“Odabo o” Susanne Wenger, Adunni Olorisha

by Dele A. Sonubi

Memories Are All We Have

The time flies,
By the strokes of its seconds

The cloud turns blue before it darkens.
Then, out of nowhere,
But from the mysteries of the distant view,
Comes the orange and full moon
The sight a luxury to behold
And then it goes into oblivion,
As mysteriously as it appears,
Leaving behind,
Memories of a begotten luxury

The time flies,
By the strokes of its seconds

When the sun rises high,
The flower petals open wide
Fragrance of gladdening smells
The smells of romantic fantasies
And when the night comes,
The smells become lost
Leaving behind,
Memories of lost love

The time flies,
By the strokes of its seconds

It is not real
The wish to withhold
Luxury of the moon so full
Its time flies
By the strokes of its seconds
It is tormenting
The desire for a permanent fragrance
From the smells of nature’s bounteous flowers
Its time flies
By the strokes of its seconds
Memories are all we have

Until events are repeated
And we are destined to meet again
And our wishes are met
Our luxuries become gladdening
And our dreams become real
Memories are all we have
And memories are all we share

Dele A. Sonubi

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Osamuyi Okpame April 25, 2011 - 3:42 pm

..Thank you for this beautiful story of the life and times of Adunni Olorisha Susanne Wenger. The Austrian born Nigerian goddess. I first heard about her from the NTA some years ago. And when a lecturer taking us Research Methods in my school in 2011, talked about her in one of our lectures, I became interested and curious to find out more about this great Austrian woman. Thanks for giving me a clue as to her life and times. I greatly appreciate it.

Segun May 7, 2009 - 11:03 am

Wise words – she lived a long & fruitful life. You were lucky to be her friend.

dele4you2@yahoo.com April 16, 2009 - 7:22 pm

Dear Mr. Segun, thanks for your nice words and your encouragements. ofcourse i am highly encouraged by good comments like yours.

I knew Mama very well… we were great friends and I learn quite a lot from her. I am happy she has gone eventhough I know it was a pity but then tell me who will never died. Her 94 years were splendidly spent

Thanks again


Segun April 12, 2009 - 1:03 pm

Hi Dele, thanks for your tribute to Adunni Olorisha! I met her twice at Ibokun Road and she was such a gracious welcoming & wise person. Unfortunately, I lost contact a couple of years ago with my friend Doyin, who was at her side when Mama died. So, I only heard of Mama’s death a couple of weeks ago. Nigeria has lost an irreplaceable champion of Yoruba religion and culture. I pray that the Trust to protect the Grove may succeed in preserving Mama’s legacy for generations to come.

I am, I must say, slightly shocked by that someone posted in reply to your article Damola Awoyokun’s attack on Soyinka and traditional Yoruba religion. Some people have no sense of respect or propriety. Having said that, I commend you Dele for leaving their posting up.

damola February 22, 2009 - 9:52 pm




In his widely published tribute to the late Susanne Wenger, Wole Soyinka drapes the traditional religion [TR] in richly embroided aso oke. He singled out its virtue of tolerance, made an example of it and completed the tribute with an ‘irreducible’ instruction: “Go to the orisa, learn from the orisa, and be wise.” Really?

As usual, Soyinka zeroed in on the superficial at the expense of the fundamental: that TR is a system of superstition; that like other systems of superstition, it not responsible to objective verification and empirical analysis; that it is incompatible with requirements of progress and civilization; that the human mind has a duty to follow what is true and not just what is traditional; that the golden traces of beauty, justice, truth, love, ethical emphasis that TR holds up as embroideries for PR are eternal values older than any religion. (All religions appropriate these values to look credible and seduce the unwary).

Invention of TR started with anxiety about the unknown. In terms of space, this translated to curiosity about what lay beyond the village and the skies; and in terms of time: wanting to know what the future held. It was believed that there is a master script somewhere, the setting of which is the earth and all human beings are characters in it. To have access to this script is the reason for divination, which explains why there are terms like kadara, ipin, ayanmo, akunleyan, akunlegba, akoole. Modern philosophical consensus has established all these are false. There is no destiny; nothing had been predetermined; there is no fate. We are our own meaning. Our current situation or our tomorrow is a tabla rasa that is why they are products of our choice. No more. We are responsible for what we do and this determines who we are. There is no ori or chi that had negotiated a good or bad contract for one’s destiny. And yet the soft force driving all religions is this concept of predestination, to know what had been written down for one’s situation and the world’s.

