Ugbogboebebe: Miriam Makeba Of Warri Kingdom
Many of my readers would certainly have heard of the exploits of Miriam Makeba, the iconic South African singer who was equally a songwriter, an actress and civil rights crusader and activist. “Mama Africa,” as Zenile Miriam Makeba’s moniker universally defined her, died on November 10, 2008 in exile in Castel Volturno, Italy. Miriam Makeba also called the “Empress of African Songs” because of her exploits in music and her recognition as the “first vocalist to put African music onto the international map in the 1960s” can never ever be un-remembered in the memory of timeless time.
Ugbogboebebe, the real subject of this column today, was a no less significant African cultural artist and singer who dominated her Nigerian musical space in the same 1960s. But she was in no way as universally famous as Miriam Makeba. One reason for this cannot but be attributed to her brand of folkloric music which she rendered in her Itsekiri language which was (and still is) the language of her Itsekiri ethnic minority group.
Clearly, as a singer, Ugbogboebebe of Nigeria’s Kingdom of Warri, was a far better singer than Miriam Makeba. As a vocalist, the Itsekiri biological Princess of Songs was, in my view, super superior to the “Empress of African Songs” who was well internationally showcased and promoted by her selfless backers and sponsors. But I am not in any way endeavouring a comparison of Ugbogboebebe and Miriam Makeba. This is by no means my primary intention and goal here. You will soon find out why I say so.Who was Ugbogboebebe? Ugbogboebebe was the moniker of Princess Agnes Onesanden Enonuwewu. But she was never ever known in our circle and generation of Warri and Sapele denizens and brought-ups by her birth and given name. The moniker partly derived from her gift in the art of pre-compositional songs to fit any situation, event, occasion, mood and atmosphere. Time after time he demonstrated this right from the 1960s in her years of girl-hood and maiden-hood up to and well beyond middle age. Her voice was always melodiously melodious. Her compositions could elevate themselves to suit any kind of mood of gloom, joy, bliss, light-heartedness, gaiety, hilariousness, seriousness and more and were never lost of algebraic reverberations.
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Ugbogboebebe died on the 17th of December, 2021 and was buried in her fond city of Warri on Friday, 12th March, 2022. I purposely delayed to do for her this more than deserved big public honour in the hope that someone, some art, or music writer or columnist would do so long, long before now. It was a vain hope.How many persons in prominent positions in this country your country my country our country ever patriotically give a minority hero or heroine his or her more than deserved due?Anyone who is capable of experiencing the pleasures of justice, patriotism and love cannot but appreciate Ugbogboebebe. As she was an Itsekiri patriot so also was she a Nigerian, exemplary Nigerian patriot who sang lovingly and un-pleasurably at the same time about the goodness and about the faults and foibles of Warri Kingdom people and Nigeria her country. Her burst of creativity throughout our splendid epochs is worth studying in our literary, music and culture departments and centres from diploma up to Ph.D. levels in our universities and other tertiary institutions. This was a significantly visionary singer and composer whose national wealth and greatness that General Yakubu Gowon, our military head of state from 1966 to 1975, highly and solidly thought of and respected to the extent that his government a number of times invited her and her cultural troupe to perform in several functions of the federal government both at Dodan Barracks and outside Nigeria. She graced several cultural events of Nigeria in the 1960s/1970s and United States and elsewhere outside the shores of this blessed place that are current political gems that are causing raw pains with murderous wounds.
No hailing for the murderous majority! Ugbogboebebe was a justice and civil and human rights campaigner of the covert mode who was particularly popular in Western Nigeria in the then years.She shared a kind of healthy rivalry and popularity with Hubert Ogunde, the very popular Yoruba indigenous dramatist, in the Ijebu-Ode, Akure and Ekiti areas and environs. Her songs and performances were not short of remarkable rhythm and the kind of drama that depicted to her audiences that a better time was coming to them for their deliverance. As a young lad, I can remember vividly her poetry and lyrics of deliverance in songs that had eyes for the future of yesterday especially in Warri Kingdom and environs and in Western Nigeria in the inglorious time of “Operation Wetie.”
