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The Power Of Oral Tradition: Oba Kiladejo On The Role Of Women In Ondo History

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The Power Of Oral Tradition:  Oba Kiladejo On The Role Of Women In Ondo History

THE  TOYIN FALOLA INTERVIEWS

A Conversation With His Imperial Majesty, Oba (Dr.) V.A. Kiladejo, Part 3 

By

Toyin Falola

 Introduction

As always, the Toyin Falola Interviews is a forum for intellectual debate and conversation on issues concerning African society and worldview. This intellectual debate was brought to the Ondo Kingdom in a three-hour-and-thirty-minutes interview that revealed a wealth of information on the history of the Ondo Kingdom, its culture, tradition, and the importance of women in its society. The interviewee and special guest, Oba Dr. Victor Kiladejo, and the interviewers, Professor Omotayo Oloruntoba-Oju, Professor Nuhu Yaqub, and Dr. Gboyega Ajayi, made the session a highly noteworthy one.

His Imperial Majesty, Oba Kiladejo, was appointed the 44th traditional ruler of the Ondo Kingdom in Nigeria on December 1, 2006, and was ceremonially crowned king on December 29, 2008. He is the eldest of twenty-two children born to Prince Gbadebo Adedoyin Kiladejo, the Edilokun of the Okuta Ruling House in Ondo City. Oba Kiladejo graduated from the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, with a B.Sc. in Health Sciences, a Bachelor of Medicine, and a Bachelor of Surgery. Subsequently, he went to the University of Liverpool to study Reproductive Health. After completing his National Youth Service Corps program, he started working for the Ondo State Health Management Board, eventually rising to the position of Medical Director. He left to start the Kiladejo Hospitals Group in Ikere Ekiti, then expanded into other businesses. For the past fifteen years, he has reigned as the king of the Ondo Kingdom and has immeasurably contributed to the state’s healthcare and economic growth.

  Matriarchy and the Origin of Ondo Tradition

Though there are numerous tales of how the Ondo Kingdom came to be, His Imperial Majesty, Dr. Kiladejo, answered Professor Oloruntoba-Oju’s question about the kingdom’s connection to Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba race. I will not interrupt the flow of the stories. According to the king:

There are diverse accounts of the origin of the Ondo Kingdom. One thing is, however, clear. All narratives link the origin of the Ondo Kingdom to the matriarchal monarch. Oba Pupupu, a female, was the first Osemawe and the only female paramount ruler. When it comes to the unique position of Ondo women in the society, this historical element of creation is instantly apparent. For the first time in the history of Yorubaland, the rulership of the Ondo kingdom was linked to a woman. This made the kingdom stand out in terms of dynasty formation. The Osemawe dynasty ruling in the Ondo Kingdom was not founded by a hunter or a warrior, not even a prince, as it happened in many settlements of Yorubaland. This circumstance and other developments created an impact on the place of women in the kingdom. In Ondo history and till the present day, women have held sensitive positions in the administration of the state, and they have significantly contributed to the development of the society.

READ ALSO: Oba Dr. Victor Adesimbo Kiladejo: Kings In History And Modern Democracy

The king continues: Many centuries ago, Oduduwa’s favorite wife, Olu, gave birth to a set of twins, a boy and a girl, and thus the Ondo kingdom was born. This was considered an abomination, which made the Oduduwa utter “esemare” (which means “these are abnormal children”). “Osemawe,” the royal title of the Ondo kingdom kinship, was born from this contraction. But because Olu was Oduduwa’s favorite wife, her life and those of her children were spared. Before they left, Oduduwa inscribed two ethnic marks on each twin’s cheeks to identify them. They were then given a beaded crown as a symbol of royalty and sent out of the palace with an entourage of chiefs, servants, warriors, and medical practitioners, all of whom were headed by a hunter named Ija. Akunara and Shora, two powerful chiefs, also accompanied Ija. They went around till they got to Igbo Ijama, where they could relax. The group remained at the location for some time before departing for Epe. At Epe, they were welcomed with open arms, and they lived there for many years.

However after some years, they consulted the Ifa oracle about the following steps to take in their settlement journey. The oracle instructed the group to set forth and bring a yam stick (edo). They were to poke this yam stick into the ground as they travelled and settle anywhere the stick could not enter the ground. Eventually, they arrived at a particular place where they inserted the yam stick into the earth, and it did not enter. They exclaimed, “Edo du do!” (“the yam did not enter the soil”), and thus, they named the place Ode Ondo. When the migrants arrived in this land, they encountered the Oka, Ifore, and Udoko, who were the original inhabitants. The Udoko people put up a fight, but they were eventually defeated. As a result of the migrants’ perceived bravery, the locals swiftly surrounded them. This means that the Osemawe’s reign of kingship began when the migrants arrived in Ondo, and the indigenous people began to adopt their culture. Thus, Pupupu, the female twin, became the first Osemawe of Ondo.

The female monarch had her council of chiefs and ruled until power was transferred to someone else. The innate feminine traits and attitude of Oba Pupupu, especially her love of domestic chores, was so evident that she could not keep it in check even when deliberating on important state issues. For instance, she prioritized her interest in poultry above the affairs of the state.  After a consensus was reached, the chiefs decided that Oba Pupupu be replaced by her son, Airo (meaning replacement) and that women could no longer become the paramount ruler of the kingdom. However, the king’s mother was asked to settle in another community, and she was given the title, “L’Obun.” Men become kings and women the L’Obun. This incident became a sole factor in the transition from a matriarchal monarch to a patriarchal one.

Nonetheless, this move to a patriarchal monarchy resulted in the female occupying a new position in society. A princess from Oba Pupupu’s lineage becomes the L’Obun of Ondo Kingdom, while a prince from Oba Pupupu’s bloodline becomes the Osemawe. With the introduction of the L’Obun’s title, women became the economic leaders in society. In other words, the L’Obun did not only act concerning economic and marketing issues; she was also like a female king with her chiefs and council, just like the Osemawe. The L’Obun was also tasked with the proclamation of the newly installed Osemawe. However, the L’Obun had a certain level of designation, and she was in charge of the settlement of issues amongst women.

