An Unusual Review…

by Dr. Wunmi Akintide

What, in the world, is the motivation of this crazy guy to want to do a job he is least qualified to do, some E-mail tigers and critics might ask? I urge them all to just bear with me, as I explain myself. This article is just my own way of killing two birds, not with a stone, but with one good shot using a stun gun. I have got to be a very sharp shooter or marksman to be able to do that successfully. The bad news is that I am neither of the two, but the good news is that I am an Akure man, and if you are familiar with the popular Akure cognomen, you may not need any more explanation as to why I sometimes run my mouth or my pen, the way I often do, on Lagosforum in particular. I am an “Omo amuda sile, m’ogun enu pa ni” meaning “Akure people generally don’t require a sword or a dagger to deal you a death blow, we are very good at, effectively, doing that with nothing, our mouth” We are also Ajapada children who are able to use a kitchen knife “Osimulo” to kill a tiger (o f’osimulo p’ekun). In that unique sense, Akure men and women are magicians of the Professor Peller grade and caliber who believe we can, figuratively, make an omelet without breaking an egg.

Part of my goal in this article, is to do a Review of a Book written by a fellow Nigerian and another Akure man who evidently has been able to kill a tiger with a kitchen knife, so to speak, by his accomplishment in doing the book that I am trying to review. The Book is called “Modern Practical Dictionary” that translates Yoruba words into English and English words into Yoruba for the benefit of anyone interested in the study of Yoruba Language. It is a 661 page book, and a must for all Yoruba people at home, and more importantly, for all Yorubas in Diaspora in places like Seme and Idogo in Togo/Benin Republic and in far away places like Cuba, the West Indies including Puerto Rico, and in Bahai and Brazil, and more importantly in the Oduduwa small Republic in North or South Carolina where descendants of Yoruba Slaves now live their lives, in much the same way, like their forebears at Ife, the cradle of Yoruba civilization which is wrongly or rightly believed by many, till tomorrow, to be the, the very cradle of creation itself. Dr. Kayode Joseph Fakinlede, the great author of the book and his publisher will do well, to target all those places in their marketing strategy, if they have not already done so. This Dictionary is an invaluable contribution to Yoruba negritude and pride the world over.

Who is Dr. K.J.Fakinlede? Dr. Fakinlede is a Research Scientist and not an anthropologist or a Yoruba writer like the late Pa Odunjo and late Pa D.O. Fagunwa of Okegbo in Ondo State of Nigeria or Adebayo Faleti, all of whom are rated as our own equivalent of Shakespeare in our own neck of the woods in Nigeria. Dr Fakinlede has clearly earned his wings in Yoruba Language and proficiency by doing this book using the “can do” expertise and leverage that his American Education has afforded him. When you are educated in America you are never supposed to be narrow-minded. The sky is always your limit because American Education is so broad-based that you can do anything, if you set your mind at it. When I did my postgraduate studies at the State University of Connecticut out there in Storrs Main Campus in Political Science in 1982, I did not expect to be compelled to take electives in Calculus, Statistics and Probability theory as a Liberal Arts Major from Nigeria. I hated the University then, for compelling me take all those subjects regardless of my protest. But I later came to see the relevance of those subjects when I later took a course in Management at the Cambridge University, in the UK, not to talk of my post graduate studies in Social Work and Clinical Psychology at the Yeshiva Jewish University of New York from 1991 to 1993. Knowledge is a bottomless pit. You never see the end of it till you die.

Dr. Fakinlede who is described as “an avowed and proud Yoruba nationalist” by late Uncle Bola Ige, one of our greatest linguists, politicians, statesmen and prolific writers who speaks and writes Hausa and Igbo as fluently as he speaks Yoruba and English, is a product of that same type of Education. That explains his ability to do this kind of work with effortful ease, I have to say. That Dr. Fakinlede had chosen Uncle Bola Ige to write the foreword to this Dictionary is, in of itself, the mark of a genius. He could not have picked a better authority in Yoruba Language to do that. It smells to me, like an irony of fate or the hand of Destiny that writing that foreword in his own words and hand writing in 2001, was one the few assignments that Uncle Bola Ige did have time to complete, in this wicked world, before he was snatched away from us by the forces of evil in Nigeria.