In vain did I try to recall the titles of such songs of poetry of idiomatic and anecdotal richness and value that keep on resonating in one’s consciousness! I could not re-enter, as I desperately want to, the fertile boyish imagination in replaying them as I was composing this essay.
Besides, many old folks, who could have all recaptured them for me, have all since gone to their earth of glowing and un-glowing worms. What a world! What the last point awakens in me is the pain of my not laying my hands on any of her immortal songs on tape or CD or any recorded medium as I was doing this patriotic duty. Her recorded songs are immeasurably small and presently seemingly non-existent. This fact diminished her eyes of glowering popularity in later years even in her homeland and fertile and rich Kingdom of Warri. How many Itsekiris truly remember this great singer of super-melodious melody today? How many? How many Itsekiris of the 21st century generation remember Ugbogboebebe in the absence or near absence of her waxed songs? How many Itsekiri money-bags are interested in producing and reproducing her songs? If gold rusts, what will iron do?
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On Friday, 11th March, the titled Chief of Erejuwa 11, who bestowed on her Ojujimi of Warri Kingdom, entered the ground – as I have already said. In the morning of that day at her church, The African Church, her funeral service held before a frugal audience – as one of my elderly friends informed me. At the social and cultural events which I attended, I all the time gazed at the “wide skies that bring eternity to mind” even when I occasionally admired the lure of somethingness which Barrister Desmond Dudu, a relation of the deceased,worthily provided.But my elderly friend, a highly conscious political animal, intoned in unmistakably painful pain: “Where are the Itsekiri politicians? Where are the Itsekiri internet and social media patriots? Ugbogboebebe, who has gone, is the Miriam Makeba of Warri Kingdom.” What could I say? What did I say? “Silly fools – our Itsekiri politicians and social media magicians. They don’t know the meaning of greatness. Swine!”
My last words: Itsekiris must promote Ugbogboebebe’s greatness. Their students, their researchers, scholars, and film-makers must promote her for others outside her homeland to follow their example. Nothing could be more touching than their neglect of her; and critical and creative destitution she no more must suffer. Her spell-binding elegances and graces of singing style deserve immortal attention. Our lure of nothingness called senseless wealth must cease. Sensible wealth knows the fruits of creativity. No hailing for the cruel controllers of the people’s fate and destiny.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
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Death At Dawn, Rebirth At Dusk
By Toyin Falola
Twilight-zone, Afterlife, What-Mays, and Whatnots;
Questions that transcend mortal thoughts.
Uncertainties plucked by the hands of certainty
pondering life beyond the galaxy.
Philosophies, religions, and sciences;
Ancient lenses to dissect and ponder.
Beliefs, opinions, and standpoints in their multiplicities;
Scalpels that open the heart of certain death
Blazing free the skins of uncertainty.
Science, a nobility I revere,
But it stammers answering to the afterlife.
For science is knowledge and knowledge from experience
But the dead neither speak, nor take records.
Their journeys, ordeals, triumphs or woes?
No one bears witness.
But as dead, we must all be witnesses;
witnesses that testify not.
So, for now, we survive the knowledge of death.
On my Agbàlàgbà head lies my Ọ́kpụ́ Ágwụ́
With eagle feathers, rare and honorable
Adorning it for three scores, a decade, and some more days.
I had flipped my Kente given by the Gaa
And danced to crescendos from Gàngàn drums
I have been celebrated and celebrating
For the miracles, I have worked with pen, paper, keyboard, and brain
I have taken the tales we tell in my village square beyond the Atlantic
Changed the songs that disdain us into appraisals
I have called my brothers not to point to our fathers’ house with their left hands
I have honed Africa and beyond
To answer the calls of the people’s need
I have reached the thinkable and done the unthinkable
So, I danced and keep dancing.