 

Women’s New Roles in Ondo Town   

Women are both mothers and real-life kingdom builders. The presence of a powerful chief, even a king, must be accompanied by the presence of his wife (wives, if more than one). In society, women take on the role of home builders and are responsible for instilling ethical values and discipline in their children. Women also take on the role of the nascent kingdom’s metaphorical mother. They are vital to community development.

READ ALSO: Kabiyesi Alayeluwa, Dr. Victor Adesimbo Kiladejo: The Exceptional King Of Ondo Kingdom

The Osemawe explained the social and cultural significance of women in society. Women were given a special status, and in reality, they wielded tremendous power. The L’Obun, a female-only position founded following Pupupu’s rule, could mobilize women to make demands. As a result, women affected the kingdom’s decision-making and acted as a pressure group. The ability to influence decisions and determine the kingdom’s politics was bolstered by the role of women. Tagba, for example, used her position to sway the king’s and his council’s decisions. She was said to have exercised so much influence that she was able to free Ondo from the Benin Empire.

Also, women had significant responsibilities in installing a new chief and king in the Ondo Kingdom. The L’Obun performs the function of kingmaking by removing the beads from her neck and wearing it on the king’s neck. This becomes a symbolism of the mother-son transfer of power traceable to Oba Pupupu and her son, Airo. However, after the installation, the L’Obun is expected to leave the town and never to set eye on the king again. In the case of Oba Adesimbo Kiladejo, his L’Obun died days after his installation. During the installation rites, the chief or the king must have the ogbegba (the calabash carrier) present. The rites would not be complete without the presence of the ogbegba, who is usually the most senior (if there are more than one) wife of the person involved. This aspect of the installation focused on the role of women in society.

Ondo’s civilization was distinct in that it assigned specific roles to women, and as a result, women were powerful in all aspects of life in the kingdom.

 Women and the Economy 

Women were also granted influence over society’s economies. By establishing the office of the L’Obun and appointing a woman as the head, the economic power of Ondo was subsequently placed in the hands of women. The L’Obun was the women leader and also the market leader. Women became active participants in establishing the Ondo kingdom in the genuine sense, though they obeyed the king. In other words, the L’Obun gained definitive authority over the kingdom’s economic activity. She had to give her permission before a new market could be constructed in any section of the kingdom, and she had to perform cleansing ceremonies for all markets to prosper. Since most of the markets were in rural locations, the L’Obun appeared to have some control over agricultural practices. She could authorize some commodities for sale.

Unlike many other towns in Yorubaland, women’s participation in agriculture increased significantly. In 1875, an Ondo Catechist, Charles N. Young, reported that farming was more prevalent among Ondo women than many other parts of the Yorubaland. 

From the statement, it is clear that women did not only assist their husbands on the farms; they also owned farms. They had the right to plant vegetables in the ridges of yam heaps on farms, and they were entitled to a share of the profits. In turn, they contributed to the advancement of society. Women also became the followers of Aje (the wealth goddess) and the organizers of the markets in the kingdom. As a result, women in Ondo society were placed in a delicate position. In reality, these women’s economic activities influenced the lives of inhabitants and, in turn, the history of the Ondo Kingdom.

 Religious Importance

Despite the well-organized patriarchy in the society, the roles played by women in religious activities influenced social interactions and left indelible marks on the community. In the Ondo Kingdom, the L’Obun was the priestess of the kingdom, performing various religious rites. Her function also bolstered her status as the chief priestess of Aje, the goddess of reproduction, wealth, and fertility. The inhabitants of Ondo were acutely aware of Aje’s importance in the destiny of the kingdom through reproduction and fertility. As a result, it was critical to worship and appease the goddess every year, which was usually done in November during the Aje festival. Two primary groups were actively involved in the Aje festival—first, the Ondo women, and then the Idoko priest-chiefs, one of Ondo’s autonomous groupings. It is worth noting that a successful observance of this festival was believed to bring a good year for the monarchy. Therefore, it was critical for women to actively participate in the Aje goddess’s propitiation for the community to remain peaceful and prosperous.

In addition, the L’Obun played an essential role in the Odun Moko, a ceremony that prohibited women from public activities. During this time, the priests in the kingdom would display powerful charms and magic. The risk of a woman dying or becoming barren if these priests looked at her during the festival justified the reverence for the day. However, because of the role she played on this day, the L’Obun was the only female allowed to walk freely. She would pray for the town’s prosperity and fertility, as well as bless the women. This L’Obun’s duty emphasizes the importance of women in reproduction, wealth, and fertility.

           Finally, the role of women in Ondo history and society is unique in the development of the kingdom. Women occupied an important position in society and were in charge of the economic sphere. The significance of women in the creation and development of Ode-Ondo cannot be overstated. Till today, women continue to play significant roles in the Ondo Kingdom, taking on essential responsibilities that have contributed to the growth and development of society.

 

 

 

 

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Interview

Alaafin Adeyemi III: The Throne Of Numerous Authorities

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Alaafin Adeyemi III: The Throne Of Numerous Authorities
Prof. Toyin Falola

Alaafin Adeyemi III: The Throne Of Numerous Authorities

THE  TOYIN FALOLA INTERVIEWS

A CONVERSATION WITH OBA LAMIDI ADEYEMI III, PART 1 

By

Toyin Falola

 Ikú Bàbá Yèyé

 Royal positions in Africa, especially in the pre-colonial time, were not necessarily because the beneficiaries of such exalted hierarchy inherited it by birth. Of course, being born into a royal family places one within the circumference of the possibility of becoming a king, but more important are the virtues and the strength of the individual’s character.  Africans understood what bad leadership could mean for the survival of a people, a household, identity, or even a family. Because of the natural aversion to leadership unvirility or inefficiency, the ascension of an unprogressive individual into the Yoruba kingship stands an odd of zero to ten. This was inevitably so because the position of leadership is reserved not for loafers and myopic individuals who hardly see beyond the boundaries of their nose; instead, it was meant for people who had vision and clarity of purpose, especially when it comes to what they intend to add during their reign. For this reason, the philosophical brilliance of the potential king cannot be undermined in the selection process for various reasons. His emotional intelligence is a necessary precondition too, and his sound and prescient knowledge of economics are fundamental.