I hate to occasionally sound like I am criticizing Mr. President. I just have to, in regard to his Party’s handling of Bola Ige’s death and his general attitude to allowing the man accused, and standing trial for that death, to be one of the standard bearers for his Party in the Elections to the Senate in Bola Ige’s Senatorial District of Ife and Ijesha constituency. The least Mr. President could have done, in my judgment, was to simply put down his feet against Omisore’s nomination in Osun State until he (Omisore) was cleared by the Law in Nigeria. He did not do that, and I am mad as hell, that he could do that to Bola Ige. With a friend like Obasanjo, if I were Bola Ige’s family, I would have concluded that nobody needs an enemy. Bola Ige had managed to perform the role I am performing in such a clumsy way today by doing this article, and calling it a Review of Dr. Fakinlede’s Dictionary.

I had personally confessed to Kayode I am not up to the job of reviewing a Dictionary, but he still has encouraged me to do it, any way, I can, and this is the best I could come up with. I thought Bola Ige has actually done a much better review of the book, than I can ever attempt. I, nevertheless believe, I can still do some analogy of my own to amplify the importance of this Dictionary using contemporary topics like comparing Political Party chairmen in Nigeria and America, and using a Yoruba allegory to drive my point home by seizing on the word “IRU & “IRU” which I believe Dr. Fakinlede’s Dictionary can better articulate, to demonstrate the power and the beauty of Yoruba Language one more time for a wider audience like the one made possible by the Internet.

I just look at the role played by chairmen of political parties like the Republican Party of America led by one gentleman named Ed Gilespie and the Democratic Party led by another gentleman named Jerry Macauliffe. I just try to put the two chairmen side by side with the Chairman of the PDP in Nigeria, one Audu Ogbe, and the erstwhile Chairman of the AD before and after it broke into two factions. I am talking of the gentleman named Abdulkadir. I came to the conclusion, there is really no basis for comparison beyond the fact that the Nigerian and their American counterparts also answer to the name Chairman. That is where the comparison begins and ends if you ask me. The Yoruba Language in sizing up the two categorizations of Chairmen will simply have argued, there is no point comparing “Iru” which simply means an ingredient improvised by Nigerians to simply add some spice, taste and aroma to the soup that go along with eating pounded yam, “eba” or “amala” in much of the southern part of Nigeria. But the same word “Iru” also means in Yoruba, the fanciful horsetail that the Yorubas use in dancing on festive and ceremonial occasions. The Yorubas or Akures in particular will often say “Won ki nfi “iru” we “iru” nitoripe won nfi iru se obe (soup) , won nfi iru jo” meaning there is no comparison between the spicy ingredient named “Iru” and “Iru” the horsetail, even though they have the same spelling, but different pronunciation in Yoruba Language. By the same token, I am saying there is no basis for comparing political Party chairmen in Nigeria with their counterparts in America in terms of their role, responsibilities and performance.

In Nigeria, selecting chairmen is always subject to the zonal system of picking our political leaders in Nigeria. Every position is zoned to a particular area regardless of merit and need. You could therefore have a political buffoon and an amateur becoming chairman in Nigeria, if he comes from a particular zone to which the position has been reserved. That was how Chief M. A. Akinloye had ended up becoming Chairman of the NPN in the 80s, while Joseph Wayas had ended up becoming Senate President. Wabara is today our Senate President in Nigeria using the same logic. That was how Audu Ogbe has ended up becoming Chairman of PDP in succession to Gemade, and Abdulkadir of all people becoming Chairman or Seriki Tulasi of the AD Party in the South West Abdulkadir got selected because a Northerner is needed as chairman to create some semblance of a national party for a Party we all know is predominantly a Yoruba Party. Their selection has nothing to do, at all with, political experience, ability or expertise. It has more to do to do with the zone from which they have come. Any wonder then why our politics and the way it is practiced, and the result we always get, are always a far cry from the way politics is played in America. Whatever you sow is what determines what you reap. If you sow the wind, you most certainly will reap the tornado or the hurricane at best because you always reap more than what you put in. You plant a few seeds of corn, and get a lot more harvest from what you put in.