Suddenly, I felt a touch on my host?
Electrifying my hand, leg, brain, and my whole
Telling me that my jur from the Dinka people awaits me.
That my hourglass tells of crossing the bar.
I thought I knew what it was like,
But my grasping convictions of approaching jur were perceptions
Just surviving the death of the knowledge of death
So, arms wide open ready to abound
What was there to fear?
No catacomb of secrets
No palm oil-drenched white garments
I have taken many to my gourmet
To feast and to see.
What was there not to fear?
With medicine men and women,
Syringes, lights, water, ECG, Oximeters, voices, and touches
Hovering around me like a sacred etutu
Making conversations with me and beyond
I was thrown into a pool of reminiscence
one leg and a part of me were already in the boat
It beckoned but I heard another.
A loud voice like my mother’s.
Who takes a journey without locking his home?
Who takes the jur with unpatched palm fronds on his hut?
While the thunder rages up the sky?
The walls are broken and Balogun journeys?
So, I left the sea to clear the cobwebs and light up the night lamb.
The past few weeks have opened new lights of understanding to me. I now see the world from different hills and have helped to reach new resolutions. I know I have written about “transitioning to nothingness,” but my emphasis was on the “nothingness” with lesser attention on “transitioning.” I think we need to continue to ask questions. Philosophies, religion, sociology, psychology, science, and other ramifications are mere perceptions and we are uncertain. The transitioning occurs when death becomes an angel to hug not a beast to fear. We do not know what it entails but one must always endeavor to go with clean hands.
My recovery from an illness may have offered me a fresh opportunity to shout some more, point to societal needs, and settle unfinished businesses. No, not those caused by my personal undoing, but rather those of the people who would be left unguided, and for matters untold about life, society, and individuals. I can say I have passed through the lessons of tantra transfiguration, to use an elegant phrase that I recently came across, to move from secular to sacred activism. No one survives death because of its finality, but when it seems that you did, it is a renewed quest, offering a new purpose.
Professors On INEC’s Will (3)
By Tony Afejuku
The debate has progressed well so far. Our professors, whose strokes have centred on their fellow professor’s manned INEC have tried as best as they could not to confine their impressions solely to the prism of subjectivity. Even when their impressions seem to be subjective, they still make allowance for contrary views, for opposing views. This obviously gives clarity, objectivity and logic to the subject at hand. Is the will of INEC of a professor minder and mincer of words’ control the will of the people or of the masses? On whose side are the Professors who are as concerned as almost everybody is with what is going – or with what has gone on – primarily about our Presidential 2023 elections? Our Professors who are debating the subject constitute the courageous and prophetic Nigerian voices of our day. Their authentic and responsible thoughts are not restricted to the local or regional. They are also not confined to electoral duties and responsibilities expected of the umpire and the will that belongs elsewhere. The truth about the quality of leadership about our country and elsewhere is also told in the debate of the literati.
Professor (Mrs.) Razinatu Mohamed in her submission, in her salvo-cum-explosion actually, drew attention to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s explosive explosion in the presidency. If Professor Osinbajo had provided the right vice-presidential leadership there would not have been the need for him to explode as he did as per a viral video Professor Razinatu Mohamed referred her fellow debaters to. “What has he been doing in the eight years of their administration? Irritated my foot; he is complicit.” Not done, Professor Razinatu drew attention to the kind of leaders that Nigeria and Africa need: “Leaders that understand the rudiments of modern socio-economic development and systems; Leaders that understand the crux of requirements for economic growth. Leaders that could demonstrate to the rest of the world that just as the world needs Africa, African countries need the world in a symbiotic relationship and partnership context where assistance becomes a dual role…..”
Razinata’s concern is clear. Nothing in Nigeria will climb out of its hollow hole. In fact, the will of the people will remain hollow so long as a hollow mincer and minder is in charge of its electoral affairs.