While it may appear that the selection of kings in Yorubaland, particularly during the heyday of African pre-colonialism, was partly based on the people’s consultation of Ifa, it should be noted that whoever was indeed selected by the system possessed great qualities expected of progressive leaders, and their reign would have enough positive and desirable impact on the cultural traditions of the people. Ultimately, this would translate to the economic prosperity of their lives, improved financial conditions of the state, more robust moral architecture of the community, and their reign would be marked by incredible success. This tradition has existed from time immemorial among the Yoruba people and continues in places where they have not circumvented the process for some financial advantage. In Oyo, the tradition continues even up to the present postcolonial time. The ascension of Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi in 1970 marked a turning point in the leadership of the ancestral city-state of Oyo that was historically known for different exploits. Oba Adeyemi III has been very diplomatic and circumspect for different reasons. His reign deserves all the accolades it attracts because his outstanding contributions cannot be overemphasized.

To appreciate the significance of his roles and responsibilities, one must first understand what leadership meant to his forebears and what it means now. To his forefathers who single-handedly controlled the economic and political system of an empire, the concept of Western democracy where parallel governance over the subject would be alien, if not vehemently oppressed, for the period of their dominance saw strength as the ability to repel oppositions that threaten the sovereignty of their country and state. Kings felt personally incapable when their kingdom was overrun by invaders who came on the platform of friendship, although with the intention of a parasitic relationship. For this reason, they would expend their energy on challenging such colonial development in their time.

However, change is constant, and as the world evolves, it would be discovered that the sign of strength is not always the ability to crush oppositions and dissidents who express an alternative perspective. Instead, strength is the ability to contain various contradictory positions in the navigation of human physical and political existence, at least in the contemporary understanding. Oba Adeyemi has demonstrated this sense of tranquility and shown that he can live in tandem with the dictates of contemporary time. After all, change is the only constant thing, and he moves with time.

The profile of the current Alaafin of Oyo speaks to this sense of tolerance because there are hardly any instances where he mobilized his subjects to challenge the colonialist establishments that have come to challenge the importance of their suzerainty. This is applaudable, for example, because not only do traditional rulers, especially in the Yorubaland, still wield power to control the affairs of the community over which they preside, they also reserve the right to instigate atrocities that could crumble the social architecture of their sovereignty if they feel threatened. The Alaafin’s position is respectably different for reasons that are not unconnected to the fact of history, which his genealogical power confers on him. For the record, anyone in the Alaafin’s position sits on the throne of numerous authorities who have consolidated their political power and left great legacies in terms of what they accomplished during their reign. We would recall that the historical empire of Oyo attributed to the Yoruba people was created and sustained under the leadership of departed Alaafins, who made aggressive changes that improved the condition of the people.

Photo: Alaafin Palace, Oyo
Source: Pinterest

 

As it stands, sitting on that stool of power in a time when colonialism has changed the reality of the people can erupt different internal reactions of the king for different reasons. At some point, they may be overtaken by a sudden desire to wrestle the establishment that has forcefully taken away their political power from them, while at some other time, they would be sandwiched between despair and fear. This is the other reason that complicates traditional leadership among nearly all ex-colonies. For this king, however, he has impressively managed the situation greatly and incredibly well. Instead of basking in the euphoria of past glory or withdrawing himself from the world of the present time, Oba Adeyemi has been exceptionally outstanding in his efforts towards the unification of the Yoruba people both at home and in the diaspora to solidify the ancestral relationship that bonded the Yoruba people together. He has demonstrated that even though the political dimensions of the contemporary postcolonial time have changed the structure to favor individuals who, in most cases, have no business with administration or leadership, they still have the mandate to unify their race.

Presently, the Alaafin of Oyo has revolutionized the Yoruba world by standing up to challenge political machinations that seek to impede the progress of the race. He has also refined their political system in such a way that distributive democracy becomes a political order. There are more royal heads in the contemporary time than it was in history, a development that cannot be detached from the manipulations of Western political structures available in modern history, and this has not precluded the Alaafin’s responsibility to ensure that they maintain some decorum in an attempt to promote a common agenda of progress that would catapult the Yoruba people to an enviable position of greatness. Achieving such incredible success has come with a series of challenges and castigations from individuals who are either uncomfortable with the existing political structure of the people or those who are jealous of his expansion. This notwithstanding, the king has fulfilled his destiny as he has continued to glow irrespective of the political party in power. He has served important purposes for the people because he accommodates opinions considered necessary for the advancement of the Yoruba, even when people disagree over historical matters.

READ ALSO: Akinlawon Ladipo Mabogunje At 90: A Measure of Grace Indeed

Oba Adeyemi was born into the Alowolodu Royal House to Oba Raji Adeniran Adeyemi, his father, who ascended the throne in 1945. His great-grandfather, Oba Atiba Atobatele, was the originator of the new Oyo who redefined its political system and set in motion various ideas that transformed the place exponentially. Under the guidance of extended family members, Oba Adeyemi was raised to the satisfaction of the existing cultural traditions because he was educated about several things that have to do with the people’s history. At the time, the western education system was already in place, and it was necessary for potential leaders to be educated so that they could incorporate the ideas and systems that align with the world imperialized by the Western powers into their knowledge. Beyond western education, however, the prospective king was treated to the historical knowledge of the traditional educators who baptized his mind with the memory of events carried out by his forebears from the beginning to the present.

In what would not be understood by non-members of such cultural identity, the education system was aimed at building members of the society in every aspect. So, when one realizes that Alaafin Adeyemi has been exceptionally functional in the political organization of his people and his ancestral suzerainty, such motivation was genetic as much as history has taught us.