Among the Yoruba, the divination is Ifa. Here is a typical verse from Otura meji, a principal Odu: …adia fun Aderomokun omo ooni, ala’na kan esuru, n’ ijo ti m’ ekun se raun ire gbogbo; bi okan ba yo ninu igbo a ba ona wa, ire, ire gbogbo ma ma wa mi wa o, ire gbogbo… What makes a literary work first rate is embedded in this incantation. Not only its flow of cadence, but each word being an anticipation of the next enacts the yearning for determinism they convey. Prince Aderomokun may never have existed but was invented because its meaning and the music of its syllables props the idea the verse carries. Nevertheless, must we allow this literary beauty to obfuscate the fallacies resident not only in the verse but also in the whole of all divination systems? Who says that every time a quarry emerges from the bush it heads for the village path? (Fallacy of hasty generalization and unwarranted assumption) And since this animal fortune has happen to the village, therefore fortune will come your way too? (Fallacy of false cause)

These fallacies are not unlike the odus of other scriptures. An example: that after suffering family exclusion, deprivation and security threats in the bush, the biblical David rose to the leadership of Israel hence this would happen to you too after you suffer likewise. Or when you suffer and become leader, it is because it had first happened to David or any other biblical persona. Glossing over the superficial but zeroing on details and the causal relationship among them is the beginning of thinking, the automatic enemy of divination.

Even with Ifa, mysteries of life persisted unexplained. This gave the grounds for the foreign religions to sweep TR away. Not that they were essentially different but at some points in their development they rendered themselves open to the current state of thought and scholarship, to findings of reformists like St Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Omar Khayyam -a philosopher, mathematician and astronomer. Hence, these foreign religions were equipped to offer sophisticated answers to the quest for understanding and attempts to find clarity in the several contradictions of life. Since wisdom is acquired through immersion in the best that has been thought and said, converting to them seemed a wise choice for our ancestors.

But not without a fight. This is why the claim that TR is tolerating is largely imaginary. TR looks tolerating because it is in the minority. When Islam and Christianity were seeping into the villages and TR was the majority, history discloses several instances where churches and mosques were razed down and converts massacred or disowned by their own families for worshipping a white man’s God or going to a white man’s school. Now being the minority, TR is emasculated of its powers of intolerance. This is not the same as being tolerant. It is just the aftermath of emasculation, the step before extinction. Intolerance is the evangelical zeal to be the sole majority. This is why now the foreign religions are always at loggerheads, striving to outdo each other in mass violence. To buttress TR’s capacity for tolerance, its spin-doctors cite: Ogun worshippers do not fight their Sango colleagues. But they are under the same umbrella just like Baptists and Anglicans or Nasfat and Ahmadiyya. It is all the same incestuous tolerance whereas the one of virtue is the ecumenical tolerance.

Conceptually, no religion can tolerate the other. All of them insist: ‘I am the truth not you… I have the word of God, it cannot change.’ It is a dogma. And dogmas like stubbornness demonstrate a lack of curiosity which is the fuel of development. The foreign religions that were brimming with fresh bulletins from truth now resisted new and advanced findings of truth in humanities or sciences. As representatives of outdated knowledge and hoary ideas, they are now like TR: irrational. And a religion can only be intolerant of another religion because it has first become intolerant of rationality. From this, other monsters burst forth, spill over to other aspects of life.

In this age of democracy and suicide bomber, one reads with horror the case of Olunde the eldest son of Eleshin who in Death and the King’s Horseman commits suicide so he can serve as the heavenly courier of his dead king. The play tells us he is a medical student; he himself mentions that he is “attached to hospitals all the time.” Meaning: he is not simply a medical student; he has enough sophistication of intellect to have passed pre-clinicals. How come such a mind trained to preserve life, flies home and takes his own life because of a religious stipulation? Iyalode snide at his undead father: ‘we fed your sweetmeats such as we hoped awaited you on the other side…’ This mindlessness is one with that of 19 young men, some studying elite courses in German universities who on a September 11 hijacked planes, turned them into altars and immolated themselves since they have been promised busty virgins on the other side. Why shed blood? Why get immolated or crucified to save one’s people? Extremisms own their irrationalities to the superstitious underlay of religions.

Sutekh, Tammuz, Zeus, Manawyddan, Ra, Ubilulu in their days were Almighties with magnificent temples built to them and hundreds of prophets, seers, viziers in the business of interpreting their commandments. Where are they today? But these ex-Almighties should be commended for their precocious wisdom: having realized early the need for a post-religious society, they tore up the scripts and left the stage hence demonstrating to us the true and irreducible instruction.


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