use of the Francs CFA, the widespread exploitation of Nigeriens through mining done by French-state-backed Orano’s Somair, and the over-dependence of resources-rich Francophone African states on France are some reasons for these patterned military takeovers that have happened recently.
There is no denying that when the people are pushed to the wall, they would be left with no choice but to push back. This has been the case in Gabon, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Guinea. At this point, there is the need for introspection: are the African states that never experienced a coup better off? What systems of government do those states practice? Do they have a history of colonization? Are they multi-ethnic countries? How big are they by population? When we juxtapose the troubled countries with the ones that never had any coup using these metrics, we will then begin to see a clear path toward understanding the biggest root causes of military coups in Africa and whether they have been beneficial, and perhaps understanding the best way out.
Since the recent coups, there have been grand attempts by regional blocs like ECOWAS to resolve the issue, including opting to use a strong tone and attempting to strong-arm the putschists in Niger into returning power to the usurped president of the country. However, if historical antecedents are anything to go by, strong-arming the putschists is not the way to go, and opting for a full-blown-war or military operation can only result in a victory with two downsides: the emergence of rebels in the state or civilians becoming the victims in a case where the military intervention blows out of proportion. In both cases, the result does not spell good for the average citizen of the countries where the governments have been overthrown. What then needs to be addressed?
There is a need to address the root causes of these military coups, rechristened as interventions in African states. There is a need for holistic approaches that will result in proactive measures to mitigate the issues and usher Africa into a new era of evolution and growth that will banish military coups and regimes as relics of history.
At the Toyin Falola Interviews, our next panel session will focus on coups in Africa, drawing on the expertise of analysts invited from African states. King/Prof. Fuankem Achankeng, Col. (Rtd) Festus Aboagye, Dr. Omotola Ilesanmi, Prof. Vladimir Antwi-Danso, and Prof. Biodun Ogundayo will be sharing insights and expanding on the root causes of coups in Africa, how the coups tie back to geopolitics, the legitimacies of these coups, and resource management at a time like this. Furthermore, there will be a focus on discussing the true and systemic way out of the myriad of coup-inciting problems within countries on the African continent. Join us on Sunday, September 24, as our panelists discuss this time-sensitive and vital topic.
Sunday, September 24, 2023
Mauritius and Seychelles Time (UTC/GMT+4): 8 PM
East Africa Time (UTC/GMT+3): 7 PM
Central Africa Time (UTC/GMT+2): 6 PM
West Africa Time (UTC/GMT+1): 5 PM
Greenwich Mean Time (UTC/GMT): 4 PM
Cape Verde Time (UTC-1): 3 PM
Austin, Texas (CST): 11 AM
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How To Stop Military Coups In Africa – Bolaji Akinyemi
A former External Affairs Minister , Prof.Bolaji Akinyemi , has proffered an antidote to the rising spate of military coups in Africa.
Prof. Akinyemi who was a minister in the government of former Military President Ibrahim Babangida spoke against the background of a military coup that has removed a democratic government in Niger Republic.
Military coups which were a regular occurrence in Africa in the decades after independence have become resurgent recently.
The takeover in Niger, led by soldiers belonging to the presidential guard, is just the latest in a string of coups that have taken place in recent years.
There were two in Burkina Faso in 2022 as well as failed coup attempts in Guinea Bissau, The Gambia and the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe.
In 2021, there were six coup attempts in Africa, four of them successful.
Akinyemi said during a session of the Prof.Toyin Falola Interviews on Sunday that there should be a charter on democracy that would be binding on members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). He said that such a charter should be endorsed by the African Union and even the United Nations.
Akinyemi said that such a charter had become necessary because democracies are not only truncated in Africa by military coups. According to him, democracies are also truncated through civilian coups. This entails elected presidents changing their nations’ constitutions in order to get more tenures beyond the terms as stipulated in their constitutions.
He explained that ECOWAS leaders are opposed to the military coup in Niger as a way of protecting their own democracies.
But he condemned a development that he referred to as the ethnicisation of foreign policy. He referred to the opposition by a region of Nigeria to the plan of President Bola Tinubu to deploy the military in Niger in order to return to democracy. He said such ethnic and religious considerations in deciding foreign policies were non-existent in the past. He said this was why he supported the then Nigerian government’s decisions as regards military interventions in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The interviewers who included Prof. Jide Osuntokun, Bishop Matthew Kukah, Ambassador Godknows Igali, Ambassador Jaiyeola Joseph Lewu and Prof.Richard Joseph asked Prof.Akinyemi questions about his family background, the university system, his career and national and international developments.
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