As laid bare to people in the pre-colonial African time, the knowledge of history served a different but exciting purpose. For one, it gives the individual the clarity of achievement made by his predecessors and allows them to resolve what would be their contributions to what has already been achieved. This was the system by which the people continued to transform themselves to enhance their success and collective progress. When individuals are aware of the immeasurable contributions of their predecessors, they become conscious of what they should do and not do in an attempt to move that record a bit forward for the succeeding generations over whom they would hand the legacy. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Oba Adeyemi’s various efforts to bring about unity and oneness to the Yoruba are an indication that he desires to leave behind a shining and immortal legacy.

 

Alaafin Adeyemi III: The Throne Of Numerous Authorities

Photo: Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III
Source: City People Online

But then, the responsibility placed on him because of the colonial and postcolonial politics has been compelling, as he needed to make remarkable contributions. He has seized the opportunity to expand his leadership significance and establish numerous links for himself as a king in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. For example, upon his coronation in 1970, he was involved in several national politics that inevitably demanded his social significance and the need to rise to issues of communal significance. For example, Oba Adeyemi was very active in 1975 when the head of state, General Murtala Ramat Muhammed, included him in his entourage to Hajj. The Alaafin was considered a selfless king who did not allow his flair for cultural traditions to overshadow the need for diplomacy, which allowed other religions to thrive under him without unnecessary struggles. He was raised a Muslim, and his love for the religion did not diminish because he ascended his ancestral throne. This attribute promoted his social and political significance in the nation’s politics. The moment he was seen as de-tribalized, he was elected to function in different areas in the country’s politics.

Regardless of his unavoidable involvement in the country’s political engagements imposed on him because of his cultural and identity significance, Oba Adeyemi III remains committed to the course of his ancestral politics that concerns the well-being of the Yoruba people before any other thing. Whenever the welfare of his people is threatened, the king stands firm to defend them and speaks  fearlessly to the concerned authority with whom lies the political responsibility of Nigerians. In recent times, when different groups are challenging the country’s security apparatus, the king has continued to charge the federal government for the need to come alive to their statutory responsibilities, lending his voice to issues of national impact. He has written to the Nigerian president several times to register his displeasure about how things are done. This is not because he is interested in scoring cheap political points in the country but because he understands that the importance of his leadership in the race is to ensure that disorderliness does not replace orderliness.

Oba Adeyemi is fully aware that on the shoulders of every Yoruba ruler is a burden that they can hardly bear, especially when things go wrong in society. The reason for this is very understandable. In the existing political structures of the people, there is a power hierarchy that puts kings at the zenith of social responsibilities. They are whom people go to immediately anything goes wrong within the community. This is predicated upon a belief that social development and progress have something to do with the leadership in office, and this has nothing to do with the Western political system imposed in colonial and postcolonial times. It is about the spiritual complementarity, or not, of the person in power. It is generally assumed among the Yoruba that once a leader is spiritually unsuitable for the people, there will be a chaos of unknown magnitude and disorderliness of unprecedented exponent. Therefore, to become a representative king is to actively engage the various networks associated with the assurance of stability needed to crystallize projected development as envisaged by the people. Also, the individuals who occupy the seat of power in Oyo and some other primordial city-states like Ile-Ife, Ila, Ede, among others, are considered as the pillars of the Yoruba, and would always stand to oppose predatory pressure from the outside, even if it means sticking their necks out.

The life of Oba Adeyemi III is not one without corresponding ups and downs. In fact, for people of his political and cultural position, as far as nationalist politics is concerned, it is more of the norm than coincidence that they find themselves surrounded by issues that can potentially expose them to controversy. This is necessary because their positions come with a commitment, which, in most cases, require that they take decisions or make choices that would not go well with everyone in the society. Of course, that is the beauty of the plurality of ideas and perspectives. One such occasion happened in the post-election period of 2011, where Oba Adeyemi III was relieved from serving as the Permanent Chairman of the Council of Obas and Chiefs in Oyo State by the then governor of the State, Adebayo Alao-Akala, who alleged that the king had involved himself in partisan politics, as against the moral duty of his leadership role. A king must be neutral in matters of politics, the governor lamented, and in situations where they refuse to live up to this moral standard, they would most likely bear the consequences of their actions. For reasons best known to the Oba, he had engaged in the political process and, therefore, faced the challenges that came with it.

READ ALSO: Molefi Asante: On Reimagining Africa And Africans

Meanwhile, the king, outside of his political engagement and impact, is lively, lovely and warm. He indulges in things that give happiness and fulfillment to him while he allows himself that opportunity to revitalize his dreams. Like a child graduating to adolescence, he picked interest in boxing as a sport, and he did not allow the myriad of responsibilities that his royal office comes with to overshadow that interest. In equal measure, he pays great attention to issues around his recreational activities while simultaneously attending to political affairs that concern his people. Undoubtedly, the king has a beautiful heart that accommodates plural identities and opinions because he has learned from experience that a society full of diverse people cannot be prevented in a world where migration, transnational exchange of goods and services, cross-border movements, among others, have become inevitable. For this reason, Oba Adeyemi III remains very functional to his traditional roles and the political duties that modern society has brought. This explains why he continues to remain relevant in the political transactions of the country.

Despite all his engagements, the king is a loving father and a great husband to his wives. He inherited a tradition that allowed him to marry as many wives as he wants. He is yet to equal his father’s record! Someone who cannot manage diverse opinions and is emotionally unstable to cater to the numerous challenges of polygamy cannot dare such a marital adventure. Someone who succeeds in managing the affairs of a polygamous family structure is usually respected because he has undergone a series of events that could capsize his financial, social, emotional, and even spiritual journey in life. This is why individuals like Oba Adeyemi III are socially respected for the strides they have made with their lives.

Oba Adeyemi III is a mixture of excellence and competence, an epitome of brilliance and intelligence, a combination of visionary leadership and purposeful technocrat. He has committed himself to the cause of the Yoruba people while simultaneously contributing to the country’s affairs within his capacity. He is brave, and he continues to demonstrate his capacity for instigating revolutionary ideas, which explains why his popularity spans beyond the boundaries of Nigeria. He is respected both at home and away, and the number of diaspora Yoruba hold him in high esteem for the wondrous things he is doing to change the course of the Yoruba people globally for good. There are many kings in Africa, but the truth remains that not many of them have reached the exalted position associated with their traditional positions. And though political power has shifted to Western political representation, this does not negate the significance of traditional rulers. Kings have more power than the country’s political elite because they have easier access to the people.