Professor Da Sylva perhaps responds better to Professor Razinatu Mohamed’s algebraic stroke. “Unfortunately, Nigeria’s democracy is trapped in its primordial self-made ethnic and religious sentiments and so, standards, merit, competence and pedigrees are measured by their curious divides of religion and ethnic inclinations. Until we all come to realize that heavens help those who help themselves, Nigeria ain’t going no-where – meeen!”
But below is Professor Da Sylva’s sledge hammer response to Professor Razinatu Mohamed’s Osinbajo hammer blow:
“Prof Osinbajo’s office demands he does what he did. Besides, it shows maturity and spirit of sportsmanship on his part. Every loser in a game “healthily” contested, is naturally expected to do the same. The only difference which again shows Osinbajo’s magnanimity is that in this context, the contest under reference was neither healthy nor just. The umpire seemed compromised and merely worked to a prepared answer. Yet the gentleman did the needful. I guess, brothers and sisters, that we should put all that behind us, and work for our common good, and the wellbeing of the country, provided the mythical Aso cabal will let the President-elect be, and let the masses be, and as such, they should not create any cause for us to think otherwise, lest they provoke our sense of patriotism to take appropriate action! I guess that those were the reading or feelings of the dirty-minded Aso Villa cabal. People that kill with sword never wish that any folk should pass a sword over their heads, a wise saying goes in Yoruba. The human principalities simply suspected that should they allow PMB to give the VP the intended latitude, they might not be able to control him. I remember on his return from London, he commended the efforts of his VP while he was away. He said he would still continue acting while he would still have some more rest at home. The following day everything changed, PMB decided to take charge as the President. I suspected some back door politics was playing out. My co-debaters, quite naturally, you’ll agree with me that, it is not over-ambition or sheer opportunism as you might insinuate for any deputy in an office to aspire to the next higher office, in a legitimate manner, there is nothing really unusual about it, and it would amount to killing a mosquito with a sledge hammer, should Oshinbajo be crucified for that, if at all. And as for his wishing Buhari’s non-recovery, I think that, again, like my Sister R, is a little unkind and not fair to the gentleman who I know to be a servant of God. He knows as much as I do, by our true Christian orientation and Biblical injunctions that, should he ever wish Buhari’s death or wish him any form of misfortune in those trying periods of the President, God Almighty who we serve would deal mercilessly and ruthlessly with him. That is what Psalm 41:1-13 is all about. So rule that out, because it is not, and could never be in his character. I can vouch for him. Rather, I saw him in those times that he acted for his principal, as someone zealous and appreciative of the trust his principal invested in him, and as such he tried to do his very best to merit the trust and the opportunity! I know and I am also sure that this is what an IBK, or a Razinat, would have done too had they found themselves in a similar situation! It does not amount to wishing one’s principal any evil, not at all. Not everyone can be like Chief Obafemi Awolowo who resigned his position under Gowon when the regime became financially reckless shortly after the civil war. Awolowo also gave very profound argumentation to justify convincingly his actions. He also turned down some other appointments including the “49 Wise Men of the Constitution Drafting Committee.” Oshinbajo couldn’t have resigned, normally, and naturally his principal, PMB should have supported him as a capable successor, but again, the President’s ethnic and religious bigotry took the better part of the President. Besides, PMB’s mind was long poisoned against his VP, a clean job by the Aso Villa cabal. IBK, Lady R, until the faceless cabal is permanently silenced the wheel of Nigeria might continue to go round in a circle, and to nowhere in particular”.