You see political chairmen in America debate on television, you have to, sometimes, wonder, if they are not a lot better and smarter than many of their Party candidates in the way and manner they articulate their points. The job of a chairman is a serious job here that totally defies the zonal logic of Nigeria. In America, they are looking for juggernauts with clout, talents and vision who are going to craft the strategy and formulate the policies for moving their Party and candidates to a position for victory in the Elections, and putting the rival Parties in retreat for years to come, if they are able. It is not a job to be given to charlatans and simpletons who cannot raise funds or map out a winning strategy for their Parties. They are professional politicians and experts in their field. It is a joy to watch them debate and position their party and candidates for victory. They are so current and up-to-date with their facts and figures putting emphasis on the strong points of their Parties and candidates, and looking the other way, for their weaknesses.

They are seen as neutral consultants to all candidates vying for the position of the nominee of the Party. You never find them taking sides or undermining or compromising the position of any of their candidates. They leave that to the voters They are incredibly proficient and perceptive taking the whole nation or state as their constituency, in much the same way like their Presidential or Governorship candidates. As soon as the Election is over, they take a back seat to who ever is elected President in their Party. They don’t go about parading power in much the same way like Chief M. A. Akinloye was doing, when Shehu Shagari was President. They don’t go about teaming up with the President to lay ambush for Party members and Governors like is sometimes done in Nigeria where neither Audu Ogbe as chairman or the President, as the overall boss, was not able to stop the nomination of Omisore if not for anything else, but for the appearance of impropriety which is, sometimes worse, than the reality. If it doesn’t smell good, it is probably not good, and should be set aside to allow wiser counsel to prevail. Audu Ogbe and Obasanjo, as powerful as they are, could not stop the nomination of Omisore or abort the show of shame currently taking place in Anambra. Such a calamity can hardly happen in America. it will have been nipped in the bud, if not by the major players in the game, but by the News Media working together to expose the stupidity and force the Government to take a hike. It is a long way to Tipperarry “A ko gbudo fi iru we iru, won nfi iru se obe, won nfi iru jo” There is no basis for comparison. None whatsoever.

Let me now briefly touch on the situation with Abdulkadir, whose appointment as chairman, had come to symbolize the schism that was to lay the foundation for the self destruction of AD as a Party to reckon with in the South West. The Obasanjo steamroller in the PDP has only come to finish the job, taking full advantage of Uncle Bola’s Ige exit, which most people had believed, was carefully orchestrated and executed by the PDP with the tacit approval of Obasanjo, pretending to be a friend of Bola Ige who will help him get over the raw deal given him when the Afenifere axis of the AD had voted, in Ige’s absence, to crown Olu Falae as the AD’s candidate in preference to Ige who had wrongly considered himself the crown prince and the heir apparent. Bola Ige never got over the humiliation. The PDP saw an opening to divide the AD for good, and they grabbed it with both hands using the collegiality between Obasanjo and Bola Ige. It was the last straw that broke the camel’s back , so to speak. Bola Ige had, in deed, gone into a coma on that day, but the live support plug was not pulled off his body until November 23rd, 2001 when the assassins finally took him out.