Alaafin Adeyemi III: The Throne Of Numerous Authorities

Photo: Interior view of Alaafin Palace
Source: North of Lagos

Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Atanda Adeyemi III, the reigning Alaafin of Oyo, belongs to a select group of notable Obas who have transformed their societies through ideas and philosophies while also creating an environment conducive to the advancement the people seek.

Please join us for a conversation with the Iku Baba Yeye, Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

5:00 PM Nigeria

4:00 PM GMT

11:00 AM Austin CST

Register and Watch:

https://www.tfinterviews.com/post/oba-adeyemi

Join via Zoom:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81744516490

Watch on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/tfinterviews/live

Watch on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2lvX7A2iVndiCq0NfFcb0w/live

 

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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Interview

Alao Adedayo: Journalism For The Promotion Of Yoruba Language And Culture

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Alaafin Adeyemi III: The Throne Of Numerous Authorities

Alao Adedayo: Journalism For The Promotion Of Yoruba Language And Culture

THE  TOYIN FALOLA INTERVIEWS

A CONVERSATION WITH ALAO ADEDAYO, PART 1

 By

Toyin Falola

This month, The Yoruba Studies Association of Nigeria will be marking its 50th anniversary. It is a remarkable moment for the association, those who developed the foresight to make it grow over the years, and the enthusiasm of its current members. The Toyin Falola Interviews is glad to be part of this anniversary. As part of our contribution, we devote the interview on Sunday, October 17, to an extensive conversation on promoting Yoruba languages and cultures. The prominent editors of Yoruba Studies Review, Professor Arinpe Adejumo of the University of Ibadan and Professor Tunde Akinyemi of the University of Florida, as well as the accomplished writer, poet and translator, Professor Akinloye Ojo, will interview Alao Adedayo, the brain behind the leading Yoruba newspaper and television station, Alaroye.

Every ex-colony faces one horrible challenge: the survival of its cultural identity, and this situation is more aggravated by the scarcity, if not absence, of individuals who are interested in lending a hand of rescue to this identity. This condition is usually occasioned because people have weak foundations of their cultural traditions in an environment where colonial values are placed above their indigenous ones. The preservation of ex-colonized people’s identity would not have experienced such arduous problems provided that they have individuals who would drive their heritages into the subconscious of the forthcoming or younger generations.

However, the problems persist because those who know their past are first ostracized from serving as socialization agents to the younger ones by creating an alarmist narrative, so much that they are devoid of the requisite knowledge and understanding to transform the lives of their people following the dictates of contemporary development. When this is practised repeatedly, the people’s cultures suffer abandonment, and their identity is suppressed gradually and furtively. In all these uncomfortable conditions, it takes only the courageous ones to stand up and then stand out in their rescue strategy to save their identity from potential damnation.

READ ALSO: Ali A. Mazrui, Abdulrazak Gurnah And The Swahili Moment

In the case of the Yoruba culture, Mr. Alao Adedayo is one of the illustrious sons of the Yoruba people who decided to face-save his ancestral identity by establishing a newspaper business that would project the aspirations of the people, their challenges, and also make known the different philosophical ideas that are etched in their language. The vibrant young man trained as a journalist and immediately became a significant figure in the Nigerian journalism industry. He began his news reportage sojourn in the printing form at about 1985, when he was barely 25 years old. This means that he had a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve, and he did not give in to distractions that could swerve him away from the lofty dream of being an instrument of change for the cultural traditions of his people. Establishing a journalism firm in an indigenous language in a postcolonial environment is like staging a powerful protest that does not enjoy enough patronage by the people. This is because even when the government of the ex-colonies does not mandate anyone to use or discard a particular language as the language of their business, the realization that people craved for their imperialist’s language could pressure indigenous languages out of vogue.

Alao Adedayo: Journalism For The Promotion Of Yoruba Language And Culture

Ifa Work
Source: Daily Advent Nigeria

Therefore, the emergence of the Alaroye Newspaper served different purposes to preserve the Yoruba identity in a world constantly evolving into what supported imperialist establishment than others. Meanwhile, the preservation of the culture was necessary for different reasons. There is a consensus that many ex-colonies have beautiful cultural traditions and history that are worth looking into only if the people would have a marvellous compass and goodwill to embark on such a journey. Consequently, it would be discovered that a people’s power lies in their cultural traditions because they are not only disposed to seeing the world from that perspective, they also draw a large part of their moral and spiritual philosophies from the template of their indigenous structures, which were bequeathed to them by their ancestors and past generations. When the people’s language now becomes entirely strange to them because it is neither used as an instrument of education nor employed in the execution of commercial engagements, they would express ideas that are not grounded in their indigenous epistemology. For that reason, they would not be expressing themselves in whatever engagement they have but would be projecting a different cultural agenda. Mr. Adedayo is against such an end, and he decided to fight it with his Alaroye newspaper industry.

The promotion of news in an indigenous language seeks to achieve something outstanding and marvellous, and that is the idea that it would have a broader readership. Many people with their cultural knowledge do not need an extensive educational background to understand the orthographical system of their language. Because they have residual knowledge of their cultural traditions, they flow effortlessly when it comes to sharing or consuming information that is relayed in their indigenous language. For this reason, more people are involved in the dissemination of information that concerns their people. And under this reality, more people become very powerful in deciding the political and economic process of their environment. This means that the empowerment that indigenous language usage brings cannot be undermined, making the people who use it more powerful than can be readily explained. This explains why the Alaroye has been a massive success since its foundation in 1996 to contemporary time. More than it could be thought of, promoting the Yoruba language through a newspaper industry has helped win more people’s attention in issues associated with their sociopolitical state.