And Professor IBK takes the floor: “Prof. DAO, yours is a powerfully convincing submission, at least in a large measure. Now I am willing to hold a slightly different opinion about Osinbajo. Yet, I cannot fathom why he chose to run against Tinubu, days or weeks after the latter had begun his campaign in the party primaries. There’s much we don’t know about why OSBJ decided to run against BAT. Nothing is wrong with that politically but a little problematic from an Ethical or, at least Moral, point of view. Osinbajo did a poor job of it and came out a distant 4th in the primaries. I think he didn’t read the situation correctly and was probably misled by some cabal of sorts. Either way Osinbajo made a politically fatal error in this regard. Perhaps he must have sensed, or was told, that BAT was not the anointed candidate, or that BAT would be crippled by some ill-health or a medical condition. I remember the party’s screening committee publicly recommending that only younger contestants would be recommended to the NWC or such. Clearly there was an attempt to sideline BAT. Whatever the explanation, Osinbajo make the error in his campaign of promising to be more Buhari than Buhari. A man despised by whole sections of the northern population, a man whose reputation for laziness and incompetence was on the ascendant. Anyway, all is now history and Osinbajo has not given a good account of himself in this particular case. Prof DAO, I think your concept of the Trickster should account for Osinbajo’s situation here. FULL DISCLOSURE: a very close family member of mine was drafted to head Osinbajo’s campaign effort in Kano. We discussed extensively about Osinbajo’s pledge to carry on with Buhari’s policies. There was bewilderment and shock within the members. A week later half of the membership resigned on account of Osinbajo’s increasing identification with Buhari’s policies. Many mistakenly thought that Osinbajo was Buhari’s anointed one! I could go on…”
Interestingly interesting and intriguingly intriguing, dear, dearly dear readers: this debate.
To be terminated by the columnist-terminator and terminator-columnist next week after Professor Olu Obafemi’s summation of the debate he presided over.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
With Us, Not For US
By Ijeoma Fynecountry
The 21st of March of every year is international day for the celebration of persons living with down syndrome. The advocacy and push for communal and political recognition of the basic fundamental rights for persons living with various types of disabilities, particularly intellectual disability, just as enjoyed by their peers who do not have any form of challenge – physical or intellectual has recorded a substantial success around the globe, especially in more developed climes.
While the same cannot be said of the situation in Africa and Nigeria in particular, scanty breakthroughs have also been seen over the years, with the consistent and dogged efforts by some specialized organizations such as Down syndrome Foundation, Nigeria (DSFN).
The theme for this year’s celebration is “With us, Not for us”. This theme is apt particularly in the current era where the push for inclusion has taken a center stage in the campaign worldwide. While it is comforting to know that people, government and communities alike are now becoming more empathetic to the plight of persons living with disability, it is also necessary and most important that their rights as human beings deserving of not just empathy but actual concrete benefits accruable to other citizens without disability, is massively taken into consideration and actually provided for.
Therefore, it is not enough for the government to map out and create as in Lagos state and few other states, sections in the public schools to admit children or persons with intellectual disability, it is necessary to adequately equip these special schools with the needed “specialized” manpower, infrastructural and educational aids to attain the targeted educational goals for these persons. Likewise in the provision of better healthcare, economic, social needs of persons with disability etc.
Persons with intellectual disability do not just need to be specifically educated in accordance with his or her type of disability, but MUST also necessarily be able to aspire to or expect to be employed according to his or her learned ability. That way, a full right, befitting of a person, be him a person with disability or not, is assured. For what is the need of going through a learning process, acquiring a specialized knowledge about a craft or handiwork and eventually still not being given the opportunity of gaining employment as supposed, not due to lack of knowledge but for having a disability? No human being should be subjected to such. Our government should do better. The society at large should do better.
The theme for this year is enjoining all stakeholders – the government, communities, corporate organizations, religious bodies/organizations, individuals to open up their hearts, and recognize the very urgent and important need to help in the actualization of these basic human needs, rights of persons living with intellectual disability as we are all human. No human rights or needs should be prioritized over the other no matter the state of their health, mental and physical capacity. Stand with us by taking actual intentional steps towards uplifting and elevating the humanness of persons living with disability. It is not enough to say that you are for persons living with disability, your specific, intentional, targeted actions toward ensuring the practical applicability of these rights matters.
Fynecontryis a Lagos-based legal practitioner and the legal resource person for the Down Syndrome Foundation Nigeria.
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