It would appear that the demolition truck in Abdulkadir was planted in AD by PDP to do the dirty job. Abdulkadir was the proverbial hand of Esau and the voice of Jacob, because he was more sympathetic to the cause of the PDP than he was to the plight of AD. He was the very first to congratulate the PDP for his landslide victory in the South West because Abdulkadir had claimed his loyalty was more to the PDP as a status symbol of our Nation than the AD. Can you ever believe Ed Gelespie or Jerry Macauliffe turning coat like that? Not in America. “Ako gbudo fi iru we iru, o se eewo” We never, ever, mistake the spicy ingredient called “Iru” for the other “Iru” the Yorubas use for dancing, in much the same way like the Urhobos or the Itshekiris and the Igbos use the white handkerchief in their Dance ritual or carnival in Nigeria.

The Nigerian Party chairmen unlike their American Party chairmen are there for the loot and the amount of naked power they can flaunt and wield to intimidate the floor members and House and Senate members and State Governors who must worship them or plough back to them in their ivory tower, some pork barrel kickbacks by way of contracts or allocation of Lands in the choicest areas of their State capital and in Abuja, now the Real Estate Capital of Nigeria. It will be recalled that a plot of land acquired for some chicken change, not to talk of the building on it, may now fetch as much as 50 million Naira if the owner decides to sell it. Abdulkadir was specially imposed on the AD by the Bola Ige and Governor Niyi Adebayo Junior of Ekiti faction of the AD to prepare the ground for the eventual obituary of the Afenifere axis of the AD in the South West. which had never truly recognized the chairmanship of Abdulkadir, from the “get go” They just could not say so loud, because it was the faction that was recognized in Law by the Federal Government in which Bola Ige himself was Attorney-General and Obasanjo was President.

The Afenifere faction had sided with Ambassador Mamman Yusuf as their chairman de facto and de jure, but their hands were tied by the Law of the land which the Obasanjo Government at the central was using to do the moppet show in the South West. The moppet was the AD as a Party and the person pulling the rope was the PDP Government using the Law as a surrogate That was Nigeria for all of us. if you ever wonder why Democracy is not working, as it should, in our country, you now have part of the answer. You also have part of the answer to the PDP landslide in the South West. It could never have been different. Never. The whole thing was carefully planned and executed. Once Ige was out, it was a walkover for the PDP in the South West, not because the PDP has had anything better to offer, but just because it is the way it is going to be.

How is this unusual Book Review now relevant to the case I have been making here? It is relevant, in my mind, because Dr. Fakinlede’s wonderful Dictionary can help you and me and our children in Diaspora to begin to learn the intricacies of the Yoruba language where one word can mean a thousand things as clearly implied by Dr. Fakinlede. The young scientist had chosen to embark on the huge project of translating Yoruba words into English and English words into Yoruba, by placing some deserved emphasis on similar words that could mean a whole variety of things in the Yoruba lexicon. I have just used the word “Iru” and “Iru” as it relates to how Nigerian political Party chairmen differ from the American political party chairmen. It is just a great figure of speech.

That concluded, I will now explore another aspect of Yoruba verbiage and Language that never stop to amaze me. It is simply a play upon words and the best expert on that is our late Premier Samuel Ladoke Akintola who had once crafted a huge joke out of the name of the first Premier of the old Mid Western State in Dennis “Osadebe.” Akintola had completely turned that name into a Yoruba word and he jovially created a satire out of the name by telling a Campaign Rally not to pay any mind to the NCNC of old by saying if their “Orisa” (god) cannot metamorphose into a heap in a Yam plantation, it could possibly turn into the lines “iporo oko” that separate one heap from another in the Yam farm. “Bi orisa won ko ba le d’ebe, ko d’iporoko ke”? Asked one time, if one Akpata, the name of a former senior civil servant in the old West can be considered a Yoruba name? The same Akintola had jocularly answered “No” and when required to elaborate why? He amazingly answered back in a heartbeat, “Because the Edo Akpata’s spelling had a “K” in their own alphabets. Yorubas don’t ever include a “K” in spelling their own Apata which simply mean a huge rock in Yoruba parlance. It therefore cannot be a Yoruba name. Q.E.D. Akintola has quickly added in his usual funny voice. Nobody does it better than S.L.A. Nobody.