In addition to this, a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria needs a constant reminder of their diverse cultural traditions, which can only be guaranteed by outlets that project their heritages only in the way they have done by the Alaroye newspaper industry. We should be informed that even in academics, there is a need to redirect the people’s interest towards a line of research. In the case of the Alaroye, the exploration of the Yoruba language and their culture attracts potential researchers into knowing more about the traditions. Through the rendition of cultural practice in their columns, interested persons would want to dig more about their cultural identity, which would always bring numerous economic benefits to the people whose culture is explored. The fact that the newspaper industry uses the Yoruba language as its instrument of communication increases its cross-border significance because individuals in the diaspora community derive a measure of pride when they come across their language and culture being preserved and packaged into something ethereal. In essence, no one needs additional information about an identity of a newspaper outlet that projects the language of the people.

READ ALSO: Molefi Asante: The Lion Who Refused To Buy The Hunters’ Stories About The Forest

More importantly, the Alaroye has been very informative. Apart from the educative purposes that it serves among the people, this indigenous newspaper forum has helped to paint messages in a tangible and creative form. No one can deny that an alien language cannot fully represent a sociocultural experience the same way their indigenous language will. In essence, the idea of relaying the people’s day-to-day experiences in their mother tongue helps to drive home the necessary points that need to be made in some instances. One needs no soothsayer to predict that the people would massively receive such a newspaper outlet. It is apparent that they relate to it more than they would relate to journalism that ostracizes their cultural experiences through language use. Some issues and matters are understood only by people who share similar cultural experiences with the language of instruction, which non-members of the identity cannot correctly understand. Because of their strangeness to outsiders, they would not be adequately depicted in the language that is not indigenous to it and would, therefore, potentially lose interest in them. But for such an opportunity that Alaroye has provided, such news gets aired to people in their preferred language.

Alao Adedayo: Journalism For The Promotion Of Yoruba Language And Culture

Photo: Iyere (Piper guineese)
Source: Keepklen

 

Alao Adedayo is the brain behind the evolution of Nigerian journalism that centers on indigenous language use. Through the persistence of his dream, he has expanded the frontiers of journalism to encourage others who share a similar ambition. In essence, he can be seen as a courageous fighter and a fantastic person with uncommon foresight. The rise of the indigenous newspaper industry, which he championed, experienced a series of challenges that toppled and consolidated the conclusion that he was ready to withstand every temptation that came his way. For a project that he began in 1996 and which suffered immediate downfall, Alao’s rejuvenation of such a project attests to his commitment and determination to make his presence known in that domain. Although it would appear that he was dedicated to such ambition so that he would achieve personal success, it is essential to emphasize the fact that some dreams, while they appear to grace the dream of the dreamer with success, also help in the transformation of a people or social group. Such is the case with Mr. Adedayo’s Alaroye newspaper. Obviously, it is evidence of success for the pursuant of the dream because it has expanded widely and extraordinarily. In the same vein, it remains a shining success for the Yoruba people because it represents them and projects their culture beyond the shores of their cultural geography.

Even when the newspaper industry overshadows many other significant feats associated with this outstanding individual, it cannot eclipse them generally from relevance because they also speak for themselves. One of the most significant additions to Alao’s journalism career is that he is also a writer. Although it would appear that being a journalist draws one close to being a writer, it cannot be overemphasized that not all journalists understand the art of creative writing. This is because writing requires creativity and organization that supersedes what can be found in journalism. For this reason, it takes an extra amount of creativity and zeal to become an author. Despite the challenges involved, Alao also falls within the category of Nigerian authors because he has written a couple of books. In one of his books, Ọrọ Kan, Owe Kan, which loosely translates to “One Word, One Proverb,” the cultural particularity of the Yoruba people is explored. From the book, one discovers that Yoruba people freely use aphorism in their conversations. It is so because they have a moral and linguistic purpose for using their expressions in such ways. Elders in conversation employ proverbs because they assume that they have more knowledge and experience at their disposal, which they share with the younger ones at every conversational possibility.

Ọrọ Kan, Owe Kan educates the readers about the importance of moral fabrics in society and establishes the position of every individual in the development and evolution of their people. It is apparent that the proverbs employed in conversation situations are used for various reasons. One of them is to educate the audience about the moral architecture of the Yoruba society. To do this, the elders deploy different sayings to reinforce their argument about the need for a strong moral character. They encourage younger ones to be hardworking without having to spell it to them.

In most cases, the meanings of proverbs are left for the voyeuristic and exploitative interest of the listeners, who are expected to do some findings to associate what is being said in the context of the conversation. This is the foundation for the book’s title, Oro Kan, Owe Kan. Proverbs also tell history, and Yoruba elders do not undermine the place of history in the building or development of their civilization. This is usually because, through the knowledge of history, a younger generation would understand what has been done by their forebears and would thus be keen on building an additional legacy that would outlast them so that the succeeding generations would also find something vital to leverage and work on.

Another defining work of Adedayo is Ọmọ Yoruba Atata, a creative work that educates readers about the Yoruba. It is grounded in the philosophy of the people as it talks about the characteristics of anyone who shares that identity. Among many other things, it is established that Yoruba people value the philosophical concept of “Ọmọluabi,” where Ọmọluabi designates the term used to refer to individuals who are morally upright, emotionally intelligent, mentally stable and ideologically sound. Although such a concept helps construct individuals who would become important to themselves and their society, it does not indicate that not being an Omoluabi automatically extradites an individual from their Yoruba identity. However, what it does is that it places some form of dishonour on the individual because they have become a liability to their culture. Beyond the showcasing of Ọmọluabi as someone who is considered as Ọmọ Yoruba Atata (a good representative of the Yoruba identity), the book emphasizes how morality works in the construction of a collective identity that projects the carriers in good descriptions. It is worthy of reiteration that being a good referent of the Yoruba culture encapsulates being the ethical ambassador of the people in whatever position the individual finds themselves.

Alao Adedayo: Journalism For The Promotion Of Yoruba Language And Culture

Photo: Sango Festival
Source: OU Tour

 

While it appears that Alao helps in the preservation of Yoruba ancestral legacies in these works, he has also written books that indicate he is a conscience of his Yoruba identity, and this can be immediately spotted in his work, Yoruba, Nibo La n Lo? (“Yoruba, where are we going?”). This book serves as a self-reflection message for the people aware of the Yoruba people’s progress in history and contemporary times. It appears that looking at the history of the people, they were so advanced that they maintained a beautiful and unique trajectory for themselves before they came in contact with the European and Arabs who came for expansionist agenda. However, the situation became scarier as the colonial system of the imperialists was introduced to them. That period saw the underdevelopment of the Yoruba culture because not only did it experience deliberate putdown by the colonialists, but it also became stagnant because it was not promoted as it used to be. The situation abated with the acquisition of independence under the white administration, but the ugly incidence raised its head again as the neocolonialist structure overtook the terrain of their governance. This affected the Yoruba people a lot, putting a question mark on their trajectory of development. This is the issue that the writer seeks to address in this book, Yoruba, Nibo La N Lọ?

Having made all these accomplishments, it is indisputable that eminent personalities in Nigeria and beyond feel the impact of Mr. Adedayo and his revolutionary ideas. Because they are aware that he has a broader reach, there have been series of accolades and tributes that he has been accorded in recent history. And because news circulation to the grassroots has remained a powerful instrument in shaping people’s opinions, his newspaper became very active in the public court of justice by providing people with the necessary information they need to navigate their existence. Considering the role that his newspaper played in agitation for the unjust annulment of the 1993 presidential election, which came to the favor of Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, it dawned on the Nigerian government that the power of the news circulated by Alaroye is influential and imposing. The combination of the fact that a Yoruba man had been denied of his political mandate and that the military leadership trumped a democratic choice of the people worked in the fuel of the newspaper as it became widely received by an audience that appeared thirsty of whatever information shared in the medium.

The Alaroye newspaper continues to dominate the market, an indication that its management board are especially tactful, market-ready, and innovative because the survival of journalism in the country, especially in an era when increasing interest is shown to the English language more than other languages, sustaining the people’s interest requires a different level of creativity. Such creativity enables the newspaper to explore different areas of stories that activate the readers’ voyeuristic experiments. For example, the expansion of the Alaroye newspaper to give room for Iriri Aye Alaroye holds the people’s interest because it explores issues that happen around the world from which people can learn and then use the knowledge to navigate their own lives. This is not only the creativity introduced to the Alaroye newspaper. It is garnished with more entertainment news that makes people take the industry as their go-to source whenever they want to be abreast of happenings around them. His entertainment news features Nollywood stars and music artists, and their stories always attract people who want to be informed about their progress.

READ ALSO: Molefi Asante: Breathing Africa, Living Blackness

Meanwhile, Adedayo’s success story is mixed with various experiences of challenges and trials. He did not become the beacon of hope for the indigenous Yoruba journalism he has been known for today without having his shares of rugged experience which stretched his very creative ingenuity to the limit. Raised in Abeokuta, schooled in Ado Ekiti at the University of Ado Ekiti, Ambrose Ali University, Edo State, and the Lagos Business School, the combination of toughness and persistence made him come out as victorious and also helped him attain his position of social importance. His journalism expertise does not come without corresponding sacrifices in different forms. For example, he began his career in journalism at the Lagos State Broadcasting Corporation (Radio Lagos), where he was test-running his knowledge and experience of news reportage. Eventually, he worked at the Federal Radio Corporations of Nigeria (FRCN) and Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), where he was very active and instrumental to their collective success. Mr. Alao Adedayo is a success not only in the career he chose and developed, but he is also a loving husband and responsible father. He has advanced the Nigerian journalism industry to a very impressive degree, and he is highly invaluable to the Yoruba. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Yoruba Studies Association of Nigeria, I once again congratulate them and the visionary leadership of Alao Adedayo, our first-rate town crier.

Would you please join us for a conversation with the publisher of the Yoruba national Newspaper, Alaroye, Mr. Alao Adedayo?

Sunday, October 17, 2021

5:00 PM Nigeria

4:00 PM GMT

11:00 AM Austin CST

Register and Watch:

https://www.tfinterviews.com/post/alao-adedayo

Join via Zoom:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86235230007

Watch on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/tfinterviews/live

Watch on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2lvX7A2iVndiCq0NfFcb0w/live

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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Interview

Molefi Asante: On Reimagining Africa And Africans  

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Alaafin Adeyemi III: The Throne Of Numerous Authorities
Professor Toyin Falola

Molefi Asante: On Reimagining Africa And Africans  

THE  TOYIN FALOLA INTERVIEWS

A CONVERSATION WITH MOLEFI ASANTE, PART 4

 By

Toyin Falola

What is Africa? Who are Africans? What is African history? What do you make of Africa in tracing its history? What should be the focus and center of African history? Have these questions ever crossed your mind as an African scholar or a scholar of African history?

Here is one answer: Africa is a culturally and historically rich continent—of brave, creative, and intelligent people. However, there was the curse of plenty for Africa. Africans were content, and nature handed them virtually everything they needed to survive. Here is another: there was little to no need for exploration among Africans. Africans’ drive to explore did not go beyond seeing neighboring African cities and war-incited travels and conquests. There was also the large absence of written history and traditions in the more significant part of precolonial Africa. Asante has his own answer.

Molefi Asante: On Reimagining Africa And Africans  

In the latest edition of the Toyin Falola Interviews, Molefi Asante, a celebrated philosopher and promoter of Afrocentricity, made his reservations about the focus of the study and scholarship of African history. He has a problem with Europe being the center of African history—from the precolonial to the colonial and the post-colonial. Drawing on Asante’s reservations, it does not speak well of a culturally rich and diverse people as Africans to center their history on their colonizers’ civilizations, cultures, and beliefs. Africa was there before the first visit of the Europeans to the continent. And even if it were true that the people might not have fully seen themselves as one continent, there were enough inter-ethnic relations to prove that they saw themselves as having certain things in common. If that were the case, why should Africa wrap its story around the Europeans and their countries? That comes across as off—a case of in-built dependency and self-inflicted inferiority to the cultures, civilizations, and peoples of Europe.