If any of you readers are interested in getting to know more of these allegories in Yoruba language, and what they truly mean in Yoruba, I have good news for you. Dr. Fakinlede Dictionary is the best bet, you and all of your children born in Diaspora or any of your new wives and husbands who may be learning your native language if you are an Oduduwa son, any where in the world. I will like to end this write-up with another Yoruba adage that ask “Bi iwo ko ba ri “ara” re, iwo ko ri “ara” re ni? The emphasis is on the word “ara” which means two different things even in this context It simply means, ” if for some reason, you can’t see your self in the mirror, can’t you see your mates or peers or people of the same age and circumstance with you? It is all a fine play upon words in Yoruba language but it is original, beautiful and deep, if you think about it.

These kinds of allegories exist in most languages and dialects in our country. I just fancy them, and I am intrigued by them for some reasons I cannot fully explain. There is one adage in Igbo language I would never forget. I talk about it anywhere I have a chance to address an ecumenical gatherings of Nigeria. I once had occasion to use it the day, my Ndigbo friend, the great Alfred Uzokwe launched his famous book titled “Surviving in Biafra” at the Ramadan Inn at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania last year. The quotation was a simple recall from the former Administrator of the East Central State after the War. I am talking of the one and only Ukpabi Asika when he once said, “Oyun Ube ruru, ya ra ra ma” which simply means in Igbo Language, “the time to suck your pear, is when it is ripe.” There is yet another saying in Igbo yhat I so much appreciate. It is “Nne mulu soja ngba ka wan” which simply means “a mother whose only child, in life, has decided to go make a career of the military, of all careers, should simply regard herself as having no child” What a proverb? I just love Nigeria. You go to Hausa or Fulani lands again, and you have tons of such great proverbs and words of wisdom and play upon words. I am just going to leave you with one more in Ebira language or dialect that will crack your ribs. if I succeed in making myself clear enough for you to fully get the joke. You could call it the mother of all jokes because it always makes me laugh regardless of how often I hear


Once upon a time, a Yoruba student from Oyemekun Grammar School, Akure was on vacation trip to Okene, one of the major towns of Ebiras in Kogi State. He had decided to go visit one of his classmates in Okene town. As he approached his classmate’s house, his classmate was lucky to see him, a short distance to his home. He was so excited to see his Yoruba friend. So he quickly ran back to his home to alert his parents that his friend and classmate is just around the corner, coming to visit him. He, hilariously, broke the news to his mother saying “Mama, Ota mi de, ada mi da” in Ebira language. Before he could finish the sentence his friend was already, at the door, knocking the door to announce his presence. Then all of a sudden, he heard with his own ears, his Ebira friend telling his parents, “Ota mi de, ada mi da” which simply means in Ebira language, “Hear this my parents, see who is at the door, it is my friend, where is my father so I can also introduce him to Daddy Now the word “ota mi”in Ebira language means my friend but the same word means my enemy in Yoruba language. By the same token, the word “ada mi” means my father in Ebira language whereas it means my cutlass in Yoruba Language. Both friends were correct in what they have said and have heard. But they have both interpreted it in different ways. “Ota mi de, ada mi da” simply means in Yoruba language, ” here comes my enemy, please quickly get me my cutlass” The Yoruba friend could not believe his ears as he quickly turned back, and started running away as fast he could, to escape being matcheted to death. End of story.

Can you now see the beauty of language, and how Yoruba dictionaries like the one authored by Dr. Fakinlede can help solve some of these riddles in communication. If you agree with me, and you are a Yoruba man or woman or you have the Yoruba blood flowing in your veins, because you were born in America or in any foreign land, to a Yoruba father or mother, I urge you to go get yourself a copy of this invaluable Dictionary or place an order, for it, direct from the Publishers, Hippocrene Books, Inc, 171, Madison Avenue, New York NY 10016. You will be glad you did. You are all invited to the formal launching of the Book at a date and venue to be announced later. Please save the day. Will you? You have a good Day.

I rest my case.

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