Molefi Asante: On Reimagining Africa And Africans  

Photo: Richard Wright

If appropriately traced, the concept of centering Africa’s history on Europe stems from the ease of blaming the colonizers. This makes it easy to promote the concept of decoloniality, a somewhat surface-level concept that asks Africans to save themselves from the European and colonial mentality without proposing what to replace such a mentality with. In asking people to decolonize themselves, the focus is not on the people, their continent, or what they could become, but on what decoloniality, as a concept, wants them to be free from. However, Afrocentricity goes beyond the surface level of asking people to get decolonized to suggest replacing the colonial mentality. Afrocentricity takes the spotlight away from Europe and colonialism and totally gives it to Africa. As a concept, Afrocentricity focuses on making Africans think in an African manner, value African beliefs and cultures, and live in an African way till their love for all things Africa consumes them, so much that the love burns out colonialism and colonial mentality from their minds.

READ ALSO: Molefi Asante: Breathing Africa, Living Blackness

There is no gainsaying that the biblical maxim that “a prophet is not welcome in his hometown” is true of Africa and how it treats its academics. Africa is richly blessed with human resources, yet these human resources are either relocating to European and American countries for a greener pasture or are severely underappreciated back home. Prof. Molefi Asante lamented the gap in African-scholars-centered study among African universities. How many African universities have a department of Africana Studies? When we ask these questions, we will find out that we have given attention to the less important things for so long.

Molefi Asante: On Reimagining Africa And Africans  

Photo: Chinua Achebe

Molefi Asante disclosed that the theory and practice of Afrocentrism are not centered on deconstructing the Africans but reconstructing them. This is indeed true and needed, as a deconstruction without a reconstruction only leaves pillaged rubble . Afrocentrism is a state of mind; one does not just happen upon it suddenly. It comes from the consciousness awakened when the African comes into contact with Africa, African scholarly writings, African arts, or African cultures and religions. This is true of every Afrocentrist, and it is likewise true of the celebrated scholar and full-blooded African man, Molefi Asante.

In responding to the question on when he first realized that he is African and must think Africa, Asante said the African writers and historians who had an early influence on him were Essien Essien-Udom, Chinua Achebe, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, among others. Asante fondly recalled that he developed the affinity to Africa through Essien-Udom’s writings and his meeting with the African scholar. The same should be said of every well-meaning African-American and other Africans in the diaspora. Asante pleaded that it was high time we all found a link back to Africa, one that would complement our ancestral link. Beyond doing a DNA test to know our ancestry, we must awaken our consciousness and identify ourselves with Africa, its people, and its culture.

READ ALSO: Molefi Asante: The Lion Who Refused To Buy The Hunters’ Stories About The Forest

It is also expedient to touch on the raising of African children and how that impacts cultural consciousness and identity among African-Americans. The average African American is trained to join the National Basketball Association or any other money-making sport from childhood. For the average African American family, especially in the United States, child upbringing is an investment that must yield significant returns. This is a not-so-explored concept discussed by Professor Reiland Rabaka and the special guest on the Toyin Falola Interviews, Asante. Asante did have his share of the African-American dream, and becoming an academic was never his first choice. He tried his hands on basketball. He was, at a time, a preacher and also tried all the often-suggested options. However, the defining point surfaced for him as he sought answers and read books to add to his wealth of knowledge.

Molefi Asante: On Reimagining Africa And Africans  

Photo: Langston Hughes

 

Professor Asante passed through that phase of his life with the consciousness that he must be, which moulded and shaped him into who he is today. This also tells us so much about what the intellectual Asante considers Afrocentricity as. According to him, Afrocentricity is the quality of thoughts that allows anybody to look at and examine the African phenomena from the perspective of African people, cultures, and values as the centrality of our narratives. Afrocentricity is not Africanity, and it is not anti-people too. The concept of Afrocentricity is more concerned about the people’s mentality and how they see things than how they dress up or what they wear.

Is there a relationship between Afrocentricity and Pan-Africanism? For the Afrocentric scholar, the concept of Pan-Africanism as a philosophy is impossible or almost impossible without having Afrocentricity at its core. In essence, Asante considers Pan-Africanism and Afrocentrism as two intertwined concepts. According to him, a careful consideration of the concept of Pan-Africanism would reveal that it is not as deep-seated as it appears on the surface. We must ask what people need to be pan-African. Pan-Africanism calls for and promotes the unity of Africans and cannot stand on itself without an underlying consciousness, awakening, and identity. This is where Afrocentricity comes in. Afrocentrism can serve as the foundation for Pan-Africanism. In that case, you ask people to be united because they all view African phenomena from the African perspective.

Molefi Asante: On Reimagining Africa And Africans  

Photo: Essien Udom

Additionally, the interview touched on other important issues, such as African scholarship. Asante qualified the bulk of African scholarship as imitative. It is difficult to find an interconnectedness between the past, the present, and the future of Africa in African scholarship. And that is very necessary, seeing as the present will one day be the past, and the future will one day be the present. Asante lamented the absence of this interconnectedness, even among Africa’s greatest intellectuals and their scholarly works in diverse fields.

Professor Niyi Coker took us back in time to when Asante proposed grouping Africa into six large countries as a solution to Africa’s problems. The question was whether the Afrocentricity vanguard still believes in this mass grouping as a solution to an Africa that has failed to develop and take its pride of place among other developed continents of the world. In response, Asante said he proposed six federations as the United States of Africa, basing his theory on Pan-Africanism and the riches of African nations, which would make these six states some of the wealthiest countries in the world. He recounted the story behind his proposal to create the United States of Africa and how then African presidents, including Nigeria’s Olusegun Obasanjo, kicked against the creation of the six states during their tenure. Asante further stated that the United States of Africa would be achieved only if the people actively get involved, and on a wide scale at that.

READ ALSO: Am I Really The Dad?: Paternity Matters

Consequently, the onus lies on us—on you, on the average African—to become African in your thinking and mentality. Asante calls on you to become Afrocentric so that a reveille of our collective consciousness would lead us to create fortified and formidable African states.

(This is the final report on the interview with Molefi Asante on September 19, 2021.  For the transcript, see  YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNMT3q-Psqc
and on Facebook. https://fb.watch/87kf9tlYA5/)

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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